Allen Cote



In the beginning was ¡paLABra! and ¡paLABra! might or might not have been with god, but ¡paLABra! was most certainly not god.

They tried pretty hard, though. There was some study, and some substance, and some spontaneous improvisation. There were a couple storm sessions, ten songs recorded live in less than ten hours. There were several thousand followers singing and dancing on a hill, and several invitations from elected officials. Were they not fairly level folks, it could have been pretty heady stuff.

It is generally agreed upon that Allen Coté, Benjamin Schaefer, Calvin Turner, Lisa Ridgely, Nathan Kilen, Quinten Farr and Sugar Ransom are some of the most multi-faceted artists in Milwaukee, having performed with dozens of different ensembles across the country. It is somewhat more contentious as to what exactly possessed this diverse group to record an album devoted entirely to the gospel of long dead Cuban composers. And it is a complete mystery as to why they chose to do it in such a visceral and violent fashion.

To call it the devil's music does the devil a great disservice, as the sacred squall transcends ideas of good and evil, existing outside time and tempo as that which just is, as though it had always been, the primal scream in Latin. It is both utterly revolutionary and completely commonplace, a howling guitar and inhuman vocoder grating the melody to a five century old folk song. It is passionately romantic and wholly without sentiment, a bolero acid-washed with bleeding fingers. It is the rhythm of the saints and the harmonies of the angels sung by hell's choir. It is a sound for the whole being, the head, the heart and the hips.

With the passing of plagues, we may never again have the opportunity to bear direct witness to this madness, but that may be for the best, as that which is only exists by virtue of that which is not. In the absence of ¡paLABra! we have been given a text of the intangible, lovingly translated by engineers Andrew Jambura at Silver City Studios and Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering, illuminated by artist Sue Lawton, and published by Dézòd Rèkòd, with all royalties returning to the estates of the original authors.

¡paLABra! will be available in all tangible and intangible forms on May Day, in our year of the lord, two thousand and twenty-one.

Pezzettino presents Venus

Pezzettino is more than proud to present their latest release Venus. Produced by Margaret Stutt and Allen Coté, recorded by Allen Coté and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering, the EP features such Milwaukee notables as Nathan Kilen on drums, John Patek on strings, Chris DeMay and Lisa Ridgely on vocals, along with Stutt on piano and vocals, and Coté on guitars and bass.

Venus was arranged and recorded in a two week session at Allen Coté's home studio in Cudahy, WI during the Summer of 2019. The EP is supported by music videos released on and, and has been described by each respectively as "a wonderfully eclectic blend of minimal piano, clattering atmospherics and Stutt’s mesmerizing voice" and "dreamy [...] and almost ethereal."

Margaret and Allen have been fortunate enough to collaborate and call each other dear friends for over a decade, and their trust shines through in the delicate and occasionally dangerous arrangements.  Blending chamber-folk, pop and indie-rock into a cauldron, the result is arresting and intimate, and wholly prescient for our precipitous times: there is quite simply nothing comparable.

Venus is available on multiple digital formats, and on a very exclusive vinyl release. Due to the "ethereal" nature of the content, and the constrictive nature of the climate, there will be no performances. Do yourself a favor and don't sleep on this release.

A Year in the Rearview

I recently realized that I haven't written or posted anything here in over a year, despite how much has happened in that time - I shall do my best to remedy that now, in as few words yet as much detail as possible.

¡paLABra! was honored to be a part of Milwaukee Record's Public Domain video series, filmed in the Back Room at Colectivo, releasing our take on possibly the oldest piece in the Cuban songbook, El Son de la Ma Teodora. We also performed at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's annual awards dinner, featuring our newly elected governor and lieutenant governor.

Speaking of the Back Room, fellow LAB member Nathan Kilen and I performed there back in April, backing Peter Mulvey for the release of his new album, There is Another World. A few months later, I found myself there yet again to sit in with Gina Barrington and her band Rose of the West, performing an old favorite we hadn't played together in probably seven years.

Lyric Advisory Board had a relatively light year, especially after the craziness of releasing our album The Great American Novelty in 2018, but we still managed to get in some shows with friends like Faux Fiction, Long Mama, and The Fainting Room. We are hitting/have hit all the customary tribute shows at Linneman's, including Kneel to Neil and Nod to Bob (where Jeff and I will also be playing with the great Heidi Spencer), and have a few tricks up our sleeves for the New Year, as well.

This summer The Hatchets finally released their long awaited album, The Uncounted Blue Jillions, on which I had the rare pleasure to play nothing but a ton of bass. We played some great shows, got some great press, and Justin's face popped up on a few billboards around the city. Somewhat related, in late summer my dear old friend Margaret and I finally started recording our first true Pezzettino collaboration together, despite having played together in various capacities for something like a decade - the results are absolutely stunning, and should be out in early-mid 2020.

I was honored to receive an award for Best Score - International Short Documentary from the Hollywood North Film Awards for my work on Andrew Gralton and Tia Richardson's "Sherman Park Rising" - the film was also screened at the Beloit International Film Festival, and continues to make rounds on the festival circuit. I provided some tracks for some exciting upcoming feature-length documentaries, and am currently cleaning up the old catalog to submit for a few more films currently in pre-production.

Finally, and perhaps most personally importantly, in March I realized a life-long dream to become a PADI certified scuba diver, receiving my open water certification at the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve in Guadeloupe. Since then I have spent the better part of the year diving shipwrecks in and around Door County, in between playing guitar for sunset tours and mid-day sails. Next season I will be a full crew member for several boats, and in addition to providing a soundtrack for a day on the water, will also be accumulating sea time and dive hours - to what end, I have yet to determine, but all roads lead somewhere.

I hope it doesn't take another year for me to remember to reach out, but just in case, thanks to anyone (besides Eastern European bots) who actually reads this, and please feel free to get in touch if you have any needs or questions before next winter ... until then, stay warm, stay safe, and take care of each other.

Endless (or Just End This) Summer

It's been a busy year, both for myself and the chaos that is apparently our new normal.

Lyric Advisory Board released our new album in June with a series of happenings across the city. ¡paLABra! did a little more long-form experimentation with Cuban classics at Chill on the Hill in July. A few days later, I found myself on a stage with Bernie Sanders and Randy Bryce (again).

Vitrolum Republic played all over town all Summer, including the WMSE Backyard BBQ in August, headlined by heroes from back home, the Old 97's. That same month, LAB hosted a beach party at the Cudahy Family Library with some skewed surf-rock, and I rekindled an old musical friendship for a weekend of duets. I even managed to break my "no more solo shows" rule more than a few times, playing across the state from union halls to farmer's markets, Summerfest stages to sunset cruises; challenging myself to perform without a single pedal, pick or prop to hide behind.

LAB was included on a compilation of protest music out of Madison, featuring many phenomenal Wisconsin musicians, including our dear friend Peter Mulvey. Pezzettino released a beautiful EP, with Margaret and I collaborating cross-country over many months. Yahara is slowly honing their imminent masterwork, on which I had the rare joy of playing nothing but bass.

I'm currently finishing up the music for my tenth season with the Emmy-winning PBS television show Wisconsin Foodie, due to air early next year. LAB will be once again participating in the Fall run of tribute shows at Linneman's (including my twelfth consecutive Kneel to Neil). Somewhere in there I might finally get around to finishing the rest of the ¡paLABra! studio sessions.

With all this busywork to keep mi mente y mis manos ocupados, it's been all too easy to forget about the slow disintegration of our social sanity; but then something like this past week of extreme hatredviolence and prejudice chokes our national consciousness, and it's all I can do to find purpose. I hope that anything I've said or done these last few months has meant anything to anyone, but just in case, let me say one more thing, which hopefully can mean something to everyone:


Lyric Advisory Board presents The Great American Novelty

Lyric Advisory Board's original, full-length debut is an unapologetic concept album, detailing the dissolution of a decadent society. As told through the eyes of many disparate participants, the sum attempts to make sense of the senseless, alleviate suffering through satire, and encourage all involved to assess their own culpability.

Act I: The scene is set by the rise of an authoritarian, sung by a chorus of the fearful who fuel the regime. The backlash is immediate and vocal, but quickly devolves into a dance party. When the cocaine wears off, the anti-authoritarian grow desperate. The combined toxicity of drugs, alcohol and entitlement prove deadly for Mother Earth and her young daughters. A victim of a mass shooting extends forgiveness at the very moment of violence.

Act II: Some yearn for an afterlife. Some attempt to hasten the end of this life. Some read Marx. The dispossessed descend upon the suburbs, and cultured domesticity gives way to chaos. A reassuring voice whispers promises from the wreckage. The cycle begins again.

The Great American Novelty was arranged, performed and produced by Allen Coté, Jeff Brueggeman and Nathan Kilen; with B~Free, Heidi Spencer, John Patek, Kat Wodtke, Pizza Slice and Willa Moon Coté. The album was mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering; and the cover artwork is an original commission from Sue Lawton. All songs were written by Allen Coté, published by Dézòd Rèkòd (ASCAP); except "The Promise," written by Farrington/Floreale/Mann.

The Great American Novelty has been called "a masterfully crafted experiment in storytelling and musical composition," by Mike Holloway of the Wisconsin Gazette, and "outright visceral [...] crazed Americana" by Evan Rytlewski of the Shepherd Express. Evan further describes lead single and music video "American Carnage" as "a deranged update of Bob Dylan’s 'Subterranean Homesick Blues,' a profane kiss-off to a profane president."

The album is available digitally and physically on Bandcamp, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Napster, Deezer, Tidal, iHeartRadio, and many others.


The Latin American arm of the Lyric Advisory Board returns from their fact finding mission in Cuba to present us with a detailed analysis of pre-revolutionary art in the post-cultural era, and a desperate plea for the necessity of international intervention in affairs of the heart and the hips.

There will be arguments for the ultimate superiority of Prado's 8th Mambo (versus the more recognizable bastardization of the 5th), extended riffs on the infinite potential of arpeggiation, and a stern lecture on the proper appreciation of a polyrhythm (spoiler alert para los gringos y las gringas: it ain't the ones and threes).

Unlike last year's flash in the pan, there are already TWO very special presentations of the ¡paLABra! manifesto lined up for 2018, including a return to Arte Para Todos at the lovely little jazz club Gibraltar on April 26; and a slot at the sprawling Chill on the Hill series in the heart of Humboldt Park on July 17. Additionally, Arte Para Todos has leaked advance audio of the aforementioned mambo - recorded live in two takes en La Ciudad de Plata - and it is a SCORCHER.

Lace your tips, loosen your tie and let your tongue roll - this ain't no loving tribute, ain't no lite jazz, ain't no Buena Vista and ain't no Babalu.

Esta es la ¡paLABra!

This Land Was Made for You and Me

Standing at the front of a historic populist meeting hall with a capacity crowd. Studying the silence while singing deeply personal words about transience and transcendence. Launching into a great American anthem, rallying the troops as they clap in surprising time and sing in perfect rhyme. An extended, improvised interlude about private property and public land, culminating in a cry of "this land belongs to NO ONE!" followed by a beat that feels like an eternity, before the room erupts. A little pandering, "from California, to the state of Wisconsin," and the room erupts again and thank god they're on our side, then grab those voices all at once with fists in the air for a final, hymnal "made for you and me," and just enough time to choke back a tear and mumble a humble gratitude, before being rushed off stage directly into a warm handshake by BERNIE F#?@ING SANDERS, complete with wide grin and effusive praise.

Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Damn sure felt like one. But that is exactly how my good friend Kat Wodtke and I spent our Saturday morning, at a time when we might otherwise still be asleep, and thankfully some folks sent us the pictures and video to prove it to ourselves later (we go on around the 25 minute mark). I was (for whatever reason) invited to join Senator Sanders, and several other distinguished guests, in a rally to promote Randy Bryce's campaign for the congressional seat currently held by House Speaker Paul Ryan. While I may be generally politically agnostic, everything about this speaks to my revolutionary side; and while I may generally refrain from endorsing political candidates, I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr Bryce previously, and find myself continually shocked by his openness, compassion, and sincerity (he even personally contacted me just a few hours after the rally to thank us again for our performance).

None of this would mean anything if it wasn't also a helluva lotta fun, which it was - Kat is always a pleasure and a joy to work with (she has contributed greatly to the upcoming LAB record), and I am eternally grateful to her for stepping up, standing beside me, singing effortlessly, and always reaffirming my deep anti-authoritarian streak. Likewise, it would have been pointless if we hadn't had the temerity to use our platform in an intentional way, which we did - between Kat's couture, my rhetoric, and our song selections, we spoke our hearts and minds, and walked off that stage without a shred of shame or compromise.

Our heartfelt and humble gratitude to Randy Bryce and Bernie Sanders for allowing us to use our voices honestly, and for their incredibly kind words after - we were honored to be a part of that ripple. There was a palpable sense of hope and pride among all the staffers and supporters; and there were powerful speeches balancing understanding, inclusiveness and empathy, with firm intolerance of injustice and economic machinations. There was a belief in the air I have not felt in many years, and a buzz that is only growing stronger. This may be a moment - this may be the sign of a movement. This may be our land yet.