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:

Vote.

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.


¡paLABra!

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.