Concert Review + Photography: Anna Vogelzang’s Birthday Show at the Project Lodge (Madison)

Pioneer (Madison), Matt Jones (Ypsilanti, Michigan), Anna Vogelzang (Madison) and Pearl & The Beard (New York City)
February 25th, 2011
The Project Lodge in Madison, Wisconsin

Gallery: Anna Vogelzang’s Birthday Show at the Project Lodge

First off, a very happy birthday today to Anna! May the next year bring new friends, surprises and places better than the last! You readers you, if you’d like to be nice and give her a present, she would adore helping out her Kickstarter campaign to fund her upcoming album, Canary in a Coal Mine, to be recorded out in NYC. She’s bringing out the big names with Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, anyone?) and Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady, now solo).

Like a guitarist who forgets strings, I unfortunately only caught the end of Pioneer due to forgetting the SD card for the camera. Nevertheless, their singer/guitarist, Kenny, still has some photos up here as I caught the other band he’s in, Crane Your Swan Neck, on Wednesday. Unfortunate, because Pioneer was real impressive during the Rock County Folk Symposium in the fall! Let’s not dwell on that, because Matt Jones came over from Michigan and Amber’s The Black Path review and raving accolades had me buzzing. Grad school kept me from really digging deep into his music before, but his show rooted many a revisit with a gorgeous, stripped down cello and acoustic set. The kind of set you’d place to a movie soundtrack at that precise moment where you need to tug a heart string or comfortably wrap up the major plot. Now, that film’s plot may have ended badly, but the music is just too soaring, too well performed to let you dwell on the past. Needless to say, it was nothing but that satisfied feeling of, “Amber was spot on” as Matt went through the rolling “Jugulars, Bones, and Blisters” and, most impressively, “Holy Light” with Colette Alexander’s sentimentally fulfilling, resonating cello. The remarkableness of his performance was that, although his music can silence a crowd, his wit always lightened the mood, especially when he started to play around with Anna’s mbira left on a nearby speaker.

For Anna’s birthday, the community came out to fill the Project Lodge in a show of support for one of the most influential, kind musicians in the city (she also helps out Ladies Rock Camp). Opting out of using mics and speakers, which still retains its freshness time and again in setting aside amps and speakers, Anna debuted several new songs she’s been working on for Canary in a Coal Mine. “Volcano,” a song about expressing that complicated concern over friends who, somehow, just is consumed with sorrow and you just want them to be happy, in the purest sense (video). While I was able to see “Undertow” for the first time since her demo video debuted, the mriba made Andrew Young’s upright bass go as quiet as wind over Lake Mendota. Poignantly stripped down, “Undertow” is the perfect opposite bookend to her more upbeat songs like the boot stomping “Heart Beat Faster.” The only thing better? Everyone ending her set surprising her with the Project Lodge Audience rendition of happy birthday!

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Pearl and the Beard ended the evening, starting their performance in the crowd in an unexpectedly ruckus way. Drum in back, tambourine and handclaps to the front. Evoking gospel to tug the crowd to their attention, Jocelyn Mackenzie and Emily Hope Price framed Jeremy Styles as his vocals rose higher and higher, only to be interchanged with either Emily’s or Jocelyn’s. With a contagious energy romping off the walls, Pearl and the Beard succeeded in injecting a bit of swing (brush drumming) over Americana. The NYC band, on first impression, knocked our wool socks off from first note till returning into the crowd, this time with Anna, to end the evening of joyful celebration.

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