Last night I was finally able to reverse roles with some of my good friends who I’ve hosted in my hometown over the last few weeks, and was the out-of-towner being immersed into the local music scene. My journey began with Myles Coyne giving me a ride from Madison, where he played the Urban Agrarian house show the night before, to Green Bay, where he would be playing in Animals in Human Attire and Arto that night. It’s always interesting to get rides from Myles because he only has a tape deck in his car, and he insists on only playing actual mixtape cassettes he makes. From conversations with him on the subject, it’s apparent he puts a significant amount of time and effort into making tapes he really cares about. One of my favorite playlists from the hours of driving went something like this: Cursive – “Recluse”, Xiu Xiu – “Clown Town”, Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos” , Vince Guaraldi – “Oh Christmas Tree” , Joanna Newsom – “Bridges and Looms” and Wilco – “Ashes of American Flags”.
Photo: Thom Fountain
We arrived to Green Bay and went pretty much straight to the House of Valdar, one of those hometown theatre-turned-music venues that seem to be playing host to more and more rock shows lately. We were the first people to arrive, and took the extra time to check out a record store next door that Myles had been telling me about. We arrived to find the store half boxed up, and proceeded to find out the owner was moving out to California in three weeks. While this is a big bummer for the city of Green Bay, it was kind of nice for us as all records were 50% off. I walked away with some Beatles classics I was missing on vinyl and a Nat King Cole box set, and Myles grabbed some Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, and Patty Smith’s Waves. We returned to the venue and members of the various bands that were playing that night started trickling in, and before I knew it things were getting started.
Photo: Thom Fountain
Animals in Human Attire brought their usual antics to the stage, with a full setup that included violin, a lot of drums, and various buckets and pans. The more noise-making objects you give this rowdy group, the louder and better they’ll sound (to a certain point, I’d imagine). Their vaguely Americana sound fit right in with the band preceding them and the crowd seemed throughly entertained. Jack Tell had belted out a couple of songs acoustically the night before, but the full band just fed off his energy and added their own, coming through with a solid set. Lately I’ve been seeing Feathe every week, and all these shows are really paying off in terms of improving their performance. The harmonies sounded sweeter than ever, and the girls even added some extra vocal parts to “John’s Song”. They ended with “Where We Met”, my hands-down favorite of theirs.
Having only seen Arto practice before, never actually perform, I was pretty excited for their set. They took the performance element of the show more seriously than most acts I see, dramatically lowering the lights and going off stage once they were set up, then returning to the stage and going right into “Conscious of the King”. Their energy is incredible, really something you have to see to understand completely. As many times as I’ve seen Jamie and Myles play their solo sets, and hung around the three of them interacting, I was completely blown away by what happens when their musical powers combine in Arto. Despite some minor technical difficulties (broken bass drum head, said bass drum getting kicked across stage, lame switch getting flipped on Jamie’s guitar) the dudes kept the vibes going for nearly an hour, a feat that left them panting and sweating between each song. These guys aren’t limited to one instrument each, either – Jamie and Myles put down their guitars and had a full on drum circle with Cassidy for one song, and Cassidy came out front and picked up a strat for an epic version of “Smooth Sculpture”. Despite literally a year of anticipation on my part, Arto’s live show did not disappoint.