Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Show #273: For My Brother – Rush Returns to the Windy City

May 17th, 2015

Last month my brother passed away and I am posting some shows that he attended as well as shows by bands that he liked but for which he did not leave behind a ticket stub. The first post in this series is here.

ticket rush bro Show #273: For My Brother   Rush Returns to the Windy City

This time around it’s Rush.

I recall being a kid and listening to my brother’s pirated copy of Fly By Night. In fact, I ran across it when I was disposing of his belongings. My memories of becoming a Rush fan are rather sporadic, however. After seeing adds for Hold Your Fire in Kerrang! I was looking forward to the release of that album so I was a fan by the summer of 1987. But I’m unsure if that fandom went beyond the FM radio staples of “Tom Sawyer”, “Spirit of Radio”, and the like.

As you can see, my brother saw the band in Chicago on 20 July 2002. I chuckled to myself when I found this stub because I had seen them the day before in Milwaukee. It was a reminder of how much we had in common, I suppose.

After losing his daughter in a car accident in 1997 and then his wife less than a year later, Neil Peart “retired” from music. Thinking back to that time I can remember reading about Peart’s losses and felt terribly for him. I wondered if this was truly the end of Rush. A few years later in 2002 they released Vapor Trails and hit the road. Personally, I found Vapor Trails to be an improvement over Test for Echo. It was loud and energetic and I was eagerly anticipating seeing them live again after an 8-year hiatus. They did not disappoint.

The new material worked well and 90s tunes like “Dreamline” and “Between Sun & Moon” had a bit more punch. The whole concert was full of energy and the band sounded, to make a bad pun, driven. It’s too bad that it took such tragedy for them to find a renewed sense of purpose. I can picture my brother getting fired up upon hearing “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”.

rush2002 rip Show #273: For My Brother   Rush Returns to the Windy City
(Photo by Brock Scott.)

And so this is Rush’s show at the Tweeter Center on 20 July 2002. It’s in three parts and is a fine audience recording.

Download Part I
Download Part II
Download Part III


Here’s “Earthshine” from the Rush in Rio concert video>

Lecture Series on Paramount Records Begins Today

April 23rd, 2015

The Center for the Humanities at the UW-Madison is hosting a symposium that starts today called “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Paramount Records”. Paramount was a label out of Grafton, Wisconsin and is known for having released many historically significant blues and jazz albums. Back in 2006 I attended a lecture at the Wisconsin Historical Museum about Paramount so let me quote from it:

Paramount started distributing in 1918 and was a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company in Grafton (a bit north of Milwaukee). The WCC was contracted by Edison Records (Yes, Thomas Alva) to make phonograph cabinets. Seeing a lucrative market, WCC began making phonographs themselves and decided to give away records along with them. While Paramount is today best-remembered for having released music by blues and jazz legends such as Skip James, Son House, and Louis Armstrong, the label initially released recordings of bands playing ethnic music that appealed to the locals who were mostly German.

The inspiration for the symposium is the re-release of a slew of Paramount recordings in a two-volume set called The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records which are lavish productions that each include six LPs, a USB thumb drives with something like 800 songs, and lots of reproductions of period ads. Volume 1 appeared in 2013 with the second out last autumn.

The box sets are a collaboration between Revenant Records and Jack White’s Third Man Records and so it’s not surprising that they seem to ignore all of the other genres of music that Paramount released which wouldn’t be at home on the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack such as polka, dance orchestra music, and Hawaiian steel guitar. Considering the significant German and German-American population of Milwaukee, Paramount also released waltzes, schottisches, and so on. Sorry Mr. White but the music of America goes beyond the folk music created by African-Americans and people of Anglo-Scotch decent.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Sounds Transformed: From Analog Capture to Digital Formats
Thursday, April 23 at 3:00 pm
Room 313, University Club Building, 432 E. Campus Mall
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

Jeremy Morris, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, UW-Madison
Craig Eley, ACLS Public Fellow, To the Best of Our Knowledge
Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records
Amanda Petrusich, Author, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 RPM Records (2014)

With Paramount as the starting point, this panel will examine how capture and playback of sound has evolved from early analog and electrical recording technologies to new digital formats, and how this affects the value of the recording as cultural artifact.

Music in a Box: The Containment and Commodification of Paramount Records
Thursday, April 23 at 5:30 pm Room
L140 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, 800 University Ave.
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

Ann Smart Martin, Stanley and Polly Stone Professor of Art History and Director, Material Culture Program, UW-Madison
Craig Werner, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer,The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records
Amanda Petrusich, Author, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 RPM Records (2014)
Moderated by Steve Paulson, Executive Producer,To the Best of Our Knowledge

This moderated conversation will “unbox” the Paramount Records story, discussing notable songs, addressing issues of commodification, the creation of artificial barriers between “black” and “white” music, the early history of the phonograph and record cabinet, and the subsequent physical containment of music.

The Other Sides of Paramount Records
Friday, April 24, 2015 at Noon
Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N. Carroll Street
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

Tom Caw, Music Public Services Librarian, Mills Music Library, UW-Madison
Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records

Though best known for its blues recordings, Paramount released hundreds of records in dozens of genres, including work by a number of local Wisconsin artists recording Old Time (or Hillbilly) music, polka, and dance orchestra, including Stoughton’s own Jack Penewell, playing Hawaiian steel guitar. Come hear the music and tales of the musicians who made it.

Music and Media: Live Sounds, Silk Screens, and the Story of Paramount Records
Saturday, April 25 – 9:30am to 1:00pm
Bubbler Room, Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here

Matthew Bindert, Printmaker and Artist-Mentor at Artworking
Simon Balto, Musician and PhD Candidate in History and Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
Jeffrey Kollath, Public Humanities Program Manager, UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Join us for a music-filled, hands-on, all-ages Saturday morning workshop featuring a live performance by local musician Simon Balto, a record album silk screening workshop with graphic artist Matthew Bindert, free art projects, and a listening lab with record players, reel-to-reel tape decks, and more, all while learning about Wisconsin’s very own Paramount Records, a record label based in Grafton, WI that released some of the most influential blues, jazz, and folk records of the 20th century. Art supplies donated by Mad City Music Exchange. More information here, from our co-hosts at the Madison Public Library.

He Comes From the Land of Ice and Snow

April 23rd, 2015

Here’s an amusing headline from one of our local newspapers.

walker zep He Comes From the Land of Ice and Snow

Show #272: For My Brother – A Fest in Bern

April 21st, 2015

Spring is my favorite season but it is bittersweet this year as my brother passed away just shy of two weeks ago. It is early days yet in the grieving process and my eyes often tear up when I think about him for more than a couple seconds or dwell on particular memory. I have a long row to hoe before I get used to his absence in my life.

When we were going through his possessions I discovered that, just like me, he kept ticket stubs from the concerts he attended. I spared them from the trash for reasons unknown at the time but have since discovered a way to make them useful: since I have this music blog, why not podcast some of the shows that he attended? And so over the coming weeks I’ll be posting shows that featured my brother in the audience and that I have been able to find copies of. I found that I already had several of them in my possession when I came up with this idea and so I was off to a good start.

But before I delve into my brother’s concert-going experiences, I want to start somewhere else.

abacab cassette Show #272: For My Brother   A Fest in Bern

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am a big Genesis fan and that my fandom had to start somewhere. And it started with the above cassette. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my brother had kept the cassette all these years, though it was a rather doleful sense of joy.

Judging by the songs on the reverse side and other memories, I’d say the tape was made in the spring of 1982. The flip side has some songs from The J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame, which was released in October 1981 as well as tracks from Blackout by Scorpions which came out in March 1982. It was at this time that I began to find myself alone after school. At some point my brother’s tape collection fell victim to my plundering. I recall listening to Led Zeppelin IV, a tape which had a mix of songs by The Doors and The Rolling Stones, and several other bands. Somewhere along the way I came across his copy of Abacab and threw it in the stereo. (No MP3s and no tinny little earbuds then.) It was wholly unlike anything I’d heard before.

My mother harbored (and continues to do so) a love for Johnny Mathis and Genesis stood in stark contrast to his anodyne crooning. My father’s taste ran more towards folkier sounds with a good dose of soft rock as well – I’m talking Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac of the mid- to late-70s, et al. Again, Genesis were nothing like that. But they were also different from the bluesy inflections of the Stones, the heaviness of Led Zeppelin, and the more poppy songs by The Doors. I think it was partly due to the lack of heavy riffs on the part of Mike Rutherford but mostly because of Tony Banks’ synthesizers. They just sounded unworldly to my young ears.

Another element that set Genesis apart was the lyrics. I mean, what the hell is an “abacab” anyway? This was before the Internet so I had no way of getting the lyrics. As you can see, it was a pirated copy of the album so I didn’t even know the names of the songs. I later found out that the album did not have the lyrics on the inner sleeve so, even if my brother hadn’t been a scofflaw, I’d still have been flummoxed. I thought that “Me and Sarah Jane” was about Doctor Who while “Dodo/Lurker” was sheer nonsense as far as I could tell. Even now some 33 years later and knowing what Phil Collins is singing, I still can make head nor tails of that song.

I played this tape over and over and over until I ruined it. While I cannot recall at what point this happens, I do remember the sheer horror of humming along to the album only to suddenly hear that the music from the other side had bled through all mangled and muffled. Presumably the playback head on the tape deck need to be demagnetized and cleaned. Ooops.

Fast forward to 1984. A radio station in Chicago announced that they were going to be broadcasting a multi-hour Genesis documentary. I remember well listening to it and still have it on tape. At the time I was only familiar with Abacab, “Paperlate”, and some of the songs from the band’s eponymous album. I was floored when I heard the Peter Gabriel stuff – a complete different voice than I was used to, Mellotrons, and lyrics about giant hogweeds and lambs lying down on Broadway. Unfortunately the program never played any Gabriel-era song in its entirety. Just as I was really getting into the songs, they’d fade out and be replaced by someone bitching about Peter Gabriel’s costumes.

The first song to avoid being unceremoniously truncated was “Squonk”. The song crashes in and then settles into a strong, steady beat. Collins’ drums have never sounded better. I had absolutely no idea what was a squonk was or why it was melting into a pool of tears but, nonetheless, it was love at first listen. I was off to the record store as soon as I was able to find the album that contained this magical song. A Trick of the Tail has been a favorite album of mine ever since.

Years later I found out that both “Squonk” and ATotT were favorites of my brother. Going through his CD collection last week I found that he had only one album from the band’s remix/remaster campaign from the late 2000s and it was ATotT. He came up here to Madison many years ago as I was throwing a party in honor of our father who had died a few months earlier. I was busy at work in the kitchen preparing food while “Squonk” was playing when my brother came in to grab a soda or sample the vittles and he was “singing” along. I use the scare quotes because he could not sing. Neither can I for that matter. However out of tune he may have been, that’s one of those memories that I shall treasure forever.

And so, because my brother’s tape collection had such a profound influence on my musical tastes, I am going to begin with a show from the ATotT tour in 1976. Sorry about ruining your tape, bro.

gen76 bro Show #272: For My Brother   A Fest in Bern
(I think this is one of Armando Gallo’s photos.)

Several years ago I posted a show from this tour – here – but this concert came a few months later. It took place on 26 June at the Festhalle in Bern, Switzerland and is a wonderful audience recording. Very clear and lots of ambience. And it includes a great rendition of “Squonk”. Just a pool of tears indeed.

Download part 1
Download part 2


This is Genesis performing “Squonk” in 1980. If memory serves both the 6 and 7 May dates at the Lyceum in London were videotaped but methinks this performance is from the 6th.

As a super added bonus here’s a version of “Squonk” that is an outtake from the ATotT sessions. It is an instrumental version of the song. You can tell that the tune is not quite there but it’s close. I also like that one can hear the guitar and keyboards better without the vocals on top.

Hear What You’re Missing

March 12th, 2015

Last week Vox posted an interesting article called “Listen to what gets lost when an MP3 is made”. It features the work of a Ph.D. student named Ryan McGuire who is behind a project to let people hear the sounds that are discarded when a song is made into an MP3.

The MP3 format can reduce the file size of a song as much as 10-fold, but in the process something has to be filtered out. Which sounds get filtered out of a song to make the file smaller was determined in 1993 by a group of European sound engineers who using songs like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” and Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” In 1994, MP3s became a public format and, after the advent and widespread use of the internet, they are now the primary format that most people listen to music in.

But what happened to those filtered out sounds?

Ryan MaGuire, a a Ph.D. student in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia Center for Computer Music, created a project called “moDernisT” to find out. McGuire’s project pulls out those missing sounds and lets them live on their own.

According to the article “Tom’s Diner” by Susanne Vega was the first song to become an MP3. And here are the leftovers from that song after having been compressed.

It’s quite a bit more than I thought it would be. I figured that stuff beyond a certain frequency would have been lopped off but it really sounds like the compression process takes out a bit of everything.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

March 12th, 2015

A new documentary about Nirvana’s frontman called Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck will premiere on HBO on 4 May. It is an authorized production with Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain as executive producers. This means that director Brett Morgen was given access to home movies, diaries, sketchbooks, photos, recordings, etc. that had never been made public before. In addition to the interspersing the above with the typical talking heads interviews and concert footage, the movie utilizes animated sequences.

From what I’ve read, Cobain’s suicide isn’t addressed nor is the tale of how Kathleen Hanna’s graffiti inspired the title for the band’s most well-known song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. These omissions and the fact that there’s no commentary from Dave Grohl owing to deadlines means that this won’t be complete in one sense or another; but Montage of Heck sounds like it will be a novel entry in the canon of rock star bios.

Folks here in Madison will get a chance to see the movie next month on the big screen as it will be at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival. It screens on Saturday, 11 April at 6:30PM.

Here’s the trailer:

New Steve Hackett Album – Wolflight

February 18th, 2015

Steve Hackett has a new album called Wolflight due this spring. It is set to drop on 7 April here in the States. In advance of the release he has posted a trailer for the album. There are no whole songs included but I like what I hear in the excerpts and was surprised to find banjo ringing from my speakers.

Rhiannon Giddens on Letterman

February 18th, 2015

Rhiannon Giddens was on Late Show with David Letterman last week where she performed “Waterboy” from her new album Tomorrow Is My Turn. She’ll be here in Madison on 27 April at the Capitol Theatre.

Show #271: She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper

February 17th, 2015

Today we have my next show featuring music by an artist profiled in Gillian Gaar’s She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and that artist is Cyndi Lauper.

lauper84 Show #271: Shes So Unusual   Cyndi Lauper
(Photo found here.)

I recall very well the days when one couldn’t escape “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. It was all over the radio and MTV. One thing I do not recall, however, is Lauper being lauded as a feminist icon or as a symbol of feminine strength. It seemed that Madonna received all of those accolades with her frank sexuality which she seemed to be completely in control of. Gaar, on the other hand, notes that Lauper was featured in the January 1985 “Women of the Year” issue of Ms. magazine. Plus I suppose that a song celebrating masturbation, “She-Bop”, was a bold move back in 1983. To top things, off, Gaar says Lauper was avowedly feminist referring to remarks made toRolling Stone:

It was all traditional: the church, the family, the government. And you know what I learned? Those are the three biggest oppressors of women that will ever come along.

Apparently my memory is either failing me here or I never really paid that much attention to her career. My guess is that it’s that latter because I was not a fan of Cyndi Lauper’s dance pop with its synth bass, anemic guitar, and dopey faux percussion sounds. Her synth-pop was all that was wrong with 80s music to my mind. Plus her persona was of a quirky girl next door who liked to go out and have fun and not of a woman telling listeners “Hear me roar!”

Before I make a final decent into being a nattering nabob of negativity, I have to say that reading about Lauper in Gaar’s book elevated my opinion of her. I had considered her to basically be an airhead pop songmistress but came to appreciate what she did. I still don’t like the music, but think more highly of her approach. Plus I have learned that she mentioned Planned Parenthood at her concert here in Madison back in the fall of 2013 and that PP had a stand in the lobby.

The show today is Lauper’s concert from 2 May 1984. It took place at The Metro in Boston, MA at the birthday party concert for a local radio station, WXKS. This performance was broadcast on the radio, not surprisingly.


When You Were Mine
I’ll Kiss You
All Through the Night
He’s So Unusual
Yeah Yeah
She Bop
Time After Time
Money Changes Everything
Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Download show

Cyndi Lauper

Here’s Lauper doing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” live.

You Won’t Have to Hit the Road For These Shows

February 6th, 2015

alabamashakes 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at MTVHive.)

Alabama Shakes have booked their first Madison tour date ever. They will be at Overture Hall on 17 March. Tickets (at $39.50) went on sale today. Opening will be Nashville’s Promised Land Sound who apparently sound like country, rock’n'roll, and soul. I shall have to check out their new album which is due soon.

therev 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at KEXP.)

The Reverend Horton Heat are coming to the High Noon Saloon next month on the 6th. Tickets are $20.

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