Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dire Wolves Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band live at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on April 13, 2019 (afternoon show)

Here is the recording from the afternoon set that the Dire Wolves performed at that eminent and enjoyable palace of recorded and live music in the Cream City -- the one and only Acme Records. I was energized and elated to be behind the band and watching them perform for a packed crowd on Record Store Day.

Please see the previous post for some of my thoughts about this wonderful band. I can summarize, however: this band is the most interesting and unpredictable rock group in the US. It takes a lot of effort to make improvised music gel into a coherent experience -- effort and a willingness to be flexible and incorporate into your performance something related to what others are doing on stage with you. It can be a painful experience watching two or three stubborn musicians perform at the same time, each one wanting to go their own way so that it sounds like two (or three) different recordings being played back simultaneously, without the wit of someone like John Cage to make the chaos sublime.

This group seems like they have been playing together every week for years (but they haven't -- that's the amazing thing) and make it look effortless -- a lot of effort is needed to make things look effortless.

I briefly mentioned in the previous Elkhorn post that there is no "sound person" per se at Acme and that I volunteered to help the band on a last-minute basis. There wasn't anybody else there to do the job, and Acme was chaotic enough with a packed crowd for record store day, bands coming in and out the back door, everyone including musicians carrying stacks of LPs they were buying, and so on.

Taralie Peterson asked me if I had a DI box (Direct Input box -- this changes the impedance of an audio signal so that a microphone-level signal can be inputted to mixer requiring a line-level signal, and vice versa) and I quite unhelpfully informed her that I did have one, but it was at home.  My apologies to her, and I am going to donate my DI box to Acme for future shows.

Much to Taralie's credit, she expressed concern to me throughout the show that Arjun's violin was buried in the PA. I went out in front of the speakers several times to make sure he was there for all to hear. Arjun provides one of the really unique audio textures for the band and often the interaction between his longer lines of melody and Taralie's abstract broken vocal sounds is the most enjoyable thing happening in the mix.

This recording was made using a 50:50 mix of the soundboard feed and a Superlux S502 stereo microphone (fixed ORTF configuration) which was placed at the stage lip, a bit stage left of center. These two sources were recorded in four channels to a Sound Devices MixPre 6 and then combined with Audacity. Some very gentle compression and minimal parametric EQ were applied using Audacity. xAct as always was used to prepare ALAC/m4a as well as mp3 files.

The SoundCloud stream is below. You should be able to stream the audio without using the SoundCloud app. Please remember that downloading the files (see the end of this post) will result in higher fidelity than the mp3 stream which SoundCloud provides. I am very happy with how the recording turned out:

Please support these fine artists and decent people by going to their shows, buying multiple copies of their merchandise (your friends need the music -- why aren't you buying music for your friends?), and talking to them like they are real human beings after shows. If they don't mind.

Dire Wolves Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band is:
Arjun Mendiratta: Violin
Brian Lucas: electric bass
Jeffrey Alexander: guitar
Sheila Bosco: drums
Taralie Peterson: sax, vocals, percussion


(suitable for burning to CDs)

(lossless compression audio file playable on iPhones and computers)

320kbps mp3 file (76 MB)
(highest quality mp3 possible)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Dire Wolves Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band at the Milwaukee Psych Festival on April 13, 2019 (evening show)

The only thing more amazing than Dire Wolves' music is the fact that their lineup is ever-shifting. While not quite the same thing as when Mark E Smith infamously made the point that he and only he was the sine qua non of the Fall ("If it's me and your granny playing bongos, then it's the Fall"), it's close. 

Generally there is always Jeffrey Alexander on guitar and usually Brian Lucas on bass. For the last few years or so Sheila Bosco (drums) plus Taralie Peterson of Spires That in the Sunset Rise (vocals, sax and percussion) and Arjun Mendiratta (violin) have been mainstays of touring versions of the band while vocalists Lau Nau and Georgia Carbone have appeared on studio recordings. There have been plenty of memorable one-offs such as last February's performance at NYC's Union Pool with members of Elkhorn, Bardo Pond, and the Sunwatchers -- billed as Dire Wolves (Inspiration Family Band). 

What makes each performance of Dire Wolves so special is a level of free-form improvisation which goes far beyond the category of "psychedelia" or "jam band" and dives right into "free jazz" territory (that's my favorite territory, in case anyone is keeping track at home).

However, I have yet to hear a piece by the Wolves which is not psychedelic or that wouldn't go over very well at a "jam band concert" as an opener for The Dead and Co. or Phish. Sometimes a piece will just be completely improvised, but there is usually a certain sensibility which allows sections of increasingly interesting improvisation to exist within the structure of a pre-existing song.

For this show, my understanding is that the choice of a Pharaoh Sanders song ("Elevation" from Sanders 1974 live album of the same name for Impulse!/ABC records) was a last minute decision. If so it was both an inspired choice and a wakeup call for the partiers up front to pay attention. 

Alas, some people are beyond the point of being able to be woken up. Any show in Milwaukee where alcohol has been sold to people primarily interested in meeting people and talking about the Brewers' chances to win the pennant this year will stand as evidence as to why most bands' tours hop from Detroit to Chicago to Madison and Minneapolis. Most of the time the MPF crowd is better behaved, but at this point of the evening there were more than enough socialites around -- enough that Alexander felt the need to shame them for talking during a Pharaoh Sanders song.

At the time, when the band started, I thought they were going to begin playing John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" because the Brian's bass line was reminiscent of the beginning of that jazz masterpiece. After a few moments it was off into Dire Wolves space and I eventually recognized it as a Pharaoh Sanders song, even if I couldn't identify the exact song (as it happens, "Elevate" is one of the few Sanders albums I don't own).

This set was recorded with the feed from the Soundboard (thanks to Max) fed into my Sound Devices MixPre6 recorder. For some as-yet unidentified reason, probably entirely my fault, the feed from my pair of beyerdynamic MC 930 microphones set up 10 feet in the air on a lightstand next to the mixing board did not record despite there being four channels of signal being displayed on the recorder's screen during the show.

I wound up using an audience source recorded by "Atticus Binch" on what looked to me like a Nakamichi 550 cassette recorder. My taper friend Joel tells me he thinks this might be the owner of a record store in Bloomington, IL. This has not been independently confirmed. The audience source sounded like it was recorded in the front row amidst the talkers and was also rather saturated at certain points. I mixed it at a ratio (SBD:AUD) of 60:40 and used Audacity for compression and EQ. xAct was used to prepare ALAC and mp3 versions. 

While not the transcendent audiophile masterpiece I always hope for (and rarely achieve), the final result is much better than I had dared to hope for the day after the festival when I discovered two channels of my recording missing. 

Please see below for the SoundCloud stream:

Please support these fine artists and decent people by going to their shows, buying multiple copies of their merchandise (your friends need the music), and talking to them like they are real human beings after shows. If they don't mind.

Dire Wolves Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band for this show is:
Jeffrey Alexander: guitar
Sheila Bosco: drums
Brian Lucas: electric bass
Arjun Mendiratta: Violin
Taralie Peterson: sax, vocals, percussion
Tracy Peterson: (guest) percussion 
"Mike" (guest) - tambourine


(suitable for burning to CDs)

(lossless compression audio file playable on iPhones and computers)

(highest quality mp3 possible)

Friday, July 5, 2019

Jim Warchol at the Jazz Gallery in Milwaukee on July 29, 2018

Here we have another brilliant solo performance by Jim Warchol, this time at the Jazz Gallery in Milwaukee. Check out the Soundcloud sample below.

The somewhat hard surfaces of the room might possibly at times sound a little harsh, but I thought it lent a nice natural reverb to this performance. Jim was pushing this little tube amp so that there was a very pleasant distorted-yet-controlled sound. What would rock music be without distortion?

This performance was recorded with a pair of Beyerdynamic MC930 (cardioid) microphones in an ORTF stereo formation, on a small tripod at the stage lip. The sound was fed into a Tascam DR-70. Audacity was used for slight EQ adjustments and xAct was used to encode the WAV files into ALAC and mp3.

Thanks to the Jazz Gallery and of course the tremendously talented Jim Warchol for allowing me to record.


16bit, 44.1kHz WAV file (308 MB)
suitable for burning to CD

lossless copy of the wav file - can also be burned to CD or played on your iPhone

highest quality version of this lossy but popular audio file format

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Elkhorn with special guests at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on April 13, 2019

One of the unexpected effects of having the annual and amazing Milwaukee Psych Fest occurring this year during the same weekend which also contains the hectic shopping day known as "Record Store Day" was that we were treated to afternoon performances by two bands who would be playing at the Psych Fest proper that evening: the always dependably creative and super-psychedelic Dire Wolves, and the powerful guitar duo known as Elkhorn.

My photo from the mixing area. Note Andrew Lyon in front getting some photos for the blog.

Elkhorn has made a name for itself over the past few years for releasing fascinating albums of great music. They have a sense of humor (one CD collected seven live versions of the song "Lionfish" for those late night compare-and-contrast sessions) and a sense of timing -- two new vinyl releases the week of this mini tour which brought them to Chicago and Bloomington, IN, in addition to the true home of live music in the US (Milwaukee).

photo by Andrew Lyon. Note the guy in back looking unshaven and confused near the mixer.

How to best describe Elkhorn? I'll pull out a trick from my days as a music journalist (and don't for a second think they're not still doing this) -- I'll quote the press materials without shame: "Folk/psych-rock guitar duo featuring Jesse Sheppard on twelve-string acoustic and Drew Gardner on electric, interweaving the extended folk tradition with psychedelic improvisation, moving freely from pre-rock to post-rock, from the 1860s to the 1960s and beyond."  What's missing from the description is that Jesse and Drew have a gift for memorable melodies and a knack for complicating things up until to just before the breaking point before they return to the hook. They are an excellent example of the kind of music that pleases both the casual fan and the elitist critic. 

I did not really expect to be the "sound guy" at this show (or at the following Dire Wolves performance) but there was no one else willing or able to do it and i was not going to ask to record a band and then say, "Hey I can't help you, you'll just have to play some chords and then lean over and set the gain on the store's mixer. While I watch." 

So, I was the sound guy. I had a pair of Beyerdynamic MC930 cardioid microphones in an ORTF stereo configuration up front on stage about 18 inches in the air to capture the acoustic sound of the guitar as well as some of the players on stage during the song with special guests. I obtained a stereo feed from the mixer which was identical to what was being fed to the speakers. These were recorded with the amazing Sound Devices MixPre6 in 24bit/96kHz glory. I mixed these four channels in Audacity to form what is known (incorrectly) to tapers as a "matrix" recording. A few small moments of silence between songs were removed with care in Audacity and xAct was used to encode into ALAC and mp3 formats.

As my photo below will attest, Jesse and Drew asked a couple of the members of Dire Wolves to perform on the last song. It was a great moment of controlled chaos and I thought it was incredible that they were able to produce such beauty together. 

Please support these two superb musicians and excellent human beings by seeing their live shows, buying multiple copies of their great merchandise (your friends are starving for great music -- why aren't you buying them music?), and talking to them respectfully after shows. 


suitable for burning to compact disc

a lossless, full resolution  file which can be used to burn a CD or to listen to on an iPhone or other Apple product

the highest quality setting for this popular lossy audio format

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Jim Warchol at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on April 21, 2016

I have been recording and greatly admiring the work of Jim Warchol for about five years. I have been meaning to upload my recordings of his work to this blog for quite sometime. I have at least three and possibly four of his wonderful shows ready to go and will be slipping them in between the other shows I am posting this week in an effort to catch up with some of my backlog of recordings. It seems that I am either too busy recording shows to upload them, or I am sitting around moaning and complaining about there not being any shows to record. Hopefully things will get better with the blog soon.

Jim is a very unassuming and friendly person. He does not give off the common "musician vibe" where there is an implicit divide between performer and audience member. As a consequence it is always to pleasure to see him at a show or hanging at Acme buying some vinyl. 

I am not sure when I first noticed his playing around town... I know I did see him at Alverno College in 2015 playing in Jon Mueller's Death Blues group. But most likely the first time was opening up at a show at Acme Records. Ken, the owner of Acme, really enjoys Jim's work and so he has been asked quite a few times to open up for visiting artists. 

Tonight was one such show -- he opened up for guitarist Marisa Anderson and then sat down next to me in the front row to listen intently to her show. 

Jim's music over the last few years -- both with his band Dryhouse Ruins and in his solo work -- is a sort of improvisational ambient "cloud" of sound which has intricate patterns hiding inside a larger drone sound. Like many guitarists i particularly enjoy listening to, his mastery of the fretboard is self-confident enough to seem effortless. When he appears to be in the mood to show off, then he will -- in a classy way. Much of the time, however, he plays in a style which is more reserved but no less interesting. 

Let me use an analogy of a house party. There is always the person in the middle of the room performing for people, telling an outrageous story or just being "the life of the party." This is your typical guitarist and more power to them for their willingness to stand out and shine. But usually, if you go over to the corner near a bookshelf, or the kitchen, there will usually be that one party guest who effortlessly discusses whatever topic is at hand, commenting with expert opinions and information without trying to steer the conversation of the group. In the long run, it is often that type of guest who becomes the best sort of friend to have -- someone who does not repeat the same classic stories or suddenly disappears on you when you're hundreds of miles away from home on a road trip. 

I know that I have photos from the other Warchol shows I am going to upload, but all I could find to post here is a promotional picture. 


suitable for burning to CD

lossless copy of the wav file - can also be burned to CD or played on your iPhone

highest quality version of this lossy but popular audio file format

This was most likely recorded with a pair Church Audio CA-14 cardioid microphones, hand made by Chris Church at his workshop up in Canada, fed into a Sony PCM M-10 recorder, probably with an intervening preamp stage via the Church Audio 9200 preamp. Audacity was used as always to clean up extraneous noise and for fade ins and outs. At times I will boost signals very slightly (2-3dB) in the 6kHz range using the parametric EQ in Audacity.  xAct was used to create the ALAC and mp3 files. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Bill MacKay at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on August 25, 2018

Bill MacKay is a brilliant guitarist who writes songs that are both accessible and technically demanding, without ever seeming like the technique is the point. Regular readers of this blog will note that I have often recorded him either accompanying long-time collaborated Ryley Walker, or graciously opening up for other performers at Acme. 

Musicians who play other instruments sometimes present a cliche of guitarists as being a bit overly enamored with themselves and always wanting more attention and time for solos and the spotlight. There may be guitarists out there who do in fact live up to this, but Bill doesn't seem to be one of them. When he plays with other guitarists he will alternate supporting the other's performance with shining moments of his own. To me, it never seems like a contest where one performer is going to win. Musicians like MacKay seem to value the overall quality of the music over how they themselves are perceived by listeners. 

Most important to the taper and blog communities, he's always been friendly and generous with his time. I was mentioning to him a few weeks ago that I have seen him perform in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Tennessee. He gets around - make sure you check him out whenever you have the chance.

For this show, Bill opened up for Daniel Bachman, who was on a lengthy tour for the first time in what seems like ages. You'll get a taste of that performance on this blog soon.

stream the goodness right here by pressing the "play" arrow. 
For downloads, see below

This set was recorded after obtaining explicit artist permission by Richard Hayes using a pair of Line Audio CM3 (cardioid) microphones (hand-built in Sweden) along with a soundboard feed to a Sound Devices MixPre6 recorder (manufactured with pride a few hours drive away from Milwaukee).

The files were mixed, trimmed and gentle compression and careful EQ were applied using Audacity. The files were extracted to ALAC and mp3 format using xAct.

Please support this fine artist and decent person by going to his shows, buying multiple copies of his merchandise (your friends need the music!), and talking to him like he is a real human being after shows. If he doesn't mind.


As always, but not usually specifically mentioned, I am very much indebted to Ken Chrisien, the owner and operator of Acme Records and Music Emporium in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee's south side. Without his fantastic booking abilities and exquisite musical taste, as well as his unending patience with this blogger's attempts to document the live music provided there, this blog would be a much bleaker place than it is. To suggest that vinyl enthusiasts have a second home at Acme is to utter the obvious. To recommend that you purchase as much of your music there as you can is the easiest suggestion I have ever made. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Evacuate the Earth at Circle A in Milwaukee on March 9, 2019

This was the second time I had seen this trio. The first was during an incredibly intense set opening up for the Scarring Party at the Sugar Maple a few years ago. I remember being blown away by the sounds coming from this power jazz/no wave/math rock trio.

When I heard that they were going to be having at a show at local bar Circle A, I felt the need to get permission to tape and add it to my blog. The Circle A is the size of my living room, and, truly, I don't have a very large house. (My mother is always asking me when I am going to get a "real house.") At most there could be 35-40 people wedged in there to see a show. 

That doesn't usually bode well for a quality recording. However, I think this turned out well. 

Evacuate the Earth is:
Erin Brophy: vocals, reeds, and percussion
Daniel Kern: bass and theremin
Darrin Wolf: drums

The band was intense (notice how Erin shuts the drunk talkers up with two words on a bull horn) and really didn't stop between songs. I think of the entire set as one suite of songs. Really, really, really intense and strong songs.

It can get tiring as a writer when one is trying to explain how great a band is, just by using words. I could try, and in fact decades ago for a brief time I was in fact paid tiny amounts of money to try to do so. 

But these days all I can say is something like this: if you get a chance to see and hear these three musicians, do so at almost any cost. They are worth the effort! In the meantime, you can download the recording I made that night, seated at the bar and trying my best not to drop my audio equipment, which was:

microphone: Church Audio CA14
preamplifier: Church Audio CA9200
recorded: Roland R-05 at 24/48 resolution
software: Audacity and xAct.

This recording, just like all the recordings on this blog, was recorded and posted with explicit prior permission of the artists.

(high resolution, lossless) 
(427 MB)

(CD-quality resolution, lossless)
(218 MB)

(highest quality possible mp3)
(82 MB)

ALAC files can be played on Apple products without conversion to other formats or using any other software than iTune. You will, however, be getting full resolution at about half the file size as a CD or HD "WAV" file.

mp3 files are -- well, you should know. They play on anything, are tiny compared to the original size of the recording, and don't sound too bad when listened to on your phone or in the car.