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.




downloads:

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. 






downloads:

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. 





downloads:

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 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.





downloads:





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.





Monday, August 13, 2018

James Elkington at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on July 7, 2018

James Elkington is a superb guitarist who has frequently performed and toured with the likes of Joan Shelley, Steve Gunn, and Jeff Tweedy. A few years back he and Nathan Salsburg (another cohort of Joan Shelley) released an excellent duo instrumental album on the Paradise of Bachelors label.

However, just about a year ago he briefly dropped the mantle as a fingerpicking hero to release an album, Wintres Woma, featuring affecting folk songs with seemingly straightforward lyrics and simple melodies all built on a shifting foundation of brilliant and complex guitar work.



His performance at Acme, supporting Jake Xerxes Fussell was a delightful experience for the packed crowd of music lovers. At one point he told the crowd that we were lucky to have Acme Records in Milwaukee (a sentiment echoed by Steve Gunn last year when he announced that Acme was his favorite record store in the US) -- I feel fairly confident to state that the audience felt quite lucky to be there listening to him.

This recording was made by Richard Hayes with explicit prior permission from James Elkington as well as Acme Records.

I captured the audio of the performance utilizing a matched pair of hand-made Church Audio CA14 cardioid microphones which were fed into a Church Audio CA9200 preamp and recorded with a Roland R-05 recorder. I also recorded a soundboard feed and these two sources were blended in Audacity, split with Fission, and converted to ALAC and mp3 using xAct.

https://www.jameselkington.com
http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com/james-elkington/
https://paradiseofbachelors.bandcamp.com/album/wintres-woma

Please support this superb musician and excellent human being by seeing his live shows, buying multiple copies of his merchandise (your friends are starving for great music), and talking to him respectfully after shows.


A quick guide to download formats:
WAV = files which are able to be burned as a CD without any conversion steps. This is the largest size of file on offer here.
ALAC = stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec, which is a method of making a lossless copy of an audio file with about 60% of the space required with a WAV file. You can natively play these files on any Apple device and enjoy the same resolution and sound quality as a WAV file (it just takes up half as much space on your hard drive or device). 
mp3 - this is a lossy compression codec which utilizes psycho-acoustic "tricks" to drop certain audio information which is not noticeable under normal hearing situations. I am not a huge fan of mp3 but still find it useful because a high quality mp3 file will take up about 25% of the room on your storage device compared to a WAV file and about half as much as a ALAC file.



Downloads:




Sunday, August 12, 2018

Moss Folk at the Milwaukee Psych Fest, May 4, 2018

Moss Folk's blistering and exciting performance at the most recent Psych Fest probably came a bit too early in the day. The late afternoon set was not attended by a full room, since many of the night's visitors were  still on their way to the venue. 

No worries -- those lucky enough to get there early were treated to a powerful set by this long-time Milwaukee psych staple. As the afternoon wore on, and the light began to slowly darken, we started to get a taste of an amazing analog light show.






This set was recorded with explicit artist permission by Richard Hayes using a pair of Beyerdynamic MC930 cardioid microphones mounted in an ORTF configuration on a 9 foot stand and a Shure FP24 mixer/preamp fed into a Tascam DR-70D recorder. Audacity and xAct were utilized in mastering.
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.

A quick guide to download formats:
WAV = files which are able to be burned as a CD without any conversion steps. This is the largest size of file on offer here.
ALAC = stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec, which is a method of making a lossless copy of an audio file with about 60% of the space required with a WAV file. You can natively play these files on any Apple device and enjoy the same resolution and sound quality as a WAV file (it just takes up half as much space on your hard drive or device). 
mp3 - this is a lossy compression codec which utilizes psycho-acoustic "tricks" to drop certain audio information which is not noticeable under normal hearing situations. I am not a huge fan of mp3 but still find it useful because a high quality mp3 file will take up about 25% of the room on your storage device compared to a WAV file and about half as much as a ALAC file.


Downloads: