By Jillian DawsonRead More
As we are in the final days of the 'Let It Flow' exhibit, we want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who came to support the arts. It was wonderful to see so many people come together to experience and interpret art and music in their own way.
We've got a lot coming up between today and tomorrow. Below is the schedule:
3pm-4pm - Vinyasa Flow guided by Yoga Story
5pm-6pm - Tai Chi Performance by "Sculptress" Janel Rouge
6pm-8pm - Poetry an Spoken Word Open Mic
Open noon - 9pm
6pm-9pm - Closing Ceremony Celebration featuring live music by MIss Molly
“As I pondered the million ways we can make our world whole again, I realized that there are actually a million and one ways to make it better. I am that one. And this is my way.”
By Jillian Dawson
Wisconsin weather aside, the climate as of late seems a little bleak. With a lot of changes in the coming months, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed wanting to help steer us toward a kinder world. Inspired by the 2016 election, Adria Ramos did just that penning her song “Wake Up Call.”
As a Volunteer Victim Advocate for the Sexual Assault Crisis Center (one of the regional agencies of Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), Ramos has seen first had the impact of the SACC in our community. For this reason, Ramos has set up a fund raiser via gofundme.com to donate to this cause. Each donation receives a digital copy of “Wake Up Call” with additional albums and photos per the donation amount.
Ramos joins us at ‘Let It Flow’ tonight from 6pm-8pm. The show is free, however all artist donations will go directly to the cause. You can also donate directly to the site:
'Let It Flow' at Rock Garden Studio is open 12pm-8pm today. Join us as we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. through a variety of his favorite jazz and blues music in the studio. We will have a quiet reflection from 6-8pm at which time artist Leif Larson will be creating his live painting.
By Jillian Dawson
The doors to Rock Garden Studio opened at 6pm for the first night of ‘Let It Flow’ on Friday. By 6:30pm, the studio was buzzing with excitement and curiosity. By 7pm, it was downright cozy. All in all, a successful kick off to the week-long exhibit.
Although it was fun to see familiar faces among the electric energy building within the gallery, I felt it was necessary to visit the exhibit again during a less crowded time.
I walked in just as curator Jean Detjen was hanging “Quiet Please” signs at the entrance, moments before ‘The Listening Room’ began. Created by Jennifer Levenhagen, she describes ‘TLR’ as “an on-going project hosted and attended by people who believe in the power of live improvisational music to empower, inspire, heal and reveal.” Sitting at a piano in the center of a circle full of red chairs, Levenhagen performed improvisational piano, encouraging attendees to experience this time as they wish, whether it be meditation, personal reflection or working on personal projects.
Knowing Marc Golde’s recording room to have a ridiculously comfortable couch, I plopped myself down with my laptop, the piano audible but muffled, a window to the gallery in eyesight. Behind me was an interactive poetry display, single skinny pieces of paper with a pile of markers inviting guests to add a line and rearrange the poems with push pins. My favorite line is written by what I can only guess is someone around second grade that simply says “Olivia Wood” with thirteen hearts behind it (I counted).
My personal favorites so far have been the work of PNut Folkse who sketches scenes from recognizable movies, particularly the Wayne’s World piece. The isolation room (complete with a ‘parental discretion advised’ sign on the door) housed some darker images by Matt Lombard. They reminded me of something I might see in a Tool or Nine Inch Nails music video. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I got a kick out of seeing a photo of my co-worker on display from Graham Washatka from the first Mile of Music, a massive crowd behind him, two martinis being poured as the band played on.
With all types of colors, textures, moods and energies, the exhibit holds something for everyone. I’d like to post photos of the work, but I feel like that might take away from experiencing the fun and surprise of each piece. Pop-up events are being added daily – keep an eye on ‘Let It Flow’s Facebook page for the most up to date event listings!
By Jillian Dawson
Over the past few years, the Fox Cities has made its mark as a hot spot for local musicians. That being said, it’s hard to ignore the Valley is bursting at the seams with creativity outside the musical realm. With a newfound appreciation of the arts scene, events celebrating the efforts of painters, photographers, poets, dancers and everything in between have become a must-see experience within our community.
Incase you missed the buzz, Take Me to the River at the Grand Kakalin in Kaukauna was a huge success last November. Curated by Jean Detjen of Artful Living, the pop-up exhibit showcased an array of artists in a variety of mediums, yoga and guided meditation and interactive photography. Detjen’s latest pop-up gallery, Let It Flow, will be featured at Rock Garden Studio January 13th through 20th. Detjen shared a few words about her history with Marc Golde and Rock Garden.
“I met Marc back in 2013. We’ve developed a friendship over the years based on our mutual love for the arts and all the Fox Cities has to offer.
Marc’s a remarkable community gem who will someday be revered as an Appleton legend in the history books. More people need to know about all the cool stuff he is doing and see where the magic happens right here in Appleton!
I’m a huge fan of original music and some of my most memorable live shows have been experienced in the Rock Garden Studio womb during one of Marc’s legendary taped sessions. The shows there are incredibly intimate and up-close, which I love. His productions are truly a thing of beauty. Visual art is best appreciated in this way, too. It’s about making an emotional connection with viewers.
In addition to being a world-class music studio, Rock Garden is a gorgeous venue in a stunning historic building with a ton of character. Marc tells diverse community stories in this incredible space through his genre-breaking production work. In many senses he is a creative storyteller. We’re both excited about this new collaboration with “Let it Flow” which will allow guests to interact with and explore all variety of artistic expression.”
The lineup consists of 30 contributing artists ranging from visual art to Tai Chi. Attendees can experience the exhibit during open hours or during ‘The Listening Room” where silence is key to observe the art, work on your own creative endeavors or even take a nap (yes, really!). Interactive art via ‘Living Canvas,’ ‘Editable Art’ and a poetry/spoken word open mic are also key elements to this display.
Check out the schedule of happening below!
‘Let It Flow’ event expands by the day - check out their event page on Facebook for up to date/last minute additions. We will be blogging about our experiences at this incredible event throughout the week!
'LET IT FLOW' ART EXHIBIT SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, January 13th: 6-10pm
OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION
Featuring live improvisational music by Floozy, craft beer, refreshments and more!
SATURDAY, January 14th: Open Noon-5pm, 2:30-4pm
Listening Room with Jennifer Levenhagen
SUNDAY, January 15th: Open Noon-5pm
MONDAY, January 16th: Open Noon-8pm
6-8pm: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Quiet Reflection
TUESDAY, January 17th: Open Noon-8pm
6-7:30pm: Listening Room with Jennifer Levenhagen
WEDNESDAY, January 18th: Open Noon-8pm
6-8pm: Violin, Guitar & Song with Adria Ramos
THURSDAY, January 19th: Open Noon-8pm
5-6pm: Tai Chi Performance by Janel Rouge
6-8pm: Poetry & Spoken Word Open Mic
FRIDAY, January 20th: Open Noon-9pm
CLOSING CELEBRATION 6-9pm
7-9pm: live music by Miss Molly
All events are free and open to the public – donations appreciated.
By Jillian Dawson
When Marc emailed me to write about Brian Vander Ark, I admittedly had no idea who he was. I thought this was another of Marc’s hidden gems in the local music scene – another crazy talented musician overlooked amid cover bands and Mile of Music-promoted acts. Turns out, he was a bit bigger than that: a simple Google search listed Vander Ark as the lead singer/songwriter from the Verve Pipe with a little song you might remember called “The Freshmen.”
I was eleven in 1997 when the single from their album Villains hit the airwaves, peaking at number five on the Billboard charts. Eleven is an age where the inklings of personal musical taste begin outside of your parents’ influence (at least for me it was). Back then, I had a collection of mix tapes full of songs from the radio, a blank cassette waiting in my boom box to record my favorites, commercials and radio announcers cutting into the final fadeout or the first few bars of the song. I remember watching MTV in the mornings before school, putting faces to the voices on my mix tapes, idolizing Ginger Spice and Nina Persson from the Cardigans. At that time, “The Freshmen” video was in heavy rotation and is one I’ve seen more times than I can count. I recently re-watched it with a smile, the quintessential ‘90s video: Flickering lightbulb – check. Moody lighting – check. Perfectly styled bleached rock star hair – check. The sidebar of suggested videos brought up the Wallflowers, Fiona Apple, Marcy Playground and Soul Asylum. The usual suspects, all songs you could belt out at karaoke but most likely didn’t know much about aside from their singles.
The life of a song is a rollercoaster of love, overexposure and nostalgia. These songs remain present in our psyche, familiarity creeping up when we hear the song on the radio or it comes on in the bar. “Oh god, remember this song?” you shout at your best friend over the crowd. Suddenly you’re both dramatically singing along (“FOR THE LIFE OF ME!”) gesturing wildly (“I CANNOT REMEMBER!”) with outstretched fingers (“WE WERE MERELY FRESHMEN!”). I think it’s easy to think of a song as its own entity apart from the people who wrote and recorded the song. What happens to the artists when the sparkle fades?
My research on Vander Ark sent me down a rabbit hole of information and borderline obsession with five tabs open in my browser: his website, interviews, a steady stream of various musical projects playing in the background and a particularly sweet appearance on “Failure Lab” discussing the rise and fall of the Verve Pipe.
For the record, the Verve Pipe released five additional albums since Villains, none of which have matched the triumph of their successor. Oddly enough, two of these releases are family albums with songs about waking up, suppertime and my personal favorite, a rock anthem about cereal. Along with four of his own solo albums, Vander Ark has recorded a collection of covers as well as collaborated on a recent release, Simple Truths, with Jeff Daniels.
While the Verve Pipe still perform together, what is especially of note is Vander Ark’s unorthodox approach to booking personal appearances. By creating Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms, Vander Ark has opened a whole new experience to his fans who book him to play shows in their own homes across the country.
Breakfast food-related power ballads and house gigs aside, my favorite thing about Vander Ark has been his willingness to share his professional journey. In addition to his musicianship, his credits on his website include ‘speaker,’ his press pack stating, “Brian shares his story through a very humble, dynamic and special way, helping live audiences throughout the world find it in themselves to keep moving, adapting and changing.”
I think about the way so-called “one hit wonders” are perceived, thought of as something rather sad and somehow unintentionally diminishing all the other amazing and creative things that have come from those phantom fifteen minutes. Perhaps the level of success Vander Ark has achieved is something most of us can only dream of, but the message that he portrays is accessible to anyone whose linear path didn’t exactly follow where they expected it to.
I had a moment a while back, wiping away drink picks and cherry stems from the bar top at close, when a song came on from (ironically) my freshman year. Instantly I was taken back to the bus stop, walkman in hand, steadying it from skipping as I hurried to the corner, always running late. How strange is it I never considered where I would be when I heard that song at twenty or thirty. I didn’t think too much about that sort of thing then. So in 1997, swimming at Erb Park Pool, “The Freshmen” played in the background, another song I didn’t consider as a part of my future self. And now, at thirty (and admittedly in my own bit of a rut) I found a spark in the words of Brian Vander Ark – not in his music, but his own personal story.
That’s the thing about the life of a song – it never actually dies. I can’t wait to see where they all lead.
Brian Vander Ark performs at Rock Garden Studio Thursday January 5th at 7pm.
For more information on Brian Vander Ark, visit www.brianvanderark.com
By Jillian Dawson
It’s difficult to describe the music of the ’90s without noting it’s a little schizophrenic. Coming out of the era of hair bands and new wave, music went to a darkly honest place with grunge. In contrast, we were introduced to a new world of bubble-gum pop, a smattering of boy bands, girl power, Gwen Stefani and ‘90s hip-hop. At a time when MTV reigned, pumping music videos straight into our homes for consumption, we were introduced to songs and bands that became time stamps – songs of a generation. One such heavy-hitter rose up out of Michigan, the 1997 ballad from the Verve Pipe titled, “The Freshmen,” peaking at number 5 on the Billboard charts. Though the follow-up albums didn’t catch the same fire as Villains, lead singer/songwriter Brian Vander Ark continues to write and perform his music across the country. In anticipation of Thursday’s performance at Rock Garden Studio, Marc Golde spoke with Vander Ark about the music industry in the ‘90s and all the nerdy tech questions a recording guy loves to know.
You are of the last generation of artists (The 1990s) that enjoyed the career arc that kids dream of: score a major label record deal, record in big studios with big-time producers, get a video on MTV, have hit singles, tour, shake David Letterman's hand, etc. Would you describe what it felt like while it was happening?
I was constantly worried about what comes next. As much as I enjoyed meeting Letterman and Leno, I wasn’t present in the moment. We needed to have another hit song and the worry about writing one created enormous pressure. I didn’t enjoy that time as much as I wish I would have.
Did you feel a shift in the industry at a certain point?
I certainly felt it in 1999 when the self-titled album (the frog album) was released. Genre-wise it was all rock/metal, Nu Metal, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, etcetera.
What do you think has changed the most with the record industry?
At that time, file sharing was becoming more and more common. Everyone was worried about music not being purchased. I had friends who swore one day music would essentially be free. I thought it would never happen and, of course, it’s now free if you want it.
Do you prefer the big, expensive studios or are you more comfortable with the guy down the street or home recording?
Home recording, always. It’s really not a matter of comfort or vibe, it’s all about the bottom line. As much as I would love to lounge about for 3 months recording when the mood strikes, it’s not practical anymore.
Do you have a home studio? If so do you release music from there or just demos?
I don’t - I don’t have the patience for it. I like to record a demo in garage band, or even into my iPhone, and let the others in the band record it properly. They are the ones with the real talent for engineering. I feel like I’m wasting time trying to choose the best mic pre or playing with the newest gadget. I’d rather work on the songs.
Are there any pieces of gear you rely on or prefer when you're recording?
I’m not a ‘gear guy’ at all. I’m not even a ‘guitar guy.’ Gear and guitars, what have you, are for one thing: getting the song recorded.
Do you enjoy recording or is it just a necessary process for your songs?
I enjoy recording other instruments or parts written by the other members of the band. They are all brilliant and come up with interesting ideas inspired by my songs. I’m often surprised by what they come up with, though I shouldn’t be; it’s always great. The process of recording my own parts is the least fun of all of it. I just want to get it done so I can listen to everyone else.
You've released so much material. Is it your process to write diligently or just when the inspiration hits?
Diligence. I’m constantly writing, or thinking about writing. Even when I swear I’m going to take a few days off, I can’t. I’m always working.
Is there anyone, living or not, that you’d love to collaborate with?
I would love to bring Sting back to that place he was in when he was writing for Ghost in the Machine or Synchronicity. I would love to collaborate with Elvis Costello more than anyone else I think. He was a huge influence on me, lyrically and musically. My dream had been to work with Andy Partridge, and I got my chance. I think it would be possible to do that again, and I may pursue it.
Come see Brian Vander Ark Thursday January 5th, 7pm at Rock Garden Studio.
By Jillian Dawson
I can’t be the only person that instantly thinks of summer when listening to Cool Waters Band. Blame it on the upbeat pop hooks or Greg Waters’ vocals, but by the chorus I can practically feel the paper Miller Lite band around my wrist, toes in the grass, head bopping along with the rest of the crowd that freckles the seemingly endless ‘fests around the area in the summer.
There’s a reason this band is a staple of the local music scene (can you really even consider yourself from the Fox Valley if you haven’t seen them live?). To put it simply, they’re a feel-good band with infectious originals and a dedicated fan base like no other. If you’re like me, the Cool Waters Band has always just sort of… been here. So what’s their story? According to Greg Waters, it started with family.
“I think music was always just kind of there. My family was full of musical talent. My Dad introduced us to bands like The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Chicago when we were kids. I spent my teen years glued to my walkman.”
If you don’t count air guitar, Waters, along with his brother Dan Waters, began their musical collaboration in high school, playing guitar and writing songs. It was there he also met bassist Mike Cool.
“We instantly discovered that we both played music and loved Anthrax; we jammed together throughout high school. I left for college with no band and no plan, but I wrote some songs while I was away. Over Thanksgiving break, Mike stopped by to pick me up at my parents' place to go out for the night. Dan and I were jamming. Mike joined in. We ended up staying in the basement all weekend recording our first demo on my dad's reel to reel machine. We called ourselves Cool Waters - kind of like Wilson Phillips.”
While other musicians have come and gone over the years, both of the Waters’ and Cool remain in the band along with Matt Gieseke on drums, Rick Rajchel on sax and Scott Sukow on trombone and percussion for their current lineup. With ten albums under their belts, they’ve acquired a solid following.
“Our fans have been extremely loyal, even despite a really long hiatus by the band. We have become really good friends with a lot of our fans which has kind of added another dimension to what we do.”
When asked what the best part of being in Cool Waters is, Waters said, “I love having a positive impact on people through music. It's a great feeling. I also love the friendships we've formed within the band. It's kept Danny and I close for a lot of years which is really cool.”
Waters looks forward to tonight’s show at Rock Garden, citing what he loves about performing live:
“Everything. The energy, the unpredictability, the interaction with an audience. I love being in the moment and challenging ourselves to put a different kind of stamp on each show.”
Spending years as a band is guaranteed to rack up some pretty unusual experiences.
“Man, there are so many stories... from blizzards in the desert to angry Rottweiler attacks, parking lot bowling to four hour non-stop sets.” Perhaps we’ll hear an antic or two tonight?” I think we'll save them for the book,” he says with a laugh.
Here’s hoping he changes his mind.
By Jillian Dawson
Auralai (the chamber-folk duo comprised of Stephanie Tschech and Nate Lehner) joins us at Rock Garden Studio Thursday September 8th for a live in-studio performance of their second album “Songs For Dogs (that sleep on beds).” Of the handful of interviews I’ve done for the blog, so far this has been the sweetest – Stephanie sits down with us to talk about her new album, Damien Rice and a dog named Bella.
Tell me about the history of Auralai - how did you and Nate meet?
The first configuration of Auralai began as a three piece about four years ago with Namiah Tribolini on drums and Matt Krempien on Guitar and Banjo. Nate and I started playing together about a one and a half years ago. I had known him through the local music scene, and when (the original) Auralai broke up, I wanted to complete the album we had started as a solo album. I reached out to Nate to do engineering and he wound up adding instrumentation to most of the songs. Once the album was about done, we decided to start playing together.
Coming from a classical background, how did you transition from a classically trained cellist to an indie performer?
When I decided I didn't enjoy classical music anymore, I really dug in to try and decide what to do with this set of skills that I had been fine-tuning (pun intended) for a decade at that point. I was really into Damien Rice at the time and his style influenced me a lot. The first song I ever learned how to sing and play was his song "9 Crimes.” It was no small effort and it definitely was not pretty. But once I learned it, something clicked in my brain and a whole new world opened up for me and my cello.
Do you still alternate between doing solo and duo shows?
I try not to play solo anymore if I can help it. Before Nate and I started playing together, I performed solo all of the time. I couldn't really imagine being in a band again. Now that I know how much fun it is to have a partner in crime on stage, I don't think I will ever enjoy playing solo again. It feels like being lost in an airport all alone.
Tell me more about your newest album. What inspired you?
"Songs for Dogs (that sleep on beds)" is right between an EP and a full album. I tend to lean toward non-tradition in just about everything I do. The song title itself pays tribute to my dog, Bella, who is the only being allowed to be present while I go through the painstaking process of writing a song. It's really a messy and embarrassing process, but she always seemed to find this completely different level of whimsy while she would lay on my bed and listen to me write. Bella was present for the writing of all songs on the album and she never seemed to mind my clumsy song-writing. The style of "Songs for Dogs.." was largely inspired by Damien Rice's new album, "Faded Fantasy,” which was released just before we began recording album number two - it moved me greatly.
Where was your album recorded and what was the recording process like for you?
The album was recorded in Nate's recording studio. He owns and operates a video production business for which he usually records all of his own soundtracks so he is pretty equipped for recording. It's great to be in a comfortable, familiar environment while recording. It allows us to ‘try’ things and experiment a little bit, which every recording musician knows is not something you usually do at a professional studio. There have been several songs on both albums that were finished in the studio, minutes before we recorded them. I chalk that up to some song-writing advice that I was given from Namiah Tribolini over the years when I have been stuck on a song for too long: when in doubt, repeat. Repeat a catchy line, repeat the first verse of the song, just repeat. I might use that too much, but it almost always helps.
Did you collaborate with additional musicians for the album?
We brought in a few incredibly talented musicians for this album. Rebecca Hron (formerly from The Guilty Wanted) added some gorgeous vocals and piano work. Jeff Mitchell added musical saw to a track and it wound up being the best part of the song. Namiah Tribolini did all of the percussion work on his rad vintage Roger kit and Leroy Duester put down some pretty fun pedal steel licks on the last song [on the album]. We didn't really bring in a producer, but we did bring in a friend of mine, Jay Spanbauer. He has a great ear for things in songs that no one else notices and is fierce and bold with his opinion. Jay gave us so many great ideas that really helped shape the final stages of a handful of songs. I also had the luxury of bringing every new mix to Namiah to let his ear pick out oddities and give ideas. He has a great ear for production and I really respect his musical opinion.
What is the writing dynamic like between you and Nate?
It took us a little bit to get into a collaborative writing groove, mostly because I came with so many of my solo songs. Nate really liked them - which is great- but within the last six to eight months, we have really started firing away at collaborative writing. The style turns out really neat, a lot different from the songs I write solo. It usually begins with me showing up to a rehearsal and saying, "Hey, I started this new song," and I usually only have a verse and maybe a rough idea of the chorus. Then Nate sprinkles his magic dust on top and it all comes together.
What can we expect from your performance at Rock Garden Studio?
We will be doing a video at Rock Garden. As far as I know, it will just be the two of us. We are probably going to play our album through from start to finish and then tack on a couple of our new songs that we are planning to release as singles in the near future. The audience can expect awkward banter between some really intense songs, that's usually how it goes.
You can catch Auralai this Thursday, September 8th at Rock Garden Studio, 7pm.
If you've been part of the Fox Valley for a few years, chances are you've heard of Marc Golde. I first met Marc when a fellow co-worker was part of "Marc Golde's Show of Shows." She sang a song with pieces of mirrors like a mosaic on her face. This being my first impression of his capabilities left me thinking "this guy isn't messing around." Through the years, I was part of a few things Marc was working on - commercials for Deja Vu Martini Lounge, a music video for Voodoo's Dream and most recently he let me interview him for an article on Rob Anthony, who just wrapped his latest album at Rock Garden Studio. Through these brief encounters, I was curious on the story behind the studio and how it came to be. Check out this awesome video Marc compiled of our interview, complete with throwback photos and audio. We hope you enjoy it!