Joshua Hester is one-third of Listening Party, the alternative folk trio out of Milwaukee whose music has found a home on The Avenue. Joshua’s the guy on the right side of the stage unassumingly, yet very skillfully, handling guitar, mandolin and bass duties. During a live set you’ll see those skills take center stage when he loops a solo arrangement. We wanted to know what Joshua was listening to that might have influenced him.
Listening Party is a band you definitely want to see live – for more information and show dates visit https://www.listeningpartymusic.com or follow them on Facebook.
Check out “Train” from Listening Party’s most recent album LESS IS MORE
Radiohead/Thom Yorke – THE KING OF LIMBS
Beginning with my early teens, Radiohead has been in my heavy rotation, to the point where I did not listen to much else. I have this way of obsessing over a musical influence, dissecting the puzzle, reading and learning each phrase, note, and part. There is a particular aspect of Yorke’s music that speaks to me; abject despair and relentless optimism, both working in tandem.
The album, THE KING OF LIMBS resonated with me most of all during a time of much emotional duress. Out of the whole piece, “Separator” was the song that I fixated on. The syncopated drums, a dreamy soundscape lined bottom and top with perfect layers of bass and keys/guitars. The haunting vocal lines of Yorke telling a story of perpetual discomfort and progress, begging to be let out of the dream.
Lord Huron – STRANGE TRAILS
Another amazing album.
When I first heard the song “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron, it struck me. That ethereal chorus warbling in the background, the arpeggiating guitar and shuffling drum beat. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you.’” I read that line and got goosebumps.
Then there’s “Fool for Love.” The ballad of a man fighting for the woman he loves against the aptly named Big Jim and losing everything in the process. Embracing his failure, we see a fallen warrior regretting but one thing: leaving his opponent alive. The song closes with the lines “I stare into the endless sky, and the sorry tale of my life goes by. I drift into the great unknown, and I really don’t know where I’m going.”
Punch Brothers – WHO’S FEELING YOUNG NOW?
The opening piece of this record, “Movement and Location” speaks volumes. It’s a song that came about when Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny were discussing the pitching technique of former Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux. It’s percussive, ambient, and driving. The unerring thump of the bass with Chris Thile’s unique percussive mandolin playing immediately catches my breath in my throat, regardless of how many listens I get in.
Pair that with the tracks “Flippen,” “Patchwork Girlfriend,” their cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A,” this album clearly exhibits a new genre of music, dubbed “progressive bluegrass.” It’s just a perfect personification of that term and has enchanted me since the first listen.
What are you listening to?
Local Live Music Enthusiast - Avenue Supporter
Yes, that’s me in front of the stage at many local performances. Nothing will make the stresses of the day disappear faster than seeing magic being created in front of us on an almost daily basis here in Appleton. The best thing we can do to support the local music community and the musicians is to buy their music and merchandise. The added benefit of still buying a CD is discovering a new song that maybe hasn’t been played live or will never make it to the radio. More often than not, there is a hidden gem buried within the songs or is the last song on the album. That is the focus of this Listening Room.
First up is Dead Horses. If you haven’t seen them live yet, I can’t recommend them enough. The best way to describe seeing them in person is their performance is like a long hug dipped in tequila. It just keeps getting better. The last track on their album, CARTOON MOON, is “Peace My Soul.” When the day is challenging, pour yourself two fingers of your favorite whiskey, and this song will bring you back around.
Dead Horses “Peace My Soul” https://youtu.be/nvp-f-s96cE
Another favorite, with Appleton as their second home, is Listening Party from Milwaukee. Weston, Joshua and Jacob never disappoint and are in town almost every month. Each performance is different with variations being done on many of their original songs. And when they do a cover, they make it their own. “The Rock,” the sixth track on their self-titled album, is what got me hooked. These guys should be more famous and it’s only a matter of time. Be sure to check them out before their visits become less frequent.
Listening Party “The Rock” https://youtu.be/ZaF_728gi-c
Next is Auralai, the genius of Nate Lehner and Stephanie Tschech really shine with their album, SONGS FOR DOGS. I attended the CD release concert at Rock Garden Studios and have been a fan ever since and just saw them recently when they opened for Shawn Colvin in Oshkosh. The second to the last track is one where Nate takes over as lead singer with, “Already Always Yours.” If I could sing, this is the song I would sing to a significant other.
Auralai, “Already Always Yours” https://youtu.be/i6aI03jCkr8a
Another favorite, well-know in Appleton, is The Belle Weather. Not only do Eric and Tom have full time jobs, they manage to play over 100 gigs a year. I’m honored to call them friends and they have performed at my house three times. On their last studio album, SUITCASE, the fourth song from the end, “Unbound,” is now my go-to song. The lyric, “I want to be your lost and found,” gets me every time. Give it a go. Another favorite is ninth track on their first album, HOLD ON, is “Portland.” A tale about old friends reuniting.
The Belle Weather “Unbound” https://youtu.be/vVms-uUnx-Q
The latest album by The Mascot Theory, DAWN AND WHAT COMES AFTER, is their best work to date, in my opinion. The last track, “Unstick The Words,” is hauntingly beautiful. The moment I hear it, the hair on the back of my neck stands up and when it’s finished, I’m hitting the repeat button. Sonically delicious!
The Mascot Theory “Unstick The Words” https://youtu.be/XHUefWzXYQ0
This leads us right into Christopher Gold & The New Old Things with their 2016 release, WHICHEVER WAY HOME. As a person who has moved many times in the last 15 years, some by choice, some not by choice, the last song, “Coming Home,” really resonates. I’m a big fan of acoustic songs with a searing electric guitar in the background. And this song does not disappoint.
Christopher Gold & The New Old Things “Coming Home” https://youtu.be/T1bksQ1rn5s
On this journey, we can’t leave out Wild Adriatic, Mile of Music favorite. Their album, Feel, contains two must-listen-to songs. The first track is a song called “Appleton” a nod to their home-away-from-home and the song they end many of their local performances. The other is the third track, “Come Back Baby,” and will get you grooving. This song has it all. Listen for yourself.
Wild Adriatic “Appleton” https://youtu.be/PPcehORLn-M
Lastly, and for me personally, no Listening Room is complete without mentioning Wisconsin’s own, Willy Porter, based in Milwaukee. I may be a bit biased. Back before he was famous, we were students together at UW-Eau Claire and I was there from the beginning. If you asked me my top three bands/performers in the world, he is one of them. Each song is a favorite. He has an EP that came out in in 2012 called CHESSEBURGERS & GASOLINE. The third track is “Digging in the Dirt,” a seven minute Peter Gabriel cover. This comes with me on road trips. It starts out slow and methodical and builds up. And before you know, you listened to it four times and can’t get enough.
Willy Porter “Digging in the Dirt” https://youtu.be/0PTg91R5Y0k
Tom Thiel, Guitarist, Singer-Songwriter
Tom Thiel is best known for his years as part of the veteran Fox Valley trio, Boxkar. In 2017, Thiel released his first solo album, “Old Shadows,” and brought home a WAMI Award as Singer/Songwriter of the Year. Currently you can find Tom performing with Mudbone (along with Jay Stulo, Rodney Zimmerman, and Spencer Panosh) Sundays 6-9 at Gibson Music Hall, or sitting in with Kurt Gunn’s band. Several cuts off of “Old Shadows" have become favorites in the Avenue’s playlist.
“Usually when someone asks me what my favorite band or album is, my brain just locks up. It’s like the feeling you get when you walk into a record store and are so overwhelmed that you immediately forget what you had come in for. Some people are content listening to the same things they listened to in high school but I’ve always enjoyed finding new things. My ears get bored easily. I think listening to new music enhances your memories by providing an aural point of reference. For me, 1993 was the year of Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, the fall of 1999 was Filter’s Title of Record, and 2013 was Justin Jones’ Fading Light. It’s so cool to keep adding on to your life’s playlist. Here are a few albums that have made my life’s playlist.
Gregory Alan Isakov Evening Machines – In October, Gregory Alan Isakov released Evening Machines and it’s really grown on me. The songs are so spacious and cinematic and his quiet melancholy voice fits so well over the top. There are subtle hooks in the songs that pull you in over time. There is a really amazing video for the song “San Luis” that was shot at Great Sand Dunes National park during a sandstorm.
“San Luis” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BJ7MDOmLPE
Nicholas Raymond Summer Shoes – Another new favorite is Nicholas Raymond’s Summer Shoes album. The entire album is full of great songwriting. The opening track “This Side” is like a song within a song. I love it! “Lights and Sounds and Colors Collide” is another of my favorites.
Summer Shoes on Bandcamp https://nicholasraymond.bandcamp.com/album/summer-shoes
Pat MacDonald Begging Her Graces – My brother played drums with Pat MacDonald for a little while years ago. They traveled around doing a 2-piece thing and I got to see them a lot. Pat was so particular about his sound and he always sounded amazing. I love Pat’s album Troubadour of Stomp and I listen to it all the time but there is something about “Begging Her Graces.” It’s dark, with some lighter moments, and full of Pat’s cleverly cynical lyrics. “Little Dark Angel” is my wife’s favorite and I would have to go with “Tyranny of Beauty.”
“Little Dark Angel” https://youtu.be/EZXUm1UC0DQ
Shakey Graves Audio Tree Sessions – As a kid there was a lot of music in my house but it was a lot of K-tel Greatest Hits Collections. I was always drawn to the epic classic rock guitar songs from bands like Foghat, Free and Led Zeppelin. I’m still drawn to the guitar and lately I’ve been really into Shakey Graves’ guitar style. It’s blues based, percussive and a little dirty. A great example is either of the Audio Tree Sessions he did in 2013 and 2014. He has a lot of stuff on YouTube and every live version is a little different.
Shakey Graves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD72LbIk02M
Motherfolk – Motherfolk - As far as Mile of Music artists that are in my current playlists, my wife Shawn saw Motherfolk a few years ago and turned me on to them. I really love their stuff and whoever runs their Twitter account is hilarious.
Melissa is not just an Avenue listener and supporter, she’s one of the most tireless consumers of live music in the area. About this time of year, anyone who knows her starts asking, “what’s your number?” And that’s because she is a dedicated chronicler of all the live music she sees. And “your number” refers to the number of live music sets she’s seen this year. And THAT number, is impressive. Darn near impossible for mere mortals. So when she talks music, listen up!
Recently she’s joined Redshift Headlights, a local Oshkosh group featuring vibes, guitar with lots of pedals, drums, second guitar, bass with occasional fuzzy pickle, rhodes, synth, drums, trumpet, singing, and infrequent timpani. The band’s second album OSHKOSH will play a vinyl release show November 3 at Bare Bones Brewery in Oshkosh, and will open for Field Report November 16 at The Howard, also in Oshkosh. Find out more at redshiftheadlights.com
What I am listening to is always shaped by the outstanding talent that is brought into the Appleton area on a regular basis. We are lucky to live in a community that supports its artists so readily and enthusiastically. I am happy to have the “champagne and caviar problem” of having to make a choice from the two or three shows I have interest in seeing on a given night.
On October 9, I saw the Avett Brothers at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Having been a fan since their “Emotionalism” album released in 2007, I was excited to see them live for the first time right here in Appleton. They did not disappoint! Their performance was filled with musical diversity with solo or duet performances as well as full on band songs. Standouts for me were “The Ballad of Love and Hate,” “Murder in the City” and their closing song, “No Hard Feelings.”
Avett Brothers “The Ballad of Love and Hate” https://youtu.be/6Pre7bINBps
I have been enjoying the Mile of Music Flashbacks on 91.1 The Avenue. I have also benefited from Mile artists returning to town for shows. I was lucky enough to see three such shows this month. The first was Micah Schnabel at Stone Arch. I love his passionate songwriting and have nearly worn out my copies of both “Your New Norman Rockwell” and “I’m Dead Serious.” His lyrics offer challenge as well as hope. The second was Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery at Deja Vu. I appreciate the literary references in the lyrics, the ethereal falsetto of the vocals and the musical communication within the band. I would definitely recommend “Alyosha” and I’m looking forward to their new release, “PSYCHO/TROPIC,” due to be released before the end of the year. The third show was Desert Noises at Mill Creek. I like this band more every time I catch them live. Their original guitar player, Pat Boyers, has returned to the band. He is a fantastic player and the band is really hitting on all cylinders live. I particularly like their songs, “Don’t Really Know What to Say,” and “Oak Tree.” In addition to a great rhythm section and guitar, this band has outstanding vocal harmonies.”
Micah Schnabel “I’m Dead, Serious” https://youtu.be/xHVF6Ozl_PM
Joshua Powell “Gunfighter Ballad for the 21st Century” https://youtu.be/M34U2Xkxyv8
Desert Noises “Oak Tree” https://youtu.be/B23PAapyQiQ
Just today, I discovered that the legendary John Prine will be visiting the Fox Cities P.A.C. in May. I could not be more excited about the opportunity to see him live for the first time. I have been listening to Prine’s music for over 40 years. His “Hello in There” makes me emotional every time I hear it to this day. His new album, “The Tree of Forgiveness” is as strong as anything he’s written across his career. “Caravan of Fools” and “Summer’s End” were standouts for me on this excellent album.
John Prine “Caravan of Fools” https://youtu.be/SKyhYtmwVyU
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