Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Forward Music Festival 2009

Andrew Bird

Most people whistle while they work to distract themselves, but for Andrew Bird, whistling is an integral part of his work. Hailing from Chicago and currently on tour, Bird stopped at Madison Saturday night as part of the weekend’s Forward Music Festival.

The set began with just Bird and his violin creating wonderful, layered melodies that filled every inch of Overture Hall. Bird created a full sound — by himself — by utilizing a loop function petal, which allows him to record melodies and have them repeat, creating tiers of melody. Bird is like a musical minimalist, using simple ideas and weaving them intricately to create something unexpectedly sweet.


Bird is an incredible soloist, with a distinct voice and even more distinct violin playing. He used his violin in most of the songs and showed the audience how versatile of an instrument the violin is. Some of the sounds that Bird was able to get out of his violin were so out-of-this-world incredible that most people would not know it was a violin.

As well as being a talented vocalist and violinist, Bird can whistle better than all seven dwarves. One of his signature sounds, Bird’s whistling is unparalleled. And you would think whistling is easy, but just wait until you hear this man. He has taken something simple and ordinary and transformed it into a perfectible art form.

The stage set-up was also an extension of Bird’s musical being. It was eclectic, calm and unique. There were two Andrew Bird-sized vintage phonographs and one double-phonograph that acted as a speaker and rotated like a siren. The effect was an incredible Doppler melody pulsating throughout the hall.

Andrew Bird put on an impressive show. He played new and old music, with new twists and turns, as well as personal projects that have been on the back burner. He sends the audience on a musical journey, exploring natural landscapes and redefining them with fresh, new concepts.

Michelle Wright


Fingers, arms, toes and legs contorted and bent — possessed — all throbbing like a demon heart to the beat coursing through the Orpheum Lobby Friday night. And, all at once, YACHT — Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans — was the crowd’s instigator and evangelizer, its motivation to madness and spiritual guide.

Launching into their set — set back by a two-hour delay — the duo set a dizzying pace for the half-full lobby with “Ring the Bell,” the quasi-spiritual, sample-heavy first track off YACHT’s latest album, See Mystery Lights.

“Will we go to heaven, or will we go to hell?” Evans and Bechtolt asked the crowd, shaking their microphones like maracas and throwing their bodies mercilessly against their fans and each other before collapsing to the ground.

And YACHT kept the speed the entire set, propelling it with “It’s Coming to Get You,” an up-tempo, electro-pop gem from I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real, as both members demonstrated that, for them, everything is an instrument. A pointed finger was another drumbeat, another bleep or bloop on the hipster radar.

It was this theatric chemistry, combined with a setting that allowed both members to spin and whirl and tease the crowd with ease, which electrified the Orpheum Lobby. Evans was able to slink across the floor like a praying mantis that had just killed its mate during “The Afterlife,” her coy, chanting vocals punching the air — as crowd members punctured it with their fists — before seemingly anointing concert-goers with the touch of her hand.

And it also allowed YACHT to further its evangelism, projecting a “motivational” slideshow onto a sidewall.

“Repeat after me: ‘The world may end in my lifetime,'” Bechtolt proclaimed as the seven words appeared across the gold-gilded Orpheum Lobby wall. And the crowd happily obliged, following its priest and priestess willingly as YACHT’s music took their bodies hostage.

Sarah Probst

Ra Ra Riots

When the floorboards shudder and quake because of jumping and moving around it becomes clear the band performing is a great one. Ra Ra Riots is one of those bands.

The band boasts six people: bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller, cellist Alexandra Lawn, drummer Gabriel Duquette and lead vocalist Wes Miles. Ra Ra Riot formed in 2006 in Syracuse, N.Y., playing all over the Syracuse campus and being recognized only six months later for their unique sound and enjoyable shows.

Ra Ra Riot is quite unique. The instrumentals, including an outstanding duo of violin and cello, are the dominant reason for this. The main singer’s unique voice, fused with the strings, make Ra Ra Riot’s tone epic and formal. Merge this with the overall pop-indie-rock sound of the guitars and drums and the interesting and unique sound of Ra Ra Riot is produced.

Every song is very catchy, and audience members immediately bounced around because Ra Ra Riot’s songs were definitely something to move to. Every song is also dramatically different than the former, with original lyrics and an upbeat sound. Ra Ra Riot creatively separated their songs so nothing sounds similar.

Ra Ra Riot opened with one of their more famous songs “Can You Tell.” The song’s bubbly feel was a fun contrast to the not-necessarily-cheery lyrics: “What am I supposed

to do/ It’s hard to stay cool/ When you smile at me/ And I get nervous every time you speak/ My bed’s too big for just me/ When you turn your eyes/ I promise I won’t care/ Standing by your sister fair.”

The love of the band vibrates through the floorboards and ricochets off the walls, making the High Noon Saloon pulsate with excitement and happiness. Incorporating the string solos into their instrumentals brings forth a different feel, giving the impression they are more refined, sophisticated and elegant than other bands. With the exceptionally different and innovative sound, Ra Ra Riot is sure to keep those clubs and bars packed with lively fans.

Kathi Gadow

Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l

Following This Bright Apocalypse, Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l graced the stage at The Orpheum Theatre with high energy and a fresh flavor. Channeling Congolese, Ghanaian and East Nigerian sounds, this multiracial group made multiple top 10 lists in 2007, and their monthly shows at Chicago’s Charleston have become legendary dance parties. And after hearing about their reputation, they did not disappoint.

Once on stage, drummer Asamoah Rambo looked into the audience and shouted a friendly, “HEY!” They went on to introduce themselves, making a point to say, “Life is too short” and then erupted in a zesty party of music that had people gravitating toward the stage. No other words could have introduced such a lively and entertaining group of talented individuals.

As people began to walk up to the stage and dance along to the African beats, the energy of the room bounced off the walls. Lead singer Kofi Cromwell sang straight from the soul, mixing English with his native language of Twi in a savory wave of sound. The saxophone, trumpet and other African instruments danced around the lyrics, and while each performer brought a certain element to the group, they worked off each other and were obviously just having a great time. Part of the fun was watching white guys bobbing off-rhythm to the African beats, trying their hardest to spin and twirl their girlfriends.

The Occidental Brothers exuded uninhibited freedom and brought a spark to the theater, allowing the audience to dance, play, laugh and jump out of their comfort zones, moving along to the rhythm just for the hell of it. The Occidental Brothers should be the soundtrack to our lives, and everyone should listen and realize that life really is too short.

Natalie Sandy

For more Forward Music Fest coverage, head to the ArtsEtc. blog, The Beat Goes On.

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