For ten years, I’ve been writing an online roundup of my favorite concerts for Isthmus, the Madison weekly where I wrote and edited for many years. I’m not a critic, but I see a ton of live music.
My tastes are far-ranging. Opera to op’ry. Free jazz to dub. Classical to indigenous. Occasional rock. Blues if I can find it.
Last week, while traveling, I saw the Paris Opera’s widely panned restaging of Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust.” This was a cheeky new twist to the age-old tale of a desperate man making a deal with the devil. Director Alvis Hermanis brashly uprooted the opera from its traditional Middle Ages setting and placed it in the near future on the eve of a Mars space mission. This had audiences booing and critics howling.
I loved it. But 2015 was that kind of a musical year for me. The brasher the better. As I wrote in Isthmus:
I was looking for disruptive and challenging music. Some of this, frankly, was a reaction to our politically pissant times. They make you want to holler, to quote Marvin Gaye. If I were still writing about politics, I’d be tempted to raise my hand at press conferences and politely ask our leaders: “Are you fucking serious?”
Dark edgy music, at least on some nights, was where my head was at. It didn’t help I was playing Ben Sidran’s fine new album Blue Camus nonstop on my car’s beat-up CD player. Displaying a jazzman’s innate outsider sensibility, Sidran nailed the gestalt of certain precincts in Madison (and elsewhere) — a profound weariness and frustration with politics.
“If they would just back it up or pack it up. Lead, follow or get out of the way,” he exclaims in “Wake Me When It’s Over,” before delivering his homily. “Because sometimes good things can happen to bad people. But, man, baaad people happen to good people every day.”
To read more (some 5,000 words worth), please go here.