The days are getting shorter, the air cooler, and everything is coming up pumpkin. Fall’s back! There are lots of great shows in Madison this season. Here are some of the best reasons to break out the flannel, grab an Oktoberfest, and enjoy some live music.
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 6
Her hip-hop collective Doomtree hasn’t released an album since 2015, but Dessa has managed to stay pretty busy. In 2018 alone, the Minneapolis rapper and author released the excellent record Chime and a book titled My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love. She is one of the most versatile artists in music today, able to perform aggro rap with Doomtree and then turn around and join an orchestra on stage. But wherever that stage is, Dessa always owns it.
Memorial Union Terrace, Sept. 7
They may have cut their teeth in Philadelphia’s DIY punk scene, but Sheer Mag feels arena-ready. Their bombastic, turbo-charged powerpop marries Cheap Trick’s hooks to Van Halen’s superstar swagger. And singer Tina Halladay has serious David Lee Roth energy, right down to the flowing golden mane. This band will make you want to get a Trans Am and do donuts in the Walmart parking lot. Sheer Mag released their sophomore album, A Distant Call, in August.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 8
Throughout their career, these New Jersey punks have sought to challenge listeners. 2010 breakthrough The Monitor was a sprawling concept album about the American Civil War. But if that’s what’s expected from Titus Andronicus, their latest LP An Obelisk challenges in a different way. It’s a self-aware ripper that’s both the band’s shortest album and probably their most inspired since 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy. There are no spoken-word interludes or history lessons on An Obelisk, but it still demands a close listen.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 11
Russian Circles do metal without any pesky vocals getting in the way. Their expansive instrumental sound draws on post-rock’s noodly tendencies while maintaining jackhammering backbeats. Plus, the Chicago trio is named after a drill in the most metal sport of all: hockey. Listening to the unrelenting wallop of “Kohokia,” a super heavy jam from 2019’s Blood Year, makes me want to drop the gloves and brawl.
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 12
It’s been an interesting few years for Pinegrove. They released a career-launching album in 2016, only to disappear the next year so enigmatic frontman Evan Stephens Hall could sort his shit out. Then in 2018, they returned as suddenly as they’d left, with a new album called Skylight. It expands on the Pinegrove formula of emo-country, bringing clear-eyed messages of self-improvement and empathy. Hall might still carry some baggage, but Skylight is a return to form for one of its generation’s most promising bands.
Live on King Street, Sept. 13
When Prof came to Madison in early 2018, he organized a flag football game in Tenney Park and live streamed his adventures downtown. The Minneapolis rapper knows how to have a good time. He’ll share that knowledge — along with his often hilarious rhymes — at Majestic’s final Live on King Street of the year.
The Sylvee, Sept. 14
Tycho’s Scott Hansen gained a new voice for his latest album, this summer’s Weather, with singer Saint Sinner (Hannah Cottrell) joining Hansen on several tracks. Her ethereal voice blends seamlessly into the kaleidoscope of samples and synths that make up Tycho songs. Single “Japan” sounds like it came straight from the Drive soundtrack, with its cyber-noir aesthetic and lush synth leads.
The Head and the Heart
The Sylvee, Sept. 15-16
From the moment they formed a decade ago, The Head and the Heart seemed destined for stardom. The Seattle group’s melodies are pristinely crafted and lend to massive singalongs — the kind that always sound better with a big crowd. And on their 2019 album, Living Mirage, the band swings for the fences. It’s practically an arena rock record, loaded with hooks and power chords that are gloriously ’80s. The Head and the Heart is like Fleetwood Mac for people raised on Fleet Foxes.
Memorial Union Terrace, Sept. 19
Is Lola Kirke an actress who’s also a musician, or a singer/songwriter who can act? It’s hard to know for sure, because she’s good at both! Here, the 28-year-old Mozart in the Jungle star will perform her hazy take on Laurel Canyon country. Maybe she’ll even bust out her “Fuck Paul Ryan” pin for the occasion.
Strand of Oaks
The Shitty Barn, Spring Green, Sept. 19
Originally from Indiana, Strand of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter is a heartland rocker through and through. Even when his songs take on more intricate flourishes — as they do on his 2019 album, Eraserland — Showalter maintains a resonate Midwestern earthiness. Released in March, the record has assists from Jason Isbell and all of My Morning Jacket (save for Jim James). It’s an ambitious effort, and also Strand of Oaks’ best album since 2014’s HEAL.
The Budos Band
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 20
Daptone Records is full of virtuosic musicians, but few are as eclectic as The Budos Band. The nine-piece instrumental group veers from Afrobeat to soul to heavy metal without ever breaking a sweat. Imagine if Booker T & the M.G.’s jammed with Black Sabbath. But instead of guitars, it’s bombastic, pointed horns doing the riffing. Each song sounds like the theme music for some 1970s action movie badass.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 22
Black Mountain is like a musical blacklight poster. They cater in gloriously geeky imagery, like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign set to muscular riffs and cosmic aesthetics. Fans of Led Zeppelin’s Tolkienist hard rock and Mastodon’s resin-soaked jams will find a lot to like about Black Mountain. And their videos — like this year’s retro-futurist “Licensed to Drive” — are delightfully weird experiences that wear their geekiness on their sleeve.
The Sylvee, Sept. 24
I saw Blackberry Smoke live once… sort of. I walked past their stage at Summerfest on my way to see another artist, but I wish I’d stayed longer. The Atlanta quintet sound like they crawled out of a swamp somewhere, catering in country-fried hard rock licks. And they exude enough southern swagger to make The Black Crowes look like shrinking violets. And it’s a homecoming of sorts for opener The Record Company; frontman Chris Vos grew up on a dairy farm in Kenosha County.
The Shitty Barn, Spring Green, Sept. 24
For his latest album, In the Shape of a Storm, singer/songwriter Damien Jurado took a minimalist approach. In addition to being his first all-acoustic record, the whole thing was recorded in about two hours. The album is partially inspired by Jurado’s longtime producer Richard Swift, who died in 2018. Jurado says Swift was a champion of capturing the power of a performance rather than burying it under studio wankery. If that’s the case, Jurado couldn’t have made a more fitting tribute.
Melvins + Redd Kross
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 25
Two of the coolest, heaviest bands of the ’80s are teaming up to blow out your eardrums. Prolific sludge metal icons Melvins played a huge influence on grunge; Kurt Cobain produced their 1993 album Houdini. Redd Kross, meanwhile, has blurred the lines between hardcore punk and powerpop for almost 40 years. Their roster has at times featured members of Black Flag, Bad Religion and Pearl Jam.
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 25
As frontman of NEEDTOBREATHE, Bear Rinehart was already making a pretty comfortable living as one of the biggest names in Christian rock. Accordingly, secular music fans were a bit surprised to learn it was Rinehart behind the mysterious project Wilder Woods. But under that name, Rinehart is making pop music with a folk skeleton, marrying lyrical intimacy to huge pop production.
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
The Sylvee, Sept. 27
Throughout his three-decade career, Ben Harper has quietly turned into one of the most revered names in roots music. His aplomb at everything from soul and gospel to alternative rock makes him a versatile player, and with his band The Innocent Criminals, Harper puts on one of the best live shows around. He also wrote a contender for the catchiest song of the 1990s with “Steal My Kisses,” which is now going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the week.
The New Pornographers
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 27
This Canadian indie rock collective has served as an incubator for some of the finest artists around, including founder Carl Newman, Neko Case and ex-member Dan Bejar (Destroyer). But this particular show is special for more reasons than just getting to see icons like Newman and Case in action. It also marks the release date for the band’s eighth album, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights.
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 28
Norwegian singer Sigrid makes the kind of anthemic pop that turned Lorde into a world-dominating star. And like the “Royals” singer, Sigrid doesn’t seem as if she was created in some sort of pop laboratory; there’s an authenticity to her. At this rate, Sigrid is well on her way to international fame, touring around the world with artists like George Ezra and Maroon 5. Her debut album, Sucker Punch, was released in March.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 1
Pronounced “shade,” the spelling of their name might be the only obtuse thing about Shaed. The trio — friends since they were kids in the Washington, D.C. area — make jazzy electro pop that’s rich in personality. Its buoyant electronic backbeats snap like rubber bands, with vocalist Chelsea Lee practically floating across them. Their most recent release was an EP called Melt in 2018, featuring the hit “Trampoline.”
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
Mickey’s Tavern, Oct. 2
In the shit-kicking tradition of Drive-By Truckers, Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires are putting Alabama on their backs. The Birmingham quartet uses a combination of swampy rock and punk to address what DBT once called “the duality of the southern thing.” It shows affection to the state without glorifying its regressive political tendencies. Bains, a former member of Yellowhammer State rock lifers The Dexateens, delivers social critique that will make you want to party.
The Sett at Union South, Oct. 4
Spanish rapper Bad Gyal is the best of several worlds. Her music combines the most booty clapping elements of dancehall and reggaeton, and her stage presence in unmatched. Bad Gyal has the “fuck it” attitude of stars like Cardi B and Rihanna, and might soon join them in the stratosphere of fame. If you like being able to say you saw someone before they blew up, don’t miss this free show.
The Wisco, Oct. 4
You’ve probably never seen a band quite like The Eradicator. The Chicago punks combine Fucked Up’s brainy hardcore with Thin Lizzy’s bar rock riffs, but filter it through an off-kilter lens. The mysterious group is fronted by balaclava-clad squash player — which fans of cult Canadian sketch show The Kids in the Hall may recognize as THE Eradicator. Yes, this band’s entire schtick comes from a 1989 comedy bit. They’ll be opening for Chicagoland pop punks The Brokedowns, with Madison’s Pep Talk and Beloit’s Middle Aged Overdose slated for support.
The Black Lillies
The Winnebago, Oct. 5
Tennessee rockers The Black Lillies are a lot like Eagles. Mixing radio ready harmonies with dusty guitars, the band is a perfect distillation of ’70s folk rock. This is cinematic, sandblasted alt-country. It’s not hard to imagine Walter White RV barreling down a New Mexico highway to the tune of “Midnight Stranger.”
The Cactus Blossoms
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 9
Formed by two brothers from Minnesota, The Cactus Blossoms make haunting country music. And while it’s true the genre sometimes exists within tight parameters, The Cactus Blossoms test its boundaries. Bon Iver saxophonist Michael Lewis was a collaborator on their 2019 album, Easy Way, adding an eerie punctuation to Page Burkum and Jack Torrey’s dark harmonies. They wouldn’t sound out of place on a show like Twin Peaks, which is probably why David Lynch featured The Cactus Blossoms in the third season.
The Sylvee, Oct. 10
2019 is the year of Lizzo. Cuz I Love You, the Minneapolis-via-Houston pop juggernaut’s chart-topping third album, has served as the soundtrack to our summer. I defy you to find me one person on this planet who does not love — or at the very least casually enjoy — Lizzo. I am a 28-year-old white man, and I belt out “Like a Girl” as if it were my motherfucking job. It’s not, though; my job is to write that I hope you got tickets to this show, because it is sold out. Long live the queen.
Majestic Theatre, Oct. 11
boygenius is a group made up of very talented songwriters, but Lucy Dacus might be the best of the three. Like Julien Baker, she has the ability to reduce you to a sobbing heap. And like Phoebe Bridgers, she has a dry wit that she’ll use to break the tension. Dacus writes songs like a great novelist. By telling intensely personal stories packed with minute details, she transports you back to their points of origin. She released her second album, Historian, in 2018.
The Sylvee, Oct. 11
EDM superstar Zedd has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music. Ariana Grande, Alessia Cara, and Maren Morris have all called on the DJ to add his thundering production to their songs. Even in a genre built on piledriver bass drops, Zedd employs a delicate touch that separates him from his peers. He’s a shapeshifter, able to leave his signature on a song without taking it over.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 12
Ruston Kelly is country music’s comeback kid. He started out as a songwriter, appearing on Tim McGraw’s 2013 album, Two Lanes of Freedom. But Kelly also struggled with addiction issues, ultimately landing in a “fucking Bible-beating kind of rehab in North Carolina” because he couldn’t afford anything else. All that’s in Kelly’s rearview now, and his debut full-length Dying Star is a triumphant statement that recalls Ryan Adams’ early work (without that artist’s planet-sized ego). And with any luck, Kelly might be propelled to similar heights of fame as his wife, Kacey Musgraves.
Cigarettes After Sex
The Sylvee, Oct. 15
If their name didn’t give it away, Cigarettes After Sex makes music for the boudoir. It’s sultry, sexy ambience, funneled through the androgynous voice of bandleader Greg Gonzalez. And they’ll likely be slow-burning through some new material, as the group will release their sophomore album Cry on Oct. 25. Turn down the lights, spark up those scented candles, and chow down on some asparagus.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 15
Along with some Philly dudes who we’ll get to shortly, Joyce Manor’s Barry Johnson is one of punk rock’s premier songwriters. Throughout the band’s career, Johnson has made otherwise mundane experiences — like going to a karaoke bar or getting a heart tattoo — seem like life-changing ones. On last year’s Million Dollars to Kill Me, Joyce Manor stays characteristically hyper-observant while sonically straying further away from their pop-punk template. And as an added bonus, Madison’s indie punk blasters We Should Have Been DJs will open.
Orpheum Theater, Oct. 16
With his lantern-jawed visage and sweet Texas drawl, Lyle Lovett is instantly recognizable. Over his nearly 40-year career, Lovett has released 11 albums full of Texas country and swing. He’s a master craftsman; his work is intentional and precise, and that’s part of the reason he’s endured so long. It’s impossible for Lyle Lovett to fall behind genre trends. At this point, he’s his own genre.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 17
On Anak Ko, Jay Som’s third album, Melina Duterte is wide awake and dreaming. The new album has a spacey shimmer that matches the artist’s hopeful reflection. It also positions Jay Som further outside of bedroom pop, a label that never seemed to fit Duterte’s grander ambitions. From jangly shoegaze of “Superbike” to the Gorillaz-esque “Devotion,” Anak Ko sees Duterte going into full studio geek mode. The only downside is that at just over a half-hour, it flies by. It’s one of those albums you wish would go on longer.
Explosions in the Sky
The Sylvee, Oct. 18
Long-running post rock outfit Explosions in the Sky is turning 20. And they’re celebrating with a massive national tour. In addition to releasing seven albums, the Austin quartet has also composed a whole lot of music for film and television, including the films Lone Survivor, Prince Avalanche, and both versions of Friday Night Lights. Clear eyes, full hearts, etc.
Kero Kero Bonito
Majestic Theatre, Oct. 18
British dance-pop outfit Kero Kero Bonito is like a fever dream. Between the sugar-sweet vocals and pulsating backbeat, the band’s music sounds like a night spent slamming vodka Red Bulls in the most neon drenched part of Tokyo. Imagine Lily Allen gone J-Pop. That’s Kero Kero Bonito. Their expansive second album, Time ‘n’ Place, came out in 2018.
The Sylvee, Oct. 19
You’d think one great album in 2019 would be enough for Big Thief. Nah. After dropping the acclaimed U.F.O.F. in May, they recently announced the release of Two Hands in October. Recorded back-to-back, the latter will be the “Earth twin” to its predecessor’s “celestial twin.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but I can tell you that “Not” sounds like late-era Bright Eyes — all ragged vocals and fuzzy guitars.
Communication, Oct. 19
The Iowans of Halfloves have a cosmopolitan sheen that doesn’t exactly scream “corn country.” Their bouncy indie pop is a dead ringer for Phoenix, right down to single “Polvo” sounding like a 2019 update of “1901.” The band’s latest album, Dazer, is a slickly confident collection of tracks, indicative of a band ready for major stardom.
The Sylvee, Oct. 20
Ben Folds will always have a special place in my heart. The bespectacled ivory tickler was one of the first artists I ever discovered on my own (as much as one can “discover” a guy who’s been around since the early ’90s) and has remained a favorite to this day. In addition to his stellar playing, Folds is riotously funny, and it shines through in his songs. Here you’ll see Folds in his element. One man, one piano, and a whole bunch of great music.
Alliant Energy Center Coliseum, Oct. 24
With his breakthrough debut Traveller in 2015, hirsute outlaw Chris Stapleton injected life into a braindead country radio landscape. His work is focused more on traditional songcraft than algorithm-pleasing hooks, and he’s been handsomely rewarded for it. Now, Traveller is quadruple platinum and Stapleton has five Grammys on his mantle. So stick that in your red Solo cup.
Tiny Moving Parts
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 25
Dylan Mattheisen — guitarist of Minnesota’s first family of emo, Tiny Moving Parts — can wail like no other. His mathy shredding is a hallmark of the band’s pop punk, and acts as a perfect foil to their bass-heavy rhythm section. Add that with a penchant for putting together some absurdly goofy music videos, and you’ve got the most fun band in a genre known for its endless bummers. Also, they kill live. I saw them at The Frequency (RIP) a few years ago, and I’m still collecting bits of face Mattheisen melted off. Breathe, Tiny Moving Parts’ seventh album, will be released Sept. 13.
State Street, Oct. 26
When I was in college at DePaul University, the school once hosted a concert for students that was headlined by Ludacris, with Guster opening. I’m reminded of that strange bill looking at this year’s Freakfest lineup. The headliners for its two main stages are Lil Yachty and Gin Blossoms, respectively. I’m hoping against hope for a collab — the world needs more trap/power pop crossovers.
Majestic Theatre, Oct. 27
Kaoru Ishibashi can really play the shit out of the violin. The ex-of Montreal member uses this adeptness to build the baroque backbone of his ethereal psych pop. Case in point: glittering starburst of “Marigolds,” a standout from Kishi Bishi’s 2019 record, Omoiyari. It’s such a pleasant listening experience that it’s hard to believe the album is inspired in part by one of the darkest moments in American history.
Barrymore Theatre, Oct. 29
This Texas native is pretty much a human country song. Before embarking on a career in music, Ryan Bingham traveled on the rodeo circuit as a teenager. When he wasn’t riding bulls, Bingham was learning guitar. Soon he began life as a singer/songwriter in earnest, toiling in dive bars until he became on Oscar nominee for “The Weary Kind,” his penetrating song from the 2009 film Crazy Heart. Bingham’s sixth album, American Love Song, was released this year.
Majestic Theatre, Oct. 30
It was The Hold Steady who poignantly said that “certain songs get scratched into our souls.” For me, one of those songs is “Midwestern States,” a track from the Philly punks’ 2017 album, After the Party. I’ve been a Menzos fan for almost a decade now, but none of their songs — which are all, by and large, excellent — have affected quite as much as “Midwestern States.” It’s the story of mutual dissatisfaction and the drastic steps we’re willing to take to escape it. It cements Greg Barnett and Tom May are two of the finest songwriters in modern rock, and their forthcoming Hello Exile is certain to add to that legacy.
The Sylvee, Nov. 2
Some pop singers will bury their voices under layers of production. (Or — gasp!— lip sync.) Not Alessia Cara. The 23-year-old Canadian’s soulful vocals always take the lead, even under the stadium-sized tropes of contemporary pop. And she’s willing to experiment sonically, as she does on “Rooting for You,” a song from her upcoming EP that reimagines Lauryn Hill’s reggae-flecked neo soul for Gen Z.
Stoughton Opera House, Nov. 2-3
There’s a certain power in the minimalism of old-timey music. At least Rhiannon Giddens seems to have found it. As a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now as a solo artist, the North Carolina multi-instrumentalist can make a handful of sparse instruments sound like a thousand. (Though her commanding vocals certainly help.) After all, there’s a reason she was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2017.
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 5
The problem with being in a band with several singer/songwriters is that your voice can get lost in the shuffle. Katie Toupin found this to be the case with Houndmouth, the roots rock band she co-founded but then left in 2016. But as anyone who’s ever rocked out to “Casino (Bad Things)” could tell you, Toupin’s voice was too strong to stay down. Her solo debut Magnetic Moves eschews Houndmouth’s folky aesthetic for a more Beatles-esque indie pop.
Memorial Union Rathskeller, Nov. 5
Walla Walla’s Chastity Belt is part of the great Pacific Northwest tradition of overcast indie rock. Drenched in reverb and slyly funny, the quartet smashes gender norms with a wink. After a brief hiatus in 2018, the group returned this year to announce their fourth album. Co-produced by fellow previewee Melina Duterte (Jay Som), self-titled Chastity Belt will release on Sept. 20.
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 8
Now in its sixth year, Flannel Fest is the annual benefit for the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund. And while the cause is great, supporting it is even easier thanks to the event’s typically stacked lineups. Trapper Schoepp, a Milwaukean who recently gained national exposure thanks to his work on a lost Bob Dylan song, will highlight this edition. The Mascot Theory, Beth Kille Band, The North Code and The Listening Party will also perform.
The Sylvee, Nov. 8
Cape Cod band Highly Suspect makes sophisticated hard rock. While some modern rock bands will fall back on dick-swinging hedonism, Highly Suspect has a much lighter touch to their heavy music. The trio relies on left-populist lyrics and anthemic guitars, all stitched together with Johnny Stevens’ bluesy vocals. Fans of late era Linkin Park will love Highly Suspect. Their third album, MCID, is slated for release in November. And as a bonus, jazzy alt-rockers Slothrust will open things up.
The Sylvee, Nov. 10
Despite being a product of the early 2010s dubstep boom, Illenium is a little mellower than some of his bass-thumping counterparts. The DJ’s songs ebb and flow organically, allowing the beats to form fit with his collaborators. On the recently released Ascend, Illenium joins forces The Chainsmokers (who play the Coliseum on Nov. 9), X Ambassadors and Foy Vance. And he’s more than just a dude with a laptop — his live shows incorporate keyboards, drum pads and immersive light displays.
Goo Goo Dolls
Orpheum Theater, Nov. 10
In 1998, a scrappy Buffalo punk band called Goo Goo Dolls became unlikely stars. “Iris” and “Slide” soon took over the radio, turning the band into a (sort of funny) household name. Below the surface, Goo Goo Dolls are still those hungry kids — their polished alt-rock offers a glimpse into an alternate universe where The Replacements never imploded on stage and instead evolved into platinum-certified ubiquity. They’ll be supported here by Beach Slang’s ramshackle and wide-eyed pop punk.
The Sylvee, Nov. 12
Wanna feel old? Incubus’ breakthrough album, Make Yourself, turned 20 this year. On this tour, shirt-averse frontman Brandon Boyd and his bandmates will play selections from the record — which included hits like “Drive” and “Stellar” — plus many of the SoCal quintet’s other atmospheric rock anthems (like the recently released “Into the Summer.”) Pardon me, but this show sounds pretty awesome — especially because Mexican punks Le Butcherettes are opening.
The Sylvee, Nov. 13
One of my first jobs in The Biz™ was helping to film two acoustic sets at a tiny record shop in Chicago. One of the artists was a singer I’d never heard of named Angel Olsen. From her wavering voice and delicate guitar work, I could tell that she was destined for greater things than playing to 15 people in a small storefront. The alt-folk luminary’s fourth album, All Mirrors, will release on Oct. 4.
Stoughton Opera House, Nov. 15-16
One of the best decisions I’ve made in 2019 was to take a deep dive into Steve Earle. The outlaw country firebrand is one of the great American storytellers, cataloguing the underclass with empathy and a caustic wit. Earle himself has survived crippling addiction issues to reemerge on the other side, not as a cautionary tale but as a triumph. And “Copperhead Road” sounds even more badass when it’s sung by a guy who’s been to hell and back.
The Avett Brothers
The Sylvee, Nov. 15-16
Siblings Scott and Seth Avett are two of the biggest names in American folk. But for their forthcoming 10th album, Closer Than Together, The Avett Brothers are high steppin’ further outside of that box. It will focus on the flawed individualism of America, while continuing to utilize the brothers’ penchant for twisting their home genre to its outer reaches. After all, how many other Americana artists have former Def Jam boss Rick Rubin producing their albums?
The Sylvee, Nov. 17
The ’90s were a strange, experimental time in modern rock, when bands that didn’t quite fit the mainstream mold could still become stars. This was the case with Blues Traveler, a quasi-jam band led by harmonica virtuoso John Popper. The group scored a pair of hits with “Run-Around” and “Hook,” both of which appeared on the sextuple-platinum Four. These days, Blues Traveler is still going strong — and getting increasingly experimental. Their 2018 album Hurry Up and Hang Around sees them returning to their jam roots.
Majestic Theatre, Nov. 17
Fueled By Ramen began as a punk label co-founded by one of the dudes from Less Than Jake, but it’s since become a launchpad for effervescent pop rock. Paramore and Panic! at the Disco highlight its roster, and now MisterWives are joining on for the release of their third album. The group’s totally ’80s pop rock is catchy as hell and slyly artsy, very similar to what their labelmate Hayley Williams and her band did on Paramore’s fantastic 2017 album After Laughter.
Elvis Costello & the Imposters
Orpheum Theater, Nov. 24
Declan Patrick MacManus — or as he’s more commonly known, Elvis Costello — may not look “punk,” but he’s still the most punk rock dude ever. He was banned from Saturday Night Live. One of his biggest hits is a blistering screed against British colonialism. And just this year, he tried to turn down an Order of the British Empire appointment only to be convinced otherwise by his mom. That rebel spirit carries over to his music, and even into his sixties Costello is still outpacing artists half his age. I would know: I was there the last time he played Madison.
John K. Samson
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 25
Few artists have impacted me like The Weakerthans. The bookish Canadian pop punk quartet is responsible for some of my favorite lyrics ever (“let the toast to absent members push through the ceiling”). And that’s all due to head honcho John K. Samson. One of rock’s greatest storytellers, the unassuming Samson is hyper-observant. His songs are full of little details that make you feel like they’re about you — even if you’ve never curled before in your life.