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Madison Greene/Psalters 
Long Wong's 
Milwaukee, WI
February 3, 2005
 
Madison Greene spolied my sister's wedding for me. 

Let me clarify.

A couple of years ago, I saw Madison Greene-the troupe of cheery neo-hippies who find the middle ground between Rusted Root and Afro-Celt Sound System and work it to an aggressively acoustic, danceable frenzy the night before she got hitched. Danced up a frenzy myself. Especially with one particularly comely Deadhead chickie (the dancing bears tattooed on her back gave her away if her flowing fashion sense didn't). I couldn't dance to the DJ my sibling and her other half hired for their reception after such an ecstatic night.

THis time around, MadGreene's redheaeded dreadlocked leader, Michael Blair, and his crew of multi-instrumentalists were playing a wholly unique venue. Long Wong's is a Chinese-American sports bar with decent Asian cuisine and an ample downstairs performance space-cum-miniature bowling alley. 

The unlikely locale was no hindrance to filling three quarters of the tables set up for the occasion. The room was not, however, very conducive to the extent of dancing as was the setting a couple years prior. That didn't, thankfully, deter three bohemian lasses in skirts and tie-dye from shaking their groove things. This they did to the Madisonians' occasional multi-drum instrumental from their recent album of New Guinea-inspired percussion tunes. "Tune" don't necessarily need melody, right?  

The rest of the band's 12-song set wasn't wanting for fire and sincerity either. Blair's sinewy, clarion tenor delivered his sometimes-plainspoken, sometimes-elliptical songs about living godly came through the instrumental Mulligan's stew of his guitar, all those drums, flute, cowbell, accordion, etc. If only for keeping up with all the music textures, there's a lot to enjoy about Madison Greene.

They were, however, a sanguine relief from their opening act. Psalters put on a show, a word that nigh seems insufficient for what they do, so confrontational, participatory, joyful and exorcistic of a deep wellspring of existential pain that they may have no peers.

Their headlining tour mates come close, but Psalters forsook Celtic influence for more Middle Eastern and Eastern European minor key vibe. And, with the occasional psychedelic electric guitar squall, spoken word vocal samples and industrial touches, they spill over from the Greene'sters' "aggressive acoustic" tag. With the aforementioned musical elements, lyrics & imagery slideshow  on a wall aside the stage, maelstrom of dance-ability and apparently anarchist-pacifist interpretation of scripture, Psalters put me in mind of no less an act than England's mysterious, Eastern Orthodox/Catholic-leaning Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus. 

That's high praise, but so is blowing my mind. We in the audience especially enjoyed  being part of the chorus of copper chimes to accompany one song. The lead singer with thick beard and John The Baptist-like suit of torn, rough material made for a commanding, almost prophetic front presence.

If my sister and her husband ever have an anniversary party for themselves with the same lame disc jockey as on their wedding night, I only need recall the fun and fury of this ecstatic night...and dance with myself in my own head, if not on the supper club floor.
 
Jamie Lee Rake 2/27/2005
 

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