Author: Izzy Fradin
This past weekend was the holiday for music fans known as Frzn Fest. For 3 days, the High Noon Saloon trades it’s typical aesthetic for christmas lights and a snowy stage-bringing bands from near and far to showcase the up and coming acts of the year. This year they delivered on their mission and curated an excellent festival highlighting the best of this past years indie rock/pop, punk, and rap.
Thursday night, Ian Sweet lead the night with a whimsical set that ranged everywhere from screaming rage, to whispering intimacy. The group performed mostly from their latest LP Shapeshifter, and their tunes set the stage for the rest of the evening. Hoops came next with their best set in Madison yet. Having recently released their EP featuring catchy tunes like “Gemini,” their set got the audience groovin and excited for what comes next. Hoops is set to release their first full length with Fat Possum sometime this coming April or May. Following Hoops was Sam Evian- a four piece band from Brooklyn with a silky smooth adult rock sound. Never before had I seen a guitar player with more rigid movement and fluid sound. The band seemed to entirely function as a paradox- long hair and jean jacket, yet sophisticated pop. The group’s most recent release Premium came out on Saddle Creek this past September.
Friday was a night for the hardcore fans in your life. Yoko and the Oh No’s kicked it off with a funky hard rock set featuring their front man in a shirt made of red plastic with a feather collar on top. It was a sight to see. The group got the audience revved up for the rest of the night, which definitely had a more specialized crowd than the rest of the fest. The Blind Shake definitely brought the punk, though their music was a bit too forced to me. For a band that sounds too much like it ought to be a pop R&B outfit, I was a little disappointed by their performance-even as someone who generally does enjoy punk. Tenement, who I was looking forward to, couldn’t bring the energy from their album to the stage. I felt teased by the guitarist repeatedly threatening to smash his guitar, but catch it at the last minute. If you’re gonna pretend, may as well go all the way. Don’t leave me hangin man.
Fortunately, Saturday was redemption. From the moment I arrived at the High Noon, I knew it was going to be a special night. There was a line to get in for the first opener-Rich Robbins, who had performed at the Wisconsin Hip Hop Fest just the night before. Rich had a great set. He got the crowd dancing, and had no problem getting the crowd excited and ready for the stacked line-up waiting to go on stage. While Mic Kellog’s rapping performance wasn’t anything of particular note, Webster X’s DJ set-a special surprise for the audience- made it all worthwhile. The set was loaded with surprises as CRASHprez also made an appearance for a guest verse, but by the end people were ready to let loose and start dancing again. When the time came, theMind and his crew came on stage and got the people bumpin again. theMind kept it soulful and fun, getting political with a “Black Lives Matter” chant, and making Chicago proud. The only part of the night that exceeded his energy was Noname’s. Being the first night of her completely sold-out tour, Noname was in a notably excited state. She seemed almost astounded that the crowd knew the words to her songs. She brought theMind up for a verse or two on “Sunny Duet,” which really got the people going. I don’t think there was a single moment in the entire set where her big, beautiful grin wasn’t plastered to her face. With thempeople member Akenya by her side, there was no force powerful enough to take them down. Noname is a voice to be reckoned with, and for those who were regretful about waiting to get tickets, fear not- she’ll be back courtesy WUD Music in February.