Newquist, Jimmy (September 2007)

Date of Performance: September 1, 2007
Venue: Capitol Square, Madison, WI, US

"The Taste of Madison is the flagship event of Madison Festivals, Inc. Held each year over Labor Day weekend on Madison's famed Capitol Square, the event showcases more than 65 local restaurants, 16 beverage stands and 6 entertainment stages." Joshua Turner, Senior Wisconsin Correspondent, attended this year's event and filed this report on one of the appearing artists (though not necessarily prog).

In past years, Jimmy Newquist and his band Caroline's Spine plugged-in and entertained a crowd of hungry hippies. This year, he was mostly alone and acoustic.

When I arrived, there was a percussionist and a second guitarist casually sitting in chairs. The previous acts were routinely late, so I expected a spur-of-the-moment postponement. With little to set up, he actually started on schedule. Since I planned accordingly and his timeliness was an anomaly on this stage, I missed a chunk of his material. Based on what another fan had later stated, the sum of my loss was approximately four nonessentials.

When I entered the cul-de-sac that was set aside for artists that fell under the umbrella of rock, he was in the latter half of an accessible but sadly-enlightening account of "Sullivan." Back in the day, this was routinely played on the radio. For those of you who haven't gotten it in any sense, the song tells about a tragedy, a presidential letter, and the creation of a law.

Afterwards, he lightened the mood and referred to Madison as "The freeist place on the planet." At this point, his cohorts split.

He continued to interact with the audience by joking that it was just him up there. He also kept asking the crowd if they were getting tired. Not sure if he was trying to liven them up or look for a way out. In either case, eyeballs were fixed on his every move. Apparently, people didn't want him to depart and were worried he'd cut it short. Slightly out of context, he said "You know the drill." Additionally, he proclaimed that it was "Cool when you can party at the capital!" Without these two fill-ins or the official Spine boys, he was seemingly an extrovert and a chatterbox.

The discussion was temporarily put on hold for a song about subjects that often hold hands. That would be long-term relationships and heated disagreements.

The third (or seventh song, depending on how you look at it) took a different sort of turn for the worse and appeared to be about a washed-up musician. It was poignant when he'd sing, "Show you my soul" like a curious preschooler or when he'd reference the "Rock and Roll Hero." I do believe that trailing quote is the name of the piece.

Again, he then asked, "You guys getting tired yet?" The people responded with an ear-piercing, "No!"

In this format, the music was like folk's heavier sister. Certain attributes were effeminate and delicate. Due to the substance, other aspects plastered you over the head with concrete. All around, it was soft and supple, but really temperate and tangible. When you got the meaning, it carried significant weight.

Speaking of which, he went on to tell us that Phoenix was 112 degrees when he left home and that it was, "Considerably nicer here." I always thought this band was local. This last comment made me think otherwise. Actually, I thought I had been a dolt for being mislead for such a long stretch. [CDBaby, where his/his band's CDs are on sale locates him in Oklahoma -ed.]

By the way, this guy is a classy dresser. With his long hair, he wore a vest and a necklace. Some may deem this to be the nineties look, but it works for him with the contemporaneous cloth that forms his lyrics.

After hearing something new and a fraction of a golden oldie, I was troubled when he announced that he would provide, "One last song." I knew what it would be and I was right. He consistently ends performances at this annual event and site with an animated rendition of "Rainbow Connection." While I would have liked to see their entire act, I'm sure I got to see the highlights. Not to mention, I had countless reflections for the pensive that went from the sacrifice of military men to the The Muppets. By and large, this thoughtful artist will make you think.

On the whole, Newquist enunciates better than most singers. At an affair where several offerings were petite or overpriced, to put it mildly, he rarely skimped on syllables.

Too bad the rest of the band wasn't present and that the instruments weren't permanently connected into the Electric Company. Nevertheless, this frontman is chock full of talent, and if there were to be only one soloist chosen for this day, he's the frontrunner in my books.

There were plenty of onlookers. During my short stint, I found that he drew more and more people ... not by his name ... but from his abilities. He was entertaining, whether he was talking or singing. He was personable and well-spoken. He was funny, too. At one point, he even stated, "I want to hear everybody; come on ... as if you're drunken pirates."

His voice was very rich. So much so, it would have given Grace's Cheesecake a run for best dessert. [One of the area's restaurants -ed.] He stands on his own and fills the space. His doesn't need all the accouterments that everyday awkward popstars demand. Moreover, his music was soul-bearing.

People wanted an encore but were told, "Jimmy is on his way to the merch tent." As he left, he waved and the crowd waved back in unison as if they were under his spell. He has a way about him. I don't know what it is, but I know us commoners and consumers of music cannot live without it.

After he walked off stage, there was some pre-recorded music - if you want to call it that - being piped in. Something to the effect of "Grandma, it's your birthday" over a Rob Zombie score. I'd rate it worse than a Halloween remake (to be fair, I haven't seen it, but one can only imagine). Aside from this last-minute melee, it was an excellent albeit abruptly-ended set.

Still, this interfered with the pleasant aftertaste and cleansed the palette with sour grapes. And by this, I don't mean a pleasantly-aged wine. I wasn't the only one disgusted. Another fan referred to it as poison. If the onus were on him, that's one thing. It's something else when the dark mark is wielded in the sky and it's someone else's doing.

That aside, Taste of Madison was blessed to have him as their festival closer. It's a great event, but he's almost too good to see for free (obviously, I'm not counting the pricey chow). You have to give him credit for returning every year and keeping the momentum of this momentous tradition on track. Between the good cuisine and this outstanding music, Borat and I would say it was a "Great success!"

My bad if I've used that clincher in the past. Newquist's tunes and this catchphrase from my favorite foreign reporter are both so very fetching.

Added: September 14th 2007
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website:
Hits: 1119
Language: english

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