In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher
The wall in the vestibule at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner has long hosted a charming assortment of signed photos of musicians who’ve passed through town, with a heavy imprint of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a testament to the once mighty reign of the 8.5″ x 11″ black-and-white promotional still, and to the variety of worthies who have presumably stopped at Monty’s before playing the Barrymore across the street, or other east-side venues. My favorites up there include Billy Bragg, the great avant-garde reedist Roscoe Mitchell, and of course Humpty Hump, alter ego of Digital Underground MC Shock G, who signed his: “Yo Monty, stay tuned for the return of the Dolio flow!”
In the 13-odd years that I’ve been going to Monty’s, I haven’t noticed a ton of new additions, so I was surprised on a recent visit to see Madison rock trio Clean Room on the wall, in a coveted space to Humpty’s right. It’s the first new one I can remember since a signed photo of a car salesperson from Thorstad Chevrolet materialized on the wall a few years back. (This is one of very few non-black-and-white and non-musician photos up there, and you kind of have to admire the gumption of submitting it.)
Clean Room is very much an active band in Madison now, so I asked guitarist/vocalist Jeffrey Halleran just what it takes to get up on the Monty’s wall of veneration. Halleran did get permission from the staff, but it turns out there isn’t any particular vetting process.
“My family and I eat there a good amount and we became friends with the staff,” Halleran says. “Ashlie Brophy took the photo and I laid it out in Photoshop with the Rare Plant logo to look official and match the other photos kinda, then I used a hammer and nail to put it up on the wall. We still need to sign it though.”
As a Madison-area native, Halleran has many fond memories of both Monty’s and the Barrymore. He specifically notes going to the Barrymore in the early ’90s with his dad to see reggae artist Eek-A-Mouse. I sort of half-jokingly asked what Halleran expects a spot on the Monty’s wall to do for Clean Room’s career. He notes that it’d be nice to play the Barrymore or Atwoodfest some day, but maybe this is more about just taking part in a beloved slice of our collective local memory.
“At the time we got that photo up on the wall I was kinda hustling more to promote the group locally,” Halleran says. “It’s a nice honor. It’s mellow, though, ’cause Monty’s is fam. Thanks again to the crew there.”
New this week:
The story of the Crystal Corner Bar’s website. (Illustration by Shaun Soman.)
Grant Phipps talks with two members of Spirits Having Fun, who play Mickey’s this Saturday.
Scott Gordon previews the debut album from Madison post-hardcore trio Hex House.
The Record Store Dropouts podcast talks with artist Sarah Barnfart and introduces a new game.
Hear our conversation with electronic musician and Digital Warmth podcast host Jordan Cohen, aka Chants, recorded with a live audience at the Corral Room.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Death-metal trio Ossuary gets a shout-out from Revolver. Richard Wagner discusses Wisconsin’s gay history on WORT’s A Public Affair. Local metal blogger Justin Taylor picks his favorite releases of the year so far. New show announcements from The New Pornographers (September 27, Majestic), ZZ Top (November 1, Sylvee), and Elvis Costello (November 24, Orpheum)