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Woke Up Crying releases an EP of tough and tender queercore

Saturday, January 25, Communication, 7:30 p.m. Info

Madison trio Woke Up Crying’s new EP, 3:27 a.m., demonstrates that a simple approach doesn’t have to confine a band’s sound. Indeed, the very sparseness and directness of punk rock gives musicians the opportunity to color in the details on their own terms. The band is guitarist and vocalist Dana Rowe’s first chance to have a project that focuses on their own songs, which tend to use just a few lines to call up a host of specific imagery and emotional in-betweens. Bassist/vocalist K8 Walton and drummer Ada Lynn flesh out Rowe’s vision of queercore  with a balance of aggression and tenderness, complimenting guitar parts that jangle as much as they crunch. Rowe also embraces what they call the “ambiguity” of their voice, which tends toward aching melody and takes on a hint of hoarseness at only one point across the EP’s five tracks: “Living’s boring me to deaaaath,” Rowe growls on “Ingratitude.”

“I think when I am being really honest, I will admit that I have played so much punk music without ever having been that into punk standards,” Rowe says. That attitude is what makes Woke Up Crying so rewarding: As tough and lyrically direct as this music is, there’s always room for a twinge of ambivalence. “Now And Then,” titled after the 1995 Christina Ricci movie, reflects on Rowe’s experiences growing up as a poor kid in Madison: “My Grandma used to buy me jelly shoes at the Prange Way on Sherman Avenue / They left a lattice tan on my feet when I wore them down to Tenney beach.” The specific places, the jelly shoes, and the name of the defunct discount store chain all do a lot to make the listener think about life’s small pleasures and the precarity that surrounds them. “I get so nostalgic about the ’90s…but also, there was so much not going well,” Rowe says.

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The band’s emotional contrast grows even sharper on “Sweater Weather,” which also gets things pretty far away from anything like conventional punk territory. Rowe’s clean-toned guitar part uses an open tuning (DADAAD) to create ringing arpeggios that feel both tense and idyllic. The lyrics are about embracing a crappy relationship to get a little respite from seasonal depression, Rowe says. The chorus especially captures both the thrill of romantic possibility and the numbness of disappointment: “We can be lonely together / It’s hat scarf and sweater weather / Come in make the emptiness better / It’s hat scarf and sweater weather.” Woke Up Crying celebrates the EP’s release at this show, which will also feature a solo performance from Alivia Kleinfeldt of Madison band Dash Hounds and a set from Seafoam In My Swimsuit, which showcases its expansion from a duo to a turbulently dreamy full band on a just-released single, “Impostor Syndrome.”

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