Rock Roundup

The Legend of Patti Smith

Alverno College show boasts top musicians reinterpreting Smith. Other nights feature Ryan Adams and Kina Grannis.

By - Oct 13th, 2014 03:04 pm
Smith Uncovered. Photo credit: Kat Schleicher 2014

Smith Uncovered. Photo credit: Kat Schleicher 2014

Top Show: Smith Uncovered: A Re-Interpretation of the Songs of Patti Smith at Alverno College Pitman Theatre, Saturday, October 18

Patti Smith probably wouldn’t have become a rock ‘n’ roller without the appeal and inspiration of the Rolling Stones and Jim Morrison (with a side helping of the other Morrison, a.k.a. Van), but her influence on the music she loves is harder to codify or quantify than theirs because she has never reached their levels of mass appeal.

Then again, part of her influence rests on how she hasn’t had to change anything she hasn’t wanted to in a career that officially began with the 1975 release of her debut album, Horses (produced by John Cale, who as a founding member of the Velvet Underground knows all about being influential).

If the measure is artistic integrity, then Smith’s influence extends from the NYC punk scene she enlivened to the No Wave of Sonic Youth, then onward toward Nirvana and the truly independent artists of the last few years.

“Smith Uncovered,” a Milwaukee recconsideration of her legacy, began to take shape after Alverno Presents got attention with shows like “Unlooped Vs. Marvin Gaye” that generated interest in interpreting icons whose work can seem to be set in unmalleable materials.

However, Betty Blexrud-Strigens has been an estimable frontwoman in Testa Rosa, and the bet here is that she will be equally as estimable when facing the impressive back catalog Smith has built up when not developing parallel reputations as a poet, parent, and/or recluse.

While approaching said catalog, Blexrud-Strigens has also recruited the right local help, including Mark Waldoch, Nineteen Thirteen (featuring Vic DeLorenzo, a Violent Femmes founding member), Die Kreuzen and so on. As the title of the show hints, these musicians are not covering songs; they’re uncovering, or revealing, them.

No clip can adequately summarize Smith, but this long one can start the treatise:


Tuesday, October 14: Ryan Adams at Riverside Theater

When a musician experiences a horrible and scarring episode—an acrimonious divorce, say—it does not always follow that he will transmute that experience into amazing art. An inner-ear disorder like the one Ryan Adams has been suffering would seem even less likely to herald beautiful music.

Yet Ryan Adams, the latest long-player in a maddeningly prolific and (deliberately?) uneven career, balances the remnants of his Great Alt-Country Hope period against his Great Big Drunken Rocking Mess period, and in turn against his current sobriety and relative serenity. Adams has put many bad episodes behind him without leaving his talent there.


Wednesday, October 15: The Rural Alberta Advantage at Turner Hall Ballroom

A band name like “The Rural Alberta Advantage” screams “indie.” Fortunately for listeners as well as for the band itself, the Toronto trio’s music supplants hipster archness with a yelping urgency that draws as much from roots and classic rock as from indie.

The RAA’s third LP, Mended With Gold, came out a couple weeks ago after long intervals of road-testing and studio gestation, both of which tightened the songs and neither of which sapped their energy. The band throws open its collective arms as if trying to embrace the vast part of Canada that is, in fact, rural Alberta.


Thursday, October 16: Kina Grannis at Turner Hall Ballroom

If anything hints at an unpromising start to a music career, it’s winning something called the “Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest.” That, leading up to Super Bowl XLII, was the fate of singer-songwriter Kina Grannis, and among her prizes was a contract with Interscope Records.

However, Grannis didn’t issue any music with Interscope before she left to be an independent artist and, okay, a YouTube favorite. Her second album, 2014’s Elements, is mostly standard folk-pop stuff with pretty melodies and pretty vocals; nevertheless, the sense of promise is an unmistakable itch throughout. More promising than anything or anyone else affiliated with Doritos.


Friday, October 17: King Tuff at Cactus Club

The best “modern” rock ‘n’ roll is often the sonic equivalent of the fop who exits a thrift shop in full peacock finery and makes it look as casual as everyone else’s street mufti. Some of the best modern rockers, in other words, use the hand-me-downs of other eras.

Kyle Thomas, the KT behind the other KT of King Tuff, uses the teenage kicks of power pop and the clamor of garage rock. On the third King Tuff full-length, this year’s Black Moon Spell, Thomas has evidently refined the combination into a highly stylized and stylish musical raiment. And plenty of other would-be fops want to try on what he’s wearing.

0 thoughts on “Rock Roundup: The Legend of Patti Smith”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The free film screening of the Patti Smith film at Tranfer Pizzeria on Friday night at 7:30 PM looks enticing too!

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