Five Great Bands & Many Designers
The FUTURA EXTRA BOLD show featured great music, images of design and lots of futuristic thoughts.
I walked into the concert last night at Turner Hall Ballroom with a yoga mat under my arm, having just come from a downtown class. It’s been a while since I practiced and I forgot how much I love yoga. I deep stretch daily, but only yoga combines deep stretching, strengthening poses, focused breathing and music. Since I started writing for the Dial I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but “FUTURA EXTRA BOLD,” as it was dubbed, was the first to combine music and design.
The title references the Futura Extra Bold typeface as well as the future of this city (as I would learn) and also reflected the fact that this concert was actually a design conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of the centennial of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). Members from their Green Bay and Appleton offices made the trip down, and student groups were represented. We wore name tags and mingled by a table of food, with excellent mingling music provided by Kiings. But the centerpiece of the night was a performance led by Jon Mueller, featuring members of Altos, Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Death Blues and Hello Death. (The latter two I just happened to catch at Riverwest Public House a couple weeks ago.)
AIGA Wisconsin President Chris Klein delivered the opening welcome. He then brought out Ken Hanson, the man with the vision for the evening’s event, which had yet another connection — to the Greater Together Challenge. Last month members, students, activists, musicians and the public gathered to see the proposed projects by 15 finalists for the Greater Together Challenge, an effort to address racial segregation in our city. Considering the complex, insidious nature of segregation in Milwaukee, almost any discussion and approach to improve our situation deserves respect.
The stage was set up in a semicircle, with three big drums in the center beneath a large screen. Eight musicians took their places. It started slowly with a strange ancient instrument, adding a banjo, then acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, two electric guitars, and a laptop/drum machine. When I’m at a performance of that ilk, one that slowly builds upon sonic layers, I tend to close my eyes, zone into the rhythms, and let my mind run wild. But on the screen behind the drums they projected a sampling of 100 years of design, broken up into five 20-year periods.
As the visuals swept through the 1960s the drums came in and the beat picked up. Turning into the new millennium and rushing toward the present, the music began to crescendo. At this point I noticed the two additional projectors on the ceiling and on the windows facing 4th Street. A distortion effect was added to the images, making them appear dream-like. The evening reminded me how much I would love to see more live music shows incorporate visual elements. Whether or not they do, I’m definitely going back to yoga class.