Tour Diary: Madison, WI 2/11/12

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Last weekend, I was on the road again with The Giving Tree Band to photograph their show with Cornmeal in Madison, Wisconsin. I had only been to Madison once before with the band--just to grab lunch on our way up to Minneapolis last summer. Come to think of it, these may be the only two times I've ever been to Madison.

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It seems quite nice though, with a beautiful lake front greeting you as you drive into the city and, from the small portions I've seen, a rather clean downtown. It's also only slightly over two hours from the city--this was particularly nice for the boys, as they've had many late nights in the recording studio recently and a short drive meant a late morning.

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We arrived in Madison around 4:30 and made a quick stop at the Willy Street Co-op, the same location we had picked up lunch in the past. It's a favorite among the band and with good reason; beside offering a wide variety of organic and environmentally responsible products, they have a smoothie + coffee bar, a sandwich counter, a deli with a wide variety of vegan options, and a completely organic salad bar. Some of the early dinners that evening included Tofu Reubens, salads covered in balsamic vinaigrette and nutritional yeast, a vegan black eyed pea pilaf, and Kombuchas, as well as a few snacks for later in the evening. Load-in was at 5, so after grabbing our meals, everyone quickly piled back into the bus and we darted over to the Majestic Theatre, located a mere mile or so away. While waiting for Cornmeal's sound check to come to an end, dinners were consumed onboard and a few guys took the opportunity to stretch their legs by taking a walk around the block. I stayed on the bus: it was 15 degrees out.

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Finally: load in and sound check.

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I left the confines of the warm bus and entered the Majestic Theatre with the rest of the crew, hoping to find a warm sanctuary. I think Madisonites and I disagree over what qualifies as "warm"; I noticed a thermometer on the wall near the stage reading 61 degrees. Yikes.

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As the band went through the sound check routine, I explored the multi-level historic theater, scouting out good shooting locals. What I found, however, was an upstairs oasis, warm enough to heat my very cold bones straight to the core. Subsequently, I've discovered a number of shots from above as I weed through photos of that night. I'm sure the two are unrelated...

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Despite the chilly main floor, the Majestic really is an amazing theater. It's extremely well-kept and clean. Both its exterior and interior still maintain the glamour and mystique of the theater's vaudevillian heyday.

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Set-up and sound check ended around 8. The show started at 9:45. Instead of leaving the venue to run out the clock, the boys found more productive uses of their time--many choosing to warm up and practice before the show. By 9, most everyone had made their way up to the green room to work out the set-list and prepare to hit the stage.  We were sharing a conjoined green room with Cornmeal and think our half may have been in a more mellow mood that evening, but both sides seemed to be filled with fits of laughter.

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Finally, showtime. As we walked down the stairs from the green room to the stage, we turned the corner to find an almost full house. This crowd was ready for a show. By the end of GTB's first song, the dance floor was already filled and vibrant. Walking through the house, I overheard many people talking about the great time they were having and frequently had to work a bit of maneuver magic to make my way through the lively crowd.  The atmosphere that night was exactly what both bands and audience hope for at any given show; it was totally filled with a positive and respectful energy.

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Allie Kral, of Cornmeal, joined the boys for their final number of the evening and the house went wild. Later, to the ongoing enthusiasm of the crowd, Cornmeal invited Phil Roach, GTB's violinist to accompany them for a tune.

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As the evening came to a close, the gear was repacked and we all found our spots on the bus. Some of the guys pulled out their evening snacks, mostly consisting of chocolate bars and various bags of tortilla chips, but it wasn't long before the bus fell fairly silent. It had been a great day in Madison, but everyone was ready to catch some sleep by the end of it.

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For more photos from that evening, please visit this Flickr set.

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