2496 S. Wentworth Avenue, Milwaukee, WI | Booking Inquiries

Event Details

Wed 10/27/21
7:00PM
18+
$12 ADV // $15 DOS

Elizabeth Moen • Jessica Mindrum • Jim & Mick (of Motel Breakfast)

Notice: Proof of vaccination is required for entry into this event. Please show a valid vaccination card, clear photo of card, clear photocopy of card, or your state immunization registry which can be accessed online. No refunds will be offered for individuals that are unable to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival.

Elizabeth Moen

(Chicago)

Blending fierce, massive vocals and raw bluesy guitar with introspective lyrics and electronic textures, Elizabeth Moen “showcases both strength and vulnerability, reminding us that these traits often go hand in hand” (NPR Music).

In her heartland hometown of Vinton, Iowa, Moen taught herself guitar as a teenager. “I’ve always been able to sit alone in my thoughts,” she says, “but I can’t sit in silence.” She noticed this innate need to make noise at a young age, and affectionately referred to as “an emotional journey with no destination.”

But Moen did arrive somewhere: at her first performance. She credits the experience with transforming her relationship to songwriting.“I felt understood for the first time,” she says. “I realized songs were the best way I could explain my thoughts and feelings to others — and to myself.” She dedicated herself to the process, writing incessantly, recording prolifically, and performing as much as the public would have her.

Then came a pandemic. Like so many artists (and humans), Moen felt derailed, but her focus remained steadfast and her default coping mechanism as relevant as ever; she kept writing songs. “I’ve realized there are only certain things I have control of in life and I gotta just keep growing, healing, and learning. These songs helped me while I wrote them in quarantine.”

The resulting EP Creature of Habit approaches mental health with a balance of accessible candor and existential profundity. Enticing, mundane titles like “Eating Chips,” “Who Wants Takeout?,” and “Studio Apartment” take on the hard questions hidden in easy settings; Chips on my shoulder and a few in my mouth / Am I bored or am I boring? … How do you sit so calm so still / Knowing time is bound to kill / You me and the sun someday? In its elegant mash of abstract and straightforward, her perspective is brutally relatable.

During part of the writing process, Moen lived with her aunt who is a therapist. In her presence, Moen says she became increasingly intrigued by her own inner workings and more adept at dealing with them. For the songwriter, “Creature of Habit” acknowledges that innate human tendency to repeatedly resort to old habits, and the effort to—well—not.

Looking inward for lyrical inspiration, Moen looked outward for musical growth, delving into soundscapes she had not yet explored. “I’ve never really toyed with DAWs, keys, or synthesizers until I wrote the title track,” she explains. “I’ve always been a guitarist and I wanted to explore new sounds while I looked into my thought patterns and tendencies.”

Having launched in the lane of raw, bluesy, acoustics (opening for the likes of Lake Street Dive), Moen’s bold embrace of indie-pop production and electronic textures is especially enthralling. Her immense vocals and poetic poignancy swirl into the new sonic territory in a form that’s outright haunting.

The songs are ultimately an expression: not only of what the world means to Moen, but what she means to herself. “There are lots of parts of us that people think can’t coexist but they do. We’re all fierce and vulnerable, happy and sad, right and wrong, serious and silly. In my music, I’m searching for all of those things and finding a balance of what I actually am.”

Jessica Mindrum

(Chicago)

Much like the rest of us, Jessica Mindrum had a tough 2020. While navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic, the Chicago-based songwriter also suffered from immeasurable loss: her grandma, her uncle and her beloved dog all passed away within a few months of each other. Mindrum had never lost anyone before, and the grief that ensued followed her like a petulant shadow. So, she turned to what she knew best: writing quiet songs in the comfort of her cosy apartment. The result is new EP Restart, Begin; a collection that works through the sorrow and silence of a new reality, with dark humor and poignant vulnerability.

It follows Mindrum’s 2018 EP Better Now / River and sees the artist further her exploration of loneliness, heartache, and longing, but with a renewed clarity that sees her wipe away the fog to build a deeper foundation. There’s the tentative keys and gentle plucks of “Cardinal”; the slow-burning, ethereal tone of tiny song “Easy”; the hazy plucks of the quarantine-inspired title track and the glowing sincerity of “I-88”, where Mindrum wonders if a past love interest would even recognise her on the street. The intimacy of these admissions strive for connection and comfort during a year in which neither were possible, forcing Mindrum to reassess what it means to grow and flourish under the weight of bereavement and doubt.

“I had never experienced true grief before 2020 and then I experienced a tsunami of it,” she says, describing the effort it took to seem apathetic and blunt before these experiences. “I’m growing up now and I feel like it is cool to care about things. I’m there intellectually, but I don’t know if it’s got into my being yet.” This care and attention to detail sweeps across Restart, Begin, where disheartening experiences and apprehension sit alongside the urge for optimism and reprieve. “Do You Think That God is Laughing” most succinctly sums this up, as Mindrum searches for an exhale among it all. “Everything that happened to me is obviously not funny but if you look at it in a cosmic joke kind of way, you can laugh at it, in a morbid way,” she says.

These songs were crafted in the middle of the recording process, after Mindrum had already begun work on the EP with an entirely different set of songs. Beginning in March 2020, the pandemic enforced a break and allowed her to reassess the EP’s direction. Once Mindrum had returned to the original songs, she didn’t recognise the person who wrote them. “I realized that they were about trivial things,” she explains. Working together with producer Joe George, the pair began to put together the new vision, exploring new sonic territory with cinematic strings, and piecing together the fragments of Mindrum’s intense year.

Emerging from these mercurial months is an artist more sure of herself than ever before. Whereas previous EP Better Now / River was presented with a black and white photograph of Mindrum looking away, Restart, Begin is introduced with a painting of Mindrum by Rachel Blanco, with the artist staring ahead, in full color. With a potted plant sitting next to her guitar, and Mindrum’s relaxed pose in her apartment, the cover art signals comfort in the face of unpredictability, offering a glimpse into the introspection that shapes her ever-evolving self. “There’s a Joan Didion quote I always come back to,” she says. “To remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.”

Motel Breakfast

(Chicago)

Motel Breakfast is a true Midwestern band, with members split between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison.

After three years of live shows in the Midwest, the band hit the studio in the summer of 2019 to record to tape at Treehouse Records in Chicago. Produced by Andy Goitia (of Milwaukee’s Sleepy Gaucho), the self-titled debut album (released 2/7/2020) combines some of their most polished songwriting yet with the high energy and chemistry of their live show, making for the first studio effort to give a proper snapshot of the group.

Left on Deming, the self-produced follow-up project, is a 6-track EP that was released one song at a time throughout the summer and fall of 2020. With studio goals of tracking live and keeping arrangements simple, the project was pieced together quickly over one summer weekend of recording. The full EP was released everywhere digitally on October 16, 2020.

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Cactus Club
2496 S. Wentworth Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
414-897-0663
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  • WED & THURS: 4:00 PM—12:00 AM
  • FRI: 4:00 PM—2:00 AM
  • SAT: 11:00 AM—2:00 AM
  • SUN: 11:00 AM—10:00 PM
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