GOODMAN: Expand your musical horizon beyond Top 40

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m kind of a music snob. I almost hyperventilated when Bon Iver was called a “new artist” at the Grammys earlier this year, and I tend to not recognize negative social cues when talking about my past concert experiences.

I’m proud (and slightly shocked) to say I’ve refrained from writing about music this long. I don’t think I can keep myself from it anymore, though. This past weekend was too inspiring.

Last Saturday I saw Regina Spektor at The Riverside Theater with my mom and sister. Regina is by far my favorite solo artist – she’s quirky, insanely talented and writes beautiful music. She’s so adorable on stage that it took all I had to keep from running up there and begging her to be my best friend.

What’s so admirable about Regina, though, is that she’s real. She’s not like some artists who use so much auto-tune while recording that they sound completely different in live performances. Regina almost sounds better live than on record. She’s an extensively trained pianist and completed the four-year studio composition program at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in three years … with honors.

The best tribute I can pay to Regina, though, is the effect she had on my mom. My mom went into the concert with almost no knowledge as to who Regina Spektor was, let alone what any of her songs were. Really, it shows just how wonderful my mom is that she allowed me to drag her along to some concert in which she had no idea who she was seeing.

Regardless of how great my mom is (that could be an entire column in itself), the point is that she walked away loving Regina. She picked favorite songs and called Regina endearing because she is such a talented performer and musician but seems less secure when she steps away from her piano.

My mom saw Regina as modest, which in my opinion is one of the greatest things an artist can be called.

My mom’s experience, though, proves that there is so much music to discover if you only seek it out. Yes, Regina Spektor has had a couple of hits on the radio, but her most stunning music is that which hasn’t had such success.

Sure, the top 40s are good for party music, but there’s an entire world of undiscovered music out there. In other words, don’t limit yourself to the crap that is typically on mainstream radio stations.

Go to a music festival and see a band you’ve never heard of. Festivals are meant for the discovery of new artists – don’t just go for the headliners at the end of the day. Some of the best shows result from taking a risk.

I saw Mumford & Sons three summers ago before most people knew who they were (I promise I’m not trying to sound like a hipster). They had a morning time slot, a relatively small audience at the beginning of their show and played in the rain. By the end of the performance the crowd stretched all the way to the opposing stage. Marcus Mumford, lead singer of the band, said it was the largest audience they had ever played for. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Next time you’re on a road trip and driving in the dark, turn on a classical music station. No, not classic rock. I mean straight up, classical, Beethoven and Bach. I promise it’ll be nothing short of the most relaxing and peaceful driving experience you’ve ever had. Not only that, but it’ll enhance your music IQ, as well.

Most importantly, take advantage of Milwaukee. Seriously. One of the best things about this city is how many opportunities for incredible music experiences there are here. We have The Riverside, The Pabst, Turner Hall Ballroom, The Rave, The Bradley Center and other small music venues at our disposal.

Better yet, most of the shows at these places are cheap. There’s no excuse not to go to some. Not only will they spice up your life and broaden your music horizons, but you’ll leave feeling on top of the world. After all, there’s nothing better than that elated post-concert feeling.

So seek out new music, give your friend’s favorite band a chance or simply take a risk and go see a show you never would have considered. You don’t have to be a hipster to like obscure music, so don’t limit yourself – go out and find it.

  • Jimmy Hoffa

    Mumford & Sons, Regina Spektor, and Bon Iver, really? The fact you consider any of these bands/artists to be the least bit “obscure”, or even good for that matter, shows just how little you know and how underdeveloped your tastes are. Fun fact: obscure bands don’t win Grammys. Yes, you are a music snob, but the worst kind-the kind that doesn’t know anything and parades around that ignorance like trophy. Glancing at the front page of Pitchfork does not mean you have your finger on the pulse of the Indie underground.

    p.s. Your mention of “classical music” not only feels forced, but clearly shows only a juvenile appreciation of said music at best.