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  • PHOX is a bunch of friends from the Midwestern circus hamlet, Baraboo, WI, a place where kids often drink poisoned groundwater and become endowed mutants. They make music that straddles Feist and Monty Python. It was in Baraboo that the six unlikely musicians attended high school together, some playing on the soccer field, others on video production sets. But in a town with a drive-your-tractor-to-school day, they didn't last. They did the thing that most people do when they are 18: they fled the coop, each going their separate ways (to film school, cosmetology school, a job with Homeland Security…). But promises were made that couldn't be kept, and as they fell in unrequited love and lost their respective jobs, in spite of themselves, each simultaneously pulled the ripcord and came home. The sextet promptly (-ish) got a house together in the Portland of the heartland, Madison, WI. As prolifically documented in their online video series, PHOX rekindled their onetime A/V production house while discovering how to live as a family (i.e. how not to berate each other about the hair in the sink). After two years of cohabiting, PHOX beheld a demo reel of bedroom-recorded music (and home movies) that made Bon Iver and The Fray recording engineer Brian Joseph blush. Donning his producer's cape (and occasional lab coat), Joseph cheer-led the band through its debut album at April Base Studios in Eau Claire, WI. Joseph's enthusiasm propelled the band through the production of more than a dozen songs that have been swimming in the think tank for two years. Mixed by Michael Brauer at Electric Lady in NYC, their debut album is a school of simple folk-pop songs swimming amidst a chaotic eddy of rock, psychedelia, and soul. If the goal here is friendship, PHOX is doing quite well. If the chosen path is blue collar pixel-pushing and church camp trust falls, they're on the way. And if their only coping mechanism is to lay down their arms and, for 30 or 45 minutes a day, shut up and listen to each other, you can't be too upset.

    • Venue: Underground
    • Type: Live
    • Cover: $10.50
    • Time: July 29, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
  • Like an off-label industrial process or cult ritual conducted in the dead of night, an artery flowing open in spurts or a complex society on the verge of collapse, Neuroplasticity is both terrifying and morbidly enthralling to witness. Cold Specks has returned, two years and a world map of tours after 2012's I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Hailed as a masterful and wholly original debut, the follow-up is radically expanded, like an announcer realising they hadn't turned on their microphone.

    The 26 year-old Canadian singer under the sobriquet Al Spx has been a byword for rare talent and depth of feeling since her arrival in late 2011. In November, in the afterglow of first single 'Holland,' she performed 'Lay Me Down,' and 'Old Stepstone' on Jools Holland. It turned into one of those shared national moments of cutlery-dropping, slack-jawed TV transfixion.

    Work on the second album began while holed up in a cottage in Wick, Somerset the following winter. "In retrospect, I probably didn't choose the most ideal season to live there," she deadpans. Neuroplasticity has since been constructed in fine layers, like a Rothko, building to a full, monolithic opacity.

    "The record was mapped out in the cottage. I was there for about three months," she says, "'A Formal Invitation', 'Old Knives' and 'Absisto' were essentially written there. They are the more unusual songs on the record. I may have been reflecting on my surroundings. Have you ever been to Glastonbury? It's a pretty fucked up place."

    The time on either side was as new and exciting as it was cruel and exhausting. Presently she was back on the road again in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. "I relentlessly toured for the first time. Travelling constantly was an odd adjustment at first. I'd always imagined road-trips to be exciting and generally fun. I found it all to be physically and mentally draining. Between tours I was mostly attempting to re-socialise."

    The gruelling schedule has awoken her writing to the full possibilities of her ensemble. Her voice is still central but on Neuroplasticity the lights have been brought up on the instrumentation and arrangements, which are now deployed more boldly, in wider emotional registers that contend with the voice's dynamism and scope. "I've successfully overcome whatever quarter-life crisis I was having and I think the 'Cold Specks sound' (whatever that means) is fully realised," she says.

    • Venue: Underground
    • Type: Live
    • Cover: $14.00
    • Time: July 31, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Dedicated to creating a new groove-based music, THE DIGS embody the unique perspective of diversity that could only come from Canada's multicultural melting pot, Toronto. To dig is to extract from the ground by breaking up earth, and The Digs are a band reaching down into the roots of American pop music and pulling up a vibrant sound that is an organically constructed embarrassment of riches.

    Ultimately, The Digs consist of close friendships built upon the love of music, and the love for one another, and it is this dedication which gives them a consistently renewed energy with each jam-packed gig, each infectious groove, each funky beat. Catch The Digs while you can!

    • Venue: Lounge
    • Type: Live
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: July 31, 2014, 10 p.m.
  • POPSPOLITATION is a night celebrating dirty, dirty pop in its many incarnations, from the ley lines connecting Madonna, Britney and Xtina to one Backstreet Boy's move to bringing SexyBack to the eventual world conquering ATL sound to the chaos magic of Lady Gaga. Original mash-ups, new stuff, rare stuff, old stuff, and that Icona Pop song all merge together for a night of entirely unique DJ and live viz performances by Palm Freetz, the Brooklyn-based art+music+event duo of Russ Marshalek (aka a place both wonderful and strange) and Deanna Paquette (aka hugs4drake). Between the two of them, they've produced Brooklyn's legendary Robyn-themed dance parties, keynoted the Typo Conference Berlin, and have an encyclopedic and infamous mental and emotional pop music dictionary.

    • Venue: Underground
    • Type: DJ, Live, Art
    • Cover: $5
    • Time: July 31, 2014, 11 p.m.
  • Are you looking for a place, an actual physical location, where art and business come together? You’re well on your way! Tough Guy Mountain’s PopUp Office engages in boutique culture, office design and new media art; PopUp Office is where the loyal brand consumer needs it most: The Drake Hotel.

    From 9-11PM, our current Drake Lab artists in residence will present an evocative window performance featuring projections, lights and live performance. “Corporate Daydreams” is much akin to falling asleep at your desk and never waking up.

    • Venue: The Lab
    • Type: Live, Art
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: Aug. 1, 2014, 9 p.m.
  • Are you looking for a place, an actual physical location, where art and business come together? You’re well on your way! Tough Guy Mountain’s PopUp Office engages in boutique culture, office design and new media art; PopUp Office is where the loyal brand consumer needs it most: The Drake Hotel.

    From 9-11PM, our current Drake Lab artists in residence will present an evocative window performance featuring projections, lights and live performance. “Corporate Daydreams” is much akin to falling asleep at your desk and never waking up.

    • Venue: Lobby
    • Type: Live, Art
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: Aug. 2, 2014, 9 p.m.
  • Are you looking for a place, an actual physical location, where art and business come together? You’re well on your way! Tough Guy Mountain’s PopUp Office engages in boutique culture, office design and new media art; PopUp Office is where the loyal brand consumer needs it most: The Drake Hotel.

    From 9-11PM, our current Drake Lab artists in residence will present an evocative window performance featuring projections, lights and live performance. “Corporate Daydreams” is much akin to falling asleep at your desk and never waking up.

    • Venue: The Lab
    • Type: Live, Art
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: Aug. 3, 2014, 9 p.m.
  • Are you looking for a place, an actual physical location, where art and business come together? You’re well on your way! Tough Guy Mountain’s PopUp Office engages in boutique culture, office design and new media art; PopUp Office is where the loyal brand consumer needs it most: The Drake Hotel.

    From 1-4PM, our current Drake Lab artists in residence graciously open up the doors of its office to the public. Feel free to drop by for the very best in performance, new media and office design.

    • Venue: The Lab
    • Type: Live, Art
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: Aug. 4, 2014, noon
  • Are you looking for a place, an actual physical location, where art and business come together? You’re well on your way! Tough Guy Mountain’s PopUp Office engages in boutique culture, office design and new media art; PopUp Office is where the loyal brand consumer needs it most: The Drake Hotel.

    From 1-4PM, our current Drake Lab artists in residence graciously open up the doors of its office to the public. Feel free to drop by for the very best in performance, new media and office design.

    • Venue: The Lab
    • Type: Live, Art
    • Cover: FREE
    • Time: Aug. 5, 2014, noon