Joanna Newsom and Displaced Madison Hipsters.

Last night Joanna Newsom played University of Wisconsin’s Great Hall as part of the grand finale of the Madison Pop Fest, which once again proved to be a brilliant sucess for the city of Madison and the UW student body. Tardy arrivals by Joanna and Bill Callahan combinded with an overwhelming turnout lead to a sense of apprehension and tension at the beginning of the evening, but those who stuck around we treated to a night to remember.

As alluded to above, the attendance of all Madison’s hipsters and their hair greatly exceeded any of my expectations as I arrived a little late to find myself and hundreds of others lined up on the stairwells waiting to be ushered into the Great Hall. With high praise coming from Pitchfork and bloggers alike I guess the throngs of people shouldn’t come as such a surprise. Her recent album, Ys is already beginning to land on many critics year end favorite lists much like its predecessor, The Milk Eyed Mender did. I recently provided 9 reasons supporting the purchase of her latest album, however it still falls quite far from anything that I would ever find myself listening to repeatedly. That’s not because I don’t find her work to be interesting or enjoyable, it’s just that they just seem much more like a performance and less like a record, which makes it hard for me to make repeated listens.

I think the above is one of the reasons her recent stop in Madison worked out so well. In a live setting Joanna’s music is spellbinding and gorgeous. There is nothing left on the table, and the collective jaw of the audience, at least from where I was situated remained in a permanent position on the floor for the duration of the show. As great as the performance was it wasn’t enough for me to head to the turntable and listen to her records. It did, however ensure that I’ll definitely seek her out each time she’s in town.

Thanks to the organizers of the Madison Pop Fest for a wonderful weekend of live music at no cost. Your time and talent brought to the UW campus is well appreciated and confirmed by the turnout of last night’s performance. Looking forward to next year.

Update – Two other bloggers report on the scene:

The Above-Ground Men
Miss the Signpost