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Northern Room caught in the act at Turner Hall Ballroom. (PHOTO: CJ Foeckler)

Northern Room gets comfy at Hi-Hat Garage


Although astute music fans remember such famous residencies as those of the Beatles at Liverpool's Cavern Club and The Jam's at London's Red Cow, the practice hasn't been popular among rock and roll bands in recent years.

Of course, The Velvet Whip did it at the Avant Garde in Milwaukee in the '60s and blues and jazz musicians make a living via standing gigs at specific venues, but anthemic Milwaukee rockers Northern Room blaze something of a contemporary trail when the foursome plays a quartet of weekly gigs in March at the Hi-Hat Garage.

"We have always been attracted to the idea of a residency due to the platform it presents us in bringing out new material," says the band's lead singer Andrew Jonathan. "The four of us are extremely prolific that find it difficult to play new songs without a constant stream of live opportunities."

Jonathan says that the gigs, two of which are acoustic performances and two of which are "electronic" and feature special guests The Figureheads, are a great way for the band to stretch out a little, too.

"We are also a very rehearsed band that, to be honest, doesn't usually sway too far from what we prepare for. Taking on a residency will allow us to jump out of our skin for a month, test new material, extend previously recorded songs into darker and more colorful territories, as well as, give us a stage where we can receive immediate feedback from our fans as to what is working and what isn't."

The band, which has a label deal in Japan and last year released a deluxe edition of its disc "Last Embrace," bolstered with live and previously unreleased tracks, has no fear that four gigs in a month may tax the interest of a relatively compact music scene.

Northern Room also nabbed three wins in the inaugural 88Nine Milwaukee Music Awards. In November the quartet packed Turner Hall Ballroom and played a New Year's Eve gig at the Intercontinental Hotel with The Gufs. Northern Room also recently shared the stage with Jack's Mannequin in Peoria, Ill.

"If we were doing the same type of Northern Room show we have typically done, then I might think so," says Jonathan. "What we are preparing, though, is completely left of center for the band. The first and third Wednesday's in March we will be doing acoustic and alt-country versions of our songs.

"Michael (Morgan), who is a blossoming songwriter in his own right will also be debuting a number of his own brilliant works. Michael has been writing a lot of broken-hearted love songs in the vein of Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson, which cannot be missed.

"The second and fourth Wednesdays in March we will be presenting electronic versions of our songs. Milwaukee's Figureheads will be a major part of these nights."

The upshot, Jonathan says, is that the residency offers the band a chance to try new things in front of a crowd likely willing to give the band wide-ranging space to explore.

"I love when I am in a situation where creativity is instantly molded and shaped by a group of people without the time to re-think. A lot of improv, poetry and random off-the-cuff melodies will be thrown around the room during these performances. We are all looking forward to sharing these experiences with Milwaukee in March. "

The residency shows on March 5, 12, 19 and 26 are at Hi-Hat Garage.


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