Pictures taken by Benjamin Wick
Written by Danielle Hanson
On Wednesday February 15, NON CLASSICAL Milwaukee returned with a unique event at Moct in Milwaukee’s up and coming 5th ward. The idea behind NON CLASSICAL Milwaukee is to blend genres, which also happens to be the basis behind Unlooped, a creation of 88.9 Radio Milwaukee’s Tarik Moody aka The Architect. Tarik earned the nickname The Architect for his ability to create and produce music, to really connect talent with talent. He organized the original Unlooped versus Dilla for an event back in September, held at Stonefly Brewery in the Riverwest. That performance was such a success and created so much buzz around the Milwaukee music scene, Tarik decided to throw another such event, titled Unlooped versus Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver). Sure to be a hit, the event is Saturday, March 3rd at Stonefly, featuring Gina Barrington, Brendan Benham (Group of The Altos), Allen Cote, Dave Olson (Plight of a Parasite, Figureheads), and Alida LaCosse. The catalyst for this event, Unlooped versus Dilla, was brought back for an encore on Wednesday with NON CLASSICAL Milwaukee. Preceding that performance, many talented musicians from Milwaukee and Great Britain warmed up the crowd.
NON CLASSICAL is a UK based record label ran by Gabriel Prokofiev. Giving him a warm Milwaukee welcome, we were able to get a view through the window of what they are doing overseas. NON CLASSICAL featured artists Joby Burges on percussion and Peter Gregson on cello. This performance introduced the Milwaukee music scene to something so different from what we’re used to hearing. 88.9’s Jordan Lee aka DJ Madhatter, played some of these NON CLASSICAL beats on his turntables, as well as MCing the evening. NON CLASSICAL Milwaukee is something new and unique to our music scene however I’m pretty sure many people would have missed the action if Unlooped versus Dilla hadn’t been part of the line up. With so much anticipation built up they did not disappoint anyone in the room.
Unlooped versus Dilla was the brainchild of Tarik, composed of Dave Olson, Alida LaCosse, Peter Thomas, Barry Clark and Malcolm Michiles. For those of you who don’t know, J Dilla was an amazing hip hop producer that passed away in his prime, six years ago on February 10th. To combine classical instruments with J Dilla’s legendary beats fits in perfectly with what NON CLASSICAL represents. Blending classical with hip hop is better experienced live as the presence of two violins, an electric cello and upright bass on stage with two DJs creates an energy that can’t be felt through headphones. To get more of an inside look on how a project like this comes to life, I had a brief Q&A session with close friend and cellist Peter Thomas.
Danielle LP: “As a successful classical musician in Milwaukee, what keeps you here versus moving to a city like New York City for example? I mention that city as events like Unlooped happen almost regularly there whereas it’s a foreign concept to most in Milwaukee.”
Peter: “New York City, ha. I would only want to be a tourist there, you have to rely on everyone else’s schedule and I don’t think I could handle that. I like Milwaukee, I can do what I wanna do here, whether that’s classical, rock or anything in between. I also feel it’s as simple as being a big fish in a relatively smaller city such as Milwaukee versus being a small fish in a big city like NYC. Your hard work actually pays off in a city this size, people recognize and appreciate it. I’m able to meet people of all ages and musical tastes and play music for them that they can relate to. Isn’t that what music is all about? It’s to make you think critically and to move you emotionally somehow but first and foremost, be accessible to everyone. For me personally, the more genres (like Unlooped Vs. Dilla) and people I can work with, the broader my audience and musical spectrum becomes.”
Danielle: “ So tell us, how did you become involved in the project?”
Peter: “Tarik is all to thank for not only my involvement with Unlooped but for everyone’s involvement. Tarik wanted to put together a series that combined electronic music with a wide variety of genres that used local Milwaukee musicians. That’s where the classical ensemble came into play. Tarik knew I played the electric cello with indie-rcok band, I’m Not A Pilot, so he asked me to be a part of this ensemble and it’s been a tremendous amount of fun to work with him personally and the others in the group.
Danielle: “Besides Unlooped, is there anything coming up you would like to inform the readers about?”
Peter: “Well, I have Local Playlist’s Launch Party coming up on Saturday at the Tonic Tavern which I’m very excited about. I get to try my new loop pedal with some incredible local musicians. Other than that, there’s too much going on to mention everything but my string quartet, The Arcas Quartet, is collaborating with Chamber Music Milwaukee in the Bader Concert Hall located the Helene Zelazo Center at UWM on February 23. Also I’m Not A Pilot is excited to be performing at Turner Hall on March 3rd with Present Music. We’re going to show our first full scale music video we put together this summer. We’re also gearing up for our big tour to SXSW in Austin on March 12th. We’re pumped to be sharing a stage with Fresh Cut Collective and bringing Milwaukee music and culture to one of the nations biggest music conferences. Thanks Local Playlist for having me here today!”
Big thank you to Radio Milwaukee, MOCT, Unlooped, NON Classical and to Peter Thomas for taking the time to sit down and talk us. Alas, we were not the first ones to get a few word from this in-demand musician today. 88.9 Radio Milwaukee’s Jordan Lee brought in Nick Amadeus, lead singer of the Delta Routine this afternoon, for 414 Music, a show dedicated to local music. Nick played a couple songs by himself and as Peter plays on Nick’s new solo recording, “New York Avenue”, he went along to perform a one-of-a-kind version of the song with him live on the radio. If you missed it, you can stream the session and their interview on 88.9′s website, right here.
So excited to see and hear these amazing musicians along with Ikarus Down, Shoot Down the Moon, Kevin Topel, Scott Hlavenka, Kyra O’Brien and Daniel Beres at Localplaylist’s launch party on Saturday! It’s a free show so swing by if you can and get there early because it will fill up fast.