Monet Madrid Madagascar means no disrespect by not padding its itinerary with as many hometown gigs as its fans would like. But when the sextet formed in the spring of 2003, it came to a conclusion: It would rather zigzag the country with its impressionist mix of rock, jazz, and electronica than become too content just jamming around Cleveland.
"It's not that we prefer playing the rest of the U.S. to Cleveland," says Matt Warner, the band's bassist. "But at this growing stage, it's just time to push ourselves, get out of our comfort zone, and see what happens."
They learned the rigors of touring this summer, as they loaded up their bus for lounge and tavern bookings from the upper Midwest to the Carolina coastline. "It's extremely tough to get noticed on a local, regional, and especially national level," says Warner. "We're trying to work on and balance all of them."
The band plays a rare home date on Saturday for Studio-A-Rama, the annual outdoor fest sponsored by Case Western Reserve's campus radio station WRUW-FM 91.1. This year, the daylong bill includes headliners Magnolia Electric Co. (an Indiana group led by former Clevelander Jason Molina) and eight Northeast Ohio bands, including the Avatars, Rare Blend, and 20goto10. "The students are really hyped up about it," says organizer Melissa Giglio, who hosts the two-hour Bluegrass Breakdown program every Monday evening. "This is one of the ways the campus community gives back to the local musicians who support us and vice versa."
Warner appreciates the sentiment. As much as he and his bandmates relish the nonstop traveling from town to town, they still consider Cleveland their home base, where they can try out new material. "We're trying to convey moods and life experiences through music that can't really be confined to nice, neat three-minute packaging," says Warner. "We do what feels right and natural, even if it takes us a while to understand what we're actually doing."