Patchwork Monkey a traditional rock quintet

Joseph Shaul, Staff Writer

Rock and roll favors a maxim of “Live fast, die young.”  With age, flamboyant stage dives and incandescent after-parties slowly fade to car payments and potty training.

Thirty-something rockers are a rare breed, with those few sufficiently competent to survive the loss of their youthful novelty frequently subsumed by the nine-to-five. A full squad of them is unheard of – with one impressive exception.

Patchwork Monkey is the definitive old school. A traditional rock quintet led by impressive vocalist Rebecca Stites, the band rejects special effects and synthesizers in favor of stratocasters and a drum kit. In a world of neo-victorians playing radioactive kazoos, it’s refreshing to just see ordinary dudes in a Green Lantern T-shirt jamming away. 

Their sound is equally vintage, filled with a combination of rock ‘n roll and whimsical, fast-paced blues. The repertoire is equal parts standbys like the Stones and songs of their own composition sufficiently polished you can’t tell where the covers end and the new material begins. There’s no pretension here. Stites belts out bawdy lyrics without inhibition, and the band plays a wonderfully danceable accompaniment. This is genesis, the blend of R&B and soul spun up to 72 that our grandparents came to know as rock and roll.

Patchwork Monkey can afford this vacuum of gimmickry for a reason. They’re really good. It seems mundane to praise a band on keeping in tune and on time, but it’s one of those things you notice, if only because elsewhere it’s so frequently absent.

Despite bouncing from genre to genre, the band just keeps rolling along in unison. There are no omissions, no shortcuts, and no corners cut.

Each song is played in its entirety, with no “stylistic changes” made to accommodate an incompetent drummer or tipsy guitarist. Especially impressive is Stites’ ability to switch from Keith Richards to Ella Fitzgerald without running out of vocal range.

For Madisonians, good music usually means imports. A local band guaranteed to provide a good night of music is a rare catch.