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Inspired by a dirty piano, Beth Orton brings new music to the Pabst

Milwaukee’s concert scene has a lot going on, so we look at the shows coming up to find the ones you’ll look back on and be glad you went. Then we add them to our weekly Milwaukee Concert Picks.

Beth Orton breathed life into beautiful new album Weather Alive using the lungs of a “cheap, crappy” upright piano in a garden shed at her home in England.

Orton said she bought the mundane but magical instrument from a used-piano dealer at a market in Camden. And although guitar is Orton’s primary instrument, she felt compelled to bring that piano home to tinker.

“I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how to play this instrument, but wow, it just sounds so beautiful,’” she told the New York Times. “So I started on the piano, just writing simple songs, not worrying about being good at what I do. No matter where you touch it, it just has these resonances. Little ghosts of other chords just keep ringing out, and you’re like, ‘Oh, that speaks of another melody, and that speaks of another feeling.’”

Later, she found the piano was full of soot, which may have given it those interesting sonic qualities that put an additional layer on Orton’s songwriting chops for an even more vivid and unfiltered feel.

Orton visits the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee this Friday, Nov. 11, along with the amazing Heather Woods Broderick (a longtime member of Sharon Van Etten’s band). Before she takes the stage that night, our members will get a chance to join us for an intimate Studio Milwaukee Session with Orton at noon and her new songs, as well as the stories behind them.

Everyone is welcome to tune in for the live broadcast starting at noon. But of course we’d love for you to be there in person or at any of our upcoming Studio Milwaukee Sessions. Head to our membership page to learn how.

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