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Studio Milwaukee Session: Grace Potter

Jen Ellis

What makes a perfect Studio Milwaukee Session? An unforgettable experience for the in-person audience is part of it. Sharing music that gets people interested in an artist's album or upcoming concert is another. The artist themselves having a great time matters a lot.

It was mission accomplished on all fronts Thursday afternoon, when Grace Potter swooped into our Walker’s Point studios and played a ripper of a set that suggested it would be a wild night at her Pabst Theater show just a few hours later.

On the album front, Potter’s session was one of those times when the format felt a little confining. Understandably (and generously), artists play three or four songs as a way of delivering a musical appetizer of sorts. But Potter’s new LP, Mother Road, is such a cohesive work that it’s almost a shame to listen to a track apart from its brothers and sisters.

The 10-song collection builds on itself and is just so damn vivid, conjuring visuals at every turn that all seem to happen a stone’s throw from a dusty highway. Rundown motels, raucous parties, roadside specters, thumbin’ for a ride to your next wherever — these scenes all play out in your head while working your way through the album.

Of course, there was no need to picture much of anything during Potter’s solo performance in our space Thursday afternoon. Stage presence has always been one of the most effective weapons at her disposal, and she wielded it with literal glee. Playing first on acoustic guitar before switching over to keyboard, she punctuated her songs with laughter and a wide smile, sharing the stories behind them before filling the room with that unmistakably powerful voice.

Like many of the artists who sit in for sessions, Potter stuck around after the broadcast to treat the live audience to one more song. Unlike some of those artists, Potter had a good reason for doing so: She was in the mood for a very not-safe-for-work-or-radio performance of Mother Road finale track “Masterpiece,” capped by a rare Studio Milwaukee Session standing ovation.

That rendition will remain an in-person experience only (as will the raffle that netted one person the actual shirt off Potter’s back), but you might be able to duplicate it tonight at The Pabst Theater or hear the studio version of the song by picking up Mother Road on Bandcamp.

As our Fall Drive rolls on, The Lemon Twigs will be here at noon Friday for a session that’s open to the public. Stop by, grab a cup from Discourse Coffee, enjoy the performance and visit our membership table (or just tap here) to reserve your seat at every single one of our Studio Milwaukee Sessions.

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Set list

  1. “Good Time”
  2. “Little Hitchhiker”
  3. “Mother Road”