LISTEN: The Gentle Guest

band continues manic energy, brilliance in follow-up release

Ian Jacoby, photos by Drew Kaiser |

A shoeless afternoon with The Gentle Guest. Band members Eric Rykal (guitar, vocals), Zach Hanson (drums), Aaron Winter (bass), and James Lincoln (keys).

    There is perhaps no band more definitive of the, “Amble Down Sound” than The Gentle Guest. There is definitely no album more definitive of The Gentle Guest’s sound than Cast Off Your Human Form.

    The new album from the roots/retro/punk group has frontman Eric Rykal raging against the light over a bed of melancholy saxophone and bombastic drums. I have no problem saying that this is a great record. It’s not just a great local record, but a great record period.

    There is a depth and complexity to The Gentle Guest’s sound that has continued to grow with each subsequent release from their first full-length, We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight, to this new release that is astounding. There is a consistency of songwriting, a purity of message that lasts from the first track to the last. Oh, and it’s great to dance to, so there’s that.

    One of my favorite album moments comes on the track, Laughing Bells, which sounds like The Beatles’, Dear Prudence interpreted by Merle Haggard. The moment comes when it’s just Rykal on a lonely electric guitar and Aaron Winter’s upright bass. Rykal reminisces softly over and over that he is thankful for, “The brothers I was lucky to find.” It’s a bittersweet lyric on an album filled with fire and brimstone, a moment of calm and reflection in the midst of the storm. True beauty.

    So we’ve established, great band, great record, but what about the live show? Don’t worry; these boys have you covered again. On July 16, Gentle Guest plans to play not one set, not two, but seven, count ‘em, SEVEN sets. They’re calling it, “The Ramble Round (a play on Amble Down, doy) Pub Crawl.” You heard right, the album release is a freaking pub crawl. Starting at Clancy’s at six, the crawl then proceeds to The Mousetrap, Bottle and Barrel, Dooley’s, Mogie’s, The Grand Illusion, and finishes with a “real” concert at The House of Rock at nine (with Conrad Plymouth and 4onthefloor). It is perhaps the greatest idea of all time, and I can’t wait to see a huge group of buzzed and dirty indie rockers tramping across the Lake Street bridge.

    So what do we do now? Great album, great band, great show, it all seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Get your swinging self down to these gin joints and enjoy music at it’s best; un-ironic, fiery, and beautiful. The Gentle Guest will be there until the last foot stomps and the last Leinie’s is downed. Chippewa Falls forever.

    Cast Off Your Human Form is available through and, or at their July 16 Ramble Round shows and the July 15 Sounds Like Summer Concert Series appearance in Phoenix Park, 6:30-8:30pm.