The Current is partnering with Radio Milwaukee and Manitoba Music to present the annual Midwest Music Exchange. The exchange will include performances across the three regions by Manitoba’s Silence Kit, Milwaukee’s Zed Kenzo, and Minnesota’s own Lady Lark. As they prepare to take the stage at Icehouse this coming Wednesday, April 10, here’s a brief look at the artists and their stories. Also, tune in to The Current at 6 p.m. every night this week as Mark Wheat highlights music from all three cities.
Hailing from Milwaukee, Zed Kenzo has been turning heads since she first started performing in 2013. But even before she started working as a musician, Kenzo had already been writing music for over two decades.
As a child, she started out playing classical piano and singing in the church choir. She grew up listening to hip-hop and, adding R&B, 2000s indie, dance, and post-hardcore vibes, Kenzo now crosses over genres to create her own alternative hip-hop sound.
While she may have been afraid to perform early on in her career, Kenzo is now one of Milwaukee’s most fierce local acts.
“I didn’t believe in myself, ” Kenzo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I wasn’t confident in my voice. I used to have a speech impediment. I’m pretty book smart, and I thought I would be taken seriously if I was a doctor or something, so I never put any effort into putting music out. But I met someone, [producer] Nedarb Nagrom, who said, ‘You are so good. You should do this.’”
What fans might not know about Kenzo is that she produces a lot of her own music, including some of the tracks on her new EP. Just released on April 5, Baby Swag is be a collection of songs she wrote last summer.
Since their start in 2015, Silence Kit have become one of Winnipeg’s most popular local bands. Comprising lead singer Manon Smalley, guitarist Natalie Smith, bassist James Stallan, and drummer Mike Pascucci, the band have taken the stage at some of Canada’s biggest music festivals and aren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
With influences like Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Alison Mosshart (the Kills), David Bowie, and Iggy Pop, Silence Kit bring high energy to each of their shows.
“It’s really important to us that we have a very energetic live show,” Smalley told the Winnipeg Sun. “I know for me, if I were to play a show and not be bouncing off the walls — if I weren’t sweaty and sore after a performance — to me, it would be a failure. It wouldn’t be fun.”
Silence Kit describe their sound as aggressive, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. The band released their latest EP, Kitty Kitty, this past year and are already working on new material to bring to fans at the Midwest Music Exchange and at shows around Canada.
When Minneapolis singer Taylor Harris — a.k.a. Lady Lark — performs, she beams with confidence. Blending multiple influences from pop to soul and R&B, Lark’s music is bouncy and playful, getting even the shyest fans to get up and dance with no problem.
Since her career took off in 2018, Harris has played First Avenue three times, collaborated with Har Mar Superstar and was named City Pages Best R&B Artist that year. This year Harris has taken to the national stage, bringing her soulful music and lyrics to audience members around the country and giving everyone the confidence to express themselves.
“It’s that deep feeling that I think everybody experiences,” Harris told The Current’s Cecilia Johnson in an interview. “There’s a Lady Lark in all of us. That sexy part of you that maybe you do, maybe you don’t express all the time. But you know you have that experience of going, ‘No, you’re not going to do that to me.’ Or, ‘That s— ain’t right.’ The truth of those feelings comes to life in these songs.”
Lady Lark’s new album with Heiruspecs and Purple Funk Metropolis will be released on May 10. An album release show will be held that night at Fine Line, giving local fans another chance to connect with Lark’s groovy music.
Simone Cazares is a student at St. Catherine University. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.