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Bonfire Madigan

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:

Punk blues string trio chamber-pop, avant-rock, out-of-the-orchestra-pit
      (or in guide category terms: alternative, beautiful & fierce, experimental)


Most recent releases, Lamentation and Ideas 4: 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore (EPs, 2017)

See also:

Bonfire Madigan's site

Kill Rock Stars page

Bonfire Madigan's Bandcamp page

Wikipedia's page for Bonfire Madigan


I'm somewhat reminded of PJ Harvey fronting a string trio, with a healthy dose of Riot Grrrl vocal-styling thrown in. (10/01, neal)


PJ Harvey crossed with Rasputina (10/01,

Covers/own material:


General comments:

Madigan was a great discovery this year. I didn't even get to hear much of her music before we had them play one of the most exciting house concerts we've had so far. A string trio (cello, string bass and drums) playing punk blues. This music blew away my crowded living room, and has revisited my player throughout the year.
     The typical Bonfire Madigan sound seems to be barely controlled chaos. With the heavy strings sawing away, there is a steady hum that seems reminiscent of the inner workings of some strange machine. The drums tick and the machine buzzs and throbs. But somewhere outside the whole thing, a structure is maintained. Phrases are repeated and twisted over the din, giving a sense of order to it all. It's hard to describe, but thrilling to hear and distinctly BMad. (10/01, neal)

I 'discovered' Madigan about a year ago, and I've been talking up her shows ever since...she puts on one of the most interesting and dramatic shows I've seen in a long time (she's a 'punk' singer/songwriter/cello-player)—(8/00,

Well I figured I'd jump back in here to rave about Ms. Madigan Shive. I absolutely adore her. Punk riot grrl cello rock with a passionate political slant. She's very intense and energetic live. She used to be one half of Tattle Tale (with Jen Wood, who I also adore) and now has done projects both solo and as Bonfire Madigan with a band. Really, you should check her out. Saddle the Bridge is a bit more accessible I think, but From the Burnpile is really amazing too and has my favorite song, "Snowfell Summer" on it. If you can find them, her other projects (CDs and 7"s) are also great. (

Comments about live performance:

Bonfire Madigan blew us away with a truly unique set of alternafolk-punk grrl cello rock. The band consisted of Madigan Shive on cello and vocals, two other women on stand-up bass and violin, and a guy on drums. I didn't know what we were in for, but wow, what a performance! I don't even know how to describe them since there's not much to compare them to. I guess they bear a passing resemblance to Jorane, simply because they're both female cellist-singers, but Madigan's music has a lot more energy and attitude than anything I've heard from Jorane. Anyway, we liked them so much that we bought two CDs at the show, and plan to make the two-hour drive to Philadelphia tonight to see them play at Khyber Pass. A highly recommended night out for any ectophiles who happen to be in their path! (9/00,

Madigan played a brief but intense set. She did a variety of intriguing things with the cello, including using the back of the bow to get creaking/groaning sounds, pulling the strings way out to get bizarre harmonics, and holding the cello in her lap and playing it like a guitar. The music isn't really punky, though it's sometimes described that way. It's more about texture, and, as Madigan said, attack and release. The drummer provided nice accents with the muffled kit and brushes, and Sheri Ozeki played a mean string bass, alternately bowing and plucking. The final piece, "Scraps" (which is available in video form from the Kill Rock Stars web page), was a wild frenzy. It starts with all sorts of chaotic sounds, as madigan tore into her cello, coaxing out a variety of scratches, whines, creaks and groans. On the video, it looks like 2 minutes of tuning that eventually jells into a song. Live, it was just a wave of chaos that somehow held together until a song emerged. (3/01)
     The best show that happened at my house. The intensity of this performance, to the totally packed living room, was amazing. The sound was so dense and thick. (c. 2002, Neal)

Recommended first album:

I'm most partial to Saddle the Bridge (10/01, neal)


Rock Stop

Release info:

1996—Moon Puss Records—002


Available from Kill Rock Stars

Ecto priority:


Group members:

Madigan Shive—cellos, guitar, vocals
Sheri Ozeki—contra bass, half size cello,
Laura MacFarlane (Sleater-Kinney, Ninety Nine)—drums, xylophone

Guest artists:

Deborah Cavallaro—xylophone

Produced by:

Madigan Shive, Sheri Ozeki


This album is much rawer than the later discs. Punkier and muddier. It's most interesting as a chance to look at the roots of the later sound, which are evident, though less well developed, on this album. The last 30 minutes of this disc are devoted to the song "The Girl With Her Foot Behind Her Head (The Contortionist's Song)", which sounds like incidental music from The Residents on different instruments. (11/01, neal)

...from the Burnpile

Release info:

1998—Kill Rock Stars/villa villakula records—vvk-13/krs-299


Cooler U.S. indie stores and KRS

Ecto priority:

High if you like edgy/punky ectofare.

Group members:

Madigan Shive—vocal, cello, acoustic guitar, sound FX
Sheri Ozeki—upright bass, contrabass, double bass, vocals
Tomas Balermo—beats, turntables, drums, melodica, organ

Guest artists:

Shelley Doty—vocals, electric guitar, acoustic slide guitar
S. Haire—drums

Produced by:

Madigan Shive, Tomas Balermo, Sheri Ozeki


This disc is pretty rough, but has a lot of excitement that is constantly bursting out, barely contained. The occasional scratching is interesting, and Madigan is pretty punky. Her voice breaks into shrieks and yelps. The cello/bass combo is constantly being layered, and then pounded over by the drums. (10/01, neal)

saddle the bridge

Release info:

2000—Kill Rock Stars—KRS357


Cooler indie stores and KRS

Ecto priority:

High for fans of edgy fare

Group members:

Madigan Shive—vocals, cello, guitar
Sheri Ozeki—contrabass, bells & whistles, vocals
Tomas Balermo—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Sheri Ozeki and Madigan Shive


Madigan's vocals and the band's playing sounds more full and confident on this release. The singing is more expressive. While Burnpile occasionally dips into unbridled shrieks (not a bad thing), this album sounds more melodic and fuller. Perhaps it's the production, but the fuller sound is quite notable. Burnpile is more of a punk album, while on Saddle the Bridge,the cello and bass playing is so much more distinct, and melodic. Plus, it rumbles more! (10/01, neal)

A marvellous album. Madigan Shive has a voice like Polly Harvey and music like Rasputina. A dream combination and some very strong songs. (10/01,

Madigan's new CD is great. (8/00,

It took me a while to be able to hear this properly, but after a couple of plays it really clicked for me and I then I had to keep playing it. It's unusual and pushes the experimental edge and yet is also melodic and haunting. A really wonderful combination of sounds and highly recommended for any ectophile who likes the edgier side of things. (Neile)

The Eighty-Eight EP

Release info:

2002—MoonPuss UniVerse/Little Echoes—MoonPuss003/leo007


Limited Edition and probably out of print

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of edgy indie music

Group members:

Madigan Shive—vocals, cello, guitar

Guest artists:

Sheri Ozeki—contrabass
Egg—drums, lap streel, guitar
Christine Lehmann—violin
Shelley Doty—electric guitar

Produced by:

Biggs and Mads


Edgy but still affecting and beautiful, the melodies and vocals go in both expected and unexpected directions, making for fascinating, moody listening. A lovely—but too brief at only 5 tracks—collection. (Neile)

Further info:

A track called "Swarm" appears on the Sleeping Off Stolen Dreams soundtrack.

Thanks to Neal Copperman for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2018-12-30 20:29:02.
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