thistle and thorns


Thistle and Thorns is an ever-changing, ever-expandable band that accompanies Thistle for special events and tours. Below is a picture of the group in the fall of 2011.

This pic is from when TNT played at the Broom Street Theater in conjunction with Rainbow Books’ 2012 production of Voices of a  People’s History, a play highlighting a series of monologues drawn from Howard Zinn’s primary source materials in his iconic work A People’s History of the United States.




    What People are saying about Thistle and Thorns

“Pettersen’s faith in human qualities makes Paradise ring extremely clear and true, loud enough to realize that peace might be just beyond chaos.”

 Mark Ziemba, Ann Arbor Current magazine 

“Thistle will send shivers down your spine with empowering reminders of the work and play necessary for social transformation.”

– Froseph, anarcho folk musician and Crimethinc activist based out of Winona, MN

  “Thistle and Thorns play movement music – the kind that not only moves your body out of your seat and onto the dance floor, not only moves your heart and your mind to open up and find hidden feelings and new hopes, but also moves you to be inspired, to get up, get out, and get active in your community, making connections and pushing for change, building grassroots alternatives.

Thistle and her very talented band have opened up our shows in Madison on several occasions.  They welcome everyone in and add a unique fire to the evening.  I would highly recommend Thistle and Thorns – they are a great addition to any radical cultural event.”

– Tyler Norman of the Beehive Design Collective based out of Machias, Maine

“Thistle and Thorns provided the perfect music for our Lifetime Achievement Award reception in October.  Their music is an inspiring and invigorating call to action — and a just flat-out great performance!  A long-time grassroots activist herself, Thistle knows the challenges we face and the dreams that keep us going — as her truly moving lyrics demonstrate.  We highly recommend Thistle and Thorns to any and all activist audiences!”

 – Diane Farsetta, Executive Director of Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice

“I met Thistle this past summer while on an Earth First! Journal speaking tour, and was completely struck by the power and passion her music conveys. When Thistle played the “BP Song” I got chills, and for the first time felt that there was a statement that could bring us an ounce of comfort in the wake of one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Thistle’s music provides for activists and concerned people what we need in times of turmoil: to listen and know that we are not alone in our quest to live in harmony with our planet and communities.”

– Leah Rothschild, Contributing Editor, Earth First! Journal

 “Thistle’s voice is provocative and powerful. With raspy realism her lyrics paint a picture of life on the road (via bicycle), rage about the killing of the earth and a commitment to fight back.”

– Earth First! Journal

Thistle and Thorns went on a Spring Earth Week tour of the Midwest with the Beehive Collective in 2012! Below is a list of all the places we visited.

  • April 12th – Milwaukee, Brewing Grounds for Change
  • April 13th – Lapham Elementary School in Madison 3:45 – 4:30
  • April 14th – Madison, Ambrosia Co-op, 225 East Lakelawn 6 PM
  • April 17th – Platteville, Pioneer Crossing in the UW student center
  • April 18th – 19th Iowa City, The Iowa Old Brick, 26 East Market Street
  • April 19th – La Crosse, TBA — somewhere on the UW campus
  • April 20th – Madison — Eagle Heights student housing
  • April 21st – Viroqua, Driftless Books
  • April 22 –  Winona, MN, TBA
  • April 23-24th – Minneapolis/St. Paul, TBA
  • April 26th – Menomonie, The Raw Deal

Bios of Band Members Past and Present

– Graham Marlowe is a Madison-based keyboardist & composer making the best of his mid-twenties in the world of music & art. Marlowe’s biggest interests are jazz & rock, but he consistently dabbles in a variety of styles. From the spacey electro-grooves of his duo Lakewaves to jazzy, experimental solo keys work to recently becoming a “Thorn” to Thistle Pettersen, he’s always eager for the next musical experiment. His far-ranging musical interests and healthy percussion background partly explain his playing style.

– Jonah Burns is an upright bass player who grooves easily with the styles and tunes of others, using his wonderful voice to accompany with vocal harmonies in addition to providing solid, melodic bass lines.

I am an artist, herbalist and percussionist who believes that the human community needs to live in balance with nature.  I teach workshops on the profound, yet simple ways of healing with plant medicine and good food and have been making art out of trash for many years, as a way to transform wastefulness into beautiful sacred objects.    I currently play percussion in Thistle and the Thorns with a drum kit made out of “trash”, created from bottles, cans, buckets, cardboard boxes and other various pieces.  My mission in life is to teach others the art of living in a simple way that is in alignment with community and nature. – Nicole Klinge, trash-kit percussion

Celeste Abril Ixchtel enjoys playing musical saw , riding her bicycle everywhere, dancing ecstatically, catapulting seed bombs & participating in creative collaborations especially in the realms of sound, film, movement & poetic uprising! – musical saw

Ben Willis is a bassist whose affinities lie in collaborative projects, new music, improvisation, and the merging of cross-disciplinary elements. He has played as a thorn with Thistle and the Thorns for about a year, and he’s excited to celebrate Earth Day in 2011 by traveling with this eclectic folk ensemble. He’s performed his original collaborative work at the Electroacoustic Juke Joint festival at the University of North Alabama, and has contributed music to projects with dancers and filmmakers, highlighting the importance of collaborative, performative process in the development of new art. He regularly performs with the Weather Duo, an electroacoustic ensemble with cellist Pat Reinholz, dedicated to performing new music that blends classical training with improvisation and experience with folk idioms.  He often participates in recitals of new music and collaborations with composers, and performs regularly with the electro/funk/klezmer band theShtetlblasters, the experimental jazz group Lovely Socialite, as well as with various chamber ensembles, jazz combos, and other groups in and near Madison, WI. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Double Bass Performance in 2010 at the UW-Madison, where he studied in the studio of Professor Richard Davis– upright bass

Hailing from all over WI, from Dane County to Sheboygan, Xander Gieryn is a Wisconsinite through and through. Living in Wisconsin, it’s hard not to fall in love with canoes and mountain bikes, hiking and backpacking. Xander is now a full-time student at UW-Madison and an even more full-time participant in Madison’s radical community. He firmly espouses living in co-operative housing as he has done since arriving in Madison, as both a great way to be a role model of low impact living and also as a way to meet and live with the coolest cats (and dogs- both human and canine). He is happy for the opportunity to turn his horn into a thorn and to raise hell with the bells, Xander is looking forward to a radically awesome tour! Viva la revolución. –– trumpet and bells

  One Response to “thistle and thorns”

  1. Thistle and Saw,

    This is Rebecca Alegria from the Menominee Historic Preservation Office on the Menominee Indian Reservation. I had met you at the Fundraiser in Bad River. We spoke about the Menominee Lumberjack Breakfast. Now we are asking if you and Saw are wiling to participate. We also have awesome land. A room will be provided. Let me know at or 715-799-5258 as soon as possible. The date for the Annual Lumberjack Breakfast is October 5th, 2013. Wae Wae Nen (thank you)!
    Rebecca Alegria
    Cultural Planner/Tribal Researcher

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