Saturday, July 29, 2006

I gotta have more cowbell!

It’s a perfect summer night, a bit of breeze, a spectacular sunset over State Fair Park, and Brian and I are walking up to the biker rally at the Milwaukee Mile to see Blue Oyster Cult, when suddenly I realize the horrific fashion faux pas I am committing: I'm at a biker rally, and I'm wearing pink. Not a black shirt with pink on it. No, I'm wearing a magenta track shirt and a skirt with a hawaiaan motif on it. At least I'm wearing some black sandals with a huge silver buckle on them, and I do have tattoos. But still I'm at a biker rally. WTF was I thinking? Clearly, I'm there to see BOC, not check out the burnout contest. Oh, and do I ever regret not brining the camera. We easily ended up on the edge of the stage, I am in Eric Bloom's shadow all night (and actually catch a glimpse of his real eyes as he briefly wipes his brow) and they clearly do not mind photographers.

They are so wonderfully old school about this rock and roll business. They mug for the cameras, not shy away or have some bouncer confiscate them. They play their hearts out. Buck Dharma milks the crowd for cheers as he cracks his knuckles during his guitar solo. Allen Lanier, as the biker next to us comments, is the coolest fucking man on the planet at this point in time. You get the impression, as a friend and I discussed afterwards, they're doing this for themselves, having a grand old time hitting the road, not in some insane stadium situation where they don't have a real life or anything. What a rock and roll dream. They're paying the bills, they've got royalties to rest on, and the people who come to see them love them. How can you not? Even if you don't think you're into BOC, go to see them and suddenly you'll be like "Oh, that was theirs too?" as the hits keep on coming.

They get "Burning for You" out of the way early in the set. "Burning for You" is the girlfriend hit -- the one that guys tell their girlfriends is a BOC song so that their girlfriends will even go to the show with them. Then the girlfriends all congregate in the bathroom while BOC really rocks it out, and the girls who are left in the audience are the ones who really do know all the lyrics to "This Aint The Summer of Love." There's a few of us in the BOC crowd who also know that BOC holds a potent indie-cred card in the form of Patti Smith co-writing one of their songs, "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" and actually singing backup on it, although they didn't do that tonight.

They DID do "Before the Kiss, a Redcap" however, which was a nice treat. I don't even have to mention that they did "Reaper" and "Godzilla" and all the hits. Of course they did Godzilla. If they didn’t, we would have demanded our money back. If they weren't a damn good band to begin with, "Godzilla" alone would justify their existence. These guys really are the thinking man's metal band. Oh, and they did have more cowbell: there is indeed a roadie standing behind the amplifiers, hidden from the crowd, wailing away on cowbell during "Reaper." We were close enough to notice this. Did I mention that I'm kicking myself for not bringing my camera? All in all, not as surreal as the last times I saw them, but a satisfying, city's-aflame-with-rock-and-roll night nonetheless.

Between sets, the rally brought out this dance troupe of former profootball cheerleaders called the "Purrfect Angelz," complete with cutesy spelling of the name and a pluralization with a z instead of an s. These are girls who are done with being football jigglers, aren't quite ready to go out and get real jobs, but have a few grains of self-respect left to not become outright strippers: If they were pinup girls, they'd be doing Maxim or FHM, rather than Playboy or even Hustler. So they come out in risqué costumes, jiggle it up to your standard strip hits: your AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long", yer Aerosmith's "Rag Doll" and they've still got drill team precision left in them. This one girl, who can actually sing, does what amounts to a clothed lap dance for some randomly-selected audience guy while karaoking to Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker." And she pulls it off! The only time you realize she's not Pat Benetar herself is that final "You're the right kind of sinner!" She didn't hit that high note like Pat does, but then again if she could, she'd have a record contract instead of traipsing across the country giving lonely bikers hardons. Still, apparently these chicks are pretty much in existence for biker rallies all summer. Their calendar doesn't have them anywhere else: they seem to fill in that hole for wholesome sluttieness for places like biker rallies where they can't get a stripper's license, but need some kind of eye candy for the patrons. The whole wholesome sluttieness thing cracks me up. They each introduce themselves, tell us their hometown and read off their resume: "I was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader before joining the Purrfect Angelz, awww guys, I know you Packer Fans don't like the Cowboys, but you just gotta cheer for the cheerleaders, dontcha?" Uh, no, we don't.

BOC's Patti Smith "Get Out Of Indie-Cred-Hell-Free" card comes in handy when you're headed to a CD release party for a local indie band ("Blue Oyster Cult? Where were they? The track at State Fair Park? How were they? God, I really should get out and see them!"), especially when they have an all-girl opening act that recalls both the Runaways and L7, with a touch of the Slits thrown in. That's The Riveters in a nutshell. Great, young loud and snotty punk that started out Lita, made its way toJoan, and then they went and got no-wave on us! Good good stuff. Plenty of Milwaukee girl legends in the crowd, including the grand dame of Milwaukee girlpunk, Stoney Rivera of Dummy Club/Psychobunnies fame, who agreed with me that the future of pissed off guitars are in good grrrllll hands. My advice to guitarist Melanie, who is looking for guitar lessons but with a female point of view: Don't worry about the 'female point of view' when you're working on your basic skills. Learn your scales, learn your licks, (as my guitar teacher Dan Mullen taught me, if you can play "Diamond Dogs" all the way through, you have all the skills you need to play rock and roll) and your own perspective will come through naturally. And if anybody from that annoying "womyn's music" clique questions your commitment to being a woman in the music scene (you sometimes get, as a woman lead guitar player, that "You play with too much testosterone and therefore are selling out to the concept" bullocks, like you're supposed to play crap lead guitar else you'll sound too much like a man) your reply is "I'm a woman, and this is my music, therefore this IS woman's music. Fuck you." That should shut them up long enough to wait for Lillith Fair to come around again and be out of your face already. Plus, a little dose of "fuck off" attitude goes a long way in rock and roll.

Dr Chow goes without saying. This was their CD release party, so of course they were all pumped up, and it was indeed a wonderful party. All originals tonight, as they were playing the Brady Street Artisan Food Festival in two days where they could/should drag out the covers. Indoors at Linneman's, they brought in a horn section which frosted the cake of already strong songs. "Mary Ann" (the chorus goes "Mary Ann Is Insane") is my pick for the breakout hit. Others, such as "Hooters", and "Nina Hartley" (a tribute to the porn star) start out just as redneck-sounding songs that suddenly (at least lyrically) turn around and become articulate observations on American life. Rick Hake, of Tortured Youth Studios (where they recorded the CD, "Chow Time") is adding some nice touches on synthesizer. Overall, the personnel listed on the liner notes reads like a roll-call of Riverwest denizens, circa 1990, including criminally overlooked artist Linda Beckstrom putting together the overall design, clearly strapped for budget (where's the lyric sheet?!?!). I'm waiting for the next CD, so I can get those originals that, for whatever reason, they didn't include here but are still great. I could go on, but I'll have more to say in my Sunday entry, plus I've already made it clear I'm a fan of these guys.

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