Sunday, November 26, 2006

Could Somebody Give Me A Push?

Busy Saturday night in Mil-town. We started off the evening with the Bucks. OK, now I'm starting to get really annoyed. I'm hoping this is the opposite of last year, where they came out like gangbusters and petered out and looked like hell by the time the playoffs came 'round. Rather, I hope they're getting all their crap games out of their system now, and then start playing some basketball already. They're playing the games themselves like the whole last season: tonight they went into halftime with lead only to run out of gas by the fourth quarter.

The anthem? Warren Wiegratz himself stepped away from Streetlife, took center court, and I'll tell you, I'll never give Jeremy Scott, or for that matter, Kenny G Himself any more grief for noodly apeggio for the sake of noodly arpeggio ever freaking again. Sweet Jesus, Warren, you don't have to prove anything to this crowd. We already know you can play the Midwest Express Airlines commercial like nobody's business, but did you have to make the National Anthem sound like a Midwest Express Airlines commercial? Wiegratz is a fine sax player, and he puts together a good house band, and he has pretty much a standing invitation to sit in with any of the jazzbos who ever get booked at Summerfest anymore. Still, I guess he has something to prove to somebody, and the crowd loved it, so there you go. But Warren, dig out those Charlie Parker records and try to understand how far a touch of restraint goes. Going not for just an octave jump, but a double octave jump plus noodly arpeggio was great for "laaaa--aand of the free ---eeeeeee", but not for every freaking phrase.

Actually, I felt sorry for the Bucks tonight, thanks to the idiot heckler that was sitting a couple of rows behind us. I hope he doesn't have the same set of season games we do. He started out clever ("Hey, Redd, you gotta defend against that guy, you gotta be picking his nose hairs!") but then early in the 4th quarter Gadzuric missed a free throw and that pretty much broke open the heckler's pent-up anger. (It should be noted that the missed free throw didn't even hit the rim, a major biff on Gadzuric's part, but oh well.) But that became the heckler's theme the whole rest of the game. He would just not let it go. Every five seconds he's going on about this missed free throw: "My mother could have hit that rim!" Oh, the ol' "my mama coulda...". How clever. Brian mumbled, to the snickers of everybody around us, "You mother shoulda hit the rim about eight and a half months previous." But the Bucks themselves are starting to really frustrate me. This is a team full of talent; they shouldn't be losing this much, and this heartbreakingly. Somebody needs to give them a push.

The White Hot Tizzies
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
We left early so as not to witness the full damage, and headed over to the Miramar Theatre to give Rob McCuen and the White Hot Tizzies another chance to worthify, and they delivered. We knew they were playing with a bunch of other bands of various persuasions, but we had no clue what the unifying theme was -- "Frightfest" until we got there. Man, I thought *I* went through a goth phase in my late 20s. The place was crawling with multiple pierced, black haired, black lipsticked, vinyl-wrapped girls from something out of a Rocky Horror reject party. I was dressed totally in black, but with my blonde hair, minimal makeup, and let's not forget age, I was definitely out of place. So if you think *I* was out of place, imagine how the White Hot Tizzies must've felt! Not to worry, Rob was on top of his game, totally unintimidated by a crowd full of kids waiting to see the muitalation act that was to follow him. He went and belted out the Hollies "Bus Stop" anyway, in perfect harmony with Dan Mullen. That's right, he sang a song about innocent love at first sight in the pouring rain to a S&M crowd of sinister goth kids. Man, that guy's got balls, and that's why he rocks. He and Mullen ended their set with a pretty damn heavy tune that I wasn't familiar with, but it bodes well for this partnership. Dan Mullen can indeed get as sinister and heavy as anybody needs to, and it subtly told the crowd that appearances can be deceiving. So for everything he did last time I saw him, Rob more than made up for it as he lectured the kids about the importance of the Beatles. I'll definitely be back to see them again: anybody who can lecture this crowd on the relevance of the merseybeat deserves many more chances. Maybe they needed a push, too, and I was just the bitch to do it. Now they need to push themselves to learn Rob's songs.

Uh, could somebody...?
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

So while they were cleaning up the stage, the next band, Lockjaw, was preparing to do their thing. And their thing turns out to be something you'd catch in the Jim Rose Sideshow: this band features two (later three) guys who have pierced their backs with hooks, and then are suspended over the stage for the entire set. I have to admit, I found myself whincing as they were raised above the crowd, but honestly, by the second song I got over it, and by song three, it had almost become a parody. Especially since musically, they started out giving us a sort of Marilyn Manson sound, heavy on the cold blue steel metal, and by song three brought to mind early Kiss. (The Kiss reference, I'm sure, will be taken as an insult, but honestly, from me it's kind of a compliment.) So if you didn't have the 2-3 guys gently swinging over the stage, I'm not sure what would have made this band stand out. Maybe I'm old, and I've seen the original Alice Cooper, and I've seen Marilyn Manson, and I was even in Quarters that night when the Vomit Posse got their nipples pierced on stage. (Admittedly, I wasn't there for the actual piercing: "V'ron, you missed it!" Oh well.) So I guess I'm a little jaded, but Lockjaw didn't help me musically. What made them compelling was the initial whince they got when their two sideshow guys were hoisted up. But really, you know what was flashing in my head by song three? That scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where John Cleese, as Lancelot, has crashed through the castle, and doesn't get enough oomph while swinging on a rope, and is left there swinging just as gently as the Lockjaw guys, asking meekly, "Uh, could somebody give me a push?"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Trustworthy Mandate

tom from my underwear
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Every time Darrell "the Brains" Martin calls me and tells me I have to get out to see a band, I fight with him because there's a sitter to book, or I'm just plain tired from work. But every now and then I actually listen to him, and I drag my behind out to see the band, and I'm glad I did.

Tonight was no exception. The two bands at the Circle A this evening, besides having a "Darrell The Brains" seal of approval (though he knew very little about the opener), already have members of the Riveters in them, so that alone justifies their existence. But while I was prepared for them to be "solo" acts for the girls, I was surprised to see that the girls were simply damn good session players in the bands, not the stars. They're obviously in these bands because they can play, not because they're window dressing.

Take openers, My Underwear. Two songs in, and you realize this is Tom's band, and that the drummer from the Riveters is just that, the drummer in the band. She's good, but you have to admit, the star of this band is the wiseacre, S&M encrusted Tom, with Barbie perched on his mikestand ready to recieve all the pleasure he can dish out. And as for us in the audience, he did satisfy our musical needs. Musically, the poster of the Ramones in the Circle A hangs over them, but there's enough twists and turns that they're not a carbon copy.

I thought they were new; apparently they've been on hiatus for a few years, and they're back. I talked to Tom afterwards, and he explained that he wrote some new songs, and that's what's keeeping them fresh. And maybe that's the secret: because they did sound fresh and new, and if you read this blog with any regularity, I'm going to slap one of my highest compliments on them: they were Young, Loud and Snotty.

Mandate Mike
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
And then we had the Mandates. I really really really thought that Mandy of the Riveters would be the lead person here: seeing as how this band is called the MANDates. But according to their Myspace page, they're also Mike Mandate and Andy Mandate, so there you go.

Mike Mandate is a commanding presence of his own, and he's ferocious with his Danelectro. They're a step up from the punk they so obviously draw their inspiration from: they've got elements of glam, and garagey blues, even a touch of funk now and then, but enought intensive piss and vinegar to keep them from going outright pop. But catchy as all hell stuff. Wish i could have heard the lyrics; I get the sense that that's where these songs really shine. But you're just not going to get good sound in a club like the Circle A. You come in, you plug in, you hope the PA's working, because nobody but you can adjust it, and you play. I want to see both these bands in a bar where there's a real sound man so I can hear what they're saying. I've learned -- as I've learned to trust "Da Brains" -- that its always worth it to hear the words behind the punks.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Happy Birthday Elaine!

Just a blog entry to wish my friend, Elaine Bergstrom, a wonderful writer in her own right (actually, as she has published several books in the lucrative gothic horror genre, she is way above me when it comes to actually getting her work published) who inspires me to take my own writing seriously.

And her non-fiction work is great too.

And going to a birthday party for her right before hitting a Bucks' game sort of got me thinking in a literary vein, so that explains the entry you are about to read below.

A Series of Unfortunate Basketball Games: Game the Fourth by Limey Gin Gimlet

Solemn strategy making
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys reading heartwarming stories about sports teams who beat the odds and win their matches in the final moments of an athletic competition, then you had better click away from this blog and perhaps go relive the story of the 2005 Chicago White Sox. This is because there has been no such game ending for the Milwaukee Bucks during this season, and not very many heartwarming and happy things are happening to them. The Milwaukee Bucks are intelligent players, resourceful, and talented, and they have pleasant facial features, but as of late, they have been extremely unlucky, and most everything that has happened to them has been rife with misfortune. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the season has been going.

This evening's series of unfortunate events began with a rendition of their country's National Anthem performed by a brass choir from a local high school, which I, your faithful and devoted chronicler of events, did not happen to catch the name of. This is probably fortunate for this particular high school brass choir, as they appeared to have attempted an arrangement which was beyond their level of competency, a word here which means "playing unusual chord arrangements which would befit highly skilled musicians of the sort Lawrence Welk would employ." No, I'm sorry to report that while the Lawrence Welk orchestra might have succeeded with an odd, laid-back white-bread Bing Crosby rendition of a wartime fight anthem, these high school students ended up sounding like they were making numerous errors in tone and dynamics. And unfortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball players, they seemed to have set an off-key tone for the entire evening.

This sad tale of woe picks up from a previous sad tale of woe, with the story of the eldest (or at least most successful) Milwaukee Bucks basketball player, Michael Redd. Michael Redd is a basketball player whose strength lies in multiple field goals, but not even Michael's success in this portion of the game would be enough to save his team from misery and woe. For just a few days ago, Michael broke the scoring record of an even more famous Milwaukee Bucks basketball player, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar (who was called "Lew Alcindor" when he was a Milwaukee Bucks basketball player). On this particular evening, after the miserable rendition of the anthem, the fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, in an attempt to "look at the bright side" of the previous series of Unfortunate Basketball Games, had chosen to honor Michael by giving him the game ball from the game where he broke Mr. Alcindor's record by scoring 57 points against the Utah Jazz the other night. However, Michael is a realist, and accepted his award humbly, a word here which means "This record breaking thing is all well and good but we still lost the game against Utah that night."

And then the team players were announced and the basketball teams played. And it began wonderfully and heartwarmingly. For there was a young player from Turkey named Ersan Ilyasova, and Ersan was quick and fleet of foot, and for his very first time as a starter, he aimed for the basket and succeeded in scoring a 3-point shot. This is a wonderful heartwarming story of a 19-year old basketball player from a far away land who is making it big in the United State of America's National Basketball Association. Usually Basketball Players have to go to college to pretend that they are earning College Degrees before they are allowed to play in the National Basketball Association. While they may not learn about Quantum Physics or Communication Studies or Businss Administration or any of the other supposed fields of study that are offered by colleges participating in the National Collegiate Athletic Association sports contests, they do learn abut how to deal with big crowds of people and sports writers who spend entirely too much time and money on something that is supposed to be "just a game." But sometimes basketball players do not finish their college degrees. For instance, you may have heard the story of a basketball player named Shaquille O'Neal. Shaquille is a very good basketball player who learned all about dealing with lots of pressure before he was even close to receiving a College Diploma in something like 17th Century British Literature. So Shaquille quit college and for this was paid even more money than any of the Colleges could slip him under the table. But Ersan did not go to an American College in the NCAA at all. So Ersan still needs to learn how to deal with playing under pressure, something that even 19 year old American College students in the NCAA are not very good at. But it is my sad duty to report that the only reason the Ersan even had to opportunity to start and make his first three-point shot was that while Michael was scoring 57 points against Utah, their teammate Charlie Villanueva was spraining his elbow and won't be able to help his team for several weeks, a very unfortunate thing for the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball players, indeed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, USHER!
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Things seemed to be very happy at halftime. The Bucks Basketball Players were leading by 15 at halftime, and a very famous musician was in the audience plugging his philanthropy, and perhaps scouting out the team. The famous musician's name was Usher, and he is part owner of one of the Bucks' rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, he was also in the audience to call attention to his work with unfortunate children, so that they may not be so unfortunate, and there were some fortunate fans who got to receive copies of this famous musician's CD's. And some fortunate people might have mistaken Usher's companions to be some famous football players. But after the famous musician was pointed out and people listened to how wonderful he was for working with the unfortunate children, he seemed to have slipped away and was not to be seen again during the night.

And, it would appear to be that when the famous musician slipped away, so did the chances of the Milwaukee Basketball Team to secure a win this evening, or for the Milwaukee Bucks Announcer to pronounce the name of Indiana's Sarunas Jasickevicius the same way more than once. But by the end of the 4th quarter, the basketball team found themselves in a very unfortunate situation indeed. By the end of the quarter, there were four seconds left, they were down by two, and the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team used a time out to assess their situation and determine a course of action that would result in a happy ending. All they needed to do was make sure that Michael, or even their other star player-- Andrew Bogut -- would get the ball on the outside of the "three point line." And this they did, they did get the ball to Andrew, so that Andrew could take a shot and get three points and win the game.

Now, at this point in the story, I feel obliged to interrupt and give you one last warning. As I said at the very beginning of this blog entry, the blog entry you have clicked on doesn't have a happy ending. It may appear that Ersan got the ball, and passed it to Andrew, and that Andrew will have happened to throw the ball into the basket, and that the buzzer would go off and everybody in the stands would stand and cheer for the Basketball Team. If you like, you may click away from this blog entry this instant and not read the unhappy ending that is to follow. You may instead wish to read the story of the time the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Team played this very same team from Indiana last year, and hit this very same shot under very similar conditions, and won the game. I would not blame you for even so much as an iota of a second if you were to do this.

But, I have made it my sworn duty to record here the sad, woeful, unfortunate and desperate story of the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball team, and I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Ersan did indeed throw the ball to Andrew. But Ersan, because he was not as experienced as a basketball player who holds a College Diploma in Political Science, choked, a word here which means "dribbled a little too long than he needed to" -- and by the time he passed the ball to Andrew, Andrew did not have enough time to get the ball out of his hands before the buzzer went off.

And so ends this unfortunate blog entry, as the basketball team sulked off to prepare for yet another contest against the Indiana Basketball Team, this time at the Indiana Basketball Team's home turf, a phrase here which means "stadium full of screaming fans who want nothing more than to see the Milwaukee Basketball Team lose and will do everything they can to effect this outcome."

In addition, as your faithful blogger must sorrowfully report, she and her husband, disempowered by their obvious disappointment in this series of Unfortunate Basketball games, had to walk an inordinately long way to their vehicle to begin their journey home. This would not have been as unfortunate as it would have seemed, except that your blogger's husband was suffering from a hairline leg fracture which made a normally reasonable walk a difficult one. We could have parked closer, as there were spaces available for "compact cars only," but we chose to respect that restriction for compact cars, as we drive a station wagon. However, as you can see, the phrase "compact" is a word here which means "anything smaller than a Hummer or perhaps an aircraft carrier" since apparently the Ford Expedition is now considered a "compact" car.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tag: IPOD of Your Life

OK, I've been tagged, and this time with a fun game. And honest, I didn't cheat.

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits: "Get the Funk Out of Ma Face" The Brothers Johnson
Waking Up: "Freedom Rock" Frank Black
First Day At School: "Rocky Racoon" The Beatles
Falling In Love: "All Nighter" Elastica (I didn't cheat! Really! By this time I couldn't believe how perfectly this was coming out!)
Fight Song: "Shake Your Hips" The Rolling Stones
Breaking Up: "Special Agent Conrad Uno" Man or Astroman
Prom: "Hundred Dollar Bill" Split Lip Rayfield
Life is good: "Love Is Alive" Gary Wright (do I have to admit I have Gary Wright on my ipod?)
Mental Breakdown: "Trancentral Lost In My Mind" The KLF
Driving: "In an 18th Century Drawing Room" Raymond Scott
Flashback: "Sabbra Cadabra" Black Sabbath
Getting Back Together: "We Love You" Camper Van Beethoven
Wedding: "Isla De Encanta" The Pixies (now THAT's a wedding song!)
Birth of Child: "Rebel Rouser" The Ventures
Final Battle: "Satellite Surfer" F/i
Funeral Song: "Habenera From Carmen" The Big Mess Orchestra
End Credits: "Orange Interlude" Kasabian

This really was fun. But did I have to admit I have Gary Wright on my iPod? I guess that's proof positive I didnt cheat, eh?

(You can tell I'm stuck in a hotel room near an airport and I've done just about all I can do at at work, eh?)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hot Chocolate at the Urban Ecology Center

Bluegrass at the Urban Ecology Center
Bluegrass at the UEC
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

I think the reason I stay in the Midwest and put up with the cold winters is because I appreciate the changing seasons. They make me appreciate the change. I like contrast. I know , Lewis, the weather is always beautiful in San Diego, but would I really appreciate it if every day were 78 and sunny? No, and if I lived there, I'd never understand what was so great about a creamy cup of hot chocolate, especially with a splash of whiskey in it after the kids have gone to bed.

It's a chilly Sunday afternoon, and I'm walking down the north leg of the Oak Leaf Trail with my good girlfriend Mary Jo, her two kids, and my two kids. We're walking against the wind, and just as we realize how cold we are, ("hey, I probably should have worn a hat") we come upon the Urban Ecology Center, where we've come to see (most of) the Mighty Lumberhorn, some nice forest animals, and just bask in the karmic goodness that is the UEC.

Stella has loved this place ever since her school brought her here. And who can blame her? It's just bursting with positive juju. We walked in, and instantly were hit with the crackling of a fireplace, a table filled with colorful projects for the kids to do, and a whole building constructed as greenly as possible. It wasn't five minutes before the chill we were previously kvetching about had vanished -- I like it when I can achieve contrast this quickly. (We had a birthday party here for Stella last year; it was one of the nicest, laid-back, but still fun parties I'd ever seen a bunch of 7 year olds enjoy --a far cry from Carlito E. Queso). There were people just hanging out, and when I heard a kid scream, I clenched my butt cheeks, ready to be embarrassed again by Sammy, only to realize, and say aloud, "Oh, the screaming kid wasn't mine for once?" to understanding laughs (instead of disgusted Can't-you-control-your-brat glares) from the other moms. We soothed some toddler frayed nerves with some self-serve hot chocolate.

This is not exactly what I imagine the Mighty Lumberhorn's natural habitat to be. Not that they didn't fit in perfectly: especially with a roomful of forest critters across from them, scurrying around in cages that mimicked their normal living arrangements, the band surrounded by potted plants that bought to mind some kind of backyard bayou, and all sorts of little kids and grownups milling about. But from everything I've read about them, I was expecting a local Split Lip Rayfield, a band that you'd be listening to and suddenly do a double take: "Did I just hear what I *think* I heard?!?!" Of course you heard them sing about that, even though you don't expect that kind of lyrical content over, as Steve Martin put it, the Happy Little Soundof the banjo.

So Mary Jo and I just walked about and took it all in, from the musical instruments strewn about for anybody to pick up and play (including a zither!) to the waterway map that's built into the floor that nobody notices until somebody goes, "Hey, is that where the North Avenue Dam is?" The Lumberhorns might well have been going thematically into the Grownup Zone, but we were already taking in the entire big picture that they filled in nicely. I wasn't listening to any kind of lyrical content because I was chasing a three-year old, supervising an animal expedition, and trying to figure out if that was the North Avenue Dam, then where was the KK River? No matter. I could tell the band was something I'd want to see full-force later, because they were having such a good time themselves: snippets of Black Sabbath chord changes sneaked into my ears, and now and again I'd hear band members sing verses and then gleefully guffaw at each other's improvised lyrics. It was warm.

"Yeah, we had to keep it... you know... tone down our regular...." they said afterwards, almost apologetically. But no apologies were necessary --I wasn't expecting their regular thing on a Sunday afternoon at a crunchy granola family gathering place. I was expecting the cup of hot chocolate of a band they turned out to be: warm and sweet. I'll have to get out to some bar on a weekend night after the kids are in bed, throw a shot of whiskey in that cup, and drink them down the way they were meant to be consumed --amongst the grownups.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Milwaukee Bucks Come On

Yao Ming Come On
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I'm late filing my first regular Bucks game report. We all know what happened. They weren't shooting for anything, and they seemed tired. They must've had a few double espressos in the locker room at halftime, because they came back and with two minutes to go in the 4th, actually made it a game. I stayed to the bitter end. I'd mentioned to two other fans sitting near us that after that time last year when we blew off the end of a game (well they were down by 20 with five minutes to go and we wanted to beat exit traffic) and they came back to a thrilling buzzer beating win, that we'd never make that mistake again. The other guy said to me knowingly, "I know that Indiana game and I left too and I'll never do it again." And especially with this inconsistent bag of surprises we call the Bucks. But today's blog entry will focus on all the goings about, as you faithful readers know is part of my schtick.

I am not liking the cheesy opening montage at all. Last year's -- a dynamically edited movie preview to the tune of some Igor Stavinsky Russian revolution classical number that increased in both volume and choppieness of editing to a thundering classical creschendo at the end (punctuated by the timer buzzer going off at the end) -- was truly inspiring. This year's? Well it starts out OK. Some lame electronic emo music (the kind you hear in trendy restaurants at around 7 pm before the late night crowd is in) is playing over video clips of them arriving, suiting up, getting stretched out, going over strategy on a whiteboard in the locker room. But then, as "game time" approaches there's a motif of a badly synched simulator timer going off, accompanied by photos of the team that make them ALL appear to have caught Andrew Bogut's "Just TRY to take a picture that doesn't make me look like I should be in a Cheech and Chong movie" disease. And I couldn't get past the fact that the simulated game timer was off the REAL game clock by one and a half seconds. By the end it kind of synchs up, but to no avail. I already hate it, and I hate these new colors, and I'm hoping that the only reason they don't have the magificent Russian Revolution music thing going is that its too early in the season to have enough glorious footage -- especially of the new guys -- to fill 60 seconds of Bombastic Buzzer Beating Bucks Action. Then again, the old glorious montage was in black and white, and half the shots were of Redd, Bogut, and a few Gadzuric and Williams. Its not like anybody would notice the new colors in black and white, and all the aforementioned guys are still with us, with no significant hairstyle changes.

But its not like, two games in, they've provided us with inspiring footage to cut and paste into a montage. Maybe they were all hypnotized by the Rockets' Yao Ming on Wednesday night. You don't realize unless you see him in person just how Andre-The-Giant-tall that guy really is, and he does have a larger-than-life aura about him that goes beyond his physical size. Kudos to the Bucks for keeping him relatively in check, especially in the face of justifiable ethnic pride that brought a lot of local Yao fans to the Bradley Center.

Anthem tonight was by a crop of students who were introduced as the Brown Deer High School Choir, but unless I misheard "Choir" for "Castrati", these were decidedly not high school students. As elementary kids, they weren't perfect, and their sometimes off-key biffs and voice cracks were all-American charming. A few of the sopranos (there were girls) attempted -- and succeeded -- that octave jump for "Land of the Free -----eeeeeeeeee" and sealed their thumbs-up review from me, but they already had me smiling at "Oh say can you see." Cute-as-a-button Cub Scouts presenting the colors completed the picture.

They've replaced the "Kiss Cam" with the "Flex Cam" -- and Stella got in on it! "Wow, she sure knows how to vogue," a friend who recognized her up on the jumbotron told me later. Yeah, this year instead of playing Prince's "Kiss" and zooming in on various fans who were then expected to buss their date in front of the entire crowd, now they focus in on kids who then pretend they're the Incredible Hulk, to the tune of the Village People's "Macho Man." Some kids get it, some don't, and my Stella took the opportunity to pose it up. And finally, when the floating blimp came around at halftime dropping coupons of some sort, Stella actually got one that turned out to be good for one of those stretchy plastic bracelets that should last about a week.

I'll spend the rest of the season dissecting the various other promotions, many of which are back and updated from last year, but why take up space talking about that when you can just wax poetic on this evening's halftime entertainment, NBA halftime mainstays The Jesse White Tumblers? Here's a bit of trivia about them I didn't know, from their Wikipedia entry: "They have performed at the half time of every NBA team except the Los Angeles Lakers who only use the Laker Girls at half time." Only in Los Angeles would the jiggly cheerleading squad be worried about being upstaged by the appearance of well-scrubbed, talented inner city youth. Fine, just come to Milwaukee an extra few time or two, kids -- you're great, and you kept me and everybody around me dumbstruck with your amazing feats. Our cheerleaders will be glad to have a little extra time to freshen up the mascara, and when our guys are down by 15 at halftime, we appreciate having something to cheer about.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm not AJ Foyt

Boy, this one's hard to write about. Its always a bummer going to see a band and being one of just a handful of people in the room. You feel bad for them. Some bands have the self-confidence to say "well this was a bad gig" and play an awesome set anyway. Examples I've seen include the Fleshtones (misbooked at some country rawk joint in Champaign-Urbana), the Rev. Horton Heat (very early in their career, a memorable night at the old Toad Café where I was one of 7 people there and they played like it was a full House of Blues), John Otway on a weeknight during the summer in a college town, and any number of bands that had the misfortune to be booked at Quarters when Voot Warnings was over at the Uptowner. Its just harder to write about this when the band is friends of yours, and they didn't rise to the occasion, as I'm convinced they could have done. I didn't even take pictures, not because the lighting sucked and it would present a challenge, I just didn't feel like it. It would have been like photographing a bloody car accident for the sake of a picture of real blood. I'm not interested in that kind of photography.

The problem with the White Hot Tizzies, comprised of two guys I've known about as long as I've lived in Milwaukee, is that they are a band based on Rob McCuen's considerable swagger. This is the first time this incarnation has played out. Last time I saw Rob doing his songs, I think it was still called Love Bully (it could have also been Rob McCuen and the Ruins), and I thrilled to his "I'm AJ Foyt." When Rob McCuen is on, he's freaking ON, and nobody can beat him. But when he's not on, well...

Rob writes and plays great songs. Absent from Saturday's set was his best song ever, the pop resignation "Life Imitates Art." Rather he, and Dan "Myles" Mullen on guitar, ran through a set of what is clearly Rob's favorite pop songs of all time (most of which are British Invasion era top 40 hits): plenty of Beatles, Kinks, your occassional Johnny Rivers ("Secret Agent Man"), a touch of Bowie. I don’t know why they didn't do more of Rob's originals, its not like there was this huge crowd of wallpaper-loving yuppies demanding the covers. They might as well have broken out of the comfort zone of tunes he and Myles can play in their sleep. The setlist was culled from the setlists of those many bands they've played in together and seperately: a gazillion Mark Shurilla creations, Plasticland, a few surf acts. No AJ Foyt imitating art tonight.

On one hand, "AJ Foyt" and "Life Imitates Art" require swagger, a cocksure swagger that requires one to believe he's king of the world, bigger than the Beatles, to pull off, and when you're playing in a bar with two people nursing their cocktails its hard to work that up. And McCuen's stage attitude, which is endearing when it works, wasn't working tonight. His disappointment in the size of the audience was so transparent that his attitude wasn't Ferris Bueller charming. It was clearly bitter, and as I advised him later, "Don't blame the people who didn't come on the people who did. We still paid cover." (Well, I paid mine in the form of a cocktail for Rob, but that's not the point.)

Rob opened the set with a few acoustic tunes on the guitar, and let down the wall as he sang about his dead friend, and a few other of Life's Little Disappointments. That part worked. In fact, it worked very well. There's a huge heart underneath all that ballsiness, and it's clearly hurting. The other thing that worked were the parts where he and Miles harmonized on the Beatles and the Kinks. There's some beauty underneath all those scars, and they've found it. But the parts where Rob would throw out demeaning remarks to the audience, calling us farm animals and decrying the music scene in Milwaukee -- sorry Rob. You weren't being the supreme dick we all still love because its endearing. It wasn't just an act. You were pissed, and you chose to take it out on your audience, and because you weren't on top of the world, it wasn't endearing. It was bitter, and it was sad, and any heart and soul you showed us tonight you covered up with jism, on a night when you didn't have much to spare. Miles has a few more things to be bitter about lately than you, and yet Miles retained his charm and professionalism. He's been there too, schlepping all his gear only to get paid some chump change and have his audience comprised of the neighborhood drunk who's fallen asleep on the barstool by the third song. (He used to play in a band with James "Tess" Tessier, remember?) He's been there.

I've been there too. I've been on the dais at Quarters (and that alone is depressing) with more people on the stage than in the audience, a sullen bartender annoyed that his tip jar is empty because the freaking band couldn't bring anybody in, my husband (boyfriend at the time) in the audience only because he knows he has to be if he expects any action that night, the doorman pocketing the $5 he did manage to extract from passers-by and claiming he got nothing, and me wondering if I should even plug my damn guitar in or just call it a night. I take the Fleshtones way out, and declare it a public rehearsal, trying out new stuff, getting reaction from the one friendly face in the crowd, and chalking it up to experience.

Rob, you're bigger than this. Shit, when you're AJ Foyt, for three perfect glam pop minutes, you are bigger than the Beatles. Act it.