Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Eve Eve

I already knew I wouldn't be going out on "Amateur Night" (my name for New Year's Eve, I can stay sober but I'm not counting on anybody else on the streets to do so). Fortunately it was a Saturday night on the 30s, and there were four bands at Points East, three of them I knew nothing about, so off I go.

First off, if had I known that the openers, Deadmans Shoes, were who they were I'd have gotten my act together and made the effort to get out there before I actully did, because this band could very well name themselves "The Milwaukee Roots Rock All-Stars." I've taken a seat at the bar where I met up with Darrell "The Brains" Martin and this other guy I know only as "Steve From Atlanta" and I'm all "hey Darrell, is that Blaine (Schultz) on guitar?" Yup. And yes, that was Jeff Lauwasser on bass. And, Darrell pointed out to me, "That's Dave Thomas hiding behind the PA speaker." Wow, glad to see he's still out and about playing. Mike Farrow on drums (who I remember from an old Liv Mueller project) and some guy I didn't recognize on third guitar. Only caught about three songs, but they sounded so wonderfully like you would expect a collection of some of the city's best and most longstanding country/twang/(fill in your)billy musicians to sound. As I commented on my Flickr page, my own insecurity prevented me from getting a decent shot of them. I took one look at Lauwasser, remembered his wife is one of the best musican portraitists in the city and got stupidly intimidated.

Year of the Gun guitarist
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Next up, new band Year of the Gun. Rob McCuen is taking credit for discovering them, and we tried in vain to figure out what they were going to sound like, given half of them looked like old Cure fans (and half their friends and fans looked really really goth), and the other half of 'em looked like Seattle grunge match guys. McCuen steps on stage and proudly introduces them, and, well, being new at this playing out thing, they don't jump into their first number at the end of McCuen's big intro. Still, they were impressive. They turned out to be dark glam. You can't call them goth -- they're way too American, specifically way too midwestern. But they're American boys who listened to a lot of their parents' British guitar heroes from the 60s, and filtered it through Detroit and their own Generation Ys sensibilities. Their last song sounded so much like a cover that neither I nor "Da Brains" could place -- was this a Zeppelin cover? Blind Faith? Traffic? Or, as Da Brains pointed out by the end of the song, "I'm hearing a bit of Lesley West and Mountain here." But it turned otu to be an original, and a great one to end with that. In the meantime, Rob's all over the audience shouting out encouragement to the band, and I'm not quite sure if that was for the purpose of truly encouraging them, or to remind us all who found them. I think it was a little of both. Or maybe a little nervousness that he was going to have to follow them.

Miles on guitar
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Up next, Rob himself and the White Hot Tizzies, which means its Rob and Dan Mullen. (full disclosure here again, if you don't know it already, Mullen is the bass player in my band). I'm not at all jealous of Mullen in this band. He's a wonderfully versatile guitarist, and while Rob's ego is ginormous, he knows to let Mullen run free with his guitar tricks. Mullen can get as heavy when he needs to, and still pick up the electric 12-string and sweeten up whatever Byrds-type tune McCuen cares to belt out. Yes, they did "Life Imitates Art" -- still a wonderful pop song that really ought to be the theme song for some teenage soap opera on the WB or something. But the highlight of the show for me was the run-the-six-string-through-the-fuzzbox (read: massively heavy) rendition of "Please Please Me." Somehow they heavied up one of the poppier Lennon songs while retaining the prettieness. A few months back, I intoned to Rob, "Let Myles (our nickname for Mullen) be Paul." In this case, I was wrong. Not only can Miles John it up, he can Cold Turkey John it up. And with the fuzzed up guitar, Rob's cracklin' voice works wonderfully.

On other other hand, I agree with Steve from Atlanta that the misstep of the set was "Space Oddity." McCuen is enough of a glam drama queen to pull off Bowie, but this isn't the Bowie for him. "Space Oddity" is a song that doesn't work in a two piece. Its too complicated, it needs a full band, it needs the dynamics that only a full band can give. It's too first-second-third complex for this drums and guitar thing. As a result, it seemed to drag on forever, and we're all thinking to ourselves, "Oh, geez, we're only on the second part?" Worse yet, this was their second to the last song. Last song, a meanacing fuzzed up beast of a song called "Drive By Shooting" was good, but too short to make us forget the Bowie debacle, so that's what we're left with. Cut this one out, boys. If you must do Bowie, dig out your copy of Diamond Dogs, Ziggy, or you can probably even get away with Lodger if you insist on getting all artsy about it. But "Drive By Shooting" needed to be preceeded by something equally dangerous and ferocious, even AJ Foyt or something of that ilk, to leave us with the 1-2 punch that the White Hot Tizzies promise to knock us out with.

The last band was a white boy hip hop thang called Dark Sarcasm. Perhaps I don't get hip-hop, or I'm missing something, but they were missing something. I'm not a fan of just rapping over a beat. As readers can probably tell, I like the sound of the guitar and the bass, and both were weak here. Its not that they weren't competent players, but they needed to give me something to hold onto, a snappy little riff here, a funky bass line there, and it wasn't happening. Coudn't hear the lyrics, so I couldn't tell you if that would save them or not. I might be being hard on them, as I'm getting into a lot of Britishhip-hop and trip-hop lately, and the big difference is that melody plays a strong role in the proceedings. That's why I finally discovered that say, the Black Eyed Peas, were worth looking into. They GET melody and bravado, which everybody else who played tonight was loaded with. OK, I'm comparing a bunch of kids just starting out to super megastars, but then again, three paragraphs ago I'm comparing some kids just starting out to Page, Clapton, and West and they come out shining. OK, boys, listen to your drummer (McCuen, looking a bit out of place, but still an elderstateman worth taking advice from) and when you're done, go to ITunes and download some Grandmaster Flash or Funkadelic or even the Beasties and hear what I'm looking for in my white boy rap. Hey at least you got the shoes right.


Originally uploaded by V'ron.

OK, one more thing about Points East. Check out this picture of an ad in the women's restroom. Click on it, and then click "All Sizes" and then "view large" becasuse you might understand better (I didn't) when you see the product being advertised. WTF? Does this mean that using these new tampons make you feel like riding a rickshaw? Are rickshaws known for their smooth, undetectable ride? I don't want a tampon that makes me feel like I'm bounding down the streets of Bejing, being carried by some poor guy making twelve cents a day. This is NOT an upgrade from walking. I don't get it. What am I missing here? Is this some kind of weird vague advertsing trend that's supposed to make me remember the product just because the ad for it was so weirdass? Note to Madison Avenue: weirdass is NOT the picture you want in the tampon buyers market's heads as they're traipsing the aisles of Pick and Save Metro Market, wondering just what brand of absorbent paper they want to soak up their collective birds.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Holiday Roundup

Its been a relaxing, fun week. And I can see from my blogroll I'm not the only one who hasn't had time to blog faithfully. My holiday highlights, in some chronological order, since my last blog entry:

  • DJing. Four hours at the River Horse. I don't know the crowd there very well, so it was a challenge: I brought a little of everything. Except I forgot to get my notebook when I left, so I can't very well post my setlist. Then again, four hours of music -- who's gonna read that. Suffice to say I think it went over well, and it shaved 20 years off my life. I certainly didn't feel 46.

  • Stella on drums
    Originally uploaded by V'ron.
    Stella plays the drums. None of us knew this until Christmas eve with my husband's aunt and uncle and their sons, one of whom is a drummer in a heavy metal band. All the kids were downstairs dinking aroudn with the trapset, until we heard some intense drumming. It wasn't exactly at the level of perfection that Paul Sternig (Brian's cousin) could do, but clearly this wasn't exactly Sammy, either. We go downstairs, and its Stella, pounding out that double bass, adding toms and finishing with a flourish on the cymbals. And she did it again, and again and again. She'd written a part for pete's sake. We were all watching there with our mouths open, and frankly, I think Stella didn't realize until that night she played the drums.

  • Sammy plays the drums too, but get this. We had to show him how to eat Bugles. Once we did, he took one look at his hands and said, "I have dinosaur fingers!"
  • Hanging out (read decompressing) and watching bad television on Christmas Eve with Brian, especially the WGN special "Bozo, Gar and Ray" (a special which I'll wax poetic on New Years' Day when they'll rerun it again -- if you have cable trust me, it's worth tuning in.) Its a documentary about WGN-TV/Chicago children's programming in the 1960s, and like much children's programming of that era, you can tell that the minds that came up with it weren't exactly the straightest. I'll repeat it on New Year's Day, but I turned to Brian and said, "This was my childhood. Any questions?"
  • Who doesn't list watching their kids opening presents with anticipation and joy on Christmas morning as one of the best things about Christmas? And I'll have you know I was good, Santa.
  • Sammy at my friend Annette's Christmas evening party. Many of our friends were there, with guitars, banjos, piano, and we brought a box of children's instruments called "Band in a Box" to join in. First Sammy had the harmonica, which his clumsy playing took the edge off of a drunken rendition of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Dylan's, not Axl's arrangement). If that wasn't cute enough, I asked the gang (which included Mark Shurilla, Dan Mullen, Dan Smars, Annie Chase, and Paul Setser) if they knew Sammy's favorite song, Arlo Guthrie's "The Motocycle song" and as soon as Shurila started playing it and singing the first few words, ("I don't want a pickle... just wanna ride on my motor-sickle") little Sammy's face lit up like a Christmas tree with the joy of recognition! And then Shurilla skipped the second like ("I don't want a tickle...") Sammy jumped off the chair to quickly correct Shurilla, and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Then we all sang it several times, (Sammy emphasizing, "I don't wanna DIE! Just wanna ride on my motor-cyyyyyy ---- CLE!") and tried to remember the actual verse, (Shurilla and I just kept on mumbling something about our friend Ray). We didn't even try to tell the narrative story part. Then Miles came up with an on the spot song about Pokemon (because Sammy wanted to sing the "pokemon song" that none of the grownups knew) that Sammy didn't know or appreciate, but Stella did. It turned out to be a Neil Young/Willie Nelson sort of wailing blues that Stella loved. The lyrics? "Oh, Pokemon song. Ohhhhh, Pokemon song. Ohhhhhhh 0h-Oh-Ohhhhhh, Pokemon song!"
  • Taking in some ice skating at Red Arrow Park with Stella and her babysitter (and erzatz big sister) Talia before going to the evening performance of the Nutcracker at the ballet. Like I've written before, this just brings out the New Yorker in me. The skates, the variety of the skaters, Stella pushing herself to do all sorts of tricks. And then the ballet: just sitting back and watching, time and time again, Drosselmeier directing a magical night of wonder for the Tannenbaum girls. Every family should have a Drosselmeier around. We're blessed with many.
  • My massage and facial at Neroli on Wednesday. A girl's gotta chill, you know.
  • Finally getting into the darkroom to process and actually print up a ton of black and white stuff that's been sitting around for weeks, some cases, months, some cases YEARS. Man that felt good, even though it took several handwashings and about a gallon of hand cream to get the smell of fixer off my hands.
  • The home office redo project. I woke up on Friday and decided I couldn't stand our disorganized office one day longer. It was a full day project, but I went through the entire room, extracted about three hefty bags of stuff for the dumpster and Goodwill, and I am typing this blog entry from that very room, the tapping of the keyboard echoing in this wonderfully clean and organized room! Hooray!

So, I'm off to see the White Hot Tizzies tonight, again, going to see a band is a reward for getting all my stuff done! Rob, you had better deliver.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Simply Having A Lumberful Christmas Time

Kazoos too
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
My sides were still sore from one one of the funniest damn Christmas posts I'd read in any blog this season when I woke up on my Friday off before xmas and realized "Holy Cow, I'm living that damn Family Circle Christmas in a Weekend! At least i got to sleep in today, while Brian took the kids to school, but I did have to haul myself out of bed to start wrapping presents before they came home from the half day. Just once, I'd like to have this whole Christmas thing wrapped up, literally and figuartively, before 11:59 Christmas eve!

And I did it! We got the gifts wrapped, we got the house picked up, the tree is up, check, ornaments on, check, excuses for not having done christmas cards made, check, friends notified that the Christmas party won't be until late January, check-a-rooonie! Time to have some fun! I even got the kids out of the house (they were going stir crazy in this ucky, rainy day), went to the Y where the kids got to play and got a massive workout in, sat in the whirlpool until I was fully chlorinated, got home, sneakily wrapped Brian's gift right under his nose, found a frozen pizza which we had for dinner and even got a nap in!

I deserved to go out and see the Mighty Lumberhorn's Xmas Xtravaganza as I promised myself i would do sometime, and they did not disappoint. Started off the evening with a lovely celtic thingy that Heather plays in. I paid my $6, was issued a kazoo, and took a seat by the bar, where I was joined by Paul "The Fly" Lawson and settled in for a cold winter's night.

Hmmm. How to describe. Boy Howdy's wearing a loud red jacket trimmed in garland and christmas lights (which you couldn't tell under stage lights, but when he wandered about the audience it was as though those scary ambulatory trees in the Wizard of Oz had come alive and gotten friendly) and used one of those giant wreath ribbons as a bow tie. Every time i see that guy, I keep saying to myself, "I must learn to play Theme From Deliverance." BJ steps on stage looking like Santa dropped in on Shaq's party, and they took ol Mr Claus down Wisconsin Avenue to pick up some more stylin' threads, because I pointed at him and asked "Did you get that jacket at Johnnie Walkers?"

Yes, he did and could prove it.

Anyway, they jump into the set. Fly and I pretty much agreed that besides their standard stuff (like the Mighty Deerlick the week before, I can't tell if their stage banter is scripted, or if they're that clever off the cuff all the time) what was worth more the price of admission: Fly argues strongly for Heather's rendition of "Away in a Manager" accompanied by the band making all sorts of animal sounds that you'd normally hear in a manger, an old haiku by basho going through my head. My vote still goes for BJ's introduction of ("this song has no redeeming value except for commercialism") and rendition of that awful piece of McCartney claptrap, "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime." They start it out with just this dirge of syncopated eighth notes, (" you recognize it?" BJ teases us, begetting the obvious reply "do we WANT to recognize it?") and then start singing and I've almost got tears in my eyes from laughing.

Audience participation included kazoo renditions of that "bells ring-a -ling- ting-a ling" song that nobody knows the words to, so you might as well just do it on kazoos. They still had a rather short set, so we called out for the hits and managed to convince them to stay on stage for at least fifteen more minutes. But its probably best that they didn't play right up until bar time. No matter what, I know that Sammy's going to be waking me up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, so its best I get some sleep.

Especially since.....

I'm DJing tonight at RiverHorse

And it's going to be just me.

Four Hours of V'ron on the turntables.

701 E Center in beautiful Riverwest. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Night of Prog. Hey, I remember I like prog!

I'm not supposed to like prog. When I was in college, and discovered punk, I kind of had to keep my prog albums hidden, and in fact, got rid of a bunch of them. The first records that went to the used record store to cover the rent and pay for beer (in that order, honestly), were my prog albums. Buh-bye, ELP. Ciao, Yes. (Well, I kept my three-album set of Yessongs. I still have it, and my copy of Todd Rundgren's Utopia.) Even the Court of the Crimson King had to go. (But I did pick up a copy of Discipline my senior year). But to an emerging new waver punk like 19-year-old me, prog was the Anti-Johnny-Rotten. It was supposedly everything that was wrong with rock and roll. It was the thing that had to be totally deconstructed and flattened out so that we could make room for some I-IV-Vs and two chord antiestablishment anthems again. The first amendment junkie in me was loathe to actually burn my prog albums, but I had to get them out of my dorm room before the cute punk boy across the hall would see them and write me off as a boring suburban stoolie who didn't know who Patti Smith was. Thank god for Record Service.

Julie B
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So when I moved to Milwaukee, one of my first musician friends was Julie (then Niedjiecko, and god help me remember how it was spelled) Brandenburg. She played keyboards in the Trance and Dance Band, and one fine day I approached her and we hit it off instantly, despite the fact that I was a garage-band loving, three chord singing, punk. She was in my first band, Fistfull of Bimbos, and she got it. Maybe that's why I like her prog. Unlike a lot of progs, she understands the value in others' music, doesn't look down on it, but at the same time holds herself to the exacting standards of the classically-trained musician that she is. This is a woman who wasn't too good to play an unbalanced bass in a three chord joke band led by me, who'd been playing guitar for a grand total of three months, but yet is always good enough to attract top musicians to play with. That's why I always enjoy going to see her, rather than thumb my nose at her, the way I thumbed my nose at those Keith Emerson albums Record Service traded for beer money.

Thursday night she debuted her latest pair of top notch musicians as accompanists: Micah Olsan and Eric Lundgren. I wasn't aware that they hadn't rehearsed together, she just handed them sheet music and they sightread their parts. (That old joke about "how do you get a guitar play to turn down his amp" "put sheet music in front of him" was flashing in my head). Afterwards they were kvetching about how "this part wasn't right here" and such, but I just butted in and said, in all honesty, "I heard no mistakes." But they're progs, and part of being prog is being meticulously exacting about one's music, so I let them go. Julie's tunes are still melancholy as ever, but her voice, over the past five years, has caught up to her instrumental virtuosity. (Julie, honestly, your voice used to get drowned out by your band).The songs themselves are on the level of Tori Amos introspectiveness, but without the annoying shrill. No, Julie's voice is capable of belting out some emo blues: it's full and expressive, and is doing justice to her work. She's ready to rock should she decide that someday, she just wants to strap on this awful bass I know she still has and just blast out some three chord anthems. She has the leather pants for it!

Type and Gelting
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Also on the bill were Dan Type, with guest Dave "the Danglers" Gelting. Type started out by himself, with a cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" which, while ambitious, (and he gets points for such ambition) just didn't work. I think he was trying to change some parts for the sake of change. Frankly, that song just barely worked for the Beatles at it is, (and Elton John butchered it). I clapped politely, and didn't know what to do. I really wanted to get a beer, but then Gelting joined him for Type's originals and I'm glad I stayed. Dan, stick to your originals: they're great. They're full of dynamic and rhythmic changes, almost dirg-ey, but eight bars in and I put off getting that beer. I suppose when you've got a Dangler on stage everybody's going to just think "Danglers" but that's not a bad thing. And Type shines on his own. His voice is in the upper register of men's voices, but he stretches it and bends it every which way: he's not a blues singer, but he has that kind of expressive range. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of his work, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Basketball Holiday Blowout

Red Panda Acrobat
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Well, I guess Shaq's Milwaukee Holiday Par-Tay must've been too much for the Miami Heat, because after a slow start, the Bucks just trounced all over them. They ended up winning the game by some 30 points, easily ensuring the fans with Royales avec du fromage.

Another classily stylin' anthem from Jerry Stephani. What a great crooner, he just walks out casually, in his leather sportscoat looking like (as Mark Leyner once put it) an off-duty cop. No unnecessary flourishes, a nice little show of vibrato, and passion and feeling all around. That sort of set the tone for the night. Too bad it was preceeded by that awful opening montage. I've discussed my displeasure with this before. They're experimenting with that silly countdown, but the opening part still doesn't work. Its too long, for one thing. Sheesh, it was 7:15 before the opening tip off got going.

There's really not more to say about a game that turns into a blowout like this, so I'll just gush about the halftime entertainmet, the Red Panda Acrobat. I've seen her before at NBA games, and similar acts when I've gotten to see the Golden Dragon or Peking Acrobats. She does one thing, but she does it well: she's on a unicycle, which she keeps going, and she puts a soup/salad dish on her other foot/leg, and then she flips it on the top of her head. The she puts two and flips them. And then three. By the time she's done, she's up to something like 10. She's in the Guinness Book of World Records for this.

But yeah, that's what she does. That's probably all she does. I doubt that she can sew, or make a decent cup of coffee. Probably can't even draw a decent circle. I mean, if you're going to do something like this, it probably takes years and years of zen-like practice to get down, and you just don't have time to watch Boston Legal or anything like that. She's an object lesson in specialization. I'm more of a renaissance woman myself, but I can appreciate a master of a trade anyday.

Monday, December 18, 2006

78 Revolutions Per Minute

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
OK, I'm doing more of these DJ gigs, I'd better get out and see how the water is before I jump into the deep end of this pool. And its a huge, quickly growing pool, but there's a crop of older DJs that are doing something completely different from the mixmasters.

What I'm liking about the "older" DJs is that they spin vinyl. And I like that for a variety of reasons. One, because there's a lot of great music out there that for whatever reason, hasn't been commercially made available in a digital format. (ie, iTunes or Rhino hasn't managed to sign a contract with whoever owns the mechanical rights). Two, I kind of like the recycling nature of people who can't bear to buy another copy of a song they love, simply because they already have it on vinyl. But third, as Steve Albini and company will continue to argue, there's still something wonderfully warm about the sound of analog vinyl hitting a diamond stylus, even if it means we have to put up with the occassional scratch or pop or whatever. Supposedly, the difference in fidelity between analog and digital is beyond human perception, but then how come I can tell if something's vinyl or MP3? Its not just because the digital version is clean and skip-free. In fact, I never want to hear "In A Gadda-Da-Vida" clean. That song is meant to be heard with pops and cracks, subtly telling the story of the countless parties it had been played at, with nobody noticing that the drum solo that goes on forever was really going on forever because the needle was stuck in a neverending skip loop. No, for a reason computer nerds can't explain in biomedical terms, I can just tell.

Andy Pagel takes that sound one step further during his wonderful Lo-Fi DJ spin Sunday nights at Frank's Power Plant in Bay View. (full disclosure: friend of the family, drummer in my band, and in my totally unbiased opinion, one of the most versitale --read: best-- drummers in SE WI) He only plays 45s and 78s and this means he needs to get record players that play 78s, and where did he get them? At school rummage sales. That's right, he's playing these things on those all-in-one school record players made by Newcomb. "They smell like nerds," he grins, and instantly I flashed back to the AV kids who trucked them from classroom to classroom on those wheely-carts during Study Hour in fifth grade. Man, I remember wintery days in fifth grade where they'd let us loose during the lunch hour to play our 45s on them: besides WLS, this was to be the only time in my life I could hear Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" smack next to the Osmonds' "Yo-Yo", both played through that mono speaker, which was only slightly higher fidelity than the AC/Delco AM car radio.

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Pagel confirmes that there's a line out on the units to plug into the DJ's mixing board. "But it sounds like crap," he says as he mikes up those mono speakers, and begins to clean off his 78s with Windex. Those 78s can take a lot of scratches, but as Andy the Sunday night bartender at Franks' will tell you, they're brittle: "Andy (Pagel) shatters at least one of those 78s every time he does this DJ thing. Especially in the cold." I didn't witness any 78s shattering tonight, but then I'd laid a pile of 78s (that Brian and I had inherited from his Brian's grandpa, sitting around gathering dust and ghosts) on Pagel, and he was busy windexing off the new selections. He knows a lot more about the artists that made them, he has the means to play them, so we knew these were in the right hands, even if one of them will get shattered someday. Pagel's eyes bug out, reading off the names of artists I've only heard in passing, as he pages through the albums of 78s in their binders: remember, these are why we still call our LPs "albums." (And why LPs are called "Long Playing" -- because a whole 10 inch record actually lasted 30 minutes or so -- that’s 25 minutes longer than the average 78 side.) And the variety was amazing: from (truly) oldschool country, to swing, to big band, to blues, to the kind of stuff you'd hear during a Popeye cartoon.

And as Pagel is quick to point out, the sound quality on those 78s is amazing. You get a level of detail with that speed that naturally comes with the high sampling rate of a rapidly spinning plate of vinyl. So what if it's not stereo? Its still all there, from the rumble of the bass violas in the orchestra, to the squeal of the muted trumpets, from the rich voice in the front to the mellow marimbas in the background.

And the 45s pick up from there: from do-wop to 60s soul, from pre-Elvis to psychedelic garage, its all there, in cracklin' warm analog mono. All from a time when the single was important, when one song made or broke you, one performance to convince people to keep listening, and perhaps show up when they caravaned through town. The production is indeed amazing: you can hear everything important, including the lyrics (which in some cases are worth actively listening to). It wouldn't sound right digitized, and it would be altogether wrong in stereo.

Yes, I own hundreds of CDs. Yes, I've got some 15 gig of music loaded on my Ipod. (Yes, I own an Ipod). But I'm glad guys like Andy Pagel are still spinning the vinyl, and are keeping the turntables (oops, that's record players) that can spin it at 78 revolutions per minute going.

Andy Pagel does his low-fi record spin every Sunday night from 9-midnight at Frank's Power Plant on S. Kinnickinnic in Bay View.

DJ V'ron, showing her age

First, its been pointed out to me that the Mighty Deerlick's "Reindeer in the Sky" is actually a ripoff of U2, not Nugent-Cum-Trower. But, yanno, now that I think of it, whenever I hear that U2 song, all I can think of is "Aren't Ted Nugent and Robin Trower ever going to haul Bono and the Edge into court?" Just goes to show you how old I am and what was on "progressive radio" when I was a high schooler. U2 didn't even exist, then, babies.

Anyway, I'm DJing again this coming weekend. Come see me spin records as a guest of the Fabulous Lemonie Fresh this Saturday, December 23 at The RiverHorse, 701 E Center in Milwaukee. Also spinning will be Miss Lonfontaine. We start at 10.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gor-May Venison

This could be you
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I've had a nasty bout of bronchitis this week, such that I had to call in late to work earlier this week as a result of a severe cough medicine hangover. So I had to really think about whether I should be going out this weekend. SHould I just stay in and get better, or should I go and see Darrell "The Brains" Martin and Bush DJ at the Foundation? Well I was feeling better, so I needed to get out of the house, and that pretty much answered my question. However, I'm picking up the paper, and I see there's a ton a good bands playing out and I'm thinking maybe I should drop in and see one of them. But I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, and I'm vascillating back in forth in my mind, what should I do after I go see the DJs: see a band/just go home/see a band/just go home.

And then I came across this news story at (of course) Fox News, datelined, to my embarassment, Wisconsin. The headline, if you haven't clicked the link yet, is "Wisconsin Man Runs Over, Eats Seven-Legged Transgendered Deer." That's right. This isn't an Onion Story. Some guy named Rick Lisko just outside of Fond du Lac ran over a deer in his driveway, inspected it, saw that it had seven legs (actually appendages, but who's counting?) and both male and female genetalia. So, of course, what else could he do but call up his buddy the deer processor, and eat it? At least he admits that its a little freaky, as he told the Associated Press:
"It kind of gives you the creeps when you look at it," he said, but he thought he saw the appendages moving, as if they were functional, before the deer was hit.

OK, so it kind of gives you the creeps, dude, and that didn't stop you from eating it? Hell no! The story continues:
John Hoffman of Eden Meat Market skinned the deer for Lisko, who wasn't going to waste the venison from the animal.
"And by the way, I did eat it," Lisko said. "It was tasty."

I saw this story as pretty much a sign, a divine intervention. I did indeed need to see a band this weekend, and the band I needed to see was, naturally, The Mighty Deer Lick. No other band would have as perfectly custom made for this.

The Deer Lick have been around, in one form or another, since the old "The Newsletter" days, when a gazillion great bands formed in the early 90s, with personnel that floated around from one band to another. The DeekLick were the punks, perfect Wisconsin punks from up north, or so their schtick would imply -- I seem to remember that they didn't sell T-Shirts, rather plaid flannel shirts with the band's name silkscreened across the back. Apparently Dave Deerlick (his real name is Dave Reinholdt, but I've always known of him as Dave Deerlick) and Dan Franke, according to the Deerlick's myspace page, were friends in LaCrosse (that's up north dere enough), but the band itself was Milwaukee all the way. I haven't seen them in at least five years, and they don't play out all that much anymore, but they do get it together almost every year for Christmas, re-brand themselves as the Mighty Reindeer Lick, and that guaranteed the kind of holiday party I needed.

Anyway, it was a steam room at the Points East Pub Saturday, and perhaps that explains why Reinholdt had to change his shirts at least seven times during the show (or maybe he just got a bunch of shirts he wanted to show off), and except for the personnel change (not even Franke is in the band anymore), things don't seem to have changed a bit. Reinholdt is still the supreme smartass with a not-so-well-hidden heart, whose stage delivery is spot-on: you're not sure if he's scripted out all his banter, of if he's really that clever on the fly all the time.

Of course they did the hits: including all their Christmas tunes, including a few new ones (Reindeer in the Sky, complete with Ted Nugent-cum-Robin Trower ripoff) and I guess since its NOT summer, they left out "Port-O-Let", but at least they did "Chopped Liver" for us. And Franke, home for the holidays from his (apparently new) home in Austin, joined 'em on stage to holler out "If you want something done right do it yourself" (in a song about jacking off) to complete that long-time reunion feeeling that was all over the room. You could see the longtime hardcore fans, all glad to see each other, all embracing each other at one point or another. I felt like I was at a holiday party for some company I didn't work for, but it was a cool company that didn't mind that I crashed. Hell, I paid my $5, and even got a nice homeburn of their latest stuff on CD, which I'll probably listen to at work tomorrow, while I'm being glad that some Chopped Liver could get the taste of seven-legged transgendered deer meat from Fond Du Lac out of my virtual mouth.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Immaculate Mary, Your Praises We ... Oh, Uh, Happy Birthday!

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. That means you have to fast for an hour, and then go to mass. Why? Contrary to popular belief, this is not the day that celebrates all that Virgin Birth stuff and all those messy questions about what Joseph's role in the proceedings was. No, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception commemorates the fact that from the get-go, the BVM was conceived in God's head as totally pure, destined to be the free-from-sin (original or not), free-from-concubescence, perfect vessel with which to bring the human manifestation of God's existence into the world. ("Well," my favorite English professor told me she once asked one of the nuns, "If she was free from concubescence -- free of desire -- what's all the fuss about her being a virgin? I mean, if you're allergic to chocolate, what's the point of giving it up for Lent?" For this she was sent to the Mother Superior's office.)

It's also my birthday. Do you know what a drag it was to have to go to mass after school before your birthday party began?

Do you even know what a drag it was to have a birthday in December altogether? Nobody's paying attention to you. It's all about Christmas and the presents they're going to get. And do you get a big present? No. They're saving up for the Christmas presents. All my friends who had birthdays in July would get a big birthday present like a bike, and then at Christmastime would get a big Christmas present like a scooter. Not us Sagges. Your family's busted by Christmas, and can only afford the "Birthday-Slash-Christmas" dual present. You got the new bike OR the scooter, not both. Party? Well, after Mass. Don't forget to fast a hour before Holy Communion.

Maybe that's why us Saggitarians are such a outgoing, extroverted, attention-craving bunch. We have to be: "YO! I'm here! Remember?!?!? That's right, ME! It's my birthday! Yo! Pay no attention to that man behind the red suit! Listen up! Yo! I said YO! As in, Spanish for ME! Yo soy una muchacha del cumpleanos! I'm expecting a cake here! Do I need a microphone! Hey! HEY! HEY!Can you quit with the 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' for just a minute and whip through a chorus of 'Happy Birthday'? Can you at least don you now the gay apparrel to go out for some cocktails? That's all I'm sayin'."

TAG: Five Things You Didn't Know

OK, I've been tagged again, this time by Cynthia over at The Sandwich Life, to name five things about me that you didn't know. Like Cynthia, I had a hard time with this because between this blog and my weightloss blog, I pretty much spill everything. But here goes:

  1. In my wild summer after college when I still lived in Champaign Urbana, I used to go out skinny dipping at midnight with a bunch of my friends. We would find an apartment complex with a swimming pool, scale the fence, somehow get the case of beer over the fence, tear off our summer clothes and jump in. One of us would always be the spotter to see if any lights would go on the apartment complex, which meant that police would soon follow. One time the spotter didn't pay close enough attention, we didn't get out in time, and while putting our clothes back on, we would have to give our (fake) names and addresses to the cops, who didn't haul us in, because, well its not like anybody was upset that a bunch of naked coeds were frolicking about, they were just responding to a call. But this is why Desiree Rulalenska of 1060 West Addison, has a criminal record in Champaign County, IL.

  2. I was sports editor of my high school newspaper.

  3. You know those green signs on the highway that tell you how far it is to the next few big cities? Well, on I-57 going south from Chicago to Champaign, the cities would be Kankakee, Champaign, Springfield, Cairo, (that's pronounced KAY-row, BTW), Memphis. As you got closer to each, the city would drop off, but Memphis would still remain. Well, one time I went on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Memphis, for the sole purpose of seeing what the sign said once you got to Memphis. (Answer: Atlanta.)

  4. My first album that I bought with my own money was The Partridge Family's Up To Date. It went well with the copy of Led Zeppelin III and Sgt. Pepper that I stole from my big brother, which I like to claim were my first albums. Well, darn it, they were. I just didn't pay for them.

  5. I'm approximately 8 credit hours in Spanish away from a bachelor's degree in English. Ironic, eh?

OK, The L, Tag, you're it!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Savoring a Bucks win!

The Bucks did it last night to Portland at home. In overtime! God Bless 'em.

Why not the long blog entry? Lord knows it was a great game. There was that point where you wondered, "OK, when are they going to blow it?" and they never did. It was tight up until the end, everybody's on their feet for the final few seconds, Portland blows the shot that would have done it for them, and overtime actually invigorates the Bucks. But no huge report from me this time around? Why? Because we didn't get there until halftime. Why? Because it was Brian's birthday, and we decided to splurge, and we did so at Carnevor, the new hot steakhouse in town. This isn't a cheap date, but I'll tell you, it provided me with one of the five best pieces of steak I've had in my 46 years. For the price, I ate it slowly, savoring every perfectly medium-rare bite (with a perfect almost crisp crust topped with bleu cheese). I had to work today, so I didn't have time to write up a whole lot about it. But at least I finally get to see a home court win from the Bucks. Cubs win! Cubs win!

Really, that's the way I feel about the Bucks right now. Having grown up a Chicagoan, and specifically a Cubs fan, I have this understanding about teams that don't win a lot. You suddenly realize there's more to the game of baseball (or basketball) besides winning. It's the ballpark, it’s the hot dogs, it’s the fans, it’s the ivy, it’s the understanding of it all. Its why I'm not demanding the head of Terry "The White Shadow" Stotts on a platter. It's why I want to arrive good and early at the Bradley Center to hear the anthem. It's why I critique the food, the contest winners, why I hang out to catch the halftime entertainment, and why I turn into Joan and Melissa Rivers as regards the Energee Girls. Its playing the trivia contests, its laughing at Bango the Mascot. It’s the whole package, and being a Cubs fan teaches you that. Its really about appreciating and savoring a win, like that filet I had two hours earlier, the same way a Cubs fan would savor listening to Harry Caray wheeze out "Cubs Win! Cubs Win!" Do Boston Celtics fans understand about this? I think not.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Trash Fest: Waste Management, Indeed

Ha Ha. I seem to have conveniently lost my voice for the evening.
Another Trash Fest has come and gone.

I suppose I could write in major detail what went on, but if a picture tells a thousand words, then just think how many words 150 pictures tell! So just click over to that set and get a gander at what went on. I'll run down history and brief lineup here.

Trash Fest has been going on, in one form or another, for 23 or so years. They don't have an exact number because there were a few iffy years there, and they don't know whether or not to count them. Paul "The Fly" Lawson and Darrell "The Brains" Martin have lovingly kept it going after its headbirth from Voot Warnings, and every year cast a different flavor on the proceedings.

They used to really sit down and have meetings, plan publicity, and make it a major project. Then one fine year, they both realized that what was going to happen would happen, and no amount of planning would make it better or worse. Actually, they didn't plan that either. THey just didn't have time to get all that involved, and lo and behold, it was still a successful event and they actually made money. Big lesson learned: trash fest is about minimal effort, and given that they both were getting lives, minimal effort seemed just fine. (Also lesson learned, during those "lost years" you have to put in some effort.) They used to even decide on a "theme" but that would get lost in the shuffle. Every year, Trash Fest would develop its own unique flavor that would produce several volumes of stories to tell over cheap beers for years to come, but what exactly that flavor was could never be predicted. Its like making a soup with whatever about-to-be-disposed of vegetables were in the crisper: unpredictable and unduplicable.

And those stories get told in the early hours of the evening, as Fly readies whatever bar (this year it was hoisted upon the newly remodeled Points East Pub) he managed to talk into hosting trash fest: he arrives with hefty bags full of trash, some of it recycled from previous years (there was the year at Quarters when he heartbrokenly reported: "Those assholes actually threw away all the best trash!") such as a purloined stop sign, the remains of some tacky holiday decor, and special for this year, posters and yard signs from the recent vicious election. Trash, like its purveyors, comes and goes, but Fly and The Brains remain a constant.

Let's get this party started
So do some of the acts. Starting off this year (like many years' past) was the Nervous Virgins, an Eric Griswold production that generally consists of some messed up synthesizer work, a guitar, and Griswold, "Mr. Milwaukee Burning Man" himself. Halfway into the set, they degnerated into some romantic-sounding jazz number (well, musically -- verbally was another story altogether) that brought out a couple of normal-looking people who perhaps thought it would be romantic and whatever to begin a slow dance/erzatz makeout session on the garbage-strewn dance floor. Massive speculation ensued.


Next, synthesizer mavens Grant Ricther and Rex Probe (yes, to my knowledge, that's his real name, he didn't get it off of the "Enter your high school street adress here and we'll tell you your porn star name" generator) provided us with the trashiest free-form jazz I could ever hope to hear as "Hovercraft Full of Eels." There was a third guy on soprano sax whose name I didn't catch. Of course there was a guy on sax. It wouldn't be at trashy jazz combo without a sax. Oh, and no synthesizers in sight. Richter was all appropriately decked out for the look as well: goatee, inquisitive glasses, freshly smoked-in beret, cigarette dangling from mouth.

The Bullets
Up next, the Bullets, an underage hardcore punk outfit fronted by the daughter of Dr Chow singer Frank Chandik. One word: wow. Maybe another: excellent. Three girls, a guy on bass. Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. They walked into a "hostile" crowd, but had more than enough forthrightness and "Yeah, eat this, mofo" attitude to push right back, and then chew up and spit out furious I-feel-like-its-1977-London again punk, complete with spiky doesn't-occur-in-nature hair on the guitar player, down to the horrible red plaid pants. You wouldn't think this would call for a tender moment, but it did: watching Frank hug his daughter afterwards, you could see he was so proud of her he could bust, and there was a danger of a real mess in the room when and if he did.

If you're going to play toy instruments with scary masks
Frank didn't have much time to get over it, though -- he and the rest of Dr Chow's Love Medicine had to get ready for their bit, Toy Dirt Car. This is an example of how a lot of bands have done Trash Fest, as though to answer the question, "So who are you going as for Trash Fest?" Lots of bands just show up and do their straight set, but others have to trash it down. This is how you know Trash Fest is for the truly trashy, Dr Chow has to trash it down.. So they show up on stage completely with toy instruments, do a warm-up, and end up jamming to "Smoke on the Water" as though the Residents got really drunk one night and couldn't find their regular instruments.


If Voot Warnings is the godfather of Trashfest, then Mark Shurilla is the inbred cousin who actually reads the newspaper, this time showing up with his longtime trash band, The Electric Assholes, and this year topping the tastelessness of Warnings' "Konerak Simpaphasone Orchestra" of many years back with the timely "Frank Jude" (to the tune, of course, of the Beatles' song). Yes, people were politically correctly shaking their heads in disbelief to cover up the fact that they were laughing their asses off. (Me, too. I admit it.) And of course they ran through their standards, "Blitzkrieg over Kenosha" "Assholes -- What Are they Good For" and just for fun, a nice long jam over Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner". They went over their 20 minutes, but then again, that was OK with Fly as the whole evening was, for once, running way ahead of schedule.


Paul Setser brought up his newest find for the next act, Eat The Mystery. Mostly cabaret, but with a huge dollop of punk attitude, they're fronted by "Angie" (need to get her full name) who looks and reminds you of a young Exene Cervenka, but with a cross of French and German chanteuse to her. A trombone and baritone add frosting to Setser's keyboards (is there anything that guy cannot do with a keyboard?) and I was rapt while she labored through "Alcohol" and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" with appropriate worldweariness, updated with tattoos, that 70s punk attitude that seemed to flavor everything tonight, and the cutest pair of red shoes I ever saw. Oh, and was the rendition of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" frighteningly incestual or what? Setser also took center stage for a grand beer hall singalong with the chorus, "... waitin' for the gin to hit me!"


Finally, the posted lineup ended with The Lumbershop Quartet (uh, a quartet is FOUR people, guys, there were only three of yas) with a Tribute to Don Henley. "No, he hasn't met his demise, but he will be dead someday and then these tributes will be a dime a dozen" they warned us in advance. Boy Howdy steps on stage looking like he's ready for prom in a full white tuxedo, breaks out his saw and bow, and starts wailing away, while BJ tinkles away on the intro to "Hotel California" on a ukelele, and Heather, who actually dragged a very nice and expensive looking cello manages to keep a straight face. Boy Howdy hits his music stand, the lyric sheets fall, and panic ensues. BJ quickly imrpovises "..please bring me my wine...bitch" to a tsunami of giggles from me and the other person in the crowd who actually likes to write about music as much as play it. Marla from the Electric Assholes to the rescue: of course she knows the entire fucking Don Henley songbook from memory, and helped them appropriately butcher "Take It To The Limit" and of course, "Desperado." So I guess they did morph into a quartet. Sorry for the earlier lashing, guys. (although I was disappointed there was no Dirty Laundry, as St. Veronica is the Patron Saint of Laundry Workers, you know).

I give up. Caption invited.
Plenty of time before last call, so Fly went and recruited a quick "jam" band consisting of himself, Frank Chandik, Bob Jorin, and who else to front the thing but the ironically nicknamed publisher of Cream City Suds, "Whispering" Jeff Platt? Earlier in the evening, Whispering Jeff had won a "Loud-off", easily beating out Mr Slot Car guy, Bush, (as well as your humble narrator) and I guess the prize was fronting this "band." Dan Mullen managed to horn in on the drums by the end of the set, the baritone player from Eat the Mystery had managed to get on stage, Jorin managed to play the bass while wearing both a daisy-encrusted hat AND a rubbermaid bucket over his head, Fly managed to play the guitar using his pint glass full of beer as a slide and get through the night even though a severe case of laryngitis had him sounding like one of Farmer Vincent's victims, Frank managed to get about five minutes on the drums before Mullen took over, and Whispering Jeff managed to not get himself killed by the drunken angry mob he so desperately tried to incite. All in all, a well-managed evening.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Taking my life into my own hands, or "Wait a second. This is the midwest. Doesn't this happen every year?"

You'd think this was Washington DC, the way everybody was talking this morning. Traffic fatalities! School closings! Ahhhhhhh! OK, it was a major snowstorm, and maybe I was out early in the morning, and maybe I only live five miles from where I work. I don't think I'd want to have hauled myself in for a major commute, that's for sure. But they're going on the radio saying "The National Weather services advises that if you leave the safety of your home, you are putting your life at risk." Oy.

I could swear I grew up in the midwest and that we were used to stuff like this. I can see not going into work for a 25 mile commute. But "putting yourself at risk."

I remember living in Washington DC. They'd get an inch of snow and the whole region would be closed down. People would make rushes for bread and soup and milk at the grocery stores. I'd be sitting in my apartment laughing my behind off. "Well, just put on a jacket and walk to the store...."

At least it was a perfect day for sledding with the kids. Did Humboldt park, and made Stella prove to me she could bail out of a sled so that if she did come close to the trees she wouldn't crack her head open. Man, have I turned into my own mother or what? She used to get really graphic on me: "Watch yourself on the ice," she'd say, "You'll fall and crack your head wide open." Sammy and I had a lovely time going down ourselves. We stuck together, and it reminded me of when Stella was that age, clinging on to me for dear life the first time I took her down a hill, and shortly after telling me, rather nonchalantly, "Oh, I don't need you anymore. I can go down myself." Major bittersweet moment of pride there.

And that's all I thought about as I followed this salt truck to work in the wee hours of the morning. Not, "what a bitch of a storm this is," but "I can't wait till after work to take the kids sledding." You can sit and complain about winter, or you can take advantage of the fact that shoveling is as good a workout as one can hope for, and that the cheap thrill of sledding with your kids is something you just can't do in the summer. I'll take the latter. If it means I have to follow a salt truck to work in the morning and listen to the doomsayers telling me I'm taking my life into my own hands, well then, I guess it's worth the adventure.