Monday, July 31, 2006

If Its Chow Time, Where's All the Food?

If you're going to have a huge event called the "Brady Street Artisan Food Festival" I should think there would be a ton of "artisan food" to actually EAT, no? There was a vendor or two who had some cheese, Yuppie Hill Poultry was there with their delicious free-range, organic offerings (including bratwurst, which they had cooked up for immediate consumption), and Eat Cake! with delicious lavender silk cake and a display of owner Debbie Pagel's amazing creations, but as far as food goes, that was it. There was a fashion show sponsored by Miss Groove, artisan food producers that they are (html help needed here, what are the tags for sarcasm?), and an antique ferris wheel that wasn't really running until well into the evening. But for something that had the phrase "food festival" in its title, the amount and variety of food offerings was disappointing to say the least. I'd have to say of all the booths there, only about 20% of them were food-related, and of those, only three had stuff ready to consume as you walked the festival. The Urban Ecology Center was there, well and good, and there was a SOAP vendor. You can hear Homer Simpson now: Mmmmmm, soap. The regular Brady Street restaurants had a few things going for festival walkers: Mimma's had some lovely rotisserie chickens roasting all day, and $6 for a quarter of one accompanied by some pasta salad and a hunk of corn was worth it. Peter Scortino and a few others had pizza by the slice, and there was nothing like a single crab rangoon for a buck from the chinese joint that hit the spot later in the evening. But still, this was the most dismal selection of food offerings I'd seen at any street festival this year, emphasized by the title of this particular theme.

Well, they could have had McDonalds' there with a booth and we would have gone anyway: the musical lineup was pretty darn good. We missed Kill Courtney, (no way were we taking kids on this stinking hot and humid day and expecting them to last into the evening) as well as the terrific rockabilly of the Uptown Savages. Got there just in time to see Dr Chow's Love Medicine, who played two sets in the sweltering heat, and lead singer Frank Chandik was bleeding for his art: he'd jumped off stage and hit his shin on the way back up. You could tell they were a little burnt out from the partying two nights before for the release of their CD, "Chow Time." We skipped the Etiquette -- I'm told they're good, straight up power pop punk, but we took the kids to the recently renovated Pulaski Park to get their ya-ya's out so we could settle back in around 9ish to see a Plasticland reunion show. Plasticland delivered: no "Go A Go-Go Time" but everything else, including "Sipping the Bitterness" and "Gloria Knight" and a particularly smokin' rendition of "Don't Antagonize Me." Glenn Rehse was in wonderful form -- he doesn't seem as bitter as in past reunion performances, and the only thing that suggests that John Frankovic might actually be aging is the color of his hair. He still jumps around the stage and plays the bass like a 20 something with nothing to do the next morning. Victor Demeichi still amazes me with his ability to get that big, huge precision sound of his drums while looking like he's just tapping something out with a pencil. And someday they'll all forgive Dan Mullen for his youthful guitar showboating and let him turn his amp back up so we can hear him be the wizard he always was. He just doesn't get that opportunity playing with Mark Shurilla all that much. Overall, they were only given an hour to play, and they made the absolute most of it.

Stella made a breakthrough. She usually gets bent out of shape when going to see live bands at festivals because "its too loud", but this year, I was looking for her, worried she was lost in the crowd since daddy was up near the stage, but there she was, right next to daddy, right next to the PA! I saw him move her over so she didn't get totally blasted, but she was right in the front, checking out her friend Miles and Chloe's Dad's band, and liking them. That's my girl!

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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Picnic and Soul in the Park

Ah, there is nothing like a summer night in the park with Deirdre Fellner and the Whole of Soul. (Full disclosure here: I am a friend of Deirdre's -- in fact, we were roomies in the early 90s.) Nonetheless, she is a superb jazz/soul diva whose musical repertoire has grown by leaps and bounds in the 15 years I've known and known of her work. Back in the early 90s, the Whole of Soul was a decent enough crack ensemble and she used her incredibly well-trained and maintained voice to push out straight-up covers and a pile of bluesy originals. But last night reminded me she's more than that. They opened their set with a downright trippy number, that until maybe about 2 minutes in didn't reveal itself to be jazz-based -- it sounded like something Brian's band might put out.

She's still got a wonderful knack of telling a story over a song intro, and over the years its gotten even more comfortable, to the point where its lyrical, flowing in with the music, at times almost machine gun, as in the example of the beginning of the song "Red Lipstick and A Cocktail Dress." (that may or may not be the actual title, but it was the main chorus that we all remember). She tells the story of the song's origin, recounting one of those dragass days in almost a machine-gun manner that evokes the feeling one gets when they've spent a whole day busy with nothing to show for it but exhaustion …. "and so that sounds like a song…" I know personally that Deirdre is a great person to go and chew on this over a few drinkie-poos, and now the crowd does too. Her narrative phrasing has caught up to her vocal phrasing, which was always spot on.

What a perfect summer evening. I'd stopped at the Milwaukee Public Market on the way home for some picnic snackies to nosh on. The spicy tuna roll from Sushi A Go Go was particularly tasty-- the spice wasn't just wasabi, but other flavors got their way in. I had a tub of the Basil pesto from Aladdin, and a tub of absolutely the best baba gonoush (email me with YOUR spelling of this, I've seen as many spellings for this as the name Mohammad itself) I've ever had. It had a smoky, roasted garlic overtone to it that put me in heaven. As the Humboldt Park bandshell is on a hill, I made a mental note that I need to get something like these wine holder sticks for the ground for a picnic for the side of a hill. I was wearing a Deirdre T-shirt, and now I have a red zinfandel stain on it, which is actually slightly prestigious, but that's just less wine in my mouth. Putting the wine glass in my shoe to hold it up was risky. I do like that a majority of the benches they had on the hill had been removed, and the remaining ones pushed to the sides, so that blanket picnickers can be more toward the front and center. It really does increase that "We're not quite Jazz In The Park yet but we're getting there" factor; it supports an ambience of relaxing, evening music with good food, drink, and conversation, instead of just a "we play you listen" lecture setup. And I like it more than JITP. JITP is getting TOO popular and hip, such that its packed, and almost impossible to keep your kids from getting lost. Here at Humboldt, they could run around to their hearts content and I could still keep an eye on them AND enjoy the music and hang with my friends.

A guy from Milwaukee County Parks was snapping pictures, asking people in the crowd how they liked the music. I replied that I was enjoying the increased hipness factor becoming evident at Humboldt Park -- the previous years' schedules were packed with oompah bands and the American Legion band, which, admittedly, packs 'em in. He basically replied that they're taking baby steps this way. Well, clearly Deirdre wowed over this crowd so I hope they continue in this vein. Bring it on -- this approach works at Boerner Botanical Gardens and should work here as well.

They started at 6:30 and played straight into 8:30 -- no breaks. I know they wanted to make sure the impending storm didn't get them (it started sprinkling right when they finished their set) but still, 2 straight hours without a break was amazing. I'll tell you, I have many musician friends but I don't shower the praise publicly unless they really blow me away. Deirdre babysat for baby Stella a few times, and even coming home, hearing her lullaby Stella to sleep, blew me away.

Anyway, I just love the whole Milwaukee County Concerts in the Parks series, and this year they've expanded it substantially. Here's my picks for the rest of the summer:

  • July 28: Blue Oyster Cult at State Fair Park (well, this isn't free, nor is it a County Park, but I have to get my BOC fix in somehow this summer) and then off to the Dr Chow CD release Party at Linneman's.
  • August 2: the Swing O Matics at River Rhythms (Pere Marquette Park). River Rhythms has a great lineup overall this summer.
  • August 3: Paul Cebar at Boerner Botanical Gardens, or if I don't feel like schlepping all the way out there, might catch some salsa at Alterra Lakefront before going to see the Eels at the Pabst. Boerner's lineup is hit or miss. I liked it better when they were in the field by the trees. This is close to the old outbuilding, and the audience sits downhill from the band. However, I have a wonderful memory in my head of the Five Card Studs, playing to among other attendees, a cadre of Red Hat Society women, and they ate each other up.
  • August 8: King Comets at Humboldt Park
  • August 10: The X reunion tour with the Rollins Band at the Rave (well, this isn't free , nor is it in a park, but Exene and John Doe are at least together again for a tour and its worth a mention…)
  • August 18: Deirdre and the Whole of Soul at Sherman Park
  • August 24: the Swing O Matics at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Monday, July 24, 2006

The beginning of my musical comeback: DJing at the Foundation

Well that was fun. Made a couple of bucks and some free drinks, but overall, it was fun. I hadn't been in the Foundation since before they totally did it up as a Tiki Lounge, and they did it up right, down to every detail, complete with blowfish lights, plenty of tiki cups, drinkie-poos, and oil paintings of tropical scenes. This attracts more than just the Riverwest Punk crowds they used to get. They get everything in here, from punks, to Gen Y students, to yuppies, to elder hipster statesmen, and I noticed a clump of people my age, some of whom I knew, which I think is reflected in my setlist.

Afterwards, it was like some kind of flashback. Being married with children, its been a long time since I closed a bar, and even longer since I heard the phrase "So where's the party." Yeah, like I have the energy to hit a party at 2:30 am, since Sammy is going to get me up at 7:30, whether I went to bed at 10 pm or not. I'm driving home through downtown, past the Water street bars, emptying out and you can see clumps of people with that same question, "Where's the (post bar) party?" What a world. Glad I'm not there anymore. Got home and collapsed on the couch with my husband, who was catching the last 15 minutes of John Waters' "Pink Flamingos" on the Sundance channel. Perfect ending.

Anyway, as Darrell "The Brains" Martin was my host, we swapped out sets through the night, and I tried as best I could to lead in with his themes but moving on to my list. I didn't plan any of this out, just grabbed a bunch of records and sort of winged it, watching the crowd's reaction and in a few cases, throwing curve balls at them. Set one stayed laid back and loungy, I got more rowdy as the night went on. Here's my setlists:

Set I

Wreckless Eric, "Veronica" (well, I DO need a opening theme song, and the Elvis Costells "Veronica" song would be, well, almost predictable, no?)
Malcolm McLaren, "Madame Butterfly"
Adrian Belew, "Big Electric Cat"
Tom Verlaine, "Five Miles of You"
801 Live, "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Camper Van Beethoven, "ZZ Top Goes To Egypt"
Robyn Hitchcock, "Grooving on An Inner Plane"
Love And Rockets, "Haunted When The Minutes Drag"
Julian Cope, "Sunspots"
Lene Lovich, "Savages" (45 version)
The Au Pairs, "Its Obvious"

Set II
Original Broadway Recording from West Side Story, "Dance At The Gym"
10 Years After, "One Of These Days"
The Fabulous Poodles, "Pink City Twist"
The Stranglers, "Skin Deep"
Jello Biafra with the Melvins, "Voted Off The Island"
Puffy Ami Yumi, "Jet Police"
The Golden Cups, "I'm So Glad"
Joe Jackson, "I'm The Man"
Bow Wow Wow, "Chihuahua"
The Buzzcocks, "I Don't Know What To Do With My Life"
The Scientists, "Swampland"
Tonio K, "The Funky Western Civilization"

Set III didn't get started until late, so it got cut short.
Nina Hagen, "New York, New York
Tom Jones, "What's New Pussycat"
The Rolling Stones, "Let's Spend The Night Together"
The Psychedelic Furs, "All Of This And Nothing"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Found some art at a guitar shop

Getting ready for my DJ spot tomorrow night, and after rehearsing at Darrel "The Brains" Martin's house (I had to remember how to use a mixer, after all, but it comes back to you after 20 years). On my way home, I popped into Rockhaus Guitars, to see the Michael Zasadny show. There was also vido across the street at Una Café, which I wished I had the time to pop in and see, not the least reason being that I've always wanted to pop into the Una Café to see what was up with it. It always looks like an interesing place, but its not like its near anything else, so if you're up for a night of hipness, are you really going to schlep out to 43rd and Forest Home. I'm sure its worth it, but I was already exhausted from a long week of work.

Anyway, it sure was worth stopping at the Rockhaus. I don't want to say tha Zasadny's work is "outsider art", it’s a lot more sophisticated than that (not the outsider art isn't sophisticated), but it's clear that he's had some kind of training. He turned out to be quite a personable guy, and we had a lovely discussion about the original of materials for one of his pieces, a very rough crucifix which featured some animal's skull where the head would be, backed by metal wings. Very very cool stuff. There was one hunk of wood on it that Zasadny said was a gift from a fellow artist friend; he was at the friend's apartment when he spotted the piece of wood and commented how much he liked it. A few months later, he was presented it as a gift, a nice surprise, and like any kind of found materials, sat in Zasadny's possession until the right sculpture called for it, and it was this crucifix. Not that I was in the market, but knowing the story made me want to and not want to buy the piece. I wanted to because I liked it, and now knew a neat background story of it. I didn't want to because I kind of didn't want to separate him from this nice background story -- would that hunk of wood mean as much to me? I ended up not buying it because frankly, I'm broke this quarter and I have no business buying art right now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Indianapolis Round Up

I'm back from vacation. Spent a bunch of it in the Michigan Upper Penninsula. What can you say about the UP that isn't contrived or cliché? It’s a great, pristine vacation spot.

And, as promised, I'll report in another post on our adventures at the Mikado Sushi Restaurant in Indianapolis, the night before the F1 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But first, a little lessons learned session between Milwaukee and Indianapolis.

Things Milwaukee could learn from Indianapolis:
  • Indy takes the walk/don't walk lights a terrific step further with countdown timers at each light, so you know exactly how many seconds you've got until that don't walk light (and the cross traffic's green) goes on. Gives the walker a good idea whether s/he can make that dash.

  • Indy isn't afraid of distinctive (read: modern/contemporary) architecture and art. As such, they have a beautiful veteran's memorial, a cluster of very interesting looking museums, all intertwined with the Gothic germania of the city's founders.The Eiteljorg musuem of Indian Culture is particulary successful: it blends a clean modernist approach with the naturalism of native american culture. I guess you can't have that many germans running a city and not have at least a handful who "get" Bauhaus. You can look around downtown and pick out the eras, they're all there: goth, federal, colonial, metropolitan, mod. And this Milwaukeean sadly looks at the Eiteljorg and wonders how long it would have taken to get the plans past Milwaukeeans, who piss and moan whenever some building that doesn't look like the Federal Building on Wisconsin or some piece of art that isn't a general on a horse gets proposed. Indy just builds it, and it all looks great.

  • Indy media seems to understand that there are other things happening in their city than whatever big event is happening. There's the downside to this, which I'll get to in a minute.

  • Indianapolis has a Nordstrom's. Milwaukee can just about support a Marshall Field's.

  • Indianapolis has an excellent Jazz fest that, uh, actually features both well-known and obscure jazz artists. It doesn't grow for the sake of growth -- its jazz fest is quality and as previously blogged, gives jazz fans a reason to make the trip. Milwaukee needs to be more confident in niche marketing and take the same long-term quality approach to its events. Look at Milwaukee's Bastille Days -- the more they steer away from just being another "close the streets serve beer and get Barry's Truckers to play a set" festival and embrace the root concept of their particular theme (being French) the happier the businesses, the city and the festival's patrons are -- and likely to return, spend money, and behave themselves.

  • Indianapolis makes the most of their ugly canal by spiffing it up an providing paddle boats for a trip down. Milwaukee's getting there -- the Riverwalk actually has been spiffed up, but we need to make more of our river. A paddle boat ride down that Indy canal should provide rainmakers with plenty of inspiring ideas.

  • Indiana's Children's Museum is impressive -- and is geared to children of all ages. Let's face it, by the time your kid turns 8, s/he's outgrown the Betty Brinn. And don't miss the exhibit of famous Indianians (they're not Indians, what DO you call the plural of people from Indiana?), where you'll learn that not only John Cougar Mellencamp is from Indiana, or David Letterman, but you're also reminded that Kurt Vonnegut grew up here.

Things Indy could learn from Milwaukee -- and they all fall under the title "How to make people from out of town feel welcomed and appreciated." Its like the whole town has everything they need to maintain a solid tourist (and thus economic) attraction and they just don't want to take the extra step to solidify that asset.
  • The whole hospitality industry needs to kick it up a notch. They've got everything they need: excellent selection of restaurants and bars, the workforce, the hotel rooms at every level. But Indy, if you're going to sponsor an event that draws people from all over the world, you need to jump on it. Fine, we waited about an hour to get seated at the Mikado but once seated, there's no excuse for it being nearly an hour before we got our entrees. We learned that people at other non-chain restaurants experienced similar waits. Fine, I'll wait an hour or even two to get seated at a hot dining spot, but as soon as I sit my butt down, I want a fresh drink, and I'll need appetizers at my table within 10 minutes. I didn't order slow-cooked wienerschnitzel. I ordered sushi. You didn't even have to cook it! Then we hit the Hard Rock Café and they had it together. A chain restaurant beat you in service. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Especially with this, the F1 crowd. Granted, the NASCAR rank and file crowd isn't piling in for steak and lobster, but their leadership/owners might be. And the F1 crowd is. Either way, if you have to, run down to Bloomington and bus some starving college students in for the weekend to support your kitchens and bars. It will be worth it.

  • Oh, Indy, Indy, Indy. You have that gorgeous centerpiece of a downtown, that magnificent circle with the statue and all, and it all but closed up by 10:30, leaving us with a Starbucks and a ice cream joint (neither of which had restrooms). That's right, no available restroom in a place that serves jumbo jugs of coffee. (The did, however, have a Sullen College Student sweeping up behind the counter to tell me this.) The ice cream joint had one, supposedly, but it was down the hall in the building it was in, and you had to ask the security guy to escort you up the stairs to it, and he wasn't there, and, and, and, WTF?!?!? Indy, you FORCED me to patronize a chain restaurant, The Hard Rock, just to take a whiz and learn they had their act together. But no, that gorgeous circle should have been lit up and BUZZING, not cleaning up from the car show that went on there during the day. Michael Schumacher had to get up early the next day to psych up for the race; we didn't. You should have had vendors mixing daiquiris, those fire stick jugglers should have been in this circle, maybe a DJ spinning tunes or better still, some winners of some local Battle of the Bands, and the next day you should have had a farmer's market bursting with the bounty of Indiana Heartland Pride in that roundabout. Instead, there's a few strings of christmas lights and a building tarted up to look like an American Flag. At least the fountains were still running.

  • If one were to rely on Indianapolis Media, you'd never know that there were tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world in town for any sort of event. If this were Milwaukee, it would be plastered all over page 1 of the Journal, (frankly, the Journal would be co-sponsoring it), it would be the lead story on at least 3 TV stations -- at a minimum, it would be 15 minutes of lead time with the FOX affiliate, because if you can't count on FOX to give you Happy News and shove real news under the rug, then God Is Dead. But there was maybe a paragraph or two on the front page of the Indianapolis Star, with a reference to the Sports section. Gee, I drove all the way down from Milwaukee (or like the people we sat by, flew in from Lichtenstein!) and we're not news? Is that any kind of way to welcome us? Come to Milwaukee, people -- if more than 15 of you come at the same time and you all happen to be coming for the same reason -- whether its Irish Fest or all of you just happen to be Irish -- Katrina Cravy will interview you, Mike Gousha will do a Sunday Night Special on the Influence of the Irish, WKLH will give you maps and do an "Irish Rocker All Request Classic Rock Lunch", Crocker Stephenson will write some sort of fluffy snapshot of you, the alternatives will put out specials editions of the weeklies to clue you in on where the "real" hipster fans go. You will be deluged with information that says A) We're glad you're here spending money on us B) Here's more places in town you can spend it C) While you're here, why not check out some things totally unrelated to the race but are cool anyway? You may just want to come back! My brother-in-law (a resident of the Indy burbs for over 30 years) pointed out this wasn't just a failure of Indy Media for F1 --all of the races at the track, even the NASCAR race, were largely ignored by the media as anything but a routine sports event.

  • Indy businesses need to GWTFP too. Remember Harley-Davidson? Hey, Indy, come for Harley's 103rd anniversay -- right, some piddly little anniversary not at all anything that Elton John would show up for. We'll show you how to party up the guests for even a "small" event. You'll see high-end yuppie joints with signs out front that say "Welcome Bikers!" You'll see streets closed off and block parties going on. Here we are in Indy, the racing capitol of North America and I did not see one checkered flag motif anywhere downtown. Indy, do you not know what you have? Indy, do you not realize that track is the one reason anybody outside I-465 gives a crap about your town? One columnist in the Indianpolis Star picked up on this, but that's about it. Indy, you have history on your side. Go to Green Bay and see what the locals do with a legendary sports site. Green Bay gets it: why else would the NFL continue to keep a team going in a town of less than 150,000?(And please don't call Wisconsin's Brown County the "Green Bay Metropolitan Area"). All this despite the fact that half the time, the Packers SUCK! But Lambeau Field isn't just "Home of the Packers." It’s the House Curly Built! It's St. Vincent's Parish! Its America's Football Stadium. It’s the reason there's an airport in Brown County. Its an institution.. Indy, you have that track: The Brickyard! The Snakepit! Gasoline Alley! You have the tools, you just need to learn a little marketing. Why aren't there any streets named after your stars? Go to Green Bay, take the Lombardi exit from the freeeway and see this done right. Indy, where's "Andretti Avenue"? Why isn't "AJ Foyt Blvd" on my Rand McNally? And not just your drivers: for chrissakes, where's Vonnegut Dirve or Letterman Lane? OK, there's Jeff Gordon Avenue, but that's not even in Marion County. Sheesh.

Oy, Indianapolis, you make me cry! You have so much going for you and you hardly realize it. You're a lot like Milwaukee in that respect.

Oh yeah: no drama at the Mikado

Yeah, as promised in an earlier post, I hereby file this report on celebrity sighting at Indianapolis' Mikado restaurant.

Well, I guess the Mikado is off the hip list. We didn't recognize anybody there. While getting us another round of drinks, Brian met a guy who was in charge of hospitality for Renault, so he was scouting out places for next year (should F1 decide to come back to Indy) and we saw a guy who looked like he could have been some racer's brother, but that was it.

Despite the long wait, we had some grilled squid thing that was absolutely divine. And we had a terrific waiter, who had his hands tied by an overwhelmed kitchen staff.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shameless Self Promotion

I'm guest DJing this Saturday night (July 22) at The Foundation with Darrell "The Brains" Martin, in an attempt to re-live my past as an early 80s College Radio Disc Jockey. Come see a 40-something try to prove she's still musically relevant.