Sunday, April 15, 2007

50 Years of LIving Large: Party Like a Rock Star


voot and john
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I lied about staying home and chilling this weekend. I had a perfectly excellent thing to do on Saturday night; but it was a surprise birthday party for two of Milwaukee's more influential (but commercially underrated and unrecognized) musicians and I didn't want to risk that they might stumble upon the blog and alas, ruin the surprise. John Frankovic and Voot Warnings are married to two of the coolest women I have ever come across, and besides being cool, Amalia Schoone and Rhonda Greenhaw-Wood are master party planners. A party at the Uptowner would have been too obvious: no, they herded all their husband's friends into the back room at Von Trier's (you didn't know Von Trier's had a back room, did you?) and Frankovic and Warnings were fairly surprised. (As you can almost count on, as they arrived in the building, there was the inevitable latecomer arriving with a obviously-wrapped birthday gift, but still. Holding a surprise until even 5 minutes before everybody hollers is still a remarkable achievement.). And Schoone and Greenhaw-Wood catered the thing with fabulous Thai food to soak up all the beer that an old-fashioned German gasthaus could provide rock and roll musicians with. If you know John and Voot, and you didn't know about this, don't be offended: I know for a fact that Amalia and Rhonda did everything they could to get the word out to everybody while still keeping it a surprise. But it looked like they did a good job covering the amazing cross-section of people whose lives were touched, enriched, and influenced by Voot and John's music, art, and friendship.

If you don't know Voot and John though, you should at least familiarize yourselves with their art/music. Besides being a founding member and bass player for Plasticland, John's put out some great solo stuff and has sat behind the recording console for a number of bands, and he's sat in with a variety of instruments for other bands, including Brian's outfit, F/i. I had the pleasure of working with him on a one-off project where we covered a Pixies tune in a German caberet style: just his presence in the room was invigorating as we hashed out the arrangement. (He played trombone on it, and just fell into the arrangement as naturally as can be.) He loves to play, he's a consensus-minded producer, and you should run out right now and buy his stuff. Voot? Look, we can comment on the obvious, and tell you to run out and buy "Platinum" (the only CD available of his work), and hear all his classic hits: "Dance Motherfucker Dance" (which he performed at mine and Brian's wedding) and "Sampson-Bruce" and my personal favorite "You Flinch." Or I can reminisce about all those wonderful versions of those bands he put together to back him up: The Fresh Sounds, The Band of Steves, which did his own tunes as well as covers of all his 45s' one hit pop gems from the 60s and 70s. Or I can tell you simply to seek out his stuff, and get thee to a bar on one of those (unfortunately now rare) times when he plays out.

So that's what I did this weekend: drank a toast to two wonderful musicians on their 50th birthday, with mutual friends I only get to see once or twice a year. We've all "grown up" and none of us get out as much as we used to, so I felt like I was at this high school class reunion, chock full of people I actually liked way back when and regret that I don't get to hang with more often.

We interrupted the Frankowarnings party to catch the Bucks versus, oh, who cares? The season's pretty much over and the stars aren't even on the court that much. Coach K all but has admitted he's treating the remainder of the season as exhibition, most of the "stars" are on the injury list, and when it became obvious that they once again weren't going to pull it out, we pulled out and headed back to Von Trier's. Then the whole party moved to the Uptowner, a bar I more closely associate with Voot and the platoon of friends all facing our rock and roll age.

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