Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cinco de Mayo Weekend: Decisions, Decisions

Oh dear. It would seem that I'm not the only one who's de-wussified for the summer. The bands are coming out of the woodwork this month and I just don't know what to do!

Friday night my conundrum begins:
Marvelous Marla sings a variety of genres with Blue Valentine early in the evening at Frank's Power Plant. She and her crew will head up to the Bavarian Inn in Glendale to host caraoke. In the meantime, I don't know if I'll head up North myself, at least to Points East to catch the Chop Top Toronados (one of those bands I've been meaning to catch for months, now), or just stay in Bay View and enjoy the vegas-style stylings of the Five Card Studs. I'm really overdue for a sexy, sexy evening. I think its time for the Studs!

Saturday Night it's going to be even harder to decide. I've ruled out the Cocksmiths, despite Paris Ortiz's cheeky subjectline of an invitation: "Como estan beeetches!" But they're in Racine, and I'm not making the schlep, even for them, when there's so much of a choice here.

Eat The Mystery starts an early show at Café Brucke, Floor Model is at the Pub, Chief is at Lulu, and I got this email from Ted Jorin (that's the Mighty Lumberhorn's Boy Howdy to you, bub) and he's got a new project. He's strapping on a ukelele, donning a hawaiian shirt, and joining up with (among other people) the previously incognito Don Turner for an outfit called The Bikini Beachcombers. They're at Jose's on Saturday, but they seem to have a packed schedule already through the month and I will get out to see them. I trust Johnny Noble's arrangement of "Hawaiian War Chant" will be on the setlist. If not, google up "ukelele_tablature_hawaiian_war_chant" in time for me to catch you later this month.

And since I can never get enough of the beach, this Sunday night Los Straightjackets are blowing into town and hitting Shank Hall. Can I tell a wonderful story about them? Back when Stella was about 4 or so, and the Journal-Sentinel still sponsored free "Rainbow Summer" concerts just outside the Performing Arts Center, Los Straightjackets treated us to a magical night of bonding between a surf-guitar loving mama and her little girl. The Fleshtones' Peter Zaremba was a guest vocalist on a few songs, and overall it was a magic night.

Los Straightjackets' schtick is that they play surf music decked out in Mexican wrestling masks and outfits. They don't speak a word of English, but as we all recognize that surf music is a fairly universal language, they don't have to. When they played that wonderful summer night four years ago, they spewed out their stage banter is obnoxious Spanish, somehow we understood every word.

As you may know, the stage at the PAC's Peck Pavillion is large, wide, and had something of a space between the regular seating and the stage for those who might want to get up and dance. Two songs in, and I wanted to be there, but 4-year-old Stella was a bit shy. I had my camera with me, but as a parent, I wasn't necessarily willing to let go of my little girl's hand in a crowd like this. So I shot the show single handed, but sometimes got both hands to focus because I knew where Stella was -- clutching onto my leg. Los Straightjackets pumped the surf all night, and didn't just rehash Ventures and Dick Dale classics. They went everywhere with it. I heard a familiar melody, felt the little hands come off my leg, and watched my baby girl's face light up with the joy of recognition: "Mommy," she cried, "This is the Batman song!" And her face said the rest of it: Finally, a kid's song! And it's cool! And everybody is dancing to it just like me and you think it's cool and you're not doing this just to humor me! Sweetheart, I thought to myself, Batman has never been uncool. You can't even begin to understand how utterly cool, wonderful, and timeless this is.

They didn't just transcend my age. There were some even older faces in the crowd -- I'm talking 60s and 70s -- which also lit up in joyful recognition when the band jumped into a surfing, but nevertheless faithful take on the old Tommy Dorsey big band classic, "Sing Sing Sing." The younguns were on the dance floor sweating it up during the pulsating drum solo on the toms, and the old folks were probably sitting there thinking the same thing I wanted to tell Stella, again, "you younguns don't understand just how utterly jivin', wonderful, and timeless this is." Stella and I swang and slammed, arms flailing about, losing ourselves in the hypnotic beat, coming right down to a moment so universal across generations.

That, as I'd written about Los Straightjackets (and music in general) is what I hope to pass on to the kids: this love of music that sets you free, whether its on the stage or the dance floor, how it releases you from worrying about anything else that goes on in the rest of your life, how the great stuff truly bridges generations and makes you forget how old you are, because your're never too old or too young to understand while you sing, sing, sing and dance, dance, dance. Haven't seen the Straightjackets since, but I'll be at Shank this Sunday to be sure.

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