The Best Rained Plans

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Well, that's the thing about counting on seeing music at an outdoor festival. The weather is a factor, and this weekend was a weird one. Needless to say, there was no studly card action for this girl on FRIDAY night. (Brian and I caught up with Mr. Blake Tahoe later in the weekend as I'll detail below, but he told us that Friday's 5 Card Studs gig at Riversplash turned out to be a major cluster. They were "on call" because of the rain, and the clouds broke, and voila -- Studs report to the main stage, please. The management never bothered to cover up any of the PA equpiment during the storm, so the speakers were trashed. They ended up turning the monitors around to face the audience -- all this for what turned out to be a 20 minute set at 11:30! No fireworks tonight. )

So what else could Stella and I do but go shopping! If you want to have inexpensive fun shopping with a little girl, look no further than Goodwill, my pretties. I had to pick up a prom dress for the Riverwest Beer Run. This is not a mistype: this is the obnoxious event I told you about earlier. The Riverwest Beer Run is probably one of the most preposterous concepts I'd ever heard of when I first moved to Milwaukee. It's a race. A 1.8-mile race, with this twist: there's four stops, at bars and you have to chug a beer at each one. Or you can sip it slowly, or whatever, but you have to do this. First one to stumble over the finish line wins. Oh, did I mention this all goes down on a Sunday morning? There's people who actually take this seriously. They lace up their running shoes, stretch out, and actually run it like it was the Storm The Bastille race or something. However, my girlfriends Linda Beckstrom and Annie Chase decided that, well, if you're going to run 1.8 miles through the streets of Riverwest chuggin beers on a Sunday morning, you might as well do it in evening gowns and tiaras. Thus, Team Prom Queen was born and we all have to get our accoutrements together, and further thusly, my Goodwill run. (Beer run opens the Locust Street festival, this Sunday the 10th. More details later this week.) Anyway, after Stella made a killing at Goodwill, we hightailed it over to Claire's Boutique at a mall to get our literal crowning touch. They had "real" tiaras for "real" prom queens, but I think you'll agree, this event calls for the glamour and over-the-top that only the little girls' section could provide us. (Not to mention the cheapness). I'd picked out a few tiaras in various colors, and noticed one of them had a dangly "jewel" and then Stella, squealing in delight, spotted it: Dangly jewel. Sparkly. Fuzzy feather trim. And it was purple. "Oh mommy, please, please, please can we get this one? I'll clean my room, I won't yell at Sammy, but please, can we get this one?!?!?"

Animated Peder
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
On SATURDAY, the rain did not affect St. Robert's Fair in the least. Just as predicted, the Peder Hedman Quartet did not start until after mass let out. The festival was kind of dead before that, so Sammy and I got ourselves an Italian sausage and a soda while we waited for the band to set up. Sammy had his plain, but this is a Catholic church festival and they did this right: plenty of sauteed onion/pepper/tomato topping for those who watned it. Pizza was there, and they even had seafood kabobs. Good beer selection (Guinness! In the "Irish" tent, of course), and a few of those blow-up jumping rides to keep Sammy busy while I shot the band. Mass let out and the place exploded into a genteel, North Shore Catholic church festival with
and bake sales, hokey little games, and a chance at

The PHQ? Interesting stuff. While dominantly alt-country (Tim Taylor on pedal steel guitar helps you draw that obvious conclusion), it's like Hedman took his entire career of influences (including psychedelia, garage, glam, and even a touch of smirking smartass punk) and crammed them into his melancholy new songs. Sometimes he'd just stand there and sing, then when you were getting used to that, he'd be all over the stage, jumping about, taking advantage of the large stage, interacting with the band but still aware of the audience. Very aware -- he admitted afterwards this was something of a strange gig for them. "People were coming by and looking at us odd," he said, "I know we're not the kind of band you normally see at a festival like this." I think he might have sold himself short on this. OK, they weren't jumping into a tired cover of "Mustang Sally," but this was early in the evening, people just got out of mass so they weren't yet primed to boogie down, and in its way, it fit in and worked. If you weren't distracted (like I was when Sammy wasn't in the jumping thing), they pulled you in with Peder's hooks (the man always was a hookmeister) and passionate playing from all four of them, including a very animated (but that's to be expected) Steve Whalen on drums. Sometimes they'd get lost in their melodies and turn in some impressive jams: a good lost, like a day in the forest when you didn't have to be anywhere, so you just decide to find out where that other trail goes. (Sometimes it’s a dead end, but at least you checked and found some cool stuff along the way.) It was also good to hear Hedman reaching into his old catalog and pulling out "The Preacher Says" from his Liquid Pink days. That song was a nice garage tune then, but like Hedman himself, it seems to have matured with this treatment. Spotted in the crowd: Blaine Schultz, whose Aimless Blades would fit nicely on a double bill with the PHQ. (Get a T-Shirt now, which features the quick-e-mart's logo altered to fit this band's initials.)

Sammy was pooped, so I dropped him home and hurried over to Vnuk's, because I was led to believe that Snooky would be on good and early on a 7-band bill. What did I say about the best laid plans? And it wasn't rain that wrecked this leg of it. Four of the bands cancelled, and two of the three left only had something like a 30-minute set. Neither of these facts were revealed to me by Vnuk's doorman, who took my $6 and let me walk in thinking I was going to see Snooky within the hour. That pissed me off.

Because Snooky was the only band Saturday night that had plenty of material ready, they were asked to be the "headliner" which meant they weren't going on until midnight. Normally I'd be fine with a band going on that late, but a) I had to get up at 6 the next morning for a 25-mile charity bike ride and b) It's 8:30 and I didn't want to sit in a bar for 3.5 hours. And there's no pass outs. And the doorman already took my money without telling me that the band I came to see wasn't going on for three hours. Did I mention I'm pissed? Snooky's drummer Tony Rogan can't talk me down quite yet because he's not happy either. He tells me if they'd known they'd be headlining, instead of whipping off a short set as part of a 7 band night, they'd have really brought in the fans. As it was, we sat at the bar catching each other up on our respective bands' (and former bands') happenings as well as gossip. His old band, snotty, sloppy punkers the Moths, are putting the final touches on a "Mothumentary" which I can't wait to see. His hip-hop group, the Haz Bros, are finishing up a CD. In two weeks, Beautiful Bert (of BB Slags fame, as well as "What's he going to shove up his butt now" anticipation) turns 48 and there will be some kind of SE Wisconsin birthday bash for that. I told Tony to please send my sincere regrets.

The Circle is the Sky
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The first band of the night, Sky and the Execution, hits the stage, finally, at 10:30 ish. I guess there's such a thing as shoegazer metal, and this was it. Sort of. They were one of those bands that feels no need to acknowledge the audience, so they spend most of the set is a pseudo-circle facing each other as though they were working out a new song at band rehearsal or something. Lots of syncopated, tight rhythms, sludgy guitar, and lead singer screaming out Cookie Monster vocals. But here's the thing: evey now and then he'd almost slip and actually sing something, and it turns out he actually can sing. In fact, he's got a great singing voice, a cross between Alice Cooper's high-end tenor and Chris Cornell's vibrato. AT least that's what I heard on the two occassions when he used it. Normally I assume that half the reason a guy goes with Cookie Monster all night is that's all he can do. But that's not the case here. Homey can sing and he should, employing the monstrous groan every now and then for dynamic emphasis. Like italics and bold, screaming should be used sparingly.. Sky and the Execution has good solid playing, interesting rhythm, but my problem with them is summarized by the vocalist: no dynamics. Everything's at you, coating you in sludge. The tease of his actual (and I'll say it again) GOOD voice just pissed me off instead of pulling me it like it could, on a night I was already pissed off.

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Up next, Shit Outta Luck. They couldn't have named themselves better if they tried tonight. The drummer's snare pooped out after two songs, and they spent a little time trying to rustle up another one. "Hey, any other band here tonight got a snare we can borrow?" Yeah, right, the other drummers are probalby thinking, you trashed your snare and I'm gonna let you use mine? Still, somebody comes to the rescue, (my bet Sky's drummer, as they already played and it's not a debilitating risk if it gets trashed) and the jump back in. Big points there -- they didn't seem to lose their momentum but they're more entertaining to begin with. Lead singer can't resist Cookie Monster (but at least it's not ALL THE TIME), and he's not blessed with as rich a voice as Sky's, but he makes more use of what he's got. He's got that old adage about how rock and roll singing is basically hollering in tune, and he's quite tuneful, as well as Henry Rollins demonstrative. I catch some lyrics -- the first song actually sounds like it’s a love song -- albeit one that cusses a bit, and the object of this love is probably some tough as nails broad who gives it right back. These guys are starting to pull me out of my pissed-off-ness.I'm not sure if the guitar player is hiding a tattoo on his leg because he's embarassed, or he just got it and it's still healing. The fact he's wearing a Motley Crue T-Shirt argues for the latter, and I'm trying to decide if the shirt is ironic or not. Tony and I conclude that it's simultaneously sincere and snotty, as all Motley Crue fans should be, and as this guitarist demonstrates with his attitude and chops. We both then told the stories of the time we first heard of the Crue -- I as a college senior at the hipper-than-thou underground student radio station, where we passed around the album cover laughing, not knowing what huge stars they would turn out to be, Tony as a youngun, saying "WTF is this?").

Snooky, Thank God Already
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Finally, finally, finally, Snooky. I let Tony know in advance that I'm cutting out early, but Snooky turns out to be even better than I'd anticipated, and scrape up the energy to last for about five songs instead of the two I'd promised Tony to get pictures during. Thery're just as I remembered them: straight up rock and metal played by smartasses who know their jazz and general music theory and apply it well, but still keep it loose and purposefully sloppy (which means it's not sloppy at all). In between songs their charasmatic lead singer improvises on everything from Neil Diamond to Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine" and he's got the range to do it. I have to see these guys again, I need to get their CD, and trying to think of a way I can get on a bill with them with my band, because we would actually freaking show up at the right time. I'm absolutely exhausted, and looking at my watch, dreading having to get up in five hours later, pissed off that this is even a problem for me.

taking a break
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So SUNDAY I get up, rack the kids out of bed, and we do the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts. Brian's back spazzed out earlier this week, so he's disappointd in being "just" the chauffeur. The rain holds out just in time. Andy Pagel, featured in Sunday's Journal is on the ride with his Ambassador colleagues, and Stella and I caught up to him and shoot the breeze. We're on the 25-mile route, so we're headed south, on a street version of the Oak Leaf trail's SW leg.

I don't know about the North Shore route (where the 50-mile and the 75-mile routes run), but am I the only person who noticed that Bay View was the only neighborhood along the route that was genuinely excited and welcoming and glad we rode through? Coming down Water/KK, at the corner of KK and Lincoln, Boulevard Theater Business Manager Christina Ward is at the corner, directing traffic, welcoming us to Bay View, plugging the Boulevard Ensemble (and slipping in a quip about how the BE is only going to get $7K of the hundreds of thousands raised today). We hit the corner of KK and Bay Street, and there's more artists and performers welcoming us to Bay View. By the time we're at the Coast Guard Station, its clear we're in Bay View and they're happy to have us: we cruise down South Shore drive and the families are on their porches, waving, offering us kool-aid, and cheering us on. Nothing like this happens in St. Francis, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, or anwhere else along the route. We come back North and there they are again, thanking us and inviting us to come back and visit.

No Paul Cebar at the end of line party -- instead we get the Love Monkeys to listen to. No free food either (after last year's cluster, I can see why -- nobody wants to wait a hour in line for a brat when $4.50 will get you a Cousin's sub). Plenty of free granola bars, raisins, etc., (both along the route and at Summerfest) Sammy and Stella playing in the Summerfest splash pad fountain and me wondering if those gray clouds are going to deliver anything besides obscuring the US Bank Building, because there's still plans that could be wrecked today if it rains.

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
But at least the sun shined on the Five Card Studs this time. Stella and Sammy had a play date, else we would have dragged them to the Harp, and being their parents, we would have made it legal but we didn't have to. Under the studious eye of some future stud-in-training, Cesar and Blake and Asti and Les and Reno deliver the goods, to a delighted crowd, trying out "new" songs (Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night") and even slipping in an alternative gem that finds a comfortable home in the Studs' sexy little lounge (Edwyn Collin's "A Girl Like You" -- it's a long way from Orange Juice!). Brian and I snacked on some tasty deep fried bar food. Brian had some Mozzarella Marinara and I had these deep fried reuben thingys -- both our snacks were rolled in egg roll skins. As my Minnesota-bred boss asked once, "Is there anything you Wisconsinites won't deep fry?" We shot the breeze with Mr. Tahoe and ran out to get the kids from their play date, and so ends the first weekend of summer. No more school for the kids, so unlike me, they got to sleep in this dreary, dreary morning. Me, bitter?


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