It's going to be hard to describe the music, because, like any festival, there were several stages, and I had a 4 year old boy to keep tabs on. (Stella cut out early for a slumber party with her girlfriends. Great tangent here though: she reported to me later that after lights out/quiet time, they continued girl dish activities by texting each other on their Nintendo DSs. That's the new millennium for ya. Do I tell her that we KNOW they don't really sleep that much only because we didn't as kids either?) So if I managed to see, much less shoot more than the two bands I really did see/shoot, it would have been something of a miracle. I also missed the strongman competition and a lot of the skateboarding, but Miles and his camera were there , and he brings it to you in glorious oversaturated color in his flickrstream.. OK, I missed some stuff.
But I can't blame this all on Sammy, either. Every time I turned around, there was a friend to connect with, to run into again as we went up and down the avenue, noshing on Groppi's homemade sausages, really good Italian Beef, some of the best popcorn I've ever had, and enough penny candy (which cost significantly more than a penny, Sammy) to land me on National Dental Association's Worst Mother List. And I'm not able to list my usual "spotted in the crowd" because, frankly, everybody was there. If you've seen their name in this blog, they were all there. So it was walk, eat, drink, stop, say hi, gossip, tell them which band they MUST follow you to see, gossip, drink, walk, stop and watch band, check out booth, take kid to potty, go potty yourself, walk, stop, see other friend you just saw last week but gush over seeing them here anyway, gossip, comment on band you're looking at now, go potty, look at street merch, repeat after me "I have enough street festival jewelry I'm not buying more," walk, eat, jam, gossip, kvetch, dish, comment on cold weather at this time of year, panic when 4-year old escapes your clutches, stop, try to remember the name of that that person who remembers your name without flat out asking "Who the hell are you and why do I know you?" walk, eat, drink, party, go home, crash.
So I'll just succumb to bullet point highlights on the bands, because it was a great festival:
- Brian reported (while I was getting Stella from ballet) that the 17 Hippies (over at Humboldt Park for the Global Union Festival, which I shot Sunday and have 800 pictures to comb through and edit out, and which I'll report on once I complete that mammoth task) were absolutely terrific. They were pretty much what you'd expect from a German hippy band: great hippy music, Euro style. Grant Richter picked up their CD, and we could swear we saw at least seven of the hippies wandering along Kinnickinnic.
- At the "kids" stage (the stage right by Bella's Fat Cat, where up and coming youth bands test the waters), the first band we caught were a bunch of metalhead dudes called Neverending Circle with a Cookie Monster guy on lead vocals. I'm not into that stuff, so I can't say they were any good, but one piece of advice, kids. Tune your guitars BEFORE plugging them into your amps. Nothing screams amateur like blasting EADGBE through a Marshall stack.
- The stars of the youth stage, in my opinion, turned out to be chick rockers the Roves. They looked hott, they played tight, they had great little girlrocker tunes that teetered on punk/new wave and they had attitude. All dressed in foreboding black, but they smiled on stage, so they weren't pretentious about it.
- Brian checked out Knit Delicate with Sammy while I was delivering Stella to her slumber party. "They were good. I'm telling you, Bill Backes is in the running for most thoughtful drummer in town." I've said it before: I'm totally not into sensitive guy power jangle pop for more than 10 minutes, but there's something about them that makes you listen, if only because they're all really good musicians, and good musicianship often makes converts out of people who don't like a particular style.
- Championship turned in a nice couple of songs folky countryish rock that I regret not seeing more of.
- Dropmore Scarlett was a breakout band that impressed me. Another chick band, but obviously older strong popsters, with a touch of country twang, KD Land by way of the Go-Gos style. Lead singer had a great, clear voice that works well with this genre, and two guitarists who traded good progressions and modified arpeggio leads with each other. They're on my watch list, that's for sure. I had only one complaint. Their last song was a good song, but they either needed to rave it up more, or not have it be their last song, because it wasn't the kind of song you end an otherwise impressive set with. They should have used their second to last song, which had that kind of "OK, that was us ….NEXT" confidence that a set-ending song needs.
- The Buggs had a great time with their audience, and having a ton of your Beatles songs on your setlist guarantees at least a few turned heads, but they deliver them well with the soul that covering the Beatles requires, but with the loud rowdy fury that a street festival warrants. (Nothing bores me at a street festival than some scraggly ol folksinger toiling away at "Blackbird" or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps") Lane Klosier kept the festival vibe alive by swinging a whiffle bat and balls at the audience while the rhythm section thumped away at a neverendingly repeated chorus. They looked like they were wrapping it up, and Restless Sammy (as well as restless parents who really wanted to finally check out Decibully) forced us to make our way up the street, so we missed melaniejane and her cello, but I heard it made for a great "Eleanor Rigby."
- The aforementioned up and down the street interruptions prevented me from seeing Decibully. Brian managed to catch a song or two, but I'm beginning to think there's a conspiracy against my viewing of Decibully. Dammit, I'm going to see them sometime. The buzz on them, combined with the clips I've heard on their myspace page, have me believing I'm going to like them. Oh well. Sammy is only going to want to spar Kung Fu with me for so long.
- Plenty of hippy acts on bongos and such were on the central stage, (including a very interesting blonde rasta woman picking away at her bass) but a happy surprise was seeing The Western Box Turtles' Danny Smith with an act called Avalon 4 at night, turning out nice beer hall dance music frosted by Smith's busy fiddle.
- The highlight of the evening, many agreed, was the E.I.E.I.O. reunion that closed that south stage (Although Brazzaville, I'm told, brought down the North Side stage). I remember the first time I saw EIEIO: when I first moved to Milwaukee, didn't know any of the locals, and caught them at Summerfest, playing through a torrential rainstorm and not leaving, because they were so fun and rocking, despite rain that was up past my ankles. And it was like they never quit playing. They were tight, they were fun. Lead singer Steve Summers seemed right at home, whether donning a space cadet hat, or just jumping all over the stage, having a good ol time. And you have to love anybody who sports a guitar with these autographs, not to mention the fringe. Lots of old scensters were in the crowd checking them out, which made for another round of "Hi! How are You! What are you doing these days! Can't hear a damn thing over this music! We'll talk later!"
Like I said, I'll report on the fabulous Global Union World Music festival later when I whittle down the 800 shots I took. Rusnak out.