Baptism by Flambeau
This weekend was a simply wonderful weekend to send September off with. It would have been better without this darn virus that's going around, but nevertheless, it was a good weekend.
We begin with Friday. I stayed home to nurse this virus; Brian went to the Circle A Cafe to see the White Hot Tizzies and an outfit out of Green Bay called Ivan and the Terribles (yes, named for the "house" band in the cult classic, "Motel Hell" (1980, dir. Kevin Connor) but no word on whether they were able to cover "I've Had Enough of You." Still, Brian reports they were terrific. He says the general consensus was that it took them a bit to get going, but once they found their stride they rocked the joint. Supposedly they're a "Green Bay All Star" band of Brown county music denizens; and that pretty much explains the slight delay in finding a voice.
The White Hot Tizzies, according to Brian, kicked it. Anybody who knows Rob McCuen knows he's going through some pretty heavy crap these days; Brian says it's obvious he's working it through the music, and the results were exhilarating.
Saturday, earlier in the day: Before heading over to the Cactus Club, I stopped into the George Washington Post in Bay View to catch a bit of a sock hop with Mark Shurilla and the Greatest Hits. Not much to say here: as usual, they cranked out the 50's and early 60s rock and roll with appropriate reverence and necessary irreverence. They have a multitude of guest stars when they do this thing, and the guest stars can be hit or miss, but overall I prefer them straight up. The guest stars are often too straight up. However, Claire Sardina delivered a couple of Pasty Cline covers that (and I've said this about her before) show the direction her talent should be taking her. But the highlight of the evening for me was the Pink Ladies: two women in satiny pink jackets who paraded around song titles for the guest stars. Once again, whenever I need to feel like I'm in a David Lynch movie, I go to one of these shindigs.
I didn't catch their third set (with Marlavous Marla being a sort of Ronnie Spector presence) because I was not missing one moment of the Couch Flambeau and Chief show at the Cactus. And Chief was the perfect band to open for Flambeau, in that even though they have a tongue planted firmly in cheek (I think), they still deliver the rock. On one hand, you can't help but gigglesnort when you get emails like "Your plate of rock will be served piping hot and you will devour it like a ravenous beast" announcing their shows. On the other hand, they do serve it up piping hot and I do devour this stuff like a ravenous beast. Chris Tischler on lead guitar and vox doesn't hide his love for their style of American rawk, and bassist Milwaukee Metal Dave Benton, when not busy writing erotic horror stories, picks and fires his 5 string bass. Matt Liban seems to be having the time of his life on the drums, and none of them are apologetic, not one single bit. The genuine gratitude from Tischler upon being presented with a new bitchin' BC Rich guitar, a gift from his bandmates, should tell you exactly where their line between parody and sincerity is.
This set the stage for Flambeau, who went out there and and put on a show that was clearly for the "family." I know there have been shows at the Cactus since they opened a couple of weekends ago, but this seemed to be the homecoming show, the true grand opening. If the birth was a couple of weeks ago, this was the baptism, by fire. Flambeau fire, to be specific.
Flambeau knew they had an audience of friends (and being the seasoned pros they are, even if not, they would have been great), but there was a feeling of community and warmth not normally associated with the cynical, ironic humor that Couch Flambeau is known for. Cactus Club proprietor Eric Uecke was relaxed in the audience, looking more like a fan who got one of his favorite bands to play in his living room than a club owner needing to get x number of people through the door to pay the bills. Neil Socol veered between smirking and outright smiling. Rusty Berg, gets drum face even when not trying. And Jay Tiller still can tell a story with knowing incredulity -- he's both making fun of the old tootsie roll commercial while making it clear he still understands all about the deliciousness of a Tootsie Pop. Its the rare talent to straddle the line between wide-eyed wonder he still doesn't (can't) hide while reminding you that he's onto it. He's onto it all. You don't need a song-by-son rundown. They did all the hits from every era. They broke in the new stage as best as anybody could. And I'll betcha some of them were in the Cactus Club today (Sunday), watching the Packer game, as well they should be.