Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rolling Right Along with Notes To Self


lining up
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I know I'm late to the rollergirl party, they've been going on for two years now, but there it is. I came home from a lovely bike ride and errand run and asked Stella, who I need to spend more time with anyway, "Hey, wanna go to the all-girl roller derby tonight?" Sure, she said. What's a roller derby? I gave her a capsule description, and we both laced up our Chuck Taylors, put on torn jeans, and drove our badasses out to the SW corner of Milwaukee county to check it out.

The Brew City Bruisers are not just any old roller derby. Lots of the skater girls have their fingers in a lot of other cultural pies -- every where you go, there's their logo. They have a good thing going here -- they've started a league and they're doing what any sports league should be doing, they're getting involved with the community via participation, charity, and general supporting each others' local business interests. Their mission statement (and they're pretty true to this) points out that they are of various "shapes, sizes ages, backgrounds, attitude and skill levels." But what I was mostly delighted to see was that same diversity amongst the fans who turned out. You could see older folks who could probably remember the old Los Angeles Thunderbirds bouts on UHF many years back (were there any other teams besides the T-birds?), and there were newbies like me and Stella, program-less and trying to figure out the rules, and everything in between. It's heartening to see a great homegrown bunch of broads put together events like this; I agree with their sentiment that it makes you proud to call Milwaukee home. The cheerleaders ("beerleaders") follow these same attitudes (without nearly half the injury risk), and the halftime entertainment is a belly dance troupe. Its this giant celebration of feminine power in many forms, and its equally wonderful to see that it's huge. Stella enjoyed herself, and I'm glad she saw this.

Afterwards, I headed over to the Mad Planet and caught the end of the Mighty Deer Lick's set. They were just the opener for a couple of other bands, The Box Social (formerly of Milwaukee, transplanted to Madison by way of college acceptance) and the Saltshakers. This was the Saltshakers' CD release party, but this was also oldschool band order, with the Saltshakers being last. Old farts like me are having trouble waiting until 12:30 to see a band, nevertheless I stayed.

The Deer Lick were the old pros, and they were terrific as usual. Not much more to say about that. They have the incredible knack of making their same set list seem fresh every time.



box social singer/guitarist
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Next up, the Box Social. Good power pop, with the emphasis on power and energy. These were high energy kids, constrained only by the limitations that their hooky melodies put on them. But they explore all corners of the Power Pop spectrum and even before I talked to lead singer Nick Juncunc afterwards, I knew these were kids who listened to a lot of different things. Really nice, almost metal take on the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" that gave a good idea of what these guys were about. (When I mentioned this to Juncunc afterwards, he told me that it was disappointing that a lot of fans his age didn't even know the song. Ah, time to drag out the "well, for some people, music is only wallpaper" lecture.) And while I don't like to describe (or judge) a band by what cover they choose to drag out, this really helped me hone in on them. They weren't punk, they weren't new wave, they weren't Pure Pop for Now people (even though friends I ran into and I agreed Bass Player Dave Griesbach, all giddy for the Packer season beginning the next day, was so Every Mother's Son), they were all these things, and in a good mix as well. You know what they are? They're college in both age and approach, and I mean that in a most complimentary way. They're not annoying college rock, they're good, energetic, thoughtful, but powerful college rock. Juncunc was an engaging conversationalist as I gladly handed over $10 for their CD. Too bad I had a difficult time the the lighting -- I just couldn't shoot tonight in the Mad Planet.

And then came the Saltshakers, and I'm going to have to give them another chance. Note to self number 1: if you're having a CD release party, don't invite a band in your genre who's more exciting than you on stage to open. I wouldn't have wanted to follow the Box Social, that's for sure, and I kind of felt sorry for the Saltshakers that they had to, because they seemed tragically upstaged by the cute intellectual boys from Madison. And another thing the Box Socialites had on them was a variety of dynamics. The four or five Saltshakers songs I was able to stay for seemed to be the same dynamic, and that would have been fine if they had followed the Deer Lick, but they had the unenviable task of following a band as experienced (young, but experienced, the Box Social already has a tour under their belt and were playing out a lot before their Madison move), and they had technical difficulties getting up on stage. They had plenty of friendly fans cheering them on, and their songs aren't bad, and they're not bad. But I had the distinct impression they weren't in top form last night, and I would have hoped for "top form" on a CD release night.

This is the second time in as many times I've written about the Mad Planet on this, but I'm going to have to lay some of the blame on the sound mix. Is it the room? Sound people, please, email me and let me know. Am I being hard on the sound man? Are the Mad Planet's acoustics just plain impossible? Or is the sound guy simply asleep at the board? Really, Czeltic Girl (not seen a Deer Lick show this year yet where she and Chrystalblue weren't in the audience) and I agree: guitar and bass are two different instruments and should be mixed as such. Oh, and I'd like to hear more than a muffled bass drum on the percussion side. I know with comments like this, I can probably forget about getting booked at the Mad Planet, but if the sound mix is going to continue to be this crappy, then Note to self #2: I don't want my band to play there. And that's a sad sentiment, because everything else about that place is great: the airy room, the good ventilation, the abundance of places to sit and chat with people, the room to see the band, the drink prices and the general management. Just fix the sound. Somehow, please, Mad Planet, either get a better PA or a better person to run the PA or something. You have too much talent in there getting muffled. So much so that I can't properly judge a band like the Saltshakers.

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