Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today really is Halloween

our family's pumpkins
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Sometimes I just have to take a break from the cultured lifestyle and just chill with the family. And that's what I did last weekend -- literally. Good chilly Saturday night for trick or treat with the kids. Our not-quite-Bay-View neighborhood does a nighttime trick or treat complete with costume contest and post-party at the local park, and that's how I spent my Saturday night. Stella was the "candy fairy" and Sammy was a "skeleton with a mask" (although the mask lasted a grand total of two minutes). I got something nutritious in them before the sugar onslaught began (well, if you want to call Kraft Macaroni and Cheese nutritious, OK) and we were off.

I'd invited a friend and his daughter to join us, since our 'hood actually does this quite well, and its as close a Trick Or Treat experience as we're going to be able to give our kids. We both reminisced about how it was for us, growing up in the 'burbs: Trick or Treat took place on October 31, no matter what day of the week it was. You wore your costume to school, (where nothing academic got accomplished that day), and you planned your route home to efficiently cover those streets between school and your house. You'd get your own neighborhood taken care of by dinner, and mom would shove some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese down your gullet. Then you'd help hand out candy until some big kids (oooohhh, cool teenagers) would come by. There was some unwritten rule that said that if you were older, and perhaps even a teenager, it was just accepted that you'd pick up little kids and escort them along with you, justifying your 15-year-old existence knocking on doors for candy.

Was it always this unstructured in the 'burbs and this structured in the city? It seems like it almost has to be, yet there's just something wrong about trick or treating on Sunday, while a football game is going on, nonetheless. Still, we carved our pumpkins and roasted seeds, and toured our neighborhood, lit up and decorated to the point where you'd think it was Christmas.

Spent the rest of the weekend riding a bike in these last fall days. My rule of thumb is when the basil dies, the bike gets put away, and the basil's still alive, so we obviously haven't had a frost yet.

Actually, I did have a bit of a rock and roll weekend. Paul Kneevers and Jeff Hamilton threw a great party at The Compound, which is what Kneevers is calling his latest venture these days. Great rock and roll factory on South first street including 2 recording studios (one analog, the other state of the art digital), web designers, practice rooms and studios, and a big ol stage where a sparring ring used to be. It's a perfect place for a rock and roll party, and the only reason I didn't plug it here yet was that it was a private party whose invitation-only status was strictly enforced because alcohol was served. But I got to see IROCKZ again, and I'm glad I did. A little of the new wave sound seems to have been shaved off since I last saw them, but I still like their all-over-the-map songwriting, attitude and delivery. Chief also did a set -- and you know I'm already a fan, so this was more of a fun party with friends by the time they hit the stage. They had lots of fun with a smoke machine that was set up. Finally from LA came a set of guys called Run Run Run. They were part straight up hard rock, part goth, with musical smatterings of U2 thrown in there. There was a guy who was clearly with the band playing the lights -- I say playing the lights because he obviously knew every note, line and rest in the band's songs and choreographed the light show to match the band. This was when it became obvious why the smoke machine was there. The didn't need the light show and smoke machine, but it did add to the experience and admittedly made them seem like the headliner, if there was such a thing at this party.

A bit of disclosure here: Kneevers and Hamilton are friends of the family, they invited me to display some of my music photography at this party, and both Brian and I have used their recording studios in various incarnations in the past. But that doesn't detract from the fact that the Compound is a great idea -- a one-stop shop for musicians to get their ideas on tape, on stage, and to work them out. We need more businesses like this, run by people who have been all around a rock and roll stage -- from the front as fans, to the stage as performers, to behind the stage as technicians.

Anyway, from relaxing to busy again, now, that for my purposes, Halloween is over, two seasons and a favorite artist kick off this first November weekend:
  • The Milwaukee Ballet opens the season Thursday with Hamlet, danced in Armani suits to Phillip Glass. I'll be taking Stella, as usual, as well as Talia the Hip Babysitter. Must find a way to explain the entire plot of Hamlet to Stella.

  • The Bucks, open their Bradley Center season Saturday night against Da Bulls. There's a big "oh how international" they are section in today's Journal. Right, one Chinese guy and one Austrailian and a whole team full of Americans constitutes "multicultural international." I guess for the NBA, it is. Anyway, nice home opener against those neighbors to the South.

  • Oh, and Friday night Robyn Hitchcock is at Shank Hall and that makes me a happy girl. I need Hitchcock's warm yet dark humor and wonderful songcrafting these days.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Newer Soul Turns 9 Today

stella in winter
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Every year when Stella's birthday pops up, I flash back to the first time I saw her, after they cleaned her up and swaddled her in a blanket. They placed her in Brian's arms while the surgeons finished things up and I simply wasn't expecting her to be that beautiful. We'd always made jokes about newborns -- that they either looked like Winston Churchill or Genghis Khan -- but Stella was simply a beautiful baby. What I remember most about her was that she was alert, awake, and looking all over with this expression on her face that cried "WTF?!?!?! What's going on? Where am I? What am I supposed to be doing?" I knew then she was a fairly new soul, and its as though the cosmos had given her to us and said, "OK, here's the new kid. Show her around and teach her how this life thing is done."

At lot of times in parenting forums, you'll read people who insist that "they don't need you to be their friend, they need you to be their parent." I'm not so sure the two are mutually exclusive, and in fact, I think in that sentence the word "Friend" doesn't mean "truest, best friend." Because when I tell you that it's my goal to be Stella's best friend, I'm not talking about your typical friend that you go out for drinks with but you may not necessarily trust with your mint copy of Alex Chilton's "Like Flies on Sherbert."

I'm talking about the kind of friend that is sometimes hard to be. The kind of friend that will tell you when you don't look so good. As in, "Stella, you're not leaving this house looking like that. You march right back in and put on something that doesn't make you look like a streetwalker." The kind of friend that will tell you the hard truth: "There are a lot of stupid things you could and should blow off but homework is not one of them. If you blow off your homework you will do poorly in school and you will grow up to be a tool." The kind of friend who is the one who stages the intervention if you take something too far, or admits they're not the right friend to stop you from doing something stupid, and sets you up with the right person instead. When these parenting experts say, "Be their parent, not their friend," I think they're talking about the kind of friend who won't say anything if you're about to do something stupid, who won't tell your parents if you're hanging around with a lousy crowd. No, Stella's been entrusted to me and I've decided to be that kind of hard friend that sometimes pisses you off, but 30 years later you realize was the best friend you ever had and loved you better than anybody.

And even though that's hard, it pays off in the fun part of having this little girlfriend, to pass on your Barbie addiction to, to go shopping with, to remember how fun sparkly makeup is, to remember how fun simply running around in the woods is. I remember teaching her how to ride a bike and that moment when she actually got it, when she actually stayed level and motored the wheels with her legs -- it was like I could feel my own thighs providing the power for her as I jumped up and down, genuinely excited for her, yelling "You did it! You can ride a bike!" It was at that moment when I realized I couldn't be one of those distant parents, but was destined to be her best friend, whether she knew or admitted it or not. I'm genuinely happy for her when she succeeds, and I'm crying right along with her when she fails. (But being slightly more experienced at this "living life thing" I can at least help her learn from her failures.) Like a true best friend would, I'm most angry with her when she's doing things that aren't in her best interests in the long run, those things she just won't understand my anger and frustration about until she's 30, those things that turn me into the typical parent who spews out the cliches: "You're not going to understand until you're older, so just drop it" "Because this is my house and I said so and these are the rules" "You're going to have this pizza and you're going to like it and you're going to thank me profusely and that's how it's going to be."

But that's not what this birthday blog post is about. It's about how much I really, really love her, really unconditionally. She's smarter and more beautiful than I could ever have been, but I'm not jealous of her, I'm genuinely happy for her that she has these gifts, and that's a sentiment you can only expect from a true friend who loves you. Because there's other side of this being a best friend, the fun part: agreeing on what's lame and what isn't, getting excited about going to some concert or game together, riding bikes together, and just laughing together cuddled on the couch over those stupid "natural male enhancement" commercials that run on cable. "Mommy, what's 'natural male enhancement' all about?" she asks. "Nothing you want anything to do with. I mean, look at Smilin' Bob's wife. Is that somebody you want to be?" And then we explode into giggles over the absurdity of it all. I think that's my favorite thing about my relationship with her: how much we laugh together, how much -- even though we're seperated by some 38 years, some personality quirks, and some disagreements about what her best interest would be -- how much of this world we both find funny and absurd and worth a hug and a giggle together.

I know I'm not always going to come first in her life, and that doesn't matter. There's going to come a point when she'll prefer hanging out with her girlfriends than me, and there's things she'll tell them that she'll never tell me. I'm very comforted by the fact that at least for now, she's chosen good friends: this hit me at her birthday party the other day when I realized I like her friends, her head-on-straight, salt-of-the-earth girlfriends who giggle and yell (and sometime snipe) and gossip and help each other out. I hope I've set an example of what to expect from friendship, and I hope she becomes one of those friends that it's hard to be. Because I've been entrusted by the cosmos to show her how to be a girl-woman in this toughass world, and if there's one thing a girl needs to know more than anything else in this toughass world, its how to find and be a true friend.

Happy birthday Stella Boo Boos!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trash Fest: Demonically Stripped Bare

The Lineup
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Every Trash Fest has a distinct flavour and I'm still digesting the Twenty-Filth Anniversary show of Trash Fest. There haven't been 25 Trash Fests, (a few years there nobody had the energy) but it's been around for 25 years, and organizers Paul "The Fly" Lawson and Darrell "Da Brains" Martin still have some of the old trash.

Brian and I began the evening with some hellishly hot chicken wings (for which Points East is justifiably famous), and that seemed to set the standard for the demonic evening. I marveled as they brought in the Totem -- the crap hung on it has changed over the years, but the totem itself -- while a bit bare -- is still intact.

not so nervous
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So are, as their name would imply, The Nervous Virgins, who have become the defacto show openers of Trash Fest. Just recovering from yet another glorious Burning Man Festival, Eric Griswold and his crew put out a set that started out jamming, and then became some early trashy Xmas (I really don't think it's appropriate to associate "Christ" with any of this) carols that they dig out every year. It was during this set that I noticed that there were a lot of "normal" people in the audience. Time for our bartender to fix me one of several diet pepsis I sucked down during the evening.

My role this year was as co-hostess, along with the other Prom Queens who managed to make it. I could make a comment about how one might suspect that there was some sort of conspiracy involved, as one of the Queens had knee surgery just a week ago, and another "suddenly had a terrible accident" involving her lower leg ligaments, and yet another had "suddenly" taken ill, and yet another had "suddenly" left town, but honestly, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die,these were all just coincedinces resulting in myself becoming your honorary hostess. However, Miss Spent Youth delivered a fine debut with questions designed to test poise and confidence ("Tell us about your first period, and what's it like to kiss a boy?") and was the only Prom Queen to successfully re-use her Prom Dress from last summer. Miss Laid, despite the aforementioned torn ligament, created a trashy ensemble of "Breast Cancer Awareness" Pick and Save Bags and matching duct tape that I daresay should be included in the "Duct Tape Prom Dress" hall of fame, didn't once flinch during the embarassing questions, but that's what being Miss Laid is all about, eh? As for myself, I passed out maps of various US American States, and wore a skirt made of maps of US Americans, The Iraq, South Africa, and the Asian Countries. Clearly the Trash Fest crowd is not one for Internet Memes, because only one person besides my husband got it. Oh well, won't be the first time I flopped with satire.

Whore Model Singer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Up next, Whore Model, and I introduced them as "Floor Model" and was beaten to death with staggering inuendos. Miss Spent Youth did a better job getting the name right, and away they went. Almost couldn't tell them apart from Floor Model, they were that punk, but still sludgy. They tried really hard to suck, which is a compliment at Trash Fest, but don't tell that to the "normal" people I noticed earlier in the audience. They were milling about, beginning to realize that all that crap on the floor was for their use -- to hurl at the band, to augment any insults you should hurl at the band, and to hurl into if you so chose.

What Are They Good For?
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So bring on the Assholes! The Electric Assholes, that is. Mr. Shiny Pants on guitar was back (I think he brings out those shiny pants every year.) I didn't even take a picture of the shiny, wrinkle-proof pants because I had a perfectly good shot from last year, and lighting on stage this year was making it difficult for the available light specialist I claim to be. Dan "Miles" Mullen on bass to the rescue, who preened and posed himself into the only rock and roll light on the stage. Mark Shurilla's assholic glow comes through in any media, and they were wonderfully tasteless all night. Bob Jorin, the only guy to get my map reference, stayed safely anonymous behind the Great State of Missouri.

she has queenly bearing
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Mullen and Jorin helped bail me out, since Pillowfight had some technical difficulties, and Devil wasn't ready to go on quite yet. We did some schtick, and then I told Miles to give me a I-IV-V in E, and when he finally did ("no, Miles, a summerfest-type boogie blues, not a tear in your beer wail here"), I put forth "The Incomprehensible Blues" so that I wouldn’t have to come up with any lyrics. I was simply bare with the schtick -- I drew total blanks as to how to emcee this fest this year. Fly came to the rescue with 2 (count 'em) pairs of pants that he'd worn at Trash Fest and has since outgrown (we're all getting old, here, people) to give away as prizes. Prizes for what? I had to come up with criteria for winning, and a gentleman named Eric won through sheer luck -- it was his birthday and that's as good an occasion as any to get some new (old) pants. A sloppy, Marilyn-wanna-be styled "Happy Birthday" was enough of a time killer to get the next band up.

crack that whip
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
That next band up, Devil (pronounced "Dee-vil") took the previous evening's Beatallica one step further: picture the Mothersbaugh contingent cranking out a sludgy "Whip-It" complete with death metal cookie monster vocals. Perfect. Every Trash fest needs a flat out parody band and this was 07s. Brian "This Guy I'm Married To" Wensing looked like a combination of Elvis and Mark Mothersbaugh on guitar (and his omnipresent cigarette hanging out of his mouth), Ron Turner took the upside down flowerpot era to the max on the bass. Both Wensing and Turner were wearing jumpsuits from the last time Brian parodied Devo 17 years ago at Trash Fest #7. "If I'm putting this suit again in 17 years, shoot me," he told me later. Mirmamar proprietor Bill Stace grew little devil horns and sat behind the drums -- a place I'd like to see him more often these days, what an overlooked terrific drummer. And Frank Chandek could make a living growling out death metal tunes, he was so convincing. The "normal" people started warming up to the concept. This is what I love about Trash Fest: it's a place where death metal bands playing Devo get normal people to start tapping their feet.

Dreaming of a pillowfight
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Finally, the girls of Pillowfight were ready -- ready to remind us what was so great about X-Ray Spex. Dissonant, early-80s style grrlpunk, sounding like it came straight from the bowels of London, 1981. Every now and then Fly will book a band that plays other venues besides Trash Fest, and Pillowfight were this year's entry. Took 'em a song or two to get comfortable amongst the crap all over the stage and being hurled at them, but you could tell they got it by the time they pulled off a cover of the Cramps' "Human Fly" in honor of out host. Guitarist Karen Ernsting is fiddling around with chord changes and melody licks that remind me of early Gang of Four, but with a Gina Birch attitude. The rest of the band have attitudes that remind me of L7. It’s the kind of music that needs a touch more tightness (but not too much more polish) and they'll be formidable. I need to see them in a regular club on a regular night before I judge their apparent timidity -- if you're not used to Trash Fest it can overwhelm you with the strangeness, and you have to make a snap decision to either play your regular style or try to joke it up.

Mixing Demon Alcohol
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Closing the night were the Eat the Mystery crowd's offering: "The Book of Antennae" and they deliverd oldschool (as in 1928) style trash befitting the closing of the fest. I missed some of their set because I'd gone to the downstairs green room to get my purse and ohmygod there's a rat scurrying across the floor. Now, I shouldn't be surprised by this, this is an old downtown building and a basement that doesn’t get used much for anything but a green room for bands like this, and anything of value (or that the health inspector cares about) is upstairs, but still. EEEEEEEKKKKKK! I came back upstairs and people were obvilous to this peril, so I only decided to tell a few friends (like my husband, "Make it go awaaaaaayyyyyy!") but caught the end of Angie Livermore mixing up a drink and wailing out on "old demon alcohol" before I finally succumbed to the demon itself. Bob Jorin saw to it that Frank Chandek, myself, Brian, et al got one of his famous free throws of his own invention: jagermeister and irish whiskey mixed like a martini. This concoction had some generic name like "Foul mixture of death" but I'm thinking "The Allies vs. The Axis in some Dive North of Sicily" might be appropriate. It went down like trash, like I expected, like this entire night, like all trash fests. We were all too trashed out to even do the traditional onstage jam that has closed out Trash Fest in recent years. Maybe like the totem, we were just a little too bare this year, and just bringing ourselves and it out -- stripped down to the basics -- was enough to keep it alive.

Some Time in Milwaukee Art City

Some Time in Cudahy
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I didn't do much gallery hopping this fall Gallery Night, partly because I had my own show to stare at and worry about. Neither us or the other show I did go to was on the official Gallery Night tour, so it was an outsider night for me anyway. I did stop at the Palimino to check out the Old West show, and met curator Jimmy Von Milwaukee, finally, after all these years and found him to be exactly what I expected: a friendly lover of art that isn't always necessarily outsider, but always thought-provoking, and with a lovingly cynical sense of humor. The two artists I came specifically to see, Lemonie Fresh and Chris Ward, did not disappoint. Ward's smallpox quilt was, in its simplicity, a great piece I found myself staring at for quite some time, there's a danger in that warmth. Lemonie Fresh's cowboy and boots paintings (she sold four of them -- three before 6 pm Friday) stared right back at me as I looked. I also spent a long time contemplating Jim Brozek's photography -- he's caught some precise moments (the castration shot had me wincing, but it's still brilliant).

The odd thing about looking at art at the Palimono at 6 pm on a bustling Friday night is that you're sometimes leaning over tables to get the close look this work demands. "Uh, I'm not eavesdropping, I'm just looking at the art," I would tell people as they munched on their tater tots and ribs. Anywhere else, any other theme, this would have been something of a drawback. Here, it seemed to add to the theme, like I was truly in the West at dinnertime. They didn't have "art openings" in Carson City. What art there was was up, and you just assumed it was part of the whole picture. (I have to wonder of the castration shot was placed strategically NOT near the restaurant tables, rather in the bar proper.)

Then I got to the Art Bar to watch people look at and react to my work (which, as I've written before, is a strange thing to me), but to check out the other participants in the show with the "Fear" theme. Waldek Dynerman had a series of creepy faces whose treatment benefited from the occasional ultraviolet light in the bar. Anne Harvey's work I found not so fearful as hauntingly enchanting, to the point where I'm going to scrape up the $$$ to get a print of her "They only glow for me" piece. A popular piece which I also liked very much was Patrick Farrell's untitled, which I'll try to describe, but don't let my mediocre description of it keep you from checking it out yourself. There's simply a portrait of a man, with a knife about to hit his back, but the look on his face leaves you wondering if he knows the knife is coming and he simply doesn't care, or he's just an assured guy who has no clue. Amy Misurelli had some nice works that were flat multimedia, and explored themes that may have instilled fear in some people, but I just thought were cool. Finally, the work of Stephen Somers was flat out disturbing, as art needs to be every now and then. The style was that of a (very adult-oriented) fantasy/middle earth pixies and gnomes and goblins painter, but with a very sexual adult horror twist. A friend staring at the centerpiece work -- a piece called "Deep Throat" which was a combination of a few different female orifices combined with monstrous accoutrements including some seafood -- said it best: "Dude has issues." I'm glad he's working them out through his art.

Beat on the Bass
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The night ended at Vnuk's, where I only caught a couple of Chief's tunes, but I was truly there to finally see Beatallica anyway. I'm not positive who else is hiding behind the hair, but that was definitely Jeff Hamilton and Tinker up there for sure. Admittedly, I went in with a few doubts -- was this a joke band that was going to fizzle out after the first laugh? Not really. Those Lennon-McCartney songs really can stand up to any treatment you throw at them. The challenge is to add something new, and Beatallica does. They don't just play the songs straight up, simply adding a few more fuzzboxes and Hetfield growls. Beatallica mashes the songs up and together (similar to George Martin's "Love" project), to the point where I found myself thinking of Led Zeppelin tunes during "Birthday." I think it works because we're dealing with musicians who genuinely love the Beatles and appreciate the craft and quality of the songwriting that legitimized rock and roll, but they also appreciate a great metal band and saw no reason why the two couldn't coexist. And so I spent the evening taking it in, hearing them bang out mashup upon mashup, and thinking to myself, "Nice take on that. It works." Only one weak spot in my opinion: "Helter Skelter." They sludge it down, and in the process, weaken what was probably the Beatles' most raw, sinister moment -- the one time when the fab ones really opened up and got really dangerous and showed a dark side with that Zeppelin-ish authority. It turns into a joke in Beatallica's hands, which would have been fine, except the rest of the set was a convincing argument for the inclusion of the Beatles in "VH1's Hundred Greatest Songwriters of Hard Rock." Beatallica works best when it's not a joke -- when you're smiling but headbangingly admitting, "Wow, 'She's So Heavy' really works under this treatment." I want to pick up the CD specifically to hear "Ktulu -- She's so Heavy" on a regular basis. It's not a joke. At times, it's as great art as the original Beatles versions were. If you're so much of a purist that you can't deal with this kind of stuff, nothing's gong to satisfy you besides listening to your pristine mint-condition copy of Revolver that you keep at 67 degrees F encased in archive-quality plastic anyway. Get your snob head out of your butt and admit that metal has its equally artful moments.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Well, I hope to see you tonight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

High Art to Low Trash -- A Slippery, Albeit Fun, Slope

Halloween is upon us, which spurs both highbrow art and trashy kitsch, and I'll run that gauntlet over the next few days. Tomorrow -- Friday -- is the quarterly Gallery Night, and you can check the Journal-Sentinel for picks -- Mary Louise Schumacher's picks usually don't disappoint. So rather than parrot her, I'm going to plug some of the unofficial offerings going on tomorrow night.

  • We begin with Shameless Self Promotion. My photo collective, the Cream City Photogs, are proud to be a part of Fear 4, the annual Halloween Show at the Art Bar, 722 E Burleigh Street. It opens Friday and goes through November 8. If you're familiar with the Art Bar, then you know there's a huge metal/magnetic panel across the lower west wall that's used for a number of purposes. Our group has filled that wall with our take on the theme of Fear. Yes, there are cemetries and ghastly looking ghouls, but we also dug in deep for some of those emotional fears we have, some of which can be crippling. If I do say so myself, I think we put together a show varied in subject matter, technique, and feeling and covered the topic broadly. Since this is the magnetic wall, none of the work is matted or framed --- just stuck up there with magnets -- so it's good ol' affordable (but still fine) art. I'll be there on Friday night for the opening, from around 6 ish to 9 ish, and some of my colleagues will be there, so if you want to "meet the artists," this is your chance. Plus, this is sort of a warm-up for us: in February we'll be showing (matted, framed) work through the entire Art Bar on a variety of subjects and topics.

    The rest of the Art Bar will continue on the theme, and I'm embarassed to say I don't know how. But I do know this: I've never been bored or disappointed in any of the work that Art Bar proprietor Don Krause gets in there, so I'm here to tell you it's still worth a stop to see how local emerging artists communicate their fear.

  • The River Rat Gallery (which can be anywhere) has put together a show with the theme of the Old West/Cowboys and Indians at, well, where else than the Palimino, a place where you can get down home cooking and never leave hungry, even if you're a vegetarian. DJ Lemonie Fresh will have paintings on display, and the Boulevard Ensemble's Chris Ward will have a interesting quilt. Ward's work has always been a wonderful combination of genuine handiwork (be it cake decorating, quiltmaking or pillow embroidery) sprinkled with a healthy dose of cynicism -- something she was doing well before it became hip (almost commonplace) to do so. She fits in nicely with curator Jimmy Von Milwaukee's annual Christmas Craft shows (where I saw --and to this day regret not buying-- ornaments that featured roaches) with her work, so I'm looking forward to see what she puts forth here. Other notable contributor: photographer John Shimon, and well, I could go on, but why waste bandwidth when there's Judith Ann Moriarty to tell you about it in this week's online Vital Source?

  • After the visual art, it's time for words and chords at Vnuk's. Words provided by a gaggle of horror writers ready to sign their latest books for you, including Chief bassist Dave Benton plugging his appearance in an anthology of erotic horror. Then he'll have to shake out the cramps from signing so many books, because then he has to strap on the 4(5) strings and rock out at Chief's official CD release. Also on stage Friday night will be Beatallica, a band I've been meaning to see for awhile. They're another in a series of bands that decided, "Hey, you know something? These Lennon-McCartney compositions are so good they can stand up to any treatment you throw at them." And this treatment is obviously the metal one.

  • There's plenty going on Saturday night, but I don't care because I'm going to Trash Fest! Have I lost count, or is this really the twenty-fifth Trash Fest? Whatever it is, it is a celebration of the complete opposite of all that was good and holy about Friday night. Expect to see the floor covered literally with trash at Points East. Prepare to see some of the trashiest bands you ever encountered -- from usual suspects like The Electric Assholes and the Nervous Virgins to newcomers Pillowfight, to a handful of parody bands that will cross the line of taste, or your money back. (Or not. "I'm sorry, but this band was of too high quality. I want my money back." Yeah right.). Among those parody bands is a group including my DH that will musically tell you, "Well and Good, Beatallica. But we were into Devo and Death Metal. So there." Anyway, some of us Prom Queens will be there to emcee this whole thing as well, so I guess this is a touch of more shameless self promotion. And for me to be involved of this at all begs the question, "Have you no shame?" No. Not really.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hey! You with the Glasses!

Hey! You with the Glasses!
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Oh, life is kicking in at full speed.

  • Stella and I, in our quest to have a cheap and easy birthday party for her that's not at our house (because that would eliminate "easy"), went and checked out the Rollerao Roller Rink in Cudahy and were so enchanted we walked out of there with a signed contract for her party. They're cheap ( $5 a kid includes admission and skates, I'll buy a coupla of pizzas separately) and wholesome and ready to go. (They enforce a dress code that disallows bare midriffs, spaghetti straps, etc -- basically you can't go in there looking like a Bratz doll.) We fell in love the large, polished wood floor instantly, with its carpeted walls to slam into, the DJ booth overseeing the whole matter, and the rows upon rows of rental skates. "I want to use my in-line skates," Stella said, eyeing the traditional skates with some trepidation. But I motioned to those oldschool skates and pointed out, "Yeah, but those are the kind of skates the Milwaukee Roller girls use at the roller derby." Oh, that's different. "I'll try those!"

    And on the way home Thursday night, she spotted a radio station billboard for the former QFM (yeah, I know 93 has been "Smooth Jazz" for the past five years, but I so hate watered down, "smooth" jazz that I just pretended it didn't exist) which is now "B-93 -- Soft Rock," complete with buzzy bee logo. Stella asked "Is 'soft rock' lame?"

    "You be the judge," I said, dialing in 93.3 on the FM dial in the car.

    My friends, it wasn't five seconds before she said, "This is LAME! Hurry, get us Jules back! Turn on WMSE!"

    It's times like these I know I will never have to worry about her idolizing the likes of Britney Timberlake Simpson Aguilera.

  • I took my bass player Miles out to the Ian Hunter show, which was lovely. Hunter played some new stuff from his latest album, and being the old pro he is, deftly mixed in his hits. "I remember when I was young, thinking he was old, like 50 or something," a friend noted. And although he's pushing 70, he still looks and rocks like he's 50. He's always been 50, I suspect. He was 50 when I was 10, he was fifty when I was 20, he's 50 now and he'll be 50 when I'm pushing 70. Maybe its those sunglasses he's worn throughout his 50 years. The newer stuff was OK -- very WXRT or Radio Milwaukee fare -- good adult alternative stuff. But it was also nice to see him rock out on his hits. And these were only $10 tickets. Of course he did "All The Young Dudes," prefacing it with, "Well, I did a lot of the newer songs, but I know you're here to hear me play… well, what I'm gonna do."

  • Afterwards, as promised, we hit Marlavours Marla's Karaoke (without Marla -- she had a prior engagement so Dave held down the fort) and it was sort of a "Loblolly Takes over the Karaoke Machine" as myself, Miles, and Andy Pagel did our best to monopolize the place. Pagel arrived shellshocked because he and his friend Colleen encountered wolves in the parking lot. "Swear to God, those were wolves out there," he said. I'm freaking out. I normally want to get walked to my car because I'm afraid of getting jumped by thugs, not wolves. Anyway, after his heart rate returned to normal, he delivered a "China Girl" that degenerated into "Andy Kaufman Sings Bowie." I finally got the noive to duet "The Lady Loves Me" with Dave (with Dave as Elvis and myself as Kitten-With-A-Whip-voiced Ann Margrock), but Miles the birthday boy pretty much took over on a flawless "Only The Lonely" (note to Mark Shurilla -- let Miles sing this with the Greatest Hits -- you and your audience will be glad you did) and then brought "Delilah" that would have brought Simon Cowell to his knees. There was one woman who did lots of Little Miss Firecracker Brenda Lee types songs, and somehow she got stuck with Midnight Train to Georgia before admitting she really didn't know the song. At the insistence of our crowd, I bailed her out halfway through the song, realizing that I'm no Gladys Knight, but I'd have made one hellava Pip.

  • Before Brian ventured over to the House of Hamburg Saturday in his role as second guitar for the house band, Dr Chow's Love Medicine, we took the kids and their cousins for a walk at Milwaukee Recreation's "Halloween Glen." This is a very sweet alternative to haunted houses that MPS puts on: in the night the trails are lit by luminaria and there's a series of stations with folks dressed up as various forest critters and natural phenomenon, and they do little skits complete with groan-inducing puns, fun facts, and in some cases, a little interactive learning for the kids. Afterwards, the kids can snack on typical snack bar fare, hit the craft table and make decorations with gourds, or just drink some hot cocoa while watching ancient Casper The Friendly Ghost episodes. It's laid back and wonderful, and part of the fun is that you don't even park at Hawthorne Glen. You park in some lot behind the MPS Admim building on Vliet, and then load up the bus and they take you there, so its almost like a field trip. Sammy's still a little young to get what the whole nature thing is about -- his current obsession with Jurassic-era creatures manifested itself in his question answering: "What kinds of animals do you think like to eat these leaves?" "Dinosaurs!" Soon Stella will be too old for this, but I think she enjoys it because its become a family tradition: and every year, she loves saying "Hi" to the "Penguin Lady." This same bus chaperone has been working this event for years, and the first year we went Stella and her connected and hit it off. There's a lot to be said for doing the same thing every year even if you've outgrown it, because you never outgrow your need for consistency.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Unfinished Fiery Pesto

Matthew Friedberger/FF
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
While I didn't go the full nine yards and whip up a batch of pesto, I did harvest and clean a bunch of basil in case we got a killing frost. Today it will take only 2 minutes in the food processor before I have delicious fresh pesto, and further, right now, my whole house smells good. And yes, I did go to the Fiery Furnaces at Shank last night, too.

Openers Pit Er Pat, from Chicago, seem to have that second city brooding cloud hanging over them -- they barely acknowledged the audience, and I wasn't sure if this was because they were shy people or were just hipper than me and didn’t see the need to be at all engaging. The first thing they actually said into the microphone (that wasn't a song) was to ask the sound man to beef up the monitor, and then, almost seemingly in afterthought, said hello to the audience. They were skilled (I see "Jazz-influenced" in a lot of lit about them), and "experimental" in that they used samples and other noise elements to augment their three piece (bass, keyboards/guitar, and virtuoso drums) sound. Musically, the drummer was the most interesting. But despite all the experimentation with sounds, they seemed to stay in a fairly narrow slice of dynamics (quiet and brooding, even with forceful but intricate drumming), with some songs being nothing more than a variation on a two-chord change. That's where the skill came in: they had a good feeling for when they needed to change up something after taking those two chords as far as they could take them. Right when I'd be getting bored, they'd change or add something to keep me listening. But as for those two chords, I had to wonder if perhaps they knew any major chords. The whole minor or strange chord thing was cool for a while, and they played a short set, which for this sort of thing worked, because more than 40 minutes of them and their minor key brooding would have gotten tedious.

If (as I've been often consoled as reagards my own voice) rock and roll singing is hollering in tune, then the Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger is having a conversation with you in tune. She doesn't draw out her phrasing like "vocalists" do, but she does change the subject a lot in her music conversation, and she's got much too much to say to waste time holding notes like a "vocalist" would do.

What I really did like was the definite change from the brooding of the openers. Eleanor came on stage like she was meeting us for lunch to chat about things both intense and whimiscal, and she varied her delivery accordingly. She addressed us all like she was genuinely happy to be there, and set the tone. And that tone was the feeling not of a rock show or concert, but four musicians who had their friends over to the basement to show us "Hey, check out what we're working on now. Whatcha think?" and pull out whatever they felt like playing. They certainly aren't experimenting to show how cool they are: they're not hipper than thou. Not knowing what to expect in terms of attitude (from all the press), I actually in fact took an instant liking to Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger. They seem like genuinely down-to-earth people who really wanted to try new things and see how they worked and not be afraid of showing their varied influences. But while Pit Er Pat may have taken some of their ideas too far and risked tediousness, sometimes the Fiery Furnaces didn't take some of their great ideas far enough -- almost leaving them unfinished --and thus risked leaving me wanting.

A lot of critics/writers go on and on about how the Fiery Furnaces challenge conventional songwriting. Well, they do, and that's good. The comparaisons to much of their later songs (and performances) to the Who's "A Quick One" are apt -- the Furnaces did a lot of stringing together little song-lets into long suites. But here's the thing about challenging conventional songwriting: sometimes conventional songwriting stands up to, if not wins, the challenge. While all this works on a few epic pieces, this seemed to be the theme of their show last night. Like the backdrop they hung with sentence fragments and lyric excerpts behind them that took me some staring at before I realized the color changes formed two Fs for "Fiery Furnaces," the set, as well as songs within the set, had to be viewed as a whole to pick up the big picture.

I think the intent was to put across a set that felt planned, rehearsed, but with room to improvise should the feeling grab them, but still maintain the big picture they painted. It's early in the tour, so I'm sure it's still got some jelling to do, but even though they took "requests" it certainly wasn't random. They may have been limited by the fact that there were no guitars -- just a bass, drums, and Matthew Friedberger's set of keyboards, including a standard electric piano, a farfisa, and an gool ol analog moog type thang. And I do suspect they place that limitation purposely to force themselves to approach a live show differently than their studio work, thrusting them out of what may have been a comfort zone, and in the spirit of experimentation, perhaps yieldieng interesting results.

Eleanor loops her mike cord
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Because they had just released the new "Widow City" a few days ago, I expected a lot from that, and got it, and it whets the appetite for a listen with full studio accroutements. But I was still hoping to hear some of their songs that -- at the risk of sounding like some popmeister who just doesn't get it -- were their (Alt) radio "hits" -- like maybe one of those first three cuts from "Gallowbird's Bark" that grabbed me by the throat and forced me to listen. Or maybe "Bitter Tea" radio hits like "Teach Me Sweetheart" or "Benton Harbor Blues" or maybe even my favorite sweet little ditty, "Waiting to Know You." They ended the set with a Gallowsbird's cut, "Don't Dance Her Down" that Eleanor interspersed with lyrics from the old folksong she covered on Blueberry Boat, "Single Again" (which lyrically was a ghastly combination - -Bravo!) That brings me back to my earlier statement: it wouln't be a crime to finish a whole song, conventionally, without being almost afraid of leaving me a satisfied pop customer. It's why I was ambivalent in risking a work night show to begin with. On a weekend, I would have been enchanted by an evening of experiments, happy to put up with the failures and roughness to see a cross section cutaway of genuine artists at work before the polish. But on a work night, no, I needed the executive version, the finished, polished set. Their experiements are great, but when they go pop, it's great too: somebody needs to tell them it's neither a sellout nor a crime.

Final verdict: I'll definitely pick up Fiery Furnaces' latest record, "Widow City" and will probably love it because I liked what I heard at the show. See them again next time they come to town? If it's on a weekend, "very likely" if nothing else is going on and Brian stays home so I don't have to pay for a sitter. On a weeknight when I have to work the next day? "Highly unlikley." I had to get up, as usual, at 5:30 this morning after only 6 or so hours of sleep, and I feel like crap. If I'm going to feel that way at work because I went to a show the night before, the show can't be just interesting. It has to blow me away. (See also: The Fleshtones, Los Straightjackets, Candye Kane, George Clinton, The Yardbirds, The Asylum Street Spankers.) At least I'm having pasta tossed with freshly made pesto for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dean Martin or the Furnace? Choices, Choices...

  • I'm really debating going/not going to see the Fiery Furnaces at Shank Hall tonight. I've got a lot going on, and there's an opening band (which means it's going to run late), and I have to work tomorrow. I really love the Fiery Furnaces, ever since this guy in the Circle A suggested I pick up "Gallowsbird's Bark" and then I jumped on the entire train (right now my favorite is "Bitter Tea."). But a friend made a bootleg copy of a bunch of their live shows, and yes, I know it’s a bootleg but I was severely underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I really like them. I know that a lot of their experimentation turns out to be a dud, but that's going to happen with experiments. Some experiments just don't work. But when they do hit it, it blows me away and more than makes up for the duds. I'll take sincere experimentation that sometimes flops over the same old rehash every day. The reviews I'm reading from the tour say it's pretty good -- but they all seem to be written by hardcore fans who are like me as regards Robyn Hitchcock: they'd be happy if Eleanor Friedberger walked on stage and read the yellow pages: "How artistic! Groundbreaking! I've never heard the phone number for Ace Hardware rendered so compellingly!"

  • I have tickets for Ian Hunter at Potowatomi this Friday. This was going to be this grand old reunion between myself and the Sandwich Life's Cynthia, who I know better now than when in college. (In school, we were both huge Vertebrats -- and general excellent Champaign Music scene -- fans who ran into each other often at Mabel's.) But if you follow Cynthia's blog (and it’s a great, personal blog that's actually interesting as opposed to those "Went to the store Bought groceries Came home Put them away" literal logs) you know that she's got bigger personal fish to fry and so a road trip from Champing is out of the question for her. (Whatever your spirituality calls "prayer" really needs to be sent her family's way these days.) Since Brian didn't really plan to go out, we don't have a sitter, so he'll sit the kids, and I'll be taking my bass player Dan "Miles" Mullen out for his birthday with Cynthia's ticket. We'll be in need of a reasonably priced nightcap after that, and what better place to do that than Marlavous Marla's Karaoke at the Bavarian Inn just off Port Washington road? We'll toast the 48th year of one of the more under appreciated guitarists in town (and he rocks the bass, too, for sure) while milking the karaoke machine for all the irony we can can get. The best part about Marlavous' karaoke is that Sidekick Dave somehow finds these tracks you'd never expect at Karaoke: most of the obscure Alice Cooper catalouge, classic punk and new wave, and you haven't heard John Lennon's "Give Me Some Truth" until you've heard it angrily barked out by Mark Shurilla over a crappy PA mixed into a Karaoke machine. Do I reprise "Communications Breakdown" in front of Miles?

  • Saturday night Dr Chow's Love Medicine has a set at the House of Hamburg, but we just found out about it so I'm gonna have to sit it out as I don't have a sitter booked. Also, I'm already bummed that I'll miss the Cocksmiths' new CD release party at the BBC, but I'll pick up that new CD eventually, because I'm a fan. Also also, over at Frank's Power Plant, there's a 4-band bill that includes this blog's favorites Floor Model, as well as an all girl punk band called Pillowfight that, in addition to their badass name alone, has the highest recommendation from Dr Chow's Paul "The Fly" Lawson. However, I'll catch them next week at Trash Fest. So even if I did have a sitter, I'd be really torn as to where to park my car.

  • I missed the Riverwest ArtWalk last weekend, and from my recent blog entry, you can probably guess why. Still, I'm bummed about that: I love the original ArtWalk, and it gives me yet another chance to connect with the old neighborhood.

  • Fall is finally here, which means I really have to harvest the basil to make pesto. How many years have I tended to my basil garden oh so lovingly, only to forget the first frost that kills the basil and renders it useless? I have a huge patch of basil, enough to make plenty of pesto as well as terrific tomato sauce for the winter. I really have to find some time to do this. Whenever I do it, just bringing in piles of basil makes the whole house (and its inhabitants) smell so licoricy-basily good, and no matter how hard I try, whenever I process garlic the scent lingers on me for days, so between that and the basil, I have to run and put on Dean Martin CDs to compliment my aroma. So, once again, I have to choose: Fiery Furnaces and coming to work tomorrow in a zombie-like state from only 5 hours of sleep, or basil harvest and pesto making, coming to work tomorrow smelling like an Italian restaurant? That's Amore!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Vikings outside of my safety circle

Heavy Rock, Viking Style
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So Brian went to see Thor Friday night, and he reports that it was all we expected it to be, and more. When I asked him how it was, he got this look on his face like I get when I've gone to a Mark Shurilla and the Greatest Hits show, except mine gets all incredulous from the audience, rather than the show itself. This is the first time in a long time either of us got that look on our face from the act. Because, face it, we've seen it all. (When you've just been to George Clinton and his band, wearing everything from sparkly multicolored hair to a giant diaper and glitter shoes, you start to believe you've seen it all). Or so we thought. Brian originally was going guest blog this up, and as usual, our lives got in the way (he had a Dr Chow show to play and kids to watch Saturday while I was gone all day). Even so, he would be rendered speechless every time I pressed him for Thor details. "Ohmygod" he would just shake his head and mutter. And Brian's not usually at a loss for words. Here's what I could gather (and the pictures he shot tell a lot of the story): Costume changes, effects, and heavy heavy rock, Viking style. The couple dozen hardcore fans that were there loved it, and Brian got some trivia question right, so we are now the proud owners of a Thor DVD Retrospective (with our own pristine copy of the Merv Griffin "Piece of the Action" appearance now in our home library!) "He's totally on to himself, and he was having lots of fun with this," Brian said. But there was plenty of elbow room, (and I've whined about this before) Vnuk has got to learn that not all acts can stand on their reputation alone. You have to do some promotion. As for openers Carbellion? "They kick ass. They rock. You definitely want to see them. Heavy. Supermassive heavy." I'm glad to hear this. They were on my doglist ever since pulling out of that 7 band bill with Snooky a few months back, so it was good that Brian went into them without prejudice to get a fair hearing. He also saved me from an unnecessary trip to Vnuk's Saturday night: caught the word that Beautiful Bert had cancelled, so I didn't even bother making the trip to Cudahy Saturday night. Enough out-of-the-ordinary rock for us this week.

No, instead on Saturday, I trucked out to the Kettle Moraine to learn, with about a dozen other women, how to be a leader at Girl Scout camp. Some things change (the fact that leaders even have to be trained is a huge change!) and some things never do. Some of my colleagues even brought their old sit-upon's from their youth. And it all came back to me: the different types of wood to use when building a fire, the correct knots (and how to teach them) to use when putting up a clothesline or throwing somebody a rope. The safety circle you must make before using your knife (arms' length all around you -- and nobody comes inside your safety circle when your jackknife is open) is now pretty much a safety sphere (you need to check above you, too, now). But what grabbed me the most was just how wonderful it was to be out in the woods, with the girls, getting your work done and not even considering it work because you were having a good time. These were women I'd met only once, in the prep class for 3 hours last week, and yet by only noon we were shooting the breeze like we'd been friends for years because we had so much in common: our girls, our memories of our camp, kvetching about our husbands (and as girls, kvetching about boys in general), and remembering being girls ourselves and wondering what the moms could possibly be talking about. It was a diverse group in terms of day jobs, income level, camp experience, but none of that really mattered. The hot day, the cooling breeze, the walks in the woods, no TV, no radio, (I turned off the cell phone after a check in call), all were this great equalizer among a group that didn't need much equalizing to begin with. "Oh, I'm wearing shorts and I didn't shave my legs," one of us mockingly lamented and we all laughed over the, for once, unimportance of that.

dunk bags on the line
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
And I remembered how good food at camp is. The dinner patrol mistakenly put too much water in the cornbread, and rather than give up, they improvised, and used the leftover wheatbread from lunch as a soak-up topping, and I'll tell ya, that was the best damn cornbread I have EVER had in my life. It wasn't a crisis, it was just a mistake that ended up better. I was in the Lunch patrol, and our dessert lacked the gingerbread mix the recipe called for (trust us, we asked many grocery store managers, there is no gingerbread mix to be had in SE Wisconsin because "it's not the season") so we used Pumpkin bread and with the homemade applesauce, and this was a serious dessert. (The whipped cream we brought along made for an Iron Chef-worthy presentation.)

We had the bittersweet moments talking a bit about how some of our camp memories, and the realization that many of the camps were closing or some land wasn't being purchased or whatever, and some aren't being maintained as well. Our trainer's childhood camp has since been closed, but she's happy where we are now. A few other reminisced about the demise of their girlhood stomps. Mine -- Camp Manistee in Montague, Michigan -- was sold off as a matter of fact, and being on the Michigan Eastern shore, I'm sure it’s a bunch of freaking condos. It was that moment in the conversation when I realize the importance of us just being there, to show this to our kids and not let it die. Because we really weren't there just to get "certified." We were there to learn how give them this gift of a place that's carved out just for them to look around at the beauty of nature, hang with the sistahs, and just be girls, with no stupid media in their faces telling they they're not thin or beautiful enough, no stupid boys to worry about shaving your legs for, no stupid psychos waiting around the corner to snatch their purse, no stupid school assignments that may or may not be overdue, a place where the only worry they have is to make sure that the bucket of firewater is full and nobody's inside your safety circle.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Everybody (well at least me) Wants a Piece of the Action

Brian's going to see Thor tonight. He did his research and found this 1976 appearance by Thor covering Sweet on the late, great Merv Griffin show. I especially like the playoff by Lumberhorn precursors, the Watermelon Mountain Jug Band, from the Hacienda Hotel.

So it's about 30 years later, and Brian's going to see this guy at Vnuk's tonight.

I'm so jealous I could die.

OK, I can't say everybody would, but I most certainly want a piece of this action.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Everybody's got a little ramble, under the sun, under the sun

  • Well, I really can't offer any kind of new insights to George Clinton. He is who he is and he said it best at the beginning of the show: "We're gonna party like it's 1979." Except not disco 1979. Funk. Throw in a little Zappa, too, And some Allman Brothers-style free form jamming. Oh, and pop in a medley of Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino and or early rock era I-IV-Vs at the end, just to seal the "flip you out with the funk" factor. And of course, they cycled through three different drummers, several guitarists, a couple of keys, various characters and singers: at any given point there were anywhere from 10-20 performers on the stage, all getting the funk down whether singing, posing, dancing, jamming, or simply existing. It was like I was watching a party full of talented, interesting people and wanted to join. That's when I realized maybe the Northern Lights Theatre at Potowatomi wasn't the right place to see George Clinton and P-Funk. Yes, it's a beautiful room and there's not a bad seat in the house. But the floor seats were tables, and when you're sitting at an elegant table with top service, it sort of puts the kabosh on wanting to get up and par-tay and tearin' the roof off the sucka. Not that there weren't people who did anyway, but the environment just wasn't conducive to it. Save for the language, this is a show I'd want to see at Summerfest or something, where its perfectly appropriate to just jump on a table and go nuts. (People who know me are probably thinking "When have you ever worried about what other people thought about your reacting to a band?" Well, I was in the balcony, there were people behind me who paid $40 a seat like me, they didn't seem like the sort who wanted to stand all night and I didn't want to block their view. If I were on the floor, it might have been different.) But the party was on stage, and as the song goes, "Ain't nothing like a P-Funky party 'cos a P-Funk party don't stop."

  • We read in Stingl's column yesterday that Andy Kochanski has purchased and is taking over Art's Concertina Bar, and is expanding the scope a bit. (He'll allow accordions, for one thing, and he'll have surf, rockabilly, and likely other Americana on Thursdays.) Stingl has covered the "Art's retiring and so another quirky Milwaukee institution bites the dust" angle well enough (thanks Jim for documenting this!); but I'm thoroughly confident in Kochanski to continue to make that place a Destination. Back when we had Warner Cable, Brian and I were MATA Devotees. We loved local cable access community programming. Besides appearing on a few shows (I did a bit part on an episode of the old Joy Farm series, and my first band, Fistfull of Bimbos, appeared on Where the Waters Meet), Brian and I once help judge the Philo awards, and we were taken by the level of devotion and talent that was being put forth. But there were two shows that we really held out making the switch to satellite for. One was a hip-hop rap show called "The Mental Fitness Zone Other Level Pitt," hosted by this local called Professor Pitt, whose "Pitt and the Pendulum" thang was damn good. The other was -- you guessed it -- Andy Kochanski's "Threshold of Pain." Man, that was some hardcore metal, and Kochanski, while no Rikki Rathman, was clearly an enthusiastic fan whose Wayne's World-esque charm made up for his beginning video skills. It's always good when somebody who actually loves music opens an establishment (see also McAuliffe's Pub in Racine), so go to the MATA archive library, dig up some old Threshold of Pain episodes to see the emergent joy of a music lover sharing his enthusiasm, and then join us when the new "Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall" opens its doors.

  • Email from Blaine Schultz pointing out that Damon and Naomi, formerly of the gone-but-not-forgotten Galaxie 500, is at the Mad Planet Saturday night, with opener Boris, a Japanese band Schultz heard on 'MSE that piqued his interest as well. Poop. I'm already going to be pooped from an all day affair on Saturday, (I'll already have to miss my husband playing with Dr. Chow's Love Medicine at Koppa's Sausage Fest at noon, and Sigmund Snopek -- with likely his usual suspects -- later), and now I have to choose between this, Beautiful Bert at Vnuk's, or blissful sleep?

  • I visit the Princess Christina Gerasimos Elias-Billings for President website on a regular basis so that you don't have to. Recent highlights include a video from some charismatically-challenged paralegal at Skadden Arps endorsing Billings, and dropping the hint that he would be more than happy to serve as her vice-president if elected. (Now this is getting somewhat -- if not frighteningly -- real. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom is one of the largest corporate law firms in the country-- I'm not making this up, they're for real. I'd like to be a bug on the wall at their next marketing department meeting once word of this video gets out.) Oh, and tee (sic) shirts are available now! I want the one that's tunic style with the logo where a pocket would be. Only 65 shopping days 'till my birthday, hint, hint.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How Funky Can You Be For Your Country?

The mothership lands tonight. After all these years, I'm climbing aboard and getting my fair share of the funk. I gotta have that funk. I signed the " We want the Funk petition" and everything. You should too. It's the only thing on Petitiononline Dot Com that isn't a waste of bandwidth or time. (I mean, petitioning for a pardon for Bono? Please.) Somebody calling themselves John F Kennedy commented "Ask not how funky your country can be for you, ask how funky you can be for your country." And a signer called Moses said: "And the Lord thy God did command, bringeth unto Me thy Funk. And so it came to pass. The people made burnt offerings unto the Lord of Funk, the burning embers of which made a pleasingly funky scent unto the Lord thy God." This is one bunch of funky peoples with whom I gots to get down. And it's at the Potowatomi Casino: George Clinton, the absolute funkmeister of them all, is at Potowatomi. There isn't a bad seat in that house, the sound is pristine, and from everything I'm reading, Clinton doesn't just chug out the hits (although that alone would satisfy me) -- he takes his audiences on a jammin' out trip to the far reaches of funkerspace. Bring on the funk!

Thursday I have a date with Stella to "greet our seat" at the Milwaukee Ballet. As we learned from our Bucks half-season tickets, when you subscribe to something, they take care of you. We're going to get a backstage tour of the PAC (the only time I'll probably ever get to see it from that perspective), meet the dancers, and nosh on hors' o deurves. The Bucks do this too -- last year we got a tour of the locker room, met some players, and got to shoot some hoops on the Bradley Center court.

As for bands, well, if you like your rock head on, bordering on hardcore, Vnuk's is the place to be this weekend. I've been so busy, I'll have to sit this out, but the mighty Thor will be headlining Friday, with Carbellion opening. I've wanted to check out Carbellion for some time -- missed them when they were at Vnuk's for a big 7 band show (that turned out to be four bands, and Carbellion wasn't one of the four). And who wouldn't want to see Thor sometime in their life. Just the name alone guarantees an evening of majestic, metalopolyptic thunder. Or at least it should. Otherwise, at the Four Seasons Sheraton, it's the Tattoo Convention, featuring midget wrestling. Oh, and IROCKZ is playing sometime Friday, but the convention goes on all weekend.

Saturday night -- I know bands that have cancelled or postponed gigs because they don't want to compete with Beautiful Bert at Vnuks. I know bands that have written songs about Beautiful Bert. For that matter, I know Beautiful Bert. And I can personally guarantee that even if he didn't weight 300+ pounds, even if he didn't purposefully try to gross your out, even if he didn't bring a single sausage with him, he will still kick ass, hardcore punk style. He always has a tight band, he always has great songs, he always entertains. You might be disgusted, your ears might ring for days, but you won't walk out of there saying to yourself, "BOR-ing." I'm going to be busy all day with personal stuff, and if I have the energy, I'll wander over to Vnuk's or send Brian to file a report. Bert rarely gets booked in Milwaukee county, so I'm really considering pounding the caffeine Saturday so I can make it.

In the meantime, when the choice for president was either George Bush or Bill Clinton, you know who I voted for! Ich Bin Ein Funkmeister!