Friday, June 29, 2007

Summerfest, Day 1

crashed already
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Oh, is this a snotty commentary on Summerfest, me posting this picture of a guy crashed out at 3 in the afternoon?!?! Oh, I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

Anyway, as you know, I don't go to Summerfest primarily for the music. I go just for the experience. Yes, there's music around, but really, I didn't catch much at the big stages. Hit the little ones, and people watched. So, here's some highlights:

  • Binky Tunny (sounds like "Stinky Bunny") charmed kids and their folks alike with kid-friendly "School of Rock" versions of classic rock hits. "Sweet Home Alabama" became "Have a Fresh Banana" and the BEasties' "Fight for Your Right to Party" became a litany of reasons to ditch school. Highlight for me was her autograph signing session afterwards -- it was fun to see the kids in this day and age of distance, get to actually meet and touch a rock star. Oh, and those shoes! Being a rockstar means never having to wear sensible shoes again, kids!

  • Who the heck goes to the sports stage? My little Jockette, Stella and I did! And we tried out Zumba a fun, albeit hard aerobic workout set to some wonderful world music. Stella was a little afraid at first, but I agreed to do it with her, she saw me flubbing it right and left, and then realized the point of aeorbic dance classes is not to get it right, but to get your heart rate up and have fun. And we did.

  • The Cocksmiths delivered on the Rock stage, just as I knew they would. We stayed for the whole set. Great pumping rock and roll, which impressed a crowd that, at 6:30 the first day of summerfest, is usually jaded. I hope they sold lots of merch!

  • Smitty Werbenmanjensen
    Originally uploaded by V'ron.
    Ran into Chris Lehmann (I told you, that cat is everywhere) who I have now renamed Smitty Werbenmanjensen, because, if you know your SpongeBob, "He was Number One!" And so was Lehmann! Somehow, perhaps because he was with the first band that played today, he scored backstage pass Number 1! Go Smitty!

  • Whining time. The kids were having a good ol time in the inflatable rides, until some thug of a kid climbed right over Sammy and took him down. Sammy freaked out and I went and read the kid the riot act. His white trash mother calls to me from a distance "Hey, he has a mother, why don't you try that first?" Uh, no. First of all, where was this thug's "mother." Second of all, when some jerk twice my 3-year-old's size is whaling on my kid, I'm not stopping to think, "Hmmmm. Perhaps i should follow etiquiette and take this up with the offending child's parents." No, fuck etiquette. I'm stopping my kid from getting hurt. White trash glared at me, and I barked right back (because I wasn't afraid of confrontation, not when my kid's safety is at issue): "What, are you TRYING to raise a thug? Where were YOU then? You think this is acceptable?" I wasn't overreacting. The thug kid was ejected from the ride, and Sammy went on playing. White trash mama's looking at me as though it were my fault. Whatever. I have to remember that Summerfest brings out the best, but also the worst, of Milwaukee. I know, there's going to come a point when the worst thing I can do is fight my boy's battles for him, but at 3.5 years old, that time has not yet come.

  • Speaking of the best, Coventry Jones pretty much owned his little corner stage near the lake. I love those little side stages, filled with niche acts that draw a handful of people, making the music a truly interactive exercise, blurring the line between performer and audience. It's like seeing a street busker get REAL MONEY for his work, but still keeping the charm of the busker environment.

  • Another downer: tributes to Bo Black were heartful from the fans, even during the opening ceremonies, but from organizers rang hollow. Hypocritical, even. I'm sure Don Smiley's a nice guy and a competent administrator and all, but there's a vibe missing from Summerfest that left when they canned Black. I didn't really appreciate her as much as I should have when she was here, and now she's gone and I miss her presence.

  • Amen!
    Originally uploaded by V'ron.
    So Stella and Sammy and I rode the skyglider, twice! And the whole family watchd the fireworks on the rocks with some goth kids, and we had lots of good food, and we caught bits of Dickey Betts, and that Wolfmother band turned out to be terrific (but we couldn't stay long because the kids were pretty much out of gas!). But the while the music snob in me had a fun time at Summerfest, as I have learned to do, Brian spotted this t-shirt in the crowd, and I thought a hearty "Amen!" to myself.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Girls Night Out on the River

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
As I knew I would, I got Stella from soccer, and we headed down to Pere Marquette Park for Milwaukee jazz supergroup The Rhythm Club. Although "jazz" supergroup is something of a misnomer. Let's call it rhythm and blues-stylized intrepretations of not only jazz, but wonderful old standards from not only the American songbook, but from all over the world.

Robin Pluer is back! Actually, she's been back awhile, but she's staying put in Milwaukee, and that's our gain. I'd forgotten just how amazingly sweet and sultry her crystal clear voice is. Highlight of that was her dedicatoin of La Vie En Rose, that wonderful French chanson, that she dedicated to her friend Holly, who was looking forward to having a baby, like, this weekend... and what a beautiful, calming way to welcome her in the world. And Pluer's amazing range (both dynamic and harmonic) really shined on that song. Almost brought me to tears.

But I'm concentrating on the lead singer, as audiences tend to do. And in this band, that's a mistake. Connie Grauer and Kim Zick, Mrs. Fun are so good you take them for granted. And Juli Wood, who I remember as Pluer's bandmate in early versions of the Milwaukeeans, wails -- not only on the sax, but she's got a smoking blues voice of her own.

I'd written earlier that this wasn't a "womyns music" band, but don't tell that to the dominantly-woman crowd who came out to see them. It wasn't annoying, though, like Lillith Fair, but more of a celebration of the varying beauty of women, all having a good time. It's as though you saw these women up on stage, having a good ol' time, not feminizing it down (as annoying "womyn's music" proponents tend to do, by taking musically purple things and watering them down to lavender), but rather feminizing the music up -- by just making that lavender stand out on it's own, and turning the purple into a shocking magenta. Stella played with other kids for most of the night, until she came up close for the end and realized how great this band was. I'm starting to wonder with all the stuff I've exposed her to, she takes great music for granted. Still, we weren't the only mother-daughter date tonight, and she told me all the way home just how much fun she had, just hanging out with the instant girlfriends, seeing a good fun band (that wasn't too loud!) and enjoying a gorgeous summer night out with her mom. Precious. I hummed "La Vie En Rose" all the way home to myself.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Playing It By Ear

Tonight the Rhythm Club plays At Pere Marquette Park as part of the weekly River Rhythms series. Hope I can get there in time to catch enough of The Rhythm Club's set. If there's such a thing as a Milwaukee Women's Jazz supergroup, this is it: the amazing Connie Grauer and Kim Zick of Mrs. Fun on piano and drums, the incredible Juli Wood on sax, and incomperable chanteuse Robin Pluer at the microphone. I can't believe I've never seen this combination before -- they've been off and on gigging together pretty much as long as I've lived in Milwaukee. What I particularly like about all these musicians is you don't get all that "women's music" crap about any of them. They can and do play, they entertain, they're marvelously innovative in their genre busting approach, and their enthusiasm spills over to the audience. They just happen to be women -- strikingly strong, visually beautiful, musically inspiring women whose talent is so magnanamous their seeming effortlessness would imply they're playing it all by ear. I'll be there after I pick up my little woman, in her girly skort, from some rought and tough soccer and bring her here.

Thursday night starts Summerfest. Here's what I had to say last year about Summerfest, and nothing's changed. Actually, it's what I had to say a few years back, I just didn't have a blog then. I'm done with whining about the musical lineup (which, I'll give you fellow music snobs this, is especially weak this year.) But that's not why I go to Summerfest. It's Milwaukee, it's a church festival, its something to do during the dog days of summer, its fireworks, its hanging out, it's peoplewatching. That said, I'm not even going to try to shoot recommendations here. There's plenty of recommendations you can get from the MSM on what to go see at Summerfest. We'll hit it Thursday for the Big Bang fireworks, and, hmmm., who's playing Thursday? Any local favorites score an opening day spot? Ah, the Cocksmiths at 6:30! Very early in the day, if I even want to do this, is another Chris Lehmann project, Brother Louie.(Geez, that cat is everywhere! Six months ago I didn't know him from Adam, now it turns out he's known half my friends for years and years and years and is there any venue he doesn't have his fingers in?) But do I want to drag the kids around all afternoon (and empty my wallet out in the process?) If the kids don't poop out by 11, maybe I'll reminisce my youth with the Violent Femmes. There's a band called Wolfmother that's worth checking out for their badass name alone. But Dickey Betts will be on at the same time too, and my closeted love for the Allmans might bring me out to see that. Whatever. I'll just get there, with husband and kids in tow, which will require a fair amount of playing it by ear.

There's actually bands playing in the clubs during Summerfest, and Brian's in one of them: Dr Chow's Love Medicine has the Friday slot during the one-weekend-a-month-the-Circle-A-is-open. That whole deal is very sweet for Circle A proprietor Warwick Seay: instead of the drudgery of running a club full time, he opens his doors one weekend a month, and throws what amounts to a great little party for music lovers.

Oh, and I'm on vacation! I have no specific plans whatsoever! Maybe I'll head up to the Michigan Upper Peninsula for a few days, maybe I'll stay in town for a few days, maybe I'll see some bands, maybe I'll go bike riding. Maybe I'll help Bucketworks move, maybe I'll catch my kids playing soccer and learning to swim, maybe I'll hang with friends coming into town. Maybe I'll go and see Blue Oyseter Cult, but not at Summerfest. No, I've grown accostomed to seeing BOC at some kind of local fair, or or biker rally or something of that ilk. This year, it looks like the place to get more cowbell will be Beloit Riverfest, where Cheap Trick will also be on the bill! Rock!

I'll probably do all of these things. Definitely get a massage and facial in, that's for sure. But it will be so nice to not have to do any of these things. There's no schedule, there's no commitment, I'll do things only because I feel like doing them. My day job is planning, scheduling, managing, and to me the ultimate vacation is not doing any of that, following the mantra of Queen Ya-Ya Viviane Abbot herself: "I play everything by ear."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm sorry, I can't resist

I blogged on my weightloss blog about this blowhard at a conference i was at, who was supposed to be speaking on the topic of "radical change in turbulent times." He was this guy who was president of some college that offered a culinary program, and they eliminated the athletic program because "400 pound students don't play volleyball." Need I say, to justify this caption, that he is a Chicagoan, and the school he presided at was in Evanston (Evanston is to Chicago what Shorewood is to Milwaukee). As I ask, So, tell me, why aren't ALL our volleyball nets strung up instead of just two of them at Bradford Beach? C'mon, we have plenty of not-fat people here who love to play volleyball!

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "OK, V'ron, give it a rest."

Anyway, I suffered the wound from the entry below taking this picture. The light in the morning at the Lakefront has been just stunning lately, and I wasn't paying attention, and I now have racked up Ferocious Wipeout of 2007 #2. I'm taking bets -- at this rate, when do you think I'll land in the emergency room? Labor Day? State Fair? Next week?

I'll tell you, though, sometimes a wound is worth it, for a picture, and an overdone point.

2nd major wipeout of the summer

2nd major wipeout of the summer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
First one was back in April, blew out my ankle running.

This was a bike wipeout. I suddenly saw this bush in my path, didn't avoid it fast enough, and realized afterwards it had been freshly cut, so this is what it looks like when the top of your knee mets a freshly cut bush.

I'm gonna have a pretty impressive batch of scars from this summer, I can just tell.

Just you wait until tomorrow when the black and blue really kicks in. It's just kind of purple as I write this. I'm gonna wait until there's some real fun colors before I shoot it again.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reporting in from Zone 5(4), the Mad Planet, and Gettysburg

pink asiatic lillies
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
First, reporting in from Gardening Zone 4 (we'll, technically, I'm in Zone 5, but that's mostly because I'm close to the lake, but i plant for 4, becaus it still gets cold).
  • The asiatic lillies are up and in! I've got pink and orange and red and white and others! Also the Stella d'Oro daylillies are popping open too. This is the first year they've gone simultaneously, and the regular daylillies are catching up too!

  • All my friends are confirming this -- it's the year of the strawberry. I've tried and tried for many years to get more than three strawberries, maybe they take a few years to establish, but in a 15 square foot patch I'm picking at least a quart a day! And sweet juicy ones too! I remember when I was a kid we had a little strawberry patch, and all these years I was bummed out that I couldn't recreate it. Now I have been. The raspberries are just getting ready to set fruit. I wonder if I'll have a week or two when I'm getting both.

  • The roses are in peak right now. Even the miniature ones.

Brian went to the Chief/Wanda Chrome/Year of the Gun show, and he reports:
  • Chief: "What an axeslinger Chris Tischler is! You see him in his other act, and you have no idea. Great stuff. And who is that on bass? He's like a young, mowhawked Alan Hale. Rock, man, rock.

  • Wanda Chrome: "They're great. Period. What a night for lead guitar players. And Joel on drums, as great as I rememberd him." (Joel had briefly played with F/i).

  • Year of the Gun: "continuing the night of the guitar stars.... that guy, it was like going to see Aerosmith, round about 1970."

  • Spotted in the crowd, Paul "The Fly" Lawson, and the Tasting Room's (and now the Circle A's) Carson, both duly appreciating the loudness of the evening.

relaxing before the battle
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
And finally, this report from Grant Park -- I'm bicycling through and come upon a sign that reads Reenactment Site Site. So reenacted they had to site it twice. I pedaled in, and asked the costumed folk, "So what are you reenacting?" They smiled and answered, "Well, we're reenacting just waking up, having a cup of coffee, and enjoying a nice summer day." Later they promised to shoot off some cannons. I didn't have time to really look around, but i give them major props for dressing up to the nines in this weather. I overheard one of the leaders reminding the younger ones to remember to drink plenty of water, even if they didn't think they were thirsty. If I didn't have my garden to tend to today, I would have stuck around. I wonder if they picked Grant park on purpose because of the name.

Anyway, coming to you from Gettysburg by way of Cudahy, this is your intrepid reporter signing off.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Multiple Subtle Ways of Building Community

waiting for coffee
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Today the South Shore Farmer's Market opened for the season. It's my neighborhood farmer's market. Well, they're not exactly my neighborhood, but its close, and its the one where I'm most likely to run into people I know, my friends, or more accurately, my community.

We stopped by this morning and ran into at least four people we know. It's not exactly the season for the bounty of Wisconsin farming, but all the other vendors were out. Stone Creek Coffee is a little rusty at this being at a farmer's market thing -- they (horrors) ran out and everybody was seriously jonesing for their coffee so they could leisurely walk about sampling people's wares. Not to worry, a van pulled up with the appropriate level of emergency, and, getting our fix, we were on our way.

Don't tell me Bay View isn't "the other East side." We have a crepe maker at our farmer's market for Pete's sake, three bakeries , and all the requisite soap makers, picklers, etc. Plenty of organic offerings. This early in the season, we're looking at beets, tons of salad greens and beans, herbs, all the stuff that's great in the spring. And the Lopez bakery is fast becoming known not only for their baked goods, but their outstanding, addictive tamales.

I so much prefer these little markets as opposed to the giant ones (West Allis, for example). Not that i grudge West Allis's market -- they helped popularize the concept, period. But our own little neighborhood markets do more than just bring the farmers to the 'hood. They bring the people out, on a lovely Saturday morning. The South Shore market usually has some kind of music or performance "officially" going on, its right by the playground. People bring their dogs, their kids, sometimes they don't even buy anything. They just come to check in, to hang out, to have a cuppa and maybe a freshly baked cookie. These little markets solidify, if not build, community.

young busker again
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
After romping on the playground with the kids, (and climbing their favorite tree) we heard some more music. Some local youngsters were busking, and they were quite good. Couldn't tell if they needed the money, or the experience of playing in front of people, but that's Bay View for you. I particularly liked that you couldn't see this one kid's face, he just played his guitar with his Led Zeppelin shirt, looking a bit like Robert Plant himself, (and very conscious of my camera snapping in his face.) He didn't even grimace when somebody dropped a $5 blll in his case and took a few dollars back as change. He'll go far.

Speaking of building community, I've mentioned here that Bucketworks is moving. Just around the corner from where they are now, but it's still a move and they still need muscle. I was at a planning-for-the-move meeting today, and we're set: the move is July 14. Talk about a community -- this is a place where you literally can meet, can make your art, can build your business, and its all affordable. But the reason it's affordable is, that, well, stuff like this relies on volunteer help. Hit Bucketworks' web site to sign up to help out. I know, you could probably just show up that Saturday, but it really does help to know how many people can help and what they can do. I've said this before, we need to take care of our bodies, and Bucketworks helps us take care of our heads.

No snarky commentary from me today. I'm eating a locally baked scone, coming down off my locally roasted coffee buzz, and thinking about the delicious salad i had tonight, with lettuce and spinach grown by the person who sold it to me. That feeds a body and a soul.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Swagger in the Flesh

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
You know, I haven't seen the Fleshtones in over 20 years, but I'll tell ya, they haven't changed a bit. Oh, sure, they're older: Peter Zaremba's hair isn't a brown as it used to be, Keith Streng has put on a few more miles on that face of his, but other than that, they really haven't shown their age. They're still as vital as ever, they still have the energy of teenagers, they still have the swagger of teenagers, which is why I probably felt like one all night, despite my exhaustion this week from two nights of a sick three-year-old keeping me up. God only knows why I dragged myself out or how I scraped up the energy to do it, but I'm sure glad I did.

Opening the evening for the Fleshtones was a relatively younger set of chaps from Detroit, the Hentchmen. apparently they've been around since the early 90s; somehow they slipped under my radar. I was riveted -- they are comprised of a guitar, drums, and farfisa -- no bass guitar, just a hohner bass keyboard, the kind Ray Manzarek used to play.

Hentchmen keyboardist and drummer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
But this wasn't trippy San Francisco or Doors-like, father-of-emocore farfisa. These guys had Detroit written all over them, and that's Detroit garage -- the perfect band to open for the Fleshtones. I picked up a couple of their CDs afterwwards, the current one and a retrospective one that I later learned featured the White Stripes' Jack White on every song -- so that might be their claim to fame. However, I decided I liked them well before I knew where they were from or what notorious former members they could claim. In and of themselves, they grabbed me with hooky little guitar riffs, dangerous farfisa runs, sweaty vocals and great desperate=for-love lyrics. So, yeah, I decided I needed to get caught up with them, and bought two, count 'em, two of their CDs.

Add the Fleshtones to a growing list of bands worth being worthless at work the next morning for. I had mentioned to a friend that i was going, and he commented that he didn't think they were dangerous enough. Maybe the come off that way on record, but live is a different story. They swing, they swagger, they turn the fuzzbox on the bass. They dance around the stage, through the audience, and embrace the ferverent devotion of the few but hardcore fans who turned out on the Thursday night solstice to see them. They've been slogging it out for years, and they seem to never tire of it, and their love for the garage is genuine and contagious.

In the crowd: Buzz of Buzz's Garage, holding court. He'd done a radio interview with Zaremba earlier in the day, and we learned that there's a Fleshtones Tribute Album (with bands like the Hoodoo Gurus contributing) called (what else) "Vindicated" this fall. Zaremba seemed a bit embarassed by this, and I think I understand. It's one thing to have bands cover your songs, it's another to put together a whole slew of covers. Still, its good to see that in at least ways, this very overlooked crew of garage vets is getting their due.

Keith Streng
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Also in the crowd: Steve Whalen, who apparently knows every single Fleshtones song ever recorded, and was overjoyed to sing along for as many as he could, and even dropped and gave them 20 for "Push Up Man." Plus, the Fleshtones really worked this crowd -- at one point both Streng and the bass player took off their axes, hung them around fans' necks, and watched carefully as the smiling fans pounded away. They even involved me, your intrepid photographer in the show, playing to the camera, and dancing around me when I made it clear i wasn't some distant reporter, but a fan who happened to have a camera. And that's what I am most of the time, a fan of music who happens to have a camera, rather than a photographer who happens to turn up at shows. Then again, the Fleshtones are in that league as well: they're clearly fans of this music who happen to have musical talent (not to mention showmanship!) of their own. That's probably why they haven't changed a bit: the swagger of great garage has a way of keeping you young, a lesson that the Hentchmen are clearly taking to heart, and I have engraved on mine.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We Have All Kinds of Music Here

Tonight, the wonderful Fleshtones are at Shank Hall. The last time I saw them was some twenty years ago at this joint in Champaign-Urbana called Panama Red's. Clearly, they had been misbooked. Panama Red's was more of the kind of place you'd go to see Pork and the Havana Ducks, , not a garage rock revival band. But the management at Red's thought it would be interesting to book other types of bands there besides the main two, ( "You know, we got both kinds of music here, country and western."), and so they booked the Fleshtones. In a college town, in the middle of the summer when all the students are home, and like Jake and Elwood, they remained professional and played on. There were about six of us there, but we were all fans. In fact, five of us were from student media, and we warned them that this particular gig would likely be the bust it turned out to be. Still, they played it, not pretending that the crowd was small, but accepting that while the crowd was small, it was comprised of hardcore fans. So they tried out new songs on us, they were losse, fun and terrific. I ran into lead singer Peter Zaremba a few years back when he was guesting with Los Straightjackets and reminded him of this story; his eyes rolled up in dreadful rememberance, a familiar scene for any musician who's been misbooked.

Friday Night? Well, I'm going to pick up Stella from camp, and they're having a farewell presentation/skit there, so of course I'm going to be seeing my favorite girl do some kind of act. If I'm not too exhausted, might pop into Vnuk's for the Drams, with local openers cowpunkers Frank Says F*$k It. Both bands would have fit in nicely at Red's.

Saturday -- Bucketworks Moving Planning Team Meeting at 2:00. Moving Day is July 14 -- this is the day we figure out exactly how we're going about it. But musically, Saturday, the place to be is The Mad Planet for three great, loud, rock and roll heavies: Wanda Chrome (in a rare Milwaukee appearance), Chief (whose glamourous cock metal I've already raved about) and Year of the Gun (talented, ambitious younguns who aren't afraid of listening to their parents' vinyl). I believe Chief will be filming a video at this gig, so from this photographer's point of view, lighting will be perfect. All of these bands would have burned Red's down.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Celebration of Melancholy

"Andy" and "Nico" in Nico's shadow
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Well, if you're going to turn 50, you might as well do it dressed as one of the biggest underground icons of the 20th centruy, singing her contralto songs, and having the fabulous Eat The Mystery start the night off for you, that's what Marla Rothenberg would have to say.

The Factory Party Saturday night at Bucketworks was fun. Marla has a wide cross-section of friends to celebrate a birthday with, and she put out an impressive spread of food. I'll take fun over dreadfulness any time, and that's part of why this was more of a "celebration" of the art that was made in that old Greenwich Village haunt, rather than a recreation of it. It was too much fun to be accurate.

Eat The Mystery started off the night, and they were terrific as usual. I think with the large stage, they had more room to spread out, both physically and conceptually. Courtney (aka Nutmeg when she's with ETM) seemed to get more of her deserved spotlight. It's hard to be the other chick when you're in a cabaret act with Angie Livermore, who is clearly the star, if not the conceptual locus, but Nutmeg has a quality all her own that really shines when she's given the room to do so -- a clear, almost Doris Day voice, but much more Euro and jaded. For once, I'm seeing this band in a place where they can give her such room. And there's not much more I can say about Angie that I haven't already gushed -- she's outrageous, but one of the sanest outrageous women I've ever seen. But even she wasn't as world weary melancholoy as I've seen her. She even seemed to have fun as she pushed around toy trucks while the band bitched about those condos taking over the artsy neighborhood. And Paul Setser, the gounded root of it all, seemed even more wiser and poetic than before.

Still, maybe it was because they were "only" the opening act, but they didn't seem to own the stage (and thus the entire room) like they usually do, they didn't seem to blur the line between stage and audience like usual. Maybe it was the crowd -- clearly many of them had never seen an act like ETM before -- and didn't know that participation was not only allowed, but encouraged. But i think part of it was the courtesy of being the opener -- and thus left the stage fairly orderly for the VU Project to do their thing. Still, Angie and company did not fail to surprise, and delightfully enrage me with their song and speech. I'd like to see them with their own night, at the new Bucketworks, where they can bring in all their props and own the place, like they usually do.

The VU Project? Dale Kaminski, along with his old Trance and Dance band stagemate Jerry Fortier and Fortier's son's Paka Paka Light Show continued on (they coordinated nicely with ETM as well) and got us all primed for the Project by giving us footage of the real VU, especially moon goddess Nico. As you can see from the picture, there seemed to be a watchful eye over Rothenberg as well as Mark Shurilla, in his best Andy wig. Again, they didn't recreate the VU so much as celebrate them. They also brought Colleen and Alice to be the lovely S&M girls during (and after, what the hell!) "Venus in Furs." (I still remember a great Nico quote from the day -- "Of course we do love songs. 'Venus in Furs' is just a different kind of love song.")

One bummer: The VU Project's regular bass player wasn't available, so Dan "Myles" Mullen played bass. Now he's a good bass player and all, but I get to hear him on the bass all the time in Loblolly, and I rarely, if ever get to hear him play lead guitar and really let loose on it these days. Yeah, sure, he plays lead in the Buddy Holly Review, and the Greatest Hits, but it's sort of like that scene in "Back To The Future" where Michael J Fox starts out Chuck Barry but then flies away aping Hendrix and VanHalen before the crowd freaks out. Mullen can go only so far with guitar hystrionics in the 50s/60s cover band context before he would lose the crowd. ("Calvin," you can hear Lea Thompson saying, "That was, uh, some, interesting guitar playing you did.") No, the VU Project is one of the few places you're going to hear what the big deal of Dan Mullen, Guitarist, is all about, and, well, it wasn't to be. Not that he didn't go off into outer space bass, but still.

But that's not to say they didn't have moments of greatness, between the light show, the expert playing from all the musicians (drummer Andy Pagel and keyboardist Chris Loss, another T&D band alum), and the general art house atmosphere. Brian and I left after a short second set, happy to with Marla a great birthday, and wondering with melancholy when the next inception of this act will be.

Bucketworks' James Carlson was milling about the place, plugging the impending move -- which has been pushed back to July 14. I'm kind of glad. Bucketworks needs more help to pull this off, (that means you, dear Milwaukee-based reader who wants to see a great arts incubator survive), and the couple extra weeks to plan and recruit is a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Debut night at Points East

please flick that cigarette.....
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Quick rundown of the Dr Chow/Loblolly/Substitute show at Points East last night.

Substitute: Wow. Their regular Pete Townsend couldn't make it, so this guy CJ who they hadn't even rehearsed with sat in. Whew! If you can't rehearse, I guess you play it though like it was Live at Leeds and that's exactly what they did. Dave Getling on the sound board helped them get that perfect Leeds sound, and the loose but accurate stage presence sealed it up. Before the set, the Enthwistle took issue with my assessment of his "My Generation" bass lick at the last show; tonight, in a very Leeds-esque way, he nailed it. (Afterwards, I simply pointed at him and said, "Correct.") But this CJ guy on guitar. "Alright, alright," we in the audience mumbled to each other as he took that live version of "My Generation" into pieces of Tommy, "you passed the audition!" He'll still need to sit for the written exam, but his passed his aurals.

Loblolly? Gee, I can be objective about this, huh? Fun set for us. We'd only rehearsed once since our last show, and I think it showed. People (read: friends) told me afterwards that they didn't notice the MANY biffs we made, and I think we did do a good job covering for each other, still, not my best performance I'll admit. It's that second outing problem, I think. I got all cocky from the first show, and wasn't at 100% here. Julie Brandenburg commented on my earlier entry that she thought it was good, and I once gave her a hard time for being picky about her own performances, but I guess I'm hard on myself, as an artist should be. There's always room for improvement. Still, the audience seemed to enjoy it, and even that amazing Pete Townsend guy said we were good, so overall, I feel pretty good about the show. But I'm not cocky about it, that's for sure.

Dr Chow, in fine form, per usual. This was Brian's first "official" set with them, and, gee, i can be REALLY objecctive about this, huh? Well, I think he adds a good touch. His psychedelic/jam background works well with this bunch, and I think it lays a strong foundation for the Fly to take off. He's got to find a way to flick his cigarettes, though. He had a line of ashes that had to be two inches long going, it was driving me nuts......

OK, on to The VU Project, Eat the Mystery, and Marvelous Marla's birthday tonight.... .

Reason #2,647 I don't live in the suburbs

While i'm waiting for a huge flickr upload to complete, I might as well pass the time ranting, since this was the topic of my rant last night during Loblolly's set.

Check this out. Some residents of Brookfield were so enraged about some orange trim on a building doing business, that they stopped the mayor in a grocery store to complain. I'm, dead serious.

I want their life, if the biggest freakin' problem they have is the color of the trimon a grocery store. Jesus.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the angels and saints, deliver me.

From the Journal Sentinel article:
Typical of the complaints was the comment one person made to [Brookfield Mayor Jeff] Speaker, saying, "Oh my God, that is so orange. It looks like a giant pumpkin."

The color looked a "little more muted" in photographs that city officials were shown, Speaker said, but in reality turned out to be a bit brighter.

"Was it a beautiful color?" Speaker asked. "Not to me, personally, but if I did everything in the colors I liked, this would be a pretty bland city."

Some residents stopped him while he was shopping in a grocery store and gave the mayor their opinions about the color, Speaker said.

It looks like a giant pumpkin. Somebody actually said that. No, it doesn't. A pumpkin is orange all over, and it's round. This building is basically cream/white, with orange trim. And it's square. Frankly, I thought the mayor handled it well, by saying color's not his forte. It doesn't seem to be the forte of some Brookfield residents, either.

Although, the article goes on to imply that there are some residents who apparently know a LOT about color, and it lists the actual paint manufacturer's names/numbers of the "old" trim color, and the "new" trim color. Why didn't these picky residents go the full nine yards and specify the exact Pantone registrations for any acceeptable colors on this building? The joke of course is, if you haven't clicked on the link yet, there's not this massive difference between the two. It's just a hair or two down in saturation, (as those of us photoshop users would call it).

On top of that, when I'm calling the mayor, if I'm going to bother the mayor of my city on his downtime while he's in Pick 'n' Save picking up a couple of steaks to throw on the grill, the topic of my conversation is not exactly going to be the color of the trim on a grocery store. No, there's things like the crime rate, the budget, park maintenance, that sort of thing. It always struck me that what color somebody paints their home or business is, really, none of my business. People, wake up. There are more important things than what color the trim is on a grocery store. You used your two minutes of the mayor's ear for this crap?

But then again, I don't live in the 'burbs, where people apparently are terrified of either standing out, or even being amongst people who stand out. Code ORANGE!!! Terror! Somebody's different! Somebody's standing out. AHAHAHAHAHAHHGHGGHGGHGHGGHH!!!!!! Conform! Conform! Comform! I really can't imagine living in one of those subdivisions where you have to have permission to put up a basketball net where it can be seen, or anything like that. What gets me even more is that people who live in these kinds of places tend to vote for Republicans who preach that whole "leave me alone and don't get the government involved" stuff, yet they're perfectly willing to allow the government to tell them how they may decorate their own property. I don't get it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cher-ing the weekend

First off, shameless self promotion: Friday night, my band, Loblolly, is in the middle of a three band bill we just learned about two weeks ago at the Points East Pub. Headlining the thing will be this blog's perennial favorites Dr Chow's Love Medicine, and opening the set will be Substitute, that Who tribute band I wrote about recently. They have a new Pete Townshend, so that should be interesting. Loblolly's drummer, Andy Pagel, is the Keith Moon, so I hope he's not TOO tuckered out by the time we get on stage. He assures me not to worry, and thus I assure you as well. This is kind of a homecoming gig for us, too. The first time Loblolly every played was at Points East, when the room was half the size (and so was the stage!). I've always liked playing there. Brian is now Second Chair Guitarist with Dr Chow, so I'm coming dangerously close to sharing a stage with my husband, violating one of my cardinal rules. (never be in a band with your SO, and never start a relationship with somebody in your band.) It's bad enough we agreed that we'll share his amp so we don't have to haul two amps. Anyway, I'll be doing my usual outrageous stage schtick, including covering Cher, so be there.

OK, everybody else:

Thursday night: Binky Tunny at the Mad Planet. This might be the absolutely correct place to catch Binky and the Farmland Chokehold. If I'm not too bushed from a huge project a work I'm on, I'll be putting in some time there. I like that place, I need to get there more often.

Friday night: If there's anybody worth seeing besides us, Dr Chow and Substitute, I'm not telling you. Pay cover and see us at Points East, where they have an excellent (and reasonably priced beer selection), relatively clean restrooms, and a kitchen that stays open late and has terrific bar pizza. I've also heard great stuff about the chicken wings.

Saturday night: This is a tough one. The Velvet Underground Project, with Eat The Mystery at Bucketworks, featuring the Dale Kaminski's Paka Paka Lightshow is at Bucketworks -- and this is the last stand before Bucketworks moves to their new location just around the corner. This will be truly a Factory-style party. I've been looking forward to this a long time -- I've not seen the VU project in months, and a night of Lou Reed songs is always a good night. Plus, regular readers know how much I love Eat the Mystery's new millenium punk cabaret. So why the quandry? Because at the Cactus Club, the competition is a rare appearance by the legendary Couch Flambeau, with guests the Peder Hedman Quartet. And after about 2 weeks, the Cactus is closing for at least a month to effect a major renovation project. This works out for them well, because face it, it will be the peak of the Summer Festival Season, and who wants to be in a dark bar on a gorgeous summer night when you could easily find a terrific band at an outdoor festival? Still, the hand tips to Bucketworks and the Factory Party. I know Flambeau and Hedman will be playing out many more times than the VU Project, for one thing, and more importantly, it's Marla "Nico" Rothenberg's 50th birthday and she will never let me sing Cher at her Karaoke again if I'm not there to drink with her and snap pictures.

Sunday night: Email in my box at the last minute: John Kruth is back in Milwaukee for a quick couple of shows! He'll be with Paul Kneevers and the rest of the Eva Destruction band at the Highbury Pub in Bay View. Opening the night will be (according to Kneevers' email) "Maestro Jeff Hamilton and his Noisey Show."

Midweek Rants and Rhetorical Questions

  • Previously I blogged that I wasn't happy that my beloved Jewel had become a Sentry. Well, they hired half the people that worked previously, they do have a killer meat section (they're offering meat deals in that reach-in cooler!), and the ethnic aisle has been expanded. Somebody there really went nuts with the Goya products vendor, as a matter of fact. And at least the parking lot is normal. Have I whined about the stupid parking lot at the Pick N Save on Holt, right off of I-94, pretty much on the backside of Sentry? It's one of those parking lots that's just a major cluster because they thought it would be quaint to put curbed dividers all over the place, which means you're also looking at straight in parking spaces, instead of the easier-to-pull in (and pull out without bashing somebody) slanted slots. Sentry/Jewel understands that when you go grocery shopping, you're not looking for a quaint parking lot; you're looking to get in and out without some dufus rear ending you, and a spot relatively near a door. Cast your vote: quaint or easy-to-navagate? No-brainer. Plus, it’s a Pick N Save that's next to a Home Depot. Nobody is fooled by this lame attempt to make this look like a pictureesque towne square. If I wanted that contrived crap, I'd have bought a McMansion in Mequon. The nuts and a cherry topping this all off is the Starbucks and Applebees on the corners of this lot. They have their own parking lots that are curbed off. God forbid an Applebee's patron easily get into the Pick N Save lot or vice versa. No, you pretty much have to exit completely on Holt Avenue, and the circle around to get back. What is the purpose of this? To prevent somebody from the convenience of getting to any of these businesses in the same trip?

  • We bumped into some friends this week who had out-of-town guests. They suggested to their guests to go see Joan Jett at Pridefest. "Oh, no, I'm not going to that alone," the guests told our friends. "You'll be with us," our friends had replied. "Oh, but none of us are gay, is what I mean." I mention this only because I'm sure this wasn't an uncommon sentiment. What, is there some PrideFest rule I wasn't aware of, you must be accompanied by a bonafide gay person in order to enter? Or are you afraid that people might think that you might be the bona fide gay person. How would they check? Is this an issue with any of the other non-Summerfest festivals at Henry Maier Park? Do you have to be Irish to go to Irish Fest? (Do you have to show up with paperwork to explain your nationality if your last name doesn't start with Mc or O'?) Puh-leeze. BTW, by all accounts, Joan Jett rocked.

  • Chicago readers, help me out. I'm in the Windy City for a seminar Monday and Tuesday of next week. My hotel and the seminar itself is smack dab in the middle of the Loop. What to do at night? Who's your local club wonders I can't miss that somehow got booked early in the week? If they're national and good and on tour, I can probably catch them at Milwaukee Summerfest -- so that's not what I'm looking for here. Some acoustic wonder who run a Monday night open stage, or some wacked out punk that sings on the corner Tuesday nights. Don't tell me Chicago has neither. Let me know.

  • Stella leaves for her first overnight camp soon. She'll be gone three nights. This is the longest she's been away from home without me. She's excited as can be and I'm excited for her, but it's a little bittersweet. My baby girl is growing up too fast. She's in the older kids' soccer league now, too. Still looks like this consummate tomboy jockette when she plays-- she prefers skorts (to shorts) in girly colors, but that offsets her competitive warrior attitude when she takes to the field. I love watching her play soccer, because I can watch from a distance. I just love watching the kids in general from a distance. They forget I'm there, and they go off into their own worlds, and that's when I can really drink in the joy of their development as individuals, not as kids trying to show off for (or avoid!) mommy's watchful eye. I wish I could be a bug on the wall of Stella's tent, not as voyeur, or even to make sure she's being good, but just to re-live the discovery, the fun, the magic of being a kid at camp, away from home, making new friends, and falling asleep to the lullaby of crickets, bullfrogs, and other nocturnal forest critters.

  • Finally, if I ever catch anybody who smashes their damn glass beer or whiskey bottle right in the middle of the bike path, God help you. I haven't gotten a flat tire yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Locust Street Part II: Everything Else, Officially or Not

Pupy Costello
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Locust Street is and always will be Locust Street, which means its really not about music and bands and stuff, but about people watching. You can always count on the drum circle to hypnotise you for a few minutes. And those Afro/Brazilian/Martial arts people were incredible. But as lamented previously, we were really in a quandry as to who the "band to see" at Locust Street was going to be this year. Plus, with two kids in tow, you're not hanging around a packed street for more than a couple of songs anyway, so in honor of the fact that I could only catch bits and pieces, here's a very bits and pieces rundown of what I caught between finding a way to break it to Sammy that he's getting Ice Cream, not Cotton Candy.

  • The slushies I bought Stella and Sam took forEVER to make, because the vendor I got them from didn't have a slushie machine, they just made them to order with a blender, a 2-liter of Sprite, some ice, and those pump jugs of pure sugar syrup flavored and colored with flavors and colors that don't occur in nature. At least they made them to order, which might preserve my membership in the Crunch Granola Mama club. I've lost a corner on my membership card for the pure processed sugar part.

  • Matt Hendricks at Klinger's East turned in some seriously twisted blues and lived up to the hype I've heard about him. I'm pretty sure that was him, sliding away at an axe that bore no resemblance to Dylan, but was more worthy of the term "subterrainian homesick blues" than I ever though Dylan was.

  • Klinger's East, I'm sorry, but food-wise, our old standby just didn't have it together. It shouldn't take 10 minutes to get a bratwurst ANYWHERE in Wisconsin. It just shouldn't. I will forgive you, Klinger, next time I stop in and get one of your delicious, artery-clogging cheeseburgers, but for Locust street, you need to have people working for you that have a clue how to run an outdoor food vend.

  • Micah Olson, (who I've seen with Julie Brandenburg) leads a nice little band with prog jacked up enough to entertain a street festival audience on a hot summer afternoon at the Riverwest Commons Stage.

  • Jax's Corner Pizza took forEVER with the chicken wings, but once we got them, they were among the best BBQ flavored chicken wings ever. That's the verdict from both me and Stella.

  • Riverwest Artist Mike Brylski very quietly had his studio open and in his laid back way, sold at least two pieces that I know of. We own three of his -- and we never tire of them. Every time you look at one of his works, there's something new to it. On one hand, I think he seriously underprices himself. On the other hand, if it's selling, it might be the right price. However, both the people I either talked to or overheard buying admitted they'd have been willing to pay more than what they paid.

  • The Hill Climbers at the outdoor Linneman's stage were good, dancable bluegrass that didn’t skip a beat when the PA died on them. "Keep playing!" the audience rightfully cheered, and indeed they did. People just came closer to hear the detail, and the overall effect was perfect for a breezy, beautiful summer afternoon.

  • I'd have to say that the act to see/hear on the official Locust Street programme turned out to be Pupy Costello and His Big City Honky Tonk at the Riverwest Commons. What a wonderful breath of fresh air for those of us who hate that nu-country crap they play on mainstream "country" radio! These are guys who would fit right in on WMSE's Chicken Shack show, who don't say Hank Williams senior because, well, who else was there? It was all there, right down to the outfits, the smooth voice, the expertly played white hollow-body Gretsch. They've made my list, that's for sure.

Floor Model house party
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
But unofficially, the band to see/hear was at an off-Locust Street party, and that band was Floor Model. Since I last saw them over a year ago, they've added the bass player, and that's a good thing. The bass fills them in nicely, especially in the open air. Still good n' snotty, and since this was a yard/house party, I could reasonably leave the kids be while taking in the whole Floor Model experience. Snotty punk ethos, underground literature mindset, off-kilter chords, chord progressions and rhythms. This was the kind of band I normally expect to see either at 3:00 at the Lakefront Brewery stage, or very late in the day at Linnemans: edgy, sharp witted, tight. The general sentiment going on at this party was "This is the place to be; there's nobody at Locust Street I really need to see." Well, unfortunately, as I point out above, there were bands worth seeing, but either we're all out of it, or they haven't learned to cultivate the buzz.
I know, I know, how exactly does one cultivate the buzz? Heck if I knew that, I'd have had my car paid off by now.

Locust Street Part I: A Day at the Races with (Team Prom) Queen

Prom Queens, ready for racin'
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Well, we did it. We all piled up at Miss Laid's house, the other five of us: Miss Conception (that's me), Miss Spent Youth, Miss Ann Thrope, Miss Fit, and Miss Givings for a morning of bloody marys (or is the plural of BMs "Bloody Maries"?), bagels and smoked salmon cream cheese, and suited up our prom dresses, tiaras and started stretching out for a run. We walked to the registration table on a lovely June Sunday morning, put on our finishing touches, smiled for the cameras, and got ready to The Big Race.

Not all of us ran. Miss Fit and I decided to run, and Miss Ann Thrope's date ran with us, being gentlemanly and not sprinting ahead. We shot out of the line and caught up to the other runners. (Let's be clear here: if you want to call what I, an overweight triathlete wanna-be, was doing running, OK.) The folks on Weil street set up sprinklers for us to run through. We hit the first station and it’s a dixie-cup sized cup of cheap beer, which I downed like it was a shot. "This is gonna be easy," I thought to myself, until we came to Pseudo-station Two. I say Pseudo-station, because it wasn't really a beer stop. It was a rogue beer stop and it took time off my run! Plus, it was a full 12-ouncer of something with flavor, could have been a Lakefront Brewery product. Still, I downed it. All along the route Miss Fit and I were torn as to whether this was a race course or a parade route, as people cheered on the Prom Queens to run, yet we took time to give them "the wave" and smile. By stop 3 I'd found my stride, and by stop 4 they were starting to run out of beer. And to my surprise, Miss Fit ran out of gas, but she and Miss Ann Thrope's Date waved me forward.

Prom Queen Vron
Originally uploaded by jakedavidrohde.
Halfway south on Weil street I asked the passers by "Is it time to sprint to the finish?" knowing full well the answer would be yes, and it would be a photo op to see a woman in a prom dress (with a wardrobe malfunction!) sprinting. One of my spaghetti straps busted early in the race, the other during my triumphant sprint. Don't get all excited, people, in a very Brandi Chastain momentI was wearing a matching sports bra underneath. (But was Chastain wearing a tiara at the World Cup? I think not.) My final time for a 1.8-mile race with 4(5) beer stops? 21:00 flat. Miss Fit finished only 30 seconds after me. We then backed up the route to gather up our other Team members, who were cheated out of the 4th beer stop where they ran out. (Well, that's what happens when you don't RUN for your beer! How Milwaukee can you get?!?!)

My British photo colleague, Liz, says she still can't believe it. This isn't an American thing, I tell you. It's a Wisconsin thing. A Milwaukee thing. A Boho-neighborhood in Milwaukee thing, complete with the local alderman proudly shooting the startoff gun. All sorts of people, runners, and costumes. Serious runners at the start (who I marvel at being able to do this seriously!) Costumes of all sorts, fairies, hockey players, etc. Papparazis on the porches, Milwaukee's Finest Men in Blue cheering us on. Fellow triathletes gearing up for the Danskin, and plenty of walkers who just enjoy the ritual of walking through the neighborhood drinking a beer and calling it a race. I still can't believe it.

But I'm pumped to do it next year.

Saturday Night @ the Foundation: Oh, I Am So Disappointed

Lemonie Fresh is a terrific DJ, and so is Miss Riot. That said, given the choice, I will take a live band over record spinners any day.

Turns out that Fresh Riot turned out to be a parody ad for their DJ gig, not an announcement for an upcoming debut gig. At least I wasn't the only one at the Foundation disappointed that we didn’t have a two-piece of grrlpunk action in that back room.

Lemonie Fresh attempts to explain: "Well, it was supposed to be a parody of the Quiet Riot album cover." Uh, girlfriend, your market generally isn't familiar with Quiet Riot, and plus, you didn't even parody the definitive Quiet Riot album. And even though you used the right font to parody that QR composite photo, it's the same font you've used for your own, non-parody stuff. The fact that I met four people who were as naïve as I to think you were really gonna play live musical instruments points to the wisdom of being careful with parody, it might come back to smack you in the keyster.

"Look, I'm really sorry," she said, and it was then I realized she thought that I was really ticked off. Not at all. Disappointed, yes (and to a nice Catholic girl, a sigh of disappointment can be much worse than a burst of righteous anger, believe me) but not ticked off. After all, I did get to go out child free for an hour or so, enjoy a nice microbrew, shoot the breeze with some friendly Foundation patrons, and find yet more wonderful Tiki detail at that place. (It's like it’s the Mini Museum of Tiki Adornament there.).

But still, here's the heartbreaking part, Lemonie Fresh isn't even learning how to play the drums, much less be ready for a gig anyway. She's still considering moving from guitar to bass and we still don't know when we'll hear her playing music rather than just spinning it.

Oh, I am so disappointed. [wringing hands wrapped with a rosary I picked up at Goodwill]. Where did I go wrong? Have I not inspired grrls through my clumsy guitar playing that its all about chutzpah, you don't necessarily have to be any good??!?!? Some "veteran punkster" I am. I can't even inspire a good guitar player to drop everything and get behind a trap set. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

On the bright side, a DJ night with Lemonie Fresh and Miss Riot is never a waste of time.

But still. I was looking for two piece grrl riot, Fresh style. I think she and Miss Riot should form a band, call it Fresh Riot, and be some godawful mix of feminist glam metal punk garage cacophony influenced by both Bikini Kill and Quiet Riot. Wouldn't you pay good money for that?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Help Me Out Here People: What's the can't miss thing?

Some will slap me up for even asking, because PrideFest is this weekend! I often marvel at how this not-SanFran or notDC midwestern city puts on a great gay pride festival. Musically, it's not all "gay music." Then again, what is "gay music"? Pride Fest points out that its exactly the same as music in general. (IT's like saying you're for "Gay rights." Fuck that. "Gay Rights" are human rights. Don't get me started.). But back to the music, which makes this point wonderfully. Besides disco and showtunes, you got your straight-up (and I use that term loosely) Rock and Roll (Joan Jett), your scorching rhythm and blues walin' (Chaka Khan) and a bunch of others. Others that honestly, I'm not all that familiar with. But if there's one stereotype (or reputation) you can count on with this community, they sure do know how to put on a good time. I've never seen a crap act at Pride Fest, musically, or even among the contest and such. I've seen music that wasn't necessarily my thing, but they were good at what they did. It just so happens that I love show tunes, high energy disco as well as straight up rock and roll and rhythm and blueswailin. I'm hoping they get good weather this year -- their history is plagued by rainouts but they always bounce back.

Locust Street fest is this weekend, too, Sunday to specific. There's where I'm stuck. Musically, it's always hit or miss. Maybe I'm out of it, but usually there's at least one or two must-see acts playing. (I was first introduced to the Cocksmiths, the Danglers, and the Riveters at past LCFs) and this year perhaps I'm overlooking the bright shining star. I've heard good things about Matt Hendricks, who will be at the Klinger's stage late afternoon. The Riverwest Commons stage has some reggae before that. Lakefront brewery stage has an outfit I've heard of that I should catch called Decibully (gee, I bet they're loud!) and there's those amazing Afro-Brazilian Martial Arts and Dance guys in early afternoon at the "Grupo Maculele Capoera" stage. You already know how I'm starting my day: after some strong coffee at the Art Bar, chatting with my Cream City Photogs colleagues, me and the rest of Team Prom Queen will suit up and run that Beer Run. But where's oldschool Locust Street mainstay Paul Cebar? Where's Feedback Freddie? Isn't there anything involving either Jeff Hamilton, Paul Kneevers or Rick Hake besides one of them running sound? Dr Chow and company have whispered that they will be playing off-Locust sometime that day. (This guy I married leaked this to me.) Otherwise, please, Riverwest denizens, who am I missing? Who's the "can't miss" act this year?

OK, the clubs. Friday night nothing besides Marlavous' Karaoke is calling out to me. Saturday, on the other hand, brings choices. Julie Brandenburg is only one of many top prog artists for a massive Day and Night Of Prog-- the First (hopefully to be annual) M.A.R.S. (Milwaukee Art Rock Showcase). Locals Strange Land, Dimension X, and Far Corner will be there and Drew "Hey, Remember Me, I'm The Only Chapman Stick Player In Town" Rittgers and Strange Land's Sean Gill will turn in some solo sets. They start at 11 in the morning, and they're going until midnight. It's gonna be a long day for Miramar proprietor Bill Stace.
Might want to swing past the Foundation Saturday night, for "Fresh Riot." This is a new, two-piece combo with Lemonie Fresh on drums and "Miss Riot" on apparent vocals. That's all I officially know about them, but here's what I can tell you about Lemonie Fresh. She played guitar with grrrlll group The Riveters (and I've heard they've unofficially disbanded, bummer), and she was threatening to pick up a bass for awhile there. Now she's eschewed chordal melody completely for the drums. Good. This world can't have enough badass women drummers. And anybody who goes by the moniker Miss Riot already has points in my book. But the Foundation? Tiki Bar extraordinaire the Foundation? I'm not picturing somebody named Miss Riot giving it to ya whilst the fans adjust their umbrellas to get the booze in their systems faster. We will see.

Monday, June 04, 2007

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?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Let's Start The Summer with Grammatical Wrist Slapping

One of my favorite Milwaukee bloggeristas, Czeltic Girl, had called attention in this postto a lovely little site dedicated to passive aggressive notes passed around. It was a great blog, but the referenced blogroll was packed with equally shining gems of its own. I scrolled down, until I came to something that is my Number Two All Time Grammar Pet Peeve. (My Number One, of course, is people who use the apostrophe incorrectly. You know, people who use the possessive "2 for 1 Pizza's" when its simply plural. Remember the slogan of the Society for the Correct Use of the Apostrophe: "It's Seldom We See Its Proper Use." The SFCUA doesn't have a web page, but the Apostrophe Protection Society does, so there's no excuse.)

Anyway, on the Passive Aggressive Blogroll, is this wonderful site which pays tribute to my Number Two All Time Grammar Pet Peeve, The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, which I have added to my blogroll. It includes a "Greatest Hits" side bar, one of which had me spitting on my monitor.

But I'll go ahead and nominate this brief shining moment for the Greatest Hits sidebar as well.

Enjoy, my dear readers.