Monday, December 31, 2007

Coming up on a Happy(er) New Year

Tommy can you hear me?
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Well, I lied. I *am* going to step out a bit tonight. Have a couple of kid-friendly parties to hit, plus I totally forgot about the wonderful New Years' Eve around the world schtick they do at the Safe House. Stella loves the Safe House anyway -- we've had a few pre-ballet dinners there and she associates the place with good friends and good times.

But I did see a lot of favorites, old and new this weekend. Starting Friday, the snow died down and I trudged out to see Chief, who brought the rock as only they say they can, at the Stonefly. Aesthetically, I love that room. It's fun to photograph in, it's roomy (so the smoke doesn't get to you), the beer selection (including the house brews) is wonderful and reasonably priced, seating is comfortable and plentiful. Acoustically, it's a nightmare. God, how did Loblolly fans put up with my already high reliance on high end? That room, with its high solid ceiling and cement floor, is a high-end horror. Bounce bounce bounce goes the sound, and this isn't a diss on the sound guy, either. I'm talking to Buggs drummer Chris Lehmann, and we both agree, what a "challenge" to try to mix in this room.

Nevertheless, Chief brought the rock, ending a year when I learned about them on a lark and now I'm a fan. I like them because they are so unabashedly in love with their kind of music, and have won me back to straight up, pulsating Amerikan Rawk And Roll because of this enthusiasm. They're fierce entertainers, and they will
put hair
and metal spikey things on or around your chest.

Revolush was next. I'd met Tommy from Revolush at a Kneevers' Compound party, he handed me their CD, and I listened to it. The CD does not seem to represent this band's sound -- or maybe the band's just reinvented themselves since they made this recording, because the band on stage was this powerful, almost glam poppy metal combo, rather than just the power pop on the record. Singer Tommy has the vocal and dynamic range of Ronnie James Dio, and he uses it well, combined with a stage presence that was meant for a bigger room, that's for sure. He fronts a band that's tight, and knows how to write a variety of songs that compliment each other, but still maintain a cohesive sound. Not a dancin' band, to be sure, but a good headbanging band with a lot of emphasis on hooky, catchy melody.
Rounding out the night were the Buggs, with special guest melaniejane (lower case intentional) on electric cello, and it sounded great. Not that they need her, but her cello is a George Martin-ish frosting on the punk cake the Buggs mix with Lennon-McCartney. It was a nice way to end the evening as well -- after so much rock, much of it new, it was nice to end with something familiar, some Milwaukee punk stalwarts easily and comfortably rendering great pop from my youth. The set unfortunately got cut short because bar time was looming near, so I didn't get to hear "Edmund Fitzgerald" (which I peeked and saw was on on their setlist), but it was still a warm and fuzzy way to spend an evening with friends. Spotted in the crowd: Janna Blackwell, coming down from her set at Potbellys, Roni Allwaise, coming down from her set at the BBC, Paul "The Fly" Lawson, coming down from the big tattoo show at the BBC (where Allwaise's Guido's Racecar played with Binky Tunny and others), and earlier in the night, Blaine Schultz stopped in earlier proudly bearing copies (finally!) of the new Aimless Blades CD, which I can tell you sounds great in the car. (Full review later -- but overall, it's happy(ER) than you normally get from them. You could almost say upbeat.)

I got some knitting done, watched the rest of my Christmas gift from Brian (a copy of Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof"), and went to get my overdue Mighty Deer Lick at Club Garibaldi. The place was packed, but a lot of it was with DJs. I can see a DJ in a club in the bar part, but I just don't get putting them in front of the stage and just watching them. Especially when the band following them is a punk outfit.
Thank God for the Mighty Deerlick. They're just as snotty, off-the-cuff clever as usual, and it was a "Pseu Year's Eve" party, complete with leis, noisemakers, and silly party hats. Only four T-Shirt changes on Dave tonight, though, and I've shot him enough (he is visually fun for photogs, tho) that this blog around, I'll feature Guitarist Bob, who admits he's the "new(est)" guy in the bunch. Bought Czelticgirl that beer (a goodone Anne, don't make me buy you one of those Miller Lites you otherwise drank all evening -- pshaw!).
Another bathroom anomoly I noticed while taking a "Self Portraits in Rock and Roll Restrooms group portrait, was the fact that apparently the kitchen may not have it's own dishwashing station, as evidenced by these instructions in the women's restroom. Oh well, I'm not going to get on their case about this: they had enough issues with a sudden demand to show IDs, as if every bar in Bay View isn't already walking on eggshells over the holiday weekend step-up in liquor law enforcement.
As for tomorrow, lots of people are gearing up for the annual Polar Bear Swim near Bradford Beach, but that's almost old news. I'm not even shocked by that anymore. Bay View to the rescue with something even crazy(er). Meeting at the Palimino at 11 am tomorrow, a group of bicyclists purport to one-up the Polar Bears by riding their bikes into Lake Michigan. At least that's what the poster at Garibaldi says. I'm not clear if they're going to cowabunga off some dock, or just ride slowly off a boat launch or what, but here's the best part: they've done this before. This is the 2nd Annual Bicycle Polar Plunge. Just when I'm wishing I still lived on the Fashionable East Side, somebody down in Bay View re-ignites my southern pride.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Xmas is over. Now is the time to rock.

Xmas With Ozzy
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Ah yes. The weekend before New Year's Eve. I just don't go out on NYEve anymore. Maybe I'm getting old, but it's not worth the risk of driving with all the drunks on the road, the overpriced dinners and drinks, and the impossibility of finding a sitter. If I find a house party that will allow the kids, maybe we'll hit that.

The weekend before is a different story entirely. Friday night, there's two really good choices. At the BBC, you have Guido's Racecar at a show sponsored by Intense Ink Magazine, and there will be tattoo giveaways! Binky Tunny is on the bill too, along with three other bands. But I think I will probably end up at the Stonefly Brewery, not just to see two sixthstation favorites (Chief and the Buggs), but to check out a band called Revolush. Apparently they've been voted Best New Band or something like that in the Shepherd, and the first I'd heard of them was at a Paul Kneevers Compound Party where they handed me their CD (good power pop) and I decided I needed to see them live. So here's my chance.

Saturday is a tough call, too. The Five Card Studs are at Cali's in Brookfield, and if there's one place I really want to see the Studs, its there. It's a great little hotel lounge, just the perfect place for Cesar and Asti and Reno and the boys. Problem is, it's supposed to snow like a mofo, and I'm not in the mood to drive clear out past Highway A Hundred to see a band I could easily catch on a better day.

Plus, I have another chance of gettin' me some Deer Lick. You may remember they played out during the last snowstorm, and it wasn't the snow that kept me away, despite this little paragraph in their recent email:
It’s a Deerlick Do-Over! Listen up everybody. On December 15th, the evening of the Mighty ReinDeerlick's annual Xmas Xtravaganza, the snows came -- laying waste to our best laid plans that evening to rock as many of you as possible. Oh, we were there, and the hardy souls who braved the white death were indeed duly and vigorously rocked. But many of you were not. So we’re doing it all over again...just for you!

No, it wasn't that, guys. I told you, i had an advance screening of Alien Vs. Predator going on in my gut, and I was in no condition to make it to another club. And I regretted it. But this new show is perfect for New Years snobs like me who refer to those who do go out January 31 as "amateurs" and their email nails it. To wit:
What’s that, Mighty Deerlick?" you are no doubt asking. "Pseu-Year’s Eve?" That’s right! We’re going to pretend it’s New Year’s Eve, oh yeah! You know those people who don’t want to go out on the actual New Year’s Eve -- perhaps you are one yourself: "Oh, New Year’s Eve is amateur night. We’re just going to stay home that night and eat shrimp and watch Seacrest." Well, this is New Year’s Eve for you -- the Professional. We’ll (hopefully) have a food spread, a midnight champagne toast to celebrate the arrival of December 30th, amusing party favors, the whole shebang. All right then, we’re all good? See you there!

Indeed you will, gentlemen. At Club Garibaldi Saturday night. Seacrest Rusnak out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Catching up in the lull of the afternoon

john sings
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Right now, as you can tell from the timestamp, its that part of Christmas day when the presents have been opened, we're all coming down from the initial high of the day, and it's not quite time to set out to our friend's house for her annual evening Christmas party. So here I am, remembering that amidst all the hubbub, I have a blog to maintain!

Saturday night we hit that Bucks game, and it was a good game to hit. Maybe the "60's Night" love an peace aura wa about, because it was good vibes all around. T-Shirt Guy had his order in to Santa, and enough of the Bucks, including Yi and Redd had the good humor to pose as they would have looked in the late 60s for their introductory shots.

We got there early enough to catch the Small Fries Game, from Riverdale School, and these kids could play. Not the greatest shooters, but there was one kid on defense that made up for it -- lots of hustle. The game almost ended in a tie, but a buzzer beating basket (well, if this was the NBA it wouldnt have counted) broke the tie, to cheers from the crowd. Then the anthem -- given to us by the Park Hills High School Choir. It was OK. Thing is, this is a high school. You'd think by high school some of the kids would have developed bass and soprano pipes, but either there are only altos and tenors in the PHHS Choir, or their music teacher didn't score their soprano or bass parts, because I only heard a mid-range, two-part harmony there. If you're only going to do that, you're a chorUS, not a choIR. I know, I'm getting nit-picky here, but when somebody says "choir" I expect 4 part classically trained harmonies.

Anyway, the game! Good Christmas gift to the fans -- and Yi is on fire, hitting almost all his shots and just being there where he needed to be. Michael Redd seemed a bit tired tonight, and Bogut is out there, because he has things to prove. Yi is definitely stealing his thunder and he's got to get it back. This is good to see.

The "60s'" entertainment at halftime was Chubby Checker. OK, Checker is actually early 60s, but technically he's still 60s. Thing is, everything else about tonight was themed mid to late 60s-- very flower power, all the way down to Bango trouncing about with a 'fro and Hendrix-style headband. So Checker comes out with one of his "new" songs, and followed by the twist, of course. He's not so chubby anymore. In fact, he looks more like a guy
who used to be slim, but as he aged, put on a few pounds 'round the waist but still looks darn good.
Still, couldn't be happier with the Bucks. They need to keep this up.
Headed to the Highbury pub afterwards for the perfect pre-christmas band, John Kruth and the Eva Destruction band. Lots of duality in that place. Let's start with the Highbury itself. It's clearly a european soccer fans' joint, with club flags all about. There's a gorgeous old world chandelier next to some track lighting not too far away from a disco ball by some exposed ductwork. Onstage, there's all this soccer paraphrenalia surrounding John Kruth himself, who's playing a mandolin like he'd been kicked out of a Jewish wedding and stumbled into CBGBs. He and his Greenwich Village vibe is surrounded by the Milwaukeeness of Paul Kneevers and Jeff Hamilton, and that one guy from IROCKZ and other musicians he got to blow through the midwest these past couple of weeks with him. So I'm feeling like I'm partly in some football supporter's pub outside of Manchester, partly like I'm at Folk City in the Village, but constantly reminded that I'm really in Milwaukee, listening to musicians who have that wonderful eclectic of down-home Milwaukee wonder and love of music. There's friends and acquaintances packed into this pub from all genres of art and music, and the music itself is a wonderful cross of folk and gypsy and psychedelia, and prog and poetry. It was the perfect sendoff to the holiday weekend.

Stella and I braved the snow sunday for the Nutcracker, and it was lovely as usual. I like that Michael Pink is giving a lot of the new dancers major parts (but did save the fabulous Luz San Miguel to dance Marie.) A bit of a change near the end -- they didn't bring us back to the Tannenbaum's living room, just left Marie and Clara in the land of sweets, and maybe that's where I wanted to stay, too.

So yesterday I ran last minute errands, listening to Paul Host's Christmas show in the car, and then we drove out to Madison for family Christmas. We're coming home and there's this awful Christmas parody on the Madison 91.7 that just didn't sit right with me. It's not that I don't appreciate parody and satire (and nothing is sacred with me, you should know that), but it wasn't even funny. It was more there to try to shock, as opposed to Jimmy Von Milwaukee's craft show -- which was shocking AND funny. (Ornaments made of crack pipes, cookies in the shape of internal organs, and wonderful photography with "Santa" stood out.). The radio program was just there to be angry with Christmas, and there was no warmth to it. This is different from Paul Host's show -- which includes parody, satire, warmth, and musical takes on Christmas from just about every genre you could hope for.

That's what I really hope for from Christmastime, absent of any arguments about what the real meaning of the season is, whose birthday it is/was, what day it all really went down on, what the pagans were doing at the solstice before the Christians came along, etc etc etc. I'm all about inclusion, and seeing what everybody has to offer the world during an otherwise cold, dreary, hopeless, dead time of year. There was nothing any cynic could do to dull the thrill of Sammy opening his gifts this morning, amazed that both us and Santa knew his wants and needs as well as he did, and Stella, looking up from a gift she knew was expensive and saying, "I didn't deserve this," and my answering her, more than you know, you deserved this only if it makes you happy. Because kids deserve a irony-free day, a day to just be happy about giving and celebrating and hanging out with family. Yesterday we hung out with the family we were born into, tonight we hang with the family we chose -- and both are worth putting up with stupid retail shoppers in the weeks preceding.

Happy Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why Does It Hurt When I Eat, much less Pee?

dirty sax and bass love
Originally uploaded by V'ron
There's a nasty stomach virus (feels a touch like crypto -- 10 minutes after I ate anything I felt like I was in labor) blowing through the area, and it knocked me on my heinie Saturday night. So much so that I could barely enjoy the 1st brithday party of my friend Elaine's grandson. So much so that I could barely go out this weekend at all. So much so that I couldn't fully enjoy the Zappa Fest going on Saturday, although all four bands sparkled and twinkled so much you could almost feel FZ himself in the room. The lead singer of the Tempermentals even sounded like him, to the point where Brian came up from the green room because he thought he heard the house music and that was his cue to get his guitar tuned up and ready for play. That's how well everybody -- humbly to be sure -- approached the event.

I've written before that I'm not exactly a Zappa freak, but I do understand the man's greatness, and after Saturday night I understood it a little better -- as I realized that here was an (as he wished to be remembered) American Composer whose music could be played and enjoyed by any kind of musician or music fan. Some tunes I barely recognized-- all tunes I enjoyed. If I leaned anything that night, its that this is a body of work I am definitely going to need to more fully acquaint myself with. And anybody who knows Brian probably is in shock that we've been married this long and I haven't done this already, especially since I walked down the aisle to "Watermelon and Easter Hay" and our recessional was "Peaches en Regalia" (known to Stella as "Theme from the Jules Show.")

The Tempermentals -- lead by a guy who sounded like FZ himself, in both vocal tone and phrasing, otherwise gave this vibe of "The Georgia Sattelites jam with the Mothers of Invention" sound. "Nice treatment," I heard another guy in the crowd say, clapping appreciatively. That's the kind of crowd this was: they didn't want to hear note-for-note covers, but rather intrepretations that captured the spirit of the man's work. And Dr Chow's Love Medicine, who was on next, delivered that. The Daves from Eat the Mystery joined them on horns ( and that includes bullhorn!) and like many bands, played selections from their regular set -- and it just so happens that Dr Chow has a lot of Zappa in their regular repertoire. "Dirty Love" stood out on this particular night.

Skirt followed, and what was this? Judy Garland (and this is not Dorothy, but cigarette-smoking, Let-Me-Run-Over-That-Clanging-Trolley-Already, Judy) sings Zappa. Picture that clear, showbiz, trained, perfect voice singing "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee" and you'll get the idea. Another nice treatment of the work. And then finally the Danglers, going electric, (Dave on electric 4-string bass, Jason with a guitar), pointing out that since they don't rehearse 7-days-a-week like the original Mothers did, they would fall short of the greatness, did anything but fall short. In fact, I expected them to excel, and they did. The only reason I can't write more was that it was all I could do to hold a conversation with friends while a blocking rehearsal of "Alien Vs. Predator" was going on in my intestines -- and we ended up leaving halfway through the set. There will continue to be Zappa fests, and I know the Danglers will continue to be part of them.

Sunday I started to feel better, and so we trudged out to our family's favorite xmas tree lot to pick ours. We always go this late in the season for a couple of reasons. 1) We have our Christmas party in January, and we need the tree to not be a fire hazard by then. 2) Our other tradition is that the tree stays up as long as the Packers are "still in it" (or in some years, until at least Christmas, whichever comes last.) This year, it still might be around for the Super Bowl, so the week before the actual Holiday seemed prudent. 3) Our family never used to put up the tree until about a week beforehand. We refuse to get caught up in this whole "Christmas Time Starts in August" retail thing. And when you have kids, the tree just keeps reminding them about Christmas and all the presents they want, and it's nice to put off that nagging as long as possible. 4) We've just been too damn swamped and busy, both at home and at work. Saturday night, even if I wasn't sick, I had to miss a dear friend's party, and I wanted to tell him, "Please don't have a party during December. It's all I can do to remember to make dinner half the time." But we got our tree, and decorated it while watching "Family Guy." How's that for a mix of wonder and cynicism?

Tuesday night I visited Dr Lumberhorn at his O'Keefe's House of Hamburg office for my monthly prescription of irreverant bluegrass, which helped me crack my neck and ease a lot of the personal stress I've been going through. (That project at work I'm not supposed to talk about is also easing off, at least for now, and that's helping too.) In the spirit of the season, they were giving away their CDs, T-Shirts, and such, and it took awhile for this concept of "free stuff" to sink in with the crowd. "We'll give you a quarter if you take this stuff," they said, in their trademark self-depreciating way. (That of course promted a response: "If I take 8 things, will you give me two bucks?") But once it did sink in, the stocks quickly disappeared, and the tip jar was full. One enthusiastic patron took "anything on that table is free" to the letter and picked up the generously filled tip jar (you can count on good ol Catholic guilt to get people to "pay" for "free" stuff -- it worked on me!) and said, "Well you said that anything on the table was free." The band of course played along merrily (even though the looks on their faces indicated a cross between "DOH!" and "Oh Shit!"), while the tip jar taker looked dead serious and the rest of us in the audience looked on in disbelief ready to transition to horror. Fortunately she didn't take the cash, but I was a bit worried for the band. I mean, to a fellow musician, even touching The Tip Jar, even in jest, is right up there with stealing from the Salvation Army bell ringer on Christmas Eve. You just Don't Do It, I don't care how much the band good-naturedly laughs over it. Especially since none of us paid cover.

Anyway, there were plenty of folks enjoying pre-holiday fun at O'Keefe's that night, and rather than describe the show (which was enjoyable and fun as I've come to expect from these guys), I think I'll just publish this picture which pretty much summed up the evening for me:

Speaking of O'Keefe's, phone calls were made and a Dr Chow Holiday party will be going on this Friday night, which, if I can scrape up a sitter on Christmas Weekend with 48 hours notice, I'll be at. Otherwise, I'd have set out for a lovely evening with the Five Card Studs (at the Cactus Club).
Saturday, Jimmy Von Milwaukee gathers his Leo Feldman Gallery denizens for his annual Christmas Craft show at 823 N. 2nd, across from the ARCW and behind George Webb's. It's Saturday night and Sunday all day. This year's theme for the self-proclaimed "Craft Show From Hell"? Season's Geinings -- A tribute to Ed Gein! From the press release:
A Jack of all trades and master of all, Ed Gein was a Freelance Artist, Innovator, Sculptor (a Architect of bone artifacts), Performance Artist and a Outsider Artist who came from the DL (down low) town of Plainfield, Wisconsin.

Oh, and ghastly serial killer too. The press release points out (in bold type, just in case), this is an adults only show. Yeah, right, like I want to have to have this conversation with Stella real soon: "Well, sweetheart, some people have issues. You know, how those mean kids in school have issues like parents who hit them and such so they think that they need to hit everybody else? Well, there was this guy named Ed Gein who had issues. His mom used to get on his case a lot, but instead of just talking back to her, he he dug up bodies and killed women himself and made outfits and lampshades with their skin and dinner with the rest of their body parts. I wouldn't recommend this as an effective way to deal with disagreements with your mom."

Saturday night we have Bucks tickets, and then later, John Kruth is in town again, and this time we will NOT miss him. He'll be at the Highbury pub on KK, which seems to be the place for that crowd (Jeff Hamilton, Paul Kneevers, et al). I will have to catch Paul Wall and his Nice Outfit (at the Mad Planet Saturday night for a CD release party) another evening, for I am NOT missing Kruth again. But score one for the Nice Outfit -- they were on WMSE's Local/Live this week and -- passing the ultimate test of a great dirty pop band -- they sounded great on the car radio.

Sunday: Stella and I will settle in during the late matinee showing of the Nutcracker Ballet at the PAC, and if we can score tickets this late, maybe we'll make a day of Christmas Culture and hit A Christmas Carol at the Pabst.

Monday: Christmas eve, and with that brings Paul Host's Christmas Show on WMSE. Christmas eve is when we do the family thing, and there's nothing like driving over the river and through the woods, with Paul and his amazing Christmas collection on the radio.

Pre Holiday Ramblings

One Soup Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Just a few ramblings before the big weekend:
  • I've come to the conclusion that if you're a stoner, and need a job, you would do well working for one of those companies that make Vendor Holiday Gift Baskets. Short of working in product development at Ben & Jerry's, no other job would seem to be so tailor made for you. Really, who else but a stoner would come up with chocolate-covered potato chips? Who else but a stoner would realize how good it would taste to layer port wine cheese spread with pre-crushed Ritz Crackers artfully displayed in a snowflake-shaped decanter? Who else but a stoner has even heard of minty-infused white-chocolate covered dried japapeno peppers?

  • I capped off my holiday shopping at American Science and Surplus, where I could write blog entries forEVER about all the treasures one can find there. I'll just point out my favorite find this year -- a mini catapult that launches little plastic nuns. And I am the kind of person who has several friends who would indeed appreciate a Nun-A-Pult.

  • The Ice Dams cometh: why this year? What is it about this year's icicles that are really causing the issue? The sudden freeze? Or is everybody so busy this year (and everybody I've talked to say this has been one of the most stressful holiday seasons ever, so it's not just me), that they've ignored basic maintenance? Knock on wood, we've been lucky.

  • And finally, did you realize that Wolfgang Puck bears a striking resemblance to Jack Nicholson?

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm still here.... melting the snow with the surf

beerleaders and fair warning
Originally uploaded by V'ron
"Do you miss me? I miss me too!" -- Whale (Remember them?)

And it hasn't been the holiday season that's been doing it. That project at work that I'm not supposed to talk about peaked this past week so if I had a spare moment at home, I spent it just mindlessly knitting that sweater I started. It was very zen to do and helped me clear my head. But that didn't stop me from seeing some terrific stuff last weekend, and it won't stop me this weekend either, especially since this weekend is packed with great stuff. Almost too much great stuff. I'm going to have to miss a lot because there is so much going on. It's the season to cram a whole years' worth of celebration into three or so weeks. And this weekend seems to be the "band" weekend, because nobody wants to play out on Christmas Eve Eve weekend because everybody thinks nobody wants to go out. Wrong. I always need to go out and underground the weekend before Christmas just to put things in perspective.

Roundup from last weekend:

Spent my birthday eve with Eat the Mystery, who crammed themselves onto the tiny stage at the Bremen Cafe, and added a few special guests. Among them was man-about-town Mark E Lee, who fit in perfectly delivering the Johnny Cash and playing the bass in lieu of the entire horn section the ETM usually has. (Dave Cusma was there, though, and he covered most of the horns himself). Lots of drinking of course, and they actually did a medley of their top drinking songs in Set 1, but as they bought me a birthday shot after midnight, they split them back up, or at least did a full version of "Demon Alcohol."

"You can't play this stuff up north," said Janna Blackwell, spotted in the audience joining Paul "The Fly" Lawson for a beer after her own gig at the Bayshore Potbellys. She's doing a happy hour thing there on Fridays, mostly covers, but she's still the legenday bassist I remember. She's also managing bands in the Fox River Valley, and I do suspect there's not a lot of people up there who know of half the incredible bands she laid down the beat for (including the Psychobunnies, with whom I share a sordid band past.) Anyway, good to see her.
Saturday, I took the kids to Lafayette Hill for a great session of sledding, and rested up for the Roller Derby. It was semifinals, and finally, the Sheevil Kneevils busted their no-win record with a close victory over the (well, until that night) undefeated Rushin' Rollettes. And it didn't look so good in the beginning, but this was a night to remember, and it seemed that the whole league was genuinely happy to see the upset, (except those Rollettes, of course).

jonny z debuts on guitar
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
After that, it was snowing like crazy, so we got the kids home and settled in with the sitter so we could go out and celebrate our birthdays, and stopped in at the Cactus Club to catch Transistor Royale. When it snows, nothing cheers me up like instrumental surf, and there is no shortage of great surf in this town. Transistor Royale saw to reminding me of that fact. Jonny "Chicken Shack" Z, normally a stand up bass kind of guy, debuted on guitar that night, as the rest of the band debuted period. They're all stalwarts of the surf/instrumental/americana scene anyway -- Eric Knitter, Don Nelson, a bass player I didn't recognize, and a keyboardist who I didn't recognize either but will note if nothing more than a smashing smoking jacket.. Actually, they were all dressed sharp (somebody had called out "You all look like you're going to bed!") and played to match. Mostly surf tunes, but there was one song with lyrics early in the set that was positively, psychedelically, frantically burning. Wow. Definitely friending them on myspace so I can see them again.

shake those maracas!
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
They were followed by The Nice Outfit, a well-named band with Trolley's Paul Wall behind them. These are four guys who don't look like they should be in a band together. Drummer looks like he belongs in a jazz combo, 2nd guitarist looks like he should be in a broodingly dark metal band, bass player is ready to front a new wave/shoegazer act, and then there's Paul Wall. But they all sound like they should be in a band with Wall. Together, they have his signature, "I'm not really trying to invite 'beatlesque' comparaisons but if you mention those guys in the same paragraph while you talk about me I will have done my job" sound. Good power pop that isn't dopey but isn't self-consciously "clever" either. Having the get the sitter home was the only reason we didn't stay for the whole set.

mark e lee standing in
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
And since said sitter lives in Riverwest, that was as good a reason to drop into the Riverwest Commons as any to catch a bit of Bobby Rivera and the Rivieras. But first I have to yell at you, boys. What did I just say about telling people DAY OF SHOW about your gig? I wouldn't even have bothered if i wasn't in Riverwest anyway. I'm glad I did, though, while the snow fell softly outside, you all played wonderfully and elegantly, and I enjoyed a snotty little story about how Wanda Jackson didn't like your take on one of her songs. (I have to say, it took balls to whoop her song up while you were backing her up.) And there's Mark E Lee with them, reprising his Johnny Cash number from the night before. (Actually, this gig opened with Floor Model, so the Floormodelites --oh whom Lee is one --were there coming down from their set which I regrettably missed. Speaking of reprising, they'll be reprising the exact same Linneman's lineup -- themselves, the Mandates, and FSFI -- soon, at Linneman's, hopefully with smoke eaters/ventilation in full repair.) But anyway, that was a great set to have humming in my head as i braved my birthday snow ride home.

Allright, onto this weekend:
  • Tonight, your choices are the Cocksmiths at the Up and Under, or chick night (the wonderful Barrettes with Pillowfight and a coula other bands) at Points East. Tough call. Love the Barrettes, need to see Pillowfight in more than a Trashfest set, but haven't seen the Cocksmiths in awhile. It may come down to where the parking is easier (and that nod goes to Points East.)

  • Tomorrow is really tough call night. Brian plays with Dr Chow in the annual Zappafest (next weekend would have been his 67th birthday) and the Danglers are also on that bill. All are bands who actually have Zappa in their repertoire anyway, so its not like they had an assignment to ready for. Boy, if this wasn't my husband, though, I'd have to heavily consider the legendary Dirtbombs (great garage from Detroit) at the BBC for the Onion's Christmas party. Sixthstation favorite IROCKZ opens. Then, frankly, it's just not Christmas without The Mighty (Rein)Deer Lick at Zad’s Roadhouse -- new venue at
    434 S. 2nd Street that according to Czelticgirl has Bill Brunke's aura about it in some form or another. For personal reasons, I owe Czelticgirl some kind of Irish/Slavic drinking concoction, and this might be worth a stop in to pay up on this. Place your bets as to where I'll end up.

  • And if surf music didn't melt my heart last weekend, the Bikini Beachcombers will hula my heart at the Foundation's Customer Appreciation party on Sunday night. I know they play other places, as well they should, but that tiki bar is the correct place to see them, enjoying a mai tai as you go.

  • And finally, Tuesday night, I'll have to pop into O'Keefe's House of Hamburg for what is pleasingly turning out to be a monthly dose of Lumberhorn, this time undiluted by a longing to dance with Helio Castroneves. Last year at around this time, they brought me back to sanity with Santanic satire and I suspect they will deliver the same. After being so busy I don't even have time to blog, I'm gonna need it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Just Another Day

No, I haven't written about the snow, (which I haven't had time to play with my kids in), the Bucks (who I'm ignoring until they consistently get their act together), any bands playing out (there's so many my head's spinning), all because of that project at work that I'm too dependent on my job to talk about. So, honeys, I'm not ignoring you. I'm just even more swamped than I usually complain about being. I'm even too swamped to write in my blog.

Oh, and tomorrow's my birthday. I'm feeling guilty about celebrating this, because yesterday was Brian's and, well, I didn't do anything special for it. So I feel like I just have to treat tomorrow like just another day. Which, when you're looking down the barrel of 50 (hold the stupid black balloons, I'm not quite there yet), it actually is. Just another day. And before you get yet another of Sir Paul's more dreckier moments I offer you a weekend lineup worth celebrating a birthday with:
  • Tonight the fabulous Eat the Mystery packs it into the Bremen CafĂ© for their 2nd Anniversary Show. They've been around for only two years? I thought they'd been around since 1927. Anyway, it's been awhile, and somehow they are a perfect band for the season and to drink a birthday drink to.

  • Renaissance man Jeff Hamilton and Cocksmith Matty Gonzalez crank it up tonight for a "solo" (but there's two of 'em) show at the Highbury. And it's Matty's birthday too!

  • Saturday during the day, it's Art Vs Craft at the Scottish Rite Center. This is the place to pick up the kind of Christmas gifts I like -- cool, kicky, things that had some thought put into them, local, slightly ironic. Chris Ward alerted us to this. And even if you don't buy a thing, if you've never been in the Scottish Rite Center you want to see the interior. I was there once for one of Melanie Beres' Milwaukee Rock Theatre shows and the combination of oldschool WASP with rock, art, and irony was wonderful.

  • The Brew City Bruisers have a bout this Saturday night! We're taking the kids! It's smoke free, and Stella loves it, and I'm glad she loves it: there's nothing like a feminnist mom and her girl (and her boy and husband, for that matter) in a gym full of strong, creative, powerful women of all shapes and sizes having a good time.

  • Email from the Uptown Savages: some of their members have a new band debuting Saturday night. Here's their blurb, which is all I know about this new act: "Transistor Royale will be making our debut performance on Saturday, Dec 8.
    The show is at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee. We will be opening for The Nice Outfit and Jack Raasch. [They] feature current and former members of The Exotics, The Uptown Savages, The Dick Satan Trio, The Nelsonics, The Bikini Beachcombers, The Virgins, The Nerve Twins, Forearm Smash and Death and more." OK, either there's a few guys who play in thirty different bands, or the stage at the Cactus is going to be packed.

  • Prog queen and composer royale Julie Brandenburg is set for a mellow night at the Bradford Beach Club -- she'll start out with solo songs with Eric Lundgren, and then Strange Land's Sean Gill will play some solo guitar compositions. I might need just that to come down from the Roller Derby

Sunday, December 02, 2007


OK, let's begin by kvetching about the snowstorm, shall we? Let's piss and moan all about the snowstorm as if we in Wisconsin had never seen one before. "Oh, I can't believe this! It's snowing! It's December 1 and it's snowing! Snowing like a mofo!"

Duh. Still, I have to complain, because it was in this miserable snow, on the way to that miserable Bucks game Saturday night, that I got my first flat tire in some 20 years. And I didn't even notice it for awhile, because I thought it was just the crappy driving conditions you get in the first snow. No, by the time we pulled into the garage by the municipal court (best deal near the Bradley Center), we realized, "no, this is a flat" and were bowled over by the [sarcasm on] helpful men in blue [/sarcasm off] that were crawling the place. "Uh, you have your car parked in a handicapped spot." Duh, I know. It was the only open place i could see right away while I got my bearings. Can you help us with this flat? "No, and just know your'e going to get ticketed at some point. Can't help you with the flat." Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so very much, officer. Moved the car and realized, well, in this storm, the soonest we're going to get Triple AAA here might be a few hours anyway, so what the heck. Let's hit the game. That should cheer us up.


Didn't make it in time for the anthem, which is just as well. The Bucks were playing so flat, like everything else tonight, that the anthem might have been sung flat, for all we know and I didn't need to hear that. I coudn't even get a shot of T-Shirt guy, because I wasn't in the mood to shoot. My pictures would have been flat.

The new game host, Ronnie Whatshisname was phoning it in. Everybody else seems to have called in sick. Even our regular usher isn't working. (We sit fairly close to where there was some fan incident earlier this week -- we figure our regular guy , who's been there for years, probably said, "To heck with it. I have to deal with unruly fans in this weather? For the first time in 40 years, I'm calling in.") Only Andrea Williams managed to get any enthusiasm going as she introduced tonight's "Extreme Fan of the Game," some kid who looked normal, but drove in with his family all the way from Appleton. Now that's extreme.

The halftime entertainment is a demo from the winners of the Bucks pom/dance squad competition. There's two divisions: hip hop and traditional pom pom. Sorry hip hop winners, but you were flat. Maybe because their music was so nondescript: it didn't seem to have a melody, but just a mishmosh of about 20 hip house songs with about 4 seconds worth of time to each, and the routine followed suit. They were dressed in Adidas track suits and they did a lot of that annoying Britney Spears stuff where you just pull up your arms like you were in an aerobics class from the early 90s. Not impressive. It wasn't cohesive or anything. The pom pom winners, Oak Creek, were a different story. They chose a gay-bar-worthy version of "Downtown" and they trotted out in these Ice Queen blue outfits with their pom poms and, well, these kids are ready for Radio City. One song, one routine, one cohesive unit.

Back to the Bucks. Their shootng percentage is better than Detroit's but they still can't beat 'em. Like Ronnie Whatshisname, they're phoning it in and not even expecting a response from the receiving side, just like me phoning in my flat to Triple A and not expecting any kind of response. (I didn't even call. We decided to let Triple A deal with people who are stuck in ditches.) The Rim Rockers come out during a time out in the 3rd quarter, when the Bucks are down by 20, and they can't even hit half their shots. Everybody is flat. Best thing the Bradlley Center can do to put a smile on our face is to show us a bunch of Bango's Blooper reels.
We decided to stick around the 4th quarter to the first time out, and as the Bucks are still down by 20 (right when they announce the rules to the McDonald's 100 point Quarter Pounder With Cheese rules to laughter from the crowd) we decide to get a jump on our car issues. We change the tire in the trunk with the funky spare tire, and we limp home and Brian drives Talia the Hip Babysitter home in the other car. The kids had a flat night too: A lackluster game of Sorry, some popcorn that burned in the microwave, and an uncharacteristically weak episode of Cow and Chicken that I watched the end of cuddled with Stella. Brian's listening to the post-game show on the radio, and apparently Larry Kristkowiak and the Bucks made the press (those who actually stayed) wait a full hour before emerging from the locker room for the postgame press conference. I don't think I even want to have been a bug on the wall there. It would have been even more uncomfortable than we were driving on this funky spare tire in this snowstorm.
So this morning, Sammy wakes up, peeks out the window and lustily cries, "Mommy, there's snow! Awesome!" and he and Stella race each other to find their snow pants, bundle up, and run outside to start building snow animals and laying a foundation for this winter's fort. It's the same contrast in attitude I laughed at yesterday when I picked up Stella from ballet: one little girl sees the snow that's rolled in during class and says "Excellent, it's snowing!" And her Dad is like "It is NOT excellent. The snow makes for dangerous road conditions!"
But today the kids are soaked with wet wet wet snow by the time they come in so I put dry pants on them, spend an hour at the YMCA so they can run around some more, and then take them with me to run errands. Stella and I pick out our yarn for our winter knitting projects (Stella wants to make socks and a hat, I'm attempting a full blown sweater), Sammy is just happy that his boots from last year still fit. Their attitude is infectious: I no longer am depressed by the snow, I'm no longer feeling so flat. Maybe the Bucks should spend some time with some kids.