Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lost in Waukesha, Finding America

I don't know if the Cactus Club had power Friday night, but we didn't. So we spent the night at home as a family, lighting candles, and telling stories and actually entertaining ourselves by having a conversation. I'd told Stella about the last great power outage we suffered -- she was only 16 days old, back in '98, when a winter storm had power out for two days and we ended up staying at Gramma's. So only 5 hours without power in the spring was a minor inconvenience.

Saturday, however, was a different story. Before I get to my usual "Arts and Entertainment" rundown, I really need to rant about trying to find one's way in Waukesha County. I talked to enough people to learn I'm not alone -- what is with that place? There's enough perfectly intelligent people who live there, and on paper, it looks like it makes sense. But -- I can't put my finger on it -- nobody can seem to give directions that work there, the streets seem to change names or numbers every few blocks, and things like "East Avenue" have absolutely nothing remotely to do with the compass direction "East." It's on the south side of the city, it is not on the east side of the city, it doesn't get you to the East side of the city, and if you drive it all the way through, you will be no more "East" than when you first started. Maybe it was named for some guy named "Fred East" or something.

I bring this up because I'm taking my Girl Scout troop camping and I saw directions to the closest hopsital to the campsite, and i noted that this closest hospital happened to be Waukesha Memorial. Panic set in: you mean to tell me that if I'm in an emergency situation with an injured girl in my care, I'm going to have to find my way in Waukesha? No, I took a couple of hours and made a test run and I'm glad I did, because as usual, I got lost, ended up at Elmbrook Memorial and finally figured where I went wrong. (Hint: East Avenue figures in prominently.) So, rest assured, parents of my girls, I now know how to get to the hopsital from camp, I have written down directions and noted prominent landmarks (as opposed to the directions you sometimes get from Waukeshans: "Go on Hwy Such and Such which used to by State Road So and So -- remember, there used to be a Dairy Queen on it, right?") and it will NOT take me the hour and fifteen minutes it took me to initially find it.

On to A&E: What an uplifting treat Joel Richter's photography turned out to be! Very abstract in some respects, and when I say uplifting, it was nice. It was warm. It was not "inspirational" (read: nauseating). It was simply images he made with his point and shoot (he is, like I did, taking the foray into digial carefully) that just sugggested a contented, warm place in life. If you missed this, you can go back to the Gay Arts Center on S 2nd and get this exhibiton accompanied by music on May 10 --from the English, French and German Baroque performed by members of the Saint Paul's Choir with Jerrod Fenske, conductor. If I'm not too pooped from other engagements, I might do that.

Before I went to Shank Hall for the Thunder and Lightning release extravaganza, I stopped in at Don Quixote across the street from the GAC with a pair of co-workers for some tapas, and was treated to the sassiest waitress I've had in a long time. But she was European sassy, and I think that's why I liked her. The tuna croquetas were very, very good, the "tortilla" (which basically seemed more like a potato and garlic quiche -- and as my companions noted, "They are really in love with the garlic here") was almost a dinner in itself.

So off to Shank Hall, where I arrived to catch the tail end of the show. I missed Marvelous Marla, I missed Harvey Scales, I missed Dave Alswager sitting in as Neil Diamond (did they time this to coincide with Neil Diamond Week on American Idol, perchance -- can you wait to see what David Cook is going to do with this?), but at least I caught what I really came to hear Claire "Thunder" Sardina do: sing a trio of Patsy Cline tunes to a room that clearly was filled more earlier in the evening. This is a shame, because when Sardina turns on the Patsy, that's where she shines. She doesn't sound like Cline -- which is what keeps her from being a cheap imitation -- she's just a person who happens to do the same material Cline did -- and she does it organically and convincingly well. Why they stick this at the end, where fewer people are going to be around to hear the best she has to offer, is beyond me. On the other hand, I got to see it because I was running late, so it worked for me. But still, few people can touch this material and come out shining. Sardina does, which is why it deserves to be something a show is built around, not an afterthought.

Spotted in the crowd: globetrotter Judy Rohan, back from a destination wedding in Paris, gearing up for daughter Amy's next gig, which i really have to catch. Everything about Amy I've heard indicates I'll like/rave about her here, so I should get my butt out and see her already.

Ended the night at the Riverwest Commons, to catch Bobby Rivera and the Riviera, whoops, i mean The Del Ripleys. Speaking of ripping, I ripped Bobby a new one for, once again, not plugging this show until day of, but he pointed out that Myspace was being freaky and funky and actually, it has been lately, so i'll let him slide. I also let him slide on the amount of hotdogging he does on his guitar, but only because he's so damn good at it. Hightlight for me -- a particularly meanacing intro to "Pipeline". Well, that was the guitar highlight. That new chick singer (I have a last name now!) Pauline York, is getting more and more confident on stage, and it's showing in the easy sassieness in her delivery. "Where did you find her?" I asked Rivera. "Joliet." Well, that explains everything. Having come from that neck of the woods, the inflections, the phrasing, it all comes together now. Go see them. Old school country-blues (in Sardina's/Cline's territory) and grinding instrumental surf wrapped up in one band. Spotted in the crowd: Ron Turner, who agreed with me on Rivera. What a way to finish the evening.

Sunday morning I had breakfast with my photo collective, the Cream City Photogs, at the Anodyne Coffee Shop on brady, and had the most delicious whole wheat waffle with "the works" (pecans and bananas in addition to standard butter and syrup) to give me the carbo-boost i needed to finish my bike ride. And the Photogs meeting was a boost as well. You've probably noticed that -- in addition to this unillustrated post -- I haven't been shooting for shit lately. Meeting with those guys always gives me inspiration to at least try.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This just in...

I knew this show was coming up, but when I was at home last night, I googled it and it said something like May or whatever... but my co-worker Joel Richter has a photography show that opens at the Gay Arts Center Saturday night. The center's location is 703 S 2nd -- it's definitely an easy stop to make tomorrow night from 6-9, so while you're still deciding which club to grace with your presence, you can grace yourself with "Art From St. Paul's."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I looked and I did not hear

So I did a lot of gallery night walks, but I was too pooped to hit any bands this past weekend. Friday night I stayed in the third ward, and checked out the CoPA show at the P&H Dye House, and it was indeed impressive. The thing about CoPA is that they do have a variety of styles amongst its membership, and the show was wonderfully varied in those styles. It was almost overwhelming, the size of the show, but still very good.

Walked over to the Marshall Building next, and ran into Danielle Champagne, whose rock and roll photography seems to have faded into the film age. She mentioned that she has a stockpile of photographs of Beautiful Bert (who, you may know passed on recently, and no, I have no more information other than what I've already posted about him) that I'm going to help her get scanned and online, and hopefully can talk her into putting a lot of her other work online as well. She pretty well documented the underground Riverwest music scene in the 90s -- I'm sure a lot of people would be very interested in her work. We also popped into The Cedar Gallery to see some illuminating paintings by Charles James Kaiser. Illuminating is the right word for his work -- it seems to glow about, a very otherworldly treatment of what could have been very mundane subjects: people near a swimming pool, backyards, etc. Guiding us through was Kaiser's second cousin, Milwaukee political gossip Michael Horne, whose own writing has been a favorite of mine from his old "Plenty of Horne" column in the Shepherd to his now current blog. Enjoyed the art, enjoyed the company, and I went home to enjoy a fine carry out dinner from Royal India. I was thoroughly planning to go out and enjoy more art, as well as a few bands, but I laid down on the couch, and the next thing I knew it was 2 am. Guess I was tired.

Saturday I didn't fare much better when it came to listening to music. Stella and Sam and I made it to Diamond Ink, where Washday's Cigar Box guitars were even more impressive than they sounded. They are quality instruments, and they take the beauty of their origins as ornate cigar boxes and wonderfully incorporate that history. Mike Fredricksen's paintings never fail to disappoint. He has a way of capturing a persona in his paintings (I've seen him perfectly nail people I know, so I am taking a calculated guess that I can trust he did that with others as well) that captures the personality as well. Someday when I can afford it, I'm going to commission something from him. Finally, Jim Eanelli had some work that was more abstract, but warranted further investigation. I'm not a huge abstract fan, but his work seemd to fit in with Washday, Fredricksen, and John Lennon's sketches.

Again, I had totally planned on going out that night, but stayed in with the kiddos instead.

Finished off the art week checking out the Foto exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and if you haven't had a chance to check it out, I heartily recommend it. It's nicely curated, and amongst some of the predictably depressing work (face it, the first half of the 20th Century wasn't a happy time for Central Europe), there are moments of humanity that seem timeless -- from the soccer goalie barely missing the ball (and that moment of regretful agony on his face), to portraits of couples in love, to women finding the source of their mystery and power, it's a great survey of what Central Europe was all about, socially, artistically, and emotionally. Bravo, MAM.

Anyway, on to this weekend. Serious power pop bill at the Cactus Club Friday night: The Box Social (from Madison, saw them a half year ago and was mighty impressed), Molitor, and headlining will be The New Loud, back from a national tour. Saturday night at Shank they're celebrating the release of the Thunder and Lightning movie -- the story of the Milwaukee couple who made the Neil Diamond show their life -- with Mark Shurilla and the Greatest Hits providing the tunes. Sunday, there's a terrific private show (worth trying to see if you can get tix for) at The Ring -- Run Run Run comes back from LA with the White Hot Tizzies and sixthstation favorites IROCKZ. Maybe this time around I'll be able to not sleep through the weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Things to look at

Look What I Did!
Originally uploaded by V'ron
First, I have to brag. Sunday was chilly out, plus I was a bit tired from playing the night before, but I got it in me that if I didn't clean out the garden beds now, I would have to do so on some beautiful day where I'd rather be hanging and playing with the kids and grilling steaks. So I filled a dozen bags of yard waste with last fall's leaves (I don't rake them all, they're cheap mulch and this winter, we needed it!) and pruned the roses and raspberries. My sore lower back paid for it Monday, but it's done! All I have to do is plant!

Anyway, this weekend is Gallery Night and Day, and there's plenty to see, especially if you have a bent toward music, as I do.
  • The annual CoPA (Coalition of Photographic Arts) is always good, and it's again at the PH Dye House at 320 E Buffalo. My Cream City Photogs colleague, Monica Gerds, is one of many excellent photographers who will be exhibiting in this show.

  • If you're in the 3rd Ward anyway, there's plenty to see in the Marshall Building alone. The ArtMail group has a show in the lobby, co-sponsored by teh Shepherd Express. ArtMail is a neat concept that I'm glad I heard about: go to the Art Mail Website and sign up and then you'll get a lovely email at least weeekly featuring a work of art and information about the local artist. I've seen a lot of great stuff in my email box as a result, and can't wait to see this show.

  • More Flickrites at the Light Ideas Gallery, also in the MArshall Building. Suzanne Garr & Byron Becker will be presenting "Our Worlds As Seen" and just from what I've seen at the Light Ideas site, this is woth a stopin s well.

  • Upstairs at Gallery 218 in the Marshall Building will be the usual 218 Suspects, but with music by Janet Schiff and the Danglers' John Sparrow, and that alone is worth the walk up those stairs. Really, between all that, the usual excellence at the Grava Gallery, and the always wonderful Elaine Ericksen, it's worth the hassle of finding a third ward parking place near Water and Buffalo just for the Marshall Building, period.

  • Further South, in Walker's point, at Galley 218's old digs, namely 218 S 2nd, is Nedobeck's Diamind Ink gallery, with a pile of musicians who are also amazing visual artists. Case in point, Mike Fredrickson will have paintings there, Jim Eannelli will as well, and they'll fit in nicely with a handful of John Lennon's prints. (Yes, that John Lennon.) A lovely night of visual artists turned musicians -- or was it the other way around?

  • At the same place, Johnny Washday has a display of cigar box guitars he crafted. From his myspace blog: " Last winter I read about how early blues guitar players made their first instruments using primitive tools and & supplies at hand. I had to see for myself. Using only a buck knife, file, and manual hand drill, a cigar box of recycled maple... [and other items] ; I was able to fashion a playable 3 string version ... the plan was to make playable art for friends and family." Over the winter, he ran into a luthier friend of his, and together they fashioned a few dozen. "I am very proud of these as they will most certainly outlive me." Which, of course, is kind of the point of any art, no?

  • Then just open your ears, head to Club Anything, and catch a good rock and roll chick night, with Roni Allwaise fronting the wonderful Guido's Racecar (with the aforementioned Washday on bass), followed by Liv Mueller fronting the equally but differently stunning Dark Horse Project.

I already posted earlier this week about Saturday, but besides Binky Tunny playing at the Whitefish Bay Sendiks (and that will be worth it for the culture clash alone!), Record Store Day at both Atomic and the Exclusive Company, and then an evening with Dr Chow (at O Keefe's House of Hamburg), as well as Transistor Royale and the Liam Ford Band at Lulu. I'll be just as exhausted after this weekend as I was cleaning up the yard!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Consider this. Get this.

Well, how'd the Loblolly show go, you ask? Actually quite well, considering. Considering that we couldn't figure out how to make the house bass rig work, thank goodness for Floor Model, whose studio was nearby and who let us use theirs. (Oh, and Floor Model was stellar as usual. I was nervous all night about having to follow them; they were tight, funny, spot on, rockin', just great stuff, as usual.) Considering I was too sick to promote the show, although we did make some money. Considering that half our fans were drinking for free at Mark Shurilla's 60s birthday party. Considering we didn't have a doorman (nor did Whispering Jeff tell me I needed to recruit one!) until Frank Chandik showed up and did the work for us. I hope he availed himself of the drinks off the door I offered him as payment.

Oh, and get this: I know that hardly any venues in Milwaukee of this size were originally meant to be music venues, but it so happens that the stage at Zad's is directly under the heat blower. Nobody planned this, its just how things worked out. Because that's just what you need onstage: warm air blowing on you! Kind of gives you that "I'm sweatin' out the rock for YOU, Milwaukee!" look. I'd originally planned to wear my hair down and be all windblown and sex-ay and crap, but one minute onstage and reality kicked in: "V'ron, you're in your 40s, you're a mother of two, you aren't doing this rock and roll thing full time, and on top of that, you have a hot air blower right over your head. To hell with sexay. Wear your damn hair up," that little devil on my shoulder advised me. Oy. When I went to see the Mighty Lumberhorn last Thursday there (mostly to scope out the joint), none of those guys warned me about this.

Speaking of the Lumberhorn, banjoist Boy Howdy (who goes by the name of Ted) slipped me some news about his other outfit, the Bikini Beachcombers. They've just released a CD, "Holiday i Waikiki" and it's almost sold out! Why? Get this: because apparently Otto Von Stroheim (despite the non-tiki sounding name, he's evidently a Tiki culture jammer) endorsed them on his blog, and according to Ted, "now a bunch of people wanna be our myspace friends and buy our disc." That's the power of the internets for you.

Onto later this week: A couple of interestingly free things during the daytime this weekend. Saturday is National Record Store day, and Milwaukee's oldest independent shop (that's still standing), Atomic Records, will pack them in for a bunch of good local bands to celebrate with in-store sets from, among others, Testa Rosa and Juniper Tar. The Testarosans will be coming off a show at the Cactus Club this Friday. Also on Saturday, get this: Binky Tunny has 9 hours to fill at the Whitefish Bay Sendik's!

You may want to consider making the rounds Saturday night. Dr Chow is at the Port of Hamburg, as they are one of the unofficial house bands, and being that I'm married to one of the guitar players, it's of course a pick for me. But get this double bill at Lulu that might make me late for the Chow show: The Liam Ford Band (rockabilly with a touch of the Man in Black) with one of my newest favs, surf magicians Transistor Royale. This is going to be a majorly tough call. And I'm sure as the week goes on, I'll find out about more great stuff happening this weekend. Spring is coming, and not only are the crocuses blooming, the musicians are coming out of the woodwork, bearing gig dates and amplifiers.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tonight I'm at Zad's Roadhouse

Playing with my band, Loblolly.

Floor Model will be there too.

I scoped out the joint the other night, and shot this self-portrait in the restroom. Note Anne Bancroft while you're taking a whiz.

That's the kind of place Zad's is, on south 2nd. Be there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Late Ballet review, early day at the zoo, late in the hoops season

OK, OK, the ballet was last Friday night, but if I haven't been sick, I've been swamped. Such is life with a full time job, kids, and a girl scout troop.

But Friday was lovely. We started at the Milwaukee Ballet's annual show at the Pabst -- where it's either a Genesis competition, or just three edgier selections, and this year was the latter. The first was a piece by corpsman Petr Zahradnícek, who set his thing to some Ethiopian jazz music. The music itself sounded like it had indeed been recorded in Ethiopia in that this wasn't exactly state of the art recordin, but the recording lent itself to the style of the music itself -- both the sounds and the rendering sounded like something out of a niteclub circa early 60s. The sets were also extremely space age bachelor pad -- I was expecting Lenny Bruce to come out and do a monolouge any minute. The costumes and dance itself evoked a few years later -- very angular, very Vogue-ish, very Edie Sedgwick. The Journal critic didn't like that the dance followed note for note of the music, but that was the thing i really liked about it. Maybe because I'm a musician, but I liked that clearly Zahradnicek listened very carefully to the music, and built his piece around it. And maybe I'm just partial to the fact that I like that the Ballet is looking within their own ranks to develop programming -- I suspect it makes this company a more attractive destination for up and coming dancers who want to be more than just a hired hand.

Up next was Denver's Jessica Lang, and I guess it was OK. After Zahradniece's playful retro piece, perhaps I wasn't ready, or in the mood, for such a heavy piece. Even the music was heavy -- it sounded like the kind of thing you'd hear in Lord of the Rings -- when/if Gollum dies. Our protaganist keeps going up and down these stairs, trying to find God or something, and a chorus of other dancers seems totally oblivious of him, finding their own way. I'll need to give Lang another chance, but it just didn't fit.

Especially when the next piece, by Nelly Von Bommel, last year's Genesis Competition winner, promised to be so uplifting based on her entry last year, based on meeting her (she was as bubbly and vivacious as her work), and based on the music she chose. And she delivered. Her piece, using gypsy music, was fun, funny, enchanting, and near the end almost involved the audience, as it culminated in what reminded me of street dance competition. It made me forget about the splitting headache my sinus infection was causing. I want to see more of her, that's for sure.

Saturday, I promised the kids I'd take them to the zoo to "see all the new babies" and at first, I was happy to see that it was free day at the zoo, but as soon as I got off Hy 45 at Bluemound I really regretted it as I spotted the ridiculous traffic and crowds of people and couldn't help but comment on the obvious: "What a freakin' zoo!" I should have known that free day tends to bring out unbearable crowds, jeez, you'd think it was Summerfest, and on top of that, the main entrance wasn't functioning because they're building something new. So nobody knew where to get in, the parking lot was beyond control, and there was one skinny opening in the gates to get both in and out. Did anybody not think this through?

Once in, however, it was tolerable. People seemed to understand that there were a ton of us there, so amazingly enough, people were polite about encouraging their kids to take turns being up front to see the animals. And we did get to see plenty of spring babies, especially in the primate house, while plenty of nervous parents had to explain things to kids like, "Oh, that's how the mommy monkey feeds her baby" "And, well, daddy monkey has a little itch. Let's go see the cats, OK?" (Being the lactivist I am, I thought it was kind of sad to see people shooing the kids away from the former, though.)

There was lots of great music this weekend, but, frankly, I missed it. I had a date with a bottle of NyQuil.

In the meantime, Stella and Brian just got home from the Bucks vs. the Celtics. The game's still going on, but they left with the home team down by 25, though they'd heard on the radio that the Bucks cut it to 6. Brian reports that T-Shirt guy was there, and frankly, his shirt tonight said it all: "I'm available for my GM Interview at any time." He's got my vote.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yet another completely objective blog post

... because my husband's band played last Saturday night and they kicked ass, despite the fact that they were all sick as dogs.

In fact, Rick Franecki couldn't even make it, he was that sick. It was all Jay Tiller could do to load his drums into the car and set up at the Circle A Cafe. Brian had to cover both lead and rhythm guitar parts, since Franecki couldn't make it out. Rusty Olson and Grant Richter, the two healthiest guys in the bunch (but not for long, I bet) got the job done. Personally, I think set two was where F/i hit their stride -- going into some almost raga-like dirge with enough space rock touches to be worthy of the F/i brand.

And we can chalk up that overtime Bucks victory to Stella, who attended the Knicks game with me. Neither of us were expecting as good a game as it was --especially after a fairly lackluster anthem given by the Oshkosh Boys' Choir. We actually were confused at the end -- when was the last time we ever saw somebody get THREE free throw shots? Still, it was a good, exciting game and the kind of thing we would have liked to have seen more this season.

Nevertheless, one highlight, T-Shirt guy, who, as far as I'm concerned, was one of the highlights of this season, is now a real star! He's the last image they show in the opening montage that uses the NBA "where xyz happens" , making him the lasting (positive) image in the fans' head.

Yes, this is a short post. Because I think I got whatever it is that Tiller and Franecki got. I'm getting over it, but, before I turn in for the night, I have two pieces of band news to pass along.
  • First, Bobby Rivera and the Rivieras have a new name! They're called the Del Ripleys now, but they're still the same band of amazing players. If I wasn't getting over whatever the hell this is, I'd be at Kochanski's Concertina Hall tonight to see them, on what owner Andy Kochanski is terming roots rock Thursdays.

  • Second, The Moths are back! Tony and the boys are sounding snotty as ever, and they're playing a few gigs. They just friended me on myspace, which is how I found out they exist. I guess too many people missed their wonderfully arrogant, brilliant, snotty jazz-infused punk. I hope this lasts long enough for me to go see them. It would be worth a road trip down south to do so.

  • OK, I said, two pieces of news, yet there are three bullet points. That's because the fact that my band, Loblolly, is playing a show with Floor Model on April 12 (a week from Saturday) really isn't news anymore, since I've mentioned it before. But this is my blog, and if I can't use my own blog to plug my own band, than what heck.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna take a swig of NyQuil and turn in.