Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Catching up in the clubs


amy rohan
Originally uploaded by V'ron
I'm trying really really hard to get back into the swing of things, but the weather just isn't cooperating. Still, I managed to see a lot of great stuff this weekend.

Amy Rohan, who I've been trying to catch for sometime, did a set at Linneman's that impressed me. She's definitely a folkie (and I'm generally not a folkie person) but she includes in her repertoire songs you wouldn't normally catch a folkie doing -- like Tears for Fears' "Mad World" (or anything by tears for fears) or some of Bowie's more rocking stuff. She does it in that girl-with-a-guitar-in-a-coffeehouse style that almost lends it an ironic twist: here's this girl with a sweet voice going "The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had." And she can also belt out a twisted love song with the best of them. I don't know if it was the audience or what, but my only advice to Rohan would be to acknowledge her audience more. She's got both the vocal and guitar playing chops, but to keep a Friday night audience's attention, they needed to be involved, especially since she didn't have the volume that a backup band would give her to demand attention. Still, I'd like to see her again in a more intimate environment -- Linneman's setup encouraged people to chit-chat while the musician is playing.

More powerful women onstage Saturday night as well. Started the night at Linneman's again to catch Fred and Ethel - a two person act with "Fred" on guitar and co-lead vocals, and "Ethel" on various percussion instruments including tambourine and a small stand cymbal. They kind of answered the question "What if the White Stripes were folkies instead of garage rockers?" Well, for one thing, Ethel has a bit more stage presence than Meg White, and Fred probably wouldn't be interesting without her on stage. That's not to say he's boring, but clearly the presence of Ethel forces him to step it up, making for an enjoyable show.



roni's racecar
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
However, I had to duck out to shoot a commission, and I didn't mind anyway, because it was good to see the vast improvement of Guido's Racecar since the last (first) time I saw them. Obviously they've rehearsed together more and have become a more cohesive unit as a band together -- as opposed to the just-formed-with-this-lineup act I saw last winter. The basic songs were good, everybody in the band is a pro, and Roni Allwaise is a terrifically arresting front person for a band, with her ravaged burlesque queen look draped on her impossibly skinny frame. The improvements this time around: much more (and better) dynamic range from both Allwaise and the band -- this is only the result of just playing together longer, more cohesive participation from the band members, including backup vocals and stage placement and movement. They're tight and fun to watch. Roni seems to constantly be checking your reaction to what she sings or does out of the corner of her eye, but at the same time doesn't seem to care: she's just curious as to your reaction. This bodes well for the torch-infused barroom rock and roll Guido's Racecar puts out. Plus, it was a fun assignment to shoot. Some bands don't understand that when you put lights on them and put them on a stage, people are going to look. This band is not one of them. They completely understand, and they give you plenty to look at.

Back to Linneman's to catch the end of a not-often-enough set from Rory Lake and his band of fellow Chicagoans, Cooler by the Lake. They're interesting looking in a totally different way: plenty of people crammed on stage together who don't look like they'd ever have a word to say to each other offstage, with a setlist that twists several genres around so radically that you have no clue how to categorize them. The three songs I saw Saturday argue for Glam, Metal, Punk, Prog, and a touch of country. Everybody in the bar seemed dumbstruck, even those who have experienced the Rory Lake show before. The night closed out with Dr Chow's Love Medicine, and I just learned it might be bassman Andy Aeros Kaiser's last gig (or one of the last) with them. End of an era: Kaiser's highly trained jazz background added a layer of complexity to Frank Chandek's psychedelic blues and garage-era covers that helped make Dr Chow stand a few steps above the regular collection of late 60s-inspired collectives. I have no doubt the next guy (I'm sworn to secrecy to his identity, but I promise you, he's good too) will take this in a different, but equal quality direction, but I'm still going to have to get used to not hearing Kaiser's fingers dance all over his fretboard. At least not in this band.




Air Stella
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Oh, and I saved the best for last. Nike, get ready for you next advertising campaign: Air Stella! Stella had her ballet recital on Sunday, and what a terrific Mother's Day treat that was. Best part was the magnificent jete she pulled off toward the end of her class' routine. The whole recital for the Milwaukee Ballet School was lovely -- I was genuinely interested in what classes other than my own kids' were doing, and many of them impressed me. Of course it starts out with the 4-year-olds: clumsy, unsure, but happy to be on stage with their eyes completely on their instructor -- a few waving to the folks out in the audience. As the kids grow older, you see similar skills being showcased, but smoother, more artfully. Stella's class seemed to be at a pivotal point -- they've mastered the basic skills and are just beginning to add the artistry to it, but are still having to think about their form instead of it being intuitive. By intermission time, we were left with the Academy modern dance, who blew us away with their interpretation of Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen" -- with it's subtle messages of concentrating on the really important things in life. The final piece was a lengthy (compared to the rest) selection of classical ballet pieces, with clearly the stars of the advanced classes getting their chance to show off their skills, perhaps using this recital as an audition tape for college.

So now it's Wednesday, Day Three of Bike to Work Week, and it's not seeming like this extraordinary thing. Maybe it's because I've been biking to work for a month now, maybe it's because I'm working at a place where my bicycle isn't so much of an oddity, maybe I'm just happy that I have an alternative to spending $4/gallon on gas! Last year, I estimate I saved about $90 a month by not driving everyday to work, this year -- since I don't have to pay monthly parking (I just pay on a daily, as needed basis), I'm saving at least $110 in parking along, and I'm going to guess about $120 in gas. And that's just me driving from my house in the city downtown. I can't imagine paying to commute in every day, not at these prices.

However, I don't ride my bike to the clubs at night, so I'm going to have to drive to the following places this weekend:
  • The Milwaukee Ballet closes out their season this weekend, and Stella and I will be there in our season subscriber seats, judging if their jetes were as proportionally as high as Stella's. I dunno. Call it mama pride, but my girl set the bar pretty high. However, there will be can-can dancing and that takes endurance, something Stella and i both can appreciate.

  • Marlavous Marla's Karaoke returns again Friday to the Bavarian Inn. Her surreal singalongs are down to only bi-weekly, so that makes them all the more special.

  • Uptown Savages are at Linnemans -- this could be just a really good Americana weekend overall. Mahogany Throttle is at the Cactus Club, and Liam Ford and the Band in black brings fun rockabilly era tunes to Riptide. I need to decide if that's a place I want to see a band.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

LOVE the picture of Stella....do tell her she looks fantastic!