Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Looking critically at art, and listening critically, too

First of all, thanks to everybody who stopped into the Brewed Cafe on Friday to see the Cream City Photogs Gallery Night show. True to our word, we had a chance to chat with a lot of people about photography, art in general, and whatever came up.
Among "whatever came up" were many discussions about how to musically spend the rest of the evening. My drummer Andy Pagel along with my bass player Dan "Myles" Mullen were headed over to Shank Hall to catch the Junior Brown show. Embarsssingly enough, this was the first I'd ever heard of the show, and even more embarassing, Brown himself. Pagel has promised to guest blog about how the show went.

Another choice (which I didn't end up going with), were the Danglers at Points East, which I almost did. I debated whether to just pay the five bucks and go next door from the Brewed Cafe to the Up and Under Pub based this sign and the musicians who were carrying in gear. Really, who could resist two guy bands in a Bikini Death Match for only $5? Why did I not go?

Maybe because I really had planned to see the Danglers in a rare appearance, but I ventured down to the third ward to catch what I thought would be a quick set from 1956 at Moct, as part of the annual summer Camp Heartland fundraiser. On one hand, I lucked out into a perfect parking place. On the other hand, I ran into 1956's guitar player after I'd been there for a half hour (thinking I'd missed their set already) and learned they were just loading in. Then back to one hand, I'm ready to say, the heck with it, I'll just go see the Danglers when out of the crowd on the patio I hear my name and it's T-Shirt Guy! As in Bucks Fan T-Shirt Guy, Ned. He's there with a bunch of his pals, one of who celebrating his birthday, and there just happens to be a seat open on this patio on this wonderful summer evening by what is looking to be the NiteKlub Spot to be. I sat down, ordered a cranberry juice and vodka (which took forEVER to come) and shot the breeze with these guys. In the meantime, the DJ is playing this mix of rap and then all of a sudden I'm hearing Hall and Oates not mixed with anything. Just "Maneater," no dubs, no mixes, and I'm looking forward to ribbing ol Jay at work Monday about playing at the kind of place where the house music is "Maneater." Oh-oh here she comes, watch out now, she'll chew you up, indeed.

Finally, finally it sounds like 1956 is ready to play -- I hear the sound of a drum sound check, a guitar tuning up and I've got about 15 minutes of energy left in me, but apparently that was more than the sound system had. 1956 crashes into their set and it wasn't more than the first verse and the sound system went kaput. OK, I'll give the sound guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe a fuse blew. Five minutes later and they're up again. OK, it's a tough room to mix -- concrete floor and some walls, tall, tall ceilings, doors open to the street, but still. The guy was mixing it like it was a hip hop club music -- overly modulated bass, very little vocals, absolutely no midrange (there is a guitar in this band, you know...) and finally, between being exhausted, annoyed, and not feeling like waiting another 10 minutes just to get a drink, I bid T-Shirt Guy and his posse adieu and left, despite my perfect parking place. I'm sorry, but I have been in too many bands, and paid too many sound guys too much money to tolerate an otherwise excellent band sounding like crap.

Good thing I wasn't at the Police/Elvis Costello show. I heard tell that while they were excellent, the sound mix was not . If this were a small deal, I'd once again give thebenefit of the doubt -- the Marcus is a tough place to mix, what with the outdoor/indoor acoustics and all. But again, this is the Police and Elvis Costello. This is a major venue. You'd think they'd have this down.

Saturday Brady Street's festival came to the rescue. The Uptown Savages were there in the late afternoon, and we had a lovely time watching dancers on the catwalk that had been earlier occupied by a fashion show, and later would be occupied by drag queens. There were plenty of great little jazz and folk bands on the smaller stages, and food was reasonably priced at most of the establishments. This is a festival that's still trying to find a niche. First it was just the Brady Street festival. then a few years back, it tried to be an "artisan food" festival. Problem was, too mush emphasis on the "artisan" and not enough on the "food." You couldn't really sample anything. Now they've narrowed it down to the "wine and cheese" festival, and when we arrived in late afternoon, the line for the cheese tasting was long, and most of the cheeses were gone. So much for the cheese part of a wine and cheese festival. Nevertheless, it was a nice festival. We tried the sampler platter at Indian Rasoi (where the pretentious old Dancing Ganesha used to be) and we were really pleased with what we had. We'll have to do a full dinner there soon. Excellent vegetable fritters, and even the mild chicken tika masala was bursting with flavor.

Sunday it was just too freaking hot to do anything but brave the crowds and go to Cool Waters, which we did, and I'm glad. The crowds weren't bad at all, and somehow, the politeness fairy must have descended upon the place, because everybody there was really well-behaved, having fun and all. It was as refreshing as the water itself.

A few more rants and raves before I look forward to a weekend that will start with the Wizard of Oz at Pere Marquette Park this Friday -- Dorothy on the big screen under the stars for free, can you beat that?

  • Get this. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the deadline for getting your advanced discounted Midway all-day pass vouchers at State Fair(at $5 off in advance, that's $20 for a family of four -- no small change). But you can't get them online anymore (you have to call to learn that the online availability is canceled, nowhere online does it tell you that there was a deadline for online orders), and you can get them in person at the box office -- which closes at 5 pm. So if you have a regular job, you're out of luck. Boo.

  • This week is "Downtown Employee Appreciation" week, which includes lots of free concerts, food, and other nice things. I think its all great, but I love working Downtown anyway. It's like they don't think people do -- that you have to appreciate them for it. Most people I know who work Downtown love it. It's easy to get to, everything you need during the day it a stone's throw away. Parking sucks, but that's a small price to pay.

  • By my estimations, since April, when I've only driven a total of about 5 days to work and rode my bike the rest, I've saved about $1,000 in gas and parking, not to mention car wear and tear. There's a lot to be said for this carbon footprint reduction stuff.

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