Monday, September 29, 2008

How did I miss this?

elvis takes a break
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Don't ask me how I managed to totally miss (and subsequently not photograph) an 80-year old guy with white hair out to there, a cowboy hat, a loud flourescent T-Shirt and purple pajama pants, but I spent a whole day at Great Lakes Dragaway for Broadway Bob's birthday party and never caught so much as a glimpse of Broadway Bob.

And the legendary Fendermen (as in "Mule Skinner Blues" -- they're from the U.P. by way of Madison, and they play the instrumental surf exactly how you'd expect a bunch of guys from the U.P. by way of Madison to play it) weren't there. We arrived at Great Lakes Dragaway, (despite my difficulty at finding in in Google Earth until I succumbed to misspelling it) at around 11 ish, and I asked the DJ who was spinning golden oldies what time the Fendermen would play. "Oh, they're not playing." No? Apparently they DID play Saturday afternoon (the day before), there were power issues, and when they showed up Sunday they were told they didn't need to play. Boo.

Still, my first trip to a dragstrip in 30 years (my first time ever was as a teenager, on my first date with a REAL BOY, at Smokin US 30 Dragstrip in Merrilville, Indiana -- that's right, I went across state lines with a 19 year old boy and I was still underage....) and we promised Sammy there would be cars with fire, and sorry, buddy, there were no Nitro Burning Funny Cars to be had.

On the upside:
  • By all accounts, the legendary Broadway Bob was looking, well, as good as Broadway Bob is ever gonna look. Not movin' as fast, of course, but on a weekend when we found out that another racing legend had taken his last lap, it was good to at least have a free hotdog on Bob and take in the entertainment that only cost our family $15 to see.

  • Amongst that entertainment, the Bob West show, probably one of the better Elvis impersonators. It was just a little sad, watching this guy, with a few security guys with him (that, I suspect, he normally needs), playing to a handful of people next to a DJ booth. Not to worry, he's a pro and he gave a fine performance, complete with costume changes and everything, but it was still kind of sad to see. Dude, I'll catch you at Potowatomi.

  • Brian took the 8 banger out on the track and did the quarter mile in ~15 seconds. I guess that's supposed to be good for a car that's not set up for racing. I wouldn't know. I was a little high from all the rubber burning smell.

corvette day at da grove
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Oh, and the reason why we hardly saw Brian at all was that I guess it was "Corvette Day" at da Grove, which meant they all got to go first, meaning a lot of people waiting in line a long time before their chance. Oh well. So what else did I miss this weekend?
  • Apparently the Boy Dirt Car reunion show at the Borg Ward went well, but was part of a 6 hour assault of noise bands, and I've already written about how I can only do a single-genre festival for so long. Still, I missed a good chance to hear them, instead of just wishing I had come up with probably the best band name ever.

  • Oh, Monda Lucha at Turner hall, with fabulous burlesque, Mexican Wrestling, and music from the Uptown Savages. That would have been the place to be this weekend, that's for sure.

  • And girlfriend from work, Gretchen, threw a lovely bash at the Riverhorse in the form of sitting behind the DJ booth and funkin' up the joint. When chicks spin at the Riverhorse, it's not a place to miss. But I did.

And finally, I close this entry because it turns out my little boy has been missing a lot because he's got on order a set of glasses. Well, that should explain all the squinting he's been doing. He'll look cute in them, I'm sure, but awwwww. Did he have to deal with this as early as kindgergarten?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Five Years ... stuck on our lives

up to bat
Originally uploaded by V'ron
He's crashed out in his bed, this morning, hands still wrapped around his stuffed meerkat. Last night I was writing his Montessori-style "The Story of Sammy" book, a series of pictures of him from every year along with his favorite things and what he could do and I suddenly realized, "He's five! Wow, have the years flown by or what?" I'm looking at the pictures of him, seing his face lose it's babyness. I'm remembering him just last night going through his kung-fu moves, losing the toddler clumsiness. But there he was, peacefully asleep in bed, still my sweet baby. He's been counting the days to today, like 5 was some magic number that made him truly a big boy. I have to stop and get a birthday cake on the way home from work today; I feel bad that I didn't bake one from scratch like I normally do because i've been so busy. He'll probably just want some quesadillas for dinner -- that's been his favorite thing lately.

My little boy is 5 today, and I'm starting to believe that if he hasn't lost that streak of sweetness, that smile he's had since he was a baby, that gigantic heart of his, I don't think he ever will. I used to worry that one day, he'd suddenly turn into this mouthy adolescent and maybe he will, but I'm pretty well convinced that he'll always have a part of this wonderful sweetness. He's a kid who will offer you his last piece of candy if he sees that you're sad.

I can't wait to get home and share a birthday cake with him, watch him open his presents, and tell me about his birthday day at school.

Happy Birthday Sammy! I'm so glad you're my kid! I can't wait to get home and tell you this to your joyously happy face!

Monday, September 22, 2008

These guys weren't the winners, but....

... They made me laugh the loudest at the annual Center Street Daze pushcart races. The actual winner was this kid who had the loving support of his family as well as a peace-out-and-stopracism theme that fit in perfectly with Center Street. Let's not even mention that his cart was also the most intelligently designed to actually win -- center of gravity close to the ground, large, easy to manage wheels, the kid had winner written all over him.

OK, I'm going to be lazy because I'm sooooo behind on everything in my life. Plus, the Center Street festival was just OK. So I'm just going to point you to my Center Street Flickr set, because, well, after the wonderful cart races, I went home and napped. So did the kids. We got up in time to see Brian play the rest of his set with Dr Chow's Love Medicine, right in front of the Uptowner behind a blazing setting sun. We checked out a bit of Floor Model's unannounced set by the House of Frank N Stein, and we watched some guy ride a bike on a test trainer while undressing, and we watched another guy juggle flaming torches. And we did so, rather bummed out that summer just blew us by, and we barely had time to catch our collective breath about it.

Has it really been that long....

Samba Mapangala
Originally uploaded by V'ron
.... since I've blogged? I guess I'm still in denial that it's no longer summer, which blew by too fast, too fast for me to even document. Last weekend (not the other day, truly last weekend was the Global Union Festival coupled with the Bay View Bash, which should have just been named the Bay View Slush. Bands on Saturday didn't even get started until three or fourish, because of the rain. I can't say I blame any of the sound guys who didn't want to expose their gear out there, but maybe the Bay View Bash just wasn't meant to be this year. You may remember they weren't going to have it at all, then at the last minute sponsors came in, and they had two months to slam it together. Given that, it turned out well, but between the rain and the elenth hour-ness of it all, it wasn't what I've come to expect.

Global Union, on the other hand, soldiered on through crappy weather and was it's usual treat. We caught the end of Lamajamal's set, and they were fun. Woodwind player up front who looked like PJ Soles was fronting a world music band instead of the Ramones, and guitarist who delivered on his blling as a surf guitar player. Actually, if you came expecting to hear "Pipeline" you'd be disappointed. Rather, you'd hear the source of music that influenced so many surf players -- the arabic scales, the native dynamics.

But speaking of mixing American and world roots, up comes Prasanna -- a band of Indians who set up shop cross legged on stage and were led not by a sitar player, but this guy wielding a Les Paul who wore his love for Jimi Hendrix on his sleeve. And it was clear it wasn't just Jimi who inspired him to play an electric six-string run through a rack of effects boxes. At times I would have guessed that you'd find some recent King Crimson -- from both Fripp and Belew -- and maybe even some Snakefinger in his record collection.

Sunday, we braved the rain, which stopped just as we were arriving, to catch the end of an Iranian act that featured a woman who sang like no tomorrow, and whose delivery ranged from joyous to desperate. As seems to be Global Union's fashion, she was followed by Maraca -- a Cuban dance band which featured a flutist who even did a few Ian Anderson-style flutter tounging runs while maintaining a great salsa feel. By the time African-born Samba Mapangala came out, this was a crowd ready to party, and while he could'nt jump as high as last years closer Dobet Ghanore (who is booked for an Alverno show later this year), he still inspired the crowd to get on their feet. It's always a wonderful festival, and I hope Alverno knows that it was only the rain that kept more people from coming.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hard to Beat

A heartwarming musician story that is hard to beat: Binky Tunny had gotten her car broken into on Friday night, and they took a collectable guitar (which she was about to put on the market), as well most of the gear she needed to play a show Saturday night at Points East. It's a show I'm really sorry I missed for a variety of reasons: 1) Binky Tunny and her band is always a good bet, 2) Crumpler was on the bill and 3) Crumpler's bass player is now also Binky's bass player and that's something I really wanted to see.

The heartwarming part: apparently the thief didn't clear through everything before trying to unload the hot gear; according to Binky's website, the folks at Gearheadz (41st and National) found her business card amongst the stuff, gave her a call, and whaddya know, she's got her gear back! I can't help but cheer: only one other time in my memory have I heard of a musician's stolen gear actually turning up. The other time involved Julie Brandenburg (then Niedjiecko), a first floor flat in Riverwest, and a very distinctive-looking bass that while looking good (and easy to trace) was actually modified by the previous owner to an almost unusuable state. So the only thing the thief really robbed from her was peace of mind. And that's how it is with robbery: they don't just get your stuff. Do these crackheads not know that every used gear joint in town is going to check a few things? Most of the time, if you've had your gear stolen, you just accept it's in Chicago by the time the cops fill out the incident report and hope you had it listed on your insurance policy's scheduled items. (Gee, my bourgeois-ness is showing, eh?)

Still, I was pretty cooked. After a Harley Davidson weekend, I had some girlfriends over for a girly barbecue and we drank lots of wine and ate lots of delicious food. I didn't mean to consume as much as I did, but by the time Saturday rolled around, I was in no condition to do anything.

And then Sunday hit me in the face. It's FALL. I saw a few trees start to color, and the temperature has dropped. Lots coming up this weekend. F/i has a big show at the Miramar Theatre with the Aimless Blades and Or. Or is a band that veteran drummer Vic Demichei plays in: it features this violinist named Klavs Mednis who supposedly has quite this following. According to their myspace page, they've existed since 1978 in one form or another, but this is the first I've heard of them. Still, from the samples I've heard, they're prog, on the psychedelic side, almost a jam band. This is going to meld well with the Aimless Blades, whose psychedelia comes in from the garage/Velvet Underground/Americana side. And then there's F/i, space rockin, krautrockin' F/i. It will be some kind of hard to beat intense night.

Especially when, if you really want to make it a night of amazing music, the place to start off the evening will be at Turner Hall, where the Plastic People will be playing. I first heard about them during a period when they called themselves Pulnoc -- about 10 20 (time flies when you're in your 40s, eh? Just edited this timespan...) years ago when Czechoslovakia was just emerging from behind the Iron curtain, and then president Vaclav Havel was promoting not only democracy, but the culture of his country. I'd picked up Pulnoc's "City of Hysteria" when it came out and was happy to hear a band that was so clearly influenced by the Velvet Underground but had their own thing going. Trust me, it will be worth it to pay two covers on Friday night.

And don't do what I did and overdo it, because Saturday begins the annual Global Union Festival, and if it's anything like last year's or even the year before, it's going to be worth getting up early after a night of psychedelia, loading up at the South Shore Farmer's Market, plunking a blanket down and enjoying the show. The band that piques my interest the most starts things off: Lamajamal, a world music outfit that formed in Chicago which incorporated many world music forms as well as a touch of the surf guitar -- and regular sixthstation readers know how difficult it is to pry me away from a top notch surf guitar. It makes sense -- most surf guitar greats have more than a touch of arabian as well as native american influences to thank for their wonderful, dangerous sound.

As usual, Global Union competes on Saturday with the Bay View Bash a few blocks away. The Bash is a good block party, but it was sort of a last-minute deal this year. It almost didn't happen at all, but a few months ago the Bay View Neighborhood Association (run by some of those do-nothing community organizers I've heard tell of) decided to do it anyway. In festival organizing parlance, that's "last minute." There's a few bands I'd like to catch, but I'll probably venture over there after Global Union is done, because the appeal of this year's Bash is more as a neighborhood block party chock full of friends, rather than a huge band extravaganza (although 1956 hits a KK stage at around 3ish.) Still, two days of good world music for free, a sort of "Chill on the Hill -- the Last Gasp" will be hard to beat.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Now that's more cowbell, baby!

Now that's more cowbell, baby!
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Even if the competing band is my own husband's, I have to do my best to catch Blue Oyster Cult when they're in town. What can I say, I'm a fan, and especially during Harley weekend, when at the show we're surrounded by even more bikers than usually show up at a BOC show to sing along with "The Golden Age of Leather."

We biked it in, as well. As in bicycles. We knew parking would be a beast, especially if we were planning to go back and forth between Riverwest to catch the Locus Street version of the biker fest, and Water street for a more mainstream version. So we ended up parking somewhere on North Water, got out the kid trailer, and rode up to Riverwest to catch the DH's band, and took in a bit of the Barrettes before getting ready for more cowbell.

We parked and locked our bikes at the corner of Water and McKinley, and before BOC started into a long but still interesting take on "Buck's Boogie" I asked a kindly looking stranger to "Make Sammy's day and please tell us they haven't done Godzilla yet."

"No," the man smiled at my kid, knowing full well just by my question that this was undoubetly this kid's favorite song EVER. He knows this song -- even if he doesn't understand all the lyrics -- he sings them. So we plowed through the crowd, I started snapping pictures, and to Stella's recognition, they went into "Cities Aflame with Rock and Roll." They're doing it up, they're as fresh as they must have been the previous night at the Summerfest grounds, and of course Eric Bloom is priming all of us up for that song about the Japanese monster. The bikers around me know it; (I'd already briefed them on why I brought an almost 5 year old to this show) and they're helping me hoist Sammy on my shoulders for this song. And they all assure me he's singing along. Stella's getting a little tired of this, until they go into "Don't Fear the Reaper" -- and bring out the More-st More Cowbell we've ever seen. One encore and they're done, and we're hungry.

It's the last day of the biker weekend, so before heading back to Locust Street, we grab an outside table by the Water Street Brewery, order some dinner and people watch. There's the couple from France that we share a side table with; they don't speak more than seven words in English but somehow we welcome each other's stories. Between Stella and I we've met people from five different countries, and its just a great world party we're a part of. But back to Riverwest.
The Mistreaters were on top of their game on the Riverwest Commons stage. Good to see good punk that hasn't gone stale after all these years. Good to see lots of old and new school faces in the crowd, too.

But overall, this wasn't the 100th, that's for sure, in spite of all the people whining about all the noise. By all accounts, it was better organized, and for (from what I hear) all the "No Elton" shirts at the lakefront the musical selection was geared more toward this particular target market. Maybe last time around I only had Stella (I was pregnant with Sammy) and it seemed more dangerous, but this was (and was never meant to be) no Sturgis. But it was still thrilling, something I'm pretty sure few other cities could pull off in terms of hospitality and breadth. I know that many of the riders here this weekend could be accused of being "Rebels with Pensions" (thanks, Fly, for that phrase), but the ideal they're going for is a good one, where people are proud of how many miles they've gone or how many places they've been, especially in this day and age where only the young and unscarred are portrayed at yearning for unencumbered freedom. It was good to see so many people unashamed of wrinkles, scars, a few extra rolls of flesh; they wore these as proudly as they told the stories behind them. Every time this happens (and I've been in town since the 85th anniversary) I realize how much I love when they come to town, rumbling on that sound the HD attorneys tried to trademark/copyright. While I'm too chickenshit to get on one of those bikes with a motor capable of propelling me at 90 MPH for chrissakes I get on my human-powered two wheeler, zooming along on the bike trails, and I'm pretty sure I understand -- if not totally empathize with -- this devotion to a company that has built not only a machine, but a community as well.