Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Power of The Surf

Caroline "sCare-oline" Helmeczi
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Nothing, I say nothing, cures the winter blues like instrumental surf, that's what I say. I can't remember if it was Transistor Royale's Eric Knitter or Jonny Z, but I ran into both of them after their terrific set at Vnuk's last night, and like everybody else in the midwest, we spent a couple of minutes to kvetch about this weather, and pointed out that having surf music in the car has been a soul saving experience. It just warms a body up.

And that's how I felt strolling into the (yet another) criminally empty room at Vnuk's for a fabulous triple bill of American music: up and coming surfmeisters Transistor Royale, the fabulous Bobby Rivera and the Rivieras, and Vancouver's Big John Bates the the Voodoo Dollz. Within two songs of Transistor Royale's set i felt a warm breeze come over me. They were terrific, and Jonny Z's radio background translates nicely to the stage, where he just as well could have emcee'd the evening. He's doing well on guitar as well. There was one point in the set where they stumbled and got a little lost, but they made up for it, and I'm chalking that up to the Second Gig Ever curse. (You know how that goes. First Gig Ever kicks major dupah. Everybody raves. Band gets over opening night jitters and doesn't approach Second Gig as carefully. They learn a lesson and go on to rock at Third Gig.)

Up next on this chilly Wednesday night is Bobby Rivera, who I expected a full surf set from, but his Rivieras have grown to include a new female singer named Paula, whose last name I will have to get later. She strolls on stage quite unassumingly, and is almost awkward strapping on her acoustic guitar, but then she opens her mouth to sing and it's this combination of Janis Joplin's phrasing with Etta James' clear voice, run through a country blues sensibility. So while I was in the mood for the inland surf that Rivera delivers, I was quite impressed and happy with this new addition. She did add to the surf songs, or else sat out. And I think I've mentioned this before, but the whole band approaches the surf genre with a combination of country and jazz, which makes it a compelling listen. I'm a fan.

As regular readers of this blog know, I just got a new job, so I'm not at the point where I can stroll into work all strung out, going, "Oh maaaaan, I went and saw this band last night and I'm massively strung out maaaaannnn." So I had to keep it an early night, which prevented me from catching the entire set of Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dollz, but actually, they weren't a band for a Wednesday night anyway.

So after five or so songs, I had to turn it in, and here's my take: Big John Bates has a voice and a musical bent very much like The Reverend Horton Heat. The schtick here is psychobilly with an added touch of horrorshow burlesque. Every couple of songs feature these two fabulous old school burlesque stripper chicks who do a costume change for each song they're featured on. (Favorite was the pasties with flaming wicks hanging off them). Bass player Caroline Helmeczi is a sight to behold herself, and frankly, she's the musically compelling one in this band. Big John Bates, who had the misfortune of having to follow Bobby Rivera's virtuosity, thusly didn't blow me away. Oh, he was good, yes, but I think the appeal of this act is the whole package: the dancing girls, the smoke machine, the red lights, the "We're having a birthday party for Elvira" vibe. And since Bates vocally sounds like the Reverend (both tonally and thematically -- all the songs are about drinkin' and havin' sex and goin' to hell because of it!) I found myself comparing his guitar chops to the Reverend's -- and few guitar players survive that comparison. Still, they were fun, and if I didn't have a clock ticking, I would have enjoyed the entire set, I'm sure.


Follow up on Beautiful Bert: email from Buzz, the garage rock DJ (Fridays, noon to 3 on WMSE 91.6). Buzz will be doing an on-air tribute to Bert (well, the stuff he possibly COULD put on air without jeopardizing 'MSE's FCC license) and Buzz just passed on what he found:

Beautiful Bert Memorial @ The Den Again This Saturday
Body: 03/01/2008 07:00 PM 21+ -
The Den Again
6501 Washington Ave (HWY 20)
Racine, Wisconsin 53106

7pm food bands and enough room for everyone. come celebrate BEAUTIFUL BERT’S life at “The Den” Located in Racine on HY-20 inside the Paradise Lanes bowling alley. Will be excepting donations. There are two more Bert Memorials/ Benefits TBA @ The Den Again (which will be all ages). As well as a benefit next Saturday 3-8-08 @ The Hatrix. More TBA

Sturino Funeral Home in Racine (262) 632-4479 2pm-4pm
Yahoo! Maps - 3014 Northwestern Ave, Racine, WI 53404-1917

Pictures to share may be uploaded to the BB Slags web site. If there are pictures you would like to share on display at the wake bring them with you Any pictures, pictures boards can be brought there early or to Chris Pavlovich 5032 6th ave apt 3. 764-4603 to get your pictures back write name and phone number on the back.

There is a bank account now open for donations to help pay for the funeral costs. AMCCU there are 3 in town….when you go to the window tell them you are depositing into CRYSTAL STEWARTS ….BEAUTIFUL BERT ACCOUNT…… ALL MONEY DONATED WILL BE GOING TO PAY FOR THE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS AND IF THERE IS ANYTHING LEFT AFTER THE BILLS ARE PAID THE REMAINDER WILL GO TOWARDS FOOD AND EXTRAS FOR THE BENEFIT SHOW TO FOLLOW THE FUNERAL!!!!

No, I didn't bother editing for grammar and spelling, and neither did Buzz. That would have been so anti-punk.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beautiful Bert: Rest In Peace

You will be missed
Originally uploaded by V'ron
The bulletin on myspace from the BB Slags, Beautiful Bert's latest band, was basic enough: "Beautiful Bert found dead today." The message went on to say that the BB Slags are no more and that he would be missed. A few phone calls later and a few more myspace bulletins, and yes, it's not some kind of awful joke. It's true. The King of KenoCore is gone. I don't know the details yet, and I'm not sure I want/need to.

Oh, how does one begin to write an obit about a guy who she first saw at Trash Fest some 15 years ago, unscheduled, walking into Club Garibaldi seeking out Voot Warnings (then the ringmaster) and saying, with all earnestness, "Hi. I'm Beautiful Bert and this is my band, the Crotch Crickets. We would like to know if we could play your Trash Fest."

"Are you ready to play NOW?" Voot asked.

"Shore 'nuff." And Voot motioned to the stage, they plugged in and within five minutes, a crowd that had thought they'd seen everything admitted that maybe not as every mouth in the room dropped to the floor. Within 10 minutes, Bert had dropped trou, and was proceeding to do things with a salami that Old Man Usinger had never envisioned.

But that's not what I hope everybody remembers about Bert, because as I have written and written and written about him, if you took away the salami (and other objects he ostensibly put up his butt -- get real, they only made it past the crack), if he lost 200 pounds, if he didn't TRY to be gross, you would still be left with a master punk showman, a commanding stage presence, and one of the best, tightest, hands down ass-kicking hardcore punk bands it was ever my pleasure to mosh to in the Great Lakes area.

Off stage, Bert was a good guy with a heart of gold. Yes, he could be a dick sometimes, but he wasn't the first person whose stage persona bled into his real life. And I've never met an entertainer who wasn't a dick sometimes. But really, Bert could actually be sweet. And as proof of that, know that not only did he influence a whole scene of great punksters in SE Wisconsin, but he was downright loved by that scene. I know of two bands that wrote songs about Beautiful Bert, and I'm sure there's more. I would venture to guess there's a lot of people who picked up guitars because of Beautiful Bert. (What they did with them after they picked them up is a different story, I'm sure.)

As word spreads, there will be a lot of people who will be at first, taken aback, and then admit they're not surprised. Bert lived hard and played hard, but he won't be forgotten. I've always believed that a person's life is defined by the stories he left, and Bert left enough stories for all of us to tell for many years to come. We'll laugh over many of the stories, and in his passing, we'll tell them with a note of sadness. And maybe we'll wonder in our own minds if some of those laughs were at his expense. We'll wonder if he knew how much he was appreciated. We'll wonder if he realized that after the initial shock, we all knew he was a great punk artist, going down as we suspect all great punks do.

Rest in peace, Bert. You will indeed be missed, but certainly not forgotten, and to a punk musician, that's the finest eulogy I can give.

A Midwinter's Weekend Ramble With Stella

  • Stella and I had an absolutely delightful evening on Friday at the PAC to see the Milwaukee Ballet's rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Journal reviewer Strini liked it, too, and he went on and on about how great a Puck ol' Marc Petrocci. Honestly, casting Petrocci as Puck was almost a no-brainer obvious move on choreographer Bruce Wells' part, but we weren't there for either the Thursday or Saturday performance where Petrocci danced Puck. No, we were there Friday, and not to worry, we got Michael Linsmeier as Puck, who was, in our minds, absolutely perfect as that mischievous little imp as well. In fact, since it wasn't so obvious a casting choice, maybe we were more pleasantly surprised when, now, after seeing Linsmeier creep and crawl and plant his seeds of discord all over the stage, I'm not sure I could imagine anybody else in that troupe dancing the part. Linsmeier stole the show (and that's hard to do when you have the fablous Tatiana Jouravel in a lead role, as she danced Titania, accompanied by David Hovhasnnisyan as Oberon.) He was puckish, indeed. In fact, isn't this character how we got that word, puckish? Well, Linsmeier was Puck-ish.
    The sets were lovely, and as complicated a plot as it was, Wells rendered it well enough that we could follow the story enough without having to refer to our program narrative all night (as I often have to do). I know it takes place in Greece, but it really looked more like Shakespeare's England, or perhaps even more so, Tolkien's. The characters all looked like something out of Lord of the Rings, and Linsmeier himself could often move like Gollum. The kids from the Milwaukee ballet, by their age alone thrust a sense of goodness and innocence amongst the forest dwellers, which I suspect was by design. It definitely was a greek story told by Englishmen. It wasn't heavy, there didn't seem to be any kind of giant moral, just lavish, dreamlike dancing and lots of fun. Quite a change from what Michael Pink has been serving up. I like this variety.

  • Stella and Brian hit the Bucks game Saturday night, and maybe I should stop going to Bucks games, because whenever Stella goes with Brian, they win. And win triumphantly! Down by, what? 25 at the half and quite the comeback. Further, Brian reports that the anthem was delivered by the Midwest Vocal Express -- and they never fail to enthrall -- and halftime entertainment was the Bucket Boys, who are always a treat. I watched the game from home and thrilled to see Michael Redd turning in a performance we need to see from him more often.

  • And today, Stella and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather and spend it at Red Arrow Park skating. Stella worked on her amazing moves, and I just worked on not falling. I love skating there. But I don't love the fact that apparently there's only one Zamboni driver who has to work a variety of parks. A rink of Red Arrow's size really needs to be Zamboni-ed at least hourly, especially since Red Arrow is free (which means it's packed.) Frankly it was difficult to skate when we first got there -- another patron put it perfectly when she said, "It's like skating on a sno-cone." Maybe I'm spoiled because, when I was a kid, we'd skate on ponds and such, and those can't have been ideal skating conditions. Then again, we weren't sharing those ponds with a hundred other people at a time. Must be budget cuts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Salty, icy, ramblings

A few random ramblings:
  • I'm not going to say a thing about the cold because, well, why? Rather, I'm going to whine about the fact that during a week of freezing cold (after a Sunday of near-flood conditions) resulting in slick, slick ice, there was no sidewalk salt to be had in SE Wisconsin, apparently. Until today, that is. Brian went to all the local gas stations, as well as Home Depot, and nobody had any salt. Everybody told him, "Thursday." And true to their word, we finally were able to pick some up, but not before I put a giant black and blue mark on my butt from a wipeout Monday morning. Plus, I'm sure this isn't news -- but it's the old law of supply and demand. Demand is up, and therefore, so is the price -- seven bucks for a 50# bag!

  • I've had to enable comment moderation, because, oh dear, I've got a troll. One who doesn't know the difference between the possessive "your" and the contraction of 2nd person pronoun with the 2nd person conjugation of "are" to make "you're." (And that loses credibility for me right there.) One who doesn't have the balls to post his/her name and stand behind their convictions. (So even if s/he had a clue about grammar, they'd have still lost me right there.) One who doesn't seem to be too eloquent, either. Seems all s/he can come up with is the brillaint "You're an idiot" or some poorly cliche-strewn comment that doesn't seem to add to his/her point.

    I'm all for people who disagree with me, and that's well and good. Miss Lemonie had a few words for me last summer, but she made her point well, identified herself in her comment, and while we have decided to disagree, her post was written in a spirit of actually engaging in intelligent debate. But I'm not going to allow bandwidth to be taken up with stupid "You're an idiot" stuff. Why? Do you disagree? Did I post something false? Don't like what I'm writing? Fine, but can we engage in some intelligent discourse? I don't have time for one liners. So I'm going to have to steal PastaQueen's disclaimer regarding comments. It pretty much sums up how I feel about this, and what my comment policy will be:

    Half of Me is a fascist regime ruled with a benevolent fist by PastaQueen and the macaroni military. Lively discussion is encouraged, but any comment may be deleted or edited according to the whims of your monarch. If you write something nasty, it will be removed, but only after I laugh at you and mock you to all of my friends. Play nice and I won't have to slap anyone with a wet noodle.

    Rest assured, anonymous commenter, I've laughed at you and mocked you to all my friends as well. And the majority of my friends were also English majors (or at least could have been!) I especially like the part about a blog being a fascist regime. God Save The Queen!

  • Tonight the Milwaukee Ballet continues on their Shakespeare bent, this time going with a happy Bard story. Some of Stella's peers from her ballet class have roles in it, and the Milwaukee Children's Choir (who sang the anthem that time Miss Annie and I hit a Bucks game, with our friend's kid in it!) will be providing vocals. Stella and I will be, per our usual, at the Friday performance.

  • Also on Friday, Snooky is back in town! They're at Club Anything on S 5th. I know little about the club, but I know enough about Snooky. They're solid rock, great players, versatile, frosted with a delicious punk attitude. Juniper Tar opens for Limbeck at Turner Hall, and as a friend wrote about them, "Go see them upstage the headliner."

  • Saturday, after the Bucks game, we might stop into Cafe Brucke to catch an Eat the Mystery set. Or may be we'll be in the mood for some poppy punk, which should be delivered nicely by the Jetty Boys and the Busy Signals. I know little about these two bands, but I liked what i heard on their respective myspace pages. Guess I'm still reeling from my dose of Keno-Core last weekend.

  • Finally, The Ring is having an all ages show Sunday night with Droids Attack and Imperial Battlesnake. I really like what Paul Kneevers is doing there on Sundays -- just good shows, early enough in the evening for those of us who have to work the next day, but at the same time, giving us the sampler platter of local up and coming bands. The Ring isn't a club, (I don't think they even sell liquor!) it's the central hub of Kneevers' compound. A former boxing/sparring ring (it used to be the Duke Roufus Gym over there on South 1st), the whole place is more accurately an incubator for musicians. Even if you don't record with Paul or "get in the ring" it's still a good vibe floating about that place, a vibe which is breeding some nice sounds. As Paul signs every email "When are you gonna get in The Ring?" Props to him for not succumbing to some awful "battle of the bands" cliches.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Weekend of change, dammit

Let's start at the beginning. Friday was my last day of work at Anonymous Law Firm LLP and frankly, I knew it would be sad, but I was unprepared for just how hard it would hit me. I'd been there eleven years, and that's a lot of time to have spent one third of one's weekday life. I actually liked the people i worked with, dammit. But it was time to move on. I'm not really going to be in IT so much anymore. I'm moving to creative services, and it's a whole different world.

Part of the transition was immediate. The Cream City Photogs had our opening at the Art Bar Friday night. You can probably tell I'm in such a flux over this transition that I didn't have much of a chance to promote it here, but we're at the Art Bar through March 13, and a majority of the work is stuff that hasn't been hung physically by us before, or even shown on Flickr, so if I do say so myself, it's worth heading out to Riverwest to catch a few of Don's excellent beer selection, play a game of Beer Bong Bingo and look at my art, dammit.

Saturday afternoon myself and Miss Dawn loaded up the cars and took our Girl Scout troop to the Al McGuire center to watch the Marquette Women's hoops team absolutely trounce Seton Hall. I'll write more in detail about this game after the troop meets tomorrow; I think it will be more fun to read after I get the post game thoughts from the girls. Especially since part of the reason we went was for a badge (about sports appreciation) and one of the things the girls are supposed to do is compare and contrast how women's sports are compared to men's sports. Should I point out to the girls that even though the MU women aren't ranked, a blowout like this probably warranted a bit more than J-S page 9 and a lede graf about their damn haircuts? Sheesh, that sounds like something I'd lede with, not a professional sportswriter. (see, anonymous commenter? I'm NOT trying to be something I'm not! Bronx cheer to you!) Compare that with the fact that the Bucks aren't exactly ranked (or the pro equivalent of being ranked) either, but Michael Redd so much as farts in our general direction and the Bucks get front page. OK, off the soapbox. But expect me to comment tomorrow night on the excellent free throw and 3-point percentage the Golden Eagles posted, coupled with one of their largest turnout crowds. (OK, part of that was probably due to Girl Scout Day, and a women and girls health fair that was about.)

But if ever i needed something to transition me from law firm to creative, hoo boy, Keno-Core was it. I was pooped from the game (supervising a troop of 2nd through 6th graders is exhausting!) so Brian and I didn't get to see more than two bands, but basically, two bands was all we needed. Keno-Core packs a short, but effective punch, as does all good hardcore punk. I've written abut Keno-Core before and it's a great little scene. The two bands we caught were BB Slags, featuring the infamous and legendary Beautiful Bert. OK, I probably missed it when he did his obligatory dropping of the trou. Old news. Is there anybody in SE Wisconsin who hasn't see Bert drop trou? And it's not even obscene, because Bert has enough flesh to ensure that nobody's going to see anything anyway. I think he's come to the point of, OK, let's get this out of the way straightaway so we can get on with the music.

And gettin on the with music he does. As usual, his band (this time around the Slags) is one of the tightest punk outfits I ever hope to see. Bert is still a showman, he still belts out great punk songs, and in his own way, he's a punk treasure whose reputation of grossness unfortunately detracts from the excellence of his band. Even if he didn't have his past stage antics (which will follow him to his dying day), a Bert show would still be worth the price of cover. I guess in the middle days of punk, after most punks had seen everything and done it twice, he had to come up with something shocking, to shock a crowd that's was born jaded.

Pistofficer was next, and man, they're good. By the time Bert was done, half the crowd was on the stage, milling about, sort of answering the question, "What if George Clinton was a malcontented white kid from Kenosha?" Because that's what the stage reminded me of -- the P Funk All Stars crammed up on stage, all taking turns singing or simply existing. Except half the people on stage were simply scensters. Pistofficer is a great band in and of themselves. They write the kind of deliciously snotty songs I love. "DUI" stood out for me, for its politically incorrect premise and horribly defiant chorus: "Yes, Sir, I've Been Drinking." Couple that with songs with titles/choruses like "What the Fuck!" (well, that's the verse, chorus, bridge, and everything, funnier than all heck when delivered by Pistofficer), and "The End of Our Rights." But these are sharp, intelligent, gloriously jaded punks whose attitude almost winks at you with a sense of agressive release that's also pretty damn fun.

The problem with Keno-core, though, is that outside of Kenosha, they don't seem to know how to market this package of theirs. A majority of the audience were people who made the trip from down south, and I head a few complaining that Milwaukee either doesn't have a punk scene or doesn't like Keno-Core (some even accusing the Milwaukee punks of being jealous.) Wrong on all counts. First, Milwaukee's punk scene is alive and kicking -- witness the punk show at the BayView VFW post a few weekends back. Brian dropped off our sitter there and he's here to tell you that there's a darn fine Milwaukee hardcore scene. Second, the reason there weren't a lot of people there was that, frankly, I only found out about this show by chance. There was a flyer, and that's it. I have plenty of Keno-Core bands amongst my myspace friends, but too many insist of clogging up bulletins with crap, so that I totally missed any posting about this actual show.

No, if you're going to have an all-day, all-ages show, Kenoshans, you need to have made arrangements to say, plug the show on 'MSE, made sure the local press knew about you coming, (CALL the Shepherd, etc.), and then, finally, lose the "everybody hates us" attitude that might even account for your stupid ass behavior that gives you a destructive reputation.

Case in point. Here's a report from Darrell "The Brains" Martin, who not only is a Bert fan (and now a Pistofficer fan), but he is in a special position to comment. Why? Because Da Brainz holds the custodial contract for the Miramar Theatre. That's right, kids, Da Brainz had to clean up after you! As Darrell might as well be a guest blogger, rather than try to deal with meta nested quotes, I'll just put his words in blue and mine in black again. So here's his account.

I was talking to this one kid in the lobby area, where the cigarette smoking was going on. He made a comment about my Hendrix T-Shirt and asked me if I'd actually seen him.

"April of '70 in the Auditorium," I replied.

"What's the Auditorium?" he asked, and he kept on asking questions about those old days. And then i told him how many shows I'd seen, and proceeded to tell the story of the first Bert show at Trash fest.

After you guys (V'ron and Brian) left, there was the usual stage diving,
[darrell renders this with an earned, "seen it all" voice] everybody getting up on stage and grabbing the mike, and then, Bert's buddy Pete started screaming into the mike and therew the mike stand down and then it broke. The show kept on going and mikes were coming off the stands, and people were singing and screming and hollering. But the sets went on really well.

But that's when Pete was getting accosted for doing things that he shouldn't be doing. [Miramar proprietor] Bill [Stace] put a stop to that quick and pulled him down.
[Seems "Pete" was attempting some inappropriate behavior with one of the girls, and that particular girl's father was there and none too happy about it, and decided to use fisticuffs to make his point.]

Then there was fake fighting outside between one of the girls. Bill broke that up, but they were just moshing, and then this one guy comes outside and starts going on about "why aren't Kenosha punks appreciated here? Milwaukee sucks..." Yeah, whatever. Bill calmed the kid down, but finally agreed to disagree. But he still kept mumbling and moaning about how Kenosha is Number 1 in punksville, blah blah blah, more music came on, and the crowd was getting smalller and the stage diving was getting more intense.

Then BAM, the show just ended 12:30 or so. I found out later that a bass guitar got ripped off from a Madison band, and bass amp head ripped off. Needless to say, nobody made any money. Bill paid everybody a few $$$. "My expenses are covered," Bill told Bert. "Mike stands are broken, mikes are broken."

And then I started to go to work.

Took me 3 hours just to get the back room and auditorium cleaned out. (I can clean everything for a regular show in about that time). I still have about 2 hours worth of work to do.

I don't think we'll see Keno-core in Milwaukee for awhile. Shame, too. They've got a great package there; too bad they don't know how to use it. Dammit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If the game isn't so good, you can always discuss the music

Hmmm. Do I write about the Bucks game that Stella and I went to on Monday, or not? Why? I'm starting to run out of things to say about them without really hitting the crux of the matter -- the fact that something is definitely wrong here. We have good player, lord knows the fans are pretty hardy. If anything, it was a nice girls' night out for Stella and me. Stella enjoyed some dippin' dots, the Ice Cream of the Future and we had some good laughs. Halftime feature was the kids from the Special Olympics playing some hoops, and in keeping with that, they had one of 'em singing the anthem. OK, so Simon's not sending this kid to Hollywood anytime soon, but it was straight up and unpretentious, and he didn't take anything for granted, which is why he hit all his notes. However, I felt sorry for the girl who painted her face up in this picture -- and wasn't the "Extreme Fan of the Game" -- that honor went to some plain ol kid in a jersey who either was connected to the special olympics or something.

No, I guess I won't talk about the game, which was pretty disappointing as usual. It's like they run out of gas by the third quarter and Monday's game was no exception. So let's do this: a quick rundown of the music they play when somebody hits a shot:
  • Yi: "Sweet Emotion." I guess this is supposed to get people to go "Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii emotion." Actually, when he shoots a long shot, everybody goes "YIIIIIIIII" and "wooo!" if it actually sinks.
  • Royal Ivey: Some hip hop tune I'm not familiar with (actually, I have to admit that I'm not as familiar with most hip hop) that features Samuel L. Jackson's line from Pulp Fiction, "Royale with Cheese." Brian and I think that we started this, because every time he hit a shot, we'd go Royal! With Cheese! Fairly loudly, too.
  • Bogut: "Land Down Under" from Men at Work. Ugh. Did anybody-- especially from Austrailia -- ever really like this song? Does Bogut?
  • Desmond Mason: Theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." Now that's worth hitting a shot for.
  • Michael Redd: "Whoop! There it is!"
  • Mo Williams: No music lately. They used to do some hip hop tune that went, "Mo! Mo! Mo!" but that went away for some reason.
  • Charlie Bell: At least it's not "Ring my Bell" anymore. Now it's AC/Dc's "Hell's Bells." I bet Bogut is jealous -- I mean, AC/Dc are a bunch of Aussies and all. How come Bell gets "Hell's Bells" and Bogut just gets stuck with a Vegemite sandwich?

Maybe for kicks, I'll try to come up with alternative selections.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Music from the heart after my own heart

Friday night I went and saw the best music ever: My two darling kids at their schools annual Winter Sing. I've shot the audience at this many years: like any grade school presentation audience, they're the dream audience, because there's nothing the kids on stage can do wrong. Glaring errors and their consequences are part of the entertainment, missed cues are glossed over, biffed notes are expected, glaring errors are quickly forgiven. The look on every parents face is a combination of love, wonder, pride and reminiscence. This audience only sees beauty in these performers, and that's a wonderful audience to have when you're onstage. And of course this audience only sees beauty? What else is there? Because when the kids open up their mouths to sing, they're not doing it to win some contest or make their stage mom rich. They just know a song and belt it out, and espectially with the little ones, with a joy so big you expect them to explode. The older ones are proud of the tougher stuff put before them, the little ones just happy to sing a song they know well, complete with hand motions and facial expressions and delivery that come from deep within their heart. They weren't even nervous. It's a delivery that only the best adults can come up with, because there's nothing like whether they're going to get paid or not or what the reviewer is going to say in the way of the music.

Saturday I braved the cold and (lecture time: you guys should be lucky I went out at all seeing as how I only found out about this show through a Friday posting on myspace) saw Danny Price and the Loose Change open for Floor Model at the Riverwest Commons. Actually, there was an opening band called A Late Sky that didn't do a lot for me. Probably because they reminded me of Bruce Hornsby or Dave Matthews and the like, and Hornsby and Matthews don't do a lot for me. It's the American wistful thing going, except that there didn't seem to be any kind of dynamics going on. Good background bar music, but nothing that inspired me to wade through he crowd and give them my undivided attention. Plus, I think these kids are new to the scene and they need to learn a bit of band etiquette. Rule 1: Always acknowledge the other bands on the bill while you're on stage. . In fact, thank them even if you don't know them or think they suck. Example, "We'd like to thank so-and-so and blah blah blah for having us out tonight." Rule 2: Acknowledge the other bands OFF the stage, too. Find them. Trade business cards with them. Tell YOUR fans to stick around and check them out, and not just on stage. Rule 3: YOU should stick around and check them out. Maybe this all happened, but it was like these guys played and got the hell out of there and took their fans with them, leaving a few hypercritical fans to watch the two remaining bands. You can violate these rules if you're massively established and you don't need to network, but ALS (yes, they use these initials and honestly, guys, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to name your band after Lou Gehrig's Disease) is not at that level yet. But back to the music. It was OK, I guess. I'm just not into that kind of thing, even if you're trying to evoke a classic Jackson Browne album with your name.

Danny Price and the Loose Change was next. I know who Danny Price is because he's sat in with sixthstation favorites Eat The Mystery (and they share Paul Setser on keys between them) and after hearing them, I can say they're kindred spirits working in different genres. Price writes entertainingly sad songs, almost drinking songs, but in that country/folky road that ALS was traveling down. Part Neil Young, part Tom Waits in terms of lyrics and general feel, but Price actually has a nice voice. Daring with the arrangements, too: First song was titled "Love Song for a Succubus" and while (and Price admits this) the chord changes themselves were basic and simple, they were augmented with some intriguingly messed up time signatures and changes -- a tool I don't normally hear in this genre. I'd say the first half of the set was definitely stronger than the second half, but Price has lots of great raw ideas that will be worth watching the progression to a polished act.

floor model drummer in ecstacy.
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Floor Model just gets better and tighter every time I see them. Great power punk trio whose snottyness just gets more distinct as they tighten up their songs, act, and delivery. It's worth squinting your eyes and ears to catch all their subtle and not so subtle jabs at cultural stupidity. "NASCAR Mentality" doesn't just smack that particular sub-culture, it actually takes a hit at all hyper-inclusive cultures. If they lived 30 miles south, they'd fit in well with all the Keno-Core bands set to invade the Miramar Theatre this coming Saturday. (more on that later…). As it is, I talked to Floor Model's Jeff Callesen and they'll be there as fans anyway.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Phat Tuesday

Last night I trudged out to the Uptowner to ring in Phat Tuesday with Mark Shurilla and the Greatest Hits. This is the kind of thing I love them for: there's no prescribed theme, no having to stay mainstream (like when they do their retro tribute thing), no holds barred. They just get up there and jam on songs and it doesn't matter whether you know them all or not. The very loose theme was partying, New Orleans, Mardi Gras, etc. Or just songs they liked and felt like playing. They started with some thing that they said was from Dr Hook and the Medicine show, and it sounded like it could have easily come from Tom Waits' catalouge. They dragged out some oldies, they did one song that could have, with a different set of lyrics, been New Order's Blue Monday (but it wasn't.) Stylistically, they were all over the map, but they sounded like themselves, simply having a good time playing whatever they felt like playing -- good and laid back jamming from musicians very comfortable with each other.

They were dressed in a variety of Nawlins mardi garb: Shurilla in a gold lame cape looking like a cross between James Brown and Steve Allen, Dan Mullen accentuating the beard of his (that I've been complaining about for two years) with a glitter mask turned upside down, Marlavous almost unrecognizable in a masquerade mask and some kind of voodoo mama kaftan, Bob Jorin in a black trenchcoat, oversized glasses and beads across his chest like he was some sort of dirty old man cum American (ParTAY) Gladiator, and The Animal looking out of place, for he was quite normal. Drummers. Hmmmmph.

Eric "Burning Man" Griswold and his posse arrived in flashing lights across their bodies, and led the bar hopping parade out the door and down the block for a grand tour of Riverwest bars. "Grand" meaning less than a dozen -- it really wasn't a night to go bar hopping, even though the snow indicated that most of us wouldn't be at work the next day.

And speaking of nobody being at work, really, what is this? Do we not live in Wisconsin? Does it not snow here occassionally? I have to admit, even Stella was overwhelmed, but I think more because the snow is almost too heavy and wet to be fun snow.

Anyway, the upcoming weekend is packed with good things to see and do. Especially on Friday: Liam Ford and the Band in Black is at the Ale House (perfect for them!). At Points East, there's a three band bill which includes Chiris DeMay and the Thrashers. Among the potential guests is perennial sixthstation favorite Blaine Schultz, (or so their myspace page says) which implies good, jammy, trippy, Americana. "Thrash with us!" says the myspace bulletin. Well, when you say "thrash" I think skatepunks, etc. Not trippy Americana, but I'll take it. And the Borg Ward has a three band bill also headlined by Madison's The Box Social, that wonderful college rock band I saw a few months back. Difficult decision.

It's a busy weekend for Andy Pagel -- he will have been busy Friday with Liam, and Saturday he goes into Keith Moon mode to play with Substitue, that Who cover band he plays in. Again, I'm usually not a fan of tribute bands, but, hmmmm. Is it that I just like to plug my drummer? Or is it that I just really like the Who? What is it about the Who that makes people love them so much? Nobody's really "eh" about the Who. You either love them or you don't. And maybe that's what makes Substitute work so well. They all really freakin' love the Who.

In a totally unrelated piece of news, here's a video of Voot Warnings from at least 10 years back that should bring back memories. Note the lineup: Voot, of course, a longhaired Steve Schrank on the bass, Vic Demeichei on congas, Jeff Chase on cello, and Tim "Otis" Taylor on guitar. All at least at the beginning, then, anything goes. I'm telling you, if Darrell "Da Brainz" Martin captured the late 80s, early 90s on boom box cassette, we have Dave Johnson to thank for getting it on Video:

More to follow, I guarantee it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Year of the Rat

Ah Lian, at the line
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Somebody help me, please. I'm a rat. I'm a Metal Rat, as a matter of fact. And in the Chinese Zodiac, this is my year. But I've got that damn Al Stewart late 70s hit going in my head.... but in many other ways, I think this is gonna be my year.

Anyway, long packed weekend. I'll go in reverse chrono order, because that's what's fresh in my head. I ended up last night sharing some beers with Marlavous Marla, watching video of her triumphant run at this gorgeous theatre in Sheboygan with Mark Shurilla and the greatest hits. They have a similar gig in Oshkosh coming up and Dan "Mylz" Mullen says the theatre there is equally gorgeous.

Ah Lian! We were just two of a bazillion people on the planet watching the Yi-Yao matchup, and while Yi is less experienced that Yao, he held his own against him. Neither were blowing us away -- despite last night being a sort of unofficial Asian Night at the Bradley center, the star of the game was Bogut, who's really stepping it up on defense. It was more of a Yao-Bogut matchup. And the Bucks were making it a game, well, at least until the middle of the 4th quarter. In fact, something we haven't seen for awhile, there was a point in the 4Q when the Bucks were actually leading. I went to take a bathroom break, and come back to find the Bucks down by 10. What, was I supposed to just sit and let my bladder explode?

Nevertheless, the Bradley Center pulled out all the stops to welcome the billion Chinese both physically and virtually there for the big showdown. Halftime entertainment was huge Tae Kwon Do demonstration, with musical selections including the theme from that part in Kill Bill where O-Ren Ishii and her posse arrive at the House of Blue Leaves. Of course. It wasn't hard to find a sign in Chinese showing support; here's one that was right behind us. Even T-Shirt Guy was in the act with his shirt in Chinese.
Anthem tonight was from the Brown Deer High School Choir. Good start, but they faltered on "and the rockets..." The hit "red glare" fine, but the "and the rockets" was awful. Seemed like they lost their moxie after that -- hitting some clunkers all through the rest of the song. They made up for it by hitting "laaaaand of the free" well enough, but ah, not one of the better high school choirs I've heard rendering the anthem. I'd give them a 6 out of 10 -- but points for reflecting the way the game was going to go -- good about 3/4s of the way through and then slow disaster at the end, capped off by at least not making it a disaster. I need to give points though to the genius at Harley Davidson who thought it would be a good idea to rev up a hog ("the HD Rev-Up" at the beginning of the game on international television, as if to say, "Hey China! OK, so we don't exactly have the best hoops team out there, but we make some serious bikes here. Vroooom!" The fumes lasted until the first timeout. Get used to this smell, people. The 105th Anniversary is this summer, so break in your ears and lungs.

One nice thing to see: there's an Energee girl who can throw! We actually almost caught one of the souvenier balls she chucked into the crowd. She didn't mess around. She looked like she pitches for some fast pitch team or something. We got one of the wimpy girls later, but this made me feel good about tonight, despite the knob who sat down the row from us insisting he had to lean forward the whole freaking night, which forced us to do the same if we wanted to see anything (even after we asked him nicely if he would sit back now and again.)

1956 guitar and drums
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Friday night, I stopped into the Cactus Club to check out 1956, a power trio I've heard about from various sources, from Flickrite Czelticgirl, to Brian mentioning that enough people have told him we'd like them. Journal Sentinel says a mix of Helmet/Queens of the Stone Age -- I'll agree, except I'll throw in a good dash of some dissonant chords underneath melodic vocals. Lead singer Jason Reiman has a voice somewhere in Orange Juice's Edwyn Collins, but he's way more American about it and therefore (nicely) rougher around the edges as opposed to Collins' creamyness. Bassist Trey Butero seems to provide unabashed energy for this band, jumping all over his part of the stage and providing enough visual stimuli to keep a photographer busy all night. Racine native Mike Mattner seems to have the drums under control, which is a trick with this band as they have starts, stops, and challenging rhythmic structures that flow nicely, meaning they don't sound as syncopated (and therefore difficult) as they are. Touch of Radiohead in the delivery -- but much better stage presence. That's not to say there was a lot of banter -- they put all their personality and presence into their music, and that was good. Occassionally they brought in this female singer who added just the right amount of upper register -- they used her sparingly but effectively. All in all, ultimately satisfying, and worthy of their hype, and a "Brian, you indeed will like these guys" list.

Super duper full disclosure here: I just got this new job. I gave notice at my old job just the day before. And Reimer is one of the people I interviewed with to get the new job. So you, dear reader, now know that either a) 1956 kicks major ass or b), Heinously, I am one major suck up. Honest to god, it's A. If I didn't think they were any good anyway, I would simply have just "forgotten" to write a review or something. But equally honestly, I walked into the Cactus thinking, Oh my. New day job colleague. Please let them rock. Please let them be really good so I don't have to figure out how the hell I'm going to write about them and still show my face on my first day of work at the new job. Please God, please, let them bring the rock. Oh, thank whatever I'm calling the deity this week (let's call him "Bob" for now) they actually did.
And so did openers Brief Candles. They are unabashedly, unapolegitically (if their myspace page isn't ironic) a shoegazer band, but as I described to lead singer and guitarist Jen Bonigan my take on them as "Joy Division with some balls," she laughed in agreement. They aren't shreddmeisters, but they make plenty of interesting noises come out of their instruments, and establish good core chord progressions and build from there. Give them about 2-3 songs to kick in -- they had some technical difficulties when they first hit the stage and that may have thrown them off a bit. Plus, I'm not sure who to blame this on, but I coulnd't hear Bonigan's vocals for skeet. Same mike was used for 1956, and I heard Reimer fine. Maybe it was a dead connection during their set, or maybe Bonigan's voice needed to project more. Either way, when I head it on their myspace page, mixed up like it should be, it was a 4AD kind of voice that would sound right sitting in with the Cocteau Twins -- but again, it's fronting a band with much more balls. I don't normally go for the shoegazer stage presence (because there IS no stage presence), but the music -- which actually had bits of Hawkwind-ish space rock there -- drew me in. Put them on a bill with F/i!
Spotted in the crowd: Joey from the Barrettes, who are taking a few months off. Not to be lazy though: Joey reports that drummer Joolz is having hand surgery -- on both hands. Poor woman was in pain when she'd play, and she's having surgery one hand at a time, which is why it will be four months until we hear from the fabulous Barrettes again instead of two. Nevertheless, Joey said of course she'll be spending the time penning new tunes.

Thursday night, (after i gave notice at work, woo, that was something to do after 10 years) I went to another one of Melanie Beres' Speed Networking events, driving through treacherous snow. Met lots of great women, and Melanie also provided entertainment: first a dance troupe called the Remix Dance Company who took hip hop a step further and combined it with an almost Bob Fosse flavored thing. It was a masquerede themed night and the Remixers took that one all the way. Good mix of oldschool Broadway dance with funky hip hop yanno what i'm sayin' sassyness. After that, we got treated to a few tunes from K C Williams one of the few African-Americans working the Country Western genre. He has the sweet voice that goes with a guy in country, and I don't like nu-country, but there was something appealing about his delivery that brought me in. He had that jokey country delivery that the best country guys have and made me forget the ridiculous snow, but I can't help but wonder if racism amongst the target market is keeping him from really hitting the monster big time. I've heard him do the anthem at Bucks games -- this guy can sing and he can handle an audience comfortably and easily.

So now it's the super bowl. Do I really care? Does anybody? The "first ad" didn't even blow me away. Then again, maybe it's just not the Packers' year. It's mine. Sing along with Al Stewart!!