Sunday, October 26, 2008

My little girl is growing up

i hope she never loses this
Originally uploaded by V'ron
The week before last, the family loaded up the car and went to Halloween Glen -- a sweet little event the folks at Milwaukee Recreation puts on at Hawthorne Glen. You meet at the MPS Admin building at 50somthingth and Vliet, and the school buses take you to Hawthorne Glen, where there are a bunch of people putting on cute little nature skits at 10 stations along the nature trail. It's kind of educational, it's a non-scary alternative to kids who aren't ready for haunted houses, and there's plenty of inside jokes for the adults in the form of relentless bad puns. Stella's starting to get a little old for it -- she'll be the first to admit that, but at the same time, she always loves to go for the consistency of it. We go every year, and every year we groan through the bad puns, and its an autumn magical night in the woods without being scary.

And a week later, it's her birthday. She's starting to need to shop in stores that sell junior sizes, she's starting to have those discussions with her friends that border on arguments, she's in that in-between time of her life where she wants to be cooly cynical, but doesn't want to give up innocent fun and joy, and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to tell her that you don't have to give up either.

Last Thursday, Stella and I went out to dinner and then to the ballet of the eve of her 10th birthday and *I* was the one who suggested dessert, because, it was, after all her birthday. That's when it hit me -- she's ten and in many respects, she's much older than that, but I still have to remember she's still a little girl. A little girl who still orders off the kids' menu because the chicken fingers at the Water Street Brewery are really good (they're almost tempura, rather than some breaded crap.). A little girl who still likes to jump down the last three steps in a staircase instead of walk down them gracefully to take her seat in the loge at the Performing Arts Center. A little girl who wears striped tights that clash -- in color, texture and design -- with the white and rose organza dress she selected for the ballet, topped off with her Tina Fey glasses that bring out that same absurd and cynical sense of humor she shares with Fey.

The ballet was OK. It was Sleeping Beauty, and we both went in sort of tainted by the Disney-fied version. Jeanette Hanley's evil Carabosse admittedly was costumed a bit like Maleficient herself (or Susan Sarandon's character in "Enchanted"). But we found that we enjoyed her performance the most, accompanied by her henchmen that reminded Stella of a rather malformed and decaying Blue Man Group. Typical Tchakovsky ballet -- big party where everybody gets a dance before the plot thickens. Best dances where when each fairy gives a gift to baby Aurora. And Stella and I disagreed this morning with the Journal Sentinel critic -- he didn't like Act I and thought Act II saved it, where we thought the opposite. I mean, after Aurora and Desire's wedding, wow, I know this is the ballet but *I* didn't dance that much at MY wedding! Overall, I have to admit -- I'm more into the edgier stuff that the Milwaukee Ballet puts on -- and this year they have quite a card full of edgy looking stuff. But I know that traditional, classic stuff like Tchykovsky and Balanchine et al pays the bills. And it is a grand showcase to show just how accomplished this particular company is. We've been hitting these performances for awhile now, they're time I've carved out so that I can enjoy Stella for the funny, clever, intelligent, quizzical beauty that she is, without having to deal with her little brother butting in, without having to deal with other influences like the TV or the computer, or anybody/anything else. They remind me how glad I am that she's my kid -- that I can go to dinner with a 10 year old kid and actually enjoy myself and her. She's the one that pointed out that the henchmen looked like the Blue Man Group, she's the one who points out that the King kind of looks like the freaky Burger King.

We spent her actual birthday at her schools' fall festival party, and the following day I treated her and some of her buddies to a day at the Zoo, for the trick or treat, and they're all at that same juncture -- trying to straddle that line between happy go lucky kid and ripe-for-goth-rock adolescence without losing their street cred.

I've got a picture of her in my cubicle at work -- she's five years old in it and she's running toward me, with outstretched arms with a look of carefree summer joy in her face -- and I hope and pray that she'll always have a piece of that in her heart -- and I know this sounds selfish -- because it brings so much joy to me to see her happy. Really, I want her to be happy for her, but it is a nice side effect that her happiness influences mine. So today, we went shopping, as mother and daughter, and had a grand old time looking for cute clothes, laughing at some of the stupider fashion trends (I'm savoring this time when we actually agree on this), and arguing about what to get at the food court. I'm wishing her not only a happy birthday, but many, many more happy ones.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trash Fest: Well you can't accuse us of not being diverse!

Nervous Virgins
Originally uploaded by V'ron

Not only does crap come in many flavors, no flavour is exempt from crap, and this year's Trash Fest proved that all too well. The Rundown:

It was the largest lineup I'd seen in a while, and it needed to start at 7:30, 8ish to get everybody in. That means the hipper than thous didn't show up until some five bands had already played, which meant too many people missed an even better-than-usual Nervous Virgins set, led as always by Eric Griswold, fresh from his Burning Man decompression, with their really biting songs and the annual singing of their cynical re-work of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. This year, I could actually recognize the whole band: dressed like they really didn't give a crap, although they played like they sort of gave a crap.

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The Fugs were one band you could do their songs straight up and still have it come off trashy. Of course, the Chow boys took a step further by evoking George Clinton and funkadelic, but this was strickly east village folky trash. Frank Chandek pretty much looked like a white George Clinton, and he played like it, too. Frank Zappa (who the Fugs would historically jam with, and who the Chow band worships) would have been proud. That guy I'm married to actually looked a bit like Ed Sanders, but didn't sound like him.

Cry, cry Coyote
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Up next, a bunch of Riverwest cowpunks calling themselves Cry Coyote, who delivered on some snotty inbred punk. Plenty of stage diving from the friendly crowd, who in a somewhat friendly way, proceeded to pelt them with all the crap scattered about the theater. Clearly they knew that at Trash Fest, this is considered a compliment. Problem was, some of the kids crossed the line when they were throwing some of the harder stuff. "Yeah, but these are our friends," one told me when I asked him to kind of lay it off. "Yeah," I replied, "You may not care if your friends get hurt, but that's my friends' gear up there and I don't want it ruined. Said kid laughed with me, and knocked it off. The band turned out to be friends of Dr Chow's Frank Chandek's daughter, and I'm not saying this because she babysits my kids; this band kicks ass. As I told them that night, not only would I like to see them at a regular gig, I might even pay cover to do so.

Vanilla Ice Cream -- Yum.
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

Sixthstation favorites Floor Model tore apart horrid lame ass rap with an incarnation of Vanilla Ice, adding some cream. And the cream was curdled -- Andy struts out and revs up the crowd oldschool, dressed in an ice cream man's getup. Another guest literally scratched some vinyl by letting his damn medallion lean on the turntable. It was very, very bad, and thus drew cheers from the crowd, swimming in a sea of trash by the time their actual music instruments went out of tune.

As somebody who's covered Stunning and Glare myself, I was looking forward to the Louie and Cher show and they did not disappoint. Brother Louie's Louie played foil to Roni Allwaise's Cher, and they nailed the constant berating of each other from the old series. Too bad I was too close to the stage to get a good fix on the sent-up lyrics that Roni clearly took some care to warp, but she had the voice, the mannerisms down -- all the way down to the constant brushing the bangs out of her face that drove me nuts on the real Cher when I was a kid. The costumes were spot on. Oh, and a top trash fest compliment -- did I mention they sucked?

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
A taste of Kenocore was up next -- I've already mentioned in this blog that I'm a fan of Pistofficer, and their performance -- in lieu of the dearly departed Beautiful Bert -- assured me that the future of Kenocore is in good hands. They pounded out four tight, anthemic hardcore hits, and clearly used every scrap of trash as props, as stage cushion, and ran with it. They got it.Trash Fest is half parody, half just trashy good time and they were the latter, and afterward they took it all in, clearly enjoying themselves and getting into the spirit of the festivities. They hit the stage with "Whaaaaatttt the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkkk...." and left the stage decrying "The End of Our Rights" and I'm sure gained a few more fans in the process.

nursery crime
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Did I mention that I -- along with a rotating staff of judges that included Whispering Jeff, Bob Jorin and Lars Kvam -- spent the evening sitting in judgment of "America's Next to Worst Band"? I think we all agree that Nursery Crime (Eat the Mystery, making the "poor stage" look like it was set in one of JohnCindy McCain's mansions by comparison) couldn't possibly win the competition because they weren't the Next to Worst Band. They were flat out theworst. The schtick was criminally horrid takes on children's songs and tales, and all I could hear in my head was Leonard Pinth-Garnell shaking his head, saying, "That wasn't so good, now, was it?"
Ekko Galaxie and the Rings of Saturn. Wow. Where did The Fly find these guys? (He said later he ran across them at a Brew City Bruisers event.) Anyway, these glamour pusses hit the state, blew us all away with a Ballroom Blitz and didn't let up as they pounded through T Rex and other British glam greats, saving the king of them all, the thin white one himself, for last. As i mentioned that night, whoda thunk that the band that would get everybody on the dance floor, old school moshing and slam dancing like it was a Black Flag show circa 1982, would be a bunch of 70s style made up glam boys. They were almost too good for Trash Fest, saving them was the fact that they were working an inherently trashy (hollywood trashy, nonetheless trashy) androgynous genre. I need to find out their real name and keep a lookout for them. Binky Tunny and Miramar Proprietor Bill Stace filled some time with some great, trashy Ramones hits, and Bill's presence behind the drums reminded us all that we wished he'd get back there more often, and his sound men that the havoc that was being wreaked didn't faze the owner one bit, so why should it faze them?

Tradition kicked it, in the form of a dependably performance from Mark Shurilla and the Electric Assholes, complete with Mr Shiny Pants on guitar (he's really good -- Mark needs to pull him out more). The Kenocore kids especially appreciated the annual polkaing to "Blitzkrieg Over Kenosha." I have to yell at Miles on bass though. (You may think I'm being hard on him, but he's normally Mr I Never Get A Chord Wrong that I will seize any opportunity to give him a hard time on those rare occassions when he actually does blow it.) And blew it he did -- Shurilla was going off on one of his improvised current events commentaries, set to the tune of Country Joe and the Fish's "Fixin to Die Rag" OK, I'll give you this, the bridge and the chorus have a bit of a tricky little progression there, but nothing a quick google search for "Country Joe MacDonald Bass Tab" wouldn't have solved, lending more biting humor to Shurilla's necessary update to the antiwar classic. On the other hand, this was trash fest, and up until that point, they weren't sucking one single bit.

Dave loves the dead
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I gotta say, though, usually you can count on Shurilla to be the most tasteless jokester of the night, but that honor really had to go to Dave Alswager's Bad Alice. From a pathetic "Only Women Bleed" to a Binky-as-Sexual-Zombie take on "I Love The Dead", Alswager had the Coop's voice down, with almost as many stage props and antics as ol Vince himself. Simulating a one-man bukkakke, a brain eating adventure, and (at least he wasn't beheading chickens) it closed one of the more varied (from punk to cowpunk to glam to cabaret to everything) I'd been at. Don't tell me Milwaukee isn't a diverse town.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not that any of this matters, but...

I'm now convinced I need to get out and see Mississippi Cactus at some point. I popped into Pu8ddler Hall (a place i haven't been to since it was Sue's Bay View Band Wagon -- for the Craig Burger -- benefit last Friday, and maybe it was the benfit atmosphere, but this is the kind of place I would like to see more bands in: where you want to run into a few friends (which is exactly what happened). Maybe not full-blown rock bands with a giant PA and all: it's too well lit in the rumpus room, but the old union meeting hall does lend itself to drinking, arguing about the events of the day, and discussing whoever's in the stage area and what they're doing on it. And even though they were relatively acoustic, Mississippi Cactus fit right in. They're definitly appeal to fans of jamming, but they also understand the value of a good song, and they know precisely when to quit with the jamming (and when to go on with it.) Anyway, there were plenty of people hanging out enjoying the music, the atmosphere, that it really didn't matter that I had never met the guy whose family would be the benefit of all this goodwill.

Maybe it's just a whole Bay View vibe -- as tired as I was, i meandered over to Club Garibaldi for the XCleavers Cd release show, and I felt like I'd walked into somebody's college class reunion, class of early to mid 80s. It wasn't MY college class reunion, because this wasn't my college-years band, (mine were the Vertebrats) but between the ska-meets-snotty-punk-americans sound and the choice of covers (how many people can name three songs off the Rezillos album, much less play one of them?) it might as well have been. The CD itself had priceless packaging -- the top of it was gummed up to look like an old vinyl LP, and the actual backside was black, no even mirror-ey. Gee, I didn't know you could do that. But it was that same kind of vibe -- it didn't really matter that I wasn't in Milwaukee when the Cleavers were playing out regularly. I was still welcomed into conversations about our kids, the selection of beers on tap, and how much it costs to get a transmission (or shower stall) repaired, topics i would have never broached 25 years ago while listening to a 2 minute pop rant called Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight."
After some hours of sleep, Sammy woke me up because I'd confirmed that the new playground equipment at South Shore park was up and ready to ride, so we hit the accompanying farmers' market for the penultimate run this season. (This coming Saturday's the last day - WAH!). There's still a few farmers who planted late season lettuce, and i'm grateful for that, but I also stocked up on some potoes, fresh cilantro, carrots, and other winter soup staples. And i'm going to miss those two women from Eden's Marketwho make these wonderful raw food flaxseed crackers -- they're really good (and they sure do clean you out!). They don't have a retail environment yet, and last I talked to them, they hadn't cut any deals with any established retailers. Outpost, are you listening?

The new playground equipment, if my kids have anything to say (as well as the rest of the throng of kids who clearly needed to test it for themselves) is a hit. The county left the basic infrastructure and put a few more safely challenging climbing apparatus. Plus, they got rid of all the sand (left a small sandbox on the south end) and replaced it with that springy rubbery stuff that, because it was new, still had a LOT of springyness. That was a relief, because there were plenty of kids who, in their excitement, probably attempted climbs that were beyond them, and wipeouts were only humiliating, instead of disastrous ER trips. Swings hadn't been replaced yet, but I'm both glad and sad about all the missing sand. On one hand, I liked that sometimes the kids would just hide under an apparatus and let their imaginations go as they built secret sand-based inner sanctums. On the other hand, I was sick of washing all that sand out of their bodies and clothes every Saturday, and I talked to enough fellow parents who agreed. I went home and joined the kids in a luxurious nap before heading out to Trash Fest.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mountain Dew, coming right up

I'm still coming down from an exhilarating show at the Bradley Center -- one of the few things I'll do a stadium show for is Cirque duSoleil and they did not fail to thrill. The kids enjoyed it too, although it turns out both my kids have the fear of clowns, and I had to explain to them that these were not scary clowns. Last night I missed a lot: you had Southern Culture on the Skids downtown, you had DJ Lo-Fi spinning 78s and 45s at Kochanski's Concertina Bar, and others.

Tonight, if it takes a 2-Liter of Mountain Dew, i'm going to work up the energy to get out for a variety of reasons. Number 1 -- it's part one of a two-night benefit for the family of Craig Burger, Sr., at Puddler's hall, with Thin the Heard and members of Mississippi Cactus. You may remember reading about his tragic death right in the middle of Harley-Davidson week -- he crashed on his bike and died from the resulting injuries. The fundraiser exists because, frankly, the family was facing some serious financial issues, which are now compounding the pain from losing a beloved family member. Later in the evening, since I'll be in Bay View, Those XCleavers make up for the fact that we didn't see them a whole lot during Summer Festival Season, and are throwing a CD release party at Club Garibaldi. "Old favorites" and some unreleased stuff (jeez, can you get something that plays old ampeg tapes anymore?) are on the new stuff.

But ah, the whole weekend gets turned around tomorrow night at Trash Fest -- this year at the Miramar Theatre. The usual suspects -- the Electric Assholes, some incarnation of Dr Chow, plenty of satire and parody bands -- will be there, and there will probably be some genuinely touching moments as the whole crowd toasts departed friend Beautiful Bert. Leading the toast, most likely, will be Bert's close friend and Pistofficer lead singer Frank Lenfesty, and I'm looking forward to a good Pistofficer set amongst the other bands. My role there will be as a judge in "America's Next Worst Band" (you'll just have to show up to see who the other judges are, but I assure you, it will be worth it."

It's a packed bill for Trash Fest tomorrow: festivities will begin at 7:30 sharp so it's worth getting there early. I'll still be swiggin' the Mountain Dew.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Retrofitting my life

The Log
Originally uploaded by V'ron
I love my job, and I love the place I work, but like any job, sometimes it stresses me out and before I went postal at the joint, I picked up the phone, made some spa appointments, and took Friday off to spa and go see the Les Paul House of Sound at Discovery World before my membership expired and the exhibit closed. Isn't it always like that? You get a membership at a museum or something and then you forget to actually use it.

I'm glad I did. Just devoting 3 hours to myself and nobody else did me a world of good, and because of it, I was able to experience the exhibit with the kind of wide-eyed wonder that it deserved. Much of it was true museum fodder -- the actual antiquities Paul used to come up with his ideas, a few hands on things, but mostly what I got out of the exhibit was an overall philosophy: this is the way a brilliant inventor thinks. He doesn't give up, he makes mistakes, he learns something from every blunder, he never stops asking questions, he never stops trying to make something better. Even if you are not a guitar-obsessed musician who wanted to see how the instrument that changed/enriched your life was created, it's still a good object lesson in how a great mind thinks. Plus his storytelling skills were as wonderful in printas they were when we saw him this year.

I was all ready to go out and see some bands Friday night, scanned myspace and everything, and there just wasn't jack to see. I ended up taking a leisurely bike ride Saturday morning, picking up some vegetables at the South Shore Farmer's Market, and ran into the Lumberhorn's Ted Jorin and family, and was convinced that maybe Saturday was the night to schlep all the way down to Kansasville, for Pete's sake, to see them at this joint called the Wildlife Refuge. I'd wondered about this for awhile. At first, I thought it was some nice little museum place, kind of like the Urban Ecology Center. No, this is definitely the wildlife refuge, a house out in the country that happened to have a liquor license, and apparently the only place where people in Racine County who are voting for Obama are allowed to congregate. Do I need to point out that it's just down the road from the Bong Recreation Area?

But we didn't have a sitter, and I didn't want to make the trip alone. What to do? I called Marlavous (whose wonderful Karaoke has been suspended "until further notice" which of course is a gentle way to say "cancelled") and left a voice mail she couldn't resist: "Hi Marla. V'ron here. I'm going on a anthropological expedition to Racine County to a house with a liquor license to see the Mighty Lumberhorn and you're just the chick to join me." Of course she voiced back, "OK, let's meet at this new karaoke where my friend is hostessing and go from there."

The new karaoke hostess is at Roberts (no apostrophe) -- that restaurant on Howell about a mile north of the airport. How many times have I driven past that place, and now I was getting in. It's a cross between a fancy oldschool steakhouse of a restaurant, and some supper club in the UP, but leans toward the former. Prime rib and shrimp specials, good bar, and OK Karaoke. It's not Marlavous', but it will do. Marla stepped up and did a few 60s girl group tunes. I tried my hand at "I Put A Spell on You" but was thrown off by the Animals' version that was on this machine, but with CCR's in my head. Dave put forth a duet of "The Lady Loves Me," we finished our drinks (mine a soda, I'm a good girl if I'm driving), and we hit I-94.

and there was much rejoicing
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
We found the Wildlife Refuge easily. We parked and walked up to a door that was flanked by decaying doric columns -- I was expecting a drunken Vivien Leigh to stumble out and spew some rant about how she'll never be hungry again.

It was just as it was described -- this was so obviously somebody's house: they got a liquor license, and went straight to Salvation Army or Goodwill to decorate the place, with stuff smack out of the 1960s and artwork that suggested "Bachelor Pad on a Budget." Lots of voluptuous women in the artwork, plenty of subtle (!) phallic imagery. It was like a bunch of college students rented the place in 1980 and never graduated. When they have bands, the pool table is pushed back to the wall, a protective board is put on top of it, and then a couch is put on top of that to allow for a kind of bleachers.

The Lumberhorn, it goes without saying, were wonderful. The've pretty much earned a spot in this column where I pretty much take their entertainment value for granted. But Marlavous had never seen them, and she had a good time.

The clientele seemed to fit the place. A mix of old hippies and just regular folk who actually just like to have a good drink and a good time. I hit the bathroom for a self portrait, as is my custom and noted a theme of impressionistic conquistadors, matadors, and mysterious latin ladies. Coudn't get a report on what the men's room theme was, though. In fact, I was torn between listening to the band (because they're one band you want to actually listen for, even their in-between song bs), and just taking in this whole place, with the various little effects all over, including ancient Playboys and tye dyed t-shirts. It wasn't contrived retro, it was all very organic without being crunchy. I didn't want the band to stop, because I didn't want to leave this house, but we were tired, and probably needed to hit the road.

But still, it did my heart good to get out and see a band again, to have a bit of a road trip to do it, and to do it at a place that I'd never been, but seemed like I'd known all my life? Why hadn't I'd been here before I wondered, as we passed a kajallion McCain/Palin signs on the way back to the interstate.