Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fresh Charm School Reunion

charm school reunion
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Besides the Bucks' game (blogged below), there was plenty of music to be had once the tritophan wore off Friday morning. Friday night I finally ventured over to the "new" (geez, it's been open for almost a year now?) Liquor Sweets. It's amazing I haven't been there yet, since it's so close to my house, closer than any of the other bars I frequent.

What a concept: a combination cover band joint (the upstairs, which wasn't open), a sports bar which I have to assume normally has a fine selection of brews and then a "dance club" which is doubling as "The Globe South" -- where they're putting in original bands. It was "The Globe South" that I came for: with a three band bill I would have expected to see at the old Globe: starting off with the Mighty Deerlick. I paid my cover (which covers the whole joint) and found my way in.

You know when there's an economic recession when Dave Deerlick only sports two, that's right, count 'em two t-shirt changes. But that didn't dampen the show. Once again, they do their standard set, but Dave's onstage antics make it fresh each time. How do they do it? How do they take the same dozen songs and make them sound new each and every time?

The room cleared for Mad Trucker Gone Mad, and that's a shame, because they came in from Madison and showed us all how cowpunk is done. And it's not really cowPUNK. They were too sharp of musicians to do that. They were more just taking the idea of running country music in another direction, and added plenty of garage rock, a little prog, even, and playing it loud and fast. I'm actually surprised more Deerlick fans didn't stick around to catch the show -- these guys rocked and blew the snot out everybody's faces as much as Dave's boys do. And they've been around for ages. I'm somewhat embarassed this was the first time I'd finally caught them, but I'm glad I did. Just wish more people would have. Finishing out the night was a equally passionate set from Paul Wall's current project, The Nice Outfit. I've written about them before -- they unapologetically wear their love for the Fab Four on their sleeves, and put together perfect pop that works without making them look like the typical cute earnest boys who normally do this kind of stuff. Thus, when Wall straps on the 12-stringer, you know it's because he needed that sound -- and this was for a song that would have survived without it, but sounded just better with it.

Saturday, after the game, Brian and I arrived at the Uptowner, and in my mind I was reminded of something I've told Stella quite often: "We have two families. There's the one we're born into, and the one we choose." And much of our chosen family was at the Uptowner to see another of Voot Warnings' (increasingly rare) performances.

The good news was that maybe Voot might be playing out more, because most of both his sets last night were new songs, new heavy songs, some almost prog-heavy (and maybe that's due to drummer Vic Demechei's involvement with the Or band...), and many of them less funny and more deeply intense. In any case, it was like the old Riverwest reunion. There were a couple of younger fans there that night, (a few pooh-poohing the band, and in a state of role reversal, there was a twinge of "you don't understand") but overall I felt transported back to, say, 1992, right up to the moment when The Prodigal Son walked in after an absence longer than Michael Redd's, and took his place right in front of the stage, where he stayed almost all night.

It felt like Thanksgiving among the "family". Not everybody was there, (as many family dinners can be), but there was enough of people we hadn't seen in awhile that it was good enough. Lots of hugs, lots of smiles, and eventually, lots of songs we're heard a bazillion times. Maybe the band waited to play them because they thought that maybe they've gotten old, but like the Deerlick, Voot can play "Jesus Christ is My Wife" seven hundred time, and it's fresh each time. Kind of like that same green bean casserole you've had every year at this time. It's still good, and it's still fresh.

And most cheeseheads couldn't care less

So get this, we're walking into the Bradley Center last night with our usual wintertime grimace, and who's playing in the lobby but the one and only Uptown Savages. Brian and I are friendly faces in the crowd, they smile at us, and continue to play on to probably the most UNcaptive audience they've probably ever set up before. But they still rock, and nobody's grimacing.
So we get Jeremy Scott to wail the anthem on his sax. He's not noodling for the sake of noodling anymore -- now he's got this bit that where every time there's normally a note that would stand alone, he runs a chromatic scale up and down to get to it, so he's still in Bleeding Gums Murphy territory.

The game starts, and, well Michael Redd's playing but he's not starting. Bogut is out, but at least he's dressed in a sharp suit, he appears to have actually shaved, and he's reallystarting to remind me of Ashton Kutcher in those Nikon Cookpix commercials.

Scott Skiles does notlook happy. The team's lost (albeit, admirably, but this rooting for the also-ran is going to get old fast) a bunch in a row, and they're up against Cleveland. They probably just got off the plane that morning, had barely enough time to do the three s's, maybe get in a nap, and then go play after Bleeding Gums Scott renders the anthem. And so they're flat, sticking out so much because Scott was perfectly on key.

The whole night is flat. They're out there in their new red uniforms, and Cleveland therefore has to wear their home jerseys. Luke "The Short White Guy" Ridenour is the only one who seems to be on fire, and he's the one who gives them a chance. But it's not to be. They're almost tied, and Brian and I are deciding whether to cut out early and catch a band, or wait till the bitter end. We cut out after the deficit stretched to 8.

This year, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Redd played, but you can tell he's not 100%. Maybe he's been working out, but he hasn't been playing NBA ball for the past few weeks. Bogut is out. Charlie V was supposed to be out, as it was, he wasn't 100%. They were putting on some big defense, but they couldn't shoot to save their lives (unless you're talking about that short white guy.)

And the crowd was flat. We're all starting to turn into Cub-like fans, I fear. We enjoy a good ball game, but we're not expecting anything remarkable to happen, and that's a recipe for horrible self-fulfilling prophecy. Rahne Taylor (I finally got a read on the correct spelling on his name), is even getting tired looking. I'm hoping that all these guys will heal up and get the spark back that almost had them beating Boston the other week, that seemed to come alive last night in the 4th quarter, that might turn them into at least a team able to give a hoot. But in the meantime, I'm trying not to be like this one cheesehead, who looked at the Uptown Savages for only three seconds before declaring he could care less.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Punk in The Pub

Pistofficer Rhythm
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Ah, "The Pub" at the corner of Wright and Fratney. It used to be called Begga's, and was the hangout for the Crazy Shepherd staff back when the Shepherd was on Wright Street as well. It was the place where Brian and I used to meet for a beer when we first started dating but weren't at the point where we were ready to "come out" to our mutual friends that we were seeing each other. (Gee, wasn't a place where the alternative press hung out a clever place to meet in secret?).

Before last night, last time I was there, it was to see Brian sit in with Dr Chow, before he became a full time member, and even then I wondered how they were going to cram a band in there. So when I got the Myspace message from Pistofficer that there would be four -- count 'em -- four bands (that would work on a bill with the band I'm going to go on a limb and call The Future of Kenocore), I really had to wonder how that was going to work. The Pub is just that. It's a PUB. It's not even as big as Quarters' Rock Palace.

Ran into Paul "The Fly" Lawson there, who explained to me that the Pub has indeed become something of a punker hangout. In fact, according to him, there's a punk house not too far away. And true to form, the punkers are good to and respectful of the joint. I was expecting it to be packed, and it wasn't really. (I was also expecting to pay cover, and nobody asked me for $$$, so I spent it on a fine microbrew on tap. At least the old Begga's attitude about beer is still there.) The musicians are generally good, friendly people, and they take their frustrations with the state of the nation out on stage.

Pistofficer was up first --and as usual, they rocked. They really are the future of hardcore in this state. Brian agrees -- "If they were in San Fran, they'd be huge. They'd be on Alternative Tentacles." While they don't sound like the DK's, they're thematically in their territory, as their songs all seem to ask a zombified, consumerist Amerika, "Will you people WAKE UP!" They've got a good book of anthemic hits, great turn of phrases, and they make the most of a stage, whether it's the 900 square feet of the Miramar or the cramped, usually-this-is-where -the-pool-table is spot in the back. I'm a fan.

Another Kenocore band was next -- I need to catch their name (I'll edit this post when I do), and they were straddling the line between punk and metal, but the did need to tighten it up a bit. This kind of music HAD to be tight, and sometimes it felt like they were behind their drummer/rhythm section. They have good attitude, and a distinctive sound -- just need some polish.

Fly had come to see a group called "Fetch the Pliers" (great name for a band) but apparently they weren't there. Instead, the third band I saw (and have to get their name too...) was a pretty good speedpunk band. I really need to bring a notebook to these things to get these names. They understood speed punk, and they had enough variety to make it work for a full set. Lots of speedpunk bands don't get this: if you're not going to vary your rhythm (which in speedpunk, is a syncopated 2/2 or even a 6/8, like a polka on amphetemines) you have to vary your melody, and this third band did. Now if I can just get their name, but here's the best part of Kenocore -- I'll hear about them eventually. This is a scene -- worked very hard by the Pistofficer boys and the other bands -- that is united enough to help each other out and promote each other. Maybe that's why it' lasted all these years. They get it -- they get that to keep an underground scene alive, you have to work together, even if it means cramming it into a tiny little pub that used to be a joint where alternative journalists used to go for a post-putting-the-paper-to bed cocktail.

FZ in Parenthesis

P - I - NKY!!!!
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Well, the annual Zappathing was a thing of beauty, and I'm saying this as a person who's not really into Zappa. (Despite the fact that Zappa compositions were used as both the processional and recessional at my wedding, and that I made it through the worst part of my labor with Stella by concentrating on the soothing but intricate sounds of "Return of the Son of Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar"...) But I can name about five Zappa tunes (the hits, of course, and the two I learned for a FZ tribute CD was put together by Jeff Hamilton and Paul Kneevers that maybe, just maybe, might actually see the light of day after, what, ten years when all those bands piled into Junkyard Studios to records our contributions?) and I really do appreciate the intricacy of what he did, both lyrically and musically.

So that's why the annual Zappathing was fun. (FZ is one of those artists that you don't have to be familiar with to enjoy, and maybe it was more fun for me because I'm taking the music at face value.)

Skirt continued from their offering the week before. (Another party filled with people I rarely get to see prevented me from seeing the Tempermentals, which is a shame because hearing Zappa compositions done in an almost country blues style was one of the highlights from last year.) Skirt's Jessica had on this terrific pleated polka dotted thing that belied her devotion to the music. You thought she was going to go up and sing torch songs. Naw, instead she jumps faithfully into the Mothers, backed by a band with the chops to do it.

Next up were these "kids" (whose name I shamefully forgot) who were a cross between punk and metal. They had a punk attitude (well, so did FZ at times, no?) and a metal delivery, and they did the work proud. A little shaky at first, but everybody agreed they're welcome to come back anytime.

Of course, the night finished with Dr Chow, and they came complete with a full set list, an inflatable doll for Miss Pinky (which turned the night into an almost stadium party, what with Miss Pinky being bandied about the room like a balloon at summerfest).

It's nights like these I don't mind cover bands (even though on nights like these, you remember that they're not really cover bands), but I'm still torn on these "Tribute Nights." A few days later, Linneman's had the "Nod to Bob" (a night of Dylan, of course), and a week earlier, ol Jim Linneman hosted "Kneel to Neil" (in case you haven't heard "Sugar Mountain" enough). It's almost like going to a festival of one kind of music. And when I do that, I get burnt out on it. I love Neil Young. I get Dylan. I appreciate FZ. But 6 hours of each?

I'd been talking to Milwaukee Metal Dave at the Steve MacKay show two weeks ago, and we both lamented the fact that promoters don't like to put together shows with too many different types of bands. It's always "chick night" or "glam metal night" or "folkie night." On one hand, I understand that bands want to attract people who are into the same kind of music, on the other hand, most people who like independent, local music appreciate several kinds of genres. These tribute nights, along with my conversation with Dave, sparked the idea that maybe somebody might want to try the oldschool Lollapalooza approach, selecting a pile of bands not because they all fit a certain genre, but because they're all good. I'd like to see all the bands that played the FZ night all together on a different night -- playing their standard sets. As a matter of fact, I'd like to see all the Nod to Bob bands the same way. OK, OK, OK, you all like Bob and Frank and Neil. Show me where you took that inspiration now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FZ in a Skirt

FZ in a Skirt
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Frank Chandik and Tim O'Keefe's birthday was a great percursor to the Annual Zappathing that's happening this upcoming weekend. Like last year, Skirt's Jessica, with her Judy Garlandesque voice delivered the FZ like people never heard before. It's a voice I only get to hear on FZ night, and I told her as such. At least she knows this -- and has put together a band I hope to see out soon called Dynah Flo and the Roadmasters -- and it will feature her sweetie Chris "The Colonel" on guitar, and between the two of them, they could take the city by storm. I'd heard Skirt do "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee", but it's always a treat to watch a crowd react to that, as the gentlemen beside me mused, "Boy, I can't say I've ever walked into a bar and ever heard that song being done by the band.... and by a chick." Actually, that's what really made Skirt special. It wasn't just that Jessica bothered to learn the songs -- she knew them. She's an FZ fan and sang those songs with the knowledge and authenticity that only a fan could deliver. I'm not a huge FZ fan myself -- but like a few other people around me who agreed -- I respect the guy, like his music, and am amazed by people who can pull it off.

F'rinstance, like Dr Chow's Love Medicine, who followed, with equally precise versions of everything from Willie the Pimp to Harder than Your Husband, and of course, Dirty Love (which is in the standard Dr Chow set anyway.) I've gushed about this before, and you, dear reader, are probably tired of my writing about this band my DH plays in, but damn, they were good. Especially with special guest starts Daves Boyland and Cuzma in the horn section. The horns added a touch of class to balance out the raunchier FZ lyrics. Later, Frank (C, that is), came back for a second set of standard Chow tunes, and when it was over, we all went home and crashed from a satisfying night.

Part of that satisfaction came from the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost, but they lost admirably. Earlier in the game, they shot ahead of the world champion Celtics, who didn't get any points on the board until 3 miutes in. I knew that wouldn't last, and I was right. Despite a weak anthem from the Wausau High School Band: they were OK in a standard Hal Leonard arrangement until they hit "rocket's red glare" and the trombones just died. They went kaput. It was the worst case of going out of tune I'd ever heard. I felt sorry for them. And it was kind of the way the game went. By halftime, the Bucks seem to have died but unlike this trombone section, they got it back somehow. We had to leave (to catch the gig), but listened to the game on the radio, and heard them go into overtime. But since the band was playing at O'Keefe's, not even a silent TV was on, and I had to "watch" the game via refreshing a text update on my smartphone. Ugh. The Bratwurst covered the overtime decisions well in his blog and I'll leave it at that, since I wasn't there for overtime to give a firsthand account.

STFU Already
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The really bad part of the game wasn't the fact that they lost. I wasn't even expecting this to be a game. I am a believer now -- the Bucks made it a game and nearly beat an already hyped up and ticked off Celtic team that had already lost on the road this week. No, it was this loudmouthed, obnoxious, foul-mouthed chick that say a good five rows behind us but sounded like she was directly behind us. You know how every now and then you go to a game and there's some blowhard fan of the opposing team that's cheering them on loudly, but then at least he knows you're getting tired of it and finally shuts up? Well, make that guy a loudmouthed woman with a really grating voice, and give her the energy to keep it up the whole game. Throw in some foul language to offend the parents of the several school-aged children who were in our section, but also an intimidation factor that kept any of us from formally complaining to management. Even when Bango the Mascot came around to shake hands, we all asked him to do something about that beyotch, but she happened to get out getting a soda or something at the time. It wasn't just friendly rivalry. She was annoying, obnoxious, and ruined a lot of the game for a lot of us. We didn't pay $50 a seat to have this grating voice shouting in our ear every time the Celtics scored. So, since we felt helpless at the game, the only thing I can do is publicly humiliate her through this blog. You ruined this game for all of us, lady. Not the Bucks. Not even the Celtics. YOU did. Now go away. Please.

Finally, as promised, Czeltic Girl reports in on that Deerlick/Midget Wrestling Show that I'm now glad I missed. As she points out in her blog, it was Dave Deerlick himself who said afterwards, "I just know I'm gonna have nightmares." I love a good trashy exploitation show more than anything (and so does Czeltic Girl) but if she's having difficulty getting this one out of her head, I know it probably less enjoyable than just profoundly sad. Maybe Loudmouthed Celtic fan could help clear out the bad memories. I know she cleared out the good ones, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I don't understand

Well, there you have it. There were demonstrations in all 50 states last Saturday at 12:30 Central time, all coming together to say "enough is enough." Proposition 8 was the last straw. And I'm proud to have been at Milwaukee's City Hall to support this community. Hopefully this is the beginning of turning things around.

I can't put my finger on why this issue hits me so deeply. I'm not gay. I have some gay friends, but I have friends who are affected on a lot of the issues I support. Maybe I think this one just cuts so closely because people are denied basic civil rights based on who they love. It's like the ultimate government intrusion -- now you have to love the correct person and be approved for you to enjoy the same rights as others. So, as you may know, I rarely get political in this blog, but this is one issue I can't shut up about.

OK, as you were.

Garibaldi: Caroline's South for a night

Steve MacKay and apprentices
Originally uploaded by V'ron
That's what it felt like by the time Steve MacKay took the stage on Friday night at Club Garibaldi, flanked by two other tenor sax players and a baritone saxophonist. It was as though I'd gone to a genuine jazz club: well-rehearsed, yet improvisational and enjoyable for both audience and musicians.

There was a certain warmth to the proceedings, not like a bunch of cooler-than-thou jazzbos, but a group of people who'd been playing for years, though not necessarily together. MacKay's most famous credential (playing for Iggy Pop) was well-known among the audience (to the point where a few fans brought their preserved copies of FUn House for autographing) but it wasn't punk he was presenting this evening. He gracously gave each musician plenty of time to stretch out their chops, clearly confident enough in his own ability and status to be not threatened, but proud to share a stage with a group of dedicated youngones. As such, there wasn't a person in the house without an appreciative grin on their face. Not every note was skintight, admittedly, but we forgave them for the weaker moments, simply because the spirit of musicianship, experimentation, and a willingness to try to take everything a step further than they had before masked any shortcomings there may or may not have been.

I'd debated even going out on Friday -- it had been a long week at work and all I really wanted to do was go to sleep after I lullabyed Sammy down. But something told me to step out, and I was glad I did, even though the childraising duties forced me to miss opening band IROCKZ, who was just finishing up their set with a Stooges cover when I finally arrived.

Sikhara's lead guy
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

Besides the other sax players who were obviously under his tutelage, MacKay had a guitarist and drummer behind him, and a gentleman who played basically a 4x4 with a couple of pieces of piano wire (or something of that sort) who'd played in the band that took the stage shortly after I arrived, Sikhara. Sikhara is probably described as half performance art, half noise, and one more half rhythm extravaganza. Lead guy Sam Lohman starts out their set by prowling all over the stage in a state of staged paranoia -- looking about like somebody's about to get him, and taking out his resultant rage on the drums. He's accompanied by tape loops (or their digital equavalent), and they're dead on. At some points he used a few props but it was up to the audience's intrepretation as to what the point was. Their set was about a half hour, which was just about the right length -- any shorter would have cut the intensity, any longer and they would have gotten tiresome.

As the night went on, it was difficult to imagine anybody having to follow MacKay, but if anybody in town could have pulled this off it was the Danglers -- and pull it off they did. They jumped almost instantly into "Aphrodite's Thighs" and in doing so, convinced the audience that it was worth it to refill their drinks and stick around. And that included MacKay himself, who joined them for an improv'd song that was so tight, so intense, that it seemed like they'd rehearsed it all week. I'm really sad that the Dangler's Tuesday night shows -- which run on a night before I have to get up especially early for work -- are almost prohibitive for me to catch, but at least I fought the fatigue and caught this. I'd have to put this entire night on the "Best Musical Nights of 2008" list (if I ever bothered to compile such a thing.). It was warm, it celebrated several ages of music, and it was a great combination of local talent and national niche.

The only downer was the size of the audience. I'd only learned about this show via some myspace bulletins two day beforehand -- and later in the weekend, as I gushed about this show to friends, the response was almost universal: "Really? Where was this? Oh, I'd have been there if I'd have known! Bummer!" I'm not sure if this was a last-minute booking, or if our press corps is just lazy, but there has got to be a better way of getting the word out on things like this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hope and Bounce and a Win

It's a few games into the NBA season and I haven't been writing my usual tomes about the Bucks yet. This is in part because this year (before we knew just how lousy the economy was going to be) we bought full season tickets (before we knew how good or lousy the team was going to be). Granted, they're in way cheaper seats, but based on the first bunch of games we've been to, it's going to be a long, albeit interesting season.

We've only seen T-Shirt Guy once this season, but maybe that's because we don't have a clear view of him like we used to. We have a clearer view of the Energee Girls, who seem to have all but abandoned any pretense of being more like a dance squad than the PG-13 rated strippers the NBA is clearly pressuring them to be. I'm waiting for them to do an interesting routine like they used to. Maybe they're just getting warmed up.

Stella and I took our seats. She's older now, and is starting to really appreciate the game, which comes in handy so that Brian and I don't have to hire a sitter every night. She agreed with me on the rendition of the anthem by the Hope Christian School Choir. It wasn't bad. They had a really interesting, almost more than 4-part harmony arrangement, and everybody sounded like they were on tune. If there's any criticism to be made, it's in a department they probably can't help: there didn't seem to be enough sopranos or tenors to carry the melody -- all I could seem to hear was the harmony, but really, it wasn't bad. It's wasn't your routine, just-sing-it-a-third-below-the-melody harmony, and it had some teeth to it. Maybe their dominant voices happen to be their altos and baritones. Get some more strong voice on melody, Hope Christian, and you'll be unbeatable.

Ah the game! Another exciting one for me and Stella -- Brian and I are wondering if Stella's the good luck charm, since every game she's hit, they've won, and when she's not there with us, they lose, and lose big. So I'm trying to figure out if she's just understanding the game better, or if, since the games are more exciting when she's there, she's just into it more.

It helps when you have an entertainment=packed package, too. Halftime entertainment, while not exactly last week's Jesse White crew, were these two performers from the Russian Circus called Bounce. And here was their schtick: jump ropes and ball bouncing/juggling. On their noses. While standing on each other. While jumping rope.

In any event, the Bucks are getting more interesting. Bogut even said about last Wednesday's (in the Journal) overtime victory that in the same situation last year, when down double digits, they would have just given up, but this year it's not over until that fat lady starts singing. We suspect it has a lot to do with Coach Stiles. He just doesn't look like the kind of guy who's bad side you want to be on. And we also are seeing this team hustle and flow and beat perfectly good teams without Michael Redd. Yeah, Redd's good, but now we're starting to wonder if he might be worth more in a trade. I need to see him play more and remind me why he's all that.

We also like these new guys. Mbah a Moute seemed to be this player who came out of nowhere (and that's no reflection on his african heritage -- I'd just never heard the name until his Milwaukee Buck-dom) and he's out to prove he's more than some prince. "And who is that short little white guy?" a colleague at work gushed, over six-two Luke Ridenour? Especially up where we're sitting, you forget that these guys are really tall, so that a 6'2" guy does look like he's just a junior at Pius IX or something. Still, he's been a treat to watch, too. And then you have Richard Jefferson (and they play "Movin' on Up To The East Side" every time he hits a shot, which was quite often at this game. "Theme from The Jeffersons," get it? Maybe we'll finally get a piece of this playoff pie yet.

On tap for the weekend:

Friday night is a tough call. There's the somewhat periodic (seems more often than simply "annual") Kneel To Neil event at Linnemans, where a pile of bands take turns taking on Neil Young. If they can promise me that I won't have to hear eight different version of "After the Gold Rush" or "Cinnamon Girl", I might make it there. Otherwise, I suspect the place to be will be Club Gariballdi. Headling will be Radon, fronted by former Iggy Pop sax player Steve McKay, this band that's touring with them called Sikara. Local support will be the Danglers and IROCKZ -- between the description of Radon, along with our local heroes, this sounds like a well=put together lineup. Then again, you have Danny Price and the Loose Change at Zad's Roadhouse with The Grand Disaster --a new (and according to Brian killer) band fronted by Floor Model and Chop Top Toronado's Mark E Lee. I think it's all going to depend on what kind of a day I have at work.

Saturday night is also packed. We're off to see the Bucks try their hand against the Celtics (if they can go the distance, I will start to believe. I'm not expecting a win here.) We'll have to miss the wonderful Bikini Beachcombers playing a set at the Foundation Tiki Bar (which I suspect won't go necessarily late anyway), but more because Brian has a gig with Dr Chow's Love Medicine, and it's at O'Keefe's House of Hamburg, and they're going a very Zappa-laden set to warm up for Zappafest next weekend. But most importantly, it's lead singer Frank Chandik and bar owner Tim O'Keefe's birthdays which means there will be Food, FZ and I'm sure plenty of drinking and debauchery.

But wait, there's more I'm going to have to miss. If you're not in the mood to see the Bucks get pounded by the Celtics, go to the rave and see the Mighty Deerlick at 7 pm get pounded by -- I shit you not -- Midget Wrestling. What the hell is this? They go into hiding nine months of the year and come out and back up midget wrestling at the rave. I will have to count on CzelticGirl-- who alerted me to this to begin with -- to provide a full report.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

That's Mr. 4TA to you

That's Mr. 4TA to you
Originally uploaded by V'ron
It's almost been a full two decades since my first friend (well, first friend who stuck) in Milwaukee insisted to me, "You have to come see this amazing band with me," and we trudged over to the Polish Falcon Hall to see an incarnation of the Trance and Dance Band. It was like nothing I'd seen before (and I'd seen a lot.) The VFW post atmosphere of the hall had been transformed into almost a seance -- candles flickering about, dark lighting from the ground, plenty of goth and hippie scensters floating about, and this band comprised of the standard guitar/bass/drums flanked by strings, odd percussion instruments, and a frontman who crossed playfulness with danger in a David Lynch sort of way. We sat down and within 10 minutes of their set a mutual friend whispered to both of us, "They're so good I don't want to tell anybody about them."

Needless to say, we all became presidents of the Trance and Dance Band fan club that night, and it was indeed a rare occassion when we missed one of their shows. Over the next fifteen or so years, we'd see them go through personnel (and instrumental) changes, but Jerry Fortier's songbook and presence remained constant. Their shows were always happenings, and yet their sets seemed to always be there, drifting in and out of songs. And then they just sort of drifted out.

"Hey, check this out," Brian said to me last Friday, while I was nursing a particularly nasty fever-cun-sinus infection. "Trance and Dance band at Linneman's Saturday." Huh? I immediately began concocting antihistamine cocktails of some sort (a mixture of Rhinocort along with a prescription Allegra frosted with 600-mg ibuprofen chaser ended up doing the trick) so that I could be in condition to catch the show. We had a Bucks game that night, but the Linneman's listing said T&D started at 8. "Yeah, but nobody starts at Linneman's at 8," I said, a lot more confidently than I really felt.

We ended up leaving the Bucks game early, not so much to catch the band, but because it just wasn't worth paying the sitter to see the last five minutes of Shaq getting away with ridiculous amounts of offensive fouls. (That's the thing about NBA seniority -- you don't get called on all your shit.). I dropped Brian home (he had the same thing I suffered Friday and it was peaking), ran the sitter home, and ran up to Riverwest, hoping to catch something of the set. I saw a band in the window, and made it in time to catch the last hour of what apparently was a three-hour pair of sets.

Fellow hardcore T&D fan Reed Conway was there: in fact, she was the only one I recognized. Used to be I could turn up at a Trance show and know at least 10 people. Then again, I suspect not a lot of the old crowd even knew about this show. There were only a dozen folks in the audience, and even Reed had to call Linneman's and confirm that this was THEE Trance and Dance Band, not some upstart emocore band of twentysomethings. Not to worry: 4TA was standing behind a music stand with a cheat book of his old songs, the book looking like some borrowed sacred texts with plenty of marginalia scrawled on what looked to be an entire pack of sticky notes inserted about. Chris Loss -- a longtime band member -- was on bass, ANDd guitar, AND various items including a homemade percussion thingy that he shared with Dale Kaminski, also in the band since I could remember. Kaminsky also picked up bass, and guitar, and whatever sounded right, and that's the way the whole band was.

You could tell it had been awhile since they played out; not everything sounded as seamless as I was used to, but that's not to say they've lost their essential magic. The songs still have a combination of both innocense and macabre, the band is still adventuresome in their arrangements and unconventional use of both conventional and unconventional instruments. And they still had us happy to see them on a stage again. MAybe they didn't promote this heavily because this was the first time out in a while, maybe they're like a lot of the older bands who don't promote heavily because a) they don't need to and/or b) they're doing this for the love of it, not because they expect to be the next big thing. But either way, it would probably do them a lot of good to promote the next show (and I hope it's soon) to bring in more people. They're a band that does well with the ol' give-and-take between the audence. Nevertheless, although I only caught the last third or so, I caught old favorites like "Buffalo Muskrat Show" along with either new songs, or arrangements of songs so fresh that I didn't recognize them. And that's probably what I remember loving most about this band-- the combination of familiar and foreign, so that I could be both comfortable and on guard during a show.

Glad to see you back, Mr. 4TA! Book another show soon! (Oh, and try not to make it when the Bucks have a home game.)

What WILL they play next?

Oh dear. I'm so annoyed with the new WKTI that I have to blog about this. In short, it sucks. But it doesn't suck because of the musical selection. I was already used to the same old dreck they played on KTI. In fact, as you can probably guess, if I'm listening to the radio for music, I'm listening to WMSE or WYMS. And I listen to them for the very reason KTI (now "The Lake" -- whatEVER) claims to have made the change.

Saturday afternoon I'm cleaning out my sock drawer (really, I was! And accepting that it was winter and rearranging my duds drawers to reflect warmed sweats and long sleeved casual shirts instead of shorts and tank tops) and I put on the clock radio in our bedroom just for some white noise. I normally have KTI on the clock radio because, when I wake up, I don't care what the music is (but I need some), but I do want to hear a A)reliable weather report b) reliable traffic report and c) major news headlines. Nobody else in Milwaukee could guarantee that. So on Saturday afternoon I hear this announcement: "We talked to you and built a radio station for YOU," in a generic voice over talent voice. "We heard you wanted a wide variety of ALL kinds of music. And we've even changed our name. We think you'll agree, it's 'Cooler by the Lake.' " Hmmm, I though. A commerical WYMS? And then what did I hear? Nothing I wouldn't have expected on the old KTI!

The next day, I sawCuspirin's column and learned that this is a national format known as Jack Radio. As in, they don't play jack. Ugh. There will be no voices for awhile (no DJs or announcers) and when they do return, they'll have a less prominent role.

And I gave it a chance, but every time I tuned in and heard that same generic pre-recorded voice talent say, in this voice that was trying to sound "edgy" but forgot to take off the quotation marks, "What WILL we play next?" I would holler back, while listening to Toto, "The same old dreck!"

Last time radio pulled this shit, it nearly destroyed itself and made itself prime for national takeover. I remember in the late 70s when Lee Abrams shopped the "Classic Progressive" format to stations all over the country. Control was taken out of the hands of local programmers; a strict playlist was followed, and soon, FM radio lost a lot of what made local FM radio great. And worst of all, this Jack format takes the one thing worth sticking with local FM radio for, and strips it away. It takes people out of the equation, relying only on marketing surveys and shoving them into some kind of computed algorhythm to tell them they need to play the Beatles followed by the Dave Matthews Band. No weather, btw. No traffic. No news. No reason to have them on your clock radio during drive time.

I mean, I'm no big fan of WKLH, with their "classic hits" programming and their "We don't play any of that [insert any genre of music that didn't sell 10 million units in the past 30 years]!" promotions. But at least they have Dave and Carol -- people who have Milwaukee accents, who seem to take part in the city's life, and such. And as for the other commercial stations -- they all have their local DJs and announcers, and they have personality. They actually like -- and are somewhat knowledgeable --about the music they play. They co-sponsor live shows featuring their chosen genre's stars, and ensure them coming to Milwaukee. Yes, I know that a lot of them are dealing with nationally-dictated playlists, but at least there's a certain level of Milwaukee among them, and they deliver what they claim to be. WKLH is, well, it's the Baby Boomer's Hits Station. FM106 plays nu-country -- if you like that stuff. WRIT plays the "golden oldies." Rock 102.1 is about the best possible commercial alternative station you could hope for (they do manage to pull of combining "commercial" with "alternative" -- I have to hand it to them). Lazer is good old fashioned headbanging/hair rock. Jammin 98.3 is our jammin Urban station. And they all are staffed by on-air talent that lives in the listening area, and aren't embarassed to tell me what the weather is, who's playing at Sumerfest, how long the drive to the Zoo Interchange is, or how the Packers did last night.

But what the hell is "The Lake"? It's trying to be what WYMS is: a cornucopia of mixed up music for people who like all kinds of music and want true variety. WYMS does this extremely well because it has what "The Lake" just jettisoned: local music fans running the show, getting together to determine a playlist that includes old, new, famous and obscure. Sometimes, it drives me up the wall, but overall, it's satisfying and delivers on the variety promise.

And then there's WMSE --who delivers a similar thing, but sections it off by shows put together by DJs who are downright obsessed with their particular genres, so that if you like a certain genre, you'll be truly educated in it at least three hours a week.

So farewell to WKTI, to Mueller, to Lips, to Gino at the Movies, to all the reasons I put up with hearing that same Madonna or Billy Joel or whatever in the morning when I woke up. We'll miss you. Guess I'll have to tune into Dave and Carol in the morning. Could be worse, I guess. FM radio could go completely out of this format, which means I'd have to get my morning drive info from some right-wing blowhard on AM radio.

In the meantime, I really ought to get off my butt and call in my pledge to WMSE this week. This week's decimation only proves that we need WMSE and WYMS now more than ever.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Win I've been waiting for

Oh, I'll gush about Barack later. I've been gushing about this win for a few days now, and I've only just emerged from a couple of late nights in a row, only to finally admit I've come down with my semi-annual sinus infection....
...... But how about those Milwaukee Bucks! Last night's game against the Washington Wizards was almost allegorical: like Barack's campaign, they started out strong, then had some setbacks, and for awhile we were worried, almost fearful that they wouldn't pull this off after all. But they never gave up, and had a final surge toward the end, that they convincingly won in overtime. At halftime, we got treated to Chicago's wonderful Jesse White tumblers. Brian and I hit the season opener last Saturday -- and I'll have plenty of games to discuss the new promotions, the new uniforms on the Energee Girls, Bango's new schtick, and my disappointment that the Free quarter Pounder with Cheese promotion is gone. Now, all you get if the Bucks win and they score over 100 points is a cup of coffee. That's a sucky economy.

Ah election night! Spent it with friends at the Gettelman mansion, crowded around TVs and computers (Twitter was the best source of news because you got almost instant reports flying across the screen from the networks). I was actually surprised as a cheesehead, that they called Wisconsin at 8:00:01, and even more surprised that the entire thing was called right at 10 Central time. Really, I was prepared for them to call California then, but not the whole thing. Good thing too, as Stella had school the next day.

And so I'm going to savor this win while downing antihistamines and nursing a fever, and have to miss the premiere of Song Sung Blue, the story of Lightning and Thunder, at the Oriental Theatre, followed by a post party with Thunder, Mark Shurilla, Dave Alswager and the Greatest Hits. Last night, Sammy was sick, so he and Brian missed a post-election dry-out hosted by the Mighty Lumberhorn at the Transfer Cafe.

At least Saturday night (after a fair loss, not an annoying one), I spent the Day of the Dead at one of Warwick's rare openings of the Circle A, which really was the best place to be, if only because I saw the BEST Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone ever (inside those costumes were Eat the Mystery's Angie and Courtney, never once breaking character...). Best of all, Ted Jorin and his posse arrived, including Ted's lovely wife Christa -- who was dressed and had her hair coincedentally looking just like Saffy. We had to explain to her that looking like Saffy was a major compliment -- and we all know she's a lot more fun than Saffron Monsoon. Ted slipped me a burn of the Lumberhorn's "soon" to be released CD -- and it sounds great. Re works of a few earlier songs, and plenty of irreverant bluegrass. Supposedly they're at the pressing plant now. I'll believe it when I see a disc with actual cover art.

It was also a good time to touch base with Darrell "Da Brainz" Martin, who was mourning his canine companion of 15 years, Stacy. Darrell had to put him down Friday and we're all brokenhearted -- Stacy's been part of the family for awhile. Heck, Stacy had even appeared at Trash Fest (and no, he was not harmed during the performance.)

So again, I'm grabbing a box of kleenex, turning on the humidifier, and finally admitting to myself that I'm sick. Good night.