Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disasters, Grand and otherwise


Disastrously Grand
Originally uploaded by V'ron
OK, let's start with the bad news first, the news that pretty much every musician in the city is tearing up about: the fire at Rockhaus Guitars. Czeltic Girl reports on the damage: a news story puts it at around $100K, but we all know it's more than that.

Rockhaus Guitars holds a special place with our family. It was started by Brian's good friend Greg Kurczewski, and current owner Rusty Olson took over when Greg moved out of town. Rusty has always lovingly maintained my guitars, he's sold our family pretty much all our guitars and amplifiers, and we've always gotten fair, honest and professional service from him. From advice on parts and accessories, to just being able to shoot the breeze about instruments, the music scene in town, or the latest releases from favorites, it's always a treat going to the Rockhaus.

And yes, I know that most of his stock can be replaced with insurance proceeds, but that doesn't fill the gap blown wide open by the vaporization of some of the wonderful, collectible memorabilia that dotted the place. All our hearts are breaking for him. Any kind of fire is devastating because it does wipe out so much -- it's not just stuff, it's memories, a sense of place, a certain security. Thank God nobody was physically hurt.

Of course, lots of musicians are already queuing up to help out, and in this town, that means benefit. As in, get a pile of great bands together, get a club date, and turn the door money over to him.
According to Czelticgirl, Rusty's asking folks to stand down on that, but I'll remind him that a musician's benefit isn't just about the money. All of us in the music community feel the pain when one of us suffers a loss like this, and even if it's all covered by insurance, I suspect people all want to get together in a room and make sure Rusty knows his business honesty and passion is appreciated.

Earlier in the weekend, I finally got out to see The Grand Disaster, a band I mistakenly thought was "The Mark E Lee Show." The Grand Disaster is a terrific band that goes beyond Americana punk/garage. They use the almost country, rockabilly sound as a baseline, but add great pop melodies, a touch of garagey anthems and a healthy dollop of bravado to render what I'm going to call three minute epics. That's right, they have a truly grand and glorious sound that you normally hear in compositions like Guns N' Roses' more ambitious moments (like "November Rain") but they clock in at pop song timing and they sing with a sincerity that comes from the gut. Guitarists Billy Orphan and Pat O'Neill (who I remember from FSFI) take turns singing lead with bassist Mark Miller (who everybody knows as Mark E Lee), but the band hangs together cohesively. The only weakness at the Riverwest Commons Friday night was that this band needs a good soundman. A lot of their songs have a wide dynamic range, and that's difficult to get across when you have to set your amps at one level and keep them there all night.

They were followed by Edgar Allen Cash, an enjoyable combo fronted by Riverwest denizen Desmond Bone (with the infamous James "Tess" Tessier on bass). True to the Cash moniker, they covered the man in black with appropriate reverence and authenticity, and Bone's gravely voice rang true with Creedence covers as well. They opened with "Born on the Bayou" which brought me back in from a minor disaster. Bone had joined the Grand Disaster for their final song, a take on Cash's "Ring of Fire", done with the style and tempo (read: fast) of Social Distortion's version. It wasn't rehearsed with Bone, and that unfortunately showed. It wasn't Bone's key, so his normally appealing scratch simply sounded horribly off-key, and he had to work twice as hard in his own set to redeem himself, which he managed to do. But in a weekend of disasters, this was admittedly the mildest. Round about midnight, the bar ran out of PBR's, official beer of the Grand Disaster and we had to make do with Heinekens, forcing us all to recite that line from Blue Velvet while we all offered Miller various bribes in exchange for the shirt off his back.
At least the Bucks pulled off a victory over the New Jersey Nets, but that was a game we sold our tix to. So at least once again, our friends Shelli and her beau got their money's worth. Heard that Yi was booed by the Milwaukee crowd when he was introduced, and I'm rather disappointed about that. C'mon Milwaukee, this isn't Brett Favre leaving us. This is a rookie who was traded after his debut season. He didn't do anyting bad to us, had only nice things to say when he left, and didn't really render any damage Friday night. Why the boos?


Coming up this weekend, lots of good stuff. The Julie B Well plays a set at the Art Bar Thursday night: a good place to catch some sublime prog. The Brew City Bruisers have a roller derby bout this Saturday, and I'll highly recommend hitting Liquor Sweets afterwards, but not just because my husband is playing there that night. No, Dr Chow's Love Medicine is only the opening band. The headliner is that wonderful glam tribute/cover band, Ekko Galaxie and the Rings of Saturn. I gushed about them before, when they only got 20 minutes to blow us all away at Trash Fest. Now we're getting a full set of great glam from Bowie, T-Rex, Sweet -- complete with rock steady authenticity and costumes to match. Why hasn't somebody done this before? Who doesn't love a well-played Bowie tune?

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