Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Garage Band (and other observations)

Trumpet Solo at the Circle A
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Oh dear, I didn't post about the Loblolly show I so shameless promoted in my blog, did I? Well, it rocked, honeys, I can unequivocally say this. I'm usually much harder on myself, I can feel the flaws, but nobody seemed to give a damn. I think partly because, as loud and as punk as we are, we do best in an intimate environment like the Circle A, where I can pull random unsuspecting audience members out of the crowd, press them against my chest and read from "The Love Letters of Jessica McBride" in response to the usual Charles Bukowski scriptures that Floor Model usually reverently delivers. How's that for "contrast"? I daresay, it was a lovely solstice evening, spent between the bands on Warwick's patio, sipping cheap beers and complaining about the economy, especially its effects on those of us/you who actually do make a living in the creative industry.

Floor Model was brilliant as usual. They could do this stuff in their sleep, but they don't, and that's why they rock. They've made it to my list of bands whose greatness I take for granted, so I have nothing more to say this time around. But opening the show was a trio called the Hullmen. I'd been promoting it as "members of Aluminum Knot Eye" but that's all I had to go on, and from what I know of AKE, that's misleading. Only one of the guys was from Aluminum Knot Eye, (so that's only 33%), he seems to be doing this precisely to NOT be AKE, and the band seems to be more garage than AKE is (again, take this from somebody who shamefully keeps missing AKE shows). But let's face it, who were we all checking out? The drummer chick. It was nice to see a female drummer --Bridgette (from Pillowfight) - play the drums in a damn good garage band with some authority. There was no weak link in this band. This was their first show, so their weaknesses were more steeped in the sort of thing that comes with time -- singer/lead needs to holler his songs with more authority, less self-consciousness -- because the melody lines demand it. They fit on a bill with Floor Model and Loblolly because thematically, they're there. Musically they were tight, they just need a touch more swagger and they could become favorites of the crowd of people who enjoy the other two bands. (Note to the Hullmen: while a compliment from me, be aware that neither Floor Model or Loblolly are paying the bills with our bands. No, you must do this for a) your own enjoyment and b) as Chairman Kaga would say, "the people's ovation and fame forever." I suspect you already knew that $$$ -iwse, you'll maybe get some free beers out of your fine work.)

No summerfest rundown from me, for a couple of reasons. First, there's plenty of other music writers in town who are covering the event. And if you've read me for awhile, you know that I don't consider Summerfest a "music" festival anyway. I don't hate it, I just don't go for the music. And being that I'm still recovering from an economic setback over the past year, like (apparently) many folks, I can't afford it just to go for the people watching. Fortunately, there's a wonderful Twitter account worth following : OH@summerfest. Perfect. People are sending that account snippets of conversations they've overheard (and they're deliciously out of context most of the time!) and OH@summerfest is retweeting them. If you can't hit the Big Gig in person -- especially to people watch-- this is almost as good! And second, like I said, I'm broke. I know I can get in free, but I'll have the kids, I can't bring in my own food and drink, and it will cost me a week's worth of groceries to feed them at the gig. Can't make them stay hungry. So I'll have to pass on hearing twenty cover bands do "Mustang Sally." And bummer, I had to miss Robin Trower, too.

Ah, the freeebies. Tosa Tonight kicked off their series with the wonderful Swing Nouveat in Hart Park last week. And actually, they kicked off their new band pavillion. The Tosa tonight series used to rotate amongst city and country parks in Tosa, and they had to drag in a stage and all, but this was a community effort to spruce up Hart Park anyway. Two days after the solstice, and I'm telling ya, Tosa park people, you might want to plant a few more trees -- hoo the sun was hot. But it was still a lovely hot evening listening to great, perfectly delivered swing tunes (once the sound guy tweaked it in so that we could actually hear the sax and horn section). Opening band was an OK cover band that did the KLH baby boomer tunes -- uh guys, even this crowd knows it's cliche to yell the name of the town in the song: "Hey Wauwatosa! I can't get enuf of yer love!" And if you're going to do "The Wind Cries Mary" Hendrix-style, tell your drummer to look up the word "subtle" in his book, because your singer beautifully captured Jimi's whisper, only to have it drowned out by overdriven rim shots that should have been played with brushes. Nevertheless, after twenty local leadership speeches and the cutting of a ribbon, Swing Nouveau showed everybody how it was done -- pick a style and encompass it in all its variety. They gave us Duke and Ella, as well as Frank, Dean and Sammy. I'm looking forward to seeing them at Humboldt Park Chill on the Hill.

Ah, I had to miss Chill on the Hill last week: my little guy's first day of T-Ball was a conflict. Love you, Pupy Costello and love your Big City Honky Tonk, but I love my Sammy more. And maybe we'll be able to hit the American Legion band there tonight (for plenty of patriotic hits) if the weather cooperates, but maybe not. And I had to miss another Eat the Mystery show at Linneman's for similar reasons. In the meantime, I'm saving my money for Tom Jones.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Bird in Hand is worth a rant in the bush

A Bird in Hand
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Random ramblings made while waiting for another storm to hit:

  • First, I need to plug myself and my bandmates. Catch Andy Pagel drumming tonight with the Liam Ford Band (formerly Liam Ford and the Band inBlack, which I actually thought was a better band name, especially since Billy "Liam Ford" Staff does indeed do a convincing Johnny Cash impression). I still take issue with them calling themselves rockabilly (or maybe that's because I used to play in a psychobilly band, and once you've played that stuff at lightning speed, you do tend to expect all rockabilly to sound like Elvis too amphetimines, not barbituates). Anyway, they are very enjoyable, and they work as a cover band because they all truly love this music they're playing. I've enjoyed their shows, and it shows off my drummer's amazing versatility (one night he's playing gentle country swing, the next night you're stroking your chin wondering if anybody else in town could do Keith Moon any better.)

  • But tomorrow night, my band, Loblolly is playing a rare show at the rarely opened Circle A cafe at Weil and Chambers. Floor Model will be on the bill, as well as a new band, the Hullmen. We are going to rock. We had a great rehearsal the other night (and I know the old adage about "great rehearsal -- crappy show" and I'm here to tell you that's bullshit) and I love the summer solstic anyway, and everybody loves the Circle A. So that's going to be the place to be. I know there's plenty of other interesting musical happenings that evening, but frankly, it's not in my personal self-interest to tell you about them, so I won't.

    OK, that little exercise in full disclosure and journalistic ethics makes such a great segue into....

  • Jessica McFreakingBride! Oh, I don't usually drop the f-bomb in this blog, but I'm sorry, I can't resist the obvious play on words with her name. Oh, I just absolutely can't resist! How'd she meet her husband, former Waukesha DA Paul Bucher? As a journalist on the job. And the way it's written everywhere, it looks like it wasn't her going into her editor's office saying, "Oh, you should probably know that I'm schtupping the DA now, so maybe you should put me on another beat." It was the newsroom finding about about this and then having to take action. And here's MM Editor Bruce Murphy (whose work I've always massively respected) saying he didn't know about Jessica's affair with the subject of a 5,000-word piece she glowingly wrote for MM. I believe him, because based on the previous behavior, it doesn't seem like Jessica handed him a manuscript saying, "Oh, and BTW, as my editor, you should probably know that, well, I've kinda fallen for this guy and while you have right of first publication of things I write about him, I've been writing a lot about him in another context, mainly love letters."
    Look, everybody is calling for Ed Flynn's head, but as I've felt about other like other public officials, I only care about his job performance: is crime going down? Are our officers getting trained, compensated, disciplined correctly and fairly? I could give a rat's ass about his, erm, performance off the clock. No, it's the idea that in a time when the journalism profession is having to fight a perception of not being biased in any way (and a whole other discussion as to whether that's possible -- can we just disclose our biases and let the reader decide?), here's an journalism ethics teacher fucking not only a source, but the topic of her story. It's McBride I'm pissed at -- and my opinion that she's a right-wing blowhard that makes Mark Belling seem like a reasonable guy to isn't an issue here. I'd feel the same way if Joel MacNally was doing some female official. But McBride's taken not only her cred -- but the cred of many journalists -- down with her, during a time when we need somebody we can trust to be that true Fourth Estate, that watchdog of public money and doings. And she's blown not only her ethical cred, but her intelligence cred, too. She emailed those love letters. Does she not know that there is no such thing as privacy in e-communications? Is she really this STOOPID? Did she not think that an emailed love letter wouldn't make its way to somebody@journalsentinel.com where the former colleagues she constantly disses are always chomping at the bit for any piece of evidence exposing her as the biased nut case that she is?

    And, finally, have you read those excerpts from those letters? "But something special happened between us that night; I will always cherish it. A complete meeting on all levels - mind, body, heart that I have never experienced. You completed me that night." Oh, for cryin' out loud. Attention former, present, or future readers (even readers of my personal stuff): If I ever wrote or write drivel like this, get the gun and just shoot me. "You completed me." Oh deliver me, sweet baby Jesus, I just lost my lunch. There's just too many unemployed good writers out there for the author of this dreck to actually make a living at the craft. Oh, to have been in the newsroom while Dan Bice was at the copy machine with this!

  • On a nicer note, the family headed out to the County Zoo last night for "Nights in June" further justifying our buying a zoo membership. It's a members-only event, and like many of those, its a great way to enjoy a laid back time at the zoo. Its close enought to the solstice that it's still light out to see the critters, but you don't have a hot summer sun beating down on you (like we've had a whole lot of "hot summer sun" in these parts lately). We stopped in to catch the Wings Down Under exhibit, where you buy yourself a stick of bird food, and then enter a giant cage so that the birds fly onto your stick and you can meet them close up. Way cool experience, and builds a sense of fun, repsect and wonder among the kids for the birds. Stopped by the ape house to check in with Baby Mahal, who seems to be doing quite well -- it's been a year now and he looks happy with his adopted family. And he's still adorably cute, too. Plenty of walking about to check into the other animals. Nice cheap night out with the kiddos. And a cheap treat too: they have these fundraiser root beer floats -- substantial 14 oz cups filled with vanilla ice cream mingling with cold rootbeer. They're only two bucks. I don't know how they actually raise funds with this, but hey, I'll take it.

    Warning: the groundskeepers have laid fresh fertilizer on the beautiful flower beds. That's organically-produced fertilizer, if you catch my drift. Try to stay upwind for the next few days. But do catch the "Wings Down Under" exhibit, it is indeed very cool.

  • Summerfest starts next week. Raise your hands if, like me, you're not all that excited, but on the other hand, wouldn't mind catching Robin Trower on opening night.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I know what you're thinking: "Did she hear six bands or only five?"

Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. Really. I maybe have heard six bands this weekend, but I only heard one shot. And I thought it was the PA blowing up, because that's what I expect at Locust Street. It's a freaking hippie festival, for chrissakes.

I'll give you my account all this excitement at the end of this blog, because dammit, I'm a music and culture blogger. Yes, I have this whole journalism background so I'm reluctant to discuss what happened at The Crime Scene because all I know is what I saw and the rest is heresay. And there's my journalism teacher's voice in my head intoning that anything that happens at a crime scene MUST BE VERIFIED BY THE POLICE before going to press with it. Period. No exceptions. Or else "Police could not verify."

I didn't get to the Street until later in the afternoon, missing the Beer Run and the first few bands, and here's why: I'd spent a very enjoyable Saturday night at the Points East Pub for a show by the terrific Animal Magnets, who are absolutely the correct set of musicians to back up Rob McCuen and his pop-machimiso, bordering on American Glam songs. I choose the word "correct" because I don't want to say "best." He's been backed up by a variety of guys who are among the best players in town in such incarnations as The Ruins, Love Bully, even the recent White Hot Tizzies. But Animal Magnets are the correct configuration of a Rob McCuen band. There's so much testosterone (both real and contrived) amongst this band that it almost makes Rob look like the wimp out of the bunch, and noneof these guys are above it all. Christ, Joel Bescow has the biggest bass drum in town. That's because he normally plays with Cliff Ullsberger, who brings in his Wanda Chrome guitar setup -- a pair of Marshall heads and a few more cabinets just to fill the 1000 square feet of Points East with sonic thunder. And thank goodness he did, because when Paul Wall's bass amp blew up, it was only a matter of swapping a few wires, accepting that a bass run through a guitar amp might be a little distoreted, and they played on. And this is one of the few bands where Chris Tishler can actually be upstaged, on both guitar and vocals. This is a band whose very lineup validates Rob McCuen's existence. There's no apparent drama, just five guys who understand and execute genuine glamorous cock-pop with razor sharp precision. Too bad all these guys are busy with equally excellent projects, so this is their second band for all of them. And, honestly, their plan of only doing this live about 2-3 times a year is correct as well. This stuff is highly perishable -- too much of it and it will get old fast. And for those of us who know and love Rob's songs, yes, mistakes were made, but these guys are all crack pros who didn't blink an eye while I cringed during a few songs early in the set ("No no no" my brain was screaming, "There's still another verse here before the chorus kicks in!") But if you didn't know these songs you wouldn't have noticed.

Which is a lecture I need to give Melanie, playing bass thank you, of the following band Eva Grubb,who rose to the challenge of having to follow the Animal Magnets. They were called in at the 11th hour to take the place of some other band that cancelled at the last minute, and further contributing to the Ohmigod factor was that this was their first ever "real" gig. They're a garage cover band, but as agreed upon by everybody in the room, they have excellent taste in the covers they pick-- lots of forgotten psychedelic-era garage pop tunes. Let's put it this way, the biggest hit out of the bunch (the gauge being sales) was the Syndicate of Sounds' "Hey Little Girl." So Melanie steps off stage admitting something absolutely NOBODY in the room noticed (including myself): "I made mistakes on every song." Girlfriend, nobody plays a perfect set. Nobody noticed your flubs, because you covered 'em well. That's the trick. Plus, the weak link in this band was the drummer -- who I'm told that this is the first band (erm, time) he'd played the drums in public. But it all still worked. It would have been ridiculous to try to put a power boy band after the Magnets -- and these guys filled the room with sweet little pop nuggets to come down from the Magnets to. Great party band, they are: they will just need to get a little more self-moxie, something I'm confident will come with time.

OK, time for the Locust street rundown. Because I actually stayed out until Bar time, I didn't arrive at the street until well after 2ish. Missed the Beer run, but whatever, I gained a little weight this year and couldn't fit into my prom dress. we began the ritual walking east to west and west to east, because that's really what the Locust Street festival is, isn't it? You just walk back and forth like it's a giant reception line, and you end up literally running into those people whom you only see annually at the Locust street festival. Occassionally, you stop for a band. Or you walk into a bar you normally would never set foot in, except today you do in lieu of having to piss in a port-o-let. And today's winner was Saylece's. Saylece's you say? I haven't gone through those doors since it was the Riverwest Commons (or for you real old timers, the Golden Nugget) to see Crumpler or Floor Model or some other band that I'd run into Chris Tishler at. Then there was the sudden news that it was Saylece's and nobody knew what the story was. Here's the story: it's a DJ joint now. It's carpeted. It's cheap, high-traffic carpet, but still. It's carpeted. Where the stage used to be are now a couple of relatively fresh-looking pool tables. Truly top shelf booze on the top shelf. Digital jukebox terminal on the wall. Logo in the same font as "That 70s Show." Whatever. Stella, Sammy and I each took a whiz and left.

Matthew Heaffel
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Right outside Sayleces was Matthew Heaffel, a power duo of guitar and drums that spewed some angry folkie blues that may have woked better at the Linneman’s stage. We walked down the street to the Klinger’s stage, and caught some more of Matt Hendricks, who impressed us last year and did so again this year. He worked the blues too, but he’s more of a blues guitarist than Heaffel was. The giant puppets that had been strolling the streets stopped by this stage too, and enjoyed a bit of blues. We got ourselves a serving of Klingers terrific chin=cken wings, and settled down outside Linnemans to chat with frineds and heat a bit of Frech Cut Collective. They looked promising — drums, guitars, keyboards, electric violin. Multi cultural and multi racial lineup. But then they started in and they turned out to be a garden variety rap band, albeit with a little more emphasis on melody. C’mon, will these guys please sing? I’m getting tired of being literally yelled at by rappers. In fact, a friend commented that he really liked the beat and the syncopated rhythm, but wished it was more musical. “Oh, “I said, having a sudden epiphany, “There is a whole genre of music that does that. It’s called funk” And we both agreed we love funk.

horn solo
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Back at Klinger’s East stage, the highly recommended Phil Lee was on stage, a country bluesman from Nashville who did indeed sing a convincing country blues. Good for Klingers for scoring him — he definitely belongs on a bigger stage, at least Linneman’s, if not the Lakefront Brewerery stage. He looks like a biker, has the warm stage presence of a folkie, the sense of humor of an oldschool country man, and the musical delivery of a bluesman. And amongst his band there was a horn player whose horn was bigger than all of them, and at first, it sounded like the only note that came out of this horn was a bluesy minor sixth to their song, but give him his own twelve bars and he could get plenty of other notes out.

another disaster in the works....
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

We were all ready to fill his tip jar before we went to Linneman’s indoor stage to catch a full set from The Grand Disaster, who I’d just seen last week, but who Brian had not seen in quite some time. Brian says they’ve improved vastly since their debut last winter; I say they’ve improved vastly since their show at the Polish Falcon last week. Maybe they felt more comfortable since last week where it wasn’t their wedding to crash. Whatever it was, they seemed more confident, and for a band whose songs I’ve once described as “three minute epics” that’s necessary. The kids were getting cranky at being indoors on such a great day (even though not a half hour earlier they were whining about the hot sun), so I coaxed Sammy into dancing with me so that he could deal with the rest of the set. (However, what Sammy calls dancing, I call “moshing” because he likes to mix in a little kung fu fighting with his dance.). So that must have been something to see: my moshing/sparring with a five year old in the middle of Linneman’s with a band onstage. Go figure.

Snopek blowing Louie's horn
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Back outside to catch a set from Brother Louie, a cover band built for a hippie festival, since their setlist grabs those hits from the 60s and 70s, a time when radio’s format wasn’t as segmented as it is now. From the Raspberries “Go All the Way” to Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” to others. Snopek joined them with the previously mentioned horn and things were fun until we heard a loud POP. The band stopped playing, so I just assumed the PA blew up. Wouldn't be the first time, you know. Then we started thinking it might be a little more serious, as Louie started saying into the microphone, "Hey, this isn't cool." (Obviously the PA was fine.). "This is a festival, let's all be cool," he intoned, and suddenly he was sounding like Mick Jagger and this was Altamont. About five minutes later I see about twenty uniformed and undercover badges running up the alley and that's when I realized this wasn't some kids playing with firecrackers. "There's been a shooting," lots of people started whispering. Now, call me jumpy but, wait a second. Where's the mass panic you usually get when somebody pops somebody in a crowd? Where's the screams? Huh? The band plays on, and within ten minutes we see TV guys running through to the corner of Weil and Locust, followed by EMT guys (there's something wrong with that chain of events), and we're walking through the crowd with people casually mentioning, "Hey I heard there was a murder today." No murder, but even so, why so blase? I.Am.So.Sure. Within another ten minutes, there's police tape going up, and we're seeing a few more badges "casually" scoping out the area behind Klingers and working their way to Bremen street. "Uh," I said to Brian, "look at the way they're scoping things out. They don't have a suspect in custody yet, do they?"

That's when we "casually" scooped up the kids, "casually" bid adieu to our friends, and made our way to the car, accepting that we'd have to wait until somereal news agency with access to the police blotter could get us the facts. In the meantime, we had to make do with facebook and twitter gossip.

Stuff I unfortunately missed: Eugene Chadbourne at the Ring, playing Paul Kneevers' shoelaces, and opening band The Dark Clan. Also missed a pile of terrific stuff at PrideFest, including the fabulous Etta James herself. And most sadly, I missed a production of Cabaret which featured, among other local stars, the fabulous Liv Mueller in a supporting role. Next time, honeys.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How have I only just heard (well in the past four years) of these bands?

Punk for the Whole Family!
Originally uploaded by V'ron
So last week, as I tweeted, I'm driving in my car and I hear a song on WMSE that caught my ear hard enough that I pulled over, called the DJ, and asked who it was. It turned out to be a band called Art Brut, on a record produced by Frank Black (one of our family's favorites) and that explained enough. But it was the main verse that really hooked it for me: "I can't believe I've only just discovered The Replacements... How have I only just found out about The Replacements?" I instantly went home and downloaded their latest, "Art Brut vs. Satan" and I highly recommend the whole thing.

So that chorus was going through my head on my way to the Floor Model 10th Year Anniversary at the Polish Falcon last Saturday night. 10 years? I only just discoverd them a few years back! How have I only known about them for four years, when they've been around almost a decade? So I enter the Falcon Bowl hall and feel like I've crashed a wedding: it's 7:30, there's a table with buffet-type snacks, and a few entire families (including older folks and little kids) milling about. Maybe it's because I've been to so many weddings there (including my own), but yeah, there's Floor Model up on the stage, playing a clean set and they sound very comfortable playing songs that, it turns out, they've been cranking out for 10 years. It didn't feel like a punk reunion, despite the history of their posterage all over the walls. It really did feel like a wedding, a family reunion for a family I've only just joined --like I'm the new girlfriend of some second cousin or something. Sharing the bill that night was The Grand Disaster, who have definitely been in this family for awhile. The link here is bassist Mark E Lee (who is actually Floor Model's second bassist -- I thought he was the first, given that the first time I saw Floor Model they didn't have any bass -- and I lamented that very fact.). Peppered through the audience were plenty of folks from the accompanying crowd -- past and present members of the Chop Top Toronados, Dr Chow's Love Medicine (my DH was home with the kids, little did we know this was a family friendly event, at least for the first coupla hours). I've seen/written about the Grand Disaster before -- I like them, but I do agree with another person in the crowd that they're still in the process of finding their collective voice out of three dominant ones who share songwriting and vocal duties. And I don't just mean vox when I say "collective voice" -- as my friend said, when they hit it, they are right on target and will be formidable. Still, they do improve every time I see them, and I'll continue to follow their career. I like 'em. They have a mix of bravado and self-reflection that, yes, when they hit it, they hit it. And they're not caught up in any kind of stupid alt-indie self-consciousness or importance.

Tuesday night was the second Chill on the Hill Tuesday. We just couldn't do last week -- it was just too cold, even for one of my favorite guys in town, Paul Cebar. But darn it, I think if I start doing summer things, maybe we can just WILL the summer to come. Stella and Sammy and I spent a sunday scoping out the new David Schultz waterpark, which, should be buzzing with happy kids in June, but who's going swimming, even in a heated pool, on a 58 degree day? Still, at least we scoped it out and it looks like lots of fun. With that "will the summer into coming" we braved the crummy clouds and headed out to Humboldt Park Tuesday night, pic-a-nic basket and folding chairs in hand, and a blanket, ostensibly to sit on, but ended up being used to cover our bodies in our chairs for warmth.

First up, indie-rockers Sharking Hour. I'm sorry, maybe it was the cold drearyness, but I guess Sharking Hour didn't do a whole lot for me. They've got solid melodies but somehow their overall presentation didn't translate well to a huge stage at Humboldt Park. And they way they arranged their setlist kind of lost me early in the set: they opened with a handful of songs that started out establishing a 3-4 chord progression/melody, verse-chorus and then jam out on the verse (or just rave up the verse). Not all their songs are like this, but they did somethign like four in a row that had this pattern, so Stella and I noticed this and then said, "OK, there's their formula." When they strayed from this, they were worth listening to, even if I'm not crazy about sensitive jangly music to begin with. But the formula they're working gets tiresome after a few songs -- they need to spread that through the set and it would probably work better.

The Aimless Blades followed and I was afraid they'd be lost without some of the extra instrumentation they have on their recordings. (The saxes and violins and such are actually a reason they're among my favorite local releases -- they really fill out the sound). But they came out wearing their love for Dylan and Young on their sleeves, but gave it a Milwaukee stamp and made it work. They have perfected that level of melancholic bravado that the Grand Disaster is working. Too bad it was getting chilly, the kids were getting cranky (from the chill), and it was an overall dreary night. This is the kind of music that works best on a breezy summer evening, and back when it was scheduled, you would THINK it would be a breezy summer evenining on June 9 for chrissakes.

Crappy weather weekend coming up, but there's no loss for good tunes. Saturday night at the Ring there's a terrific lineup that includes Dr Eugene Chadbourne (yes, THEE Eugene Chadbourne) along with the Dark Clan and a couple other local bands to support the good doctor. They're in competition with all the goings on at Pridefest, and also the return of the mantastic Animal Magnets. There's a band with enough testosterone to make Smilin' Bob feel inadequate. Locust Street festival is this Sunday, and while I determine whether my knees can do the Beer Run, there's a very good lineup on all the stages that will underline the worthyness of this festival. I go mainly to run into other folks anyway.

But tonight, I sit at home whilst the husband plays a gig at a pizza joint, and wish Marlavous and Miss Amy a happy birthday.

NEWS FLASH: My band, Loblolly, has just confirmed that we'll be playing one of our rare shows at the Circle A (during one of their rare openings!) on the night of the Solstice, June20. We're playing with Floor Model, and a new group called the Hullmen which includes members of Aluminum Knot Eye (a band I've been wanting to see for over a year now). Really, I'll probably see Aluminum Knot Eye in a few years and be asking, "How have I only just heard of Aluminum Knot Eye?" I really need to see them, too.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

May Roundup

Again, I haven't gone dark, really. I just have this new job, I'm back in Information Technology, and we're in the middle of an implementation. I'd forgotten how much IT implementations take out of me. I take them personally. Some had likened it to labor, but having done the labor thing twice, I don't think I'd go that far. Still, I've been too wiped out to a) write b) go see bands and c) write about them.

I did get out to see some things and I missed others. Here's a roundup, along with some rants, because when you're pooped out from work, you gotta bitch about something, and in this economy, it would be vulgar to bitch about work when there's plenty of people who would love to have my problems.

  • Yes, we did the ballet a couple of weekends ago! The last offering of the season, Live and Kicking, ended with a reprise of "Common People," Margo Sappington's intrepretation of William Shatner's album form a few years back, "Has Been." Ach, I love the ballet, I love this ballet, and you all know how I feel about the Shat. But while it was wonderful, it just didn't have the same zip they had the first time I saw it. I think it was the opener, "Common People." they seemed to be phoning it in, especially after the premiere of "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet" (you knew some filmmaker was going to make a documentary about this). the rest of the numbers shined, but the opener fell flat, and that set the tone. They still skillfully passed through "It Hasn't Happened Yet" and aired out a collective frustration to "I Can't Get Behind That." But it was upstaged by the two previous offerings that evening. The first was a whole rooster-themed thing called "Gustav's Rooster" to music by Sweedish band Hoven Droven. Hoven Droven's music was very American/folky mixed with European jam band, with a major prog influence. It was extremely lively, and the ballet followed suit. There was this ubiquitous rooster literally perched over the dancers, as though it were overseeing matters, and it was like this romantic comedy taking place on Planet of the Roosters. Did I mention that Sammy joined us this evening? He really enjoyed this piece, the music and the dancers.

    The second piece was "Wonder Wild" -- ostensibly based on James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" but really about the relationship between Joyce and his daughter, who craved his attention and didn't exactly get it. I divided it into thirds, because the first third -- where we establish that father and daughter did enjoy each other and simply didn't have the time to nurture that love, told that story wonderfully. The last third, which depicted the daughter's affair with somebody who just couldn't save her from herself, was also effective; both done to modern celtic music that suggested the emerald isle but didn't smack it in your face. I and my companion had trouble with the middle part. Yeah, it was showing the daughter's decline, and nobody could deny the virtuosity of David Hovhannisyan and Marc Petrocci as two Irish Characters who follow a Joycean narrative from Finnegan's Wake. They were great, but the problem was, the narrative went on too long, in that stream-of-consciousness style that left a listener wondering what was really going on. the narrative was delivered with a thick Irish brogue accent that I could barely understand, so I spent more time trying to understand the words than let myself just enjoy the dancing. Yes it was distracting as opposed to Shatner's clear, almost musical narrative himself.

    Or maybe I need to admit right here and now that I really just don't get into James Joyce. It's not that I haven't studied Joyce. (repressed flashback: Me to college professor: "Hey, I've already read Portrait! So I can take a pass on Joyce, right?" "Wrong! You can read Ulysses!" DOH! Pull out my eyes! Apologize!) And I get stream of consciousness and unconventional storytelling. I even like (love) Thomas Pynchon. (Do I get points for actually finishing Gravity's Rainbow?) Maybe you just need to be Irish to get Joyce, and I'm not. But yeah, that middle part was distracting, I flashed back to those awful days wading through Ulysses, and I just kind of removed myself from it.

    But overall, these adventuresome nights are why I keep coming back to the Milwaukee Ballet. They're varied, they aim high, they try new ways to tell a story with dance, and if I have to put up with 10 minutes of Joyce to get an otherwise lovely night of invigorating dance and music, so be it. It's worth it.

  • Rant time: so before we went to the ballet, my companion for the evening, Miss Annie, took me and the kids for a lovely treat at Bella's Fat Cat. Except that I really have a complaint here. First, I ordered a cheeseburger with fried onions. The onions weren't there when I got it. "Did you check undeneath the bun?" the counter person asked. No, I just used my x-ray vision to inspect. YES I CHECKED UNDER THE BUN. Then, I'd ordered the "mini-turtle sundae." The menu item which described the vanilla custard, hot fudge, hot caramel, pecans and a cherry was accompanied by a photo of it, which included the aforementioned custard, fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. But when I dug into it and finally got to a part that was "crunchy", I didn't get pecans. There were chopped peanuts.

    "Uh, what makes a turtle sundae a TURTLE sundae is the pecans," I told our surly counter person. "I wanted pecans and I expected pecans. I HATE peanuts in icecream. Always have."

    "Oh, well we were out of pecans, so we substituted fresh peanuts."

    "So you made a substitution without asking your customer or even informing your customer that you were doing so?"

    "Well, yeah."

    "And what would you have done if it turned out I had a peanut allergy, like many people do," I asked. She jsut shrugged. No apology, no offer to make me something I do like. Look, I don't have a peanut allergy, but that's not the point. Attention Bella's: You do NOT make a food substitution without telling your customer for just this reason. I simply don't like peanuts. But you could have put your customer in a hospital. Step it up, Bella. The only reason I'll give you one more chance (this isn't the first time Bella's has dropped the ball) is you have the best vanilla custard in the city.

  • OK, here's another gimme review: Stella's class did a play at the Alchemist Theatre, and it was a smash. The class wrote it themselves, a way to demonstrate the history lessons they've been learning. The jist was two kids who stumble upon a time machine and use it to find answers to their history questions. Yes, I was as impressed as the reviewer from the Shepherd who came to the performance, and didn't patronize the kids. But I was also delighed by their sense of humor: the kid who did FDR was upstaged by the kid who did JFK only because I think more people could catch the references to JFK. Still, a lovely cultural evening with my girl.

  • Did anybody hit any of the following shows that I'm really sad I missed: Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash at Vnuks, Lumberhorn vs. Pupy Costello at Kochanski's again, Kenocore's Vomit Posse Reunion at Club Anything? I really, really really wanted to hit these shows. And Eric Knitter tipped me off to a band he went to see Memorial Day weekend in Madison that was a surf band that did Misfits covers. I'm really missing this. And last night, Paul Cebar opened up Chill on the Hill at Humboldt Park -- and everybody agrees that the "Chill" part of the name was apt.

  • Anyway, on to summer, time of the fabulous freebies. This weekend starts off Riversplash, and that includes the Five Card Studs at Pere Marquette Park (oh, and they're on Fox 6 Wakeup News tomorrow -- wake up with a Stud!). Saturday night isn't free, but there is a Floor Model 10th Anniversary Party (they've been around for 10 eyars? Jesus!) and the Uptown Savages are at Lulu. The Aimless Blades headline Chill on the Hill next Tuesday, and I've got tickets in hand for Tom Jones in July. (Actually, Dave Allswages got them for the pack of middle ages ladies I hang with, and he'll be surrounded by all of us in the cheap seats.).

So, I'm tuning up the bike for the bike for the freebies, and I'm headed out.