Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Covering it up

Didn't see a lot of "original" music lately. Well, make that bands that play their own songs -- at least not for the time being. A last minute babysitter fell into my lap the other weekend, and I was able to hit Zappafest at Points East. It was, as many have reported, the last day of music there, and the bands sent the bar out with a bang. A last minute addition to the lineup, a band full of younguns called (I think) the Greitchschlag (oh, I'm probably way off!) started things off, a little wobbly, but then they fell into a pretty good groove and got eh crowd warmed up.

The Tempermentals were up next, and they did what they usually do, took Zappa's songs and waild them as ablues, which worked under this treatment. The Tempermentals are a blues band, but they know how to jam, and they know how to freak out, so they were able to take this to the level of Zappa. It was during the Tempermentals' set that one of the milestones of this back music room closing kicked in: Marlavous got the last tap beer. And they weren't kidding when they told her that. Soon after they poured it, they pulled the tapper levers off.

Dr Chow came on next, and they played what almost sounded like a standard Dr Chow set. Standard, in that many of these Zappa songs they do are part of their regular set anyway. I've heard "Dirty Love" and "Miss Pinky" sandwiched inbetween originals and covers of psychedelic era tunes at other venues, so this wasn't a huge departure for them.

It wasn't a huge departure for the Danglers, either -- the Danglers' own music gets as complex and interesting as Zappa, and tonight they dind't disappoint. I'd commented via Twitter that the Danglers are the band that remind you that Zappa wanted to be remembered as an American Composer -- I didn't hear playing of songs by the Danglers, I heard intrepretations of compositions. They sent this bar off with a good bang.

I think the only thing that helped me get over this closing was a comment in OnMilwaukee.com -- seems I didn't know about this little piece of news -- eeeewwwwwwwww and now that music's gone, I have absolutely NO reason whatsoever to set foot in there and give them my money. Hmmmm, this all explains why they seem to get obnoxiously bent out of shape about kids in the place. It's not that children won't be tolerated. It's that the cops won't tolerate the owner being around kids! The chicken wings at Club Garibaldi are a perfectly excellent (and perhaps excelling) alternative, so there I go.

Last Saturday I went and checked out the Bay View Brew Haus to see the Liam Ford band, who grow on me more each time I see them. I once complained that they weren't pure rockabilly, and that complaint has now turned into a compliment. This is a band that takes songs you didn't expect to hear as rockabilly covers and does them convincingly -- they ended the evening with a take on "We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day" -- that had me almost forgetting that final scene in Dr. Strangelove. Almost, because fundamentally, the Bay View Brew Haus is a beer hall -- high celinings, long tables for big groups, that wonderful echo of a wood framed building, all ripe for raising your glasses and singing along with some German chanteuse. That sound/mix, along with what a friend pointed out, really drove home something I don't think I've mentioned before about this band: God, is Frank Calarco good on guitar or what? He makes country picking and runs seem effortless. But this whole band hangs together well, enjoys what they're doing, which makes the whole experience enjoyable. I have to admit, I'm getting less snobbish about cover bands -- but only if they offer something new. Liam Ford does just that.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Ah... Points East. Used to be Brett's (and I always thought it fun that such a frat boy name like "Brett's" would play host to great punk, prog and other kinds of underground rock.) That back room there went through a lot of changes. My band, Loblolly, played its first gig there, when the stage was just kind of crammed in the SW corner (but it WAS a stage by the time we played.). First place I ever saw Floor Model -- and they played in front of that corner stage because they were opening for Dr Chow and there wasn't enough room on that tiny stage to cram all the gear. Too many Trash Fests and Zappa fests to remember. A particularly hilarious Mighty Lumberhorn Xmas show. Debuts of a bunch of great bands, reunion shows of many others, "last show"s of too many long gone bands. And, of course, a bazillion Mighty Deer Lick shows.

It's fitting that the Deer Lick should be the band to officially close the stage. (Zappafest is this weekend, it was booked apparently the "final" decision was made to quit music at Points East.) Bill Brunke, who pretty much built music at Points East, was there, taking it all in and joining Dave Deerlick for a few numbers (which see). And the Deerlick, as they are on my "bands I can't write much more about because they are consistently great" list, put out as usual. I still don't know how Dave does it: every night he's spontaneous, timely, and delivers his stuff with machine-gun rapidity and spot-on precision. And he sent off one of my favorite places to see/hear a band in style. Points East was a GREAT place to see live music. The bar was stocked with cheap and good beers, the restrooms were clean, the kitchen was open late (they made terrific late night bar pizzas), and thanks to Dave Gelting's ear, the sound was correct. According to Points East website, they're instead going to expand the kitchen and dining room, but they're taking great pains to say no kids, this is a bar. Whatever. Another one bites the dust.
Earlier in the evening, I stopped into Linneman's to see Dr Chow open for "Plasticland." Dr Chow didn't do a lot of their originals; they stuck mostly to the Nuggets-style psychedelic era covers they do so well. Obviously this was a nod to the fact that they were truly warming up for "Plasticland." The crowd, comprised of a lot of people I don't normally see at Dr Chow shows, seemed to like and appreciate it.
OK, I gotta admit, Glenn Rehse's voice still sounds great. Most people lose their upper registers after they cross 45 years on the planet. Rehse's is still there, and possibly even stronger. He doesn't have his old moves, but he has his passion. And those songs, while stamped indelibly with 1969, really are timeless.
But nothing happened Saturday night to inspire me to take those ubiquitous quotation marks off the name, "Plasticland." Andy Aeros Kaiser is a great bass player, and is complex enough to suit Glenn, but he doesn't have the shit eating grin (and accompanying demeanor) of John Francovic. There was a great young turk on drums, but he didn't have Vic Demechi's maturity and thus dynamics. And Leroy on guitar? Not bad, but I know Dan Mullen. I play in a band with Dan Mullen. Dan Mullen is a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Dan Mullen.
I'm sorry, Glenn, but that's the way it is. Glenn Rehse has a powerful enough name/brand that he could bill himself as The Glenn Rehse Band/Experience/Quartet (whatever) and people would come. But this outfit doesn't live up to the old "Plasticland" brand, and that's a shame, because that's what people are going to compare this band to -- the old Plasticland. This band that played Saturday night were worthy enough (they were loud enough, that's for sure!) and if they were billed as "Glenn's new band" people would rave. But as Paul McCartney once said, "You cannot reheat a souffle." Why even try, Glenn, when you're perfectly capable of baking a great new cake?