Start of the Summer Festival Season

Nighttime Blue Angels
Originally uploaded by V'ron
The scene: it's Friday night, after a long week at work, and my grrlfrien Mary Jo wants to drink. Sorry, have the kids (that's what living with a 2nd shift husband will do for ya) but how about a kid-friendly experience? The nighttime air show! There's a nighttime airshow, follow by (what else in Milwaukee) fireworks! So, what the heck. Brave the lakefront/downtown traffic and see if I can actually get a parking place and let's go, kids! MJ will meet us there. And believe it or not, I secured a close, free, safe parking place. I'm not going to tell you where, but enought to say it was really close to what turned out to be the best place to watch the air show -- just east of the North Point Water tower. The fireworks were right in front of us, and we could see the skydivers and their sparklie things, and watch each of them land on the same spot on Bradford beach. MJ joined us right at the end, and we had a smashing game of glow-in the dark frisbee afterwards. Summer is here!
So we're driving over the Hoan Bridge to get home and there's PrideFest. "That looks fun," Stella observes, seeing the crowd at the main stage, obviously yukking it up with Kathy Griffin. "Can we go?" Hmmmm. I think these kids are ready for PrideFest. I needed to explain to them what a drag queen is, and then I had to have the whole conversation about why PrideFest even exists. So we went on Saturday, a dreary cloudy day decorated up by, as many put it, the best people watching ever. I was amazed that the haters weren't out there protesting. In fact, there were some Christians who were proclaiming their pride in their gay children. (Now that's what I suspect JC had in mind.) There was a band called Shanda out of Brooklyn made up of gay, Jewish twentysomethings (my Jewish companions reminding me that "Shanda" is Yiddish for "Shame") that brought to mind a sort of east cost version of Sleater-Kinney, with an added violin and less harsh vocals. I liked them. Lead singer and violinist were the strong points. Proud mom moment number 1: having to explain to Stella why PrideFest even needs to exist, becasuse as Stella observed, "This is just like a regular festival with regular people and everything," (albeit a bit more colorful). Proud mom moment number 2: Sammy being fascinated by Miss Pride Fest: "That's really a boy?!? I can't tell." He looked for clues, but a six year old does not know what to look for. Instead, we paid a visit to the henna tattoo artist, we stuffed ourselves on festival food and watched a belly dancing troupe. The kids enjoyed the sky glider but were too pooped out to stay for Patti LaBelle, which is a shame. Plus, the opening comic for Patti LaBelle was getting a little inappropriate for kids (this, from a mom who lets her kids watch portions of Tarantino films....). I'd heard Miss Patti was tremendous. Next time.

Wake up kids! It's time for Locust Street! We didn't make it to the beer run, but we got there in time to catch a bit of Lovanova's set, and they started the day off on a progressive note. What started as an difficult-to-communicate idea in Paul Kneevers' head is growing into a viable, loungy, proggy act that's fun to listen to, even without a light up organ. (Instead, Kneevers figuratively lit up his head with bright orange hair dye.) Locust Street regular Sigmund Snopek brought his own bar to the Klinger's stage, and we were set.

If I were booking the Linneman's stages, though, I would have swapped some of the outdoor acts indoors and vice versa. Case in point: Heidi Spencer. Talented singer-songwriter with a distinctive voice (think: Amy Winehouse, sober) whose style is more coffeehouse than outdoor drunken hippiefestival. That would have fit in nicely with Jim Linneman's dark, twinkly lit band room, where it would have been protected from the roar of the Blue Angels above. I would have put the honky-tonk sounds of Dyna Flow and Her Roadmasters outside, along with the Outlaws-sounding reverie of the Grand Disaster. The former is definitely a party band that fits the feel of this classic Riverwest festival perfectly. The latter has really come into their own in the past year, finding their voice, and delivering great storytelling punkified western/country (note that I put the W word FIRST). That's their niche: the storytelling angle that makes one recall both the Outlaws (in two-guitar dueling), and Johnny Cash (in their storytelling style). Or maybe even Southern Rock, but that would have you calling for "Freebird" and that's just not their style. But they're all nice punk boys, too, which is why I've been following this band's progress and am a fan. Where would I have put the Danglers in all of this? I could watch them in jail, but they were outside, begging the rain to lay off (and it did!) and taking us on their usual trip through jazz, psychedelia, and acid rock. After the Danglers was another outlawcountry punk band called The Wildbirds whose music fit their scraggly, edgy appearance. I liked them and will definitely check them out again.

Later on on the Lakefront stage there was a dissonant, angry, syncopated combo called Boy With Bosoms that, while not exactly a festival party band, really laid down a groove of intense too-conscious-to-be-emocore rock. Not my thing, but good at what they did and should build a following. An earnest group of chaps called Glenview Lane played in front of Saylece's and had great, hard pop that I enjoyed while the kids played in that little garden park. But I didn't see as many people I knew there. Maybe last year's shooting scared them off, but I'm here to report that (probably as a result of last year's incident) the place was crawling with cops and it was a fairly laid-back time. It's summer in Milwaukee, and it's off to a great start.

feedback, originally uploaded by V'ron.


Hey, really like the blog! I'm starting a Midwest Travel blog that focuses on local culture, food, and destination ideas. I have a number of entries so far for Milwaukee and would love to get your perspective.

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