River Rhythms is one of my favorite places to see bands for free. The backdrop of the river itself is nice, but it also happens to be in a part of town where the sunset's reflection on the buildings happens to cast a magical glow, and that somehow literally and figuratively reflects on the bands that play there. Case in point: Brother, three chaps from Austrailia who for whatever reason have flown under my radar all these years, cast an equally magical glow on the people who risked coming out on what could have very easily turned into one of those thunderstorms we've been getting a lot of lately.
Brother's schtick is this: they're Aussies working the Celtic (would somebody please tell the RR emcee that this is NOT a basetball team, and thus pronounced the genre "Kell-tick", not "Sell-tick") genre. That's probably why they fell under my radar -- there's plenty of good Celtic rock in Milwaukee, I don't need to go out of town, and it's not my favorite genre. I can listen to it for an hour, and then I have to leave and beg somebody to play me something in a time signature other than 3/4 or 6/8. But this is why I liked Brother. They have Celtic influences, but they're also Aussies, hence the digeriedoos (yes, plural, and yes, sometimes they play both at once), and they're rockers, hence the electric guitar, and they're also ethnic folkies (hence the squeeze box), and hence, they held my attention for both of the 90 minute sets they played.
What I liked about them most, was not just that they varied their musical style and instrumentation. They also variety their themes. One minute they're singing aussie protest songs. The next, they're singing (wonderfully sincerely) about the joys of hanging out in your backyard with your family -- and they' turned Pere Marquette park into a backyard by tossing out beach balls to play with. Lead singer Angus clearly loves what he's doing, and his enthusiasm comes out when he tells his stories, introduces their songs, and then the whole band chimes in with a passion that had me rethinking the whole Celtic thing. The kids were even up and hanging out near the stage just to be a part of the energy. And that's why I liked most about them. They had a really positive, sincere energy that wasn't at all preachy (like some of these groups can get), even when they're singing preachy protest songs! Now that they're on my radar, I won't miss them again.
A couple of days later I warned the kids, "OK, Blue Oyster Cult will be at summerfest, but they're on a Monday night, and they don't go on until 9pm, so if we want to catch them this year, we're going to be tired. "
Right, like they were going to say "Well, let's be sensible and blow it off."
We went to swimming class, and then hopped on a shuttle bus, got searched, and made our way to the M&I Classic rock stage, tucked in behind the Marcus Amp, and found some wobbly benches after the obligatory sky ride. And BOC, our family favorite, was wonderful as usual. Yeah, they did the huge hits, (Reaper, Burning for You, and Sammy's favorite song EVER, Godzilla). And they slipped in plenty of deep cuts (no E.T.I, or This Ain't the Summer of Love, and as this wasn't a biker rally for once, no Golden Age of Leather), but they did give us Before teh Kiss, a Redcap.
Something that, amazingly enough, we encountered for the first time: "Mom, what's that smell?"
"Nothing," I said, kind of relieved she didn't already know what it was. She went to the port-o-let, though and came back reporting, "Mom, that smell's in the port-o-let. Really strong. It really stank in there."
"Uh, reeks, sweetheart," I said, accepting that she might as well know. "The term is 'reeks'." She wanted to know why nobody was getting arrested since it's illegal.
"Because there are plenty of drunk people around getting in violent fights and the cops have their hands full with that. The thing about potheads is that they don't get violent. They're too stoned. They'll cuss at you if they're pissed but that's about it. Drunks get violent, because they're drunk and they can't feel the bottle being broken over their head."
I had no idea how accurate I was being. This night turned out to be the night that a cop trying to break up a fight near a stage where a rap group (that earlier we'd declared mediocre) was playing. Well, of course. We're all playing air drums to "Cities Aflame with Rock and Roll" along with all the other old farts on the south end of the park, and slowing mixing with the thousands of old farts starting to shuffle out of the Marcus bellowing how great Clapton was. Oh, well, at least I didn't have to explain what that song "Cocaine" was all about.