Summer Cold Excuses in the Heat
Yes, it's been almost three weeks since that wonderful night at Chill on the Hill, where the fabulous Crazy Rocket Fuel played. This is, unfortunatly for me, only the second time I've seen them, the first being at a local rockabilly festival last year at the Miramar. They were terrific to begin with; they've built on that, gotten even more comfy on stage, and they captured the (sometimes fickle) Chill on the Hill crowd. If they were just a bunch of chicks singing country/americana standards, they wouldn't have succeeded. But the reason why Crazy Rocket Fuel works is they approach the genre with the outlaw feel that seperates them from their contemporaries. These chicks are going to get in trouble (if they haven't already) and what's more, they're kind of proud of it. The obvious hit, "Taycheedah Bound" screams Wisconsin, but it's clear that anybody outside the state that doesn't know it's the local women's prison will figure it out soon enough. Even their name suggests they belong on a bill with bikers, dragstrippers, and whiskey-swillin' guitarists at some roadhouse on highway X. They sing about chevys, drinkin, men, wimmin, with a tough but flirty style that won over youn and old at Humboldt Park. I need to see them more -- Kochanski's seems like the kind of place they'd be at home.
Summerfest? I can't diss it. Lots of good stuff on the bill this year; budget and scheduling prevented me from hitting the five days I would have liked to be there. We stopped at the Miller state to catch Here Come the Mummies, an acceptable substitute for the George Clinton show I had to miss. The Mummies, so the story goes, are actually a bunch of Nashville session men with contracts that prevent them from appearing together under their real identities. So they cover themselves up with medical wrap, splash on some fake blood, give themselves some alias names, and then pull out the James Brown-style tightly wound funk to sing about how immensely terrific they are in the sack. Really-- every single song was about how great they are, how much they will deliver, how satisfying they are-- all in euphanisms and double entendres that kept it (somewhat) family-friendly enough for Summerfest (and Sammy). Stella kept looking at me with that "Does that mean something dirty?" look on her face to which I replied, "No. Not at all. That gentleman really is washing his automobile with a substantial volume of clean, white, frothy soap." (Credit her for not believing me.) Every single song was rendered in funk precision that the Hardest Working Man in Show Biz himself would have approved of, from the tightass horn(y) section to the tuneful backup singers. Great, great fun. Won't miss these guys again.
Walked across the fest with some tasty corn dogs to go catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and I suspect Summerfest did not anticipate their popularity, because the US Cellular stage was way packed, and this was a band youprobably wanted to see. I also suspect they played more of a summerfesty set (read: playin' the hits) rather than the dirgy jams they are capable of. Still, enjoyable and joyous alt-country without a hint of irony. It's nice to see the younguns playing music that is just simply nice fun without a smirk all the time, and further, it was nice to see the young fans totally into it. I had a moment of kindness when, squeezing through the crowd, I put Sammy on my shoulders (and somebody in the crowd recognized us from the Mummies show!). A Summerfest security/bouncer at the 102.1 booth to the side of the stage motioned me over; concerned that in the drunkencrown I might lose my balance and drop Sammy. Instead, she took Sammy into a clear, fenced off part, and had Stella and me join her. We could see, and we were out of danger. Nobody in the crowd seemed to mind.
A few days later, I joined a good friend to see Todd Rundgren at the Potawatomi stage. I haven't seen Todd in years, and frankly, I might have been one of the younger people in this crowd (50). Todd hasn't made himself known to the next generation, except as the guy Liv Tyler thought was her dad when she was growing up. But lots in my generation remember the days when "Todd Is Godd" was a catchphrase; and I would suspect that a good portion of the audience were Utopia fans. So imagine our disappointment when, while Rundgren said at the beginning of the show he would do what he thought would be a representative "request list" of a set, and he basically gave us his Blue Eyed Soul catalouge. Now, let's say this once and for all: fuck Hall and Oates. They're good at the Blue Eyed Soul thing, but listen to Rundgren's wail and range and you'd agree: Todd is indeed the Blue Eyed Soud Godd. And it's refreshing to hear that, even though he's pushing 70, he still has those vocal chops, as well as a energetic athleticism as he jumped all over the stage. But c'mon Todd! Road to Utopia! Trapped! Ra! Trust me, the round-spectacled, gray-hair-in-a-ponytail, D&D-playing, (Visual)BASIC-programming geeks who occupied the first three rows did NOT sit through a yawn-inducing opening act of Tyler Traband just to hear "Oooh Baby Baby" all night. (Actually, Traband wasn't all that bad. But his band was phoning it it to the point of his guitarist, rather than using a cry-baby pedal, SINGING "wah-wah, wah, wah-waaaaaah" though his set-ending guitar solo. Fail.) No, Todd, we needed to hear "Caravan."
Then, my dreadful sinus/throat infection took over and I haven't seen too much music since. This past weekend was South Shore Water Frolics and I dropped a bunch of $$$ at the art fair the next day, on lawn ornaments and jewelry. The fireworks, as usual, were the best in town: the Frolics Fireworks beat everybody out with the amazing ground show that ended with a puff of actual fireballs that had companions wondering if that was intentional. You could feel the heat swarming toward you.
Speaking of the heat, I need to decide if it's going to keep me away from Chill on the Hill tonight. The kids can play in this heat; I suspect my body isn't used to it and that's why I'm wiming out here.