who turned 50 this year is Blaine Schultz. Most of my 50 year old pals have been celebrating by booking some bands and invading a favorite bar, and Blaine was no exception. Except that with Blaine, he's not the kind of guy who would call that kind of attention to himself. It's so not his style. Lucky for all of us, his darling wife Kathryn came to the rescue and pulled off a terrific surprise party that wonderfully avoided the Blaine-ish, "Oh, really, don't go through the trouble" that would have come up had he known that a bunch of his friends were going to lug gear, take over a bar, and play several sets of great music in his honor.
According to everybody who was there when the birthday boy showed up (I was characteristically late), he was genuinely surprised when he walked in. So much so that he didn't even realize the decorations were all about him as he made a b-line to the bar to grab some refreshments. I can just see his face now, "Oh this is for me?"
Still, a great night for a terrific musician and honest rock and roll writer. He runs in a different crowd than I do/did -- his was the The Newsletter crowd (I, back in the day, hung more with the Crazy Shepherd folks) but we both agree on the greatness of the vast amount of undiscovered or overlooked music in this town and he's done more than his part to put a spotlight on it. Plus, (and this is my oft-told favorite Blaine Schultz story) he has an unabashed love for American roots rock and he helped me to truly understand the greatness of Neil Young in, of all things, a Trash Fest set at a TF some 10 or so years ago. Looking as grizzled as Young himself, he and his band used their entire allloted 20 minutes to do a 20 minute version of Hurricaine. I approached him afterwards and told him, "Wow. I'm not sure if that was satire, parody, or loving tribute." He 'fessed right up: "Probably a little of all three."
And that's kind of how his birthday was. First up, the Carolinas, who I'd just realized I'd never seen before. They get described as alt-country, but that might bring to mind gentle Wilco type stuff. Actually, I think the Carolinas answer the question, "What if the Yardbirds had grown up in the Midwest and took on a country influence?" Really. The songs begin innocently enough, but they pull an unsuspecting listener like me with a subtle rave-up that crashes gloriously within the space of 3-4 minutes. Why haven't I checked them out before? Of course, Blaine joined them for a few tunes, and then there was a short set from a pared-down incarnation of Blaine's consistent band, The Aimless Blades. Then came the jokes, of course, from the Mighty Deer Lick. I missed (again!) the annual Deek Lick Christmas show, so I was really looking forward to this, especially since once again, Dan Franke was back in town to play with 'em. They bounded onto the stage and blasted through "Bitch" and "I Wanna Be Loved" and a couple of others and it seemed like Dave Reinholdt would be in top form. But for whatever reason, it was a disappointingly short set of only four songs. Don't know why, don't want to know, but my bubble burst and I needed more snottyness. So, I bid Blaine a final happy birthday, congratulated Kathryn for pulling this whole thing off under his nose, jumped in the car, and headed north.
It was the final weekend to get Recall Walker signatures in (I'd placed my name on a petition out in Brookfield, just to be funny), so the fine folks at the Riverwest Public House were co-sponsoring "Occupy Riverwest" and Floor Model was on the bill. I needed a Floor Model set. But, between weather and such, I got there just in time to see them breaking down their gear. Danny Price was up next, and I was blown away. Haven't seen The Loose Change in months, and there's been a bit of musician shuffling. He's added a sax, but Paul Setser is still tinkling away on his run-down-saloon keyboards. Price's voice has matured as well, so I was fixated through the entire set. He's also beginning to put very cool, jazz-like arrangements on his songs, so earlier comparaisons to Tom Waits (even with a sweeter voice) should start to come in. Like I tweeted, dammit, I missed Floor Model, but Danny Price and the Loose Change were on.