Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday Post, 2012: Not what we usually expect

Proud Owner by V'ron
Proud Owner, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
As I have for at least the past 20 years, I hopped on my bike and did my annual Easter Sunday Bike Ride and despite the wind, it was one of the most beautiful days I did this in years.  I didn't have as much to really ponder, except that I am finally letting go of being suspicious of why we've gotten this kind of weather lately. I just have to learn to enjoy it, despite the fact that I know that it just isn't right.

We messed up and assumed the kids were too old for Easter Bunny-ness and didn't get a pile of chocolate for them, but when they brought out the empty baskets last night we realized this was a mess-up. So, while I was on a Easter Sunday bike ride with weather I'm not usually expecting, the kids didn't expect my lame-ass excuse for a lack of chocolate:

OK, so here's what happened, kids. I'm on my bike ride, and in fact, as a sort of Easter bit of magic, I ran into the Easter Bunny right at this spot where I always take this picture. I asked her, "Well, how's it going," and I'll tell you, she looked beat. "Yeah, I don't mean to be picky," I told her, but "um, ya missed our house this morning." Well, kids, she's had a heckuva year, and I told her it was cool, if she could make it by tomorrow then we'd be fine with that. She agreed, but offered me this: "Here, if you just want to take the kids out to breakfast at a place you don't get to so much, take this voucher." 
So I offered the kids the choice to have a fabu brunch at, say, Beans and Barley, and they accepted. Sammy had his favorite whole wheat pancakes, Stella had her favorite cinnamon buns, Brian enjoyed just chilling out at home, and I had an outstanding omelet with lox, cream cheese, and asparagus. It's not what we expected, but it was good nonetheless.

Among the things I rode past was that one house on Lake Drive in Cudahy, with the guy who has all his collected do-dads out front. And on the side. And in the back. Big ol shark over the garage -- I asked him if it was new and he said, no, it's been there for about 2 years. Never noticed it before. Actually, I never noticed HIM out there before. Didn't ask his name or anything, just was glad to see him out. Maybe I was just dumbstruck that I actually saw him out there because I didn't expect that.

So this year's Easter Sunday for me, is about appreciating unexpected goodness. That Rolling Stones song about how you can't always get what you want, but getting what you need is going through my head, but it's really more about appreciating goodness even if it comes in unexpected forms. The kids are fine without some godawful overflow of chocolate.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

They Make Fun of You Because They Love You

Paul "Fagen" by V'ron
Paul "Fagen", a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
OK, let's get one thing about Spoof Fest out of the way right now. I'm onto you guys and I've been onto you guys for some time now. You not-so-secretly admire -- even love -- the bands you're spoofing. I can't even call it Spoof Fest anymore. It's Loving Tribute With a Sense of Humor fest. I caught the very end of "Lita Ford" (and heard that I'd missed a memorable "Ozzy" joining "Lita" on stage for "Close My Eyes Forever"). I also learned that I missed Julie Brandenburg as "Cher" in "Sonny and Cher" (Julie, you needed to promote this more...).

So I paid my cover, not being sure what to expect from Paul Kneevers and Jeff Hamilton and friends as "Steely Dan." No, I knew exactly what to expect: Precision. I don't think they would have bothered if they couldn't do it 100% on, and from the moment they took the stage in sunglasses, hats, leather vests, and jumping directly into "Reeling In the Years" (and true to the object of their spoof, nailed it) I knew it was worth the night's $10 cover. Right down to the tones on the guitar solos, right down to the synthesizer bends on "Do It Again", right down to the Fagen-esque flourish of the hands, right down to the Becker-style disaffectedness, right down to kicking the singer out of the band for not being perfect and bringing in "Michael McDonald" for the remainder of the set, they maintained a jazzbo smugness because they had it and they knew it. As much as Fagen/Becker were legendary for a level of polish and perfection that ranked up there with another guy would would be spoofed later in the night, Kneevers/Hamilton are no slouches in the Department of Anal Retentiveness either (they've both recorded my bands-- so I can personally attest to this in the studio), and so, as they spoofed the Dans, they were very clearly laughing at themselves as well.

Up next: "38 Special." Don't know any of the guys in this band (or maybe I do and they were that well disguised) and I realized that I unfortunately knew a lot more .38 Special songs that I cared to admit. All of em were clad in those Southern Rock regalia pieces: Stetsons, hillbilly hair, oversized boots, Jack Daniels T-Shirts, and quart bottles of booze that each of them swigged between every song: "Hold On Loosely" (oh, is THAT what they're saying?) and "Caught Up In You" and "Second Chance" and oh, dear, I actually know this stuff from road trips up north where all we can get is KROCK-style stations. FM-friendly stuff to put on inbetween the Zeppelin and the Aerosmith, or when you've had enough of Molly Hatchet or Skynyrd. I get the feeling that these guys, whoever they were, could have taken on Skynyrd (but not the Allmans) and pulled it off, but that might have been treading on too sacred ground.

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Treading on sacred ground was not an issue for Chris Tishler and his guys, who earlier this year, (in Chief) got to open for Thin Lizzy at Potowatomi. It was sacred ground, especially to these guys, but they weren't treading, they were stomping on it. They nailed it as well: Tishler with Phil Lynott's hair, skinny tie, perfectly white shirt, opening the show with Jailbreak complete with sirens, flashing "Thin Lizzy" sign in the background. These boys were totally back in town, while a 8"x6'x1" plank piled high with confectioner's sugar blow was brought out mid-set with four straws that landed not only on the stage, but in the front row, which meant I and my hair and my purse and my camera were covered in the white stuff as well. The linked picture doesn't do it justice: I had to lather rinse repeat at least four times to get all the sugar out of my hair when I got home, feeling like I was in that one scene in Annie Hall on Rock and Roll level steroids. I missed a song while I attempted to brush the stuff off at least my camera, but was back in time for the set-ending onslaught of british metal. The spoof was in the band's use of drugs. Musically, there was no spoofing whatsoever -- they nailed it as tightly as Kneevers/Hamilton nailed Steely Dan. If they chose to, they could do this again, and make some good coin off it as well. Won't be the first time a Spoof Fest band evolved into a full-time gig, especially for these guys.

Clear the stage (well, as best as you can,given that there's a half inch of sugar all over the front) because they had to make room for a horn section, a full band,backup singer chicks, and a "Danny Ray" to hold the purple cape for "James Brown," starring probably the only guy in town who could have even approached this: Freddy Lee and his band and friends. No bruised women around, he did all the major hits: I Feel Good (and yes, he hit the high notes), Sex Machine, and of course, Please Please Please. Horn section could have danced around a bit more, but the hardest working man in Milwaukee was backed up by full suits, and a tightly knit machine of a band that forced pure sweat out of both singer and audience. I think the only thing that kept the set as short as it was could have been bar time. I didn't make it out the second night, but this won't be my last Spoof Fest for sure.

Meantime, a public service announcement. Normally, I have mixed feelings about bands/artists trying to finance themselves via Kickstarter. Build up your fanbase, and make a CD already. But the issue here is that Mike Frederickson has already done just that and for some odd reason I have to attribute to the stupidity of the music industry and ignorance of the masses, he just isn't rich and famous. So he could just use a little kickstart to make his next CD, "Make It Stop." Here's the link to his Kickstarter Page. That's my PSA for today.