Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer starts in full circle

The Extra Crispy Brass Band by V'ron
The Extra Crispy Brass Band
a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
Lots of music since I last posted here. Chill on the Hill started off the summer last Tuesday with DeLaBuena, a great Latin band that, no matter where they play, evoke some steamy, sweaty joint in Havana in the pre-Castro days, except with even more percussion. I''ve raved about them before - they've really gotten me to go beyond appreciating salsa to outright loving it. Maybe because they've just so intense. Anyway, it was before the big heat wave came in, so I didn't really call it summer until the weekend.

That weekend started off with, as us cheeseheads know, a blistering hot Friday and I'm proud to say we never hit the air conditioner's "on" switch. Not even after an hour and a half midday at Beulah Brinton, watching Sammy practice with his team (they settled on "Angry Birds" as their name) in the sun. Not even after a two hour bike ride, one hour of which was spent going uphill and against the wind. Not even after attending the high school graduation party for Madison-bound Francis Klein, a kid I've known since visiting him and his mom in the hospital hours after he was born. Not even after the Locust Street festiva where, contrary to my usual behavior, I did not get a chance to see a lot of new bands. It was stinkin' hot out and after all that, I went ahead and declared it summer.

And like the changing of the seasons, there are things you can count on like clockwork, case in point: Sigmund Snopek at the Klinger's East stage, moving from songs about pizza and baseball to I Am The Walrus. It's comforting to see him there, every year, being clever on the keyboards. That whole stage is pretty much a baseline for confirming that all is well and good with the world. Next band up was the Extra Crispy Brass Band, a pile of Riverwesterners culled from a variety of groups I've seen around (including the nu-Caberet of Eat the Mystery, a Morphine/Mark Sandman tribute band, and others) that gave that part of Locust Street a joyful, Nawlins flair. They were the kind of band you'd want to march down the street at your funeral. The were followed by perennail Locust Street bluesman Matt Hendricks, who wailed it out as usual, accompanied by these two girls who spent the festival roaming around and dancing with hula hoops. Brother Louie wrapped up the stage's day, and we could hear him in the distance as we headed to the Circle A, wondering, "What the hell song was that" more than a few times before we recognized Peter Gabriel, Creedence Clearwater, the Ramones, and anything else Brother Louie's kitchen sinkful of set lists coughs up.


Magnetic Minds
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
This sounds like we planted ourselves in front of Klinger's all afternoon, which we did not. (BTW, they've got their chicken wing recipe back on track. They were perfect with a crunchy, flavorful crust and cooked perfectly, not too greasy, not at all dry, a huge improvement from last year's misstep.). We floated over to the Riverwest Public House's stage, to catch the buzz band of the day, Magnetic Minds, a two piece (bass and drums) that brought to mind Helmet, what with the syncopated, tight rhythms never letting up on intensity. They held me for about fifteen minutes where I was mesmerized, and then I moved on because it just didn't let up. That's the kind of thing I like in an indoor club at night; it seemed out of place at a warmed over hippie festival. Nevertheless, they were damn good and lived up to their buzz. We also popped into Linnemans to see a young pop band call Faux Fir, who seem to be part of a wave of young bands i'm seeing that have clearly listened to a lot of the Replacements and other 80s pop punk bands with an intelligently wasted bent. It was also a good afternoon for cover bands: as we walked west I told Sammy: " We're going to go see one of the best drummers in town cover one of the greatest drummers ever," (and he replied, "Buddy Rich?"). The nice thing about Substitute is that they dig deep into the Who's catalog, and they know it all so well that they can respond to a song request that wasn't on the set list (in this case, "Bargain") without skipping a beat. Across the street from them Lovanova put in a great, instrumental proggy set of (and I know this is a contradiction in terms) hard-driving loungy rock.


CAW!
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
It's getting to be a family tradition, though, to wander off Locust Street toward the end of the day to catch a Floor Model set, and this year was no exception. Last year and this year, the place to see them has been the Circle A, and welcomed a fresh new band of 15 year old punks to play a quick and impressive round of songs between Floor Model's set. Lots of things came full circle in the Beer Patio on Chambers street. Apparently the kids of CAW (letters stand for something rude) used to hang out at the old Riverwest Floor Model house party that off-street party was in the backyard of drummer Dave Somerscales' old place. I *do* remember that my kids weren't the only younguns there, and now, here are these teenagers, with haircolors that don't occur in nature, a lead singer who seems to be double jointed in every joint rocking out the Circle A. Good, tight, loud and obnoxious speedpunk. I get the warm fuzzies just remembering this. Offstage, nice guys too -- and there's a lot to be said for having that much class already. Sammy, not one to miss an opportunity, again asked Somescales if he could have some time on the kit, and this proud mama spent that between set time snapping pictures of her budding Buddy Rich, while people who don't know me asked me incredulously, "Is that your kid?" OK, he's not ready to sit in with a band yet, but he did impress a few folks with his enthusiasm and beginner's chops.

Floor Model, like Snopek, was comfortably excellent, as I've come to depend on them, especially after an election week like us 'Sconnies had. As I'd tweeted, I needed some snotty left-wing punk and, well, thank God for Floor Model. Every time, they're like this salve I can put on my political wounds -- not all their songs are directly political, but they explore the cultural reasons we're in the jam we're in and hearing them and their fans reminds me I'm not alone.


The Carpetbaggers
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So after I caught up on sleep from a full weekend, we jumped on our bikes and hit Chill on the Hill last night. It was apparently Country night, but the nice thing about the COTH bookers (besides the fact that they keep it varied, and try to keep a hyper-local Bay View connection) is that when they book the Country, they don't book godawful nu-country crap. I missed the God's Outlaw boys, but plunked down my bike and blanket in time for a lovely, almost toned-down-to-folk set from a trio called the Carpetbaggers. Enjoyed them immensely -- had a good mix of covering the standards (of course they covered Johnny Cash) and some originals. (Or maybe they were covers -- I'm not as well-versed in the country songbook as, say, Lars Kvam or Jonny Z.) They were followed by Honkytonkitis, another local outfit that added a violin and electric guitar, and seemed a bit more polished. However, they hooked me in with unlikely country covers. Yeah, of course they did the Rolling Stones "Dead Flowers", but later in the set they took on "19th Nervous Breakdown" and as Sammy, Stella and I rode into the setting sun, it was another case of "What the hell song was that" when it hit me: Ace of Spades! A country band is covering Lemmy! Full circle, people, this is full circle.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Jorin Fest,'12

I'm squishing your head by V'ron
I'm squishing your head, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
So I guess the XPosed4Heads had a minor hit back in the 80s, back when I was still living in Champaign, IL, called "Nice Guy." Missed 'em at Lest We Forget, and this is what I missed: Neu Wave. The 4Heads are/were a bunch of guys who, like me, probably woke up that Sunday morning in October 1978 asking themselves, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT LAST NIGHT!" when they saw Devo on SNL. I remember going to school and going to band class the next Monday morning. Everybody was talking about it, but mostly like it was some sort of musical blasphemy: How dare they do that to a Rolling Stones classic!. I whispered to a sympathetic trumpet player who sat near me, almost apologetically, "I kind of liked them" to the hushed reply, "My big sister has their album!" In fact, almost everybody in my generation who I still talk to remembers that SNL episode and has their the first time I saw Devo on SNL in '78 story, like it was our Kennedy Assassination or something. I think the reason it stuck with us as teenagers was that it was the first time we'd encountered (and we didn't have this post-wave term for it at the time) deconstruction of pop music. And for many of us it woke us up: this was the moment when we realized there was more to the evolution of music besides the spirialing out-of-control bomabaticness of late Zeppelin or proggy ELP.

I bring this up because walking into the Down and Over (the South Side's answer to the Up And Under, finally opening after the usual neighborhood drama over potential noise) I was instantly transported back to the Band Room at Rich Central High School, finding that one other person who got it and having my entire musical world turned around while the members of XPosed4Heads started in with a willfully retarded drum/bass beat, purposefully mechanical/electronic-sounding keyboards and lead vocal snarling at us in a snotty but pridefully geeky voice: "I am a nice guy!" New Wave! This was it! This was the sound that turned my whole musical head around. It didn't matter that this wasn't the band for me at the time (that was indeed Devo, and when I got to college there were plenty of local equivalents in Champaign-Urbana stretching out their chops). This was the sound. It screamed early New Wave (before New Wave got boring and predictable by, say, 85). That's why I guess "Nice Guy" was a minor, WMSE (I can't imagine any other station in Milwaukee would even touch it) hit. Heard touches of Gang of Four in there, and these definitely are guys who probably remember the first time somebody played The Residents for them, too.

They were the second band of a night I'm calling "JorinFest" (in the same tone you hear the VO for those Red Lobster "LobsterFest" commercials). Bob Jorin was the representative for the 4Heads (when I have more time, I'll relate a story he told me later about his pet bird Stanley that confirmed that everything I just wrote above is spot on) and the opening band is my favorite new band these days, The Northside Creeps. with Ted and Tim Jorin (I get all those brothers mixed up, there's a Tyler and a Tom in that family there and if they don't watch out, they're going to get compared the Duggars with the J names) on bass/guitar, and Kip Satan from the Dick Satan Trio (that's not really a trio) on drums. They're just a really good, tense, energetic, dangerous garage band. The songs are all hookier than hell, they're tight, and Tim's Buddy Holly glasses give them that nerdy-Weezer vibe that suggests some all-knowing detachment to balance it all out (and provide me with all sorts of opportunities for parenthetical details.)

Dick Satan ended the night, and as usual, they were dangerous surf, as the name implies. They get slicker each time I see them: they're playing around with messed up melodic modes, modulations, but that's making them sound prog, and they're not. They're solid instrumental surf and they have that element of danger that sometimes goes missing from a lot of surf bands. There's still a few spots they have to polish up, but they're aiming high, and when you do that, you're going to trip a bit. That's the nature of dangerous surf anyway, so I'll take it anyway rather than overly-polished perfection. Overall, a good way to come down from Lest We Forget, and remember that while there is much to celebrate about the historic music scene here, there's much to cheer about the present, too.