Lounging Around

Once again, I'm making excuses for not keeping up the blog, but I've been lounging around. I've seen a lot of acts that could be considered "lounge acts", but only because they're not necessarily rock and roll, and a lot of them were instrumental. Actually, I was on vacation, on a cruise ship, and I saw genuine lounge acts. You might scoff at this (especially if you're a regular reader of this blog and know that I lean heavily toward punk, garage, psychedelia, but I do enjoy a wide swath of musical styles including prog and jazz) but the fact remains that cruise ship musicians are among the hardest working, versatile players around. I heard everything from a big band tribute, to a solo guitarist troubadour (accompanied by a drum machine and a dry sense of humor that I suspect went way over a few heads) and my favorite was an act that was billed as them doing a tribute to the Bee Gees. Thing is, the night before (and I missed this) they'd done a tribute to Tina Turner. The singer, however, was still in Tina Turner mode, right down to her dress, vocal styling and range, mannerisms, hand gestures, and ridiculously high heels that she navigated as well as Turner herself. Picture Tina Turner belting out "Massachusetts" and you get the idea of how this entire set went, so that when somebody asked for "Proud Mary" at the end of the set, it was like a switch had been flipped inside her, giving her permission to emerge from a chrysalis into The Full Tina, crawling from nice and easy to flying away nice and rough. Rest assured, it was glorious.

Back home, I wasn't quite ready to hit the Kenosha Punk Picnic (which is this coming weekend), but thanks for Chill on the Hill, I had the perfect opportunity to ease me back into the wonderful eclectic world of the Milwaukee Music Scene. The lineup was Lovanova, supported by Strangelander and K-Stamp.

K-Stamp is enjoyable, slow jams R&B featuring the gorgeously smooth voice of Kwasi Stamply. He mixes his jazzy melodies with bits of hip hop and rap, but he shines best when he actually sings with this Aaron Neville-ish sweet voice that has a nice almost crusty finish to it, which he uses sparingly and thus effectively. He's accompanied by a live band of solid players, but he's very obviously the driving force behind this outfit. I'd like to see him with a full horn section: that would propel his songs to an even wider audience.

Up next was Strangelander, comprised of a pile of Milwaukee veteran players fronted by a chanteuse in the form of Amanda Huff, which brought me back to not just any lounge, but a lounge you might find in a film directed either by David Lynch or even David Fincher: from the get-go, you're gently sucked into this dreamy, sinister (but not quite nightmarish) world where danger lurks but you are safely in the audience.

Musicians take turns being featured, musically wandering in and out of focus, just like characters in a lounge, and Huff seems to have her thumb on it all as she gently dances about and vacillates between being a torch singer and a narrative force.

Lightening up the mood, Lovanova quickly established that this night was a party, where some of the top players in town had been invited. Actually, that happens a lot at a Lovanova show: if Paul Kneevers knows you, and you're available, there appears to be room on the stage for you. They've been around for a dozen years, but they still seem fresh every single time, and given that they're working this genre, that's no small feat. Actually, it's always been hard to pin down Lovanova's genre: when they first started our they called themselves jazz/lounge, but they're more than that. They bring in prog, elements of funk, and whatever the guests add on top of a very solid base of creative songwriting. Kneevers himself (in the many interviews I've seen online) often has difficulty describing it, but I'm inclined to call it mood music: this band takes a theme or melody, and paints a sonic picture with it as they run with the basic idea. There's songs they do that one could direct a scene from a movie around. As such, I took at seat in front of the stage and stayed there.

But that's not to say it wasn't fun. Kneevers seemed to be having the time of his life, and was personable enough that while the Chill on the Hill crowd covers a few acres of ground, he still was able to make it feel like we were in a comfortable small lounge, as we chatted up the audience, and brought on musicians like the old friends they are. By the time the set was over, it was almost unnoticeable that the sun had gone down, but that did make the light show (coordinated by his wife, Kat Kneevers) more striking and fun.

Before I hit a weekend of glam (courtesy of Silk Torpedo at the Circle A tonight) and punk (at the aforementioned KenoCore Punk Picnic), here's a couple of moments I enjoyed before I boarded that cruise ship:

  • On my way to catch 20 Years of Floor Model at the Riverwest 24, I came across a fun grind of a band called Axehandle Hound that provided a good walking soundtrack with a driving, menacing beat down Chambers Street. Somebody had mentioned that they started out as a garden variety metal band, but by the time I got there they roped me in with a driving blues that turned into a funky stoner rock. Couldn't put my finger on it, which I generally like in a band, but they're on my list to catch again so I can take in the whole set. 

  • But I didn't want to miss a minute of Floor Model, which regular readers know is a favorite of mine, and they fit in, as they always have, with the Riverwest vibe. Lots of new(er) songs (when you've been around 20 years, five year old songs are "new"), but rest assured they gave us old hits like "You're Not The Fonz" -- the song that roped me in a dozen years ago at the Points East Pub, when they were just a two piece. 

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Sixthstation punk, garage and glam.


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