Monthly Archives: July 2012

Let’s Kill Saturday Night

Saturday, o Saturday, why do you make me cry?
I was warned like three days in advance that my brother was throwing a birthday party for my sister-in-law.  And Brother scheduled it, knowing full well that Summerfest was in full swing.  It was either an asshole move or a test of my familial commitment.  What could I do?

O yeah, we packed up Young Zombie and the Orange Lucifer and hit the fucking road, oh yes we did.  And S-I-L’s mom was packing the Serious Tequila Margaritas, so it was working out just fine, yes it was.  I delivered a sweet Summerfest t-shirt and rubberized Summerfest shot glass, and O! my, did we not have a wonderful time?

And we drove back, early or so, because dammit local Ska band the Invaders were playing, and they kick fucking ass.

As always, they were skanking up a fucking storm, and the report is that the fiddle lady had a baby just a few days prior, so bonus points for proper prioritization, you know?

 

Unlike Bouffant, the aging rude boys and hipsters just made me happy.

We had a lovely time, and went home.  It was a Summerfest Saturday that worked, family, ska, alcohol…..

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Clenched Hands Brave Demands

Title Lonk:

In other news, it turns out that my new Favorite Milwaukee Band, Trapper Schoepp And the Shades, just signed a label deal.  In this age of internet distro, it is still a Big Thing, and I am so happy they are getting a break.  These kidzos are just fantastic, and you oughta check ’em out (really, not like when I tell you to check out the Mekons and you have to pretend you did).  In fact, here you go:

So Friday, the 6th, was still kind of hot.  But I had been gone a WHOLE DAY, and the shakes were setting in.  I pointed the Zombmobile toward the lake, and it knew the way.  Paid to park, because the traffic was being stupid and it would have taken my 30 or 40 minutes longer to get to my free lot, so wev.  Junkies gotta hit.

There was nothing that was enticing me.  And While I am FULLY AWARE, Zelmo, that there is no point in forcing a Wave, I hoped to snag one; like a surfer who paddles out, even thought the surf is not completely compelling, hoping that something decent comes along.

Surgeons in Heat: not even a good name, doods.

Wandered into the No Quarter old guy Led Zep tribute set.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t great, either.

Burgundy Ties:  Meh.

Saw a peppy little set from Breton Sound.  They were having fun, so the people in the benches were too.  It was alright.  get me another beer….

Jammed into the crowd at Atmosphere.  OK, I am not a huge fan of rap, but judging from teh intertrons, these folks were in a kind of nice spot between the Beasties and RATM, so it was worth a try, right?  Except for two things:  first of all, if you want to mix a lyrically dependent rap show, WHY THE FUCK DO YOU BURY THE VOCALS UNDERNEATH BASS THUMPING THAT OBSCURES EVERYTHING?

And second, after the third dimwitted young girl bumped into my and spilled my beer, I decided to bail.  My ‘large hulking bitter old angry’ dude act was not working…. Time for a Martino’s Chicago Dog.  Oh yeah.

Caught a few songs from the band opening for Fitz And The Tantrums, Royal Teeth.  Their first tour.  Good for them.

 

Well….As I have documented previously, a Summerfest Wave is a tricky thing.  You can’t expect it.  You have to be able to recognize it, and you have to be willing to RIDE.

I went down, hoping I might snag a corner of a Wave….and the Wave rolled right by.  It’s how it goes.  There’s always another day.

For two more days.

 

 


The Flame That Killed John Wayne

The title lonk, of course, is from the Mekons.  Google it if you are curious; it’s from the Retreat From Memphis album, which is awesome.

The 5th was just too fucking hot.  I couldn’t bear it. The lineups were middling at best, and not enough to draw me, which is saying quite a bit, innit?

We went and caught a flick instead.

ZORGelmo, however, reports that he has much of the intervening schedule information post-1991; the pre-1991 info being provided previously.  So I am obliged to really do a proper job of working this info into a database.  I dunno if I will ever be able to incorporate it into the  WordPress mold without custom work and/or storage upgrades, but at a minimum, I will have a snappy little reference document.

Looking back through the history of the Fest, there are several things, some feelings, that arose.  For example, I noticed that the Fest was VERY regionally based for a very long time.  There were many years that the BoDeans played two consecutive nights;  punk-metal screamers Die Kreuzen played several times.  Even Couch Flambeau played the fest, and there are no less fest-y bands than Die Kreuzen or Couch Flambeau.

But; there seemed to me to be several things going on, and seeing these band lists by year limned it in a way that seems revealing.  At very closely related times, Summerfest was becoming a popular stop for touring acts, and record labels were becoming threatened by digital media; responding, of course, by cutting back on A&R.

And that was about the time that I started noticing that local talent was being choked out.  I had friends who had awesome bands at the time;  Sugarfoot comes to mind.  But there was no upward path anymore; labels had killed their development path, and where there used to be the possibility of getting local exposure at Summerfest, it was being challenged by more established regional acts, who were also being pushed by national acts.  It’s not as if Summerfest was trying to squeeze out local bands, as many in the local biz claimed; but the pipelines were being narrowed.

And it seems that there is some correlation  between the success and changes of Summerfest, and the viability of the local music scene.  There were years where living on the East Side, especially, meant that you were never too far from a live band, most likely playing original music.

It was a time that made me what I am today.  It was a time where noise and art and anger and love and sideways haircuts were the course of the day.

When I first started getting into punk music, I was not in Milwaukee, I was in a cowtown-land grant collidge, and a friend and I decided to get pierced ears after drinking the morning away. So we went down the main street to a jewelry story, where the young lady at the front was happy to take our business; however, the old guy at the back, barely looking up, said “we don’t do males”  Keep in mind this was 1982.  Craig said “why, are men’s ears too TOUGH  for your equipment?”

We ended up borrowing a ride from friends to the IOWA to a mall, where we got the staple gun treatment.

After the weirdness involved in getting my first ear piercing, I was a bit discombobulate when I got to Milwaukee, where having an earring (even for a guy) was not unusual. Within a short period of time, I pierced that ear a second time, and then did the opposite ear for good measure.  I still have two of those piercings.


Merry-go-round with the Sun

Title lonk o my yes:

 

The 4th dawned fucking hot, like that is even news anymore.  The climate change denial morons say:  “hot weather in summer, who’s surprised?” kind of ignoring the fact that is an unprecedented level and length of heat, and drought in about half of the country.  Hey, I am half a century old, how many times in my life did half the country have a drought?  None more black, is the answer.  Go back to the 30s dustbowl is the answer.

oops, not wanting to go into that on this bloggo.

So let’s go down to Summerfest, shall we?

We went down to see Sigmund play his first show at the new Pavilion, the big old stage that took the place of the Has-been rock stage, and it was a fine time indeed.  Nice breezes blowing through the stage, plentiful beverages, and lovely music.  Gosh!  didn’t we have a wonderful time?

Sigmund is a musical genius and overall weirdo who has played Carnegie Hall and a bowling alley in Waukesha IN THE SAME WEEK, and has played every SINGLE FUCKING SUMMERFEST since 1972 or something stupid like that.

I saw him play a triple-disc sci-fi concept album of prog music (hate him, Rush!  And Jennifer!) at a little bar a couple of blocks from my house, with guest work from the sax player who played on Dark Side Of The Moon.  I’ve seen him play his various wind instruments for 40 minutes while the power at Summerfest was out.  I’ve gotten loaded with him and his cats at his apartment.  He owes my best friend money.

Anyway, after that, we moved around for a bit, stopping at Ben Caplan And The Casual Smokers.  Without the Smokers.  while Ben did his best, it wasn’t compelling.  He does have an impressive beard, however.

Then we jammed down to catch some King Solomon reggae music.  And the heat and humidity and increasing crowds got to us, so we bailed.

It happens.

 

 


Run Engine Run

In the immortal words of the sage Jim Anchower, been a while since I rapped atcha.   Fest gets kind of nuts around the start of the second week, and sometimes…one gets distracted.  Or tired.  Or hungover.  Or all three.  No apologies needed though, this is Summerfest.

mikey had a kind of awesome comment in a previous thread.  The big festivals, can be kind of difficult, and if there’s one thing Summerfest is, it’s not a big festival.  For one thing, it only costs $15 to get in for all day.  Lolla is what, $100?

The thing is, that for the The World’s Largest Music Festival, the music is almost secondary.  It started as a local festival, local bands.  Bo Black helped it grow to where it attracted 100,000 people per day, but it remained regional.  And the focus was always on beer.  And food.  And music….

So, in order to deliver beer, it was necessary to bring in popular acts, and run the whole thing smoothly.  Acts get on and off stage on time, and are treated well, so they are happy to come back.  And for a band, the big attraction is to get big, appreciative crowds of drunks, especially ones who might become new fans.  I think for the bands, this is one of the biggest pluses; building a larger fan base.  A surly, phoned in performance won’t do it, but pulling out the stops and burning up the stage helps to sell a few CDs and t-shirts.

Oh, sure, I’ve seen some lackluster performances.  I remember an uninspired short Cracker performance a couple of years ago.  But those are more the rarity. Other bands I’ve seen, both big names and small, put their best foot forward. And I have had many bands that I’ve never heard of before make that connection (Rock n Roll Soldiers, Blue October, Cowboy Mouth, Trapper schoepp & The Shades).

mikey said I did not recognize how lucky we are, but I do.  And as I look over The Document, I think a big part of the reason is that Summerfest does NOT put the music first; it puts the festival first.  And if the festival is being done right, the rest can flow.


Closing Time

Wheeooooh.

Is that it?

9 days out of 11 (10 if you count the Hairdresser Mulligan, which I certainly do).  I think I saw 60 bands, and drank two-hundred eleventy beers.  I got sunburned, my ears are ringing and my feet hurt.  Saw no end of friends, and now have an incredibly nifty rubberized shot glass.

My closing song was “Rock Lobster.”  O yeah.

More reports to fill in the blanks if I can manage during Recovery Week.  And if anyone cares.  Well, fuck, given my blogging habits, ESPECIALLY if no one cares.


Also:  ZORG made an unprecedented appearance on the field of battle.  He still lost, of course, but it was VERY impressive.

 

And my!  Didn’t we have just a wonderful time?


Celebrated Summer

I have a spoken word piece in my library from Jello Biafra, where he reminisces about seeing the Ramones for the first time.  “Dee Dee came out, and hit one chord on his guitar and at that moment we knew it was going to be a fuck of a lot louder than we ever imagined.”  Tonight, I had a similar feeling from the third row, in front of the stage right speaker stack, as Bob Mould launched into “The Act We Act”.

It was a blistering hot day.  97 degrees or 400 or something, and humid like a swamp.  But when I ventured out to do errands, I did not burst into flames, so what the hell, time to hit the Fest.

The 3rd of July can be a tough time at the fest, it is one of the big fireworks nights, and people pack in.  But when I parked, the price at 10 bucks indicated that crowds were anticipated to be light. No wonder, with the predictions of hellfire and agony that the weatherdroids were making.

I started by drinking big, ice-filled wine cooler drinks.  Gotta stay hydrated, you know.  Watched a few sets from Emily’s Army and the Nearly Deads.  On the way past one of the merch booths, a guy named Teddy and his gf tried to sell me on sticking around to see his band, Filligar; they are currently touring with the Counting Crows, so it did sound likely, didn’t it?

 

Oh yeah, I wandered up and down, and at one stage caught a country-rock cover band doing Locomotive Breath, which was just fucking weird. The they followed up with Train Train, which made me think that they thought the former was also a train song.

Oh gosh, in the midst of this I see an email show up on my phone with The Document. Through personal connections, I apparently now have a hand typed document with almost all of the bands that have ever played at Summerfest, at least through 1991.  Well, spank my ass and call me Sigmund, that is kind of fucking nifty. In fact, I have poured myself a couple of drinks and skimmed The Doc, and my first reaction is — ‘SWEET LIVING FUCK HOW DID I MISS ALL THESE GREAT BANDS!?!?!?!?’ Also of note is how regional the fest was through the 90s; now it is a plum gig, and it is tough for local acts to get the presence that was possible in the 80s and 90s.  Also of note:   TWO fucking appearances of REM that I fucking missed.  I am a fucking idiot.

I was having a lovely time, indeed.

I met a fair number of Bob Mould fans and we all talked punk music; I met a couple of people who had not the faintest idea, and I felt kind of sorry for them.  I met a guy from Sheboygan who drove down for the show, and we knew all the same local bands from the 80s and 90s; I also met a couple of newly-released prison inmates who wanted me to share their joint.

Early in the evening was a local band, Trapper Schoepp and the Shades.  While I had heard one of their songs, I wasn’t really prepared for how much I loved this band and at the same time hate it because they are all like 4 years old.  Fucking kids, talented fucking kids.  The did an AMAZING cover of “The Weight” as well as whole fucking shitload of stellar originals, and I bought both of their albums and you probably should also.  Man, they are good.  And they are young I hate them.

Afterwards, I met the bass player for Die Kreuzen, and told him how much I loved their recent show.  We talked about mutual friends, and about the bands we just saw.  And we had a wonderful time….

The ironic thing is that after being pestered into staying for Filligar, I felt obligated.  And while they were good, skilled band, they hit my anti-sweet spot in the classic rock/rolling stones area, and I was left cold.  Last year, we saw the Counting Crows Road Show, and I loved it; these guys are on this year’s version, and I couldn’t help but think that Trapper Schoepp would be even better in that show.

Here’s a man who stole my beard:

Look, you either get Mould or you don’t; if you like him, it’s all good and if not I feel sad for you.  Rage and catharsis and noise and joy and LOUD and soft and LOUD LOUD LOUD.

Husker Du, along with bands like Black Flag and the Minutemen and  the Replacements and all those scruffy punks changed music by showing that you could throw your shit in a van and go make music. None of them — NONE— ever expected to be big stars, but they needed to scream and make noise and it was fucking better than working a minimum wage job.  And they changed music forever:  DIY was born.  Maybe re-born is a better term, because before recorded music everybody had a hootenanny in their house or barn or backyard.  But they built a movement and a circuit and an ethos.

Talking to a couple people, we agreed that there are at LEAST four critical albums:  Candy Apple Grey, Workbook, Copper Blue, and Black Sheets Of Rain.  Every one of those albums is impeccable, every song crucial, and any artist who can do that ONCE is gifted.  Four times?  Well, holy shit, right?

The show opened with Copper Blue in it’s entirety.  Oh frabjous day!  He did some old Husker stuff, including the title of this post and “I Apologize” and for one of the encores, uncorked a ripping version of “Downed”

Although I never managed to catch Husker Du (and I can’t quite figure out how I managed to do that) I have seen Mould twice before, once solo and once with a band, both at Shank Hall (a 300 seat club) and I have to say that I think this is my favorite one. And I was especially amused by the fact that he was backed up by musicians half his age, playing music he wrote when he was younger than they are, and he still has no problem charging right the hell out in front of them.

Oh, and did we ever have a lovely time.   I am a bit surprised at how much I am enjoying this year’s Summerfest.