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.