Monthly Archives: June 2013

Maybe they had a ridiculous statement to make about something they hadn’t experienced

OK, it didn’t rain.  I still wanted them to play this song.

But they played this one, and I thought of someone:

Well the guitar player stayin’ out in hollywood and sayin’
He’s just trying’ to get some sleep, but everyone’s complain’
Are you truly deeply cynical ’cause boy you know I loved you so
When no one knew your name and you were pompous. still are

Let’s get off this, and get on with it,
If you wanna change the world shut yer mouth and start to spin it
Get off this, get on with it
If you wanna change the world shut your mouth, and start this minute

Well, but I get ahead of myself.  Yes I do.  Back this blogtruck up, let’s.

Summerfest O’Clock started about 4:30 today.  The dudebros next door were burning some wood in a Weber grill while I mowed the lawn, and it made me hungry for something charred over an open flame.  But once there, I got a cup first, because priorities, you know?  Then settled in to watch an EAS band, Soho Ghetto from Halifax (!). Yes, another fricking Canadianoid band!  But they were good; and I wondered briefly if seeing such a good band right off the bat might signal a Wave yes Zelmo a Wave.

Well, I didn’t wonder for very long.  Because what the hell, summerfest! I was on my way over to see if the band was going to be selling merch, and another dude and I locked glances – a moment of shock – it was Dave, one of my college room mates from way back, I hadn’t seen him in years.

He was on his way to the US Cellular charging lounge, someone’s Galaxy had unwound; I got us some beers and we did some talking while the tech recharged.  I saw a couple of dudes from the band walking by, so I charged them and asked if they had merch  (sold it all, good for them.  The wave can sometimes splash others). Hah.  They said they were good friends with my new buds the Stanfields, playing with them tomorrow night in To-Ron-To… while I talked with Dave some more, I  downloaded their album from iTunes.  Weird to do such a thing.

They have kind of an anthemic sound, with a bit of celtic/folk roots.  And any band that sports a Mandocaster, I am on board.

Dave and I wandered off to catch Think Floyd at the other end of the grounds.  We talked about the old days, and new days and what we were doing now, and what we did then.  We were having such a swell old time that some dude we didn’t know came up and insisted that he be part of the conversation.  When he insulted our footwear, though, we moved on, with a hearty “WTF was that??!?!?!”

Dave was on the grounds with his wife and daughters to see Imagine Dragons, so we stopped by to see how they were doing.  It was weird.  Packed.  Definitely not the scene we wanted to be part of.  Finally, I got my charred animal flesh; it must have been bar-b-q because I got some of it on me.  Actually, I figure I got sauce in my hair.

The Meat Puppets were awesome. Loud and sloppy and kinetic and rock and punk all wrapped up in a jagged package that has the wind from the desert blowing through it.

Best thing about that video?  The shirt Curt Kirkwood is wearing is from a former record store two blocks from my house.  Awesome.  I kind of think I bought “Too High To Die” there.

Wow, did the crowd clear out after the Pups were done.  The band came out and talked to fans for like half an hour, I wish I had thought to bring something for them to sign.

A couple of years ago, Cracker played on the same stage, but only played for an hour and left without saying a word.  They seemed far less unhappy this time, and kind of rocked the joint. Opened with their two biggest ‘hits’ also, Low and What The World Needs Now.  As if they wanted to just get the dilettantes out of the way.

And; well, if you aren’t familiar with Cracker, not much of what I say will mean anything.  If you are familiar, then you know what it was.

really quite a shame they didn’t play this one either:

But they didn’t play another song about the rain (and after I got home, it rained)

No One Sleeps When I’m Awake

July 30th becomes Maintenance Day.

Went down to grab some unhealthy food for lunch.  Lunch-ish, actually.

It was kind of beautiful, warm with a nice breeze.

There were a couple of good bands at teh Emerging Artist Series, in particular Daniel And The Lion from Baraboo.  Another new CD for The Library.  Here’s a viddy of them covering Counting Crows, with phox, the band that followed them on the stage and also from Baraboo.  Man, there’s a lot of great musicians in Wisconsin.

Phox was admittedly perhaps a bit too subtle and quiet for a Summerfest show.

But then it started to rain, and since I got all my rain the previous day, I said fuck it and went home.  Took a nap.

It may be noted that my Summerfest-burn has taken until the third day to really get started, and it’s not  lobstery yet.

The other day, Zelmo and I disagreed bitterly at my plan to go to Madison next week for the Free Hot Lunch show, and to designate the Barrymore Theater as the Summerfest West Stage for the night.  Zelmo thought it was completely inappropriate.  My argument was two fold:  first, it is Free Hot Lunch, a Summerfest stalwart who are not playing in the normal summerfest stages this year; second, that Zelmo wasn’t even going to be in the country, so who is he to judge?

Mike and Mickey who joined me for S2D the next day, agreed.

well, Zelmo can apparently rest easy, because the show is sold out anyways.  So Zelmo can save his judgmental purist Summerfest crap until next year.  In the meantime, three for three, and no one named Kyle spilled a beer on me yesterday.  Although whoever rides herd on the text-board apparently did not let the “STAY AWAY FROM ME, GIANT SAUSAGE” message to display.

Water And Air


Oh, wow! A Summerfest Rainbow! SO BEAUTIFUL!!


I am really tired of being rained on today.

I had to drop some plans off downtown, and I slept in slightly; but picked up the plans and then it appeared that the City Paving Crews had decided to create a tower defense game between me and the Plan Exam office.  It was extraordinary, and very time consuming. And after that, I had to work some downloads from the first day at S-fest, and then had some email work to do, and then I did that previous post.  As Jennifer notes, it was rough, but I had to get down to the Grounds to get some lunch.  And I did; and eventually there was lunch that didn’t come in a cup….

the second day started stressy, it is true; but then a band called Annie B and the Vagabond Co was having a swell old time, and they played “White Rabbit” even though hardly anybody in the crowd was on drugs, at least non-prescription sort, so it was time to move on… there were benches to claim for the next acts, yes there were and I was the designated bench sprawler….

Watched a crappy cover band at teh HD stage for a while, and it started sprinkling, so I went for cover under a tree near the pizza place.  Skipped the food, because who likes damp pizza?  But it was weird to see the pavement steaming….


It lightened up a bit, and since I am not a Wicked Witch, i got a beer and went to the toilet; but by the time I was done, it was pouring again.  When the rain broke, I went to get a Lakefront beer, and saw Good Friends Mike and his son Mickey, coming to join us for Something To Do.  I got a beer, and we parked our butts right in front of the band.  Mike tells us that it is pretty much the only band that he agrees on with Mickey…

Oh yeah, every accolade I spouted was worthwhile; the band played in black and white formal wear and sweated awesomely.  Did we have a grand old time?  O did we ever.  The band was interviewed for local TV and we, being sober and reserved sorts, resisted the impulse to photobomb the video….


And then it rained.


We went over to the next stage, Whiskey Of The Damned was playing and while I knew one of the guys from his involvement with the Refugee stage, one of the group, friend-of-a-friend stylee, knew the guys more intimately.  So I talked shows and bands with him , and mentioned Black 47, to which he did the ‘stinky smell’ face. And then he said that he didn’t like them in recent days, because ‘bands should just play music, and not play politics” to which I asked, as innocently as I could “you do realize that teh name Black 47 itself is a political statement?” to which he replied “sure, but when they started talking about Bush, it was not appropriate”

I will let y’all just bask in the hypocrisy of that man….

And then it rained.

Irishy punk bands are, by inherent nature, tending toward anti-authority and kind of leftist attitudes.  Which are just fine by me, yes they are. In fact, I would like to see more bands like Black 47 make explicit politics part of their songs.  Music is not only a medium that allows us to connect, it is a method with which we communicate.

Well, dude left.  Probably for the best.

Because (and this is where it is going to get all fanboy.

The Stanfields played, I hadn’t heard of them before.  Turns out they’re from CANADA!  Go figure.  But they were a perfect warmup for the Murphys.  Loud and foulmouthed and even several political harangues…

Wow, did I enjoy these guys.  They are quite a bit more raucous on stage; this was their first time in Milwaukee, so I bought them beers after their set (they wanted to catch Dropkick Murphys).  And My!  Didn’t we have a wonderful time?  We talked beer, and politics, and bands; the guys from Wednesday’s band, Town Heroes, stopped by since they are touring with the Stanfields.  They are all heading back today.

The Dropkick Murphys were, of course, excellent.

Final report after 2 days of Summerefest:  Each day I had someone spill a beer on me.  Both times by someone named Kyle (and different Kyles!)  Today I shall take no chances and if anyone whose name starts with a K comes near me I shall spill a beer on them FIRST.




It reminds me of me

The Marcus Amphitheater was built in 1987, and at the time was an amazing, addition to the Summerfest and it’s ability to bring in major acts.  The first show I saw there was either Graceland or Sting.  May have even got in for free.

But boy, is it ever showing its age.  Paint is peeling, structure is rusting, the video screens are nearly defunct. The egress is narrow and constrained and the toilets look like shit.   It looks especially grubby next to the BEEMO stage, which is directly adjacent.  I hope they have a renovation budget ready to go.

However, the music is still absolutely superb.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros/ Avett Brothers/ Violent Femmes

We got in slighlty after Edward Sharpe started playing.  They have a pretty cluttered stage; in fact, it was amusing to see the progression in stage sets.  ESMZ was filled, to the point you could hardly count all the people.  Then, a bunch of shit was removed, and the Avett Brothers had a mostly standard stage set with three risers, then more shit was removed, and hardly anything was left for the Femmes.  Kind of the reverse of the way the Talking Heads did it in Stop Making Sense.

Edward Sharpe was pretty good, trancey hippy type music.  Interesting vocals.  They ended with “Home” of course.

The Avett Brothers were a revelation.  One of my friends has been trying to get me to go see them for a few shows, but it’s never worked out, and now I regret it.  It’s kind of a punchy mix of bluegrass, country, punk and rock.  The cello player was particularly innovative, although I think they may need to add a bassoon player.  The show-ending “I And Love And You” was particularly sweet.

The band rocked the amphitheater, owned it totally.  And the banjo player was particularly stompey.

But, hey. Remember a couple of days ago, that big list of mine?  I had one full album listed, right?  Well, guess what album got played last night.  Right up front, all the way through, even with a little break between side one and side two when we flipped the album.

Was it a nostalgia tour?  Possible.  Possibly I am the wrong guy to ask.  The music is still pretty damn vital.  There’s still nothing that really sounds like it.  Yeah, the band, and all of us in the audience actually, have put on some hard mileage.  Although some of the people in the audience weren’t even born when that first album was released.

There was a time when the Femmes changed the sound and look of music, they changed what people though about punk music, what people thought about music in Milwaukee. For a while, the band couldn’t get booked in Milwaukee clubs, so they developed the acoustic minimalist setup so they could play outside of bars and on streetcorners.

Their history in the local music scene was on display on the stage last night; they brought out local guests throughout the night, sitting in as The Horns Of Dilemma.  Hilariously, Elder Dilemma Sigmund Snopek (number 3!!!) wandered out on the stage before the cue, looking for all the world like my drunk uncle wandering blurrily through the kitchen at 6 AM.  But the Horns filled in with just about anything that made noise, including Sig’s Alpenhorn.  In fact, the combo of Sig on the Alpenhorn and Peter Balistrieri on the bari sax pretty much fulfilled my bassoon yearnings…. and Silent Mike will be secretly pleased to know that Balistrieri has gone pretty bald.

In one of the most spine-tingling moments, Sammy Llanas from the BoDeans came out to sing with Gordon Gano on the album closer, “Good Feeling”.  It was so good to hear Sammy’s voice, and the way they sang together, and when Sammy sang harmony, it added a depth and resonance to the song that wasn’t quite there before.

There was a time when the Femmes had changed music, and then music changed them.  There was a time when it wasn’t fun for them anymore, and Victor DeLorenzo, the clown of the group, was the first casualty.  The tensions between Gano and Ritchie grew insurmountable, the songwriting suffered (although they could still hit high points like “American Music”).  But those tensions didn’t show on the stage, or at least they didn’t stop the band from pulling out all the stops on an incredible show.  It seems inconceivable that they haven’t played in town for half a decade.  They brought all their friends and family out to play (and Ritchie gave a shout out to his son, recovering in Madison from a double-lung transplant.  Holy shit) and you could see the opening bands, watching from the backstage balconies, paying tribute to the band.

There was a time when the Femmes were the sound of teenage discontent and angst, there was a time when the Femmes were the godfathers of Milwaukee Music.  There was a time when they could pack the Summerfest stage, making the crowd dance and scream and yell and spit.

Last night was a time when we could all reconnect with our younger selves, our younger friends; last night was time we could, perhaps, siphon a bit of that youthful energy.

Now, if only I could reconnect with my younger feet.  Ouch.  Gotta go.  There’s this festival….


This year’s Unofficial Summerfest T-Shirt:






The Brethren are attending, apparently.


No time, no time.  Sending plans to the printer and then I have to get my first Hot Link of the fest!

Femmes tonight

End of the Beginning

So, with this, we’re finally through the 25 Songs That Made Me Zombie. I agree with Zelmo (and Z, dude, you should feel free to use a real name on the S-Fest-Blog.  Or don’t it’s the internet, who cares?  It’s not like the NSA doesn’t know who you are anyway) , I like re-reading this every so often, it reminds me of all these great songs and how they led me to this place. 

Which is, of course, SummerfestBlog just two days before the Gig becomes Big.  And even if I am such a slacker that I don’t get a beer before 1:15 (and hey, paleo, you’re welcome to come down early on Wednesday just to make sure I make it in there at Noon) Opening Day is still a fine time, and we are back in the swing of things by early evening, when the Violent Femmes are back on the Paying Our Legal Fees Tour.  There won’t be any new music, but what the hell?  Some of the Femmes’ best shows have happened when they are ready to go all Police on each other.

Gonna try a little something different this year, have added a Twitter feed over there on the right.  Up-to the minute shenanigans reports!

Without any further delay, here’s part 5.  Probably won’t be back till opening day, so fill up the comment threads!  Make me feel alive!


Songs that made me rotten, 21 – 25

Finally, the end of this interminable series.  I can’t believe how tough this was; incredible props to BG and MenD for making it all the way through the 100 post challenge.  After trying this, there’s NO FACKIN WAY I’m trying that.  I did enjoy it though.  But I’m moving on, moving on.  More important things to do, people to ban, strangers to insult….

• 21 Shadow of a Doubt, Sonic Youth
This showed up as the opening track from a comp tape I copied, created by a guy I shared a studio with in college. I had not really heard much of SY before that. This song starts with a nearly subsonic drone, and Kim Gordon pretty much speaking lyrics of alienation, eventually building to a screaming, instrumental assault. As with so many other songs on this list, it was unlike anything I had heard.

It wasn’t really punk, but it didn’t fit into any other genres either. A couple of years later, they had a near-hit with “Teenage Riot” from the epochal album Daydream Nation, but the single/video version of that song omits the chiming, chanting extended intro that precedes the atonal guitar riff.

Oddly and amazingly, the band has remained intact and active in all the years since. [ edit update.  Kim and Thurston split a little while ago, and the band has gone on hiatus or dissolved, depending on who you listen to]  Their recent stuff has dwelt more extensively on a subdued droning pseudo-psychedlic sound that doesn’t challenge the listener, maybe, as much as before; this may have something to do with a burglary of their instruments, many of which had been modified to play on certain songs, and their loss made it difficult to play some of their older songs.

I saw them open for Neil Young and Crazy Horse to a largely hostile crowd of yuppies at the local barn, but it was fine show nonetheless and they hit the stage name-checking local noise-meisters Die Kreuzen. (The show also featured Social Distortion. It was a noisy night). Recently, they played the Pabst Theater, a much more intimate venue, and the trippy psychedelic sound ruled the night. But while it was a slow start, the constant building tension they created eventually subsumed any reservations I had. The less aggressive posturing was maybe less immediate, but more penetrating; maybe more reflective, more indicative of the distance the band, and a large number of us fans, have traversed in the intervening years.

In the end, Sonic Youth has always made the noise that they wanted. Radio airplay has never been an end, commercialism and sales are only relevant in their relation to being able to continue doing what they want. Perhaps this is what has enabled them to endure, and with every release, I still hear the impulses that I heard on that tape. Middle age mutters and groans, where youth used to scream.

PS. I still have that tape. Kent had skillz; thanks, brother.

  • • 22 Radio Free Europe, REM

  • All through this series, I’ve been talking about the sounds that restructured my brain. In 1982, this was never more true than when the first REM disc dropped. I recall that I bought it based on word of mouth from a music review.

    From this Brave New Century, it’s hard to imagine, I suppose, a time when there was nothing – NOTHING! that sounded like this. REM blazed the trail for College Radio; I played this album incessantly, for everyone who crossed my path.

    I can’t even begin to relate how much this album and song changed the things I thought about music.

    REM were the anti-radio band. The guitars were too sharp, the lyrics were diametrically opposed to love songs (when they were not completely indistinguishable) and the band hated nearly everything to do with the music business apart from actually making music.

    This song charges from a brief clattering intro into one of Stipe’s rarely discernible lyrics about the miserable state of radio at the time. Although REM eventually conquered the music industry, the state of radio is even worse today. [Edit moar.  Radio?  Who listens to radio?  Even SatRad has gone down the tubes, Zelmo]

    After this, I’ve followed the band through it’s career, even managing to see them at two peaks: in a small theater on the tour (Camper Van Beethoven opening !) and at a shed on the Green tour. I even like the new stuff. I still hear the shimmers and mumbling from that improbable band in 1982 and it still echoes through the hollow spaces in my head.

  • • 23 I Hate To Wake Up Sober In Nebraska, Free Hot Lunch

  • Long Story.  Feel free to get a drink.  In fact, make me one too.

  • It was a hot, humid Saturday. I had a friend visiting and we did some drinking the night before. We got up at the crack of noon, and Since it was so hot, we started the afternoon by playing Non-Euclidean Croquet and drinking large boat drinks with much ice. After finishing the booze, we wandered off toward the bar area of town, stopping briefly at a music store to abuse the instruments until we got kicked out.

  • We wound up at the Hoist House in midafternoon; the A/C slotted in over the door struggled gamely to keep up. We ordered a pitcher of Augsburger Dark, but the heat made it hard to drink it with much enthusiasm. Not to say we didn’t soldier on, of course.

  • The day changed when someone walked by with a couple of gin and tonics. Glistening and seductive, filled with ice, smelling faintly of lemon; I nearly passed out from thirst. We passed the time in a happy fog of gin and ice. One memory I have is of my roommate introducing us to his new preppy girlfriend complete with Izod shirt. Fueled by an afternoon of alcohol, I graciously shook her hand, leaned over and ripped the stupid alligator off of her shirt with my teeth. She took it with humor; it wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened with Dave’s friends.  I bought the next round.

    A band started setting up, but we barely noticed. In the early evening, a band member came over and tried to hit us up for the cover, and the only thing that kept us from leaving was the bartender’s intercession; we had spent all afternoon blowing our money on drinks, and he talked them into comping us.

    Fortunate? It was the beginning of a most improbable relationship.  FHL, from Madison, played a mutant mix of jazzy,  folky, kinda country tunes with a dose of Buffett and fueled by tequila, and nothing could be further from the kind of things I liked to listen to. But the band were (are) ace musicians, talented songwriters and gifted singers with a tremendous sense of humor , and a truly staggering collection of hawaiian sportswear. Which we fans have adopted with a twisted enthusiasm, and more than once the band has mentioned that from the stage the audience looks like a technicolor yawn.

    I have no recollection of what they played. I know that we laughed uproariously all night; I vaguely recall my friend coming back from the bar with a tray full of tequila shots, which we shared with the band. I remember heckling the band, and being mocked in return.  Coming to the next day, I found I had purchased their full line of merchandise.  I wrote a barely-coherent letter to my then-girlfriend.

    Funny thing about the music. When I’ve played it for people, they usually look at me sideways, wondering what I am hearing.  While pleasant and likable, their studio recordings never quite capture the essence and it seems that to really get Free Hot Lunch, you have to see them perform. Which we have, o my yes.

    There’s no way to count the number of times we’ve seen them play. In many different cities. We went to Hawaii to see them reform after 15 years. We saw them in Florida on a two night gig. We saw them at the legendary Club De Wash in Madison on New Year’s Eve. Summerfest, time after time at Summerfest, sometimes playing twice a day. They recently released a DVD of a Barrymore Theater performance, and we can be seen numerous times in the front row, dancing and singing. And drinking.

    I learned how to drink tequila with this band. I’ve seen the band stop playing in mid song because someone brought tequila to the stage. I’ve also seen the band stop playing when someone left to go to the bathroom, waiting patiently for them to come back. They also once forced me to leave the bar before they started playing, run back to the apartment, and bring back the forgotten toy chainsaw, an indispensable part of Trees In Love. We toilet papered the Kenwood Inn, and left uncounted numbers of shot glasses in the light cove and threw Oreos at the band.

    EDIT:  Before:

    Somewhat After:

    We all got a lot older. But when a song like Reiba’s Cantina or Mambo Man come up on the iPod, some of the years drop away, and I feel, for a couple of minutes, like I’m twenty something again, and all the load drops from my mind…. Wa-Ha, friends, wa-ha indeed.

  • • 24 Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes
  • This is the only full album on this list. And why not? Is there a song on this album that isn’t essential? These tunes were tempered by playing to hostile punk crowds who had little patience for the acoustic instruments and whined vocals, and every song was reduced to an ungainly, sharp-edged purity. Not a bass line out of place, every choppy guitar lick essential. It took a chance encounter with James Honeyman of the Pretenders to bring the band to the attention os the record label Slash, and even Rolling Stone took notice.

  • Opening night, they are playing the Amphitheater.  The first time I saw them, they were at teh UWM Union just before they released their second album; they had a pickup gang of locals playing with them as The Horns Of Dilemma (including local musical wizard and personal bud Sigmund Snopek THE THIRD!  In addition, they brought up a couple of local news writers to play as the Typewriters of Dilemma.  We’ve seen them play at the zoo, at Shank Hall, a fashion show at the Oriental Theater, seems like every venue in town at one point or another.  Their breakup made us sad; but such things happen, I guess.  They can either be triumphant on Wednesday, or fall into violent conflict.  Either way, it will be a furthering of the Legend.
  • It was promised that Under the Obama administration, a copy of the first album would be issued to every teenager upon entering adolescence.  Just ANOTHER BROKEN PROMISE FROM BARACK NIXON!!

    • 25 Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin

    Our family Christmas tradition was kind of bi-polar. On Christmas Eve, we would exchange gifts; this was when you would get socks and pants and other plebeian boring items. Then, after us kids were in bed, the ‘rents would unload the toys and fun gifts, as if Santa had come. Naturally, there was no way we could sleep or even wait until daybreak to see what we got, so we would barely fall asleep, then sneak quietly downstairs to grab the most likely stuff, and creep back upstairs (carefully missing the squeaky step). Invariably, my Dad would wake up, and yell up the stairs to go back to bed until it was really morning.

    So this one year, I received an AM/FM transistor radio. Avocado colored. With little round speaker holes Completely 70’s.. And at 4 AM, this happened to be one of the things I grabbed as we crept back up to our bedrooms to get an early start on the Day. Unpacked, plugged in batteries (did they come in the package? Don’t even remember. Unimportant details, my friends). And tuned in to some Madison rock station…

    That MONSTER RIFF came squeaking out of the tinny speakers, and Robert Plant screeching about something or other and the drums even at low volume distorting the little tiny speaker to some extent and it went on longer than any song I’d ever heard and I’ve never fully recovered and I don’t think I want to.

    The sound, THAT SOUND, drilled directly into my synapses from my tiny ear-holes, kicking my pre-adolescent brain-stem like you’d kick a rented flatulent orange dog.

    It’s a song that everyone has heard, of course, countless times. It’s maybe not that great a song, it’s probably not even that great a Zeppelin song.  But that winter morning, it realigned something fundamental in that little Rotten head and every time I hear, I remember that undefinable excitement of feeling that here-HERE-  is something with power.  OF Power.

    And then my Dad yelled up the stairs, telling us to shut the hell up and go the fuck back to bed. Which we did.  I took the earphone.
    As soon as I could, I got a job delivering papers so I could buy a stereo.


    Test For Echo

    After the last Turner Hall show, I texted Rory “So, when’s the next Summerfest warm-up show?” and he immediately came back “Old 97s at Turner”.  With Trapper Schoepp and the Shades opening, I was all the way on board. So this is the last music report till Opening Day.

    Started the night by pre-gaming on the deck with Lucy and a couple of beers and a warm-up playlist.


    In the old days, when you’d forget your tickets for a show, you would be screwed.  In the Modern World, all I had to do was give them my ID, and they copied my tickets. No Problems!  And then we had some flatbreads at the Turner Hall Restaurant, although the service was achingly slow.

    Joyce saw someone she knows from work; happens to by gigging with Trapper Schoepp on keyboards!  Last time we saw Dustin, he was playing with Promise Ring at Summerfest.  Cool as it was, I was sorry to hear that he was replacing the fiddle player.  But given the intensity with which TS&TS are touring, not everyone can drive all over the country.  They are heading out East right after, so they couldn’t even schedule a Summerfest gig, which is a tragedy.  It’s a fine venue for them….

    But so was Turner Hall.  Although we picked a location that kind of had a dead zone for vocals.  Moving a few feet to the side cleared it up.  They played some new songs, and some of Run, Engine Run. Dusty’s keyboards fit in really well, and as my friend Rory said “Trapper Schoepp is KICKING IT!  These guys are going places!”  Although we all agreed that they looked like they were twelve….

    One more.  Some hack named Dylan sat in with them down at SXSW:

    They’ll be back for the Brady Street Festival.  Perhaps I will go.

    The Old 97s, well what can you say?  Everybody I was with has a thing for Rhett Miller.  I am amused by his elbow-windmill strumming.

    They opened with my favorite,  Barrier Reef.  Listen:

    “Well I sidled up beside hersettled down, shouted ‘Hi There!My name’s Stuart Ransom MillerI’m a serial lady killer!’She said “I’m already dead”That’s exactly what she said…

    If you haven’t seen the Old 97s, don’t delay.  They are a fine fine mix of country rock and punk, and their songs are wonderfully ragged and polished at the same time.  And they have fun playing, except when someone throws a bottle at Rhett.  He didn’t find that funny, even though it was just a plastic bottle.  I suppose from his POV, all he saw was a projectile arcing toward him and being veteran of Texas honky-tonks, the defensive instincts are still strong…I thought for a minute he was going to leap from the stage…

    They played for quite a while, everybody got sweaty and drank many beers.  And my!  Didn’t we have a wonderful time?

    My pictures of the show sucked, so I am stealing these from Rory (who abandoned us to stand in front of the stageright speaker stack and destroy his hearing further):

    1013053_10151798678640209_658122387_n 21339_10151798678340209_906257963_n

    As expected, I was less than productive on Friday. which pissed off my boss.  But he’s an asshole, so I don’t care.


    Songs that made me Zombie, Part 4

    Here’s a few more of these.  Boy, this is taking a while, isn’t it?  One more after this, then it’s time for the Summerfesst Live Action reports!

    16 •  Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet

    Matthew Sweet has a new album out (ed. note; that this was originally written a few years ago.  Although he probably DOES have a new one out, depending on when you read this.  I’d check, just to make sure). Yes, if you don’t have it, you should.

    But many years ago, Sweet was an unknown. He teamed up with Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine, veterans of punk and art-rock, who lended a muscular urgency to this album that took quintessential power-pop and gave it a knife edge. They wrapped intertwining guitar lines around Sweet’s accomplished songwriting.

    I saw them on this tour, playing a basement at Marquette with unfortunately placed columns. Quine and Lloyd were not on tour. A couple of years later, he played at Summerfest with the Jayhawks and The Indigo Girls.

    Since then, he has continued to work the same vein, continually releasing chiming, shimmery power pop that in a sane world would be omnipresent on the airwaves. But he’s never been able to (quite) recapture the mix of pop sheen and raw energy that suffused Girlfriend.

    Not that I’ve cared. He’s so good at what he does. For a while, though, in the 90’s, it seemed like commercial music was poised to embrace simple, beautiful, and modern pop songs.

    Maybe it’s for the best that they didn’t.

    Postscript:  Last year, he toured again for the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend, and stopped at Shank Hall to play the whole album.  We had front row seats, and it was just as good as when it was released.  Sweet played an intensely worn Explorer. Although I decided to illustrate this with one of his encores, Sick of Myself, also a personal favorite. What a spectacular opening riff!  And the way they fake-end it three times…

    17 •  Viva La Vida, Coldplay

    Not much new stuff on this list. Maybe it’s because I’m less plugged in to new music than I used to be; maybe it’s because it’s natural for formative listening to occur to younger folks. I don’t know; but certainly folks like Chuckles and Pinko Punko amply demonstrate that there is no shortage of good new bands out there.

    I had resisted listening to Coldplay, even as they were receiving some critical success; there was such a critical backlash that I just never paid attention. I know there are going to be mockers and haters when they see this one on the List.  But this one, serving as a soundtrack to an iPod commercial before the album was available, commanded my attention.

    The song contains so many referents, it’s hard to pick them all out. There is some Radiohead in there, and a healthy debt to some of U2’s work. I also heard some nods to progressive rock, at least the less self-indulgent side of it. And after hearing much criticism of the vocals, I found I liked them. Quite a bit.  And the way the tympani come in at the first chorus echoes through my brain.

    Maybe it’s also because the song itself works within the bounds of pop songs, while expanding them maybe a bit.

    It’s refreshing to still be able to find new music that becomes important to me. As my son’s Spamalot shirt says, “I’m Not Dead Yet”

    But that was when I ruled the world…

    18•  Smells like Teen Spirit, Nirvana

    How many people has Kurt Cobain inspired? When this album was released, it was a sleeper, and I picked it up right away because of the local buzz due to Butch Vig’s involvement.

    The release of Nevermind was luckily timed; about 6 months later, Billboard revamped the way they calculated album sales, using actual register sales rather than distributor sales, so huge middleman sales of albums that don’t sell to consumers no longer registered as big hits and counts the albums people actually buy. Almost immediately, Michael Jackson’s album dropped off the top sellers and a little known semi-punk band from Seattle showed up….

    Kurt Cobain once said that they knew they had made it when Weird Al asked to parody this song.  His only concern was that it was going to be about food, but of course it wasn’t:

    The soft/loud dynamic has become trite, cliched by now; but in 1992 it was an a bracing addition to the punk aesthetic. The album opens with Smells Like Teen Spirit, and a better opening track is hard to find. London Calling, maybe, but I’ve already covered that.

    My favorite memory of this song, however, is riding in a friend’s brand new Porsche at about 85 miles per hour through an early evening office park while it blared from the stereo.

    19 •  I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

    All things being equal, sometimes three chords is one chord too many.

    20•  Drunk By Noon, Sally Timms


    Sally Timms of the Mekons covering a song by the Handsome Family, formerly of Chicago. This song is so sublime, Sally’s sweet voice murmuring the near-nonsense words that culminate in one of my favorite lyrical couplets ever.

    There once was a poodle who thought he was a cowboy,
    But he lived in a cage the size of his thumb.
    And, though his white horse was a box of toothpicks,
    He galloped around until hit by a car.
    Sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird
    Just to remind myself I'll never fly.
    Sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes
    Just to pretend I won't scream when I die.
    If my life was as long as the moon's,
    I'd still be jealous of the sun.
    If my life lasted only one day,
    I'd still be drunk by noon.
    Sometimes I can't wait to come down with cancer.
    At least then I'll get to watch TV all day.
    And on my deathbed I'll get all the answers
    Even if all my questions are taken away.
    If my life was as long as the moon's,
    I'd still be jealous of the sun.
    If my life lasted only one day,
    I'd still be drunk by noon

    This was released on a hard-to-find EP called Cowboy Sally that is well worth searching out. The rest of the songs are also covers, though she owns them totally and completely. But this song is one that always connects with me. And often when I’m drunk by noon.

    But I still know the song and the words and her name and the reasons.

    OK, we’ll be back to the 25 Songs That Made Me Zombie soon enough.  But it’s all Gaslight Anthem right now, and it’s time to play this;


    Well, I wonder which song they’re gonna play when we go.
    I hope it’s something quiet and minor and peaceful and slow.
    When we float out into the ether, into the Everlasting Arms,
    I hope we don’t hear Marley’s chains we forged in life.
    ‘Cause the chains I been hearing now for most of my life.

    Did you hear the ’59 Sound coming through on Grandmama’s radio?
    Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
    Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
    Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

    And I wonder were you scared when the metal hit the glass?
    See, I was playing a show down the road
    When your spirit left your body.
    And they told me on the front lawn.
    I’m sorry I couldn’t go,
    But I still know the song and the words and her name and the reasons.
    And I know ’cause we were kids and we used to hang.


    Young boys, young girls, ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.

    No, they’re not playing at Summerfest, but they are playing at Harley Fest, and we are going.

    Certain Songs



    It will require some jiggling of our party and weekend schedules, but I SO want to go to this one….