Monthly Archives: August 2013

locking eyes/ holding hands/ twin high maintenance machines

Today’s Playlist is heavy on the Darnielle.

Seen his band three times now.  Never fail to amaze and blister and break strings.

watch his face every time she harmonizes:


I’m not answering the phone anymore today.

Summer of Punishment

Bad news, bad news.  Harley Fest has taken it’s ticket pricing cues from Lolla rather than Summerfest, and the basic ticket price is 79 bucks for a 2 day pass.  No 1 day gigs.

I was pretty jazzed to see Gaslight Anthem when they played there this Friday, but it is not to be.  The weekend is not destined to work for a two day pass, and that’s way too steep, even to see a favorite band unless it’s REM or the Mekons.


Sigh.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll get drunk and mow the lawn.


In the meantime, here’s a Milwaukee band that I finally saw at Summerfest, Juniper Tar.  I am liking them, and you should too, I figure.

American Wake

It may be counter-intuitive. but Milwaukee is home to a pretty notable Irish music fest.  It is, of course, held on the Summerfest Ground, because why not?


The Irish Immigrants who moved this far kept their heritage alive pretty well, and considering the discrimination they faced, who can blame them?  I dunno if they had a difficult time with the predominantly German people who were here (but there’s a reason that ‘German-Irish’ is a pretty common heritage in Wisconsin) but since drinking is an important part of both heritages, they have by now made their peace.

Irishfest attracts bands from distance, Ireland, of course; but also New York stalwarts Black 47 have been here often.  Currently, the hot performers are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Gaelic Storm, who pack stages.  But of course, we delve further afield….

The stage listings had an interesting thing this year; there were many bands with a graphic say “Music Nova Scotia “.  And I have to say right here that Friends Of Zombie The Stanfields would have fit right the fuck into this festival, yes.  I remarked that at Summerfest, a large number of the bands I saw and talked to were from Nova Scotia.  I have to give props to the city for making a fruitful effort to spread the music of the city around.  I kind of wish american cities still had money to do such a thing, but apparently our money is reserved for strip mining, bailing out rich people, and building weapons.


So, yeah. IrishFest.  Irish music.  Irish-y music.  We spent a long time watching Derek Byrne and Paddygrass and having good beers. and then looking for something appropriate at the late night headlining spot.  Which we found in a band called Cutthroat Shamrock, whose website says “punk, appalachian, and Irish” Oh my that’s a sweet spot that is.  The band looked like ZZTop after taking an unusual career twist, but played like Split Lip RayField had merged with the Pogues (although the bass player used a proper upright, not a modified pick up gas tank).  Here they are playing a song:

And even better, for their last song, they brought out the singer and fiddle player from local Irish-punks Whiskey Of The Damned to sing and play along.  AND THEN, because the stage crew had to break down the stage, but the band didn’t feel like stopping, they came out into the crowd with their guitars to sing one more un-amplified.  God, I love it when a band is having more fun than you are.

Then, we got new beers and wandered up the grounds to the next big stage, and saw Screaming Orphans (OK, I admit they could have picked a better name).  Four sisters from Ireland, playing, pop-rock, and including keyboards, fiddle, or accordion as necessary.  As Larry kirwan (Black 47 bandleader and Friend of Bastard) says “I am Irish, this is my music, that makes it Irish Music”.  As ever, seeing women in a band was great, considering the misogyny of the music industry; but even more, at an Irish music festival where women seemed largely relegated to playing fiddle or dancing that weird, restricted dancing style on the side of the stage.

And, being musicians, they of course knew that they should pay tribute to the local heroes (and because the are self-proclaimed Angry Girls):

Seriously, they had me at the “big hands” part.

And then they played this (but with three guys from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers):

I LOVED the lyric modification to “shot of vodka/ shot of vodka/ rum an a rum an a rum an a coke”

But as much as I love that song, i really want them to change the gender.

At the end of the day, I spent the evening at a wonderful festival with the woman I love, and we saw great stuff and had great talks and great beers, and I saw great new bands to add to my Library.

As is typical, I recommend all you readers to check these bands out, but not just by doing the cheap download.  Get your fucking ass off the fucking couch and go see some fucking live music. Rock music is not the only one that lives in the live venue; musicians live to play for YOU, so goddam it, go out and be the second half of that equation.  Music means NOTHING unless someone is receiving….

Then Came The Last Days Of May

Blue Oyster Cult was on of my earliest musical insanities, and one of my longest-lived.  They always were a bit too involved, erudite, and weird but still lumped into the early cultural ghettoes of “heavy Metal”, to be a band that was stereotyped.  I saw them on the Cultosaurus Erectus tour, and several time after.  But they were less about the headbanging testosterone metal scene than they were about good songs with interesting lyrics and a great band.

Oyster Boys Are Swimming for Me; just one deal is what we made, now

Do you think the zombie persona would have come around without the musical background of the Oyster Boys?  Come on.

I saw them at the clamshell in Madison, and Alpine Valley when they were at the top of their game.  I saw them at their worst in a crappy hall  in wisconsin, and I walked out,  After all that, I decided that fifteen bucks was worth it for a local show in a small club…and was fucking blown away.  It was all the best of what I loved about the band, and they had decided that playing for appreciative crowds of any size was worth it.

But one of the high points of that show was Al lanier playing “in Thee” on an acoustic guitar.  Fuck, even then he looked like he was dying.  Al ALWAYS looked like he was dyin….

“Jim says some destinies, should not be delivered… Winning, it makes losers of us all”

Love, it makes strangers of us all.  When we fall.

Allen Lanier died this week.

So I wrapped myself in cities I traveled

I wrap myself in dreams

I wrap myself in stranger’s arms

But I wish I could wrap myself…. in thee.

His band helped make me who I am today.  He was a compatriot of Patti Smith and Jim Carroll, and his work si fucking important and I am sad that he is gone.

I am going out on the back deck to listen to a shitload of BOC and make a bonfire.

Meet Me Where You’re Going



I am just as snarky and ironic and Insufferable as any music snobs.  Let’s be straight about that, and I doubt that anyone of the normal fucking people (or, as Prof Hubbard says, Pay-OH-play) figures anything different.’

So, you know, maybe you folks are not the best folks to accompany me to a band of young people who are fervent plunderers of old music.

Bear with me, I think this makes sense.

Rory texted me late afternoon, saying that there was a band at Turner Hall, and  I will tell you right now that Turner Hall is one of the best places to see bands, hands down.  So, by the transitive factor, if a band is there, they must be awesome. I think nobody can reasonably argue that.

So we meet there, and the opening bad was serviceable.  To me, they sounded like a lot of very young bands do, like they’ve been raised on YouTube and think landing a song on a car commercial will be the best way to hit it big.  Well, I was raised on the radio, and saw what that environment did to bands, chewing them up and spitting them out while cruelly ignoring most; so who am I to argue?  Twin Peaks, they were called, check ’em out before David Lynch sends his high-priced but weird attorneys to visit them.

I think Foxygen is a dumb name.  Especially for a band that isn’t playing electro or dance music.  But again, who am I to argue?

The only thing I knew of them was this song:

I was told that band were sardonic hipsters, making satirical references to hippie music tropes; but honestly, I could not make out any tongues in cheek from anybody in the band.  Except maybe the guy being out-of-time on the tambourine, during the songs he wasn’t faking on guitar.  Well, that’s what it looked like from where we were.

I saw an honest affection for older music, and Rory and I had a swell time playing Name-That-Influence from bands that recorded before most of the kids in the audience were even born.  Well, it sounded new to them, I guess.  I told a few of them about this new English Group, the Lead Balloons or something like that…

But everybody draws from the past in some way.  (I have seen a compelling case that Led Zep, in addition to plundering many older blues players, also quite freely appropriated from their contemporaries when they could).  REM once sang “standing on the shoulders of giants, leaves me cold” but they were working from templates laid down by the Velvet Underground and the Byrds (and doesn’t that “San Francisco” song sound kinda like an REM song?).  So we made ironic, sarcastic mockery of the ironic, hipster kids who thought they were enjoying sardonic hipster music.  It was like a triple reverse irony backflip.

In any case, Ror and I had massive amounts of fun, and the band was entertainingly anarchic on stage.  And since they didn’t have the young lady touring with them, they had the integrity to not play their current single.

Present Tense

[Apologies to everyone, expecially Zelmocaster, for taking so long to get this pulled together.  Has it really been over a week?  I guess Mr. Calendar says so. It’s been a while since I wrote, and having a tough time finding a way into this post….]

Hey, remember a while back when I wrote about seeing Matthew Sweet play at Shank Hall, doing a full album set of “Girlfriend”?  After the show, we saw the members of the Shoes hanging around, not at all surprising to see them show up.  I hope they got a chance to hang with one of their (followers?  Contemporaries?) after.  At the time, they had just released the stellar new album “Ignition” and I wanted to ask if they were going to do any shows, but I didn’t bother them.  I would find out eventually, I was certain.

I did, when I got an email from Zelmorama that said “SHOES!!!!!! I have your ticket!”  And it would be a Friday, so not a school night.

The opening band, Sugar Stems from Milwaukee, were a great, young band.  You know that song from the movie That Thing You Do, “That Thing You Do”?  (heh).  Well, it would have fit right into the setlist.  and the band seemed to be kind of star-struck, opening for power pop legends as they were.

But when Shoes hit the stage with a track from that recent album, I wondered if we had made the right choice; the harmonies were kind of for crap.  WTF, shoes?  I mean, I am not one that insists on note-perfect renditions, but the harmonies on these songs was kind of important, guys.

I needn’t have worried, and I should have cut a little more slack for some guys my age.  It just took a song or so for them to warm up and get back in sync with each other.  I wonder if they were a bit nervous, too?  They hadn’t played out that much recently , and Milwaukee audiences are notoriously savage….

I don’t have much to say beyond that.  They sounded great and had fun, and played like 30 songs, including 2 encores.  So here are some pretty good videos someone got of the show, with decent sound — although I will say that they sounded better from where we were sitting right in front of the sound board.


While talking with the band, they mentioned that they were playing the next night in Evanston, at a bar that was more “intimate”.  Hilariousl because Shank is a 300 person club, and far from cavernous.  Perhaps they were talking about the fervor of the crowd at Shank,  who brought them back for two encores.  We talked to the band after, and got things signed, and I just ordered the biography of the band that will be out in a couple of weeks.

I don’t have any real seque, or story, or point to this post; sometimes music is just about having a good time.  Sometimes it’s just about old friends and new friends, and trying to catch a piece of magic, as was so easy when we were all younger.  So for those keeping score, it was a few beers with a good friend, some new music, some old music, and we all just had a wonderful time.  Didn’t we just!