Monthly Archives: June 2014

Beauty And Ruin

Yeah, I had an Architectural Review Board presentation today, so I had to get a haircut and dress like I cared, not able to get to the Fest for lunch.  Sigh.  Well, I wanted to see several bands in the evening, so it could work out OK.  And the presentation went …OK; not great.  I’ve been to worse.  But in any case, the day was beautiful and when I got home, I really was kind of looking forward to a beer.

However, Wife Sublime’s day was going worse, and when I asked if she wanted to go down, she snapped at me and told me to JUST GO AHEAD WHATEVER!

So fuck it, I threw some dead animals on the grill and decided to update my timesheets and the Fest-Blog.  So here you go; I updated the Fest-blog.

And she eventually walked out, changed her shirt and said she was ready to go.  However, it was pretty much too late to catch two of the three bands I wanted to see, so as I said, fuck it. It wasn’t my fault and I could have just left without bothering to check, and somehow that was actually my fault after all.


In any case, I am having WAY less fun than this guy:

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Maybe tomorrow will be better.  It better be.

Rave On

Bad News:  Famous Dave’s Barbecue is NOT SERVING THE HOT LINK.  I will be starving all week.

So, First Day.  I stocked up on Famous Dave’s lunch items anyway, because the Hot Link Jones is strong.  But I don’t think I really needed that much soda.  Sheesh.  How about a bit smaller cup?

And speaking of smaller cups, the Riverwest Brewing servers are doing a severe job of cup-filling, treating the black line like it has the black plague.


As is not unusual for an early afternoon, there wasn’t anything on the schedule that I was familiar with, so I stage-hopped from the usual locales:  US Cellular, KNE, Briggs.  Saw some interesting bands:  King Washington, Caroline Smith, Chevonne and the Fuzz, The Belle Brigade, Kyle Feerick….but I kept on the move to throw off the trackers.  One of the new things is an awkwardly located ferris wheel:


In the Summerfest store, while I was searching for gifties and shirts (and scored a pretty thermal mason jar mug, even if it is disappointingly made of plastic) I ran into a friend from high school, Renae.  Well, that’s not quite the right term; she might be a sister-in-law, except she and my brother never got married.  She is the mother of my niece, but that’s a cumbersome construction.  Brother’s ex-girlfriend?  Well, they lived together for a long time and had a kid, so it was kind of more than a girlfriend.

So anyway, ran into Renae at the Store and we shared several beers, caught up and saw some a them bands.  And after eating some more unhealthy food, it seemed to be getting a bit colder and even if the beer was starting to go down pretty easy, I decided not to walk down to the opposite end of the grounds to see Leroy Airmaster or Ray LaMontagne and I made an early night of it, knowing I would be coming down the next day for some good music.


Let’s Get Drunk And Get It On

Good and Great Friend of the blog Rory tells us that it was nearly a year to the day that the Old 97s played Turner Hall.  I was pretty much dumbfounded, since it seems like much less than a year, but I am not one to dispute the keeper of the Ticket Stubs.  And, of course, he is right and I blogged about it.

It was a School Night, a Sunday and the band recognized the fact with amusement, thanking us for being out when the Normals would be at home preparing for  the working week.  We laughed, they laughed, and they launched into another song about broken hearts and alcohol.

Rory got another set list, he says it’s the third in a row for these guys.  Lots of songs, they played for nearly 2 hours.  They didn’t play some of the songs I hoped for, but as with anyone who has been around this long, how can they?  They played Time Bomb, Barrier Reef, Jagged, and a rollicking cover of Career Opportunities.

Between the personal issues, my fatigue and the looming workdays, we did not spend any time putting beers down our necks.  And, of course, that had little effect on how much we enjoyed the band.

Two guitars, bass and drums and a heckuva great ears for songs and hooks, not to mention the ability to capture singular moments in lyrics, and the band jacks them all into rock and roll vitality.

I know it’s a cliche for singers to say nice things about the city they’re in, and it’s an easy applause line, but Rhett Miller spent so much talking about how much they liked playing Milwaukee and Turner hall, and told a story about playing in town for the first time in a club where they got paid 50 bucks, but drank 80 bucks in liquor.  And he just keep smiling between songs; they played for over 2 hours, so I think they do like us!

Rory managed to get the setlist.  Look at how many songs they played:


So.  After that, we move into a short work week and Summerfest on Wednesday.  Join us!  Maybe I’ll find time to update the crap on this crappy blog.

A Ten-Ton Catastrophe on a 60 Pound Chain



Nick Cave being pensive, thinking about the first show in Milwaukee since a group bill for the touring Lollapalooza in 1994.  Or maybe just drinking and smoking.  Either way.

When the show was announced, way back in last year, I balked at the ticket prices and the good seats apparently went fast.  So I resigned myself to maybe skipping an artist that I really quite like; recognizing, of course, that my favorite album of his is Murder Ballads, and if he played that stuff without slaughtering people on stage like a goth-music mashup of a Penn & Teller show with a Gallagherian need for plastic sheeting  in the front rows, I was going to feel that they weren’t being true to the source material.

But when I saw some email blasts telling me tickets were still available in recent weeks, I looked and was a bit surprised to see they had opened up some really good seats. Since I have had some clients being more forthcoming with payments, I snagged some great seats.

It was, as I may have mentioned, the first time I’ve been in the Milwaukee Theater since it was remodeled from it’s old days as the Milwaukee Auditorium.  I had previously seen the Pretenders/ Simple Minds and the Clash there.  Memorably, for that second one (which coincided with an appearance from Frank Sinatra) the adjacent parking structure had a sign board which read “Welcome Sinatra  Clash Fans” like it was some kind of bizarro double bill.

We missed most of the opening band, Warpaint, and from what we heard, we missed out.  I hope to catch them on their next swing through this crappy lil town.

But gosh, what do I have to say about Nick Cave?  As a performer, he came up through the punk and goth environments, taking more than a bit of inspiration from Mr. Iggy Pop.  As a songwriter, he is dark and literate, hitting me in some sweet spots.  Murder Ballads, was once quantified by a reviewer as having more than 200 deaths over the course of 14 songs.

And, of course, Red Right Hand.

He opened with some quieter songs, but before too long the intensity built to incredible levels.  Do I need to mention his band?  Well I will.  Warren Ellis played almost every stringed instrument available, and he made them sing and scream.  There were two utility infielders who played keyboards, vibes, alternative percussion and a drummer who hit the hard times when he needed to.


Cave had a couple of risers that let him  move out into the crowd.  I was kind of intrigued to see that the crowd did not maul him, or grab at his shirt or microphone.  At one point, when he was out doing a lyric thing on one of these risers, a dude to his right was doing a phone video; and Cave very casually put out his arm and pushed the guy’s video down and out.  It was remarkably well behaved.


During the performance of Push The Sky Away (title track of the latest release, and what convinced me that I had not paid adequate attention to it) Cave wandered out into the crowd, at least as far as his mic cord allowed, and I found myself wondering if ACG could have popped for some cordless mics on the whole shebang.

I have mentioned the dude who runs ACG previously; I had done load ins/outs for him on campus back in those college days, and helped him set up a home theater system back when they were much trickier to set up than they are now.  And walking into the venue, I recognized him walking the other direction.  I was inclined to say hi, even though I knew he would not (or refuse to) recognize me, but seeing his Phil Spectoresque current look, was freaked out more than I thought.  Holey hell, Peter, you looked fucking shitty.

Overall, Cave played for well over 2 hours, and as with any artist of that depth of catalog, played unexpected songs.  The version of Red Right Hand was early and sublime; From Her To Eternity was all screaming catharsis.  Stagger Lee, from Murder Ballads was terrifying.

I confess I was disappointed that the encore did not include Death Is Not The End, but I recognize that it would have been weaker without the traded vocals on the recorded version. Could I cope?  Yes.

At the end of the day, I feel like it was worth every penny, and putting the Nick Cave notch on my belt was awesome.  Loud and dark and cathartic and still somehow emotionally rewarding.  Lovely indeed.

And it should be mentioned that I stole the piccys from Friend of Zombie Schaefer, who spent more time working his phone camera than I did.


13 Steps To A New You

IN the continuing pre-Festival Pre-Gaming runup and warmup, on Saturday night we made it downtown to an Evinrude Street fest to see Something To Do, The Best Ska Band working in America!  So it was kind of an EvinrudeBoy Fest.


It was a lovely evening for October, and there was some tasty tasty beer available; the bars lining the street allowed free coming and goings and there were at least three bachelorette parties doing some dancing and not a little bit of drinking.  And several dogs.

It was a strange little block party; there was little notice and no online schedule or anything; there was much emphasis on boats and engines; and there was a mounted policeman.

It seemed a shame that more people didn’t come out to see America’s Ska Sweethearts, but perhaps the more regrettable news is that Summerfest passed on them this year.  Bad move, Summerfest.  Very bad move.  Where are you going to get your local ska-punk now.


Well, we did our part.  So did the band.

Mighty Like A Rose

It was time, and long past if you ask me, for a Summerfest Warm Up.  Long past due, i’d say.  And since it was fricking cold and rainy, we owed it to ourselves to find a way to warm up and look forward to sunny days.

So we went to see Elvis Costello.  What else could we do?  Taking the stage, dressed very dapper in a charcoal suit set off by beatle boots with a lime green stripe as well as a lime green fedora, he was dressed for spring.


He’s never been one to repeat himself and likes to mix things up, so he’s been on a solo tour. Or, as he said when he moved from the center mike to a seat on stage left “Introducing my very special guest … me!”  Most tours, he rarely speaks preferring to play nearly non-stop but last night, he revealed a warm and mordant wit, along with some great stories about his life, particularly his father and grandfather.  It was almost a Storytellers gig, but with more music.

He also joked about hating to visit Milwaukee ‘because it always seemed to be 27 THOUSAND degrees below zero” until he discovered that we even had a summer here.  Who knew, right?

Even solo, he is such an energized and compelling performer.  His voice was superb, ‘from a whisper to a scream’ as the song goes.

He started by 8 PM and played until well after 10, clocking 28 songs ranging from his first album to his latest collaboration with the Roots, and several covers and standards; mostly on guitar.  He had a tasty array of pedals, and used a digital echo to provide rhythm guitar on songs like Watching the Detectives while he played a slashing aggressive lead.  During one of his recent songs, “Jimmie Standing In The Rain” he walked in front of the mike stand and using just that distinctive voice and the resonant acoustics of a gorgeous theater built when there was no such thing as electronic amplification, added a couple of lines from “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” as a powerful coda.  We had seen him do this before when he’s played this theater.

Elvis is one of my favorite artists, has been since I saw him play “Radio, Radio” on Saturday Night Live.  In fact, he played an early version of that song when it was called “Radio Soul”, and which was more about the power of music on the radio and far less caustic than the recorded version.

If you have watched his show Spectacle (and if you haven’t you owe it to yourself to do so ASAP), you know that he is a voracious student of music of all kinds, and the joy he felt at sharing a stage and songs with peers and heroes was remarkably compelling.  When he was an angry young skinny kid who seemed to go out of his way to be abrasive and off-putting, who could have foreseen his current status as Elder Statesman of New Wave and de-facto musical archivist for the new century?

He told a short story about being asked to fill in for Lana Del Rey on Letterman a couple of days prior, which seemed to strike his funny bone.  And so he played a song that he debuted on that show, “The Last Year Of My Youth” which is about living your own life on your own terms, no matter what others might say.  It’s not finished, but it looks to be a winner.

The night was filled with humor and songs, old and new;  Declan was happy to see us, and we him and my!  Didn’t we have a wonderful time?  The old songs sounded new, and the new songs sounded old and he recast many of them so it took a few bars or the first few words to be able to identify them, and damn if that didn’t make everything sound new and everyone feel young again.

And, as is his way and his tradition, he finished the second batch of encores with a rousing loud-guitar version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?, a song that we need even more today than we did when Nick Lowe wrote it.  A song that never fails to make me weep in sadness and hope.

I will close out with one of my favorite less-well-known songs of his, a cheerful sounding song about the Other Side Of Summer:


As ever, thank you Elvis.  Now, if the rain will let up we can go into Festival Season with no reservations.

And in that vein, Fest-Blog Favorites Something To Do will be playing something called the Evinrude Block Party on Saturday the 14th, at 3rd and Juneau.  We are there, especially in case they don’t make the annual Summerfest booking.  See you there, right?