Monthly Archives: July 2014

These Days Are Numbered

Jeepers, you can’t let Summerfest get behind you, or suddenly you are stuck on the couch late at night with a Kooba Zombre; watching a Clash doc and trying to catch up.  Writing deadlines are as much of a bitch as architect deadlines.

Sunday.  Fucking lawn looking like a hayfield with special doggy landmines scattered throughout, and a fucking rendering company waiting for updated 3D models.  So I picked up dog shit, mowed, and sat down to get the other crap done, and although I had optimistically thought 4 or 5 PM for time of departure, we made it before 6.  Yeah, whatever.

After catching some food items, we also caught a decent local power-poppish band called Living Statues.  Young but energetic and with loads of potential, and playing for a crowd that was starting to fill in for Kitten and later, The Neighborhood.  We went ‘meh’ and after meeting Zelmo, moved on.

Saw some other friends, and then moved on to be pretty un-moved by the updated barf’n’boogie of The Wild Feathers, so we got more beer and sat on the rocks for a while.


In the background there is the BEEMO Bankster stage, with Bad Boy winding down and  38 Special trying to figure out the chords to their old hits.  mikey be disappoint, but we were not tempted at all.

I wanted to catch The Head And The Heart, ever since someone turned me on to their first single and I was either too poor or too busy to catch their previous two stops in town at Turner Hall and the Riverside.  But here’s a great video that has some Milwaukee content from the Turner Hall show:

I laughed at the stage setting; it was like they started setting up their instruments from stage left, and filling to the right.  And there was a big blank spot on stage right.  Like they hadn’t figured out how to fill up a bigger stage yet.  And the band admittted that they had to figure out how many full band songs they could work up, as they had to play a headlining set for a large crowd at a large festival.

But the band rose to the occasion, I think; the crowd was pretty full (and none of the youngsters would offer us elderly folks their seats and they wouldn’t get off my fucking lawn either) and the youngs liked em and so did the olds.  Yeah they had a bit of a hippieish vibe, but they also had a groove and were tight and professional and made sure the crowd enjoyed themselves.  I think they are what Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros SHOULD be.  The new material shows an evolving mastery of instrumentation and dynamics, and the show they put on… well, it made us happy.  Zelmo in particular liked this song:

Yeah, it’s got that modern hippie vibe, but the band is SO GOOD at song writing, and  after a mere two albums, they are developing a real command of musical dynamics and give and take between three singers.  They seemed to be  a bit nonplussed at the size of the crowd, and were as adorably inept at stage patter as Genesis was after Peter Gabriel left.

Zelmo had to leave early; but when he asked us if we were coming down tomorrow (the Blank Monday) we traded increasingly unlikely bands we would be coming down on to see – BOC, the Mekons, Genesis, REM, and then talking about reaching through the gates for beers until he finally caught up.  It was much fun, it was.

And you know what?  Food, drink, friends and just a general rollicking good time – that is what Summerfest is about.

Well, that and a righteous sunburn to remind you that winter is not forever.



I’ll Take The Rain

We didn’t go down on Saturday, the best thing was Midwest Death Rattle. Otherwise the day was filled with your Reo Chuckwagons, your Dennis Robotos, your Michael McDonalds and fuck that noise, I say.

So here’s a summer song.

Here’s How It Works

So Thursday was a Bad Wave that reached out beyond the Fest grounds to grind things to a halt.  A Black Wave, if you will, and it was complete horrorshow.  And would Friday be better?

Wasn’t auspicious.  Wife Sublime had stuff to do with no estimate on completion time, so I skated to the office for the morning, intending to make it the rest of the way down for lunch.  Once I got there, I discovered I had forgotten my pass, and was THIS CLOSE to just paying for a ticket, but $18 was kind of a steep stupidity tax, and since WS texted that she was ready, I swung by home and got both so we made it down by 12:45 or so.  Lunch.

We walked the grounds, and decided to park at an upper deck that had a couple of nice beers available, a Black IPA and a good Oktoberfest.  Since it was kind of foggy, we sat in the sun and those of you who have followed SFB can probably guess what happens now.  Yes, that’s right, by the end of the day my traditional Fest-Burn was well on its way…

Anyways, the music.

Nothing much was compelling until we stopped at the Emerging Artist Series for Friendly People, an East Coast band with a kind of retro-REM influenced sound; but there was a clear dichotomy in their songs, and talking to the guys after the set and while buying the CD, they said that yes, there was a lot of new stuff there that hadn’t been played to such a large crowd yet.  But there were some really good songs.

We saw a friend and her daughter, and traded beers for a while.


Then, a Friend of SFB was playing two stages over.  Mike Benign is one of my favorite local songwriters, literate and tuneful with a distinctive voice, and I was really pleased when he formed his third band, The Mike Benign Compulsion a couple of years back.

Here they are playing a cover of another band covering a song, with a guy from some obscure band from Georgia:

At 9 PM, we were at the “local” band stage for another of my favorite local bands, The Championship.  A friend of ours joined them on keyboards for last year’s show, and the intervening time really showed; his parts were a much bigger part of the band’s sound.

They have a rootsy, alt-countryish sound and Joe Crockett has a great voice, at times reminiscent of Springsteen in delivery and subject matter.  He sings of lost loves and lost dreams and the bleak Wisconsin winters with the voice of a weary romantic.  His lead guitarist fills the songs with nimble, tuneful leads and fills, and the drummer does a great Animal impression.  I love ’em, I do, and you should check em out.

They finished their encores just before the adjacent 10 PM headliners were going to start soundbleeding all over the stage, and the smallish crowd was enthusiastic and I hope Joe and Co. sold a bunch of CDs.  Fuck, they deserve much wider reknown, I hope they find shit-crazy success.

There were plenty of bands to choose from at that point:  Third Eye Blind, Five Finger Death Punch, Tegan and Sara, Bleachers, ZZWard, Atmosphere….but we had been there for 10 hours, and the sunburn was feeling crispy so we beat the crowd out of there and headed home, tired and happy that Summerfest 2014 seemed to be back on track.

For many years, Summerfest had been criticized by local bands for not having enough local music, but one of the first shows I remember there was a triple bill on what was then the main stage of R&B Cadets, Da BoDeans, and the Vioent Femmes. I think the success of the Fest has been rough on the local acts, because there have been an increasing number of bands from around the country competing for the slots – it’s a festival, yeah, but it’s a huge number of fans, and it is more stylistically diverse than things like Lolla or Bonnaroo, so there’s a lot more ability to spread your music across boundaries; and I think the crowds are much more willing to find something new also.  And since the festival has permanent grounds, the stages are nice, and the facilities in general are so extremely well run that bands like to play there.

But the Emerging Artists Series and the Express local music stage have done a lot to open up some space for local bands, and there are several ad hoc stages along the lagoon edge that offer places for locals to busk. 

Ahhh.  A pleasing and tiring local music day at summerfest, I have to say it was an effective antidote to the previous day on any number of levels.  Ahhh.