OK. I am going to try and power through a few posts, play a little ketchup blogging…fair warning; quality will suffer. Am only a zombizzle, after all, and one with tired feet. If you want a refund, contact mikey.
The last Saturday. As I always say, this is a festive, albeit slightly desperate night. The End of the Fest is in sight, and time runs out. Tell you what, though; last year, I understood the real meaning of ‘Time Running Out’ and this is nothing. Nothing….
Here’s another throwback/reminiscence. Way back, when I moved to Milwaukee and was not even a zombie, I luxuriated, I reveled, I positively debased myself in the local music scene. There was so much good stuff happening; the Femmes, da BoDeans, R&B Cadets, Those X-Cleavers, so many more I’ve forgotten. We would go out to see bands every weekend, it seemed. The City, especially the East Side, was positively throbbing with music.
phew. I am a bit over-beered tonight. Not in the sense of being over-served; but since that is the beverage most available at Summerfest, I have had way more beer than I am used to this week. Time for a bit of the bourbon, to cut the foam. Excuse me….
In that heady, fervent time, a bunch of kids from Indiana saw the Scene, and decided to move their entire band to Milwaukee to be part of it. That band was the Squares, and two of the members were Brian and Scott Wooldridge. They wrote great, earnest, if maybe a bit raw alternative pop-rock hits in the vein of Elvis Costello and the Kinks, and I became a big fan. Here’s one of their songs from that time:
As kids are wont to do, we all broke up, made new combinations, and moved in and out of different gigs, different relationships. The Squares broke up and spent time in other bands. Brian and Scott played out as The Wooldridge Brothers, but eventually Scott moved to Minneapolis, and they both got jobs and moved their lives into other phases.
One of the bands I saw around was an arty alt band called Arms And Legs And Feet, mainly because a friend of mine did stage and sound for them. That band eventually morphed into Blue in the Face an alt-pop band with a three piece horn section and Joe Vent, one of those Squares. As I said up above, people move on and the leader of that band, Mike Benign (although his actual name is Mike Stefaniak) eventually broke up the band to have a life and start a family. But a couple of years ago, with the advances in self-recording, he put together a new venture called the Mike Benign Compulsion, and they played early at 6 PM. They mine a similar vein that his prior bands did, and you might do far worse for yourself than obtaining some of his tunes…
Mike’s band was good, and good old Joe Vent was on guitar, yet again. And best? He brought out Scott Wooldridge and Julie Straczewski-Wooldridge to sing on an excellent song written by Joe Vent and Brian Wooldridge called “I’m Troubled”. Yes, it is a somewhat incestuous music scene…
Since moving to MPLS, Scott has done a little bit of work with his brother, releasing Days Went Around and gigging infrequently. But he started writing songs again, and last year they did a Kickstarter to fund Scott’s solo album and a new Wooldridge Brothers album (did I contribute? What do you think?). Scott’s excellent solo album was released las year, and he did a fair number of shows in and around Minneapolis and the Midwest as the Scott Wooldridge trio.
perhaps most alarmingly excellent is that the Wooldridges were invited to play at the star-studded Big Star Third tribute show at First Avenue. As part of that show, they were tapped to play and sing on the Big-Star-adjacent song “I Am The Cosmos” and if you can’t be arsed to go read my Big Damn blogpost about the show, here’s the viddy again:
It was a bit surprising to see the Wooldridge Brothers score an 8 PM slot-opening for Ben Folds, no less. They had a big band, with another guitarist and a keyboard player and were they good? You tell me. They friggin opened with Star Of Desire, a regional hit. And there was a substantial crowd there to see them.
They played a couple of songs off the soon-to-be-released new album, and a couple of Scott’s solo songs. Also some well chosen covers; the Kink’s Picturebook and the Band’s The Shape I’m In (although regardless of my demand that they add it to their set, no “I Am The Cosmos”. They left after a nice 80 minute set. I went and talked to an Imaginary Digital Friend who has seen more local and punk bands than I have…
After much intervening life, the Wooldridges and many other people from that time are still kicking, and using their hard-won experiences to keep doing what they love. And I love that they are doing that. It gives me hope; it renews my determination when it had been flagging the past few weeks. Time is running out, yes; as it runs out for all of us. For some it runs out sooner; for me it was a near thing. But not yet, not yet; and, as ever, I am still looking to music to renew my spark and make me smile.
For a little time, at lest. And really, what more can you ask?
Thank you, Scott and Brian Wooldridge and the other musicians on stage tonight. You did your job well and I thank you….