Monthly Archives: July 2017

Playing Harp For The Fishes

It is pretty much becoming a cliche for me to talk about discovering local bands at Summerfest, and to extol my affection for the completely local and independent Rebel Music Stage, run by Eoin McCarthy, leader of Whiskey of the Damned.

Well, Thursday the 6th was the day for both.  I had a vague inkling to come down mid afternoon to catch some Emerging Artists, and then hope to catch a Wave.

The first artist, Beth Bombara, maybe is more of a regional artist than local, as she’s from St. Louis.   But as mikey says, “Beth is truly the prettiest of the Bombara sisters…” and she is pretty talented as well.  But otherwise, that was the furthest afield we traveled in the acts we saw on this day.

Here’s what another writer had to say about a Local Day at Summerfest.  We concentrated more on music, but I applaud the effort…and our day coincided with his stop for D’Amato.

I had heard good things about this local act that piled eleven participants on stage.  Standard instruments, horns, dancers, and backup singers.  the Leader, D’Amato, had tremendous stage presence, a great voice, and was an Official Big Guy like me, so I see why his group is obtaining good reviews.  But the hip-hop/funk they played was not necessarily in our wheelhouse, so we made the very familiar trek south a bit to the Rebel Stage, where we caught the last punky song or two by Newvices.

Up next was a band called WarPiper.  They had a bagpipe, and opened with Ace of Spades, which should give you an idea of what they were all about.  Most of their songs were covers, but well chosen and they were pretty fun.  No recordings — yet.

At this point, Kyle showed for an extremely short interval, so we went to another stage to see an accomplished young emo punk named Whips, who are also drumming up a fair bit of buzz.  I liked ’em, but I think a bit more maturation will serve them well.  They have all spent time in other bands, so they are rapidly cutting their teeth.

At that point, Kyle turned into a pumpkin, so I went back to the Rebel Stage.  Of course!  A band called Blood Red Boots, from Chicago, was holding forth with a set of emo that had some prog overtones.  The guitarist and bass player were both wireless, so they spent most of the time out in the crowd, on tables and such.  The poor singer, with his microphone wire!  He was limited to about 12 feet of travel.  But they were a very accomplished set of musicians, and they have a pair of EPs, and now so do I.

Next up:  The Roving Scallywags, an Irish punk band from the Appleton Valley.  They were good!  Alas, another band with, as yet, no recorded output.  I hope they rectify it soon.

Finally, after a few delays in sound check and suchlike, Uncle Fergus’ Magic Whiskey Band came on.  We saw them last year, and regretted that more people didn’t stay for their set.  They play a lot of re-purposed covers, along with some well worn traditional songs, with a couple of originals like the story of Uncle Fergus and his Magic Whisky, which makes you lively, makes you frisky.  In particular, they played a future cover:  “The Ballad Of Jayne” from the tragically short lived sci-fi series Firefly.  I think I was the only one there who recognized it.

so…you know how you go to see a band, and in between songs, there’s some asshole in the crowd who yells “FREEBIRD!!”?  Well, I shamefacedly have to admit that are than a few times, I was that asshole (I got better….).  But, of course, I never particularly liked it or wanted to hear it.  So it was HIGHLY amusing that they got well into the first refrain before I recognized it, particularly in the rollicking Irish jig they rendered it in.  But it got EVEN MORE FUCKING FUNNY when they mashed the song up with “Come Sail Away”.  It was joyous and hilarious, and we decided it was an adequate end to a superb day that consisted entirely of local and local-adjacent new music.  Ah Summerfest,  Sometimes you inadvertently serve up the best of days without expecting to.

As ever, I heartily encourage you to dive in and follow the links for these bands.  They are all deserving of support and who the fuck knows, you might find something you fucking like.

Town Cryer

A friend of mine was looking through my CDs once, and remarked “Dude, do you think you have enough Elvis Costello?”   I responded saying “can you think of a BETTER artist to be obsessive about?”

After the rampant musical excess of Summerfest, Milwaukee continues to make the most of the all-too-brief summer weather by making every weekend some sort of excuse for drinking outside.  This weekend was Bastille Days, when they shut down several blocks downtown in the shadow of City Hall, and do…French stuff, I guess.  It involves drinking and eating and a forty foot replica of the Eiffel Tower built by the engineering school.

And music, of course.  Friday evening was a double set by perennial favorite local ska-punks Something To Do, who were soldiering on, down one guitar player due to “honeymoon”.  I made a crack that they went through guitar players like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.  HAH!

They played a new song about Richard Spencer, that Alt-right Nazi dickweasel who got punched in the melon on TV, which inspired a spirited discussion on when it is appropriate to punch someone on the melon.  The Internet quickly determined that punching Nazis is perfectly appropriate.

Anyway, this is their most recent single, “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”

So tonight, Elvis Costello (as BBBB calls him, Brother Declan) and the Imposters visited Milwaukee for the umpteenth time in recent years.  Seriously, I think we’ve probably seen him 10 or twelve times by now, and he is consistently one of the most rewarding performers, never playing by number or phoning it in.  He especially likes our Riverside Theater, as we’ve seen him a couple of times where for the encore, he sings into the hall using no amplification, just his voice and the conducive acoustics.

For this show, he was focusing on Imperial Bedroom, one of his albums that took me a while to warm up to but has over time and evolution become one of my favorites.  It has a subtlety and complexity that rewards focus and repeated listens.

For this tour, he brought along a pair of singers, Kitten Koroi and Brianna Lee, who really punched up the vocals of the songs.  Especially on the show-closing encore, “Everyday I Write The Book” and when they sang “Alison” with just Elvis on guitar.

They played for an initial set for a bit over an hour, and left, then came back for a batch of slower, more focused songs with limited instrumentation, eventually bringing out the band for full throated closers “Man Out Of Time” and “Pidgin English”.

Did I say “Everyday” was the show closer?  Nah, that just set up the band intros, then they barreled full-tilt into “Pump It Up” and then blasted the roof off the joint with    “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”

Damnit, pretty much every time I see him, that is the finale;  I KNOW it’s coming, I know every line and every chord of that song, I know Elvis didn’t even write it, even if his is the definitive version, and every goddam time it makes me weep.  And in this time, the lyrics seem much less hippy-dippy goofiness, but more prophetic and even more relevant.  Maybe one day Elvis will no longer feel the need to sing that song.  But for one more time, it brought a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine….

Here’s another version.  Apologies for the gratuitous Dave Matthews, and the gratuitous Glenn Frey; perhaps made up for by the Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, and Mike Mills on the big strong bass.

 


Reiba’s Cantina

The Second Saturday was a day that we had a painful choice to make.  It was a good day at Summerfest, with the likes of Brett Newski and Trapper Schoepp; or it was long time Zombie faves and friends Free Hot Lunch in Madison at the estimable Barrymore Theater (which served Patron shots for the event!)

In the end, we figured that we deserved the ability to, for one night, deem the Barrymore as the “Summerfest Western Stage” and do it up right.  And we did.

We met many good friends at a brew pub near State Street, and had many brews.  then we moved to the theater, where we got really good seats and started drinking in earnest.

for those who are not familiar with my enthusiasm for this band.  They are tremendously gifted folk-adjacent musicians from Madison who are fucking hilarious on stage -my first meeting with them involved us being incredibly drunk and heckling them, and they SHUT US THE FUCK Down – not to mention gifted musicians and songwriters and just generally nice fucking guys….

We knew they were going to do two sets -hence the hotel and letting someone else drive us- and there have been mentions by the band members that this may be the last reunion for the last time.  So there was basically no choice….

Good lord, they played everything, except the  best songs you wanted to hear.  But there was a new CD, from their first recorded show (“before we were funny”) and a new box set featuring re-mastered first few albums in a cute little box. I bought a shirt that I am positive will not fit me after the first laundering.

There was tequila.  There was beer.  There was silly white person dancing.  I sent mocking photos to Kyle, who was of course, not attending.

In the aisle queue after the show, John Corning told us “it was so amazing seeing you all – you don’t know what it meant to us – I walked out on stage to you guys and it made me tear up” and we said, “we felt the same way”.  Old friends being in the way where we see each other again…

It is probably more significant to me, in that the last time we’ve seen them, was n the opposite side of my existential Event.  that time, it was not necessarily the last time.  Except, for me, without the tremendous efforts of a world class hospital, it would,d have been, and we never would have known.

So this time, the band has pretty much signified that without silly stupid interventions, this is pretty much it.

I do respect  that an artist decides that ‘this is the time to bow out.’   Sometimes….


Thank God This Isn’t Cleveland

Yes that is a real song.  When Snopek was touring with the Violent Femmes, in Cleveland Victor DeLorenzo told him to play it during his opening set or he was fired.

Friday was a Tradition Day, when we saw Snopek at Summerfest.  He’s played every Fest since like 1972, and he looks it.    Heck, there were years when he played every day of the Fest.  Sometimes two sets!

But this year he seemed a bit off.  He once wandered the stage, looking for his big Monks’ Bells, which were right in front of him.  Hey, who am I to judge?  But he didn’t even bring the trombone or the alpenhorn.  But he has Denise, his partner and his musical partner, on stage to help him keep things on track, and a drummer to keep him in line and a painter to keep him….umm, colorful, I guess.

I remember seeing Sigmund play these shows with like eleven-teen keyboards on three racks, and he could be viewed over the banks with wild hair and wild eyes, pounding them like a lunatic.  And then they would break.  For a while, he used Macs to keep the various noises in line, but then the computer world moved on and he had all this data that he needed archaic Macs to access…

So then we caught a pretty great alternative-country-pop group called Porter-Sayles, who had vocals like the Edward Sharpe vocalists, but way less precious.  Plus, they won my affection by dropping in a few stanzas of the Genesis song “That’s All” into the middle of one of theirs.  But then, when I went to fetch beers (stop trying to make Fetch a thing, Zombie!) the rains came in, and used a break in the weather to bail on the show.


Beyond Belief

A friend of mine was looking through my CDs once, and remarked “Dude, do you think you have enough Elvis Costello?”   I responded saying “can you think of a BETTER artist to be obsessive about?”

After the rampant musical excess of Summerfest, Milwaukee continues to make the most of the all-too-brief summer weather by making every weekend some sort of excuse for drinking outside.  This weekend was Bastille Days, when they shut down several blocks downtown in the shadow of City Hall, and do…French stuff, I guess.  It involves drinking and eating and a forty foot replica of the Eiffel Tower built by the engineering school.

And music, of course.  Friday evening was a double set by perennial favorite local ska-punks Something To Do, who were soldiering on, down one guitar player due to “honeymoon”.  I made a crack that they went through guitar players like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.  HAH!

They played a new song about Richard Spencer, that Alt-right Nazi dickweasel who got punched in the melon on TV, which inspired a spirited discussion on when it is appropriate to punch someone on the melon.  The Internet quickly determined that punching Nazis is perfectly appropriate.

Anyway, this is their most recent single, “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”

So tonight, Elvis Costello (as BBBB calls him, Brother Declan) and the Imposters visited Milwaukee for the umpteenth time in recent years.  Seriously, I think we’ve probably seen him 10 or twelve times by now, and he is consistently one of the most rewarding performers, never playing by number or phoning it in.  He especially likes our Riverside Theater, as we’ve seen him a couple of times where for the encore, he sings into the hall using no amplification, just his voice and the conducive acoustics.

For this show, he was focusing on Imperial Bedroom, one of his albums that took me a while to warm up to but has over time and evolution become one of my favorites.  It has a subtlety and complexity that rewards focus and repeated listens.

For this tour, he brought along a pair of singers, Kitten Koroi and Brianna Lee, who really punched up the vocals of the songs.  Especially on the show-closing encore, “Everyday I Write The Book” and when they sang “Alison” with just Elvis on guitar.

They played for an initial set for a bit over an hour, and left, then came back for a batch of slower, more focused songs with limited instrumentation, eventually bringing out the band for full throated closers “Man Out Of Time” and “Pidgin English”.

Did I say “Everyday” was the show closer?  Nah, that just set up the band intros, then they barreled full-tilt into “Pump It Up” and then blasted the roof off the joint with    “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”

Damnit, pretty much every time I see him, that is the finale;  I KNOW it’s coming, I know every line and every chord of that song, I know Elvis didn’t even write it, even if his is the definitive version, and every goddam time it makes me weep.  And in this time, the lyrics seem much less hippy-dippy goofiness, but more prophetic and even more relevant.  Maybe one day Elvis will no longer feel the need to sing that song.  But for one more time, it brought a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine….

Here’s another version.  Apologies for the gratuitous Dave Matthews, and the gratuitous Glenn Frey; perhaps made up for by the Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, and Mike Mills on the big strong bass.


Every Kind Of Lucky

Thursday was a late start, so I did some Office Time.  Had to do Some Things, and got home in time to get down for the 2 PM start by Ukuladies.  Ummm….they started at 12:30.  Fuck.  I SUCK SO MUCH.

So we got down to see a really good set from a small woman named Beth Bombara, from St. Louis.  We liked her.  And we stuck around for a couple of songs from local Hot Shit band D’Amato, featuring a 12-person stage show (holy shit) built around the head guy’s ebullient persona and r&b/ rapping.  It was good, but wasn’t our thing….

Anyway, we got down to the BeeMO stage for perennial favorite and personal friend, for whom I’ve sung backup on stage (to an empty bar), Sigmund Snopek.  And he was fun as usual, but seriously….not completely on top of things.  At one point, he wandered away from his keyboards looking for his big european bells, which were right in front of him; kind of like the way Trump wandered around looking for his limo.

So, after this, we walked by the Rebel Stage, as we do.  First up was WarPiper, who opened up with a bagpipe fueled version of Ace of Spades.  OK; I’m convinced.

Kyle showed up for a few minutes at that point, so we watched the rest of their set, then wandered over to catch Milwaukee hot emo-punks Whips do an energetic punky set.  Then Kyle turned into a pumpkin, and I got a beer, and went back to the Rebel stage.

There was a Chicago band, Blood Red Boots.  Kyle will be disappointed, but even I fail to explain the sound of this band.  Except they were good, and both the guitarist and the bass player had wireless transponders so they spent most of the time in the crowd and on the tables, and the singer came out as far as his mike cord allowed.  bought the Ep.

After this was The Roving Scalawags, from the Appleton valley area, a bunch of Irish, a big part of Wisconsin, some noise and a bit of attitude.  Here, have some:

And we stayed there for the Uncle Fergus’s Magic Whiskey Band.  Who closed the night with a mashup of Freebird and Come Sail Away.  Here, have some:

Please to be understanding that the Rebel Stage operates completely parallel to, and disconnected from, the Summerfest general operation.  No money, no promotion; and Eoin likes it that way.  It is all local bands, promoted by local people, and supported by local people and volunteers.  Everyone there are the Best People, and they all get paid exactly nothing, so it operates on tips and goodwill.  So we will always throw a fin or two into the Tip Bucket when it comes around, because fuck it, these people need my meager dollars way more than if I spent money for shitty seats to see the Shins.

I bought my first guitar and took it home on my bike.  I love the guitars I have.  I suck at playing them.  I have been told that I have an ear for rhythm, and a decent dexterity on the fretboard.  But I chose a different path….

But here:  listen to someone else who spent the same day on Milwaukee bands.

He missed his shit by not spending the entire day at the Rebel stage.  Dumbass.

We spent pretty much the entire day there.  How lovely….

 


I Forgot What I Was Drinking To Forget

So, we bailed on the Fourth.  And looking at the schedule, the Fifth looked even sparser, so I pulled the eject lever and hit the silk.  Spent the day in the office, which surprised a couple of clients, even if I tried to keep it on the down low.  Got a fair amount of back office work done too; updating software, straightening files, throwing crap the hell out, trying to clean off my desk, paying bills….  all that fun stuff.

I am certain that this run of non-attendance is disappointing to Kyle, and may be alarming to others; but rest assured, health reasons do not make this decision.  THAT HARDLY EVER HAPPENS TO ME!!

Tomorrow is another day, and all that jazz.