Monthly Archives: July 2018

Good Night for Bad Decisions

Ooh, Friday.  Remind myself that this is the onset of the Last Weekend; As Something To Do says, “Everything ends it’s a simple fact…” and by Tuesday, I am going to be feeling like something is missing.

But today, everything was in place.  Favorite bands at the fest, and we went down a little early to catch a band at the Rebel Stage, the Roving Scallywags.  Somewhat predictably, the stage was behind schedule and we had to leave to get good seats for the next band, on an adjacent stage.

But at the Rebel Stage, were some friends who knew that they were likely to find me there.  They are smart friends!  So we all wen over to the next stage, and got front row seats for Something To Do.

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They’ve got a new album out (Design For Living) and haven’t been to Summerfest for a couple of years.  They looked snappy in their tradition ska two-tone clothing, and the horn players were peppy.  In fact, I could never get a picture of them all jumping around, because they were moving to fast for me to get my phone out….

More friends showed up during the show, and we all pop-ska rocked the afternoon way.  Later, after a pitstop, we hung out at the merch tent chatting with the band.  Next up they will do a nice long set at Bastille Days, where they become French.

Since we had a decent group that hadn’t seen each other in a while, we went to the rooftop deck at Water Street Brewery where I had a delicious Midnight Lager, and we argued about things like the Brewers and the streetcar.  I, of course, as the only resident of the city proper, was in firm favor of the streetcar, while the guys who lived in the suburbs thought it was a waste of money.  Huh.  Who could have predicted that?

And while I am asking questions, why was I the only guy who brought his wife along?

After a bit of this, we rolled back to the Rebel Stage where a pirate-punk-Irish band called Brave the Sea was scheduled.  Of course, the stage was still running way behind, so the other guys who had more of a drive home, headed out after hugs and kisses.

We hung for Brave The Sea and they turned in an energetic, if shortened, set of punky Irish sea chanty-shouty ….things.

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We were looking forward to Whiskey of the Damned, of course.  It seems like everybody else was, too:

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The stage area filled in as much as I’ve ever seen it.  people standing on tables, out in the circulation path, on the rocks….everywhere nearby.

Then the band started.

The sound was awful.  It started out with feedback that couldn’t seem to be tracked down, so the volume was turned way down and the packed bodies made everything mushy and indistinct. By mid-show, the sound had improved to barely tolerable.  It had gotten chilly, though, and since we couldn’t see the band OR hear them, there seemed little point.  so we pulled the rip cord and headed home.  We had seen them play better AND louder, and we knew we would see them again somewhere; best not to taint the good with a one-time bad performance.

It was still a good day at Summerfest.

 

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Wait So Long

Well, that escalated ….OK, not quickly, it kind of took all day.

I decided to go down for lunch, and there were a couple of things to watch for entertainment.  I rode the bus, and it was Children’s day, so free entry (I have the 11 day pass, so whatever, but still cool) and definitely needed a Martino’s Chicago Dog.  Got a beer and Ate it while watching the First Robotics demonstration.  WOW that was good.

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I want another one RIGHT NOW

I remember Pat McCurdy when he fronted a New Wave band, the Men About Town.  That was a long time ago, and they lost (barely) to Sawyer Brown on Star Search, so he abandoned the Rock Dream and since then, he’s been mining a solo sardonic music comedy show.  As he says on stage “it’s a ridiculous way to make a living, but I’ve been doing it a long time and I have a house!”  So I usually see him once a year at Summerfest, he has been there almost as many times as Sigmund Snopek.  I watched him for a while and had another beer.

Also, walked through the merch building.  No good t-shirts this year, but I got a pin and some nice fridge magnets.

Next, I went way north on the grounds and found a local band I hadn’t heard of, the Gleasons; an Irish-Americana-rock outfit that sing songs about Wisconsin and Ireland and drinking beer.  Sign me up!

From there, I rambled one stage over for the Whiskeybelles.  We first saw these ladies at Locust Street Festival of Art and Music, sitting right in front.  They are amazing; doing country acoustic versions of covers and originals with an infectious charm and enthusiasm for, yes, whiskey.  They even sell a flask!  As ever, they were great fun, with an excellent cover of Ring of Fire and a set-closing All Along The Watchtower.

At this point, my wife showed up and at the end of the set, Kyle.  Kyle doesn’t get to Summerfest too often anymore, so we make the most of it.  We got some Famous Dave’s BBQ, and then moved on.

We rolled down for a bit of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, who are fun in a back porch country blues kind of way.  He also thanked Summerfest for a slot in 2007 that got double-booked, allowing them a slot opening for Flogging Molly (I was there).  He also said “This is the kind of band you’re dealing with; we’ll set our friends on fire”. But my wife traded the washboard for a violin at the neighboring stage, a bluegrass band from Madison called Wheelhouse.

Now, this was probably my mistake in going over the schedule, because I forgot that we saw, and liked, Wheelhouse last year with Paleotectonics.  Now the important thing here is to remember in addition to being an excellent band, they have their own whiskey.

We parked for the remainder of their set, and Kyle had to leave.  Like I said above…. Wheelhouse finished their set with a rollicking cover of “Comfortably Numb”.  No really!

Let’s keep in mind at this point it was only 7:30.  I went over to an adjacent stage, where Jason Isbell was slated to play later, but the stage was MUCH bigger and seemed to be filling up pretty well already.  So we stayed where we were at, where we had snagged a pretty sweet table location.

So we were camping out for the headliner, and Dead Horses came on.

Dead Horses is a local band (again!) based on the songwriting of Sarah Vos and a tumultuous childhood and young adulthood, including losing friends to heroin (thus, ‘Dead Horses’).  A band I had not heard locally, but they’ve been receiving accolades and it was about damn time I rectified that, don’t you think?

At first I thought the music tended toward the mopey, but as I listened closer, I could see the depths waiting below, like it was a calm day on Lake Michigan, concealing the power waiting below.  By the end of the set, I was strolling to the merch booth, looking for at least the latest CD “My Mother the Moon”.  Alas, all they had were t-shirts, so I rectified it on my computer when I got home.

After this was another band, regional this time, that I like quite a bit:  Trampled by Turtles from Minnesota.  I first became aware of them when I stumbled across “Wait So Long” video on the internarfles, which became one of this songs you kind of ignore at first, then perk up somewhere in the middle when it really grabs your attention and then you have to listen to it four or five times.

Story has it that the band formed when the singer’s rock band equipment was all stolen except for his acoustic guitar; when he looked for people to join his new gig, he looked for people who also were not traditionally folk or bluegrass artists (the villain player was a drummer in a thrash band), and the band hit the stage like they were a thrash band.  Thrashgrass.  violent, frantic and propulsive, they refused front lighting so we could hardly see them or what they were playing.

For the entire set, they barely slowed down, once or twice, allowing me to sits my poor feet.  They played a short encore, featuring Petty’s “You’re So Bad” and another slower song to calm everyone down; my wife said “they probably shouldn’t even come out for an encore, they are probably exhausted”.

But they finished their set with that song that got me started, and holy shit I had forgotten how much I like this band:

We went home.  I went to bed.  Dammit.

That, I think, may have been the longest day I’ve ever spent at Summerfest.  I didn’t put a stopwatch on it (because Summerfest!) but it was 11 hours, give or take.  I saw seven bands and a bunch of robots.  I am glad we stayed, because HOLY SHIT Trampled by Turtles are really damn good.  But although I am not a youngster any more, I can still run the race with them, even if I don’t sprint.

Oh, and since the day was cloudy with possible sprinkles, I forgot sunblock.  So it got warm, humid and sunny, as it will.  Although it usually happens earlier in the run, as they say in Shaun Of The Dead, I’ve got some red on me.


Rain In The Summertime

 

I was sitting on the dining room table, writing yesterday’s post, when I saw a post from the Rebel Stage and realized that I wanted to see two of their artists in early afternoon.  As an independent stage, their  schedule is not dictated by the Overlords Of Summerfest, but it is also not part of their app schedule, so you have to figure it out.  Anyways, Wife Sublime was so excellent to drive me down so I could see a solo set from Eoin McCarthy and one from Andrew Weber, both from Whiskey of the Damned and dammit you should know that damn band.

I spent a fair amount of time there, and got to know many artists.  Because musicians are beautiful people.  But after a while, I had to bail so I could go get a place for Roger Clyne, who is also an artist nobody (other than mikey) knows.  And that is kind of when the rain started, on an off-and on pattern.

Roger was awesome, and I think he was better than when we saw him last year, but maybe that was because I was right up front:

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And then it started raining with more enthusiasm.  Roger said “in Arizona we consider rain to be a blessing”.  Sorry, buddy, but in Wisconsin we find rain to be a pain in the ass and it tends to dilute our beers.

We sloshed over to the stage where the Wooldridge Brothers was supposed to play, and they were scrabbling to recover from the downpour.  It took forever, and the band (a large band, 7 piece) were considering playing without monitors but they managed to get the magic in place, to allow them to play a hard and fast half hour set.

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Hilariously, their bass player Jack Rice immediately scampered to the neighboring stage, to play with Radio Radio, a local new wave cover band.  After much mopping, the band managed to play the first Cars album front to back (with extras) and a couple of good augments.  But I felt like the Cars themselves probably were not as good.  And certainly, they never had an ASL interpreter as part of the show….

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After this, I needed to buoy my glucose, and so I got a couple of tacos, and then we wandered for a bit, but hangin long enough to see Pat Benatar or Rick Springfield was, for me, a difficult sale.  So we bailed.


The Legendary Band (That’s Still Together)

As I said a post or two ago, I was pretty much decided that I would skip this day because of the heat.  But then, Mike Benign posted on Facebook that the heat was not so bad with a decent breeze.  Then, I reviewed a bunch of his, and Trapper Schoepp’s songs.  And so THIS is what I posted in response:  ” I was gonna skip it because of the heat, but listened to a couple of your songs, and some of Trapper’s, and said “Dammit! I’m going!” About to get on the bus…

So, this was the view as I waited for the bus:

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yeah, It’s a Beautiful Day….

So, my timing was perfect, even counting being buttonholed on the approach street by a contractor I work with (who laughed at me because I didn’t recognize him in normal person clothes), and I rolled in with enough time to piss and buy a beer.

I’ve been seeing Mike Benign in bands since I came to Milwaukee.  IN college, one of my friends (Scary Joe) did sound for most of his bands until Joe moved east. Although I don’t recall seeing Mike in his first band, Umbrella Man, I was an Early Adopter of his follow up; Arms And Legs And Feet.  They had a complex alternative sound that owed not a little to early Talking Heads and as an English Major, Mike’s lyrics were dense and complex.  Also, Mike’s voice tends to be kind of mid-range and broad, so Joe’s mix to bring the vocals up without obscuring most of the instruments was crucial.

This became even more important in Mike’s next band, Blue IN The Face.  They were more pop-oriented, and they added a three piece horn section so the mix was much more difficult.  At this point, we all suddenly had careers and families and Mike hung up his rock jock.  For a while…

After his kids were grown a bit (I met his kids yesterday at the show) he returned with The Mike Benign Compulsion, and last year returned with “Kid” easily one of the best local releases of the year (As I told him last year at a show, I have to give the top spot, however, to The Wooldridge Brothers’ “Starts At Dusk”.  He agreed).

So yesterday they had a tight 60 minute late afternoon slot at a stage where many of the crowd were waiting for Phil Vassar to headline later.  Mike said from the stage “I know you people don’t know these songs” to which I said to no one in particular “Some of us know these songs” and a young man sitting in front of me said “I’m his son, so I know these songs TOO Well”.  I replied “Maybe some of us are sick of these songs, huh?”  He laughed and knocked his beer over.

Mike’s set tended toward his brighter and more accessible songs, like “Haley Daley” and “My Michelle”.  There was mention of their drummer, who is going for rotator cuff surgery and this is his last show for a while.  There was a shoutout to a particular zombie, as a stalwart supporter of local music.  Mike’s daughter & wife were celebrating their birthdays, and his is on Wednesday.

And we all had a wonderful time.

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It is an odd year, as evidenced that I skipped Opening Day, and further shown by it took until this, the fourth day, for me to spend any time at my favorite stage, The Rebel Stage.  Caught the end of Pretty Beggars and most of The Young Revelators.  None of you hav ever heard of those bands; hell, I never have.

Trapper Schoepp was playing at the worst stage on the grounds.  The miller stage is too flat, the seating has no dish to it at all, and the seating bleachers are unnecessarily long.  It seems to attract the kind of people who feel like they have to stand on the bleachers even if they can see fine and even if they don’t care about the band that’s playing.

I saw Trapper the first time several years ago in a sparsely attended mid-afternoon slot that completely blew me away.  They had an self-released album at the time and an indie release that re-released about half of the first.  They had all the fire and spit of a band of kids that had nothing but energy and passion and, apparently, a tremendous gift for songwriting.  Been a fan ever since, and a high point was when I traveled to Minneapolis to visit Snag and Paleo and see a star studded tribute to Big Star at First Avenue.  Guest musicians at that event included Trapper and Tanner Schoepp as well as Brian and Scott Wooldridge.  Who I am seeing at Summerfest today.

The first part of the show was devoted to Trapper’s concept album about Green Bay’s legendary amusement park, Bay Beach.  Where Elvis reportedly hired for an entire night, and spent from 1 AM to 6 AM riding the Zippin Pippin nonstop.  But after this, the show really took off as they played some of their best, including “Tracks”, “Mono Pt. II”  and “Settlin’ or Sleeping’ Around”.

During “Settlin'”, a little kid, wearing a “Rock Kid” shirt,  adorably took the stage with a ukulele strung like a guitar and sat in on the song.  He was amazing!  He not only had the strum pattern down, but he knew a fair amount of the vocals and had his own rock moves, kicking and doing rock poses at the front of the stage to delighted roars of approval from the crowd.  I could only get a pic from the screen:

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Their set was a bit short, as they had to clear the stage for Third Eye Blind (pfagh).  Admittedly, most of the crowd was there to see them as headliners.  Meh.  I bailed, but not before spending a little time talking with a friend:

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And with that, satisfied, I called it a night and left, but not before running into friends Pete and Deb at the front gate.  no time for anything but hugs, they were coming in and I was going out, but it’s always good to see the Ramirez’s.  And I am sure we all had a wonderful time.

Also worth a mention is that Summerfest has partnered with Uber to set up a pickup/drop off zone not far from the main gate.  For the number of rides they have to wrangle it is impressively run, where they align available drivers into several rows, and you just have to walk down your assigned row to find your driver.  Rather than trying to scurry around adjacent streets to locate someone.