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:
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.
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:
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:
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.