Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Jim, a Real American Hero

While barehandedly hooking up a battery charger to our car this morning, my rapidly-numbing fingertips reminded me of my friend's super-human brother, Jim. Jim was not only a role model to me, but he was also a great friend to my family (shown here with my mother celebrating a New Year's Eve circa 1980). On numerous occasions, Jim helped my mother out. I recall one time our car not starting on one of the coldest days of an up-north Winter. Mom called him and asked for his assistance. I bundled up in my snowmobile suit, face mask, hat, chopper mitts, and lined boots. I went out to help. Jim, wearing only a crooked knit cap and a jean jacket clasped by only two buttons, painstakingly fumbled with bare wires for nearly an hour. Bundled as I was, I could not take it. I had to retreat to the indoors periodically for a quick warm-up. I felt bad doing it -- leaving Jim alone like that -- but, no kidding, Jim was super-human. Perhaps it was because Jim was one of the last adults living in the U.S. with polio and was used to adversity and overcoming it, but his ability to put his mind past pain will always awe me in memory. We'd go fishing on calm Summer nights when the mosquitoes were positively unbearable. I'd be one more swat away from insanity and jumping into the lake to escape their torment and I'd look over at Jim and there he'd be, intently reeling and pausing and reeling and pausing while the buggers rested on his face and hands. Like they were not even there. I honestly think it made me a little bit tougher because I'd think, "If he can do it, so can I." But only a little bit tougher, because I'd finally say, "Jim, I can't take it anymore. We have GOT to get off this lake," and he'd relent. Leaving the trophy bass to be caught another day.

This post is getting longer than I intended, but I cannot close without telling one last, epic Jim story, especially since it happened on this day, January 2nd, nearly 40 years ago.

Jim graciously let me use his four-wheeled ATV as though it were my own. Anytime I wished, I could walk to his house, hop on, startup, and take off. And I did this a lot. On a frightfully frigid January 2nd, my cousin, Andy, was visiting and we paired up on Jim's ATV. Two miles from home, we disrupted the tranquility of Porcupine Lake and spun around on its frozen, glass-like surface. After doing this for a while, we headed for the lake's outlet, which becomes the northern branch of Little River, the river that Kay lived next to only 10 miles downstream (we wouldn’t meet for years yet). As we zipped across the frozen river, I, driving, spied open water ahead. The rapids prevented the river from freezing. I slammed on both the front and rear brakes with all my might causing the ATV to pull a 180. We were now gliding backward towards the open water. I released the brakes and accelerated, but to little avail. We continued our backward skid. Then, just as we were approaching the zenith of our direction change, we heard a crack. And then another. And then crack, crack, crack and the next thing you know, we were underwater. Positively terrified, Andy and I scrambled frantically to get ourselves on solid ice. Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), the depth was only about three-and-a-half feet, but the bad part was the bottom was muck. In trying to get out, one of my boots got sucked off my feet and stayed submerged at the bottom. I can’t remember, but I think this happened to Andy too. Anyway, we were finally able to get ourselves on solid ice and, even though panic was setting in, we commanded ourselves: do not stop moving and progress as quickly as possible to the ice fishermen on the other side of the lake and ask for help. And that we did. We hastily sloshed our soaked-to-the-bone selves to the first fisherman we could find. I stuttered, “Sir, can you please help us? Our 4-wheeler went through the ice. We are freezing and we need your help. Can you please give us a ride to my mother’s?” He replied by querying where was my mother’s, and I replied by telling him, “Goatsville Tavern.” To my disbelief, he said, “I’ll give you a ride, but only if you agree that your mother gives me a 12-pack of beer.” Deal! I said, in a complete non-position to negotiate. (When my mom found this out later she wanted to strangle him.)

Finally warmed and in dry clothes, my attention turned to the fear of letting Jim know what I did to his ATV. It remained submerged, wheels up, in the frozen river. There was no beating around the bush: I had to tell Jim exactly what happened and accept the consequences.

So what did Jim do? He laughed boisterously. “Oh you crazy kid, you’re lucky you didn’t kill yourself! Don’t worry about the ATV. We’ll get it out and I’ll take it to my shop and dry it out.”

Whew. You have got to be kidding me. What a guy. I thought he was going to string me up like he would a slain buck, but he did exactly the opposite.

Every day I think of him. He was as an important of an influence on young me as nearly anybody else.

RIP, Jim. And thanks for not sending me to heaven first the day I put your ATV through the ice.

P.S. - A shout-out and thank you, too, to my Uncle Lynn for helping and directing us how to get that ATV out of the ice!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Favorite Albums of 2017

Everybody loves a list. So here it goes… Here are my Top 10 albums of 2017.

10.  The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Wild. This recently released album would likely move up in my rankings, but I have not had enough chances to give it a thorough listen. However, from my first few spins, it reminds exactly of the music they released on their prior two albums – Mended with Gold and Departing – that I positively adored. Big sounds, rapid-fire percussion, well-crafted songs – they’ve done it again. Not sure of their touring schedule as of December 27, 2017, but when they come to town, I’m goin’.


9.    Brother O’ Brother – Neon Native. Indianapolis rock-fuzz duo deliver the goods on Neon Native. I’ve seen these guys somewhere between seven and a hundred times and it’s impossible for me to listen to this rocker without seeing them perform in my mind’s eye. 16 Flowers is certainly one of my favorite tracks of 2017. Plus, their LED, remote-controlled vinyl version of this record is one of the coolest things you’ll see all year.


8.    David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanac. Saw David and his musical partner, Gillian Welch, from the first row at Madison’s Capitol Theater where they played nearly every song from Poor David’s Almanac. At the time, I was familiar with a lot of their music, but Poor David was new to me. Since then I listened to it many times and this thing will be up for a Grammy. Mark my words. It’s great, and David's an absolute beast on the acoustic guitar. 


7.    Strange Americans – Borrow You, Brother. These Rocky Mountain Americana rockers’ third album grew on me over months of listening after seeing them perform a raucous noon-time show at Mile of Music. Their show ended in a sumo battle between two charging guitarists. Honestly, how they didn’t break their collarbones I’ll never know. Aaron Rodgers got knocked out with a lot less contact. Borrrow You, Brother has no filler; I think every track has a reward for the listener.  What sets them apart from other Americana artists is they’ll toss in a big, anthemic rocker or two on each album. I fell in love with the song Till You’re Told and that’s the song that kept me listening to the whole album. (Yep. I’m old school – not a single’s buyer like those darn millennials. For me it’s always the whole album.) Great stuff.


6.    The Regrettes – Feel Your Feelings Fool! At Milwaukee’s Summerfest, I saw The Regrettes perform (probably) every song from their debut album on a friend’s recommendation. They didn’t disappoint. Lead singer, rhythm guitarist, songwriter, Lydia Night, is all that and a bag of chips. She’s got stage confidence normally reserved for the Aguileras of the world. She may be small, but cross this riot grrrl at your own peril. Her pen is mightier than your sword.


5.    Fast Romantics – American Love. Another band of Canadians come down here and tell us all about American Love, eh? They did, and they did it well. American Love is filled with clever, wall-of-sound…um, sounds (?) that would make Phil Specter swoon. Matthew Angus leads the band with a big, radio-friendly voice that makes one wonder why they have not heard them yet. Well, some of us in Milwaukee have: 88Nine RadioMilwaukee has had the good sense to start putting them in the rotation. With any luck, the world will hear them all soon. (Oh, and this video. It's a doozy.)


4.    Lucy Dacus – No Burden. Okay, maybe this album came out in 2016, but it was pretty late in 2016 and I didn’t hear of her until 88Nine RadioMilwaukee started playing her cleverly crafted hit I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore. It was that song that hooked me, and I continued to listen to No Burden after the first track and was rewarded with a mélange of melodic swirls, chunky guitar riffs, and pointed lyrics. No Burden is another album that sank itself deeper into my core with every spin. Looking forward to seeing what Lucy’s got in store for her fans next. 


3.    Charly Bliss – Guppy. What can I say? I’m an absolute sucker for masters of the power-pop genre. I didn’t even know of Charly Bliss – a four-piece band hailing from Brooklyn – until they opened for Wolf Parade at Turner Hall. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Eva Hendricks, is a tour de force. Since they were the opening act, I was able to secure a spot front and center and watch Eva put on one of the most animated and energetic performances I’ve seen this year. Her voice, which, I’ll admit, might take some getting used to, floats over some of the most well-structured pop songs I’ve heard in a few years. I don’t think I’m alone in noticing. Guppy appears on many critics’ Best-of-2017 lists. I particularly like NPR music reviewer, Mike Katzif’s, words about Eva and her band: At its most potent, a pop song can lift your spirits while belying the intimacy and sadness at its core. That's especially true when the singer is Charly Bliss' Eva Grace Hendricks. With her bubbly voice and rapid-fire, sugar buzz phrasing, the frontwoman and guitarist regularly sounds downright overjoyed as she unleashes with youthful abandon over a relentless jolt of distorted guitar hooks. Scratch just below the surface, however, and Hendricks' wide-eyed charm melts away in favor of a pissed-off sneer. She flings off razor-sharp one-liners aimed at anyone who may have mistreated her ... but also at her own insecurities. Embedded amid the impossibly catchy hooks of Charly Bliss' new album, Guppy, her words are vibrant and real.


2.    King Leg – Meet King Leg. I’ve only recently discovered Meet King Leg as it was listed about a month ago on some Best-of list. While modern FM county nauseates me, this isn’t that country. This is Bakersfield country. The kind made famous by the late, great Buck Owens and Buck Owens understudy, Dwight Yoakam. In fact, so drenched in the Bakersfield sound are King Leg that Dwight himself produced the album. I’ve noticed, too, that King Leg is the opening act for many of Mr. Yoakam’s shows. When you listen to King Leg, you hear so many influences that your mind will bounce forth and back debating what legendary artist you’re hearing. The Byrds? Tom Petty? Roy Orbison? Dwight Yoakam? Buck Owens? Oh, the heck with it. Just enjoy it!


1.    Terra Lightfoot – New Mistakes. Another Canadian, and another woman-lead quartet. But Terra Lightfoot sounds nothing like Charly Bliss, The Regrettes, or Lucy Dacus. She’s a straight-forward rocker, song-writer, lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, blues guitarist, and band leader with a voice that could knock down a brick wall. She was my number one must-see artist at Mile of Music. I saw her perform three times and was enthralled with every show. I learned of her by listening repeatedly to her 2016 album Every Time My Mind Runs Wild. At her shows, she’d drop in a track or two from the then-upcoming new album, New Mistakes. Instantly I enjoyed the new tracks, and they proved to be an accurate preview of what turned out to be a most excellent album. Terra’s another one of those artists that have me wondering why major fame eludes her, but she seems to be doing alright. After Mile of Music, she toured vigorously throughout Japan and Australia before returning to Canada. This album, too, is garnering lots of critics’ attention. PopMatters reviewer, Sarah Zupko, said of Terra, "get ready to adore Terra Lightfoot, a roots rocker with a powerful voice and a badass Gibson SG that she plays with consummate ease. Yep, she could be your new rock ‘n’ roll hero. Drawing from rock, soul, and blues, Lightfoot is a monster talent that will be gracing the world’s largest festival stages in no time."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dog Lovers, Beware of This Product!

If you love your dog, do not buy or use this product. In the span of less than 30 hours, I've had the string or tape break on two units. The consequences could have been tragic, fortunately, we were able to avoid serious consequences.

The product is the flexi retractable leash.

Unit #1, the one with the string. This unit is about 5 years old. It was only used a time or two since the passing of our dog, Bailey, who left us two years ago. We adopted sweet Neala three days ago and immediately began using Bailey's former leash. On my second morning with Neala, around 6:00 AM, she ran to the leash's fully length. However, when she got there, I felt nary a tug and she just kept on running. The string at its termination point within the product's body, snapped. Because it was early and quiet, there was little traffic and I was able to run down the loose string still attached to Neala's harness. Disaster averted, I scooped her up and hand-carried her back into the house.

Unit #1 - the old unit; note the string break
I imagine the folks at flexi would say something like, "Well, the leash is old. You should replace the leash once per year to avoid the string from weakening." It doesn't say this on flexi's paperwork and, even if that was their approach, I'd call it BS. I've got a nylon tie-our rope that Bailey used that I tested with all my might before trying it with Neala. That 5+ year-old rope is plenty strong enough to support my full 200 lbs.

To replace the broken flexi, my wife headed to our local pet store and purchased a new one (Unit #2). The string has now been replaced by a ribbon or tape. Apparently the string was causing rope burn injuries to people and the hazard was lessened by used of tape-like rope. The unit is said to be good for dogs to 33 lbs. Neala is 10. I took her to a park today and gave the new flexi its first good test. Neala spied a squirrel and took off running. I pressed the button on the unit to halt her progress and SNAP, the tape broke right near her harness. Again, I ran like the wind to catch up to her and scoop her up before she had a chance to enter harm's way.

Whew. Again, tragedy averted.


Unit #2 - the new one; tape snapped within 20 hours of purchase
This flexi has only been out of the package for less than 20 hours and has already broke. What has me most upset is only five minutes before breaking, I had her near a busier street and I had my full faith in the leash to hold her from crossing it. I shudder to think what would have happened had it broken then. I would have dashed after her -- traffic be damned -- just the same as I did when it broke in the wooded park.

This is a faulty and defective product and in my opinion should be recalled from the marketplace immediately. If you use this product on your small dog, you are taking an unacceptable risk. Right after authoring this post, I am returning to the store with the broken leash and my story and will urge them to take the product off of their store shelves.

Sweet Neala in my niece's arms. She is NOT 33 lbs -- 11 tops!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Columbus, Indiana

Inside Eero Saarinen's North Christian Church;
picture by me, Sept. 5, 2017
I'm totally freaked out right now. Three days ago we never even HEARD of Columbus, Indiana and we "discovered" it while flipping through the pages of NUVO Indy -- Indy's Alternative Voice -- while sipping a beer at Fountain Square Brewery in Indianapolis. NUVO was highlighting an exhibit of pop-up art on the streets of Columbus, home of Cummins Engines about 45 miles south of Indianapolis. On our return from Cincinnati, we decided to take a detour to check out the exhibit in Columbus. We had no idea what we were in for. COLUMBUS IS A MECCA OF MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE. I. M. Pei, Eliel (dad) & Eero (son) Saarinen [Milwaukeeans, you know Eero's work: he designed the War Memorial; he also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis], Myron Goldsmith, Romaldo Giurgola, César Pelli, Gunnar Birkerts, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi, and many more designed buildings for Columbus. We wandered the streets for hours admiring the architects' work and the vision of magnate Joseph Irwin Miller. Now here's the really freaky part: a friend of mine let me know that a selection in the upcoming MKE Film Festival takes place in Columbus. It's called, appropriately, Columbus. The trailer shows many of the same structures that we visited only yesterday and it starts out with the interior of the North Christian Church (Eero's design) which was the very last building we visited! [Side story: the people of Columbus were so friendly. We were peering into the front door windows of the church when the pastor came out. She said, "We're closed, but I'll show you how to turn out the lights and you can come in and have a look around." She did just that and let us to ourselves inside this architectural jewel. So trusting.]

If you're Jonesing to see something different, hop in the car and visit Columbus. It's about a four and a half hour trip from Milwaukee and totally worth it. Now here's the trailer...


Monday, August 14, 2017

It Only Takes a Spark...

... to start a fire.

This morning I’m ablaze with fascination for an event I’ve long known about, but never studied. Upon our return home yesterday from the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin, we stopped at the Bristol 45 Diner. Overlooking our booth was a poster reprint of the advertisement for the Winter Dance Party -- the traveling showcase of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Ritchie Vallens, Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts. The date of the show: Monday, February 2nd, 1959. The fateful last performance of three of those performers as the plane they were to travel in crashed minutes after take-off on the morning of February 3rd.

That poster was the spark that provided this morning’s fiery interest.

I’ve long known about “The Day the Music Died.” Any person my age long knows about the Don McLean’s song “American Pie” and of its origins. A person born by 1970 has heard the song at least a thousand times. The Day the Music Died was February 3, 1959.



All I ever knew was that a plane carrying Holly, Vallens, and The Big Bopper crashed in an Iowa cornfield and terminated the lives of these three rock and roll stars. That may be all you know, too. There are tomes written about this black day in rock ‘n’ roll history so I won’t get into deep details here, but I’ll just tell you about the few things that I found unusual or surprising.

  • I never realized that the Winter Dance Party tour started out at Milwaukee’s Eagles Ballroom on January 23rd (then called George Devine’s Ballroom). The next day the tour played at Kenosha’s Eagles Ballroom. 
  • I also never realized that the tour stopped at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay on February 1st -- only two days before the Day the Music Died.
  • What an insane tour route! Any tour promoter/scheduler that would do this to a group today would be fired. It’s like a crisscrossing web of travel of the midwest. I mean, Milwaukee to Kenosha makes sense, but after that it’s nuts. There had to have been a better, easier way to route this tour. 
  • Closely related to the crazy tour route was the insane schedule. They played every day and were scheduled to play every day throughout the tour!
          January 23 - George Devine's Ballroom, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
          January 24 - Eagles Ballroom, Kenosha, Wisconsin
          January 25 - Kato Ballroom, Mankato, Minnesota
          January 26 - Fournier's Ballroom, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
          January 27 - Fiesta Ballroom, Montevideo, Minnesota
          January 28 - Promenade Ballroom, St. Paul, Minnesota
          January 29 - Capitol Theater, Davenport, Iowa
          January 30 - Laramar Ballroom, Fort Dodge, Iowa
          January 31 - Duluth Armory, Duluth, Minnesota
          February 1 - Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay, Wisconsin
          February 2 - Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa
                     *** CRASH ***
          February 3 - Moorhead, MN - The Armory
          February 4 - Sioux City, IA
          February 5 - Des Moines, IA - Val Air Ballroom
          February 6 - Cedar Rapids, IA - Danceland Ballroom
          February 7 - Spring Valley, IL - Les Buzz Ballroom
          February 8 - Chicago, IL - Aragon Ballroom
          February 9 - Waterloo, IA - Hippodrome Auditorium
          February 10 - Dubuque, IA - Melody Hill
          February 11 - Louisville, KY - Memorial Auditorium
          February 12 - Canton, Ohio - Memorial Auditorium
          February 13 - Youngstown, Ohio - Stanbaugh Auditorium
          February 14 - Peoria, IL - The Armory
          February 15 - Springfield, IL - Illinois State Armory

  • The tour continued even after the crash! This one leaves me speechless. I mean, I know the show biz mantra is “The Show Must Go On,” but what the heck is left after three of the four major performers are no longer on the bill? I guess The Crickets sans Buddy continued to play.
  • I had no idea Waylon Jennings was Buddy Holly’s bassist on this tour. How I ever missed this fact is amazing. Jennings even missed Holly's funeral because he was still on the Winter Dance Party tour.
  • Jennings was supposed to be on that plane, but he gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) because The Bopper was suffering from a cold and could benefit from the hastened travel. 
  • The tour buses were unheated. These guys are driving around the Upper Midwest in late
    Waylon Jennings, 1958
    January and early February in unheated tour buses! Can you imagine? It was so cold on the buses that Holly's drummer, Carl Bunch, suffered frostbite to his toes (while aboard the bus) and was hospitalized! No wonder Holly sought a charter, right?
  • Tommy Allsup was also supposed to be on the plane, but he flipped a coin with Richie Vallens to see who would get the seat. Vallens “won.”
  • It’s been said that, teasingly, making light of the situation, Waylon Jennings said to Buddy Holly, “Yeah, I hope your plane crashes too!” Apparently, this last statement haunted Jennings throughout his entire life. 
  • The small Beechcraft took off at 12:55 A.M. in 35 mph, snow-swirled winds at 13 degrees Fahrenheit piloted by a pilot unlicensed to fly by gauges only. Yeah. Bad idea. No wonder the entire flight length was four minutes.
  • Forty-eight years after burial, The Big Bopper’s corpse was exhumed and examined. Rumor was that a gunshot may have been the culprit of the tragedy. It was thought that the perhaps The Bopper’s body would show signs of foul play. Upon examination, the foul play theory was rejected -- Richardson’s cranium was crushed but sans holes. He died immediately despite his body being a greater distance from the others.
  • Upon exhumation and study, The Bopper’s surprisingly well-preserved body remained impeccably dressed and perfectly coifed. Ew.
  • The Bopper’s son wanted to sell the casket his father was buried in for 48 years. Again, ew. 
  • Holly’s trademark glasses were not found until the snow melted in April. At that time they were given to the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff where they were placed in a manilla envelope and marked “rec'd April 7, 1959.” They resided in that envelope and office for 21 years until opened and given to Buddy Holly’s widow. They can now be seen in the exhibit at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.
  • The stainless steel memorial at the crash site was crafted by a Portersfield, Wisconsin man. Portersfield is a small town in Marinette county not too far from where I grew up.
  • There is a similar memorial at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay. (Note to self: see the memorial the next time you’re in Title Town.)

There’s probably a lot more that could be discovered about this tragic day, but I found all of the above to be surprising revelations. Not only were these stars live’s sadly shortened, but we, too, were shorted of a lot of great music. Especially from Buddy Holly. I get the sense he was just getting started and could have been an artist mentioned in the same breath as Elvis. He’s darn near achieved that anyway, but can you just imagine what he was capable of?

RIP.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mile 5, Random Musings

Now that I’ve had one day to normalize after four days at Mile of Music, it’s time to document a few of my random musings from this amazing musical festival. In no particular order, here they are…

  • Most of the time we hear recorded music first and then later, once we become fans of the artist, see them live. Good artists really make their recorded music come alive while performing. Mile of Music is a bit the opposite. In many instances our first interaction with the artist is seeing them live and then acquiring music from their recorded catalog. I saw a few artists at the Mile who blew me away and then I listened to their recorded music and the recorded music fell flat. It didn’t even come close to matching the energy of the live performance. So if you’re a band reading this, I cannot emphasize enough that your recorded sounded should somewhat match your performance sound. I know it’s not an easy feat, but often this is the primary means to piquing our interest in seeing you live. (This musing was written with one band primarily in mind. Nonetheless, I know it can pertain to all to some degree.)
  • Milwaukee’s Tigernite needs to be on the schedule next year. Energetic performances to all-original music that goes toe-to-toe with most of the rock bands at Mile 5.
  • The unsung heroes: the sound people. On the final day I really began to pay homage to these folks. Outside of Mile of Music, it’s not uncommon for a band to take an hour to properly set up the sound. At the Mile, it’s usually done in minutes and the best ones can make changes quickly and dial it in by song two. I saw a great example of this on the final day for the The Kernal’s show at the Radisson courtyard. Song one came across a little to guitar heavy and light on the bass. By song two it was dialed in and guitar, bass, and vocal could clearly be heard in equal measures.
  • Related to the prior musing, the sound people needed to remain attentive and responsive during the performance. The most common phrase uttered at Mile 5 was “Can I get a little more guitar/bass/drum/vocal in my monitor?” Often this was said during a song or even with a quick hand gesture. Again I marveled at how quickly the correction could be made. 
Graham getting the shot
  • How many Graham Washatkas are there? Twins? Triplets? Man, it seemed that everywhere I was, Graham was there. Lots of people worked hard over these four days, but few probably worked harder than Graham. His photos, though, are proof that hard work pays off. They’re great!
  • Fast Romantics. How are they not mega-famous yet? I know all performers at the Mile are good to great, but Fast Romantics’ big, catchy, and polished pop songs embed earworms that I cannot shake. They look good live and lead singer, Matthew Angus, is a captivating performer. And related to my first musing, their recorded versus live music are within about 10% of each other, i.e., their latest album pretty much capture their live energy. I’ve got a feeling this band is on the cusp of something big, but it won’t be an overnight success story… they’ve been at it since 2009!
  • If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times: Appleton is the friendliest place. Performer after performer made this comment between songs. I found it to be true, too. People seemed genuinely concerned about blocking another’s view, personal space was available at most shows in ample supply, and in quieter venues, a pin dropping could be heard hitting the floor. 
  • Holy highballs, Batman. People sure get drunk in Appleton! On Friday and Saturday nights I made my way back to my room at the Radisson along College Avenue after 1:00 AM. While I, too, had a few beers in my system, I could not believe how staggeringly drunk people were. I mean, I bet there was one block I walked where I didn’t see a single person who could walk a straight line. I saw one dude vomiting off the curb and another walked right into a wall. Another bizarre one was where one big dude picked up another and started spinning him. I thought, “This won’t end well,” and it didn’t. They soon crashed down onto the sidewalk in pain, but managing to laugh. They’re lucky they didn’t split their heads open. Sheesh, have a good time, people, but don’t hurt yourselves.
Smooth Hound Smith packed the house
at Outer Edge
  • Did you see Smooth Hound Smith? DID YOU SEE THEM?? Zach Smith could be a carnival act he's got so much talent. Drumming while playing the guitar and harmonica. I can't pat my head and rub my belly at the same time yet Zach seems to be only lacking more extremities to make even more music. Amazing.
  • While people may be super nice in Appleton, inebriation does cause them to lose good manners and etiquette. I was at a few earlier shows where people would be standing near quieter, more performance attentive people and just blabbing loudly away. I recall one performer commenting, “Thank you for letting me disrupt your normal drinking time.” It was said in good humor and not acerbically, but I really do think it was meant to be snide. This said, most people don’t behave this way, it’s just that the disrespectful are so easy to notice.
  • Calliope Musicals. Wow. I never got to see the early 80’s Tubes, but the 20 minutes or so that I got to see Calliope Musicals (their 2nd show was shortened by a storm), I imagine this is what it must’ve been like. I feel like jumping in my car and heading to whatever town they’re playing in next to see the rest of the show!
  • Another Milwaukee-area band that needs to be at Mile 6 is NINETEEN THIRTEEN. They last played at Mile 3, but at Mile 6, they need to play in the Chapel. I’ve seen them numerous times at, but the Chapel would be the perfect place to see and hear them. Janet Schiff's 105-year old cello just begs to be heard there.
All in all, just another great Mile of Music. I'm a fan for life and can hardly wait for Mile 6.

Peace. Love. Music.

Mike

Monday, August 7, 2017

Oh What a Mile It Was!!

Oh my gosh, Mile of Music. Where do I even begin to describe how special your 5th edition was? I can’t. It was overwhelming. In four days, in this order, I caught the following performances:

Levi Parham at the Chapel
August 3, 2017
The Kelson Twins at Rookie’s
Beth Bombara at Rookie’s
Morning House at Cleo’s
Ron Gallo at Radisson’s Grand Ballroom
Diane Coffee at Radisson’s Grand Ballroom
Brother O’ Brother at XTRA 920
Sun Parade at The Bar on the Avenue

August 4, 2017
Smooth Hound Smith at Fox River House
J.E. Sunde at McGuinness Irish Pub
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers at McGuinness Irish Pub
Terra Lightfoot at Outer Edge
Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards) at Outer Edge
Levi Parham at Lawrence Memorial Chapel
Molly Bush at Dr. Jekyll’s
Swear and Shake at Washington Square
The Noise FM rock Mill Creek
Motherfolk at Houdini Plaza
Boom Forest at Radisson Courtyard
The Artisanals at Appleton Beer Factory
Fast Romantics at Spat’s
The Kernal at Appleton Beer Factory
Dusk at Appleton Beer Factory
Trapper Schoepp at XTRA 920

August 5, 2017
Morning at the incredible Appleton Farmers' Market
Strange Americans at Fox River House
The Harpooners at Fox River House
Terra Lightfoot at Spat’s
The Ghost Wolves at Chadwick’s
Arts Fishing Club at Riverside Bar & Grill
PONCÉ at Riverside Bar & Grill
Motherfolk at Washington Square
Fast Romantics at D2 Sports Pub Patio
The AMAZING Calliope Musicals
Bishop Gunn at Radisson’s Grand Ballroom
The Noise FM at Mill Creek

August 6, 2017
Megan Slankard, Jamie Kent, Bascom Hill & SZLACHETKA at the Chapel
Warbly Jets at Houdini Plaza
Desert Noises at Washington Square
Smooth Hound Smith at Outer Edge
The Kernal at Radisson Courtyard
The Hawkeyes at Chadwick’s
Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts at Spat’s
Me Like Bees at Emmett’s
Calliope Musicals at Spat’s

Most of these 41 were full performances too; only in a few cases were they not (Sunday we had to make some compromises). And the range of music is extensive: from heart-felt singer/songwriter acoustic ballads to full-on frontal assault sonic rock and roll. Mile 5 had it all. I’ll likely follow up later with further ruminations about this year, but for now, let me just say… WELL DONE and SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!