Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Modern Vision

I'm still buzzing over the unexpected surprise that was Milwaukee Art Museum's latest exhibition -- A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from The Phillips Collection. I walked in with no preconception or knowledge of the collection, but, wow, what a collection it is! The description touts Manet, Caillebotte, Monet, van Gogh, Modigliani, Cézanne, Degas, Kandinsky, and Picasso, but one artist that captivates me -- the short-lived abstractionist, Nicolas de Staël -- also has works in this collection. One walk-through was not enough. I plan to go again, this time taking the audio tour so I spend less time reading and more time appreciating.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Sour Smell of Victory

What an odd morning to wake up a Packers fan. I love it when our team wins, but after last night’s officiating debacle, even the sweet taste of victory has been soured. Undoubtedly, the zebras proved the 12th man, stealing near certain victory from the Lions on at least three questionable calls that reversed the fortune of the game. 

The officials, again, guided the outcome of a game.

And while it helped my team win, the game itself has been so tainted by poor officiating that I can no longer watch it. 

I felt this way last year when Clay Mathews was called repeatedly for illegal hits to the quarterback — hits that were tame compared to the QB poundings I’ve observed for most of my football-loving life. At least I understood the intent of the rule — I only disagreed with these examples. But today, there are no lessons to be learned. As fans, we don’t know what the heck is going on. 

What’s pass interference? Remember Saints player TommyLee Lewis getting obliterated by Nicekll Robey-Coleman in last year’s NFC Championship game? That non-call likely cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. Yet, since then, I’ve watched contact the equivalent of blowing in one’s ear draw a flag. 

And the thing about pass interference calls is, they’re big penalties! There is nearly never a small pass interference. They usually result in huge gains of yardage and first downs. 

For the Packers to win last night, it took two phantom hands-to-the-face penalties that changed possession of the ball. In the first case, the Pack certainly would have had to punt the ball, being 3rd and long deep in their own territory. And in the second, either my team would have had to settle for a field goal (unlikely; the clock was running low) or go for it on 4th and long. 

I think every fan could lament moments when the calls did not go their teams way, but it’s reached the point with the NFL that I find the game unwatchable and not worth my time. I just wonder, how much more can the game’s fans endure? It’s not cheap — all that money spent on tickets, travel, and concessions. And for what? To watch a game where the outcome no longer depends on a team’s plan and preparation? (Credit to the Lions — they came to Lambeau to play and, despite all their preparation, were completely hosed. And don’t give me that “They should have converted their field goals into touchdowns,” baloney. A game’s outcome can be determined by as little as one point — the ref’s practically cost the Lions ten.)

Pro sports of all types, I think, are due for a fall. But if the NFL does fix what ails them immediately, they’re going to be the first to go. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Don't Be 'You're Not There' -- Tosa Tonight's Final Show of 2019!

It's the last Tosa Tonight of the 2019 season. *sad face*

It's the first time Paper Holland and Scott Mulvahill will perform on Wauwatosa's Rotary Performance Pavilion stage. *happy face*

The Tosa Tonight team has brought many great musical artists to our little park. This year was no different. Five of the eight headliners were nationally touring original music talent, and with the exception of Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts (who are playing Tosa Fest, by the way -- and I know they're looking forward to making up for the rain-out -- I've talked to Miles myself!), all have played under stellar weather. 

As great as all of these performers have been, there's one that's got something a little different on his resume: the only Tosa Tonight artist to have appeared on his own NPR Tiny Desk Concert. That person is Scott Mulvahill -- Tosa Tonight's final headliner of the 2019 season. 

Some of you might say, "What's an NPR Tiny Desk Concert?" Fair question. To me, an original music lover, it's been one of the best uses of the Internet ever. NPR brings renowned performers into a small setting and lets them play in front of an intimate gathering of spectators. I have loved the series for years because it so rawly presents the talent of the artist. There's no hiding. No effects. No lip-syncing. They're just there, baby, and lovin' every minute of it. 

I can't tell you how many times I've melted into my chair streaming the series from YouTube onto my TV. Not only does it allow one to see their favorites playing a stripped-down set, but it also does a wonderful job of introducing new artists. Ones you should hear. Like Mr. Mulvahill, a member of Ricky Skaggs' Grammy-winning band. 

Debuting only five months ago, the YouTube version has already been watched more than 358,000 times. Watch it here. See if we can make it 359,000 by tomorrow night. 

Doubly exciting is Milwaukee's own Paper Holland gracing the stage. I've seen this band once, and it was too long ago. I know they've continued their sonic growth, and this should be great.

Need a description? As much as I like to write, I'm going to steal a line from their bandcamp site: "Drawing from the pop sensibility of acts like Death Cab For Cutie, the sparkling guitars of The Cure and the mild experimentalism of Tame Impala, Paper Holland create rhythmic and driving music with elegant horn arrangements, memorable hooks and skillful musicianship."

There. They said it best themselves. And keeping in the Tiny Desk Concert vibe, here's Paper Holland's excellent song, "You're Not There." When they launch into it Wednesday night, I might lose it. I really dig this track. 

So don't be 'You're Not There.' Be there. Winter's coming soon enough and you'll be dreaming for warm days in the Summer grass in Wauwatosa. This is your last chance. 

See ya there, fireflies!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Skin Cancer's No Joke

Didn't see this coming.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist because, three weeks ago, I noticed an odd little growth on the side of my head. The derm looks at it for three seconds and says, "Oh, that's nothing. That's just a something-something. It will go away on its own. Let's take a look at you while you are here. You sure are a mole-y son of a gun, aren't you?"

Anyway, after a five-to-ten-minute examination, she lets me know there is something of grave concern on my left arm. A thing that *could* be indicative of skin cancer. "We don't want to wait to have this removed," she says. "Let's get it out today."

Next thing you know, I'm under the knife and getting multilayers of stitches because she removed the malformity so deeply. Mid-slice she says, "Now, no golfing for at least a week."

So much for that late afternoon tee-time I had scheduled.

At least my mug-to-mouth ability is still intact.

Moral of the story? I'm not sure. I suppose it's to get checked out even if you don't have a growth on the side of your head. Skin cancer's no joke.

Oh, also, if you have moles that become asymmetric and/or discolored across their width (like the one in the pic), make an appointment with a dermatologist today.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Wauwatosa's About To Be Invaded... By Scotsmen!

For the 2019 Tosa Tonight season, I have challenged myself to write a short post about the upcoming performers. Not only is it a good exercise for me, but with any luck, someone might read it and actually be motivated to attend Wauwatosa’s wonderful Summer concert series.

I also hope, too, to introduce the artists’ work, if not already well-known.

With that said, this might be the shortest Tosa Tonight blog post ever, because the 7th show of 2019 season needs little introduction: Scotland’s own, Red Hot Chilli Pipers! Known as “The Most Famous Bagpipe Band on the Planet,” these fellows will be kicking off their Milwaukee Irish Fest weekend - where they will play for tens of thousands - in quaint little ol’ Wauwatosa.

Are we ready for this, tosa? Because based on the number of RSVP’s and social media impressions, we might have to relocate to a larger venue. Say, Alpine Valley.

Just kidding. We’ll be ready, but make sure you arrive early and find a good spot. Plus, you won’t want to miss the opener: Irish guitar virtuoso, Shane Hennessy. To be honest, I’m looking forward to fireworks off of Shane’s fretboard just as much as the bombastic pyrotechnics that RHCP are sure to include in their show.

This one’s going to be huge, folks. Don’t miss it!

(Psst. A little secret, too: this is their A-Team. The RHCP have a few traveling incarnations to allow the entire world to see their fun show, but that group that's coming to Milwaukee is their top tier. The best.)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Mile No. 7, This Must Be Heaven

It's that time of year, that the town just above
Lake Winnebago seems to say
"Mile of Music, where your new band dreams come true."

It’s not hyperbolic for me to say that the first weekend of August is my favorite time of year. It’s like Christmas in Summer. Annually, for the last seven years, Thursday through Sunday of the first weekend of the eighth month is when Appleton hosts Mile of Music -- a tidal wave of 900+ original musical sets taking place at up to 70 venues.

This will be our fifth in a row. After missing Mile 1 and 2, we sampled it in 2015 and were hooked. The “mile” -- the approximately 5280 feet west of the Lawrence University’s Chapel along College Avenue -- becomes an invigorating and electric display of hip, punk, chic, hillbilly, and bristling musical energy.

If I could have invented a music festival, this is mostly what it would have looked like.

With more than 200 national and international musicians descending upon the city, the months prior I spend listening and determining my must-see list. It is a difficult task because really, there no bad acts at the Mile. In our 16 collective days at the Mile, I have not seen one. There are some that I prefer over others, but every artist there brings a unique gift of musical talent.

There are three approaches:
  1. Schedule, schedule, and schedule. The Mile of Music app is great for timing your mile to the minute. I am using it loosely — it’s invaluable for navigating the strip on the fly — but I still call a lot of audibles each day. Sometimes you have to, because you might run into a friend who tells you “You have gotta see *blank*!” and then you go and see *blank*.
  2. Sit tight and let the music come to you. There’s a lot of venues where you can just chill all day and take in whatever comes next. When we were Mile rookies, we did this. It was fun, comfortable, and we made some new friends. If I did this today, I’d likely camp at Spat’s, Emmett’s Bar and Grill, or Fox River House. The last is my favorite. I swear bands sound the best under that big tree. Good beer selections, too.
  3. Random. Bounce around like a loose electron and let your ears and instinct guide you. You’ll stumble into many great acts.
    Here’s where my story gets slippery. There are so many bands to recommend. I’m afraid to say too much, as there certainly are many bands that I’ve yet to see or hear that are great. But at the very least, I’ll tell you a few that are absolute musts to me.

    First and foremost, Volk. This self-described duo of country-fried rock and roll sizzles. I have not seen them, but enough pals have and they recommend them highly. One view of their video 'Honey Bee' and I know this is a band for me. Plus, some of my favorite Mile bands have been two-piece rockers. Brother O’ Brother (recognize the guy on the tv in the video below?), The Ghost Wolves, Poncé, and a few others have provided the most face-melting Mile experiences.

    Late to my must-see list, but holy smokes, Candy Ambulance rocks!

    One of the bands that we stumbled upon at Mile 6 that provides an unforgettable show is Philadelphia’s Chestnut Grove. Dee, the only woman in the band and its obvious leader, is a force of nature. Pure rock and roll essence emanate from her with every move. The whole band is tight. We saw them only once, and once was not enough.

    A less-rocking artist, but one that I’ve discovered in my preparations for Mile 7 is Carsie Blanton. I’ve listened to her music more than any new Mile 7 performer and I instantly recognize her immense talent. American Kid and So Ferocious are videos that I’ve watched at least 10 times each.

    For something completely different, I’ve got to check out Brothers Footman. Genre? ROCKHOPFUNKSOULTRY. Thank you, Sir. May I have another.

    Last year we were photographers for Michigander. What a blast and a super nice guy (Michigander is Jason Singer.) Since Mile 6, we’ve come to love his anthemic and moving songs. I think greater fame is headed his way. This many good songs can NOT go unnoticed.

    C2 and the Brothers Reed. Face-melting. Riff-roaring. Soul-shaking. Roof-raising. They were on my Mile 6 must-see list. I saw them. Now they’re on my Mile 7 must-see list.

    Keeping with the face-melting, riff-roaring, soul-shaking, and roof-raising theme: Lemon Sky.

    Perennial Appleton favorites Me LIke Bees returns. I’ve seen them numerous times and every time the result is the same: Me LIke Me Like Bees.

    Out of the San Francisco Bay area, Megan Slankard and The Wreckage have grabbed my ears and wrapped them around my little brain. Her song stylings are all over, from rock to pop to folk. And she’s appearing both as a solo artist and with her band, The Wreckage.

    Okay, I knew I should not have started this exercise. It’s hard to know where to stop. Just a few more, I promise.

    Brett Newski and the No Tomorrow because it’s Brett Newski and the No Tomorrow, dammit. Brett’s got to be the hardest working artist on the Milwaukee music scene. I’ve seen him a bunch and every time he puts on a great show. We love this guy and support him to the end.

    Andrew Leahey & The Homestead. Andrew’s band is one that I missed at Mile 6, but with the influences of Tom Petty and The Boss, plus serving as the guitarist for my SiriusXM Outlaw Country afternoon redneck girlfriend, Elizabeth Cook, he’s a can’t miss this time around. Plus his new album Airwaves is really good and he’s a darn nice guy. (Mile of Music is a no-cover festival, but Andrew’s version of Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘Lips Like Sugar’ should be an exception.)

    I’m ending it with one of Appleton’s own: Christopher Gold. I recall seeing CG on the schedule of previous Miles, but I only caught the last 20 seconds of one of his shows at Spat’s. It wasn’t long enough for me to understand the music, but the crowd sure was enthusiastic -- so I knew that they had just witnessed something special. Since, I’ve seen him at Blueberry Music Festival and now I know what the crowd was buzzing about.

    Okay. I’m done now…


    See Horace Greene, too. They’re out of Oshkosh and they rule. 'Midnight Fuse' is a fantastic song. Plus, there's Milwaukee's Keith Pulvermacher.

    Okay. Now I’m really done.
    (P.S. - You do know Butternut, Wisconsin's Hugh Masterson is back in the state, don't you?)

    Alternative Lyric: Are You Tosans with Some Beers?

    If you thought Chicago Rewired filled Wauwatosa's Rotary Performance Pavilion stage, just wait until you see Steely Dane. Fifteen members! These are dozen-plus of Dane County’s finest musicians coming together to pay tribute to one of their favorite influences: Steely Dan.

    You know Steely Dan. The 1970’s American rock band that was founded by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. They fused jazz, R&B, rock, and pop to become what Rolling Stone called “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.”

    Really, when you think back to the Seventies, doesn’t disco first come to mind? Steely Dan’s music was definitely on the outskirts of the mainstream.

    Admittedly, Steely Dan is somewhat of an acquired taste. One that I haven’t totally developed, however, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their talents. And I always admire good musicianship. Based on their large and advocative base, Steely Dane fans, too, are champions of Steely Dane’s perfect renditions of Steely Dan’s complex and progressive 70's sounds.

    One song, though, that I always like, is 'Reeling in the Years'. Check out Steely Dan’s 1970’s Midnight Special version first, and then give Steely Dane’s a spin. Particularly pay attention to the guy who screams “Yeeeaaaahhhhh!!” at first note of Dane’s version. That might be the sound I make when they launch into this song at Tosa Tonight.

    The featured act for Steely Dane is Bonifas Electric Band. I will be clear here: the only thing I know about them is that they play jazz and, like the 15 fellows from the Madison area, they are impeccable and talented musicians.

    The weather is supposed to be perfect. So it will be a fine night to spread out a blankie, unbox your picnic spread from Metcalf’s Sentry (Did you know that you can pre-order a picnic basket from them and pick it up right before the show? Easy and too cool. [see below for details), enjoy our favorite adult beverage and relax the evening away. After Steely Dane, there will only be two Tosa Tonights left! *sad face*

    See ya there, fireflies.