Am I ever excited. Tosa Tonight is set to make a triumphant return after a 2020 season that never happened.
For those that don't know, I have been volunteering for our city's great Summer concert series for the last four or five years (depending on when you count my first day). I started out as a photographer and marketing team member and then migrated to the Entertainment committee. My talented wife, Kay, joined me as a co-photographer.
I have loved this music series for a decade and often could be found standing near the stage when no other non-performing adult was near. I always felt the music better standing near and as I slowly became a photography enthusiast, the combination of the hunt to capture the energy of a performer with an image while enjoying live music became an irrepressible hobby. For me, taking the perfect picture of a singer singing or a drummer drumming became an idyllic quest. Not too different than the hunter searching for a big buck, except in my case, no creature gets hurt.
We started discussing the 2021 season days after Wisconsin hit the peak number of COVID cases (peak: mid-November 2020). Our conversations were like many in 2020: over the Internet. Planning a series then seemed like a pipe dream, but I felt strongly that, if we were to begin planning, we should plan a hyper-local season that showcased the many fine performers that lived nearby. Not only was this decision altruistic, but also practical. I mean, who knew who would be touring the country come June 16th?
We turned the year texting, calling, or emailing some of our favorite local artists asking them to "Hold the date" and explaining the impending COVID clause that in non-legalese that says, "We really don't know what's going to happen and we might have to cancel. We'll just wait and see." Those artists eagerly replied, "Yes. We'll hold the date!!" (Well, one exception was the Tosa guy who plays bass in Alanis Morrisette's band... "Um. It looks like I'll be touring with Alanis that day. Think we could be moved up in the schedule?" Of course, Alanis' bass player. For you, we can do that.)
While we were keeping our artist selections local, one of our committee members suggested this guitar-slinging R&B artist out of Madison: Raine Stern. I gave her a listen and approved. "Yeah. She's good." Days later, Raine was a contestant on The Voice. Nick Jonas heard her and said, "Yeah. She's good," too. Soon Raine was blowing minds as part of Team Nick as she advanced a couple of rounds before falling short. Who knew when we asked her to save-the-date that THAT would happen??
[Side bar: when we first contacted Raine, it was to be an opener. However, due to the unavailability of another artist, we moved her to the headliner. The opener for Raine on July 14th will be our friend Ben Mulwana. Ben's so good. Tosa Tonight artists saved dates on their calendar, I suggest YOU save July 14th on yours!]
Okay, maybe I overly wrote that. In short, they sound good.
Following them is a southeastern Wisconsin favorite: The Belle Weather. The Belle Weather forsakes percussion and replaces it with a multi-stringed sonic attack. Bass, cello, and violin join forces with an energetically strummed rhythm guitar. Combined, they create a cacophony of unique but accessible form of rockin' chamber-pop music.
I had the pleasure of seeing The Belle Weather numerous times. Most recently, they rocked the dust off of the rafters at West Bend’s The Bend Theater. They knocked not only the dust off those rafters, but they knocked it off my year-long, COVID-confined, live-music-loving soul. It was a splendid performance and I’m sure all who were presented would agree. And, if you were not present, please enjoy The Belle Weather’s searing cover of Eleanor Rigby.
So get ready, Wauwatosa. Tosa Tonight is back and I can feel that it is going to a GREAT season!