Thursday, June 10, 2021

TOSA TONIGHT RETURNS!

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!]



Wednesday, June 16th, the season kicks off with two groups that have both rocked my socks off. Opening will be Peter Thomas, a cellist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Steve Vorass, drummer extraordinaire and seemingly in a hundred bands. Veteran Milwaukee music fans will immediately recognize the band in which these two collaborated: I Am Not a Pilot. Together, they present familiar songs in a very unfamiliar way — a swirling mix of virtuosic strings phonetically punctuated by impeccably fluent staccato rhythms backed by a constant and steady bass drum beat.

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!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Dear Kombucha...

At first, I thought you were weird -- the odd duck of the beverage world. I mean, nobody hears "a drink produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria" and thinks "Oh YUM!" But after a little consideration, I thought, "Well, I like other fermented drinks, so why not give you a try?"

At first gulp, I thought you were a bit funky... and not figuratively speaking. You ARE a funky-tasting beverage. But I gulped down anyway, figuring your enzymes and probiotics would do me some good. After a few bottles, I started to appreciate those other ingredients with whom you were blended. Ginger, Turmeric, and Tart Cherry are a few of my favorites. These partners knock down your funk and replace it with zip and zing and pucker.

Now, as I enter my third week of gastronomic distress from a renegade chicken salad sandwich, I'm relying on your powers to refresh my intestines' ability to painlessly digest solid food. You and kefir have become the Batman and Robin in my fight against a no-joke parasite that steals my nutrition and also seems to fart a lot. Bam! Pow! Sock! Your PRObiotics dominate my gut's AMATEUR-biotics (on a good day).


You're not inexpensive, but then again, you're cheaper than beer, and we all know beer's price has never stopped me from knocking back a few. In fact, I'd be healthier and wealthier if I substituted a kombucha in place of Milwaukee's finest. (Sidebar: bars and restaurants, start offering Kombucha!)

I've become one of your biggest fans, so why do you tempt me to shake you before opening? Is this your idea of a joke? I mean, you're lightly carbonated, and we all know what happens when one shakes a carbonated beverage before opening, right? PFFFFFTTTTSSSSSHHHH!! You spray yourself everywhere. Oh sure, I often resist the temptation and gently turn and tap your sides gently first, trying to dislodge the sediment of probiotic and enzymatic goodness that lies solidified on your bottom, but it never fails: I overdo it. PFFFFFTTTTSSSSSHHHH!! Sprayed again.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I'm now learning to open you first, take a drink, replace the cap, and then get jiggy with it. That seems to dislodge your good stuff at the bottom and keep the PFFFFFTTTTSSSSSHHHH!! factor to a minimum.

So anyway, keep fighting the good fight. I feel more parasitic flatulence coming on, so look up in the Gotham sky, the beacon is on. It's time for you to go to work and fight the evil-doing organisms in my belly.

Your pal,
Mike

P.S. - Any chance you've been honing your skills to take on another pesky microorganism?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Opes! I Did It Again!

We watch Discover Wisconsin regularly, and, in quarantine, we've even been watching past episodes on YouTube. Numerous times, the show's hosts have been wearing t-shirts that say 'OPE'. The word confused us, so we looked it up. And this is how ope is defined according to the always reliable Urban Dictionary: it's a Midwest thing. When someone cuts in front of you rudely, when you are surprised, when you bump into someone, or when something is offensively funny, you use the word ope.

"Huh?" I thought. I never heard of that. I am a Midwesterner for life and I don't recall ever hearing, or uttering, ope.

The next day, walking our dog Neala, she wanted to veer left when I yearned to go right. The leash went taut and I said, "Ope!"

Nah. Not ope, right? Couldn't have been ope. It probably was just "Oh!" with wetted lips from the cool Spring breeze.

Later, I encountered another walker at an intersection. We weren't sure who had the right-of-way, and we kind of did one of those little you-go/no-I-go dances and out of my mouth came another oh that sounded like ope.

Darn wet lips. It's gotta be the weather. Again, denial.

A day or two later, Neala, at leash's end, starting doing her business, but I didn't notice. Just as I was about give the tether a come-along tug, I noticed her arched back.

Ope.

There it was. Unmistakably uttered just as our pup was about to drop a deuce. A poop ope, if you will. I could no longer deny it. A clean and crisp ope with a P popped as pronounceably, precisely, and perfectly as the P's in pup or poop.

It's time to admit it. I am an ope'er. Admission is the first step.

In the days since I realized that I possessed this unmistakable Midwestern charm, I have caught myself ope'ing countless times. It comes from deeply within. I don't even have time to stop it. It's like my lips are connected to an optic nerve. The moment my eyes sense a surprise, an ope pops from my lips faster than you can say, well, ope.

Ope. Enough yarn-spinning. It's time to get back to work. You, too, ya ope'ers.

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.