Friday, July 21, 2017

Another Open Letter to My Friend, Bruce


Recently I sent you 30 things to do/tips for getting the maximum enjoyment out of Appleton's Mile of Music. My first tip you might remember was "Download the app, start listening and discovering new artists now." I did this last year and made a list of the bands that I considered must-sees. One of those bands was a group of talented musicians out of Cincinnati: Motherfolk.

Motherfolk at Mile 4
I caught their performance at Houdini Plaza and it was a delight. These guys (guys and one girl, actually) put on a raucous and energetic show. It was super and I felt like I was watching, potentially, the next big thing (which coincides with tip #3 from my last letter to you). Motherfolk's written some great tunes, too, somewhat in alignment with the great songs by The Lumineers, The Head and The Heart or The Avett Brothers. I've never seen The Lumineers or The Head and The Heart, but I've seen The Avetts at least six times. Motherfolk's performance energy nearly matches the Brothers' -- and that's not an easy feat! (Watch below for a taste.)

Fast forward now to May of 2017, when the Tosa Tonight Summer Concert Series schedule came out. You can imagine how elated I was to see that the crew that signs band for the summer schedule pulled an amazing coup and signed Motherfolk to perform at Rotary Performance Pavilion on Wednesday, July 26th! I've been going to the series -- my favorite Summer concert series in the 414 -- for a decade, but I've never seen such a contemporary, up-and-coming band signed to play here. This is quite amazing. Even more so considering the last band that performed prior to Motherfolk was none other than 80's rock radio stalwart The Motels! Someone's doing something right over at Tosa Tonight.

Anyway, Bruce, I hope that I'll see you at Mile of Music, but even if you don't make it, I hope you won't pass up the easy opportunity to see one of the great acts that will be performing in Appleton: Motherfolk. If you go, don't worry about texting or calling me, I'll be easy to find. I'll be right up front, stage-center, singing loudly along to the songs I know. In fact, I mean even ignite the "Motherfolk sucks! Motherfolk sucks!" chant that seems popular to yell before Motherfolk takes the stage (even though they don't suck at all).

Alright, Bruce. Good writing to you. I hope to see ya on the 26th in Tosa. Perhaps you can shop for a home while you're here. You know it's calling; it's where all the cool people live. ;)



P.S. - I love this tune...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Open Reply to My Friend, Bruce

This is Bruce. Bruce is unique. 
My friend, Bruce, recently posted the following to Facebook:

“I'm considering trying to convince my wife that we should try Mile of Music in a few weeks. Anyone who has been, would you recommend and if so, any tips you wish you had been given?"

My head nearly exploded with responses and ideas. To me, the four days of Mile of Music is the most wonderful time of the year. This will be our third consecutive year of attending this unique and incredible festival. After our first (Mile 3), we instantly booked the following year’s accommodations and we did the same following Mile 4. I see no reason why we won’t do so again after Mile 5. This festival is an explosion of fantastic aural art and musical camaraderie. It’s the finest four days of the year.

So with that introduction and only 16 days to go until the festival starts, I give you -- in no particular order -- 30 things (tips) you should do, Bruce, at Mile of Music 5...
  1. Download the app, start listening and discovering new artists now. I cannot emphasize this one
    Get the app.
     enough. It’s hard to see a bad performer at Mile of Music, it really is. The artists performing here are pros. The only thing separating them and many bands you hear on the radio is that they either haven’t written that one mega-hit or, more likely, they’ve just haven’t caught a break from a radio station executive. My money's on the latter.
  2. Buy something. A CD, bumper sticker, t-shirt, anything. Most of these artists are dedicated professionals, but that doesn’t mean they’re rolling in greenbacks. It cost them a lot to get here, so reward your favorites by buying some of their sounds or wares. I've even helped musicians move their gear in the few short minutes they've got to get on or off a stage. They've always been appreciative.
  3. Discover your band. With 900 performances by 250-ish musicians in four days, there’s bound to be a band that you discover. That means none of your music-head buddies have ever heard of them (yet), but you'll become convinced that you’ve just seen the next big thing and you can’t wait to tell others. This may happen multiple times a day, but by festival’s end, there’s certain to be one band that you remain obsessed with. 
  4. Do not yell Freebird. This is an original music festival. Freebird yellers will be removed from the festival and forced to spend the remainder of the weekend in Kaukauna. 
  5. Compliment an artist when you see them on the street. This is a favorite feature of the Mile to
    With Parker Gispert of The Whigs moments after I
    helped him carry gear to his car.
     me and this does not happen at Milwaukee's Summerfest. One hour you’ll see an amazing musician blowing your mind on stage and the next hour you’ll notice him/her next to you enjoying a beer. This is always so cool. I’ve met Lex Allen, Anna Vogelzang, Parker Gispert, my pals 1913 (Victor DeLorenzo and Janet Schiff) and Brother O’ Brother (Warner Swopes and Chris Banta), one of the guitarists from Sun Parade (Jeff Lewis, I think), Kate Tucker of Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden, Jay Matthes, and many, many more this way. One time we were admiring a huge poster of Milwaukee band GGOOLLDD at the exact same moment GGOOLDD passed by. Lots of guffawing and horsing around ensued. Take advantage of this unique opportunity. 
  6. Arrange accommodations or transportation. Mile of Music isn’t the most kid-friendly event -- though there are plenty of performances in civic areas -- you’re going to enjoy a few adult beverages. Just make sure your accommodations are walking distance or arrange a ride. I’m not certain of the availability of Lyft or Uber in Appleton, but it’s a pretty progressive town. I’m sure they’re here. 
  7. Don’t let the fact that a band that hails from Oshkosh, Green Bay, or Neenah deter you. Seriously. Even though there are performers there from around the globe at Mile of Music, bands from the triangle of the Fox Valley to Madison to Milwaukee should not be disregarded. This region is proving to be fertile soil for amazing talent. Be sure to check them out. (The Traveling Suitcase immediately comes to mind.) 
  8. Spot Graham Washatka. You can’t miss him. He’s a deft photographer who seems to be in more
    Play Mile of Music Bingo...
    Spot Graham. This is him!
     places than is possible for a single person. Nice guy and a friend of mine too. 
  9. See Brother O’ Brother. They’ll melt your face off. (The Ghost Wolves will too, for that matter.) See their video for 'You Would' at the bottom of this blog.
  10. Have a beer from Appleton Beer Factory. They’re an official venue, so that makes it easy. Drink local. 
  11. See a performance at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel; get goosebumps. This may or not be possible, many performances are restricted to Music Maker badge holders, but if you get the chance, see someone play here. It’s just awesome. 
  12. Fly solo. Yep. You’ve got smartphones and your own interests. Don’t hesitate to split from your beloved for a bit and then reconnect elsewhere. We did this last year when my wife went to see Lily Winwood (Steve’s daughter) while I found something more suitable for my head-banging self. (I did catch Lily’s act another day at a different venue.) 
  13. Contemplate living in Appleton. Whether you want to or not, this thought will likely pop into your head. It’s a vibrant city with lots of art and culture. During these four days Appleton really comes alive! 
  14. See Diane Coffee. A must I tell you. An absolute must. A rock 'n' roll glamour extravaganza.
    Diane Coffee - a must-see!
    Very likely the most entertaining band/person I’ve seen in 10 years. No joke. 
  15. Plan your day. The Mile’s app and website make it very possible to make a detailed plan to hear the maximum amount of music on a given day. The app lets you favorite (heart) artists you enjoy and then when you’re at the festival, it’s easy to see where and when those artists are to perform. 
  16. Let the festival come to you. In other words, screw the previous tip and just find a comfortable place to enjoy the day. The schedule is tight and bands play one after another with only a short break in between. Appleton’s got a lot of comfortable bars to relax in to watch the more sedate bands, but Mill Creek is where you’re most likely to get the maximum power. Of course, Houdini Plaza or Washington Square will be good places to hang out like at any good Wisconsin festival. (Also The Alley Project) 
  17. Look for cameos. Last year Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Bash & Pop, Guns 'n' Roses) showed up and jammed in an alley. Who knows who’ll show up this year. The Mile’s on stars’ radars. 
  18. The festival doesn’t end on Saturday. Interesting things happen on Sunday too. In fact, if you stick around until Sunday evening, you could find yourself invited to something unique like an artists-only party. It could happen. 
  19. See Cory Chisel on the street. Not only is he a Grammy-nominated performer, excellent songwriter and singer, he’s an Appleton native and founder of this festival to channel money to music education programs. He’s a fine Wisconsinite and seemly ubiquitous during the festival.
  20. See Corey Chisel perform. He may be by himself or he may be with others. Keep your eyes open. 
  21. See a band on the Mile of Music Bus. This is another must and a blast. The Mile of Music Bus is an
    Jay Matthes rocking the Mile of Music bus
     easy way to cover the great distance that may exist between some venues. Bonus: the Bus is a party. They, too, are a venue -- a rock and rolling (literally) venue! 
  22. Make friends. It’s easy here. The people of the Fox Valley are friendly and interested in having a good time as much as you are. 
  23. Have a Stone Arch Brewery beer. Another venue that’s off the College Avenue strip. It’s a short hike (or grab the bus), but it’s a cool business and fun to visit. 
  24. Don’t worry about me. I hope to see you there, shake hands and have a beer together, but this is a festival of personal musical exploration. Spend it finding your thing. If we’re in sync, great, but otherwise, have a great time and we’ll discuss our experiences when the festival is over.
  25. Catch a performance at Houdini Plaza. This can be the most vigorous and crowd-packed venue.
    Motherfolk at Houdini Plaza. Catch them first
    at Tosa Tonight, July 26th!
    With great weather on tap for early August, it can be a fun place to hang. In fact, a star-packed one-two punch is scheduled there Thursday evening: Diane Coffee followed by San Fermin. That’s about as headline as Mile of Music gets. 
  26. Sing in a shower. This is fun. Sponsored by Tundraland, there’s a shower in Paper Valley lobby that you can perform a song in. They’ve even got a guitar to use! 
  27. Porky’s Groove Machine. Just go. Sofa King entertaining. 
  28. Be a Music-Maker. This is the major individual sponsorship program. It gets you stuff that the ordinary fan doesn’t get. We did it last year and it was fun, but you don’t have to do it have a good time. (I think this is one of the big misunderstandings newbies have at the Mile I’ve heard more than one person exclaim that they thought they need this pass to enjoy the festival. You don’t need it, but it does get you into a few exclusive shows, but not enough to make it a must. I’d consider it, too, if I lived near Appleton, as one of its benefits is off-season access to shows.) 
  29. Visit Appleton’s amazing farmers market on Saturday morning. This one’s a doozy, filled with produce, bakery, performing artists, and more. It’s worth the drive to Appleton even when the festival is not occurring! 
  30. Ask the right questions. The right questions to ask regarding Mile of Music are “Who are you looking forward to seeing?” or “What band or artist do you recommend?” In the months leading up to Mile of Music the unfamiliar ask, “Who’s there this year?” like it’s Summerfest, Country Thunder, Eaux Claires, or Lollapalooza. This ain’t those fests and perhaps that’s why I like it so much. It’s personable, accessible, open, and an absolute blast. 
That’s my shot-from-the-hip list of my 30 things (tips) you should do at Mile of Music. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s well organized and the most four fun days of Wisconsin summer.

I hope to see you there, Bruce!

Your pal,


The following lists are not complete; they are fluid and will be edited, but only by addition, not by subtraction.
Artists I’m planning to check out: Art’s Fishing Club, South Hound Smith, Terra Lightfoot, The Traveling Suitcase, Swear and Shake, Ron Gallo, Valley Queen, Tenement, Fast Romantics, ...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summerfest, Day 11 Recap - I Did It!

Well I made it. All 11 days of Summerfest's 50th anniversary celebration. It was a great run and I had a ton of fun. For another day I'd like to write about some of my takeaways, pro's and con's, tips, secrets, etc., but for today I'm just going to recap day no. 11.

This was a funny day. It was the latest that I arrived the festival in 11 days. I didn't get to the park until 4:30 PM. I had to watch the Brewers seal the series against the Yankees at O'Lydia's one last time. They did, taking two out of three against the Bronx Bombers and they head into the All-Star break 50-41 with a 5.5 game lead over the rival Cubs. Yay team. Good luck in the season's second half! Bonus, free Fireball shot at O'Lydia's. Not because the Brewers won, but because a marketing team was there offering everyone free shots. I took one, but I didn't pound it, I savored it. (If one can do that with an ounce of Fireball.)

My aim was to get to festival grounds by at least 5:00 PM because arrangements had been made for me to meet with a Fox 6 reporter for a Summerfest story. By 5:00 Angelica Sanchez of the station sent me a text, "Are you on the grounds?" Yep, I replied. We made arrangements to meet near the Harley-Davidson area. I told Angelica I was close and I'd be there in a moment. When I arrived, I spotted her looking for a fellow that she thought might be me. I walked up behind her just as she was asking some big dude in a sleeveless tee, "Are you Mike?" No he said, but I popped up from behind her and said, "But I am!" We found a relatively quiet spot to conduct an interview and I was mic'd up for a few questions. Camera rolling, I was asked a few Q's about my 11-day run and, beer in hand, I answered them. If you've ever done something like this, you immediately consider your answers afterward and wish for a do-over. Nonetheless, I had faith in their editing capabilities and they did a fine job removing all (most) of my gibberish. You can see the final product here.

A clip from my 30-seconds of fame
I sported my 414 shirt from Too Much Metal for the interview. Immediately afterward, I touched my Summerfest "gool" by visiting Fred and telling him to look for me on the evening news (or the Internet). Out of 11 days, I think there was only one where I didn't stop and share a "Hey, how you doin'?" with Fred. If you're reading this, Fred, thank you for the always warm welcomes.

I then made a beeline to see my friend Ron's band, Clove, perform at the lakefront (lagoon-front, really) Renegade stage. I was blown away. After a short delay getting the sound system set up, Clove rocked a nice array of pop-song covers. What amazed me was how well they were received! Not that they should not have been, but that was by far the most people I've seen attend one of these lagoon-front side stages. Clove packed 'em in and had everybody happily dancing. It was great. I stayed for quite a while with a big grin on my face. It's hard not to enjoy yourself when everyone near you is having such a good time. Well done, Ron and gang! (Note: other members of this band used to play with me at Brocach Irish Pub on North Water Street years ago. It was fun to see them gel professionally as Clove.)
Clove rocking the Renegade Stage; Ron on the left
After Clove I was nearly ready to make tracks, but I made one last walk through the north end of the grounds to see if there was any band worth discovering and boy was there ever. At the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, I may have stumbled upon my favorite band of the festival: The Weeks. This is a new band to me, but they've been around for a while. In fact, if you give them a listen you're likely to say they sound like a Kings of Leon knock-off, but considering that The Weeks have been around for over 10 years, you could almost say it's the other way around. They rocked hard and I enjoyed them immensely.

Funny thing, though, while I was at this stage. I remembered that my friend and former Milwaukeean, Rachel, was the stage manager. Over the course of the 11 days she would send me messages, "Hey, let me know when you're here. You can come back stage and have a drink with me." At the 11th hour I texted Rachel, "I'm here. Is that backstage invite still open?" An immediate reply followed and, boom, I was backstage. It was good to see her and we enjoyed nice conversation with some of her now-exhausted staff. Plus we had that drink... er, drinks. While doing so, I could still hear The Weeks rocking out on the stage and I asked, "Hey, can I go out there and watch them from the side?" Sure I could and I watched the rousing finally from stage-right. They were a blast and as soon as they exited the stage via the black curtains there was me saying, "Well done, fellows. You rocked!" Even on the high of coming away from performing in front of a very appreciative crowd, the lead singer was gracious and said, "Thanks, man. We love to hear that!" That was nice. I'm looking forward to checking out a lot more of their music. In fact, I'm listening to it now and their new song, "Talk Like That" was played on 88Nine tonight.

The Weeks from backstage
And with that experience I called it a fest. I was very tempted to see The Shins, but I knew that I had an early golf date with my former boss and wanted to awake fresh and rested. My golf game needs all the help it can get. (It sounds like I may have made a poor decision. The word is that The Shins put on a great show. Dangit.)

So it's done. My attend-Summerfest-for-all-11-days Milwaukee bucket list item has been crossed off my list. I enjoyed it greatly, but I wouldn't necessarily do it again. But then again, maybe I would -- I just need a 353-day break to recharge.

Thanks for following along. Fest on, friends, Summerfest or not.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summerfest Day Ten, A Recap

Summerfest Day 10 was to be a rather short stroll through the grounds, cameras in-hand, snapping shots of a few of the more unusual sights that one might see at the world's largest music party. For the most part, that's what we did, however, as things are wont to do, we ultimately strayed from our mission after running into friends.

In my 11-day run at Summerfest, I figured this 10th day would be my last "party" day, i.e., day to have a few beers. When I attend on Sunday, the final day, I've self-imposed a one-beer maximum. I've got too much going on Monday to overindulge or indulge at all. With that said, we started out our festing in our traditional manner: with a stop at O'Lydia's on First Street. We knew the Brewers were heading into the final innings against the Yankees and we aimed to watch the outcome over a beer and Irish Potato skins. Well the beers were good and cold (Oberons) and the skins delicious, but dammit if the Brewers' reliever, Corey Knebel, didn't give up a 3-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. Darn it. He's an all-star too. That's not supposed to happen. Oh well, get the series from 'em today, crew.
With David Myles

After the blown save it was off to the fest upon our Harley. We no sooner entered the main gate and turned left when we saw an unusual sight: a dapper slender fellow hanging out in front of the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage. He looked out of place and I figured he had to have a story so I asked him, "What's a handsome fellow like you doing in a place like this?" Turns out he was musician David Myles, who was set to perform at the World Sound Stage at 5:30 (roughly an hour and a half from the time we met him). David had a funny story. He said he came from a family of doctors and his dad was concerned about his career choice to become a professional musician. David replied, "Don't worry, Dad. Someday I'll have a job where I wear a suit to work every day." And thus his career as a suit-wearing musician began. To honor his father, he wears a sharply tailored suit during every performance. Very nice. We committed to returning the the stage to see him play and off we ran.

After wandering around the north end of the grounds for a bit, we hopped on the Skyglider for our first ride of the season. It's always nice to fly above the madness and look down below. The day was perfect too, so it made the views extra sweet.

At the south end, we made our obligatory stop at Saz's lakeside restaurant for a Miller Lite. Like the Skyglider allows one to escape the madness of the fest, so, too, does a stop at Saz's. It allows one to sit, be waited on, and enjoy the day. I've always liked this stop and the service has always been great.

If there was ever a home base for us at Summerfest it's been Fred's Too Much Metal shop at the South End Marketplace. It's a rare Summerfest day when we don't stop in and say hello to Fred who always
treats us with a friendly smile and some good laughs. Saturday was no different, however, what was unusual was that both my wife and I were wearing shirts designed by Fred. So a picture of us together was mandatory. Fred's the designer of the 414 shirt and hat. Whenever I wear mine people ask one of two questions: either "What's 414 mean?" Or "Where can I get one of those?" The 414 is the Milwaukee area area code. It used to be a much larger zone covering the entire Eastern side of the state, but as the number of phones and numbers increased, it contracted to become unique to the Milwaukee area. As for where you can buy one, Fred's got a shop in the 3rd ward and is omnipresent at any number of festivals, but the simplest way is just to Google "Too Much Metal." That'll lead you to a place where you can buy one online ( Easy peasy.

Hangin' with Too Much Metal Fred
After touching home we made our way back to the World Sound Stage for David Myles' show. It was great and I'm really glad we met him and came back for his music. He described it as "bluegrassy," but to me it had a very familiar tone: it sounded a lot like the more up-beat versions of Justin Townes Earle's songs. It was very enjoyable and you can see that David and his band have honed their stage craft over 10 years of touring. Interestingly, their touring has been primarily in Canada and Europe with very few forays into the US. They're just starting to tour the US now. I'm not sure why it took them so long, but I wish them all the best. They're a good bunch.

Brett Newski on the Miller Stage
After Mr. Myles, we were near our exit from the grounds, but then, as the saying goes, shit happens. We discovered that Milwaukee's own Brett Newski was playing at the Miller stage and as we made our way for a final beer and the start of his set, we ran into my old colleague and now friend, John, and his wife,  Jenny. This means we wind up watching Brett's entire set and we enjoy at least one more beer more than planned. Brett's show was fun, but the big stage seemed huge for him and this 3-piece band (himself included). I was glad we were close and up-front. It made his lyrics more accessible and he's a good song-writer. His songs are laced with humor and a peculiar take on the world.

A lakefront encounter with David Myles and band
By the time Brett was done, darn it if you didn't know it was time for Whitney to play back over at the World Sound Stage. This was the show that I had my eye on because I listened to their debut album a lot. Back to the Johnson we went, but this time, of course, the seating area was packed and all were standing on the benches. So seeing the band well was not an option. We elected to stand on the south side of the stage and who did we wind up standing right next to? Why, David Myles and his bandmates! Seems I was destined to discover this guy. After a few songs by Whitney, my wife came back from a short walk around the stage and said, "You guys have got to see the moon rising over the lake right now. It's incredible." And she was right. We made our way to the lagoon shore and ooh'd and ah'd over the most perfect full-moon rising. The color palette was Easter, with an array of pastel blues and pinks filling the eastern horizon. It was really cool to see this with David and his band -- I don't believe I've yet mentioned they are from Nova Scotia -- who really seemed impressed with everything Milwaukee. At that moment, it was hard not to be impressed with our city. It was beautiful.

Okay.  Finally it was time for a little more walking and a ride home before the crazies all came in. As it was, it was later than I wanted to stay, but it was worth it to see that gorgeous moon-rise. We still made it home with faint strains of sunlight in the sky.

Today's the final day. I'll go late and take it easy. If things go according to plan, I'll meet with a reporter from Milwaukee's Fox 6 TV station at 6:00 and be on the news at 9:00. I have no idea what I'll say, but let's hope I don't make a bigger fool out of myself than I already do. ;)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summerfest Day Nine Recap

Walking to the Fest after a City Lights Ale
For day nine of Summerfest we chose an alternative mode of transportation to get to the fest: walking. I mean, everybody in some form or another walks to the fest, but we walked from our home in Wauwatosa. The route distance was about 8 miles. One benefit of the route was that it passed by City Lights Brewing where we thought we'd take a little break and enjoy an Orange Wheat Ale before continuing our journey.

At the fest we saw Brothers Collective, a 3-brothers group out of Los Angeles. They performed at the Johnosn Controls World Sound Stage. They were an energetic and entertaining bunch with catchy songs. Even though we'd never heard them before, it was easy to find your toe tapping along to the beats.

Friss, Always Entertaining
From there we hit the Miller Stage for State Fair stalwart, Bobby Friss. Bobby is one of the most entertaining rockers on the festival scene today. I am an unabashed, unapologetic, and unrepentant fan of Friss and his "good" band. They're not a cover band, they are the consummate party band and total pros. It's nearly impossible to not have a good time at a Bobby Friss show. A lot of original music artists could learn a few things about stage craft by watching Friss. He's engaging with the audience and the members of his band enjoy themselves. I mentioned Friss' "good" band. What I mean by that is Bobby's band often has different members. When he has guitarist Jerry Riggs with him, you'll hear pitch perfect renditions of lead guitar strains from rock classics. Jerry's a total pro. The other members of Friss' good band professional perfectionists too. They're playing again at the Miller stage today. With perfect weather on tap, I bet his crowd will be huge. Go see him if you're going today. You'll have a good time.

We waited up front after Friss to see Milwaukee's own Tigernite fronted by Molly Roberts. Tigernite plays straight-ahead rock songs with fun and glam-y stage presence. Molly always puts on a show with her glittery athleticism and roaring voice. Unfortunately Tigernite's performance was dampened by rain, and sometimes quite heavy rain. We toughed it out though. Remaining up front wet and cold and tell they kicked us out at 7:30. "Kicked us out" got you confused? We were standing in an area in front of the stage that requires "credentials" after 7:30. I thought with the rain and the dearth of people waiting to enter the reserved area, they might let us stay there until the end of Tigernite's set, but nope. They made us leave right at 7:30. I think Tigernite was only able to play two more songs after 7:30, but it was a good time while it lasted. I'd go see them again today if they were playing.

Getting wet with Tigernite
It wasn't all misfortune that came from us being asked to leave at 7:30. When we left the reserved area we ran into friend and neighbor, Dean, who was just about to leave the fest and head for home. "Dean, mind if we catch a ride back with you?" and Dean said, "No problem!" Perfect. Since we walked to the fest, we needed a ride back and were likely to Uber unless we found a pal like Dean. And the extra bonus was... instead of going back to our home, we went to Dean's where he made us whiskey sours and we watched the Brewers beat the Yankees in New York. Amazing that they could win after committing five errors, but Jesus Aguilar's seven RBI's including a grand slam sure helped. 49-40 with a 4.5 game lead over the Cubs. Can the Brewers hang on?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summerfest Day Eight Recap

Nineteen Thirteen are Victor DeLorenzo  and Janet Schiff
Day 8 of Summerfest for me was all about seeing Milwaukee area bands. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late to see D'Amato, but we've seen their dynamic performances elsewhere around town. We did, however, see our friends Nineteen Thirteen at the BMO Harris Pavilion. This is a great venue to see them perform. Nineteen Thirteen makes the kind of music I wouldn't know that I liked until I heard it. The melodies are often trance-like punctuated with sharp jabs of precisely timed percussion. Often the things I like most about simple rock 'n' roll can be found in the strains of their songs. It's particularly fun for me to see them because we know their music so well. They only played a few songs that were new enough that I did not know them. Great stuff, check them out. I think they're playing next weekend at Bastille Days too. (Yep. They are. I just checked. They're at the Cathedral Square Stage between 5:00 and 6:30 on Sunday, July 16th.)

Just a word here, too, about the BMO Harris Pavilion. Is this not the best stage at the fest? It is by far. It's the only one without those miserable aluminum benches. The viewing angles are great even from far away. It's covered, so the incessant threat of rain is defeated. Another bonus is the views of the city and Lake Michigan from here are fantastic. The only bad thing I see about the stage is what it does to the adjacent American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Much has been written about the noise from the BMO flowing over into the Amphitheater. Last week I had the displeasure to experience this myself when Paul Simon performed one of his quieter songs from his Simon and Garfunkel days. Next door at the BMO, House of Pain's beat stomped all over his song. If this is distracting to a fan, imagine how distracting it is to the performer! I saw this happen to Neil Diamond a few years ago when The B-52's played next door. there was one moment I could clearly tell that Neil was irritated.

The BMO Harris Pavilion
NO/NO's Cat Ries
As soon as Nineteen Thirteen completed their set, in haste we made our way to "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Bands to Watch" at the Uline Stage. Three bands selected by the Journal Sentinel's Piet Levy. The bands were Faux Fiction, Bo & Airo, and NO/NO. I completely missed Faux Fiction, which bummed me out, but I caught the last half of Bo & Airo's set and NO/NO's entire set. NO/NO was the band that I really wanted to see because I've been listening to their latest record on Spotify. Bo & Airo was good and they were entertaining, but their music isn't my thing. It's hip-hop loaded with profanity. Coming directly from Nineteen Thirteen, hearing a song where the primary lyric is MF'er something something, it's a jarring contrast. Nonetheless, they've got mad skills and I wish them well. Bass player Bo Triplex is particularly masterful of his instrument. (The drummer is Airo Kwil, hence the name 'Bo & Airo'.)

NO/NO's brand of captivating synth-pop was great. Their website describes them as "Milwaukee’s most evolved electro pop band, pairing new wave sensibilities with the fuzzy, dreamlike quality of shoegaze." I can totally see that. But what I did not know is that this band was formed from remnants of The Delphines, another Milwaukee band whose music I enjoyed. Check out NO/NO's latest on Bandcamp:

Direct Hit! rocks the Harley stage
Next we caught Milwaukee's most enegetic pop/punk band Direct Hit! over at the Harley Stage. These guys are veteran rockers and are really good at it. My wife and I both agreed that this exactly the kind of energy we have been missing at Summerfest this year. Direct Hit! brought it big time. This was good.

And after Direct Hit!, it was time to leave. I gauge my departure time on when people start standing on benches. Once they do, it's time for me to leave.

Looking forward to stalwart rocker Bobby Friss today followed by one of my favorite Milwaukee bands: glam-rockers Tigernite. I hope to get there early enough to get a good seat at the Miller stage.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Summerfest Day Seven Recap

Attending Summerfest every day is beginning to feel like a job. Yesterday was as close as my attend-all-11-days pursuit felt like punching a clock. Don't get me wrong, it's still fun, but yesterday approached mundane  closer than any other day. Perhaps it was the exhaustingly named promotion "Sentry Foods and Dean's Milk & Ice Cream Children's Fest Day with Today's TMJ4" letting all in for free between noon and 3:00 PM that made yesterday a little more irritating than usual. Too many people too soon.

But it was a glorious Summer day. Likely Summerfest's best of 2017. It was warm and sunny with little threat of rain. That was nice. Nearly every day prior weather had an impact from torrential downpours to unseasonably cool temperatures.

To take full advantage of the nice weather, I pedaled my bike from my home in Wauwatosa to the festival grounds. The distance is about 7.5 miles and there are numerous possible routes. When choosing to bike or walk to downtown Milwaukee, there are numerous considerations to make. It's not always about taking the shortest route. Nonetheless, it was nearly the shortest route that I chose: from my house to the north end gate down Wisconsin Avenue. I took the same route home. And let me tell you this: this was a bad idea. But more on this later.

Upon arriving the park I was completely unaware that the awkwardly named promotion was going on, but I immediately recognized that something was up as the throngs to enter at the north gate were
huge. I heard an authoritative man yell to the ticket takers at a few minutes after 3:00 "Let 'em all in!" I guess he figured that all standing in line were there to take advantage of the promotion and that the only way to reset was to let all in the long lines in. Dang. I had my 11-day Power Pass and I was a paying customer! There ought to be a special queue just for Power Pass holders. Just sayin'.

One of OnMilwaukee's 100 Things to do at Summerfest:
Buy a soda from a massive root beer barrel!
Upon entry into the festival I made it my mission to visit every stage. Using the day as an opportunity to find something new and interesting was the goal. Unfortunately, Sentry Foods and Dean's Milk & Ice Cream Children's Fest Day with Today's TMJ4 doesn't offer very progressive music options. Most stages had performers that veered towards blues and jazz. Not that there's anything wrong with blues and jazz, but to me it's music for clubs and bars of a more intimate setting. It's not a good fit for the "World's Largest Music Festival." Also very fitting for families was Spoof Fest at the Big Backyard Stage. Spoof Fest is a number of bands that mimic famous bands and performers in a comedic manner. Cute and theatrical, yes, but again, it doesn't float my boat.

I was able to enjoy two original Wisconsin acts though: Roxi Copland and Kyle Megna & The Monsoons. Roxi's smooth as silk at the piano and she's been a long-time Twitter friend of mine so it was nice to see her play. Unfortunately I was a little late and only caught her last two songs, but it was nice. Megna & The Monsoons were over at the Miller stage and put on an energetic performance. I can't quite describe their music so I went over to their website to see if they had a term or phrase that describes it. Theirs was "dark-indie-blues-folk-rock feel." I guess so, but there's something missing there too. They use a lot of horns. So it's got a lot more of a jazzy-soul thing going on too. They were cool and the best thing I saw July 5th.

Kyle Megna
One interesting thing occurred to me while I was at the fest. A Milwaukee TV news station contacted me and stated that they were aware that I was attending all 11 days and blogging about it. They asked if they could meet me at the fest on Sunday and do a little story on me. "Sure!" I said. This sounds like fun. They're to meet me at 6:00 PM, Sunday. Now the big question is... How many beers will be in me by 6:00 PM? You'll just have to tune in to find out! (WITI, Fox 6 - Milwaukee)

After a short visit to every stage it was time to head for home. Remember that I described my route down Wisconsin Avenue earlier? Well that's the way I took home too. But this time, I narrowly escaped death by an inattentive (read: asshole) driver. As I was passing Walgreens at 35th and Wisconsin, a car exiting the Walgreens parking lot accelerated to beat oncoming traffic. The problem was, I was directly in its path! The driver didn't care to look for bicycles or pedestrians. In a moment, I had to make the quickest decision I've ever made: accelerate or brake -- in either case, hard. I chose the former. With all the might I could muster, I pressed down on the right pedal. (I don't know why I recall that it was the right one, but I'm sure it was.) I made it past the front right fender of the care with barely a millimeter to spare. The ass-hat never once slowed. Thank God. After he shot across Wisconsin Avenue my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears. That was close. Thank goodness, too, that I chose to accelerate instead of brake because I think braking would have left me in the car's path where I certainly would have been mangled.

Two times earlier this week I mentioned that I was lucky. I was lucky to be invited to see Paul Simon and I was lucky to find my lost eyeglasses in a park. Today I'm just lucky to be alive.

Day 8 will be a full-day at Summerfest. The dearth of progressive acts from Day 7 will be shattered by D'Amato at 3:00, my friends Nineteen Thirteen (4:30 at BMO), and the "Bands to Watch: Summerfest Firsts" festival within the festival kicking off at 5:00 at the Uline stage. I'm particularly looking forward to NO/NO. Their sound's reminiscent of 80's English new wave and synthpop like Flock of Seagulls and Missing Persons.