Archives For Milwaukee

I’m not going to go on too long about this show but to say that I was a bit peeved by the final notes is a bit of an understatement. First and foremost, the music was good. Titus Andronicus continues to be impressive and explosive. Even with sound issues (believe it or not, they weren’t loud enough). Honestly, I’m surprised a riot doesn’t break out every time they play. I’ll definitely make an effort to see them whenever they’re around. Without a doubt.

And Bright Eyes. Well-Conor and co.  were better than good too.  Mike Mogis and Nate Wolcott are terrific musicians that add a ton to Oberst’s live show and the amount of applause they both received when announced is a true testament to that.  As for this particular evening, having seen Bright Eyes several times, I would say that musically this show sits somewhere near the middle. Song selection was  a bit People’s Key heavy but they managed to pull it off pretty well. The new songs sounded good and a little less flat than some of them do on record. There was also a nice mix of older tunes-a couple from I’m Wide Awake got a lot of people excited and “Bowl of Oranges” served as a nice singalong for a crowd that acted like they were at their first concert. Ever.

But besides the good that came from the night, the bad will probably be a little more memorable to me. I think what really got me going was the fact that there wasn’t a Titus Andronicus/Bright Eyes section where only Desaparecidos songs were played (totally joking, although that would’ve been rad).

But seriously,  the fist pumping dudes toward the front that jeered at every drug or alcohol reference, shouted I LOVE YOU Conor like they were thirteen year olds at a Dashboard Confessional show, were a little much. I know, I know,  I used to be that dude.  But…on this night there was no escaping them.  As the show went on, no matter where I went that wasn’t the Riverside lobby, they seemed to multiply. And while that was moderately tolerable right up to the encore, what I was really unimpressed with was the fact that the show ran amok and turned into a political soap box.

Rock n roll can be political. Hell, rock n roll is political. It stemmed from, among other things, political and social angst. So. Ok. Write political songs, incorporate political undertones that express your angst into your lyrics-basically be Titus Andronicus-but I could honestly care less about what a celebrity has to say about it. My allegiances may align with yours, but I could honestly give a shit if you want a crowd of people to press your proverbial “like” button while you stumble around the stage shouting. Sure, everyone ate it up. They went wild.

Fact is- instead of all of the useless banter,  I would’ve rather heard two more songs. I mean, that’s what we paid for. But instead  I learned that politicians are fundamentalist Christians that worship an imaginary deity and are only concerned about corporate America. Thanks. My life was enriched by that.

I was honestly entertained by their 2007 Milwaukee performance when an overindulged Oberst fell into his string section, jumped into the audience, and gave his guitar away. That show is memorable for the unbelievable set that Bright Eyes played and the fact that Conor was composed enough to skillfully play a guitar and sing his heart out while barely being able to stand on two feet. But the music was not the memorable part of this particular night.  Since their music was so important to me at a crucial part of my formative years and the fact that I genuinely enjoy the hell out their records, I’m kind of hoping that I forget about it.

88.9 Radio Milwaukee continues to be a great resource for introducing newer music as well as rekindling some old flames. Insanely diverse. Never repetitive. And full of love for Milwaukee.

I’ve recently been gushing over a song that they’ve been playing- Amos Lee’s “Windows Are Rolled Down.” It’s pretty incredible. And I guess I have seen him play it live before but had no idea until I saw this video. Apparently he played it at Farm Aid this past year. Heh. Must’ve been after I Pabst out on my friend’s shoulder. Enjoy….

Tonight’s “Storm the Bastille” 5K, the annual lead in to Milwaukee’s celebration of berets and towers named after men named Eiffel, led thousands of smiling sweaty runners and walkers through the streets of downtown.  This year’s festival features some great talent in Milwaukee native and favorite Paul Cebar (July 8), The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (July 9), Lisa Haley and the Zydecats (July 10), and Appleton native Cory Chisel closes out the weekend with his band the Wandering Sons (July 11).  Do yourself a favor and check out this truly unique festival in the middle downtown Milwaukee.  And if for some reason you are unable to attend you can still achieve a French feel by eating Nutella smothered crepes while watching this video of my  favorite froggy import over and over again.

When I think of France I think of amazing electropop.  Well there’s that and game changing headbutts.

Prior to last night’s Hold Steady set at Summerfest’s US Cellular Connection Stage I was engulfed with nervous anticipation.  It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady without the crowd pleasing party starter Franz Nicolay.  It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady play material off of a new record that (so far) has the least amount of intensity and replayability.  And it was my first time seeing The Hold Steady at a festival that places little more emphasis on sound quality and crowd comfort than it does on making sure that fifteen year olds aren’t smuggling in flasks of peach schnapps.

SOAP BOX:::::::I only saw two shows at Summerfest this year (Passion Pit & THS) and both were at the US Cellular Connection Stage.  I just want to say that the sound at this stage is ridiculous.  It’s muddy and distracting.  While I am grateful that we only have to pay a meager $15 to see some of our favorite bands in our hometown, it’d be nice if someone took some time and small amount of the massive amounts $$$ this festival generates to fix the sound issues.  If I came from miles away to see anyone and had to deal with a shitty sound system and BLEACHERS that hold no purpose, I’d be pretty unhappy.  Anyway….

The Show

The band stormed out of the gate with “Constructive Summer” and started building a set peppered with favorites from Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America, and Stay Positive with well placed new songs folded in.  “The Sweet Part of the City” ” The Weekenders” “Hurricane J” and “Rock Problems” translated well live, kept pace, and should be welcomed into live sets by any fan of the band.

Highlight of the night: “Sequestered in Memphis.”  From where I was standing, this was the only song that the crowd around me knew all the words to.  I found out that a Hold Steady show can sometimes only be as good as the crowd around you.  Singing, shouting, and flailing around in unison with Craig Finn and an elated audience is truly the highlight.  Hopefully some of the fans that got on board with Stay Postive and Heaven is Whenever will do some research and one day lose their voices during the “woh-oh” parts in “Massive Nights.”

Bummer: The set was devoid of Almost Killed Me. When it was 11:30 and the band was finishing Separation Sunday’s “How a Resurrection Really Feels” I was certain they would have time left for end of the nighter “Killer Parties,” but I was wrong.

Overall, it didn’t reach the epic levels of jubilation that a Hold Steady show usually does for me but it still didn’t totally disappoint.  And while I missed looking on at the suited, mustachioed, and dapper looking key tapper, the Franz Nicolay-less Hold Steady still breathes life into it’s audience with the best of them.


June 27, 2010 — Leave a comment

Early Saturday morning a block of North Farwell Avenue on Milwaukee’s lower Eastside was blocked off as a crew of workers attempted to remove a tree that was ripped from the ground off of the hood of a 1998 Ford Taurus. One witness stated that it wasn’t the work of damaging winds but a force of nature known as Future Man. The unnamed witness told reporters that “Future Man,” named so because of his ability to see hours into the future, upset about a 2-1 USA loss to Ghana in soccer’s World Cup, lifted the tree from the earth and pushed it onto the car. Predicted four hours prior to game time and with the result being exactly what Future Man predicted, we now have no choice but to believe that Future Man can indeed predict the future. Eye witness and founder of Milwaukee music blog M. Goldstein surmised, “if he has the power to do that, then why shouldn’t we believe that he could manhandle that tree.”

Tonight there’s gonna be a party at the US Cellular Connection/102.1 stage at Milwaukee’s own Summerfest! I was surprised by some twitter chatter that some of my pals don’t know Passion Pit.  Here’s a glimpse.  Come for the fireworks, stay for the music!

Timothy Showalter/Strand of Oaks

Timothy Showalter/Strand of Oaks

I just got home from yet another fantastic live music experience at the hands of Milwaukee’s own 91.7 WMSE.  It was the warm up show to the first annual Radio Summer Camp, a festival that is bringing great music to some of Milwaukee’s best venues from tonight (August 19) thru Monday August 24.  Tonight’s preview was a religious experience followed by rocking throwdown at Shank Hall that featured my friend and favorite new songwriter Tim Showalter/Strand of Oaks opening for the amazing Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.

Now I know that I have written and gushed over Tim’s work before but his songs and personality continue to blow me away and introduce my slightly coffee stained chompers to whoever’s around.  He impressed me even more tonight by showing up with nothing but his beautiful voice, guitar, and some effects pedals that enhanced the already pleasant atmosphere.  It’s so unbelievable that one man can produce the sound and explosiveness of songs that were recorded with a full band.  After the show I thanked him for playing “New Paris,” my personal favorite, and he smiled with appreciation but said “Aw, they sound so much better with a full band.”  I say they sound great any way we get to hear them.  We got a touch of some new material in the form a lyrically funny but sweet sounding song about post Blues Brothers Dan Akoroyd and his closing number that he wrote after a dream he had about his grandfather.  Obviously, I loved both.   Can’t wait to hear more and see a lot more of Mr. Showalter.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit followed and blew the roof off.  Being familiar with his work with the Drive-by Truckers and his two post Truckers albums, I’d say I was a casual fan.  But after tonight there isn’t an album I won’t cop or a show that I won’t see that has Jason on the bill.  They tore through some of his Truckers’ work and dominated newer songs to make them sound like they’d been playing them for decades.  Super tight playing all around.  If you’ve never heard him before I strongly suggest getting a hold of anything with his name on it if you enjoy good rocking accompanied by down home storytelling lyrics.  Highlights of the night for me came from “Outfit,” “7 Mile Island,” “Decoration Day,” Chicago Promenade,” and a lengthy and rocked out “Never Gonna Change” that featured the facemelting riff from “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”.

Big thanks to WMSE for throwing this whole thing together! If tonight is any indication of how the next couple of days are going to be, Milwaukee’s in for a real treat!

By now most Wilco fans and almost certainly all Milwaukee Wilco fans are aware of the new record cover that was shot in our beautiful city.  Peep Mader’s in the background!  While this album art looks pretty sweet, it is not the cover that Gentle John and I had hoped for.


On April 15th Gentle John and I arrived at the Pabst Theater two plus hours before the second Wilco show due to Jeff Tweedy’s announcement that a photographer was in town to shoot the cover of their next album and WE could be a part of it.  There was tons of milling about and petting of dogs before the photographer showed up and selected three people to wear rhine stone suits worn by the band and also one lucky person to hold a gigantic birthday cake.  To our dismay, we were not one or two of the four selected so we instead lined up with the rest of the unlucky ones.  However, as it turns out we ended up right next to one of the guys chosen to wear a suit and a super cute kid wearing a Union Jack beanie.  It was at this point we were certain that we’d made it.  We’d signed waivers. WAIVERS!!! We were guaranteed to be on the cover.  I even rolled up my ticket stub from the previous night and cigarette gripped it (ala McCartney on Abbey Road) in order to make sure that I stood out from the rest.  Gentle John and I, glowing and elated due to our future fame, walked across the street to have some celebratory beverages and text the news to our closest (and sure to be jealous) companions.

Well, looks like we should’ve bought that camel some drinks. I bet they didn’t make him sign a waiver:(   Here’s a photo set of our lousy time.

photographer, girl in one of the suits

photographer and a girl in one of the suits

dude's got the cake

photographer, girl in one of the suit, and dude's got the cakeback of the suit this lucky fella got to wear (not cooler than a camel)

the cute kid that should've been our path to glory and his pop

the cute kid that should've been our path to glory and his pop

the infamous cake

the infamous cake


I’m pretty sure I’ve only read one review of Animal Collective’s live show.  I’m also pretty sure that that review was negative (horrible even) and should deterred me from attending their stop at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater, but since the keys are tap tap taping you better believe that I didn’t. How could I? For one, a couple of years ago it would have been nearly impossible to see them without driving to Chicago or Minneapolis and secondly, this years Merriweather Post Pavilion has been causing permanent ear damage since it’s January release.  Needless to say, I was excited to hear songs that have made me as elated as the arrival of the first Spring day after an extended winter but also nervous about the possibility of being frozen, dumbfounded, in the crowd while inescapable and unfamiliar noises laced with unintelligible chants made me wish I had brought ear plugs. 

 But when the 2nd #9 was empty and “In the Flowers” started to ooze from the stage (> a giant glowing sphere dangled above them while behind them, the trippy green alien blood droplets of MPP’s cover acted as a backdrop) a slight perma-smile started to take shape. This may be my favorite song of the year and even though the sound in the room was too loud and the bass deep enough to make my heart palpitate with each pulse, I liked how it translated. While I was pleasantly surprised that most of the material played was culled from this years critically acclaimed release (the bouncing, sweaty, and bearded hip kids up front too) the highlight of the evening had to be “Fireworks” from 2007’s Strawberry Jam.  It was 13 or so minutes of harmonic bliss and emotion that live, easily trumped its version on record.   It’s a song that gets stuck in your head, makes you frantically bob your head, and scream along the lyrics.  I did all that on this evening and I loved it!  Other musical highlights: “Banshee Beat” “Comfy in Nautica” “What Would I Want Sky” (new song) and “Leaf House”.

 Post show, Gentle John and I discussed how we were both pleased that we stood up front.  Even though I had a hard time hearing this discussion, it was nice to be able to move freely.  Many times at the shows most jolly moments, “Brother Sport” for instance, I hopped along in a sea of happy music lovers while the seated appeared paralyzed.  I’d a been jealousJ had we not gotten lucky and allowed wrist-bands from a very friendly Riverside employee. 

 Overall, I was extremely impressed by the three guys that hovered over their white cloth covered machines that made loud noises.  It would have been nice to see what they were doing up there but I guess they only came to dominate one of our senses.