Friday, August 28, 2015

                              The Big Gig

Milwaukee Summerfest.  It's what you want it to be.  Some call it too sterile, too commercial, too tidy and not what they call a rock and roll festival.  Summerfest is something of a musical enigma. It is a tremendous family event until the sun begins to set and then it evolves or devolves depending on you perspective.  Having children with you as darkness approaches probably constitutes poor parenting bordering on child neglect.  It is a place where you could be passed a flask of electric wine during a Imagine Dragons show or catch a whiff of sweet smoke coming from the rocks along the lake or rising from the heart of a large crowd in front of one of the stages.  And of course in the alcohol flows freely.  But as it should be, the music always remains the attraction.   You can catch surprisingly capable bands on one of the small stages alongside the lake.  The Tiki Tent and the Refugee stage. Bands playing for no compensation and only for tips and exposure.  It is pure and sometimes even magical to the point where you don't give a damn if you miss seeing a national act.  If Public Enemy with Chuck D. and Flavor Flav isn't for you (damned good performers) truck down a little bit and see a Peruvian salsa band come from the stage with their wireless gear to lead the a totally absorbed audience in a rollicking line dance. Lindsey Stirling?  I was curious but skeptical and damn if I didn't become a fan.  If you have a chance to see her show she will convince you she is the real deal.  The first of the two nights we were there this year featured Kaskade, Sheryl Crow, Trombone Shorty, Dirty Heads, Magic, and Mavis Staples along with dozens of other bands from noon to closing.  I managed to catch a taste of all of them.  For 18 dollars.  My weak complaint is that there is almost an embarrassment  of riches.  If you want to catch the entirety of a favorite act you will have to give up seeing a lot of other fantastic music, but somehow it always gets rationalized.  I have stayed the distance  for Phil Lesh and Friends, the Flaming Lips and the Foo fighters.  But hell, if you like it, they got it.  Big Smo your thing?  Gary Clark Jr, EDM, jam bands, country (and western), Americana, blues, ethnic, electronica, hip hop and more and more.  I wrapped up Summerfest this year watching the final two songs by Trampled by Turtles.  Some bands are meant to be seen live and if you get the chance to see them, take advantage. They covered The Weight by the band and then came out to encore with Wait so Long.  They achieved that rarely seen Grateful Dead X-factor type vibe between themselves and the crowd.  And the kicker was that as the band left the stage, the moment the lights came up, Electric Avenue by Eddie Grant began blasting from the pa system.  It was magic upon magic.  I don't know if it was by design or just dumb luck but it fit like a glove and I have never seen an audience leave a show on such a high note.  It would be nice to see a local band give it try.  I've cued up Electric Avenue to play after a variety of styles of music and it works with everything.  Hell, all the area bands should give it a try.              

Sunday, July 5, 2015

     Up and over by Milwaukee


Summerfest wraps up today.  My take coming up.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

        Freight House Farmers Market
                          "Kettle corn, the heroin of the farmers 
                                    Homer Simpson
                                    Hats off to Homer,
                                    but this is the monkey
                                    on my back

Made it down the the Freight House Farmers Market this morning and it is more vibrant than ever.  The great sunny day didn't hurt a thing.  I purposely limit the cash I bring because I do not want to become one of those people who need a wagon to take their stash out to their vehicles.  And of course I have little discipline so it would be a wagon full of fatty and salty foods with a single tomato and maybe a melon to vainly attempt to placate my conscience.  One of my greatest fears in life is of becoming a waddler.  Got back from Summerfest in Milwaukee yesterday and I plan on doing a blurb on that very soon.  Soon as in relative to the speed of me.    

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Well, summertime is now officially here as of last Sunday and that is fine other than the fact that the daylight hours are growing shorter now.  Somebody told me last week there will be another Queens For A Cause charity drag show at the Rock Island Moose club in early August.  I have always wanted to attend one of these, in part because of the unlikely venue, and I have also heard they are a good time.  But hearing that it is in August had me looking for my bottle of Xanax. Cripes, that is on the doorstep of winter.  I say cripes because I am going to Summerfest in Milwaukee and I need to be prepared for the slightly different language those people in Wisconsin speak.  We take the up north route up over by there and stop for breakfast at a little diner in Madison called the Curve.  Very nice people and very good greasy spoon food.  It is a tradition now and we are welcomed with hugs.  

To date it has been a decent warm weather season.  Too rainy and too many cloudy days for my taste, but nature is what it is.  I finally made it out to Codfish Hollow and asked someone there to kick me for never going before.  I would have done it myself but I find self-flagellation an abnormal ritual.  And the young lady seemed to take a lot of enjoyment in helping me out.  I must say that Christoper the Conquered has made his mark on me.  In addition to giving a fine performance, I now too often find the lyrics to his drinking song, "At the old record store down by the sea" running through my mind.  Praise him.  The Lonely Wild closed the show and I admit they were a few songs in before I warmed up to them.  By the last song I was in the front row thinking, hell yes.  But to me the highlight of the night was getting to see Trevor Sensor perform again.  I saw him earlier in the year at the garage show and couldn't come up with an apt description of his music and style, but there is the definite sense in seeing him that he has something special.  People mention Jake Bugg and Dylan when they hear him and I get that, but for some reason I get an early Velvet Underground vibe.  See him if you get the chance, and you have no excuse not to get out to Codfish Hollow even if you have to have a pretty girl kick your ass to get you on your way.  Marvin and his tractor and wagon will have you grinning and spending the night around bonfires with friendly strangers in an actual cow pasture should speak for itself.  And let me say thanks to the "marshmallow girl."  

I also caught Lissie at her benefit show down at Schwiebert park.  A super performance as usual. What a great venue with the river running by and the sun setting upon the city skylines.  Always a good time and very family friendly  Plan to go next year and if you have any little ones in your life let them tag along.   River Roots just announced this years lineup and I am super stoked about that.  Kacey Musgraves and Mavis Staples.  I had to tweet River Roots to thank them for keeping it real again.  I am going to see Mavis at Summerfest tomorrow night and having the chance to see her again in my own backyard and in a cozier setting should be top-notch.  And what can I say about Kacey Musgraves? Country?  Hell, my parents saw Johnny Cash 27 times.  I have some clue as to what the real deal is with country.  And here is a badass raw deal.  My brother has offered me a ticket to the last Soldier Field Dead show and I have to turn him down because I will be on call for work.  Enough on that because it depresses me and ranks up there with missing seeing the Stones in Milwaukee in '75 because I was starting a new job the next day. Excuse me for believing that work can be a necessary evil. Two refills left on the Xanax.

I'll l get back and give a Summerfest report, hopefully before the snow flies.  Apparently a local music festival has just been announced called "DAWNANDON" which will feature only local bands.  Count me in.  Also in for seeing the Schwag outside at Ribco and hoping to run into my PBR drinking buddy again.  Wear some scarlet begonias tucked into your curls.  Codfish Hollow again for sure and a Moeller Monday show real real soon.  Until next time, to quote Tom Morello, "Feed the poor.  Fight the power.  Rock the fuck out."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

                       PLAY BALL

Well, hell.  I had good intentions of keeping up on this.  I will blame it on the up and down nature of the time of year in regard to the weather.  I did manage to attend the home opener of the Quad Cities River Bandits.  The grand kids tagged along and provided the strongest, if not fondest, memory of the afternoon.  I have one grandson who is a little OCD and has some trouble focusing.  Diagnosis via school and pediatrician.  He is also very animated and tends toward the clumsy.  He is enrolled in occupational therapy at his school with idea of smoothing out some of these rough spots.  Or as I see it, altering his true character.  The above photo is part of a (therapy?) that is designed to keep him calm and focused.  I think the image conjures other comparisons though.  Judge for yourselves.

Back to the game.  Without my knowledge and absent my approval after learning the fact, I was enrolled in a between inning stunt where I had to go stand atop the first base dugout to view and identify and old timey video game for a chance to win a gift certificate from a local video game shop.  I asked and was allowed to have the grand kids accompany me as muscle because I know nothing at all about video games old or new.  None of us had a clue about the video game being shown on the outfield screen, but my handler did my the favor of whispering the answer into my ear.  So we marched up the stairs and to the concierge stand with a 25 dollar gift certificate in hand.  The boy in the bag set his training aside and became demonstrably gleeful.  And then, Jane, the ignorant slut, opened her mouth.  The woman in a striped shirt across from the concierge booth and conveniently kitty corner from a beer stand.  The one who thought anyone withing range of her loud and wretched voice would appreciate her thought, "that is why some people should ever have kids."  I don't know if her name is Jane or if she is a slut.  I am not sure why that line from Saturday Night Live came to mind other than the word ignorant.  So I went with it.  I am pretty certain though that this woman is ignorant, and is an example of why some people should not have children.  It turned out to be an otherwise good day and the Bandits won the game.  

I also had an unexpected opportunity, on a very fine spring day, to attend a garage performance by a young artist by the name of Trevor Sensor.  Just a kid on a stool with a guitar and one hell of a voice and a lot of talent.  I expect to see a lot of musical performances in the coming months, but by the time the weather turns foul again I expect this little stripped down session may end up standing out as one of the best.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Well, I forgot to remember to enter the 2015 Iron pen writing contest.  I have to admit that I was a bit miffed that I wasn't in the money in 2014 with what I thought was my strongest effort in the many years I had been entering.  Hard cheese on me I suppose.  This blog had become a repository for displaying my winning Iron Pen entries and largely ignored otherwise.  But I am back with a new plan.  A plan to get out into the real world and look at, smell, feel, taste, hear, sense and even somtetimes intentionally alter the reality I look upon

One pane of glass in the window
No one is complaining though,
come in and shut the door
Faded is the crimson from the
ribbons that she wore
and it's strange how no one
comes round anymore

From It Must Have Been the Roses
Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead)

I sit here towards winters end nostalgic and remembering myself many years ago looking through a window pane. If you are interested, the center of the universe still stands over 40 years after it was discovered.  It is a concrete pillar with a concrete orb atop it and is planted at the end of a bridge over the Iowa River in Iowa City, Iowa.  I am on the lookout for spring.  To be reborn and to watch the world around me being reborn.  I am looking to curse a thawing patch of late snow while grinning at a wisp of a Crocus just come up.  Knowing in a short time that a psychedelic display of green grass and chromatic flowers will hold court before us.  It is almost time to get off my ass and go out and do something.  To be alive.  Almost time to bring this damned forsaken blog back to life.  Keep posted here for my eyes view of many of the fair weather doings about town and even small but curious happenings out in the streets.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

                     Healthcare Debate

Along with the cold hard facts and a sense that I was becoming a social pariah, I chose to snuff out my last butt eight long months ago. As much as I enjoyed my morning nicotine jolts and the camaraderie of my smoking section pals, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the habit would need to be slain. I was beginning to visualize myself shivering beneath a flickering street post twenty years hence while fumbling to spark up a hand rolled smoky stick as young parents nervously nudge their small children forward as they admonish me to move along and get back to my tobacco den and with my own kind.

I knee it would be a difficult task to abandon my noxious rituals and morning retching, and on a routine visit with my doctor I made the error of mentioning my scheme to quit cold turkey and with no help from anyone. Don’t get me wrong.  He is very good at what he does, but is of the opinion that this entitles him to proffer a great deal more smugness than is tolerable to me. I was certain that he seized upon the opportunity to assist me in shaking the smokes solely for the opportunity to claim the glory for himself if I were to succeed. He wrote a high dollar prescription for the latest and hottest quit smoking dope on the market and told me to come back to endure him again in four months. I would desert the man in a heartbeat if I wouldn't have to put up with the angst of baring my soul and everything else to somebody new. He already knows of my failings and foibles and malformed anatomy so I suffer and grin and bear him.

I left four months later from that visit insecure in the fact that I had just been medically certified to be a borderline obese man. I had gained nineteen pounds in that time and was told by the almighty that as pleased as he was to have gotten me off the tobacco, if I didn't right my sorry ass to have mercy on his scale the next time I came to visit him I would be subjected to a battery of tests that would make me wish I had shunned the sweets and booze and thought to bow to Jack LaLanne.  Damned doctor and his knowing what is good for me. Well, I righted my sorry ass.  I gave up my sugary comforts and took it easy on the hooch. I suppose that doctors are a necessary bane of a civilized society. But there may have been some merit in dying a young drunken wretch beneath a bridge rather than to have to suffer the indignities of being the only species on this earth that spends a third of its efforts and resources to maintain its own nest and another third to provide for its own vanity.  It may have been better to have befriended the pitiful and smoked openly and freely in bum camps and alongside wheezing men nicknamed, “Tater,” “Rabbit,” “Skeeter” or “Gator.”  
Having chosen a more righteous path though, I was forced to put up with good advice at home also. “I’ll get you some light beer, some yogurt, and maybe my brother Ted could loan you a few pairs of his slacks until you can take off some of that weight.” The sad and sick of it though is that I had nobody to blame but myself. It’s human nature to cower and then look around for someone or something to blame your own ills on. But I was, well, larger than that. I downsized to a smaller drinking vessel and cast a curse on anything in the house that contained high fructose corn syrup. I rose to the challenge and strutted into my doctors office in another four months wearing my own slacks and with no fear of stepping onto his scale. And then when I expected  he was about to heap praise and good news on me, that son of a bitch looked straight into my eyes and said, “No need to thank me for saving you all of the money you would have wasted on the cigarettes, and I see you’re out of the sweat pants. But I did notice a small lump on your thyroid so I’ll set you up with an endocrinologist for a series of fine needle aspirations.  No cause for alarm though and I wouldn't worry much right now as thyroid cancer takes decades to kill you.  So I’ll expedite a colonoscopy for you"