Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Worst Gig Ever, Milwaukee Style

With my home town being Milwaukee, I can safely say that the majority of my shows have been performed there. Some Milwaukee venues are fantastic, others not so much. One of the worst gigs that I can recall was at a Milwaukee Bar that has since closed.

This gig was back in the summer of 1996. As our band loaded into the venue, the bartender and sound man were setting up for the night. Just minutes after arriving the bartender shouted out "I hate this place!" That's never a good sign. We walked into the basement dressing room and found that nobody had cleaned up from the previous weekend. That's not such a big deal, unless you happen to see a rat on a table, chewing on a slice of stale pizza. When I went back up to let someone know that there was a rat eating pizza down there, the bartender said "You guys are supposed to clean up after yourselves. That's not my job!"

Telling her that a rat is living downstairs didn't phase her, but the left over mess from the past weekend really put her off. This was going to be a great night.

Free Beer, but the Water Is Gonna Cost You

The club was full by the time our band was about to go on. I headed to the bar to get two cups of water for the stage. When I ordered up two waters, the bartender said "That's two bucks." I said "I'm in the band." "It doesn't matter if you are in the band, water is $1 per cup." "Really? You are charging me for water? Didn't I see you give my bass player a free beer a while back?" "Yes, beer is free for the band, but water is not." How could that be? I have never heard of a venue charging the band for water, but not for beer. That's pretty much what I uttered to the bartender, and she said "In Summer, everyone wants water, and cups cost money, so does ice." "Can I have two free waters without ice?" "Nope. You have to pay for the cup."

I ordered two tap beers. She poured them for me. I reached over the bar and poured them into the sink. I then told her to fill the empty cups with water. "Since water is free, and you gave me the cups, you won't be charging me, right?" She stared back, yanked the cups from my hand, and poured two waters for me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Worst Gig Ever | Rock and Roll In Croatia

Second in my Worst Gig Ever series goes to a rock show in Kutina Croatia. The people of Kutina were gracious, mostly. The fans loved our band. They loved us too much, if you ask me. Why is it part of my Worst series? Let me present the evidence.

Stale Bread and Chicken Parts for the Band

We knew that we were not going to get all the items on our performance rider. We don't expect that to happen every night. Two loaves of old bread, and a case of Tuborg Gold was waiting for us in the "dressing room." Outside, they were frying chicken parts in a shallow garbage can lid over an open fire. That was our dinner.

Rats in the Club

The couches needed to be pounded out before anyone sat on them. Rats tended to move in when the club was closed. A good kicking rousted a couple of rats from the couch, but nobody was brave enough to sit on it afterwords.

Drug Sniffing Dogs Sweep Through the Club

Once the local authorities got word that an American band was playing in their town, they dispatched drug sniffing dogs to the club to make sure that we weren't bringing the worst of what America has to offer. No drugs were found. After the near strip search at the border, it was a guarantee that we had no contraband.

Violent Rock Fans

Even with two bouncers on either side of the stage, I didn't quite make it through the show unscathed. A fan spun out from the mosh pit, tripped onto the stage and took out half of my drum set. Our singer got popped in the teeth when his microphone was kicked into his mouth. He stood on the microphone stand for the rest of the night. Our bass player was smart enough to kick people out of her way. Girls can get away with that move.
Our driver/merch guy caught someone trying to steal an empty cd case. When he grabbed the guys arm, the thief spun around and head butted him in the mouth. A scuffle broke out, but it was quickly broken up.

Passports Confiscated at Bullet Riddled Hotel

No matter what anyone tells you, do not give up your passports to anyone, unless it's four a.m. and you are being bullied by a 6'4" 300 hotel operator. If that's what's keeping you from your warm bed, by all means give him what he wants.
I counted the bullet holes in the lobby ceiling. I pointed them out to our guide, and he said "someone must have gotten excited." Just then, a woman with legs hairier than mine walked over with an espresso.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worst Gig Ever | Part One

Worst gig ever
What was your worst show? Was it the night that only two people came to see your band? Was it a night were you were sick as hell, but the show must go on? Sometimes the worst shows of your musical career make the best memories. Sometimes the show isn't the worst part, but the traveling, the accommodations, the crowd, or something completely unrelated to the show is what makes it a terrible night.
Since I have played in bands that don't always live high off the hog, I have a number of "worst gig" stories. Here is story number one of five. I would love to hear about your worst gig.

Hell Gig Somewhere in East Germany

We pulled up to what looked to be an old fashioned hotel. That was where we were going to perform, as well as stay for the evening. The exterior looked perfect, but the inside of the building was a gutted out mess.
The first sign of bad things to come was when sound man blew up the power amplifier for the p.a. system. The sound man didn't speak English. He knew how to get our attention though. He overloaded the power amp. I actually saw a puff of smoke billow up from the unit as it died. No worries, he had access to another. He rushed out of the music hall while we waited about an hour. He came back with a second amp. This one he managed to keep from blowing up.

" Here is your shower, bed, and accommodations." - Crazy German Man
We trudged up three flights of stairs to find that we were going to sleep on filthy mattresses in the attic. They were strewn about on the floor. There were no doors between what could barely be called rooms. The hotel roof was above us, with bare light bulbs hanging from electric cords. When it came time to sleep, I laid out newspaper on the bed. It was that filthy. There was no heat in the rooms, and it was late March.

The shower was on the second floor. The shower was only accessible if you asked the owner for the key. The owner was nowhere to be found by the end of the night. When he showed us the shower earlier in the afternoon, he opened the door just enough, said "douche," and then slammed it shut and locked it. We never saw the inside of the shower again.

Nazis Come to the Show

We played for Nazi youth. Really, Nazis. We had no idea that they were going to be there. We should have guessed that we would be performing for some real backwoods people. This "hotel" was in the middle of East German farm country. When they came with their girlfriends, we were warned by the opening band to avoid making eye contact with their dates. Trust me, I didn't look. The last thing I wanted was to be beaten to a pulp by real live jack-booted thugs.

We were locked into our room at the end of the night. To keep the neighboring farmers happy, the club owner agreed to lock the bands into the hotel after the show. This move kept drunken guitar players from waking up the farmers at three. In turn, the farmers woke us up with soviet style tractors at first light. I slept about two hours on that filthy mattress, only to be awakened to the sound of farm implements. This was after I was lulled to sleep by rats chewing on the walls.
Breakfast was Nutella on hard bread. The performance rider called for a serious load of food. What I found when I awoke was the bar manager putting out a jar of Nutella, and microwaving a frozen loaf of bread. You know what happens when you microwave bread. It turns into a rock. By this time, I had reached my limit. I started ranting about how we were to be fed a proper breakfast. The bar manager, who spoke nearly fluent English the night before, began to tell me that he didn't understand me. He lapsed into a non-English speaking, very confused man.

Those of us who got drunk the night before managed to sleep about four hours. The sober ones like me were dying to get the hell out of there. We didn't stay for the Nutella and bricks. On the way out, I headed for the club lavatory, only to be turned away because they had just scrubbed the floors. My bowels would have to wait until we reached a gas station, unless I wanted to hop the fence and do my business in a cow pasture.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Band Sucks and the Mix is Partly to Blame

Sound mix sucks
I was sitting with my singer at a local music venue on Saturday night. We had made loose plans to see a Smiths tribute band one month prior. The admission was $12, with 100% of the proceeds going to a fundraiser. I played the role of Morrissey three years ago at Trash Fest, so my interest was piqued as to what this band was going to do on stage, sound like, and look like. My singer was too. We were prompted to attend this event by a mutual friend who backed out without notice. This put us in a bit of a bad mood, since we both agreed to go despite the cold and snow. After a couple of drinks, we were no longer grouchy.

We managed to miss the first two opening bands, and had to sit through just one before the headline act. After politely listening to three songs from band number three, I turned to look at my singer. She knew what I was thinking, and verbalized it for me. "These guys suck." She went on to say that she used to like everything, but now that she's no longer 21, she is picky. As I'm not even close to 21, I can attest to that feeling. I'm very picky about my live music. Okay, just about everyone is picky about their musical tastes. But there is more to this post.

When to Blame the Mix Instead of the Band

It's hard to tell if you like a band when the mix is terrible. If you have never heard a band's music before, and you can't hear the vocals or the guitars or keys, how can you make a solid judgement call? This was part of the problem. It was a pro stage with a pro p.a. system, but a monkey must have been working the sound board. In defense of the sound board monkey, perhaps he had never heard the band play before, so he didn't know what to highlight. That excuse might work if it weren't for the fact that the vocals were mushy and soft. At the very least, you have to get the vocals clear in the mix. That's an easy one. The saddest part is that the band has no idea that they sound like utter crap in the venue.

My thoughts wander when a band is sucking badly on stage. I start to think about the working aspect of the performance, and I (sometimes thankfully) forget about the music coming from the speakers. I wonder if the singer knows that when he pulls his lips more than two inches from the microphone nobody can hear him. I wonder if the bass player knows that his vocal volume is turned down so low that when he speaks in between songs, nobody can understand a word that he is saying. They may have the best monitor mix in the world going on up there, but out here in the audience, it's just a pile of mush.

I can't help but see that the guitar player's amp cut out mid song. He gives a nervous look back towards his amp, and then looks over to his keyboard player who smiles. Was it a problem that they were having during sound check? Did he step on his own cord? Did he forget to put new batteries in his effects pedal, which now went dead? I can't help myself. I have played too many shows, and seen how the sausage is made. If I'm not loving the music, I'm seeing with different eyes.

When the headline act came on, my other eyes and ears took over. I loved it. I'm sure that the mix was a bit better for the headliner, but it didn't matter to me. I knew the songs, and loved singing along. In fact, I was up against the stage, so all I could hear was the monitor mix which then proved to me what I had feared. The opening act probably thought that they sounded like rock stars, judging by the clarity of the stage mix I was hearing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turner Hall is Just the Way I Like It

I had my wedding reception at Turner Hall back in 1990. I'm not talking about the ballroom, but the restaurant. We were lucky, there was nothing going on at the Bradley Center that night, so our friends and family found easy parking. We spent the better part of a year looking for the right venue to host our reception, and when we found Turner Hall we were pretty desperate. Sometimes you just luck out, and the folks that run the joint did a great job.

We took group photos on the double stairway that leads to the upper floor, not knowing that there was a huge dance hall up there. Fast forward to today, and I can't think of a better place to see a show. Sometimes a venue has a good vibe, sometimes a venue has a bad vibe. Turner Hall makes me feel at ease. It's no wonder that it was named Venue of the Year by the WAMI people.

Turner Hall Ballroom Open Once Again

The rumor is that when they reopened the ballroom, they decided that the rough look of the walls and ceiling should stay as they are. I think that it brings charm to the venue. There is netting strung along the ceiling. I would guess that it was put up to catch any large chunks of plaster that would fall? The walls have not been painted, and the floors have a dark stain and soft feel. The stage is high enough for anyone who stands to see the artist with no problems. The balcony is quite large, and gives patrons a solid view. None of that matters to me, it's all about the vibe.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kenny Chesney at Lambeau Field Green Bay | Acoustics in a Football Stadium and Monitors

I have only been to one stadium show. That was Pink Floyd at County Stadium. Green Bay plays host to Kenny Chesney at Lambeau Field this summer. The venue may be one of the biggest he's ever performed in, and certainly the most famous. Famous for football, not concerts though.

Kenny Chesney Mixes Country with Caribbean

Say what you will about modern country music. It's polished to such a shine, that the purists of that style tend to stay away from artists like Kenny Chesney. There are modern country stars that stick to the old school style. Kenny is not one of them, if I may be so bold to say that. He has put together a perfect formula. He mixes one part country with one part Jimmy Buffett style tropical Caribbean party fun, and the fans love it. If you know anything about Jimmy Buffett, his music isn't the best, but going to one of his shows is the perfect excuse to party your butt off. Same for Kenny Chesney.
This tour will feature his best work. After taking a year off, Chesney is coming back to play all the songs his fans have come to love. He's touring huge venues like Lambeau Field. His stage will be set up around the five yard line of the south end zone, with walkways that will extend out to the 15 yard line. This is big. All his shows will be big. With a stage set up like that, how will the fans find his sound? How will Kenny find his own sound in a booming venue like Lambeau Field?

Kenny Chesney will wear in ear monitors via custom made earplugs. The acoustics in a stadium of that size will require not only stage monitors for the various members of the band, but in ear monitors. I was fitted for mine this past Monday. I can't wait to try them out. I have performed in large venues, and found the monitors to be too far away to be useful. Sometimes, as an opening act, the monitors are set in place for the headliner, and the sound crew will not move them for you. You are not important, so you suffer with a lousy stage mix. That's life. Soon enough, I will be able to plug into the stage mix directly, and hear things like never before. I can't wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Testa Rosa is a Band that I Would Love to Join

Did you ever listen to a band and think to yourself, "damn, I wish I was in that band." Testa Rosa, a Milwaukee creation is just that band for me. There are no openings in Testa Rosa, because Bill Backes has the job, and he is a well respected drummer in the Milwaukee scene.

I stumbled upon the review of Testa Rosa today, and since that moment I find myself inspired enough to listen to all of their songs on Myspace, tweeted, and now blogged about them. Yes, I'm an old punk drummer, but lush and beautifully constructed pop music sung by a woman is as tasty as as it gets. It's even better when you hear it come from people you know. Yes they have been doing this since 2006, but I didn't stand up and take notice until now.

The three review snippets that Testa Rosa has on their Myspace page sum up my thoughts exactly. What's even better is that Latest Flame records has them on their label. Now it's just a matter of time before they explode into stardom. Yes, I'm gushing. I don't care.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Your Biggest Fan Wants You to Go Down Memory Lane

"Do you have any old videos of your band that we can show my girlfriend?" I don't have my VCR hooked up anymore. I'm glad that I don't. I don't want to go down memory lane, but I know why he does. He wants to impress his new girlfriend. I may have boxes full of my old disks, and videos from live shows, but I don't have awful band pictures hanging on my wall from days gone bye.

Sometimes I forget that your friends will speak highly of your accomplishments in hopes of impressing others. "Yea, I'm good friends with XXXX." My friend meant well, don't get me wrong. He's my best friend, but I can tell when he has made too much of what I did back when I was just a kid in a punk band. That time was special to him, just as much as it was special to me. His perspective is his own. Mine is from behind the drums. It was a sober, working drummer's view. His was view was from the front of the stage with a beer in his hand.

This is not to say that I don't sometimes use my prior musical accomplishments to impress others. We all want to be recognized in some way. Heck, dropping my old band name got me many gigs. I will continue to use it, as long as there are people that remember it. That brings me to my next point. Fewer patrons of the arts remember my old band, as they are now young enough to be my children. This is not an old man's sport.

I can't watch videos of my performances without seeing every mistake. I hate the way I look when I play. I pull faces, slouch,and look around to my left and right too fast and too often. Everything goes in slow motion when I am playing, so when I see it in real time I notice that I'm not looking too cool. Why would I want to watch myself on video? I understand why some bands videotape their rehearsals. It is a great way to hone your visual side. I think I can tell when someone has been working on their stage presence in front of a mirror, or watched videos of themselves. They look too polished for a cheesy Milwaukee nightclub. I do prefer performance over shoe gazing though.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Horton Heat at Turner Hall Milwaukee | Psychobilly Comes to Town

Horton Heat Milwaukee
I fully expect to see some greased back hair tonight at Turner Hall. If I'm lucky, the Psychobilly chicks will be there too. The reverb will be cranked to ten on Reverend Horton Heat's hollow body guitar, and the drums will pound out rhythms at 200 beats per minute.

I like psychobilly music because it combines super fast beats, with smoking hot guitar licks. Punk rock is certainly fast music, but it generally lacks that higher level of performance when playing instruments. Horton Heat is backed up by two bands tonight. Split Lip Rayfield is Midwestern bluegrass at its best. Th' Legendary Shackshakers are a band that (to me) mixes a punk visual with a rockabilly sound. I can't think of a better way to shake off this mid-term election nightmare than to spend the night at Turner Hall.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Are Not Going To Be A Rock Star | Album Sales Figures to Prove It

You are not going to be a rock star. Okay, perhaps those words are too harsh, and I could be wrong, but I’ll gladly bet anyone who starts a band in Milwaukee or Wisconsin that they will not become stars. Heck, I’ll give you ten to one odds on it. Here is why. Musicians still try too hard to get signed to a major label. They would have better luck producing their own disk, and self promoting. You say that's crazy talk. Let me try to convince you with the following data.

Average Profits from Album Sales by Format

  • DIY self priced disk retails for $10, with an average profit of $8
  • iTunes "Albums" retail for $10, with an average profit of $1 for the artist*
  • A CDBaby album download at a of retail $10 will show an average net profit of $7.50
  • Big time Retail outlet CD by major Label sells for $10, with only 30 cents going to the artist.

So you say to yourself, "You will sell millions of copies of your CD if you sign to a major label." Sorry, you won't. The odds are stacked against you big time.

Album Sales Figures in America

In 2008, the major, small, and “indie” labels across this nation released 115,000 albums collectively. Of those releases, only 115 sold over 250,000 copies. That’s .001 percent my friends. So you have a one in 1000 chance to sell a quarter million copies of your album, if you are signed to a label, and you back it up by tours, radio interviews, press releases, blogs, videos, rehearsals, quitting your day job, etc.

Of those 115,000 albums, only 1.3 percent sold more than 10,000 copies. Finally, only 5.2% of the 115,000 albums sold over 1000 copies. Get it? 115,000 albums made, and 94.8% of them couldn't motivate fans to buy more than 1000 copies. Thank you to Ariel Hyatt for that data.

Here is another item for you to chew on. If you boil that data down, over 300 albums are release PER DAY on average. How can you stand out from the crowd when 13 albums are coming out every hour in this country? Do you really expect that you will be noticed?

Realities of Signing to a Major Label

I read somewhere that a $500,000 advance to a band making a major-level record will net each member just under $20,000 to “live on” if there are four musicians signed to the contract. If you don’t recoup that half million dollars, you are then a slave to the label until they find a way to squeeze it out of you.

You could earn $20,000 per year working part time at a job you love, play local clubs, release your own music, and do short DIY tours without being a slave to a label. Freedom can be a good thing. Yes, there are small labels that work very hard for their bands, and they don’t tie musicians down to multi album deals. Those labels will still own you, and they are a lot smarter than you. Signing any contract, large or small includes giving up something.

I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer” here, and I bring this data up for a reason. Nearly everyone that joins a band, or picks up a guitar, or plays the drums thinks that they will be a star. Let’s be honest about the state of rock and roll. Stars number in the hundreds, musicians with a dream number in the tens of thousands. Think long and hard before you sign your creative life away.

Digital Downloads Will Not Save Your Butt*

In 2009, the highest selling song accounted for only 9.8 million downloads. That’s just one song folks, not an entire disk. A major label artist sees only eight to ten cents per download. Music Downloads accounted for 4.2 billion in sales that same year. This may sound like a huge number, but it is not covering the decline in disk sales, not by a long shot. Music sales have dropped every year, for the past ten.
"But Wisconsin Music Man, if I am one of those lucky ones to sell 250,000 albums on a major label, I'll walk away with $75,000" you say. Sure, now divide that up between your band, or perhaps the song publisher gets it all, etc. Let's say all four members of your band received song writing credit. That comes to $14,000 after taxes, per band member. Please remember, to make that sweet 14K, you have to beat the one in 1000 odds. Oh, and don't forget, you have no health insurance, no home life, and you live by night as you tour the country.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trash Fest at Miramar Theater October 23 with Three On Fire

Trash Fest
I remember playing a benefit concert for the members of Milwaukee's Three On Fire. Ironically, their house had caught fire, and they lost everything. That was 20+ years ago. Three On Fire will be performing a reunion show during Trash Fest at the Miramar Theater this Saturday.

Trash Fest is an annual event that draws from Milwaukee's finest musicians. There are real bands and bands that just get together for one night on the bill. This year Trash Fest headline acts include Aqua-Knots, Pissofficer, VSO, and the Nervous Virgins. Doors open at 7:30.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

St. Vincent Turner Hall Milwaukee Poster

Saint Vincent Turner Hall
I hung the St. Vincent poster up in my office today. I can’t believe that it’s been eight months since that Turner Hall Milwaukee show. Still, it was one of the best live performances that I have seen in many years. It was even better, as my friend Jay came along. He’s a music encyclopedia.

St. Vincent Turner Hall Milwaukee Show

Wildbirds and Peacedrums opened for St. Vincent. I know that because it will be hard to forget that duo. When St. Vincent took the stage, I would guess that there were less than 750 people in the audience. I think that the size of the crowd made for a better show. The last thing that I wanted was to be sandwiched by people. I made it to the front of the stage with relative ease.

The St. Vincent poster was cheap; selling these works of art at $15 each is such a great idea. The low price made it much easier to spend extra cash on a frame.

I first saw St. Vincent on Austin City Limits in the dead of winter past. I only caught two songs, but I got hooked. A young coworker of mine saw them perform at the Pabst Theater just a few months prior. Her mention of that show stuck in my head, and when surfing the dial I stopped just in time to see them perform The Party, from the album titled Actor.

So here I am with the largest, most bare wall in my office, now the recipient of one superb poster. I await new works from St. Vincent, and hopefully another chance to see them play live once again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mobile Phones and Music | Morrissey on a China Plate

Mobile Phones Make Lousy Music Sound Worse

Using Mobile phones as music devices baffles my mind. Yes, an iPhone might be the exception, only because the "phone" part is almost secondary. If you have seen the HD video and sound that the latest iPhone captures, you would certainly agree with me. What I am talking about is the sound that comes out of the speakers of a non iPhone.

I was crossing the street in downtown Milwaukee yesterday, when I passed by a girl who was waiting for a bus. As I passed, I thought her phone was ringing. To me it sounded like that tinny, over driven sound you may hear when someone has picked a ring tone that is just too much for the phone's speaker to handle. You know what I'm talking about, the sound is all distorted and not very appealing. I was wrong, she was listening to music. It was awful.

I am one of those people who thought that advanced technology would improve the sound that comes out of tiny devices. I'm old enough to remember transistor radios and the sound that they produced. Still, it seems like you just can't make a tiny speaker sound lush, unless you spend hundreds of dollars. If you take a look at the tiny speakers that do sound good, you realize that they are not that tiny. They are just the tweeter portion of what used to reside in a large wooden box, and it sat above the woofer. To me, the only thing that has changed is that the woofer is in a separate box, and the tweeters clutter up your desk, or hang from your living room wall, or sit on thin posts throughout the room.

I have a friend who travels a lot. He lives very simply, to the point where he relies on his iPhone for everything. That phone gets a workout. What I find interesting about this particular friend is that he used to be an audiophile. He is one of those guys who still has vinyl records, and keeps them in individual plastic sleeves. He practically studies the album. He knows who produced it, mixed it, the lyrics, and the performers who played on it. His albums sit high on a shelf now, and he doesn't own a record player anymore. He doesn't own a boom box, or stereo. He plays music through his phone, and that makes me very sad.

Morrissey on a China Plate

I like to do the airport runs for my friend. It's easy, and I like catching people on the way in or out of town. They tend to be excited, or tired, or nervous. Basically, I get to see friends an emotional state that I might not see during other, more normal times. When I came to pick up my friend last Saturday, I found him just about ready to go. He was playing Morrissey through his phone, which he had placed on a china plate on his kitchen counter. The plate he told me, helped to bring out the sound. There was no bass, no mids, just highs and this china plate resonating Morrissey out into his kitchen. How far my audiophile friend had fallen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farm Aid at Miller Park October 2nd.

Farm Aid Milwaukee
Here we are, coming up on October 2, and it's Farm Aid at Miller Park. Willie Neslon is someone that I would like to see before he goes to the great beyond, but joining tens of thousands of fans in a venue made for professional sports is not the location I dreamed about. I would rather see him at the Riverside Theater, or Marcus Amp.
Still, Farm Aid is a great cause, and it's less about a single superstar act. John Mellencamp is on the lineup, but I never really liked his style. Little Pink Houses is a song that came out when I was in my teens. It reminds me of hanging out with my friends whose parents could afford cable tv. There are no pass outs for the event, but honestly, who would want to do that. Miller Park is an island in a sea of asphalt. Once you drive away, you feel completely disconnected with the ballpark. I'm going to wait to see Willie Nelson for some other time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Muse with Passion Pit Bradley Center Set List

Do you ever check the set list of a band just before they come to your town? I started doing that a few years ago. I like to see if the band deviates from the set, from city to city, from night to night. The majority of the time, the set never changes. When I first posted that Muse and Passion Pit are playing the Bradley Center, I didn't take the time to check the set lists for the current tour. Now, as the date approaches, I will look to recent shows to see what I can find.

Sadly, the only dates I could find were California shows from last week. They did play the same set back to back though.

Muse Set List from September 23

1. Uprising
2. Resistance
3. New Born
4. Map of the Problematique
5. Supermassive Black Hole
6. Hysteria Star-Spangled Banner intro
7. Nishe
8. United States Of Eurasia
9. Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley cover)
10. Helsinki Jam
11. Undisclosed Desires
12. Starlight
13. Plug In Baby
14. Time Is Running Out
15. Unnatural Selection
16. Encore:
16. Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture
17. Stockholm Syndrome
18. Knights of Cydonia Man With A Harmonica intro

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five Items To Bring On Stage Before Drumming

If you are a drummer, you are more than likely to be the only person on the stage who gets to sit all evening. You are usually behind the singer, or tucked away in a corner of some small stage. The guitar player will usually try to invade your space, or push you further back, just to make room for the amps. It can be a tense few moments, when you (or your roadie) puts the kit in place. By the time you sit down, it's usually dark on stage. You hope that everything is in place as the lights go up. When they do go up, I hope that I see five essential things in front of me, aside from the drums.

Five Key Items To Bring On Stage

  • #1 Duct Tape.

I know that it may seem to be silly to have to list it at all, but you would be surprised to find that many of your band mates will ditch the heavy roll of duct tape and leave it at the practice space, thinking that they won't possibly need it. Perhaps they think that the venue owner will have some, or someone else in the band may bring some along. Don't trust that crucial item to anyone but yourself. I won't list the reasons you need Duct Tape. Trust me.

  • #2 The Gibraltar Drink Holder
Some people laugh when I set up my Gibraltar drink holder. It attaches to my high hat stand. I can reach for it in the middle of a song, or between songs. It keeps me from bending all the way to the floor. You don't want dirty looks from your guitar player because you are using his Marshall Amp for a drink holder. You won't be tempted to place it on the back line, only to find that it vibrated right off the speaker, splashing you in the back and pissing off the sound engineer. Finally, the drink holder will also keep you from kicking over your own drink. Bonus!
  • 3# Ditty Bag for Drummers
I will never forget the time I snapped the spring to my drum pedal in the middle of a set. We were the headline act, and the opening act had already packed their gear and left. I was ready to swap out the broken spring because I had a ditty bag full of essential hardware. That bag has felt rings, cymbal screws, duct tape, drum keys, ear plugs, bandages, wing nuts, snare string, and more. We stopped the show and it took all of 90 seconds to replace the spring.
  • #4 Multi Tool
It's a screw driver-knife-pliers-file-bottle cap opener-saw device, and I would be dead in the water without it. I love it when your guitar player's bridge needs tightening, and he looks around in a panic, just hand him your Multi Tool.
  • #5 Set List
Yep, I said it. You cannot rely on anyone else to provide you with a set list. You may think that you will read the list off of the singer's copy, but what if your singer goes nuts and the set list flies into the mosh pit? What if someone steals the set list from the guitar player before the show is finished? What if everyone else forgets theirs? All of those things have happened to me, and more.
I encourage others to add to this list, but if I have those five items, I'm comfortable, happy and kicking butt behind the drums.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prom For Adults Tomorrow Night at Stonefly Brewery

The DJ's will be spinning, and the beer will certainly be flowing at Stonefly Brewing Company tomorrow night. If you wished for the chance to redo your prom night, or if you finally have the courage to ask someone to prom, here is your opportunity. The Pedal Pushers of Milwaukee are hosting an "adult prom" and admission is only six bucks. No need to rent a tux, but you may want to follow the suggestion to do so. Formal is fun!

The party runs from 10pm to 2am, food and drinks are extra. The Milwaukee Pedal Pushers have thrown this party before, and they expect it to be another successful night. This time, you don't have to worry about getting your date home before curfew.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kiss Show Is Flash and Not Much More

Kiss Milwaukee
I'm sorry to all those Kiss fans. The band is just a hollow flash, and not much more. Back when I was a child, a really small child, the band was interesting. I didn't care for them, but they were interesting. Who were these guys? That was the big draw. The music was never really that good, and it just got worse over time. Now, the band that calls itself Kiss has just two original members, and two hired guns.

Yes, there is blood, flash pots, confetti, flying Paul Stanley, fire breathing Gene Simmons, etc. Who wouldn't expect to see the same thing, year in and year out. No matter how many times they tell us that this is their last tour, you know that they are lying to you. What was the best part of the Marcus Amphitheater show? When they handed a check to the Wounded Warrior Project. At least that was honest, and generous. Convincing people to go to Wall Mart to buy their new album was the low point of the night. Wall Mart? Really guys?

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to Make Great Rock and Roll Posters

The gig is fast approaching, and we did all of our digital promotions. We also sent out an email blast. Still, those hardcore fans want something physical, something to arouse the tactile senses. Time to make a great rock and roll poster. But wait, I'm a drummer, not an artist. What do I do?

Hire an Artist to Create a Great Poster

In the 1980's we had Jerry "The Axe" Hammer making our punk rock DIY style posters. Jerry had an attention to detail, even though he only used a Bic pen. Jerry's Work is above.

In the 1990's we hired a popular local Milwaukee artist to do our posters. John Hill is currently putting ink to skin, as well as ink to paper.
On a rare occasion, a band is lucky enough to draw the attention of very generous artists who donate time and supplies, and make a poster just because they appreciate what you do musically. One of the best poster artists working out of Amsterdam made amazing art to promote our mini tour. Yes, Amsterdam is thousands of miles from Wisconsin, but this is 2010, you can get digital files and print here at home.
What's the moral to this blog post. Skip the DIY after you hit your 21st birthday. Hire a pro to make your band look "pro."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taking a Break from Playing The Drums

For the first time in 17 years, I'm not in a band, and after playing gigs, recording, touring, and all that comes with it, I'm taking a break. It's eerily quiet here at the house. Don't get me wrong, I'm still rehearsing on my own. I would never stop drumming altogether. So what do you play on the drums when you are all alone?

I'm working with a Tama metronome, and it's great fun. For those of you who hate working with one, I suggest their higher end models. You have so many options, not just the beats per minute. You can store up to 20 signatures at a time.

I keep a list handy and jot down songs that I hear throughout the day. If I think that I would like to learn that song, or it would be a great exercise for me, I will go back to that list and download the tune. Slip on some noise reduction headphones, and play away. Don't forget your rudiments. Don't forget to stay loose. By all means, take a break sometimes. It just might inspire you to get out of that deep drumming rut you find so comfortable. For now, I'm going to grab some Riverside Theater tickets, and check out some of the touring pros. More inspiration.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How To Tune A Snare Drum

I’m surprised at how many fellow drummers ask me the following question: How do you tune a snare drum? I don’t like it when I see someone playing a $500 snare drum that sounds like complete crap, so I am more than happy to help, when asked. Where do you start? I start at bottom and work my way up.
I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your heads fresh. I know that many musicians are “starving artists,” but the $30 you invest in heads for your snare is crucial for a good snare sound.

How To Tune A Snare Drum

  • Carefully flip your drum over, and place it on the snare stand. Put your strainer into the “loose” position and slide a stick under the wires so they do not touch the resonant head. Now you have freed up both hands to do the work of tuning.

  • Tap the head in a circular motion, one inch from the edge, just inside of each lug. That will give you an idea of which specific lugs are tuned higher then the others. Working your way up to a nice, tight resonant head is your goal.

  • Don’t be afraid to give that tuning key a ½ turn, after you find the lower tuned lugs. The goal is to get the entire “round” of lugs to sound the same. I like my bottom head tuned pretty tight. So do most other drummers.

  • Once you get the lugs to sound in tune with each other, turn the drum over, and turn the snare back on. Give your drum a few taps. Is it time to tune the top head? Most likely, you need to do the same steps on your top head. It doesn’t need to be tuned as high as the bottom head, and most good sounding snare drums have a tighter bottom head.

  • Tap the head one inch from the outer edge of the snare at each lug. Do the same tuning that you did for the bottom head. Try to get the “notes” to match each other. Most drummers like their snares to be tuned high enough to sound much like a timbale. Some drummers, such as Billy Ward, tune their snare pretty darn low. If you are a beginner, I would advise against that. Billy is so talented, that he can make just about any drum sound like gold.

  • Once you find a sweet sound from the top head, play the drum without the snare turned on. Do you like that sound? If yes, then we move on to the snare wires.

  • Start with loosened wires, engage the snare strainer and give the drum some taps. Work the strainer into a tighter position, test the sound. If the strainer seems to be double slapping, or buzzing too long after you hit it, keep turning that strainer until you hit the sweet spot.

  • Moon Gel and muffle rings are certainly something that may help you in reducing overtones. Start with the Moon Gel fully on the top head. If that’s too much, apply the Moon Gel to the edge of the skin, with part of it resting on the drum rim. Muffle rings are either on or off the drum. I love the Yamaha ring, as it’s not quite as wide as the Remo ring. Sometimes I make my own rings out of old skins. That way I can decide on the size, and thus muffle ability.

Lastly, try to take some time to tune your drums before the rest of the band arrives at your practice space, or before you leave for a gig. You are fooling yourself if you think that you can get a great sound while the guitar player is doing a screaming pre-show solo through the PA system. Nobody likes to hear a drummer tune his kit at the club. It’s very annoying.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Milwaukee Metal Scene and Midwest Heshfest 2

Milwaukee does have a metal scene. So many post industrial, somewhat rust belt, Midwestern American cities do. That's not to say that the coastal cities don't also have a metal music scene. They do. In a few weeks J Rileys Bar will play host to an eleven hour stretch of what I can assume is cookie monster vocals, double bass pedal blast beats, and precision guitar playing. It's called Midwest Heshfest 2, and it starts at 3pm on Sept. 4.

16 bands are scheduled to perform. There has to be a back line for an event like this. Ain't no way the drummers will be hauling their crap in and out, one after the other. There will be two stages, so that the music never stops. As soon as one band is done, the next stage will be alive. Okay, there are some breaks between the music, but in order to keep the level of insanity at the highest point, the bands will have to stay on a super tight schedule.

Perhaps these bands are not all from Milwaukee, but I'm confident that the bulk are from the region. And what's up with the 30 minute sets. Nobody gets an hour?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Four Drumsets on Stage At Once | No Cymbals No Snare Drums Allowed

four drummers on stage at once
It was like a three day seminar on how to set up a drum set. I was the guy who had to supply three drum sets for the performance. No snare drums, no cymbals. There would be four drum kits on stage at one tour stop, and on the club floor for another. On top of that, the metal percussionist needed a place to work his magic. First thing we noticed, we didn't have enough carpeting.
The band played their warm up show in Chicago. We played on tiny carpets in front of the state. We moved around on the floor of the club like that old time electric vibrating football game. The string and metal section was safe on the stage. Drummers had their backs turned. We did okay. Glad it was a warm up gig.

Still, the circle of fans, now three deep, watched us from the start. There were sceptical faces to be sure. We started with an open jam. You know what that means if you are a musician: Good luck with the next five minutes. I truly believe that our lousy, mish-mosh of an opening jam helped make the first real song sound that much tighter. The smiles came out in the first minute. People were enjoying this, I was enjoying this! The sweaty percussion section was attracting to men for its power drumming, and perhaps the women liked to watch four drummers hammering the shit out of their drums, in precision, out in front, no apologies.

The drums were set in a semi circle. Anyone dare walk into that sonic booth? One person. She was in a trance. I felt like keeping my head down. I can't make eye contact with anyone just 12 inches from my drums. Man or woman, that close is associated with too much scrutiny. I hope to pull them off with just as much power as I have for the last four months, but do it with my head down, or eyes closes, sometimes looking to the left or right. I won't give that up. Finally, the trance dancing woman was pulled back by her boyfriend. I could look up again.

Sadly, we couldn't hear our singer. The p.a. was too small. It was impossible to play on top of four drummers, two guitar players, a bass player, singer, and the aforementioned metal percussionist. It was a test of knowing cues and measures. It worked out just fine. We got home to Milwaukee as the sun was just starting to come up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Milwaukee Theater Welcomes Mannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller Milwaukee theater tickets
How can the Milwaukee Theater book Mannheim Steamroller for two performances so close to the holidays? For years I wondered if they just liked playing here around that time. Wouldn't they draw better if they played New York, or L.A. around that time? It took some work, but I figured it out. You should know that Mannheim Steamroller was created by the same man who wrote the 1970's hit song Convoy.

Mannheim Steamroller is actually two bands. One group tours the Midwest, and the other likes to roll along the East Coast. That's why we are so lucky to see them here in Milwaukee just before the holiday. There are two of them!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wicked The Musical Comes to Marcus Center For the Performing Arts

Wicked tickets for Marcus Center
I'm in line, waiting for my chance to buy Wicked tickets for the Marcus Center in Milwaukee. Someone is singing a song from the performance. She's about three people behind me, and I'm not digging it. Why do people insist on doing that?

These are the same people who blurt out the lines in a movie theater, just before the actor on the screen does. I'm not there to hear some Midwesterners off key version of a song from the Wicked soundtrack. I'm just there to buy my tickets. If this person knows the words to a song by heart, why are they once again going to the performance?

On CDUniverse, I'm scanning the reviews of the Wicked soundtrack. There is not one single bad, or mediocre review. One review starts with "OMG!" typed three times. Two reviews down we have an "Oh My Gosh" spelled out. Is it that inspiring? It's just a damn CD. Oh well, some folks will buy anything I guess.
I'm now listening to the song No One Mourns the Wicked. It sounds like your typical Broadway song. Everyone is trying too hard, the cast all want to be noticed. Yawn. One Short Day is the best example of over singing I have ever heard. Why do people fall for this stuff? Why am I even in line?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three City Tour Takes Work as Four Drummers Perform at the Same Time

I must admit, coming home at dawn on the first night of our three city tour was not what I had in mind. Yes, I expected to come home late from Chicago, but not that late. That's what you get when you jump in the van with a driver who does not have GPS. He missed the highway entrance three times before stopping for directions.

The five a.m. return was followed up with a 1pm load in at the Milwaukee venue. If you do the math, that's eight hours to sleep, shower, eat, and get my butt to the club. Not enough time if you ask me. After six hours of sleep, I jumped up and started eating. Gotta replace what I lost the night before. It would have been nice to hear that load in was pushed back by two hours. That two hours turned into three. Damn!

We closed that venue at 2am. Now for a serious eight hours of sleep. It was off to Green Bay for the final gig. We set up the drums on the floor. Where else would you put four drummers? It was just as hot as the past three nights, but with one acception. There was an industrial sized fan blowing ontop of us. We were saved by that fan.

All I had to do was get us home without falling asleep. Sugar in tiny doses kept me awake. M&M's saved me. The ride was filled with jokes and laughter up until we got to Port Washington. That last 25 miles was a quiet ride, but the lights of the city led the way.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rufus Wainwright, Riverside Theater Tickets, and the '73 Ford

Riverside Theater tickets
"I'm in love" he said to my band mate as he crossed over the threshold into my house. It has become my Friend's mantra since meeting her. Let's call my friend "Mike." Mike wants Rufus Wainwright to perform at his wedding. Mike has an offer for Rufus. "I'll give him my '73 Ford, in exchange for his services at my wedding." Sounds like a perfectly good offer to me. Will Rufus go for it?

Mike is only in Wisconsin for a few more weeks. He's got to get the deal in place, before going back to Hungary to meet his girlfriend. One problem. My friend thought that Rufus Wainwright was in Milwaukee this upcoming Saturday. He scrambled for Riverside Theater tickets. Rufus doesn't come here until August. Chalk that up to love. Mike's been off his game since meeting "JJ."

"I have to get the Ford painted before making the offer" he said. I recall seeing it in a photograph many months ago, and it certainly looked like a vintage vehicle worthy of a trade. "I might need your wife to come along for the meeting." He felt that having a woman with him would soften his image. That all went south when he realized that he had his show date wrong. I'll keep you up to date on the Rufus deal.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Miramar Theater and Latest Flame Records Presents Fu*k Face

Latest Flame Records and the Miramar Theater join forces on July 10 for a show that has been fifteen years in the making. I'm talking about Fuck Face from Milwaukee. They broke up a long time ago, but the fire never went out. As luck would have it, there was a full length album waiting to be released. The band never put the record out after a contract dispute, coupled with a bit of band infighting. Would the masses enjoy this record so long after it was put down digitally?

So far, the only crazy Fuck Face review started out like this: "..Fuck Face is easily in the top5 strangest musical experiences I've been given during my seven year span as a music critic." The AV Club Fuck Face review added: "Fuck face lived to pound skulls and flay minds with a crushing ensemble of guitars, bass, three drummers ."

Yes, these eight men and one woman have put down some miles between the summer of 1995 and the upcoming tour. Will Fuck Face have what it takes to live up to the hype? I caught up with two members and asked that question directly. Dave S. the singer, and Danny K. the band's guitar player both agreed that the preparation for this mini-tour started three months ago. "I feel like we could have gone on the road after the first month of rehearsals" said Dave. "We have one drummer here in Milwaukee, and he's playing all the parts as best he can until the other three fly in." Yes, the band members have scattered to the four corners of the world. Ok, perhaps they have scattered to two corners of the United States, and one corner of Europe to be exact, but the mere fact that three of the four drummers have agreed to take time out of their lives to come to old Milwaukee tells me that they will be prepared.
Fuck Face plays Chicago July 9, at Quenchers, July 10 Miramar Theater, July 11 at Crunchy Frog in Green Bay. From there, the band will scatter once again. That's the way it should be. No long, drawn out, cobbled together remakes for these guys. See this band.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summerfest Tom Petty ZZ Top June 26th

Tom Petty ZZ Top Summerfest Milwaukee
I'm going to Summerfest Tom Petty with ZZ Top on June 26. I have been spoiled as of late, when it comes to Marcus Amphitheater tickets. I can't remember the last time that I sat in the "yellow" sections. It's been the first 31 rows or nothing. I'll be sitting in section 6 this time. I needed a group of eight tickets, and that was the best I could do.

At least I am sitting on the aisle at the Summerfest show. I suspect that I will be coming and going a lot. My wife is a big ZZ Top fan. I'm so-so for both bands. We're going to join the family for that show, so it's not really about the bands. They are flying in from Seattle the day before, and I'm always happy to see them. My nephew has not missed a Summerfest season in the past 12 years.
Tom Petty and ZZ Top are playing two shows at the Marcus Amphitheater this year. I don't know what to think about that. Is Milwaukee that fired up for Tom Petty? The festival starts on June 24, and runs through July 4. I'll be going down there a second time and I plan to see DEVO on the last night. This will make two years in a row, where I head to the festival grounds in Milwaukee on two separate nights.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When Do Old Drummers Retire?

retired drummers
Do old drummers retire? Is 45 too old to rock? Do I start learning some other instrument? Perhaps I just pick up a pair of 2B's and beat the crap out of my drum kit and stop thinking about it.

I'm feeling my age this morning. As we prepare for the three city tour with my old band, I'm noticing that what I played at age 30 is not as easy to play today. I'm not writing this issue off to my age just yet. At age 30, I think I was just a bit myopic to key parts that make up a good drummer. I wanted to play the crap out of my drums, party, and remind everyone that I am who I am. Ego was certainly a part of my style back then.

What makes me a better drummer today?

  1. I know my limits, and I won't push it too hard at a live show, just to show off.

  2. I learned that what I eat before a gig will either help or hurt my performance.

  3. Warming up before a show will make your first song sound great.

  4. The singer is the face of the band, and the drummer just support.

  5. I'm never going to be a star, and knowing that fact helps me enjoy those Tuesday night gigs. (not that I ever had visions of being a star)

  6. I can afford better gear.

  7. The drama is easier to blow off. Yes, the singer has an ego, yes the guitar is never loud enough, according to the guitar player.

  8. I can think beyond the evening, knowing that I have another show the next night, and save energy for the next town.

  9. A gig is not a gig until you are actually on stage and playing your drums. You never know when a show will be cancelled.

  10. If two people show up for a show, play even better because they are probably uncomfortable being the only fans there. Make them feel special.

  11. Being forced to do full volume rehearsals, three nights a week is probably not going to make you a better drummer. It's just going to make you hard of hearing. Turn it down.

I don't have all the answers. Sorry, if this comes off as preachy. As I was rehearsing last night, I thought about those musicians that have perhaps one or two shows to call their own. They might have played in a high school band. They might have played at a dance, or basement show. They might have spent 12 months getting ready to play a gig only to have their singer quit the band a week before their debut. (this happened to me) I'm eternally grateful for what has come my way.

If I were to break it down even further, I would say that I'm happy that I can play a double stroke roll down the rack. At age 45 you are probably too old to get noticed by a 20 year old guitar player. I'm happy to say that it doesn't bother me too much. Those 20 year old guitar players have to go through what I went through, and I don't want to live that all over again. I'll do more stretching, eat better, sleep better, be wiser, sober, and wake up the next day feeling like I can crush it. When I'm 60, I'll start playing the vibes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Resch Center Star Wars In Concert

resch center tickets
What is this Resch Center Star Wars In Concert all about? I first heard about it at SpoofFest 2010 from my friend Kliff McBurtney. He's a huge fan of Star Wars, and the Wisconsin Renassance Faire. He was all about the Milwaukee tour stop, but this one at the Resch Center is more in line with my day off.
The music of Star Wars is played by a full symphony orchestra, while movie clips play on a giant high definition screen. There is talk of movie props to view before and after the show. There are millions of fans that would love to hear this music played live. There are over 60 dates on this North American tour. Many cities will have two shows to choose from.
The Resch Center Star Wars shows are both on July 3rd. There is even a VIP section for the most rabid fans. Resch Center tickets to the VIP section gets you early admission to the Art and Craft exhibit, refreshements, a laminate, and access to the merchandise without all those other peons pushing you around. I'll bet that the laminate is the most coveted item.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jacob Jones Plays On Prom Night

Jacob Jones Prom Night
If I lived in Nashville, I would certainly be heading down to the Electric Western East Side Prom Night. This sounds like the prom of all proms. For a measly five bucks, you get to sweat it out in your best polyester frock, and rock. Jacob Jones is back in time to be a guest artist. Yes, Jones is on the road all summer, but he's no fool. He's going to the prom!

The very fresh Jacob Jones website is all you need for updates and Jones tracking. He gets as close to Wisconsin as Chicago this July 6th, so take that 90 minute drive down south and support this worthy artist. Heck, drive eleven hours south of here and go to the Electric Western Prom night!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Happened to Punk Rock In Milwaukee?

Milwaukee Punk Band
What happened to Punk Rock in Milwaukee? I was recently approached by a promotional company based out of Chicago. They wanted to point me in the direction of one of their "Milwaukee based punk bands." OK, I'll bite on the bait. After all, I was a punk drummer for nearly twenty years before moving on to Detroit rock, chick rock, and music that cannot be described very easily.

Milwaukee was home to Die Kreuzen, Sacred Order, The Crusties, Oil Tasters, The MotherF*ckers, and many more. They were punk. What I heard on this Milwaukee based punk band's Myspace page was that typical sickly sweet, Sum 41-sound-slowed-down so the singer could touch upon things like the sun going down, and how much he loves his girlfriend. Nope, not punk, not even close. This was a band that claimed that they went through multiple line up changes, break ups, and now they found their sound? Yes, they found a sound on Youtube, but it's someone else's sound. I'm hearing 2002.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cascio Groove Garage Summerfest 2010 Headliners

As we see the sun for the first time in four days, we think of The Cascio Groove Garage headliners. This oasis of local talent, surrounded by what could be described as a sea of musical acts that range from the up and coming, to "has beens," is one of my favorite spots to rest and relax. The gravel under the bleachers will make your shoes dirty, but it's worth the dust. The stage is still tent-like, but as of last year, they did improve it quite a bit. It's on higher ground, there are more lights, and there is a drum riser, as far as I can recall. The music starts at 1:30 each day, but here are the headline acts.

June 24 Collections of Colonies of Bees

June 25 The Vega Star

June 26 The Wildbirds

June 27 Kid you'll move mountains

June 28 The Etiquette

June 29 John The Savage

June 30 I'm Not A Pilot

July 1 Fable & the World Flat

July 2 Worrier

July 3 The Invaders

July 4 Whiskey Bound

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Summerfest 2010 Milwaukee Tickets | A Reason To Fight The Crowds at Marcus Amphitheater

Summerfest 2010 Milwaukee tickets are in hand because they booked a band that I must see. Yes, it has been 32 years since I first saw them. Yes, I am that old, but in my defense, I first saw DEVO when I was 12 years old. Do the math. They played the Uptown Theater on North Avenue in Milwaukee, and the venue was about 3/4 full. What do I remember about that show? Pink Pussycat, and Swelling Itching Brain. I also remember the videos that opened the show.

Three years later Devo was on tour supporting their Freedom Of Choice album. They were about to "jump the shark" with their next album, but on the Freedom Of Choice tour, they reached the apex of their street cred. PM Magazine came to film the crowd lined up outside the Oriental Theater. They approached me and asked an inane question. Just as I was to answer, someone spit on me. Punks were demanding that PM Magazine leave us alone. I guess I was a traitor for talking to the press.
That night the DEVO show was a disaster in the making. Their video projector broke down after the first minute. There was a small electrical fire on stage, and half the p.a. system never powered up. Boogie Boy came out and apologized to Milwaukee. This was their first tour date in America, after travelling all across Europe. Bumps in the road were expected. Too bad for us. They played at the Aragon Ballroom two nights later, and I'm sure it was all good.

Devo would release New traditionalists in 1981, and with that, they jumped the shark. Sure, the songs Working In A Coal Mine, and Beautiful World were on that album, but the pop loving, late-to-the-party audience totally missed the point that they were being called out for not understanding the message that Devo was bringing to the masses. That tour was a bulky, keyboard laden mess. True fans walked away in droves.

Still, Are We Not Men, and Freedom Of Choice are two of the best albums ever. Devo is tops in my book for those albums, and I give them three stars for Freedom of Choice. They will draw a huge crowd at the Miller Light Oasis on July 4th. I'll be there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Latest Flame Records Releases Fuc*Face Disk

Latest Flame Records, a Chicago label that ferrets out some of the best music in the Midwest has dug up a truffle. FuckFace performed from 1991 to 1996. The lineup included members of Die Kreuzen, Boy Dirt Car, The Crusties and more. They made music that fell into a category all their own. I know that some bands would love to be called unique, while others just want to be just like (fill in the blank.) Fuc*Face had up to four drummers on stage at once. On top of that, there was Karl, the metal percussionist. His job was to provide the uppermost notes that humans are capable of hearing. There were no snares, cymbals allowed on stage so Karl was the man that brought the crunch to life. He did that by banging on a veritable scrap yard of steel, aluminum and the like. Heck, he could get a good sound out of a folding chair if need be.
Backing this drum core was a pair of guitar players, a bass player and Dave the "singer." Dave used his vocals to pull you down so deep into the water, that you thought you would never come back up to the surface again. Yes, Dave would also smash his masked face with a metal rod, but it was alway in time with the music.

Fuc*Face will be performing a three city tour this July. This is in support of their new self titled disk. FuckFace recorded a full length CD in 1996, it was due to be released that same year, but issues with the label killed the deal. Latest Flame heard it through the grapevine that there was a FuckFace disk waiting to come to life, and they jumped on it. From there, the former members felt that it was important to back up the release with a few show. This will be no easy task, as the the members of FuckFace are scattered over continents.
The tour starts in Chicago, and ends in Green Bay. This is a third coast tour. So far the reviews of the Fuc*Face disk have been positive, save for the young lady who considered it to be one of the "top five strangest things she's ever had to review." If you know Fuc*Face, even that comment is a positive. Fuc*Face performs at the Miramar Theater Milwaukee July 10.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Muse and Passion Pit at Bradley Center Milwaukee October 6, 2010

Muse and Passion Pit are playing Milwaukee's Bradley Center on October 6, 2010. Passion Pit came to Turner Hall this past April, and now they back up a major tour de force in Muse. This looks like (can't really tell,) the first time that Muse will play Milwaukee. Unless they hit a small, off the radar venue, I think I'm correct.

Passion pit has one of those devoted, crazed, frothing at the mouth, fan bases. When Passion Pit and Muse play the together in Milwaukee, the combo might just be a perfect blend of fans. They may love each other, love to get sweaty, love to feel the pulse of a "brown note" coursing through their bodies.
I am confident in the success of this pairing of fans because I work with a fan of both bands, and she was completely out of commission the day after the Passion Pit show. I say the words "Passion Pit," and she just smiles. The smile is to hide the fact that she's drawing a complete blank as to exactly what happened at the show she attended. It was that good.
Muse has been around since 1994, and I had no idea of that fact. Muse and Passion Pit at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee will be a first time event for both bands. Okay, Muse has been around since 1999 and released five albums in that time. Yes, their first album came out five years into their rise to fame, and that explains my surprise when I read that the band started 16 years ago. And yes, their start was a bit of a spoof and flip off to the goth community during a "battle of the bands" contest that they actually won. Good thing that they won, because they trashed their gear at the end of that show.
They quit their day jobs, changed the name from Rocket Baby Dolls, to Muse, and began to build that very important base of rabid fans. It didn't hurt to have Dennis Smith, a famous recording studio owner backing you up. Smith knew the parents of the Muse boys, and recorded their first disk.
What will I want to hear when I go see this show? Assassin, off of Black Holes and Revelations is my hands down favorite tune. I challenged myself, and learned the drum lines note for note. The album didn't get the best of reviews, but none the less, I do like that song.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rush Summerfest 2010 Marcus Amphitheater show

Rush will play Summerfest 2010 at the Marcus Amphitheater. This was the latest announcement for festival fans, and tickets have already gone on sale through a fan club offer. The regular Rush Summerfest tickets on sale will be April 17.

The band played at Summerfest back in 2008. Rush fans had some inkling of the tour stop well ahead of the concert announcement. Some fans just know.
Their tour is titled "Rush time machine tour." They plan to play the album Moving Pictures from start to finish. What songs are popular on that album? Tom Sawyer, Limelight, and YYZ. The band has 30 years of songs to choose from, but playing Moving Pictures will certainly be the highlight of the evening.

As I drummer, people ask me what I think of Neil Peart. Neil is certainly a great drummer. He is nearly robotic in his style. If you want mistake free drumming, look no further than Neil Peart. The Rush Summerfest show is part of his current travels. If you want to read about travel, you can also look to Neil. If you want great lyrics, Peart is your man too. If I were to knock anything about Peart, is his love of Ayn Rand's works.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lady Gaga Tour Milwaukee Bradley Center Stop September 2

Lady Gaga plays the Bradley Center on September 2. She's white hot right now, and as long as she continues to come out on stage with crazy costumes, she may stay hot for more than a year or two. Why the harsh reality here? I'll be happy to lay it out for the Gaga fans.

She's popular here in the United States. She's not as popular worldwide, but close. In fact, the traffic her website receives is overwhelmingly from the US. The United Kingdom is less interested in her right now, and only six percent of her web traffic overall is from the U.K. If you want to be an international star, you have to be more popular than that. Yes, she's booking huge venues across the world as of this post, but just three short months ago, she played in a club smaller than the Rave in Milwaukee. I guess you have to start somewhere.

Her audience is mostly made up of the 14 to 20 year old crowd. That also means the parents have to pony up the dough to get their kids into the Lady Gaga Bradley Center show. Yes, there are adults that like her too, but those numbers are just not as high. Is she the new Madonna? Quite possibly. Will she settle the 32 million dollar lawsuit with the person who helped to create her image, most likely.

I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon, but this is a casting call artist and little more than that. She literally answered an ad, and was formed into the persona she is today. They test marketed this product, and rolled her out. They brought her back into the factory, adjusted a few things, and rolled her back out. Yes, she worked hard before being "discovered," and she has some talent, but we are looking at a product that was molded into the thing it is today. Most musicians, singers, and dancers do it. We see what people like, and work from there. Don't tell me that it's not true. We wouldn't be on stage if we didn't want to please the audience. You don't spend that kind of money on costumes and fake hype without a very thorough business plan. It's working. She's selling the product. She comes to Milwaukee in five months.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Steve Martin Riverside Theater Blue Grass Show

Steve Martin is bringing his blue grass show to the Riverside Theater on April 20th. Yes, Mr. Martin is a comedian. In fact, I find that his books are very funny. Cruel Shoes comes to mind when I think of one of his better efforts. He's always played banjo, on top of being very funny. The Riverside Theater Milwaukee is a great venue for his show. I wonder if he played his comedy routine there many years ago?
The band baking him up is called the Steep Canyon Rangers. The tour starts in Detroit on April 19th. At least our friend Steve Martin will have one warm up gig before coming to the Riverside Theater.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Live Show at Milwaukee Bucks Games?

The Milwaukee Admirals had the Dropkick Murphys perform after their hockey game. It was a huge success. Would the Milwaukee Bucks do anything like that? Probably not.

The NBA has so much more control over what teams do as far as promotions. A minor league hockey team is not nearly as high profile as the NBA. With that being said, would Bucks Tickets sell at a faster pace if the NBA allowed the Bradley Center management to have a live band perform just after the game?

The Bucks are a small market team. Revenue streams of any kind should be explored. Not to mention, you could draw new Bucks fans if you match up the right bands to play live. Some say that it's not needed. If you ever go to an early season Bucks game, you might disagree. The seats are empty in the upper levels for games on weeknights. Why not have a band play after the game.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Binky Tunny Last Show | We Will Miss Them

Binky Tunny is a band that I have followed since 2005. I first saw them play at a club in Sheboygan. We were the opening act. I remember that their guitar player had purple and yellow striped pants, and Binky played a Budweiser guitar. I later found out that she was sponsored by Bud.

It seemed that once I noticed the band, they were everywhere. I saw them at a church festival, Heartbreakers, the BBC, and of course Summerfest Milwaukee. They were what you would call a working band.

I must admit that it was hard to keep up with the line up changes. In those five years, they went through two guitar players, two drummers, and four bass players. Sometimes, you would see the band with seven people on stage, other times just three. No matter, it was always fun.

According to the Binky Tunny website, this is the last show. They are releasing a CD on the same night. Par for the course that Binky would release a disk and then shut the band down. I kind of like that idea too. They are offering up something for posterity, and saying goodbye for free at the Bomb Shelter on March 27th. I love free shows. I'll miss Binky Tunny and the Farmland Chokehold.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Justin Bieber Summerfest Marcus Amphitheater June 27th

Justin Bieber will perform his three popular songs on June 27th at Summerfest. This one has me wondering what the heck is going on with the booking of Marcus Amphitheater shows. I understood the two night Petty fest. I understand the three nights of country music, seeing that the Waukesha republicans need someone to see at Summerfest. Really? Justin Bieber as a headline act?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Verge Festival Milwaukee June 4 and June 5 at Summerfest

It's officially titled Verge Festival. It's June 4 and 5, 2010 on the Milwaukee Summerfest grounds. The picture to the left is from the other Verge Festival that featured music, and art. Don't get confused by the two. The naming contest is over, and someone didn't check that this was already in use? Anyway.
This reasonably priced festival has already booked some of their headline acts. Who's coming? The "Preliminary Lineup" includes Three Days Grace, Eagles of Death Metal, Crash Kings, She & Him, The Wildbirds, and more.

On day #2, it's Weezer, AFI, Revision Text, and Geri X. Tickets go on sale starting this Friday. $40 gets you in for the entire weekend. Verge Fest plans to have more headline acts in the coming weeks. I suspect that only a portion of the Summerfest grounds will be open for this festival. The Marcus Amphitheater seating for this show will most certainly be used. Will a headline act fill that venue all the way to the lawn? Probably not. Will they use the M & I stage? Most likely.
There is no website for the festival just yet. The announcement came by way of the Summerfest site. With 18 total hours of festival to book, you have to think that there will be a total of 35 bands at most. This is a guess on my part.
Weezer is a band that plays the Rave on a regular basis. Buddy Holly came out what 16 years ago? There must be some bigger, or perhaps more modern headline acts to come. AFI is listed as an "alternative rock band" on Wikipedia. They have been around since 1991. I suspect that the Saturday line up will improve with some fresh musical acts. Just give those Summerfest booking agents some time. They will come through. Again, this vestival is not to be confused with the other Verge art and music festival that took place last August.