Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Summerfest 2012 Headline Acts at Marcus Amphitheater

Summerfest tickets We're looking at a pair of Summerfest 2012 Headliners for the Marcus Amphitheater so far. Booked before the end of this year, we have months to wait before they scan our Summerfest tickets, and we go on to find our seats. Two classic performers will headline at Summerfest: Neil Diamond will play on July 8, and , and Lady Antebellum on June 30. Darius Rucker will open for Lady Antebellum. There are many other booking announcements to come.
M&I Stage Renovation for South Summerfest Grounds
Late this summer, Summerfest announced that they will be renovating the M&I Classic Rock stage. If you didn't think that the stage just north of the Marcus Amp. was big enough, when the plans are completed, ten thousand rock music lovers will be able to watch the new stage comfortably. A covered stage will make it so much more enjoyable for poor weather evenings. This new stage setup will be the last for M&I, as it's going to be changed to BMO Harris Bank.

Summerfest Looking for Good Local Acts

Summerfest is reaching out to musicians from the area. Which local bands will make it to one of eleven stage? You can help the booking agents of Summerfest by replying to their Summerfest Twitter account. Nearly seventeen thousand fans follow Summerfest on Twitter, and the number is sure to grow as winter turns to spring.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beach Boys 2012 Reunion Tour | Surf Rock - Pop Band Hits the Road

Beach Boys 2012 Reunion tour

Upon the announcement of the Beach Boys 2012 reunion tour, I felt it was time to reflect upon the band that inspired so many true rock musicians. Personally, I don’t understand the lure of this band. Perhaps it was my Midwest upbringing, or my age, having come of age twenty years after the band recorded Pet Sounds. Still, they are considered to be one of the greatest “rock bands” to ever come from California. The Beach boys started out in 1961, writing surf songs, and singing about life on the west coast. They were popular, they had a niche sound, and it was not dissimilar to other surf bands, if not for the lush harmonies. Their first album, titled Surfin’ Safari, was comprised of songs that resonated with a generation of kids that grew up in southern California. They borrowed tracks from Eddie Cochran and Vincent Catalano in order to fill the space required to produce a full-length album. The album spent nearly ten months on the US top 100 charts, and just about every kid knows the words “Come on baby, surfin’ safari.”

Beach Boys Go from Surf Songs to Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys went on to record ten albums from 1961 through 1965. The subject matter of the disks was mostly about surfing, and cars. They made a Christmas album and a disk made up entirely of cover songs. The Beach Boys were certainly a popular band, as some of their songs cracked the top ten, spending months high on the rock music charts. It was the album title Pet Sounds that took the Beach Boys in a different direction, and perhaps inspired a generation of musicians to go on to create rock music. Pet Sounds was mostly written by Brian Wilson, and Tony Asher provided lyrical support. Not only did Wilson take a cue from the Beatles Rubber Soul album, some would say that he basically copied the formula. Wilson stopped touring, reportedly dropped acid, brought in hired guns to play the instruments, and spent months layering the sounds. When the rest of the Beach Boys finally got to hear his creation, they were not too thrilled to see that Wilson was taking the band in a different direction.

Beach Boys Followed Musical Trends Instead of Leading Them

I never felt that the Beach Boys were anything close to rock and roll. They were certainly pop music creators. I’ll give them credit for that. Their songs have a lasting quality, and the Wilson family has a vocal styling that will never be repeated. What I can’t give them credit for is any type of originality. They followed the musical scene, never leading the way. Surf music had already come to the fore by the time that Surfin’ Safari was released. In fact, the Beach Boys covered a Dick Dale song on one of their albums, proving that the band broke no new ground. The Beach Boys harmonies were not unlike early “do-wop” groups of the 1950’s. The breakout album Pet Sounds was created in reply to Rubber Soul. Smiley Smile was a second crack at what Pet Sounds failed to do, that is launch the Beach Boys to higher ground. From there, the band was never quite the same.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sports Venues and House Bands

Does anyone remember the house band at the Bradley Center? It was StreetLife, featuring Warren Wiegratz. The band was set in one of the corners of the lower level, and they played during halftime at Bucks games, and during the breaks between the action on the court. They would also be called upon to play the national anthem from time to time. Mr. Wiegratz is a Milwaukee-based jazz musician, and still performs festivals and private parties throughout Wisconsin. His band takes me back to a time when sports venues had house bands.

The Green Bay Packers had a house band at Lambeau Field through the 1995 season. They would be the bumper music for kickoffs, and at times the brass section would squeeze out a tune during time outs. The musicians that made up the band were all very talented. You had to be, if you were going to tough it out in the cold and snow.

Badgers Marching Band at Camp Randall

When you head to Camp Randall Stadium, it's none other than the Badgers Marching band that will entertain you. It's unfair to call them a "house band." They are one of the best marching bands in the country, performing in parades and stadiums throughout the United States. The Fifth Quarter is when they get their chance to shine. It comes right after Badgers home games, and many fans stick around for the performance.
As time marches on, it seems like house bands are disappearing. Stadiums need more than a dixieland or jazz ensemble to keep fans excited. Sports fans expect to be blown away by more than the sites and sounds of the game on the field. Tucking a band in the corner of a venue just doesn't get the crowd fired up. There may always be a place for a marching band, but house bands at sports stadiums have probably seen their best days pass them by.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paul Leim Country Music Drummer who Can be Found Everywhere

Paul Leim

Who is Paul Leim? He's an American born drummer who can be found on more hit albums than pretty much any other drummer around. Leim's work can be found on literally thousands of disks. What does Paul do best? Everything. If I were to add my two cents, he's one of the best "groove" drummers alive today. From country, to rock, to pop, Leim can play it all.

Paul Leim Catalogue

I did a quick search of his catalogue, and one site has him listed on over 425 albums. He's played with Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Roy Orbison, Kenny Chesney, and so many more. His session work takes him to places I could only dream of. On top of that, he's played on movie soundtracks, and on live television. He's truly the man who crossed over to every aspect of music.

I was checking out some of his videos today and one thing that stuck out to me was his comment that he takes 12 snare drums to the recording studio. Once he gets a snare tuned to what he likes it, he keeps it that way, and moves on to another drum if the song calls for a different sound. He plays Yamaha drums, and his Leim signature snare is one of the better snares around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Courtney Love Storms Off Stage in Brazil | Does Anybody Still Care about Hole?

What drives Courtney Love? She made headlines this week, after storming off the stage at a festival in Brazil. Criticizing Ms. Love is like shooting fish in a barrel, but this time I felt her outburst deserved just a moment of my time, at least enough time for me to give my opinion.

If you believe what you read about Ms. Love’s childhood, she didn’t have the best upbringing. She brought a lot of her troubles upon herself by making terrible choices in her teen years. The opportunities to do the right thing were there, and the money was there via a trust fund, yet she chose to live on the edge. I lived with people like her. At each crossroads, they chose the pleasure route. Those people struggle to this day just like Ms. Love, albeit without tens of millions of dollars in the bank.

Without the success of Nirvana, Hole might have expected to achieve local or regional success, but no more than that. Did she take the opportunity to promote her band and capitalize on the death of her husband? I would suggest that you consider the release date of “Live Through This” coming just one week after Mr. Cobain died as your answer to that question. Speaking anecdotally, the last thing that I would have been able to do was back up an album release just days after my brother died. Why did she allow for the album to drop just days after her husband killed himself? Was profit a motivating factor? What was the rush? As the album is now considered to be her best work musically, I suppose that it proved to be worthy of some praise, but the exposure would not have come if it weren’t due to the timing of the release.

It would take four years for Love to release another album, which was more pop flavored than anything else. That album was most successful financially, and deserves to be recognized as a good example of pop music.

Now fast forward to her meltdown in Brazil. I suppose that people have every right to be uptight about musicians that expose themselves on stage. Love used to be a stripper, so is anyone surprised at her actions? She did the same thing on Letterman years ago. What bothered me (and many others,) is the homophobic rant that one of her hired guns used to entice Love back out on stage.

Finally, the backstage interview with Love after the show might have revealed what’s truly bothering her now. She will not admit that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters was in Nirvana, and he has all the legal right in the world to profit from that success, no matter how much money he makes in his current band. Her argument that “Dave makes five million dollars a show in Foo Fighters” so he should give up his share of Nirvana makes no sense. Let’s put aside the fact that it’s unlikely that he grosses five million per show. Let's just focus on the facts.

Love was not in Nirvana, and the rant about her in-laws being in financial trouble has nothing to do with Dave Grohl. If her backstage rant is true, she could certainly take care of that problem if she were to consider shelling out a tiny portion of the 50 million dollars she received when she sold off 25% of her rights to Nirvana back in 2006. As of 2010, she mentioned that she was “done supporting Kurt’s family.” It seems that Ms. Love wants it both ways. She cuts off the Cobain family in 2010, and then rants about their financial problems when trying to drive home a point about Dave Grohl not deserving his share of Nirvana royalties. I have no sympathy for a millionaire who complains that she’s not getting enough money from her husband’s hard work.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Classic Rock Magazine Award for Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck will soon see his name among some serious rock gods. Tonight Beck was the recipient of the "Living Legend" award at the Classic Rock and Roll Honors 2011. How did he manage to acquire this award? He was voted in by the readers of Classic Rock magazine. The event will be held at the Roundhouse in London. Iggy Pop was a previous honoree, so I'm not too sure that Classic Rock magazine holds to the hard rule that the person being honored must play rock.

Jeff Beck One of the Best Rock Guitarists In the World

Jeff Beck is certainly one of the best when it comes to playing guitar. Yes, he started playing rockabilly covers in the early 1960's but then again, the Beatles members were playing in skiffle bands before they made it big. Beck hit the scene when he played with the Yardbirds, taking over for Mr. Clapton. During that time, he played with guys like Page, Moon, and Wood. After recovering from a serious injury just before the end of the 1960's decade, he started the Jeff Beck Group. From there, the man became most famous. He still had time in 1993 to make an album of Gene Vincent covers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Great Pop Songs are Everywhere | Embrace Your Love of Good Music

Barbara Lewis Pop Singer

When I was a young punk drummer, I would never admit that I liked a great pop song, prog rock, or classical music. It was peer pressure that kept me from turning up the radio dial. Decades later, I’m not ashamed at all to talk about any specific music, style, or classification. In fact, many of my friends were under the same pressure to keep quiet about what they liked about pop music. With that introduction, I present to you three pop songs that I’m not ashamed to say that I love.

Mornin’ by Al Jarreau
The best part of this song (the part that this atheist loves,) is when it comes to its inspiring crescendo. In that moment, Mr. Jarreau sings “I know I can, like any man, reach out my hand, and touch the face of God.” I saw him sing the song live one night, and it made all the difference. The band was tight, and Al was singing his heart out. It was powerful enough to melt any hard heart.

Say It Isn’t So by Hall and Oates
I suggest headphones for this Hall and Oates pop song. The drum track is all power, and on a later version of the original recording, you get nearly one minute of that killer beat before the vocals come in. These are the guys who wrote the songs Rich Girl, One on One, and She’s Gone. Admit it, you like at least one of their tunes.

Hello Stranger – Barbara Lewis
Any song that starts with “Shoo-Bop Shoo-Bop My Baby oooo” is undoubtedly from a time long ago. Still, Hello Stranger has all the ingredients of a fantastic R&B song. Yes, it was a number one song on the R&B charts, but it also hit #3 on the pop charts. The song was written by Ms. Lewis herself, and that makes it even cooler. The Dells do the backup vocals, and the other most notable sound on this track is the Hammond organ. Barbara Lewis also sang the song Baby I’m Yours.

Embrace your love of pop music, no matter who you are. Admit that there are catchy hooks in these gems, and you will feel better about yourself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Using a Click Track While Drumming

Do you think that you would drum better if you played using a click track as backup? Have you ever tried to record using a click track? Have you ever brought it to rehearsal, thinking that it would work in a live situation? It's not easy to keep time if you don't practice with one, so starting something new like using a metronome, (while under the pressure of laying down a great recording,) falls short when you don't do the homework.

Let the Click Track Guide You

I find that I do my best recording with a click track when I admit that the machine is keeping time for the song, and I'm just grooving along with it. The pressure to be on time during any session is already intense. How can I let that pressure go? I just think to myself that the click in my headphones is running the show, and I'm there to hit the mark while having a great time. Keep time, but realize that the click track is going to be perfect. You are human and will not be perfect. Stay on top of the click, and enjoy the ride.

Practice with a Click Track

Nothing is worse than playing "speed up and slow down" when you find yourself off time. In fact, if I have the kill switch within reach during a song and my timing is lost, I'll turn off the click track and plod on. That specific track might be spliced up, or your first two minutes of that track could be pasted to the last half of a better take if you are playing along to a click. The timing will be there for the engineer to work with. Staying in time with a click requires lots of practice. I don't just play 4/4 beats to the track, I do my warm up exercises with a click in the background. I tend to set the the beat to 8/8 for a 4/4 song. The extra notes keep you in line.

Many Recordings Require a Perfect Tempo

When your band mate writes a song that opens with four bars of just guitar, how are you going to hit your mark when you need to come in? If the song drops out in the middle and then comes crashing back in, how will you know when to start back up? If the studio is using any type of modern recording software, the tracks will most certainly be mapped out according to time. It's pretty much a "must do" unless your entire band is playing live.

Let the Engineer Help You with a Click Track Decision

I will admit that there have been times in my career when the studio engineer makes a call against using a click track. If the song is structured properly, and the engineer is quite confident that he or she can get a good take from me, then I defer to their judgement. In fact, I can think of specific recordings where I asked for a click track, and was told to try it a few times without. If things didn't work out, they would have me start again with a guide. As long as you don't get bogged down trying to fix the tempo during the mixing phase, you might find that there is a natural feel to a song that may speed up a tad.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Playing Rock Band Does Not Make You a Musician

Rock Band

I was watching a video of Rush playing Rock Band yesterday and that clip inspired me to comment on those that think that playing Rock Band makes them something like a musician. Sorry kids, it does not. If there is any benefit to that game, it may be related to keeping time. After that, it's just another game.

Rock Band is Not For Actual Musicians

I found myself sitting in my nephew's basement one day, plastic drum set in front of me, plastic drumsticks in hand. He wanted me to try my hand at the game. After all, I have been playing drums for almost thirty years, so he felt that I would be an expert at Rock Band with little effort.
All I had to do was hit the rubber pads when the little colored lights tell me to. There was the first problem. I'm an open handed drummer. That means everything that the game is set up for is backwards to me.

Rock Band is not about feel or grove. Its all about hitting the buttons at the exact time that the game requires you to. Keep your feel out of the effort, and you will do better. Who wants to keep a groove out of music? That's insane. Robots do better at Rock Band, than actual musicians.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fog Machines in Clubs and Bars

Fog machine

Now that you can’t light up a cigarette in a club, It's too bad that a nasty smoke machine can still ruin the evening. They are most often called "fog machines," and they have evolved over the years, but you still have to be careful when being exposed to one for a certain length of time. Why do clubs use them? They make the venue's lighting system better, and they create an effect that enhances the performance on stage. Bands will often bring their own fog machine to a show, but I must admit that it looks silly to see a local band on a tiny stage pumping out tons of fog.

Not too long ago, fog machines used a nasty petroleum based product. Think about it, you were sucking in kerosene when you danced the night away in the 1970's. I remember that smell from long ago, and I knew it wasn't good for you back then. Those days are gone now, and fog machines are fairly safe and affordable items that you may even see at a house party.

Modern fog machines use glycol and water to produce their smoke. It is much safer to use, but still not perfect. Studies that focused on the health effects of this fog concluded that continued exposure can create health problems. The closer you are to the source of the fog, the worse it can be on your lungs and throat. Think about that the next time you are drumming away just a few feet from the fog machine.

Dry ice can make for a foggy club floor, and is pretty safe to use. The problems associated with that product are twofold. Dry ice fog hangs low to the ground and dissipates quickly, so you have to keep pumping out fresh fog in order to keep the effect going. Dry ice is liquid carbon dioxide. As it fills up the floor, the oxygen is replaced with C02, which can be dangerous. Dry ice canisters are the easiest to use. Lugging water and big blocks of dry ice to a club is not the most enjoyable thing to do.

Nitrogen in liquid form is another way to create a foggy ground effect. The chemical is added to boiling water, and then pumped out with a fan. The smoke hangs low to the ground, and can be more visually appealing when compared to dry ice fog. I say ban them all from small clubs. It's already too hot in most clubs, and now that it's against the law to smoke in public buildings, I think we are getting used to a smoke free environment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Saint Vincent Pabst Theater Milwaukee Review

Strange Mercy Saint Vincent

St. Vincent is early in her latest tour, and supporting the new Strange Mercy album. She stopped at the Pabst Theater last night, and I wondered if a Monday in Milwaukee would mean a sparse crowd. Yes, the balcony was closed off, but by the time that her opening act finished her set, the lower level was full. The lights went out, Annie Clark came out, and the crowd cheered her on before the first note filled the theater. The band opened with Cruel, and they played songs mostly from her new disk. They diverted along the way to play three tracks from The Actor, and a cover who's title escapes me at the moment. Backing Clark was a pair of keyboard players and a drummer. This was quite different from the last tour, where we were entertained by violin, keys, and a small woodwind assortment.

Strange Mercy has at least six solid songs on it, and I had no doubt that those tunes would carry over well in a live setting. What surprised me was how much I liked the softer, deeper tracks. The song Strange Mercy came across so much better live than what I have come to know on the disk. I also loved the short and sweet interactions that she put forth between songs. She left the crowd little to dwell upon but the music, and that makes her even more mysterious as a person. Once again, a few drunk males shouted out the usual "I love you" crap, but she played it off, if acknowledging them at all.

To me, the best part of the evening was her opening number during the encore. She came out and sang The Party with just keys backing her up. She revealed to the crowd an operatic vocal power that required her to back away from the microphone when she closed out the song. I will not soon forget that moment in the evening, as that alone was worth the price of admission.

Throughout the eventing, I did feel that she was holding back a bit on her solos, but still pulled them off well enough. I don't need convincing that she's got serious guitar chops; I just wish that she would have torn the heads off of those in the orchestra pit with at least one killer solo. My concert partner wished she would have played Paris is Burning, but alas it was not to be. Perhaps next time for both items on our list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making Cymbals Sound Trashy

Drummers far and wide have trashy cymbals sitting in a corner, or perhaps they are part of a rehearsal kit. Why beat the crap out of your quality cymbals during rehearsal when all you have to do is hit the mark during a song? What I find interesting is that on more than one occasion, I found that the broken cymbal starts to sound pretty good, when used in the proper context of a song.

Tyrko Cymbals by Sonor

I bought a Tyrko cymbal on Ebay a long time ago. It was pretty much junk, and I knew that I was taking a risk. The metal is all "bend-y" and it sounds like something you get when you buy your six year old nephew a toy drum set. I kept it as a reminder to never buy cymbals online.
Fast forward about ten years, and I'm practicing a song that my band wrote. This song screams for a China type cymbal, but I put a lock on my wallet when it comes to buying new equipment. Could this crappy Tyrko cymbal do the trick? Do I have the mad skills to hammer it into the shape that I want? Who doesn't love to hammer stuff?

I had nothing to lose, and not much of a plan. I thought that I would start by hammering a number of dents into the cymbal two inches from the outer edge, working in a circle. Then I would hammer another ring of dents with the cymbal flipped over, with this ring being closer to the bell. Sadly the metal is too flexible, hence the reason that it sounds like crap to begin with. Still, I managed to get a pretty ugly sound out of it, even if it has too much decay. Here is a link for all of you do it yourself home made cymbal nuts out there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Harry Warren the Hit Maker and Musician

Harry Warren

Who is Harry Warren? Ask anyone under 40 that very question any you might get a blank stare. I didn’t know who this composer was until I decided to look deeper into the origins of some of the music on the Carl Stalling Project-Part One. Specifically, the song I Only Have Eyes for You was the melody that stuck in my head. Harry Warren wrote that song in 1934. It was one of hundreds of hit songs for Warren, and that particular song was covered by the likes of Billie Holiday, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Zapp, Toni Tennile, Kenny Rodgers, Frank Sinatra, and dozens more.

Harry Warren the Musician

Warren was a self taught musician, first learning how to play the drums. He went on to learn many other instruments including the piano. Harry’s problem was his lyrics. They weren’t nearly as good as his melodies. He couldn’t find anyone to publish his songs until he found someone to write better lyrics. Edgar Leslie was just the man, and in 1922 the team had their first hit, titled Rose of the Rio Grande.” Fast forward seven years, and Warren had numerous hits, and the job title of director of ASCAP! He went on to use various composers to provide him with the words to his melodies, and the hits continued to come.

Forty Second Street the Musical Launch Pad for Warren

Harry Warren was already a hit maker before the producers of Forty Second Street tapped him as composer for the movie soundtrack. What came after was a career that stayed in the stratosphere. He went on to write for so many stars that it is impossible to name them all. He won two academy awards by 1943, and composed the scores for so many great films of that decade. He won an Oscar nomination in 1957 for the song An Affair to Remember.

Warren had twenty-one number one hit songs, won two Oscars, and over seventy of his songs can be heard in movies from 1929 to 1957. The sheer number of current and past musical stars that re-recorded his songs is probably in the hundreds. Tomorrow will mark the 30th year of his passing. Hollywood would not be the same without Warren’s contributions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Third Album Struggles for Famous Bands

Album Number three

Do bands really struggle when it comes to making their third album? Is there such a thing as the “third album syndrome?” I decided to take a few minutes to do a very non-scientific study of some of the biggest rock bands and their third albums. To make it a bit more unbiased I picked ten famous bands that I like and/or don’t like so much. I put the band names into a hat, and picked three of the ten, and then checked out their third album.

Rolling Stones-Now!

I don’t know if the Rolling Stones should count in this regard, but I’m going to give it a go. Their album titled Now! was their third studio effort. It came out in 1965, and the biggest hit on that album was titled Heart of Stone. The album was considered to be a solid piece of work, and Rolling Stone magazine rated it just above the middle of the pack in their “500 best albums of all time” article. The album hit number five on Billboard the year it came out. The single Heart of Stone made the top twenty, and the album went gold. It should be mentioned that the album was a hodge podge of songs that the label put together, and the band was still doing covers at the time.

Pearl Jam-Vitalogy

If an album sells over five million copies, does that mean it’s good? One thing worth noting about this album is that it was written while Pearl Jam was on tour. It’s not an easy thing to write music while promoting an album with a tour. Pearl Jam did just that, and recorded it during breaks. There were references on the disk where the band touches upon the rigors of fame. The disk is eclectic, and there is even one very solid pop tune on it. Reviewers didn’t pan it entirely, but they did say that there were some toss away songs on it.

Michael Jackson – Music & Me

I’m stretching it, but this is the album that I picked. Still a boy at the time, Michael Jackson recorded Music & Me. Although he was just a boy, he encountered issues that come up with any famous artist. He wanted to branch out, he wanted his own songs on the album, and Motown still held control. The only song to break the top twenty was “With a Child’s Heart” written by Stevie Wonder.

These three examples do have a common theme. All three albums contained a mix of styles. In the case of Jackson and the Stones, cover songs were vital. For Pearl Jam, strange tracks that were atypical to their style showed up on the disk. At least I didn’t find any of these artists looking to add lush horns and strings to their work. That is what we sometimes find on third albums.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Steve Lillywhite, XTC, and The Psychedelic Furs

Steve Lillywhite

One of my favorite albums of the early 1980’s is the debut album by the Psychedelic Furs. No, that album does not contain their hit song Pretty in Pink. Their first disk was a darker, more powerful piece of work with songs like Imitation of Christ, Susan’s Strange, and Sister Europe. But this post is not so much about the Furs as it is about the man who produced those first two albums. His name is Steve Lillywhite.

Steve Lillywhite is one of those guys whose name is on album covers of The Smiths, XTC, Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, and U2. I’m barely scratching the surface here, but you get the picture. Since the late 1970’s Lillywhite has guided bands to various levels of success.
Black Sea by XTC

Another favorite album that Lillywhite produced was Black Sea by XTC. I took a chance when I picked up that album. I had never of XTC, but the album cover that featured the band in old fashioned bell diving outfits was unique enough to catch my attention. That was well before the internet age, so if you wanted to know who produced an album, you had to head to the record store, and flip the back cover.

Steve Lillywhite continues to work today. He even made a go at convincing the folks at American Idol to let him take Simon Cowell’s spot. That never came to be, but Steve is probably better off in the background anyway.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheap Trick at Potawatomi with Rhythmic Noise Orchestra

Cheap Trick Potawatomi

My neighbor told me that she will once again be backing up Cheap Trick at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in October. My neighbor is a violinist. She’s an amazing musician, and will often get called to be part of the string section for touring bands that come through Milwaukee. She’s performed with Styx, Peter Gabriel, The Moody Blues, and many more. Sometimes she tells me about her gigs after the fact. This time, she managed to tell me ahead of time.

Cheap Trick Dream Police Returns

Backing up Cheap Trick for their Dream Police shows at Potawatomi will be none other than the Rhythmic Noise Philharmonic Orchestra and Mind Choir. The orchestra is comprised of nearly twenty members, featuring strings and brass. This is the second time that Potawatomi Casino has hosted the event, and it’s sure to be a sell out. There are eight shows in total, starting the weekend of October 2.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Resist Her Transistor and Wanda Chrome | A Night of Milwaukee Punk Rock

Wanda Chrome

Resist Her Transistor

On Friday night, I went to see my old band Wanda Chrome play with Resist Her Transistor at Linnemans. One band has been around for almost twenty years, the other is pretty new. They both played old school, punk influenced music that makes me feel good. One band’s roots are part of the Detroit rock, MC5, Stooges era. The other took a page from the most basic of punk styles, but certainly made it work for 2011.

Wanda Chrome the Loudest Band in Milwaukee

I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but Wanda Chrome is still the loudest band in Milwaukee. Cliff ran his guitar through a pair of Marshall half stacks. So did Marie on bass. The room didn’t need that much volume, nor did it need further amplifying from Cliff when he also had the guitar pumped through the p.a. system. But that’s Wanda Chrome. Bring ear plugs, and enjoy the ride. I don’t know of any other band that rehearses at full stage volume. When I filled in for their drummer Joel, I wondered how he handles Cliff’s stomach churning-on the fringes of a brown note- volume. Then again, I’m talking about a drummer who kicks a 24” bass drum. He can handle it.

Wanda Chrome could hardly contain their glee when they hit the stage. Perhaps it’s only because I know these folks on a very personal level, but I will bet that I wasn’t the only one who could see that they were having a great time. The band played their classic songs like Pill Party, Jet Black, and N.R.A. They included songs by the Flamin’ Groovies and MC5. You can’t have a WCLP show without some classic songs like those. The band was tight. They were so tight that the only flub of the night made the crowd cheer. When you are crushing song after song, a false start can break the ice. Let’s hope that they don’t wait another four years before playing their next show.

Resist Her Transistor puts the B in Basic Punk Rock

Don’t think for a second that the headline above is anything but a compliment. Resist Her Transistor makes sublime punk rock. What is their secret? Steph Schreiber’s vocals follow the melody of the song nearly note for note. It is also how her guitar introductions tell everyone that she came up with a lick, and the band built it up from there. (That’s a guess.) Yes, I must admit that they get away with some things that a band fronted by a male singer would not. Slightly off key vocals seem not to bother me when they are sung by a woman with some sort of serious anger. When Schriber breaks free from the “vocals must mimic the melody” formula, I like that band even more.

I feel that that they are more talented than they reveal, this band of three. They have a raw sound that takes me right back to the basement days of 1982. I bought their disc. It was the best $2 that I have ever spent. Favorite Resist Her Transistor track: Cut that bitch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rock the Lakes Evangelical Festival Comes to Milwaukee

Rock the Lakes Festival is coming to Milwaukee. Never heard of it? That's probably because you are not an evangelical christian. This is not your typical rock festival. The bands for this event all sing about their god, every song to be sure. I would like to provide links to these bands, but on the Billy Graham festival website where this event page resides, I'm finding mostly broken links. Is that a message from their god? Does it not want the festival to go on? Is it punishment for Franklin Grahm's bigotry?

Evangelical Rock Bands Bring Hypocrisy to Milwaukee

What bothers me about evangelical religious rock bands? It's their hypocrisy. My wife was the child of an evangelical follower. He would not allow her to listen to rock music, because he claimed that it brainwashed young people. However, when I listen to the bands that are coming to Rock the Lakes, they use every song to "send their message" or "bring the message of Jesus" to the masses. This is the more true form of brainwashing. They pound their evangelical, "leadership training" and "discipleship" into your head, with every note and verse. Guys like Nick Hall speak at these events in hopes of recruiting young children to start prayer groups to schools.
I can listen to a real rock band and find no message other than love, or sadness, or how amazing the world is. If I want to listen to a rock band that sings about the devil, I can do that too. You can't avoid the "message of god" when you go to Rock the Lakes. The brainwashing will begin on August 20, and you will find the evangelicals on Lincoln Memorial Drive in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Next Look for the Bearded Rock Musician

Rock Musician Beards

It’s been four years now, and we’re deep into the bearded rock musicians look. I’m old enough to remember when this trend was popular the first time. Yes, I was a wee lad at the time, but the beards were in full bloom back then. I have just one question about this current look; what will follow this current trend?

If things are cyclical, and I must say that many sounds, looks, and trends in the music world do less evolving, and more recycling, then we have to look at what followed the bearded musicians of three decades ago to make a good guess at the future.

Prog Rock Begat Punk

One of the most famous long bearded, progressive rock keyboard players is none other than Rick Wakeman. Wakeman played with Yes, one of the best examples of “prog” rock. He sported a more trimmed down version of a ZZ Top beard, but bearded he was. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull had a more scraggly beard, and played a similar vein of over the top music. The music was grandiose, the bands were huge, the tours massive, and when it needed to stop, punk rock tore it all down.

When Will Bearded Rock Musicians Shave It Off?

As we all know, punk musicians shaved away the beard, the hair, killed off the massive tours, etc. Will that be the next look? First, we have to remember that disco took hold in the mid to late 1970’s and some bands like the Bee Gees sported feathered hair and beards. Will the indie scene adopt that look? I doubt it. I’m going to guess that the long hair will stay, “fros” will make a weak comeback, and the beards will be shorn. By 2013, it will all be over. No more hiding behind the facial hair for the indie scene.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kings of Leon Take a Break

Kings of Leon Milwaukee

I remember the first time that someone introduced me to the Kings of Leon. He told me that the shows at the Rave in Milwaukee were packed with "hot girls." His comment made me uncomfortable, seeing that we are both married, and I work with his wife. Still, this person does have a pretty good ear for music, so I gave the Kings a look and listen. The first article that I found online described a band that loves to party. They seemed to be pround of their drinking.

Fast forward to 2008, and I'm reading a Kings of Leon interview where their drummer states that they have renounced drugs and "figured out the formula." Not so fast Mr. Followill. The words you spoke do not match the reality that has now come to be. Yes, you said that the hard work you are putting in while you are young is going to enable you to party when you hit your 40's. Your brother had different ideas. The band now has to take a break, and hopefully figure out what to do about the drinking problems. It catches up with you before you know it. I'm not piling on the hate here, I'm just bringing up the past statements of a band that was out of control years ago. You can't just turn it off. It doesn't work that way. Will sobriety come to the brothers and the band? Will that sobriety change their music? That remains to be seen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Strange Mercy by St. Vincent | Strange Teaser Videos First

Saint Vincent

The first Strange Mercy teaser video involved young women talking directly into the camera and saying things like "Is you hair supposed to look like that?" The next video shows newborn kitties and a somewhat curious mother cat keeping an eye on the camera. Where is St. Vincent leading us? Teaser video is right. Finally, why did Annie Clark record this new album in Dallas? I'm scared.

St. Vincent Follow Up Album Titled Strange Mercy

The track list of the new St. Vincent album titled Strange Mercy reveals nothing more than words. Recorded at 4AD studio, I must say that it looks like the right environment for Ms. Clark. Milwaukee will be the third stop on the tour, and they are playing at the Pabst Theater.
As Ms. Clark had to record most of the tracks to her second album in her apartment, she was forced to keep the volume levels down. Did she restrict herself to that same quiet creativity on the new album? We will all find out on 9/13.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Awolnation Needs a Bit of Polish

Awolnation Summerfest

I love Awolnation when it comes to their videos and studio work. As I write this, I'm once again looking at a frozen screen that should be the band's home page. Let's just say that this band is still in the crawl stages, taking their first steps, but mostly crawling. They played the US Cellular stage at Summerfest this past Sunday night, and I must say that I went away unsatisfied.

First, the mix was terrible. Okay, that's not really their fault, but who was working the sound board? Was it their own engineer, or was it a worn out, last night, just-two-bands-to-go before it's over, Summerfest hire? Second, what happened to Aaron Bruno? His vocal work was not the best that evening. His timing was bad, notes off key, and he just didn't get the audience to stick around.
Keeping fans at the Summerfest stage is easy when you are the last band before the headline act. I was part of that situation at Summerfest 2005, and it was amazing to play the last half of our set in front of 3000 people. Yes, those people were waiting for the headline act, but they gave us some good love too. I'm still buying the Awolnation disk, but I might have to pass on their next Milwaukee show unless I can find some good reviews leading up to that date.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Local Bands Playing Milwaukee During Summerfest

Some people say that you should never book a gig in Milwaukee when Summerfest is going on. They cite that everyone is at the fest. They aren't going to see your band at a local club, after they have spent all of their cash at Summerfest. I decided to take a look at who is playing some of the local clubs from June 29, to July 9.

I checked with Milwaukeerocks.com, and I must admit that the June 29 band listing looks about as thin as it can get. If you include the Zoofari gig by 2nd Wave, there are a whopping six gigs listed outside of Summerfest. It's not much better on June 30, with seven shows listed, one being an "after Summerfest party" at Smokin' Joes.

July 2, I see 18 shows listed, but two are acutally Summerfest gig listings, three are private parties, and five are so far from Milwaukee that I have to wonder why they are listed on a site titled "Milwaukee Rocks." Okay, perhaps it's true. Don't book a non Summerfest gig in Milwuakee during the festival run.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In One Wind Skitters To the Midwest on a Touring Breeze

In One Wind sucked me in, twirled me about, stopped me cold, then sent me on my way down the street with all the other leaves and breezy things. This band will challenge you with stirring lyrics, flute, guitar, drums, double bass, clarinet, and more. I picked Westering as my personal favorite.

They started their tour this past Saturday night, and come to Wisconsin for a weekend of shows. On June 17, the band will perform at the Memorial Union at UW Madison for a 5pm gig. They pick up and haul butt over to the Project Lodge for an 8pm set that same evening. Of course they will be in Milwaukee on the night that I'm in Boston. For those of you not 900 miles away, they will be at the Riverwest Public House for an 8pm show on June 18.

Summerfest July 2 2011 Highlights

summerfest 2011

If I were to pick a single day to hit at least three stages during Summerfest 2011, it might have to be July 2. First stop would be the Cascio Stage for the six pm performance by Testa Rosa. I would think about sticking around for a few songs by The Danglers after that. Then it would be on to The Potawatomi stage for a few songs by Paul Cebar, while I wait for Cowboy Mouth to to headline.

From here, I would have to say that it's worth splitting over to the Harley Stage, just catch the last few songs from Stephen Marley's set. If you aren't into the Marley sound, I would suggest you hustle over to see Loretta Lynn. She's a classic, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. So that's it, July 2, everybody start at Cascio and split off from there, okay?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Carl Palmer Drumming His Way to Milwaukee

Carl Palmer

I hate to think about October already, but that's when Carl Palmer will be coming to The Pabst in Milwaukee. He's 61 years old, but still plays drums like a young man. Speaking of young, the two guys playing in his band are young enough to be his sons. They bring a great flavor to ELP songs that have been around for decades. It's instrumental night if you head to the venue. Nobody can take the place of Greg Lake, so why even try?

Palmer is from Handsworth England. Quite a few great musiciains come from that town, including Steve Winwood. I wonder if Winwood and Palmer ever found themselves at the same pub? They are nearly the same age, and both play rock. I'll bet that they did.

Carl Palmer's claim to fame is playing for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but he also hit the skins for Asia. My favorite story about Palmer is when he ordered up a steel drumset. Not a Caribbean steel drum kit from barrels, but a drum set made out of steel. It weighs over 4000lbs. Ringo Star owns it now.

In 2010, ELP got together to perform at the High Voltage Festival in London. That show may have sparked the flame once again, as there are rumors that the band will once again go on tour. Let's hope so.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Police Teeth Coming to the Midwest This Summer

Police Teeth

Police Teeth is a band based in Seattle, and now on Latest Flame Records. Their new album, titled Awesomer Than The Devil just came out, and the band is hitting the road this summer, heading east. (Is there any other direction that they can go?) I'm playing a few songs from this Police Teeth Bandcamp link, and I must admit that their sound reminds me of a band out of Croatia called Overflow. The sound is something like the late 1990's Euro punk that was being played by support bands on a few of my tours. I suppose that it's okay to reintroduce a sound from 12 years ago. That's nearly a generation between this sound and the original. If you don't believe me, just check the links above.

I suppose that everything has already been written, so why does every band have to pass the "unique test?" They don't, just shut up and enjoy these guys when they come to a town near you.

Police Teeth will be in Milwaukee on June 17.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boy Dirt Car Turns 30 at Club Garibaldi

Boy Dirt Car
Boy Dirt Car is coming up on 30. 30 years of industrial sounds coming out of Milwaukee, created by Eric Lunde, Darren Brown, Dan Kubinski and Keith Brammer. Currently, the band includes other members of Milwaukee's music scene, but that's no surprise. The band is like a magnet to those who appreciate the freedom to make noise and experiment musically.

Their anniversary show is tomorrow night at Club Garibaldi's. Opening for the band is Peter J. Woods, The Demix, and Zerobeat. The show starts at 9pm. If you want to get a taste of Boy Dirt Car, they are scheduled to play live at 11am on WMSE the same days as their show, May 26th.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

And Now A Word From Tom Petty About Paying Your Dues

Tom Petty

I liked what Tom Petty had to say about those somewhat famous American Idol winners. He worries that those instantly famous singers may have missed out on something that could actually help them down the road. I'm talking about the dues, he called it "the training." Specifically, he thinks that the long, hard road to success will make one better prepared for the good things, and the bad. That's the road he took, so I guess I can understand where Petty is coming from. Still, there are always going to be artists that take a rocket ride to the top, fully prepared to do the hard work, but as lucky as a lottery winner. In the case of American Idol winners, we will all see what turns out for each and every one of them.

American Idol Contestants Worthy of Moving On

I live next to a woman who joined her high school choir, tried out for all the plays, hired a vocal coach, and decided to skip college for music school. By the time she signed up for an American Idol tryout, she had been singing for almost seven years, and had a degree in music. She had been in one band in those seven years. That band worked the East Coast for two years, playing in bars and clubs. She certainly had a top notch and trained voice. She made it all the way to the local finals, but was told that "we already have a soul singer for this season." Sadly, she didn't make it to Hollywood. Is this the kind of person that Tom Petty is worried about?

I think that he's talking about those odd Sanjaya types, who quit high school to "focus on a singing career." Where will that kid be when he's in his 50's, with no diploma, no training, etc. I have worked with musicians that have dropped out of high school. All they have is their music. Life can be very frightening for them. They go from odd job to odd job, and from band to band. They quite their jobs to tour, and start all over when they get home. They try to keep all the plates spinning. If they do make it big, they might have stronger appreciation for what they have earned, but who is to say? Tom Petty made it to the top in one of many ways. There will always be artists that don't pay their dues.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cleaning Vinyl Records | Album Cleaning Methods

Cleaning vinyl records

How to clean a vinyl record was the title of the video. My interest was piqued because this person was about to use a very unconventional method. Before I get into that, I thought I would do some research into how to truly clean an old or dirty record. Mind you, I’m doing this post while playing an old Eagles album that was thoroughly abused by me back when I was a kid.

Record Cleaning Machines

Is using a record cleaning machine the best route to take? I say yes, if you have hundreds of albums that need a serious cleaning. Machines that clean records cost about $200, so you have to have one serious music library, or some urgent need to get your disks back to pristine condition if you spend this kind of cash. Basically, these machines go through a multi step process of vacuuming, washing, brushing clean, and finally drying of the album. Your job is to clean out the brushes after every run through. That’s the best way to keep things in working order, and doing the best possible job. There is a product out there that costs one third of the price, and does a pretty good job of cleaning vinyl. It’s basically a reservoir that holds cleaning solution, and brushes that work the groves of the album.

Cleaning Albums By Hand

I recommend using a cleaning solution made for albums. Most products come with a brush. Be sure to place the album on a non-scratch surface like a "shammy" cloth. The key to doing a good job when cleaning by hand is to give the album a double run through. The first time you use the brush and solution, you will most likely see dirt. Clean the brush, and run through the steps again. I suggest that if you still see dirt on the second run, do it one more time. Be sure to apply the solution to the brush, not the record.

Unconventional Way to Clean a Record

I watched in horror as the guy cleaning his record applied a layer of wood glue to the album. He spread it out in an even layer, with a piece of painters tape applied to the end. The tape would be used later to pull the dried glue off the disk. Yes, this guy covered the album evenly, waited 12 hours for the glue to dry, and then carefully peeled the glue off. He claimed that the glue method pulls dirt away from the album. He recommended using a cleaning solution to spot check for any residual glue. I say stick with the conventional album cleaning products.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Songs About Milwaukee

Would there be songs about Milwaukee if we didn't brew beer? I think so. Aside from Jewel's Milwaukee song, which ones are truly known far and wide? If you are from this town, you may remember the channel 12 song called Hello Milwaukee. If you can't get it out of your head, you are not alone. I played this video a while back, and the tune stuck like glue. You should thank Frank Gari for that one. Gari wrote that little number, and some of the most famous news show themes that you have ever heard.

The more famous song is really not about our city, but our beer. Jerry Lee Lewis did one of the better versions of this tune. Glenn Sutton wrote the song while working at Columbia Records. It was created in just one night, but helped to get Jerry Lee Lewis onto the country music charts. I think that the key to writing a song about Milwaukee, is to avoid using that word as the rhyming word. After all, what rhymes with Milwaukee?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rehearsal Space Good Bad and Ugly

Rehearsal space

I have probably played in at least ten or more rehearsal spaces over the years. I'm talking about those places that you rent, the ones that are devoted to rehearsal, not your Buddie's basement. What makes up a good space? Why are they almost always in terrible neighborhoods? What do you look for in a good rehearsal space, or is it a "take what you can get" situation every time?

Heat in the winter and A/C in the summer is always nice. I recall a long, cold winter of drumming with cold hands back in 1998. The former sausage factory we practiced in had no utilities. Restrooms are always nice. That same factory had no working plumbing. The band we shared the space with would use two liter bottles for "bathrooms." Not pretty. Security is probably a top concern in any space. It's one thing to have a shared front entrance. Having your own key to your specific space is a must have. An alarm system for your building would be great, but that rarely is the case.

Sometimes the inspiration comes at off hours. If I can get over to my space at 1am and hammer on the drums, that's a good thing. If I have to wait until the retail store below the space is closed at 9pm, that's not so good. If the person renting you that specific place is adjusting the rent to fit the limited hours, then go for it.

Check to see what other action is going on at the space. Are other bands lighting candles, thus risking lives? You should then think about buying a fire extinguisher, or bring your cheap gear to the space. Better yet, insure your equipment. I sleep better knowing that my stuff can be replaced.
I never expect a space to be there forever. Most times, the buildings that house rehearsal spaces are about to be torn down, or renovated. That's why they are allowing you to practice there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WAMI Awards at Turner Hall | My First Time Down That Road

WAMI MilwaukeeDoes Wisconsin need the WAMI's? The WAMI organization hands out awards to deserving artists, to be sure. I like the fact that they are based outside of Milwaukee. I can respect the fact that their board is made up of local musicians. One thing is for sure, any award-handing-out body is certainly going to miss the overwhelming majority of talented musicians that just put their heads down and play. I'm talking about all of those musicians that have a devoted fan base, but never seem to get the props from their peers. After all, the WAMI's are pretty much peer ratings of your talent.

One observation worth noting is that the WAMI board is never going to hand out an award to my next door neighbor who has played amazing music on the biggest stages in Wisconsin, because she isn't schmoozing and pimping herself. She works her butt off, gets great gigs, gets paid well, teaches music in her off time, and focuses on raising her two kids. When I hear that she just played the Marcus Amp. or Riverside, or Potowotomi, it's after the gig, not before. She doesn't jam her amazing talent in my face. I like that. She will never win a WAMI, but I'll bet that she's performed in front of more people than the entire WAMI board combined. She keeps her profile low, but manages to get bookings because she's got an amazing talent. Is that the smartest way to get paid? I'll say that it's a great way to get steady work, and yes good pay.
My guess is that she never once put together a promotional package, or subjected herself to CD Roulette.

What's good about the WAMI organization? It puts on clinics on how to brand yourself as an artist, how to promote your project with "pitching sessions" for possible bookings, and more. Some think that it's great to be part of the somewhat famous CD Roulette, where your band is judged worthy of potential bookings by a panel of judges who listen to a whopping 90 seconds of your hard work. If I sound a bit snippy on that last bit, it's just that this style of "judging" is what we musicians fear the most. Can I get this club owner or booking manager to listen to more than one minute of the first track on my website? Good luck with that.

What CD Roulette says to me is that when a booking manager gets a promo pack, or link to your web page, they will look at your image, play about 90 seconds of one track and either toss it, or move forward to consider you for the noon slot at State Fair. How do I back that opinion up? CD Roulette involves "blind taste testing" in that the judges have no idea who you are. Okay, if I were an aspiring artist, I would think "hey cool, it's not about my connections or look, it's about my sound." Yes, that is pretty cool, and that one paid gig at Bastille days might lead to more, but the judges are certainly not going to risk losing money by booking you for a headline slot at any one of their events. Those slots are reserved for bands that have a following. Take a look at where those "winners" end up on the schedule.

Yes, it's a way to get your name out there, to test the waters, etc. Yes, you win a paid booking. It's all great, but in a backhanded way, I can't help but think that CD Roulette brings to the surface what really does happen when you put yourself in front of the powers that be. Is that what you worked so hard for, one minute of some local booking manager's time.

If I were to take advantage of what WAMI has to offer, I would avoid CD Roulette, and those "pay to get your 60 seconds in front of someone from Summerfest," events, and attend their branding and Promos 101 seminars instead. There is so much that you can do on your own. Work your way up as an opening act, play for free on off nights, build a Facebook following, prove that you can get at least 50 people to pay money to see you, then work from there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mike Watt Returns to Shank Hall with Couch Flambeau

Couch Flambeau
Mike Watt, founding member of the band Minutemen will be performing at Shank Hall this Saturday night, April 16. Opening for Watt will be none other than Couch Flambeau. I never had the chance to catch the Minutemen back in the day, but I did see Watt perform his solo work from the disk Contemplating The Engine Room. That disk has some serious sounding songs.

The opposite of serious would have to be Couch Flambeau. Jay Tiller was a drummer that inspired me. I stole some of his licks, to be sure. (Thanks Jay.) My favorite song from Couch Flambeau would have to be The Zoo Is Cool, off of the album The Day the Music Died.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Theme Music to Space 1999

Space 1999 theme song
 I was reminded last night of the sci-fi show Space 1999. It was the 1970's when this show came out. That means it was disco time. The theme music to space 1999 certainly had a disco feel, but the song was schizophrenic in that the disco music was split up with cheese ball symphonic melodies, and lots of brass. I do like the guitar work on the song, and that's certainly the part one can remember decades later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Die Kreuzen to Receive WAMI Hall of Fame Honors

The Wisconsin based band Die Kreuzen will be inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame this April. Starting in 1981, the band exploded onto the Midwest punk scene. They were armed with a sound that rose above the two-note, rapid fire music that was easily found in the Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford clubs. It was no surprise that they gained a strong following quite quickly. Putting aside their 1982 demo tape, the release of Cows and Beer set the bar high. When Touch and Go records put out their self titled LP, the reviews were quite complimentary. Milwaukee had one hell of a talented band in Die Kreuzen, but they had to hit the road. They spent the next few years turning people on to their sound. Here is a link to their song Hate Me.

The later works showed that they were certainly not going to ride along on their current sound. They continued to grow, even if some fans were hungry for what they played in 1984. When I listen to the sound that came out of the Seattle in 1990, I think back to what Die Kreuzen was doing five years prior. Their influence is well known, and it was an honor to be on the same bill as Die Kreuzen from time to time. Not only are were they a great band, they continue to be stand up guys to this day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New York Dolls Coupled with Poison and Motly Crue | Strange Bedfellows To Be Sure

New York Dolls
The New York Dolls play what some people call "protopunk." Protopunk precedes punk rock. Bands like MC5, The Stooges, and Richard Hell are usually grouped into the Protopunk basket. Motley Crue and Poison will have the New York Dolls open on their current tour. The Dolls will perform at the Bradley Center on June 25.

I guess it's protpunk meets L.A. 1980's metal. I apologize to those who don't consider Motley Crue to be metal. I'm with you there. Still, this is an odd mix. Will the New York Dolls be appreciated by Motley Crue fans? If you do a bit of research, you will see that the New York Dolls were ten years ahead of those make up wearing metal bands from L.A. (See picture above)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Four Dystopian Songs For the Ages

As I finish reading Fahrenheit 451, I begin to wonder if there are dystopian songs just as meaningful as some of the more famous books on the same subject. Before I dive into what I consider to be four Dystopian songs for the ages, I feel that it's worth mentioning my favorite novels on that theme: The book mentioned above, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, 1984 by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies, Running Man, and A Clockwork Orange. Can we find four dystopian songs worth mentioning?

Dystopian Songs for the Ages

In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans has to be mentioned. Written in 1968, this song touches upon what the world is like in intervals of one thousand ten years. This song covers pharmaceuticals, sustainability, the dehumanization of man through the use of technology, and touches upon the second coming of Jesus Christ. This song hit number one in the summer of 1969.
Down In The Park, written by Gary Numan. This song came out ten years after the previous song hit number one. The lyrics talk of a futuristic park where humans are hunted down and destroyed by android robots. Spectators watch the carnage from a club.
Diamond Dogs by David Bowie came out in 1974, and is a nod to George Orwell's novel 1984. The song depicts a future where people live in chaos.
Radiohead first denied that the theme of the album OK Computer was based on dystopian themes, but later admitted that it was. Karma Police is a good example of that disk.

There are dozens of songs with the same theme, and I must admit that Pink Floyd certainly should be mentioned as a band that wrote songs like Animals, and The Wall. It's fairly easy to be inspired by what the future may look like.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Five Things I Didn't Know About Def Leppard | Summerfest 2011

Def Leppard Summerfest 2011
Yes, there are probably more than five things I didn't know about Def Leppard, but I thought I would take some time to highlight what I found most interesting. First, let me say that Def Leppard is coming to Summerfest 2011. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. This is certainly a "classic rock" show. Heart will open the evening, and I find the Wilson sisters to be more of an attraction, from a rock standpoint.

Five Odd Things About Def Leppard

  • The band released a pop album titled "X" which stands for the word "Ten." It tanked

  • Phil Collen did the guitar work for Wild Thing, sung by Sam Kinison, but did not take credit

  • Drummer Rick Allen was playing the Hammersmith Odeon on his 16th Birthday

  • Allen's back up drummer missed a show, proving that the band could rely upon Rick alone, after he lost his arm

  • Taylor Swift and Def Leppard recorded a DVD together

Def Leppard has sold well over 60 million albums world-wide. Their audience may skew towards middle age, but they do draw a younger rock loving crowd. They headline at the Marcus Amphitheater on July 5, during Summerfest 2011.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Recording your Band Rehearsals Every Night

Record your Rehearsal
When my new band gets together we record everything that we play. The band is in the "crawl before you can walk" stage. Any musical part we come up with, no matter how small, could end up as a chorus, or verse. As confident as we are that we will remember that tiny part the next time we get together, we don't trust our memories to chance. We record it. We may hammer a part for a while, then hit the record button, but we always record a part before we move on to the next thing.

Acquiring a good quality digital recorder is no longer a matter of spending big bucks. After all, you simply want to capture the basics, so you can work on the parts later. The last thing that we do before we break for the night is to download the recordings. We each take a copy home and work on the parts before the next rehearsal. A band that cannot devote three nights per week to rehearse would be wise to record everything that they come up with. That way, you can razz your band mate if they fail do prepare for practice.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to Interview a Band or Musician

How to interview a band
I have been interviewed many times over the years, by local and nationally recognized writers. There is nothing more exciting than seeing your photo on the cover of an online or printed music magazine, and reading your words on the pages inside. What I have come to learn however, is that writers tend to ask the same questions. Good writers and not so good writers would be wise to avoid certain questions.

My favorite interviews tend to be the ones where I can tell that the author did solid research before meeting the band. They checked into our past projects, listened to our our disks, attended our shows, or went so far as to interview our friends and family members before coming to us. If I'm squirming during an interview because someone just asked me a question that I didn't expect, I'm usually impressed. If I have to pause and think before answering a question, it's a probably a great question.

The following is a bit of what I encountered during past interviews, or interactions with the press or promotional writers.
  • There was a time when the writer started the interview by asking us what the name of our band was, after he had set up the meeting a month prior. You would think that he would have looked up our name, or listened to the CD he was given by our record label.

  • The writer who just had to interview us in a bar, even though it was nine a.m. on a Sunday morning. Milwaukee does have bars that are open that early, but trudging out of my house on a cold winter morning to go to a smoky bar for a band interview didn't put me in a great mood. Was the writer trying to put us in some sort of agitated mental state?

  • I recall a staff writer for a national magazine who actually tracked the previous bands of each member of our current project, even the trivial stuff that went nowhere. That was impressive. This is why some people rise above their peers.

Ask Good Questions When Interviewing a Band

I never want to hear the words "What are your musical influences?" during an interview ever again. Do I answer that by telling you the first albums I purchased, then move on to the live shows I attended? Do I talk about the high school buddies that I jammed with, the musicians that I was jealous of, the songs that my mother played on her record player? Do I talk about the horrid 70's music that I was forced to listen to while I stocked grocery store shelves as a teen ager? I grew up on prog rock, but played in a hardcore band. Do you think that the fans of my band want to know that I loved ELP? This question still comes up, and I wish it would die. It's as bad as the next question that I never want to be asked again.

"Describe your sound." Aren't you supposed to describe our sound to your readers? Aren't you writing this piece? Aren't you the one being paid to paint a picture for your readers? The next time someone asks me to describe my sound, I'm going to tell them that it's a mix of spoken word and ambient sounds recorded on a subway platform, just to see if they actually listened to our disk before sitting down with us. If they nod their head in agreement, the interview is over.

Don't write about who I worked with in the past. Who cares about the people I worked with in the past. Milwaukee is the most incestuous musical town I know of. If we stayed in it this long, we probably worked with dozens of musicians. That's what we do, we work with others. It's how we learn, it's how we stay fresh.

I don't want to read the words "The band has stayed busy, despite their breaking up 14 years ago." What you are really saying is "This band broke up 14 years ago, but I have to interview them and make them seem topical and plugged in to the current scene." You don't have to do that. Tell your readers that the band broke up 14 years ago, and they are getting together to have some fun. The fans who loved them 14 years ago will understand.

Finally, get me to laugh. Say something funny to me. Bring doughnuts to the interview. Pick up the tab. Have dinner with the band, and space your questions over the course of the evening. I'll give you more, if you just give me the time and respect.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Drummer Jokes That Are Funny | A Drummer's Perspective

Drummer JokeI have heard so many drummer jokes in the past 25 years. Some are funny, some hurt, but most allow for the word drummer to be exchanged with the words guitar player or singer. I have searched the web for the best drummer jokes, and really it boils down to the same jokes about the riser being level, and how we aren't really musicians, etc.

Drummer and Guitar Player Jokes

I did a simple search using the words drummer jokes, found dozens of jokes, then did the same for guitar player jokes. It was amazing. So many were the same. The one about the pizza delivery driver, the joke about how we don't know when to come in, or putting sheet music in front of one of them to get them to play softer. Some have nothing to do with our ability, such as "How can you tell when a drummer is following you? You hear his knuckles dragging."

If anything, I do like the musician jokes that involve St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven. Those jokes say more about how hard it is to make a living in music, or how we musicians are treated pretty poorly sometimes. It's the life we choose, so we have to joke about it sometimes.