Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Drummer to Lead Singer for Just One Night at Spoof Fest

Spoof Fest
Being the front man of a band is something that I have thought about trying from time to time, but never really pursued. There was one occasion where I got the chance to be a lead singer for one night. It took four months of preparation, we played four songs, and it was over in a flash. Singing is hard. I never said that it wasn’t. I’m just saying that being the focus of a band is not what I thought it would be. I'm happy behind the drums.

My foray into the role of front man came when one of my working band mates happened to sign the two of us up for Spoof Fest in Milwaukee. We both have a love for The Smiths, and she took it upon herself to sign us up for a spot, before locking in the people who would actually be playing with us. She knew that I was up for it, and then asked me to rustle up a drummer.
When I called my drummer friend, he said that he was in, but wanted to be Morrissey. There was just
one problem with that. My singer also wanted to be Morrissey, and I wanted to be Morrissey. We all wanted the spotlight. She was the first to relent. She plays guitar, so her job would to play Johnny Marr. My drummer friend said that he would play the drums this time, but “next year, I’m Michael
Stipe, and we’re doing REM.” All we had left to do was find a bass player and second guitarist. Thankfully, those two roles were filled in short order. The practices began in earnest, once we
settled on the four songs that we could manage to learn in time, and play well.

Picking the songs to play when you represent a band at Spoof Fest can be one of the most important tasks. Which hit songs do you choose from? Sometimes that’s easy, as the band you plan to “represent” might have just a few recognizable songs. Other times, you have to lobby for your choice of songs from a long list of great numbers. Of the four songs we agreed to play, three were easy picks. We would open the show with Bigmouth Strikes Again. Panic would surely be on our list. Cemetery Gates was an easy number to put together. Would there be time for five songs? Our guitar player was pushing for the band to also play This Charming Man. I was up for that, as that song would test my newly formed vocal abilities. As the weeks of rehearsal wore on, we had to forget about the thought of a fifth song. Of course, we had to close with How Soon Is Now. That song would require the most rehearsal time. We had our song list, and it was also time to work on moves, costumes, and style. Next week, I’ll write about how it felt to be the singer of a band for the first time in my life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kiss and Motley Crue to Play Alpine Valley in 2012

Kiss and Motley Crue
This summer, Motley Crue and KISS will be touring the United States together. They will play Alpine Valley on 9/8. Both bands were in attendance when the announcement was made. What stirred up the press was when Gene Simmons said that he’s sick and tired of seeing singers “getting up there with dancers and karaoke tapes in back of them.” He wants “no fake B.S.” I think that’s an oxymoron, because all “B.S.” is by its nature “fake,” but I digress.
Tommy Lee stepped in and tried to backtrack a bit by saying “No disrespect to Rihanna….” but then went on to rip on American Idol. Lee was also mistaken, as American Idol features real (albeit well coached,) singers competing against one another. If you think about these comments too much you will just get confused, so it’s best not to take what they said at their press conference too seriously. After all, isn’t Motley Crue the band that has a bunch of scantily clad dancers on stage during their shows? In fact, here is a clip of a Motley Crue show where masked men chase a motorcycle riding little person around the stage just before the band comes out on choppers, while strippers drop from poles and spin from ropes in the air. They might be playing live, but they are certainly using the same props that they are so quick to rip on.

As for KISS, where would they be without all their props? They are the kings of props! Would anyone really be able to tell if they weren’t using backing tracks on some of their songs when they play live? With all the flash pots, fire, smoke, and ear splitting volume, it would be very easy to slip in a fake guitar solo or backing track.
KISS Does Not Lip Sync
At least one could say that KISS songs have a child like simplicity to them. That simplicity could certainly allow these aging rockers the chance to actually play them live. Still, the band uses more props than Lady GaGa, and she actually wrote all of her own material.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lip Sync Your Way to Fame | Madonna Would be Nothing Without it

Lip Sych Madonna
One of the most famous scandals involving artists who lip sync would have to be Milli Vanilli’s big time screw up back in 1989. “Rob and Fab” were “singing” their famous hit Girl You Know It’s True, when the recording began to skip and thus loop the first four words to the chorus over and over. As it would happen, the fans didn’t really care very much. The pair tried their best to keep pretending, faking it while they most likely prayed that someone would give the sound system a kick. At some point, the two ran off stage. The entire thing was recorded live. From that moment on, the band was never the same. I suppose that they didn’t help their case when Rob proclaimed that they were the new Elvis. The group would later have their Grammy revoked when it was revealed that they were not the voices of the actual recordings that they lip synced.

Could this situation happen again twenty-plus years later? I say no. There are too many “artists” out there now who freely admit that they aren’t singing live when they hit the stage. It’s pretty much a given that a show involving dancers, multiple costume changes, and insane mobile props is also going to have prerecorded vocal tracks blasting through the venue. Too much is riding on all the dancing and stage effects (and the ability of the star to hit their marks,) to expect those same people to actually sing live. They are too busy doing the physical work of “performing” to be required to entertain the audience with a live vocal track. Can you blame the artists for that? I can’t. When millions upon millions of dollars are wrapped up in a tour, it’s almost foolish to think that an entertainer who's vocal tracks are auto tuned, and digitally massaged into shape on a recording would be able to reproduce that sound, even if they were standing still.
In fact, it might be a case that the props and dancers help to create a huge distraction to keep fans from learning that the person they are watching can't really sing at all. To step back, I'm sure that these artists did sing at one point in their careers. They worked hard, played a bunch of state fairs, went to casting calls, and performed hundreds club gigs. When they hit the big time, one can't just stand there and sing. There must be explosions, and dancers, and exploding dancers!

Madonna at the Super Bowl A Lip Sync Evening to be Sure
If you check the nearly 13 minute video of the Super Bowl halftime show, you will surely see that it would be impossible for Madonna to have sang while making the moves that she’s famous for. In fact, you can see that she missed her mark on the first line. From there, you can tell that the entire event was prerecorded. There was nobody calling for her to come clean the day after. In fact, most of the press praised her for her performance, or commented on the famous finger of M.I.A. The only one calling out Madonna was Elton John. He was spot on with his advice to the now 53 year-old native of Detroit. “Lip Sync Good” was what he told her. I guess that it was good enough advice, because nobody really cares anymore. We all know that it’s going to happen. The last band to truly play live during the Super Bowl halftime show might have been Tom Petty.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Die Kreuzen Reunion May 26 in Milwaukee | Lest We Forget at Turner Hall

Die Kreuzen Reunion

I'm clearly not the first to bring up the Die Kreuzen Reunion show set for May 26 in Milwaukee. There has been quite a bit of press generated already. Basically, the "Lest We Forget" event at Turner Hall was already marked off on my calendar as a must attend event. With the strong lineup of bands getting back together (before Die Kreuzen jumped on board,) who could miss this one? It all started with a Facebook page.

Who is scheduled to perform? Thirteen bands to be exact. It starts at 6pm, and runs just past midnight. Bands like Xposed 4Heads, (3) XCleavers, Tense Experts, Lubricants, Dummy Club, and St. Bernard will take their turn on the Turner Hall stage. In between all of this, I'm sure that there will be chaos and fun, as it's sure to be a reunion of not only bands but long lost friends. Bring a name tag to this one, as some of us have not seen each other in three decades.

For me, I get to see a few bands that were just before my time. The Lubricants came and went just before I got to go to clubs. Judging by the Xposed 4Heads web page, I should look forward to cuts from their cassette titled "Annoying Sh*t in a Bag." I wonder what the value of one of their original bags is now? Okay, perhaps I was old enough to see these guys, but I don't remember running into them when I was in The Crusties.

The Blackholes are famous for songs like Nazis From Outer Space, Blitzkrieg Over Kenosha, and Warren Span. I personally performed with the Blackholes during a one-off fill in gig in Madison. Mark Shurilla is too famous to remember me, as I tried my best to do those songs justice on my punk rock drum kit, but I'll never forget that show. The Barrymore theater was full, and people actually clapped after each song.

Closing the show will be none other than St. Bernard. I don't have link to this band. When I look up St. Bernard, all I get are dog, and church parish sites. They could be four ballerinas playing kazoos for all I know. Tickets for Lest We Forget are going fast, and I'm guessing that it will sell out. See you at Turner Hall!