Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's The Best Music Venue In Milwaukee

What is your favorite music venue in Milwaukee? That's one thing that people ask me from time to time.  When they do, I have to answer with "that depends." Are we talking about shows at the BMO Harris Bradley Center?  Are we talking about smaller venues like bars and clubs? Can I expand out to southeastern Wisconsin before I answer the question?  There are so many great places to see bands here in Wisconsin.  I guess I better cover my top three or four.

Riverside Theater - Downtown Milwaukee

The Riverside Theater is still one of the best places to see bands perform.  The theater seats roughly 1300 people.  It's one of the oldest theaters in the United States that is still in operation.  The walls are ornate, the ceiling is high, but the sound in the venue is almost always great.  Some of the stage views from the boxes along the side walls isn't the best, but you do get a chance to see into the wings from those areas. Over the years, I have found that it's best to sit around seven to ten rows back from the stage. The sound is better just a bit back from the front edge of the stage.  As for the bands that come to the Riverside, the booking manager has nearly free reign when it comes to who he brings to Milwaukee.

Marcus Amphitheater - Summerfest Grounds 

The Marcus Amphitheater is one of the best and worst places to see a show.  How can it be both?  If you are from Milwaukee, then you know that the Marcus is where the Summerfest headline acts perform.  These performances are almost always sold out, and that means if you go, you are sitting with 23,000 of your fellow fans.  Sometimes that can be the greatest thing in the world.  Imagine being part of a group of people who all love the same band that you do.  If you are lucky enough to get within the first twenty rows of the Marcus stage, you might even enjoy the sound.

What's not so great about the Marcus?  The sections numbered "One" and "Three" have views that are so far to the left and right, that you just don't enjoy the performance.  This is an outdoor venue with a huge roof.  The sound can get very muddy when it drifts beyond the first twenty rows.  So if you are sitting far right, fifty rows from the stage, you begin to wonder why you bothered to pay $129 to see "Band X." Strangely enough, the sound and view gets better once you move beyond the bleachers.  Some of the best shows that I have attended were on nights where I abandoned my reserved seat, and checked out the band from the lawn  at the top of the venue.

Turner Hall - Milwaukee

Turner Hall is just across the street from the Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee.  The actual hall was closed for decades, until the folks who run the Pabst and Riverside theaters decided to start booking shows there.  It's one of my favorite places to see a show.  The sound might not be the best, but the venue feels very welcoming.  There is a second story balcony that offers an escape from the larger crowds on the main floor.  The stage is high off the dance floor, and that means you can see your favorite musicians from just about anywhere in the venue.  The wood floors are easy on the feet, for those of us who end up standing for three or four hours. The drink prices are pretty fair, but I would suggest that you order the double.  The sound can be a bit muddy, depending on the style of music being played, but I have yet to attend a Turner hall show where I have left early, or where I headed out the door, just to get away from the crowd or noise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar Has Two Famous Musical Daughters

Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar was already famous before the Concert for Bangladesh, but one must admit that the event helped make him more popular in the western world. That night, he took the stage and proceeded to spend roughly three minutes tuning up his sitar. When he was finished tuning, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. That was how little (some western) people knew of that style of music. 

Shankar was first married at age 21 to a fourteen year old girl named Annapurna Devi. I’m assuming that the marriage was arranged, but it did last over twenty years. They produced one son.  That son also played sitar.  His son died in the 1990’s. Shankar also had two daughters who both went on to musical fame.  Anoushka Shankar was born in 1981, and went on to play sitar.  She is well known for her work in classical Indian music.  The pair did play together from time to time.

The Birth Of Norah Jones

Ravi is also the father of Norah Jones.  Back in the late 1970’s, Ravi was still married when he met Sue Jones, a concert promoter. They went on to produce one child, and named her Norah.  Norah went on to win a number of Grammy awards in the same year that her half sister Anoushka won a single Grammy for her work in the field of World Music.

As the decades passed, Shankhar stayed active in the world music scene. He did all this while taking care of a heart problem that first surfaced back in 1973.  He produced an amazing musical score for the movie Gandhi in 1982.  He became a member of the Indian parliament in 1992, and that same year he underwent heart surgery.  As the 1990’s came to a close, Ravi was performing over two dozen shows per year.

He spent the next ten years teaching his daughter Anoushka how to play the sitar, and toured with her off and on. He made hints of retiring in 2008, but was compelled to play again in 2011.  He was last on stage just this past November, when he played along with Anoushka in California.   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jason Aldean Summerfest Show | What's So Special About Aldean?

Jason Aldean Summerfest 2013
Why is Jason Aldean headlining during Summerfest 2013? Who is this guy? I decided to start my research by watching the video of his first top ten song titled “Hicktown.” The video has all the elements that make up the vast majority of successful country hits.  It’s got women wearing short shorts, “mud bogging” trucks, beer, American flags, and bon fires in the woods.  All of that is followed up with more women in short shorts.  If you flip over to Brooks and Dunn’s video titled “Hillbilly Deluxe,” you will find pretty much the same video.  It must be a country thing.  I mean really, the videos are almost interchangeable, elements wise. The theme of both songs is the same too.  Is there something special about Jason Aldean? I certainly didn't find it in that song, or that video.

Aldean hit number one on the country music charts with his song titled Why. It’s a ballad about love and breaking up, or coming close to breaking up.  I can’t quite tell.  It’s a very introspective song.  From there, Aldean found success with a song titled Amarillo Sky.  That song is not his own.  It was penned by McBride &the Ride back in the 1990’s. 

My Kind Of Party Hits Pay Dirt

Jason Aldean fans would probably agree that his 2010 album titled My Kind of Party is his most popular disk so far.  That year, he won the American Country Awards – Single of the Year - for the song Don’t You Wanna Stay.  That one is also a ballad, a duet with Kelly Clarkson.  So is that what makes Aldean so famous?  Is he just one of those country stars that can sing the heck out of a sad, slow song?  His two biggest hits were just that kind of tune. I also have to mention the title track to this same album.  It’s another one of those “This is what I’m all about” songs.  The lyrics cover what’s fun about being “country.” Have I figured this guy out? No, I just don’t have an answer for you.  Jason Aldean is popular, just because he is. Check him out at Summerfest, and let me know if I’m missing something.