Thursday, June 28, 2007


Ah, yes.....Summerfest!

My sister just gave me today's topic. Thanks Andi!

Summerfest celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Billed as the world's largest music festival, it is 11 days of music, food, beer and LOTS and LOTS of people.

Summerfest is Milwaukee's homage to summer (I guess that's where they got the name, clever, huh?) What started as a small dream of civic boosterism has developed into a world-class event attended by millions.

I think I remember the first one that was held down at the Lakefront. It was in 1970, the year of the Sly and the Family Stone debacle. I guess the show eventually went on, but I remember WOKY "boycotting" their songs for a bit. Chicago also played that year, and I really wanted to go, but we were camping.

During the years 1971-1980 I attended at least once each year. I'd ride my bike down on the free day and just walk around. During high school years my girlfriends and I would go and check out the boys as well as the bands. Truth be told, the only bands I remember seeing were Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and the Doors (which was lame since Jim Morrison had already died).

Those early days were pretty rowdy and I remember one night some kids burned up some picnic tables. As a result, Milwaukee's Finest started making their presence known, so we started calling it "Bummerfest" The facilities were pretty rugged too. The stage was open to the elements and when it rained the grounds became a mud pit.

Summerfest got really popular in the late 70's and it could get super crowded. Some really great bands have played there, I think even U2. The mix of headliner bands has something for everyone and then all the satellite stages cater to the niche groups. Country, jazz, alternative, ethnic. I see one of the bands appearing is the "Family Stone Experience". Hmmm, let's hope after 40 years they got their act together.

Food is another huge element to the Summerfest experience. Many of Milwaukee's popular restaurants have food booths at the site. Ribs, pizza, chicken, sauerbraten,Cajun, tacos, to name a few. Even Midwest Airlines' famous chocolate chip cookies! And of course, deep fried everything.

Which brings us to the beer. Lots of beer. Lots and lots of beer.
You get the idea.

But hey, that's Milwaukee!

This Year's LineUp

Monday, June 25, 2007

Let's Go Bowl-ing!

There's nothing like spending an early summer evening at the Hollywood Bowl. Last night was my first performance with four more throughout the summer.
I eagerly anticipate finding out what the season's offerings will be and I usually find a few that I want to attend.

The Hollywood Bowl was built in 1922 and is nestled in the Hollywood Hills, about a mile or so north of Hollywood Boulevard. The surrounding terrain forms a natural amphitheater. One thing I especially like is catching a glimpse of the famous "Hollywood" sign beyond the ridge behind the band shell.

It is a long-standing tradition to have pre-concert picnics at the Bowl. From waiter-served meals for those high-rollers in the box seats to bringing your own cooler full of beer and a bag of pretzels and everything in between are options. The grounds are pretty rustic and there are a few picnic areas and lots of benches in the walkways surrounding the amphitheater. One can have a box seat and cater your own spread. I've done it a few times, and it is pretty fun, especially if you make it a sort of potluck with your friends all contributing. Some people get rather elaborate, but its a pain to schlep all the stuff. There are also delis on site where you can pick up already prepared items and beverages. Lately, in an effort to save money, I've been getting tickets in the bench section. So its been mostly snacky things and finger-foods for me. Last night I had my famous Southwestern Shrimp/Corn/Black Bean Salad.

The other great thing about attending a show at the Bowl is taking the bus. I'm fortunate to have one of the park and ride lots about a mile from my house. So for 5 bucks, someone else can have that headache! And I can drink some wine!

Now for the show!

Last night was headlined by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, with supporting acts Carlinhos Brown and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. In other words, a night of hippin' and hoppin' and scritchin' and scratchin'.

First up was Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The band was formed during the civil war in that country and the group has endured many hardships to get where they are today. The liner notes say the music is a blend of "traditional West African music, roots reggae, and rhythmic traditional folk." It was mostly high-energy, positive, shake-yer-booty stuff. Great drumming and percussion. Lots of the songs had that positive-love vibe familiar to reggae music. One guy was an awesome rapper, not the gangsta kind, but that really super-fast African style. I really enjoy West African music when I hear it, and you sure can tell where David Byrne and Paul Simon got their ideas from!

Next up was the Brazilian artist Carlinhos Brown. This was primarily Afro-Brazilian and not the samba style Brazilian. More of a chanting, rap feel to it with rock mixed in. Again some great percussion and love your fellow man lyrics...well, the ones I could understand anyway!

I didn't know much at all about the two DJ's headlining the show--DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. I had heard of them, but never heard their music.
Both are aficionados of 45's and have vast collections. Neither are fans of digitally-procured music. They have collaborated in the past on all-45 mixes. Last night's show was a combination of two of their collaborations "Brainfreeze" and "Product Placement" which combined equals "Brain Placement" subtitled "7 inches of Fury"

Before the show started, we were informed that it was going to be all 45's and all- live real-time mixing. Four turntables, 2 effects pedals and two looping computers.

The show starts with a "film strip" sort of video on what is a 45 (probably 90 percent of the audience had never seen one, so this was a good idea), how they are made, the history, and the decline over the years. It also explained on how DJs do their "work"--how they identify the correct grooves on a disc so they can access them at will. That was pretty interesting. That part sure wasn't explained before my dismal attempt at DJ'ing at the Music Experience Museum last month!
The guys then started playing and mixing it up. Lots of good beats and pretty esoteric samples. Lalo Shriffrin, James Brown, Motown stuff and even Bogie!
The visuals alternated between camera close-ups on the turntables and images that enhanced what songs were being played. The best one was of what is their little icon--an old-fashioned jukebox--which came to life Transformer-style. The jukebox was in a video game atmosphere and was shooting flying iPods out of the sky with his laser-eyes.

All-in-all, a great evening under the stars! Except for the part where I didn't bring a jacket and froze half to death!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bonne Fete Nationale du Quebec!

My heritage is French Canadian. On my dad's side, our ancestor, Pierre, came to the New World from France in 1666. He was a French soldier and had been awarded land in New France as payment for his services. He settled in the province of Quebec in the town of Sorel, which is situated on the Saint Lawrence River about midway between Quebec City and Montreal.

Saint Jean-Baptiste is a patron saint of Quebec and is honored on June 24. Originally, a pagan celebration, over the years it went from being a religious feast day to a Francophone event and then took on political overtones in the 1960's and 1970's. Now, it seems to have become more of a celebration of the French Canada's ethnic identity.
Saint Jean-Baptiste Day
Quebec Events

As for me, I just hang a Quebec flag and thats about it. A group of ex-pat Quebecquois in Los Angeles are having a party today featuring a band from Quebec named Les Favoris. They have a hilarious video. My French is pretty non-existent, but I *think* this is a love song!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy Summer!

Its hammock time!

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living

I was originally going to start my blog with this statement and follow with some glib comments on how I was really going to have to start living now that I would be needing something to examine as blog fodder.
Being more conscientious than scholarly, (my incomplete education is definitely a subject for future exploration) I wanted to find where this quote came from. I've heard it all my life. If I needed to make a guess, I would have been inclined to say some dead white guy from Great Britain. Wrong!
I found out that it was none other than Socrates. (I was right on the dead white guy part, but missed on Greece. Dang). He had been found guilty of heresy and sedition and had been given the opportunity to sort of plead his case a little and maybe NOT get the death penalty. In the end, he chooses death over having to keep quiet on the things he believed strongly about and used those words to explain his decision.

WooHoo! Heresy AND sedition! How totally appropriate for my blog. Free thinker! Champion of Truth! I love it! Thanks Socrates! (And you KNOW I'm saying his name like in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, right?).

I wish I had it in me to write about such lofty topics. I'll leave that to the guys over at TheOnion. Nah, my lil' blog is going to mostly be about food, music, home improvements and the general weird things that happen in the course of daily life. Oh, and probably a little...well, maybe a lot of angst-y, conflicted musings on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my erstwhile home. However, if heresy and sedition need to be discussed, you'll hear it here first. Just no hemlock chaser for me, thank you.

Welcome to my little place in the ether. I hope you like it and come back to visit often.