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The Bay View Arts Guild wants your art!

The Bay View Arts Guild wants your art!

The Bay View Arts Guild is looking for creators of fine art and crafts to exhibit and sell their work at the South Shore Frolics Festival of  Art on Sunday, July 12, 2009. The well-received festival is held in  scenic South Shore Park in Bay View (Milwaukee) with Lake Michigan as a backdrop. There is room for 70 exhibitors. 12’x12′ sites are available for $75, with an additional jurying fee of $5. Deadline for the first jurying is March 31, 2009. An application is available at www.bayviewarts.org/events, by calling  414- 482-1543, or by writing to BVAG, P.O. Box 070137, Milwaukee, WI 53207. This is the Arts Guild’s fifth year of collaboration with the Bay View Lions Club, and the 60th annual South Shore Frolics. Information about the rest of the three-day event can be obtained by contacting the Bay View Lions at 414-769-0855.

Dragonfly Vintage Goods launches new Etsy site

Dragonfly Vintage Goods launches new Etsy site

In the dead of Winter, Dragonfly realizes that no one wants to leave their nice warm houses (and understandably so)so they’ve decided to try and bring Dragonfly to you with a new Etsy site! If you’re local and looking for something bigger; furniture-type things, you won’t find them there but you will see some of the Dragonfly collection on Milwaukee Craigslist.  Just go to milwaukee.craigslist.org/  and search for East Side/Brady St. and you’ll see what Dragonfly has listed. Post holiday sales are going on for another week or so:  vintage clothing 25% off, 20% off new books, 50% off 2009 calendars and all furniture is 10% off.  Mention this email and get an additional 10% off your purchase. If you DO feel like getting out of the house, please remember to patronize your favorite local businesses so they’ll all still be here in the springtime! (No, seriously)

Trouble in Mind

Trouble in Mind

By Matthew Konkel Are all people the same no matter the color of our skin? Yes, but no, is the conclusion of Alice Childress in Trouble in Mind. The year is 1957 in the backstage area of a Broadway theater. It’s the first rehearsal of a new play and the characters of Trouble in Mind are the actors, director and stage manager of this new show. Two years prior Rosa Parks made her famous refusal to vacate her bus seat to a white person. This is relevant because the characters of Trouble in Mind are comprised of mostly African-Americans and before the play is over a crisis of recalcitrance will rear its head. The first act is comprised of each of the actors and crew arriving one by one for their introduction and familiarization to the play within the play. All the black actors are prepared for their usual stereotypical colored character roles. Wiletta Mayer, our main protagonist, has played numerous characters named after jewels. And she takes time to counsel John Nevins, a young black actor in his first professional production, on the obsequious ways of blacks in the theatre. All the experienced black characters (Wiletta, Millie, and Sheldon) have conformed to their “yes men” roles as black performers because that’s what roles are offered to black performers and the rent needs to be paid. Each one’s temperament is challenged by the events forthcoming. But as the play unfolds, we see it is Wiletta’s character journey that is the spine of the story. All the Repertory actors pull off their roles magnificently. There’s not a weak performance in the bunch. From the quiet Eddie to the loquacious Wiletta, each actor brings physicality, voice, and imagination to their characters. There are so many subtle character nuances that shine like their own stage lights. Stephanie Berry as Wiletta and Lee Ernst as Al Manners are the stand outs. As Sheldon, Ernest Perry Jr. gives an excellent performance. There’s not a moment his broke, submissive actor, is unbelievable, not one ounce of pretense that is noticeable. You will find it hard to breath during his monologue in which he relates being the witness of a lynching when his character is just nine years old. The tightest screw of tension in act one comes when Al Manners, the white director who’s prone to unorthodox methods, asks Wiletta to pick up a crumbled piece of paper he’s thrown to the floor. All the characters are stone-faced and silent, and the pressure is palpable for a full sixty seconds. It’s a testament to the actors. Not many companies have such highly developed acting skills that they can make such a long silence work on stage. The crisis of the story comes as a monologue in act two when Wiletta, playing Ruby (another jewel named character) can no longer contain her passivity about the play and her role in it. Her desire to be a respected actress clashes with what Al refers to as “character parts.” […]

Theatre Gigante releases new dates for production of The Beggar’s Opera

Theatre Gigante releases new dates for production of The Beggar’s Opera

Theatre Gigante (formerly Milwaukee Dance Theatre) will present a production of The Beggar’s Opera March 12-14 at the Off-Broadway Theater, 342 N. Water Street. The Beggar’s Opera is written by Theatre Gigante’s artistic directors Isabelle Kralj and Mark Anderson and is based on the classic social satire originally written by John Gay in 1728. Please note the following performance dates and times: Thursday, March 12 at 8 PM (also the opening night reception) Friday, March 13 at 8 PM Saturday, March 14 at 8 PM Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 seniors and $10 students with ID. For tickets, please call the Off-Broadway Theater Box Office (414) 278-0765.

Milwauke Art Museum announces new Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions

Milwauke Art Museum announces new Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions

Milwaukee, WI, January 26, 2009 — The Milwaukee Art Museum has appointed Brady Roberts as Chief Curator, announced Museum Director Daniel Keegan today. Roberts will assume his position on March 2, 2009. Roberts, who succeeds Joseph Ketner, most recently was the curator of a contemporary art space in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that represents artists from around the world. From 2001 to 2006, he served as curator of modern and contemporary art at the Phoenix Museum of Art. Before moving west, Roberts was the executive director of the Dubuque Museum of Art from 1997 to 1999, and the curator of collections and exhibitions of the Davenport Museum of Art (now the Figge Art Museum) from 1989 to 1997. “Brady Roberts is a widely respected curator who is known for his scholarly record and for the ambitious nature of the projects he initiates,” said Keegan. “He is committed to framing important art-historical questions with topical relevance, developing a strong interpretive point of view, and fostering new discoveries for new audiences and visitors.” As Chief Curator, Roberts will oversee the Museum’s collections and exhibitions — including the research, cataloguing, care, display and interpretation of the artworks, as well as the acquisition of significant new works — while leading the curatorial staff of 25 departmental professionals. In 1989 Roberts earned his Master of Arts in art history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and completed his thesis, titled Willem de Kooning’s Existential Aesthetics. He received his Bachelor of Arts in art history from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has curated a number of touring exhibitions with major scholarly catalogues, including Constructing New Berlin in 2006 and Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed in 1996. Laurie Winters, curator of earlier European art and coordinating curator of the upcoming exhibition Jan Lievens, has been promoted to Director of Exhibitions, a new position at the Museum effective March 2. Winters, who specializes in earlier French and Central European painting, joined the Museum in 1997. In 2007, Winters was one of ten U.S. curators selected to participate in the inaugural year of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, a program at the Columbia Business School in New York that prepares top curators for positions in museum leadership. Winters has organized—often with international colleagues—a number of exhibitions that have ranked among the best-attended shows in the Museum’s history. In 2000-2001, in conjunction with the opening of the Museum’s new addition, she was responsible for the expansion and renovation of the European galleries. In 2002, Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland was named one of the top five exhibitions of the year by Apollo magazine, and earned Winters Poland’s Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit. Biedermeier: The Invention of Simplicity, which concluded its international tour to the Albertina in Vienna, the Deutsches Historisches Museum-Berlin, and the Musée du Louvre in Paris in January of 2008, has been recognized as a model of international collaboration. Additionally, the Biedermeier catalogue was named Book of the Year (2007) at the […]

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops Writes Final Chapter in Proud History

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops Writes Final Chapter in Proud History

MILWAUKEE – After 82 years of bringing Milwaukeeans the most current novels, the world’s literature, nonfiction bestsellers and thousands of well-known authors, the four Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops will be shuttered after March 31.  The landmark company has been a family-owned and operated business since its founding in 1927, two years before the onset of the Great Depression. Although the business not only survived that economic downturn but went on to thrive by adapting to countless changes in readers’ styles and tastes, it could not weather the current economic turmoil nor the dramatic changes in how people shop in the new century, according to the company’s president, Carol Grossmeyer.  Grossmeyer took over managing the business in 2007, three years after the death of her husband, A. David Schwartz, son of founder Harry W. and his wife, Reva Previant Schwartz.  After growing up in the family business, David formally joined the company in 1963 and assumed ownership in 1972. “The successful business model of multiple bookshop locations that saw tremendous growth in the ’80s and ’90s was no longer effective in the 21st century,” Grossmeyer said.  “Profound shifts in how people shop and equally great changes in the book industry left many well-established bookshops with dwindling sales.  David successfully led us into the new century fighting for our ground. But the winds of change were gales, and at the time of David’s passing in 2004, we were a wounded business.  The most recent economic crisis was, for us, the final blow.” The four Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops are located at 17145 W. Bluemound Rd. in the V. Richards Plaza in Brookfield; 2559 N. Downer Ave. in Milwaukee; 10976 N. Port Washington Rd. in the Pavilions in Mequon; and 4093 N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood, two blocks north of Capitol Dr.  A total of 65 part- and full-time employees work at the four retail locations and at the Schwartz corporate office in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. “We are profoundly saddened by this difficult situation,” Grossmeyer said. “We all take great pride in the belief that the shops brought our customers the very best books the world has to offer.  I like to think that the bookshops have played a vital role in the intellectual life of our city by bringing hundreds of authors to read and share ideas, and I hope that we can take some small credit for introducing new writers to our city’s readers.” Rebecca Schwartz, David’s daughter and chairman of the board, added, “The Harry W. Schwartz booksellers have been a vital part of the Schwartz experience.  Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have hundreds of smart, passionate and inspiring booksellers who enthusiastically conveyed the dedication to reading that Schwartz represents.  We consider many of our long-time employees part of the Schwartz book-selling family.” Following the closing of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, the Downer Avenue location will re-open as Boswell Book Company in April.  The new bookshop will be solely owned and operated by Daniel Goldin.  Goldin has been […]

John McGivern’s Winter Tales

John McGivern’s Winter Tales

By Christina Sajdak Lucchesi   Actor, comedian and master storyteller John McGivern performed his much anticipated one-man show, Winter Tales (presented by Next Act Theatre) to a sold-out house this past Thursday.  At oncehilarious and heartwarming, the production delivers on all counts as it invites us to gaze into McGivern’s personal scrapbook of holiday memories from the legendary duplex on Bartlett Avenue. Comics have always found fodder for jokes in marriage, family and memories of growing up and John McGivern is no exception.  What makes his comic style unique, however, is his tremendous warmth, sincerity and candor. These qualities and his remarkable talent for storytelling have won him a legion of fans who return to his shows again and again with newcomers quick to join the ranks. In Winter Tales, McGivern relates his childhood experiences with an exuberance and gregariousness that reaches out and leaves one with the feeling of having been there.  As each colorful anecdote and pithy profile brings another relative to life, one cannot help but recognize a crazy aunt, dashing uncle or doting grandmother of one’s own in these people.  The set functions as a time machine – a stack of LPs resting against a fireplace; six ashtrays scattered across a table amid the cocktails, the good china and the Thanksgiving turkey.  As McGivern tells of praying for snow days at the sight of the first snowflake, of careening down hills on slippery silver saucers, and “grown up” parties in the rec room downstairs, it makes one think.  Did everybody do this?  Together we laugh at the things we find we had in common, both good and bad, and never knew we did.  And laughter is cheaper than therapy. The audience’s proximity to the stage in this production is a boon.  The intimacy of this marvelous 99-seat theater is the perfect setting for McGivern.  The actor has no reservations about breaking the fourth wall and engages with audience members when the spirit moves him.  Such being the case, there is no hard line drawn between actor and audience, house and stage.  All are one and all are gathered together to reminisce.  Leaving no one out, McGivern interacts with his audience like he’s hosting a party for them, making eye contact with each audience member as if he or she were the only one in the room.  It’s no wonder people leave with smiles on their faces ready to face the cold again with very warm hearts. Winter Tales runs through January 4 in the Off Broadway Theater. 414-278-0765 or nextact.org.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

By Christina Sajdak Lucchesi   Once again, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater served up a heaping helping of holiday cheer with its annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and a lovelier, more penetrating version of this story one would be hard-pressed to find.  In no other adaptation does the marriage of music, dance, movement and wordscome together so fluidly to convey the audience to the depths and heights intended throughout the tale.  The creative team comprised of Joseph Hanreddy (Milwaukee Repertory Theater Artistic Director) and Edward Morgan, director Judy Berdan, choreographers Cate Deicher and Ed Burgess, and music director Randal Swiggum have collaborated on a masterpiece of multi-dimensional storytelling to touch an audience on many planes. Scenic designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, lighting designer Nancy Schertler and costume designer Martha Hally have combined to create visual landscapes that carry the story as if on wings. The beloved tale of charity and redemption traces the transformation of a miserly man as he is forced to view his life in retrospect. Remorse begins to soften the calloused heart, but true repentance comes only upon his witnessing the shadows of things yet to be. Awakened from his physical sleep by the Ghost of Christmas Past he is at last awakened from his spiritual sleep by the Ghost of Christmas Future and vows to become a new man. James Pickering’s reprisal of the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is both delightful and heartfelt. Portraying Scrooge with a vulnerability and emotional transparency from the outset is no small task but necessary if the audience is ever to embrace this cold curmudgeon.  Torrey Hanson’s Bob Cratchit is the personification of patience and the steady, understanding counterpoint to his employer’s intolerance. Laura Gordon, in her role as Mrs. Cratchit, is the glass through which we view the timeless conflict between soul and spirit. Ms. Gordon brings this contest to the fore in her character’s struggle to exercise her Christian values toward a man who is a constant reminder of her family’s less than fortunate circumstances.  As she negotiates between the pull of human emotion and her spiritual aspirations she ultimately chooses the high road in keeping with Dickens’ ongoing theme of forgiveness and spiritual growth. Adding levity to the production is the engaging Michael Herold as Mr. Topper. The splash of spirits in the holiday punch, he brings an effervescence and vivacity to his role drawing laughter from the audience with ease. Jonathan Smoots plays the gregarious Mr. Fezziwig to perfection, the embodiment of generosity and good will in this tale. Jenny Wanasek as both Mrs. Dilber and Mrs. Fezziwig displays her versatility with comedy as she moves deftly from the wry sarcasm of Scrooge’s housekeeper to the giddy glee of Mr. Fezziwig’s better half. Not to be omitted from comment is the cast of child actors who assume several of the major roles and comprise the children’s ensemble. Children’s director, Shawn Gulyas is to be commended for the quality of their performance which is on a par […]

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life

By Christina Sajdak Lucchesi The Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove was host to a rather sedate house Saturday night as it presented James W. Rodgers’ adaptation of the Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life. Theater-goers braved the cold this opening weekend, but a story notorious for its warmth, did not, in this rendition, inspire enough to thaw out the chilly audience. The play, true to the film version in most respects, winds through the events of protagonist George Bailey’s life as they go from good to bad to worse, leading him, ultimately, to contemplate his life’s worth. Standing atop a bridge at the precipice of life and death, George encounters his guardian angel, Clarence, who, with permission from above, grants him a wish. George is given the opportunity to witness life as though he had never been born. Act One, chronicling events prior to George’s wish is solid, well-developed and builds to a dramatic climax nicely. The events, post-angelic encounter, are by contrast, hurried and the pacing forced. Without allotting the time necessary for the development of this important aspect of the story the audience never quite identifies with the desperation and anguish felt by George as he encounters loved ones who no longer recognize him and whose lives, without his influence, have gone awry. The emotional connection with the hero at this important stage of the play, the identification with his grief and regret, is vital if we are to experience along with him the enormous relief and joy by play’s end. Instead, this production wraps up all too quickly without the catharsis and emotional punch audiences have come to expect. The production, in keeping with the tenor of the film, sets the story in the 1940s, with costumes and set pieces well-chosen and appropriate to the era. Unfortunately, the multi-functional backdrop, modern in concept, sacrifices authenticity for convenience and tends to distract from the overall visual theme. Although some of the smaller roles were portrayed with reservation and in some cases self-consciousness, the leads and the actors in several secondary roles were spectacular. Ryan Spiering, portrayed the young, wide-eyed George Bailey and his older, beleaguered counterpart to perfection evoking compassion with every gesture, word and expression. Eamonn O’Neill’s interpretation of Mr. Potter, hard-hearted town villain, was impeccable. Charles Hanel as Clarence Oddbody was charming and cherubic. Scott Allen with very little stage time brought Mr. Gower to the fore with the depth and thoughtfulness of his performance. Kara Roeming in her deft portrayal of Mary Bailey exuded the character’s quiet strength, selflessness and irrepressible good cheer in the face of difficulty. She is entirely believable as the instrument that ultimately elicits these traits from the citizens of an entire town. In Howard Bashinski’s Director’s Notes audiences are reminded of the importance of family and community and the virtue of charity so abundantly demonstrated in this story. What better time to re-instill in our lives these bedrock social principles and what better inspiration for doing so than the timeless story […]

HOLIDAY SPECIAL: New Year’s Day Hangover Remedies
HOLIDAY SPECIAL

New Year’s Day Hangover Remedies

By Bridget Brave, Tom Ganos, Ryan Findley, Noah Therrien and Amy Elliott This month in Eat This we featured a fresh, frilly New Year’s Eve menu from Dan Smith at McCormick’s and Schmick, perfect for entertaining and celebrating in style. But what do you eat on the morning (or more likely, afternoon) after? I asked VITAL Source Staffers, all of whom have plenty of experience, believe you me, with the dread Next Day. From easy microwave bacon to Nyquil and macaroni to what we have found to be the best Bloody in town (there is really nowhere I’d rather be on my worst mornings than Tom’s bar … or couch), we’ve got you covered. Be careful, have fun and feel better. – Amy Elliott Simple breakfast from Ryan Findley You’ll need … Frozen hashbrowns Cooking oil of your choice Bacon from the microwave Grapefruit juice from concentrate Bad movies, cartoons or TV shows on DVD 1. Start the hashbrowns. I like Ore-Ida, they’ve already got some seasoning on them, but not too much. Potatoes are starchy and filling and will soak up any leftover alcohol in your stomach while making you feel better. Heat oil in a skillet (you’ll need about a tablespoon – enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan). Dump the frozen potato pieces of goodness in and spread them out to a single layer. Leave them alone for at least 5 minutes, or until you start to see crunchy brown bits on the edges. 2. While the hashbrowns cook on the first side, make the grapefruit juice. I prefer grapefruit to orange because of the tartness – too much sugar will excerbate a hangover. Real grapefruit juice (and by that I mean the yellowy stuff, none of that Ruby Red) settles the stomach. I recommend Minute Maid frozen. Follow the directions on the can to prepare; all you’ll need is a pitcher and water, and a spoon to mix with. 3. Sprinkle the hashbrowns with salt and pepper and then flip them over. Again, leave them alone for at least 5 minutes, or until the crunchy brown bits are easily apparent at the edges. 4. While the hashbrowns cook on the other side, microwave some bacon.  Mostly because bacon is delicious, not for any medicinal purposes. If you have a microwave bacon cooker (a plastic tray with ridges to catch the grease and trap it away from the bacon while it cooks), use it. If not, a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels will do. Start with two minutes on full power, and check the doneness.  Continue cooking in 30-second increments until the desired degree of crunchiness is achieved. 5. Transfer bacon to a plate, add the hashbrowns alongside when they’ve finished cooking, and pour yourself a nice tall glass of grapefruit juice. Sit in front of the television and watch bad movies at low volume while you eat. Bridget’s Easy as Shit Slow-Cooked Italian Beef From Bridget Brave The beauty of this is that […]

VITAL’s predictions for 2009

VITAL’s predictions for 2009

By VITAL Source Staffers JON ANNE WILLOW – CO-PUBLISHER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF No matter how hard Wall Street works to lure private investors back into the market, ordinary citizens will go back to saving the old fashioned way: stuffing cash in their mattresses. By June, Verlo will offer an all-new custom model, The Saver 3000, which will include a hidden chamber accessible only with a card and PIN number. Sure, they’ll be uncomfortable as hell to sleep on, but Verlo will sell scads of them to freaked-out Baby Boomers, not only securing their own financial future but providing hundreds of jobs right here in Wisconsin. The Obama Administration’s new motto will be “A windmill in every yard.” AMY ELLIOTT – MANAGING EDITOR In 2009, the stupid but prevalently held idea that “deaths happen in threes” will take on a whole new level of mystical garbage meaning when a trio of prominent world leaders – Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro and, in a “freak accident,” Vladimir Putin – kick the bucket. Somali pirates will take over Cuba, Moscow will be annexed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and North Korea will allow Kim Jong-Il to rule from the grave. Also meeting their demise in 2009: million-year-old and long-presumed-to-be-already-dead Structuralist philosopher Claude-Levi Strauss; actors Sidney Poitier and Peter O’Toole; former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and the already mostly decayed Amy Winehouse. James Brown, on the other hand, will be crowned the Funk Messiah when he unceremoniously rises from the dead on Christmas day. BRIDGET BRAVE – PRODUCTION MANAGER After its victorious parlay into the national consciousness via the New York Times, the Journal-Sentinel’s “Wasted in Wisconsin” series will continue to spread, resulting in a five-part BBC series, MTV True Life Special (“I Drink in Wisconsin”), and several obscure Family Guy references.  Milwaukee will celebrate by doing a shot every time the city is mentioned by name. RYAN FINDLEY – ADMINISTRATOR/FINE ARTS EDITOR Gas will make a head-spinning ricochet back to astronomical prices. This ricochet will bring the boomerang back into style with a vengeance. And speaking of vengeance, God will hold off on striking us dead because, in electing Barack Obama, Americans have bought ourselves a few years with which to prove we’re not the awful human beings and wretched global citizens we appear to be. So, no plagues of locusts or rivers of blood or any of that stuff. Which is kind of a nice thought. ERIN LEE PETERSEN – CALENDAR EDITOR Unsatisfied with the Bronze Fonz’s lukewarm reception but still high on patina chemicals, VISIT Milwaukee will collect funds to bronze other pop culture icons loosely associated with Wisconsin. By year’s end, visitors to Milwaukee will be able to take souvenir pictures with Laverne & Shirley, the gang from That ‘70s Show and the entire cast of former TGIF fave Step by Step. The city’s main attraction, however, will be a life-sized depiction of that scene in Wayne’s World where Alice Cooper explains the Algonquin origins of Milwaukee to Wayne and Garth. Erin Lee Petersen […]

Murderers

Murderers

Riddle Key, FL is home to a retirement community that offers only exorbitant five year leases to its willing and unwilling residents. In a populace that expects and on occasion even hurries to usher in death, two residents and one administrative office worker each unravel their stories independently of each other. Each unmasks their status as a murderer and yet all three retain their repartee, levity and humanity. In its nineteenth season, Next Act Theatre continues its tradition of producing socially provoking yet personally comforting plays with its opening of Murderers, by Jeffrey Hatcher. The play is made up of three monologues all approximately half an hour long. The success of this play relies on the performances of the actors. Without another actor on stage to authenticate relationships and emotions, each actor has to story tell and re-live the events contributing to a murder or several. Norman Moses is charming as Gerald Halvorsen, a middle-aged man who marries his girlfriend/common law wife’s mother to avoid taxes on her ample estate. A doctor assures that her death is only weeks away. When Gerald learns her condition is treatable he hesitates telling her, setting into motion the events that lead to the murder he commits and the murder everyone thinks he commits. Moses is able to confess Gerald’s story with wit that revels in the irony of the situation. He is especially deft with his sharp impersonations of the people involved with his crime. Gliding in and out of several different background characters within just a few seconds, Moses showcases Gerald’s mockery of his own near perfect caper. Playing Lucy Stickler, Ruth Schudson is coolly vindictive. A woman her husband had an affair with several decades earlier moves to Riddle Key and resumes the long-ended fling. After accepting it and continuing her marriage the first time, Lucy calmly calculates a murder that implicates her husband and the other woman. Schudson is pithy with Lucy’s sarcasm about her own life. Even though Lucy’s body is failing, she needs to avenge the events that have shaped her adult life. Schudson’s rhythm and frankness is exactly what makes Hatcher’s Lucy compelling. While Gerald and Lucy both commit single homicides, Minka Lupino is entirely a different creature. Linda Stephens innocently explains why Minka is not a serial killer, but more of a do-gooder, avenging the helpless elderly. Stephens’ connection with the audience lies in her virtuous manner while playing Minka. She lends a righteous air to a woman obsessed with weeding out rotten apples. While Moses, Schudson and Stephens are all incredibly capable actors in any role, the level of achievement Next Act Theatre reaches with Murderers must be partly credited to director David Cecsarini. In a work that is strictly monologue vignettes, apt and reflective guidance is needed for actors to accurately tell the story. Cecsarini, also NAT’s Producing Artistic Director, exceeds the standards expected by those familiar with Next Act. With the country’s current economic state, people are limiting their entertainment outings. Many people […]

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Six Characters in Search of an Author

By Jenna Raymond What happens to our thoughts and hopes, and our dreams and personas? They live only as intangible wisps until we act on them, give them flesh or write them down. More often they wither and gasp until we forget them. Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello wrote Six Characters in Search of an Author about the figments of our imaginations. Unlike the fancies we all fabricate and dismiss as asinine, Pirandello lets his characters fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs– completeness. Pirandello’s play begins with a company of actors rehearsing a play. They are melodramatic and unenthusiastic about the writing. A knock on the stage door brings the intrusion of six people and halts the mundane rehearsal. At first the company believes this group of people has shown up to either pitch a new play or audition. It quickly becomes clear that the six are in a unique situatiion: they can only and ever play exactly the parts that were envisioned for them. Even though it’s rife with pain, the six need their fate to be played out exactly the way their author intended. Six Characters premiered in 1921. Since then it has often been modified to fit the specific time and place in which it is performed. UWM student Ben Wilson adapted it to contemporary time by using modern phrases and references. Although the play deals with very distressing issues like prostitution, suicide and the death of a young child, Wilson is adept at supplementing Pirandello’s original work. He was able to add humor without mocking the seriousness of the characters. UWM’s Theatre 508 at 1925 E. Kenilworth Pl. is a wonderful place for young actors to work solely on their craft without bothering with massive sets, intricate lighting or sound. The actors cast in Six Characters in Search of an Author were wholly selfless in their portrayal. Almost all were on stage for the entire duration of the play. A few had no lines at all, or just a few lines, but all were completely immersed into the world created by Pirandello and modified by Wilson and director Jim Tasse. Despite limited dialog, they were all completely present on the stage. Director Jim Tasse let his large cast of actors come to the truth of their characters on their own. It is obvious that each actor developed through trial and experimentation. Tasse doesn’t force line readings or limits his actors in any way. His direction is all about the actors. Their exploration of character and language is simple, direct and powerful. A less capable director would force certain elements that may or may not end up cohesive. Tasse is adaptable and allows the story to expand and contract as needed in order to be truthful. Actor Tommy Stevens, playing Father, showed a comprehension and depth of understanding of not only his character but the others as well. His desperate need to get their story out through charm, cajolery and demand was innately human. Callie Eberdt […]

MUSIC ISSUE SPECIAL: So many Activities
MUSIC ISSUE SPECIAL

So many Activities

By A.L. Herzog “…A record can be made anywhere and by anyone,” says Riles Walsh. “I could hit five recording studios with an old mop from my porch.” Best known as the vocals, guitars, and keys at the forefront of grandiose folk act The Candliers, Riles Walsh – who’s maybe cheeky, or maybe just far-out – recently established a DIY label and collective called Activities as a means to sustain his industrious self, friends, and bandmates and their “generally excessive back catalogs.” Naturally, Walsh rejects the classification of both label and collective, preferring to describe Activities as “a group of people making lots of music” without “hard-line rules or preexisting notions of how music is made or how it must be.” Comprised of members of The Candliers, the Trusty Knife, Farms in Trouble and more, Activities boasts a long list of versatile individuals working behind the scenes. Like-minded yet unaffiliated bands such as Elusive Parallelograms, Freight, John the Savage and Pigs on Ice helped officially launch Activities on September 19, 2008 in a two-night showcase at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. These bands, who don’t “rely on rock music’s traditional expressions,” also contributed to Activities’ Compilation Volume One: Milwaukee (ACT002) (read VITAL’s review here), as did Crappy Dracula and Dear Astronaut, among others. The comp is available for purchase only via mail order. “Wasting time, maybe?” Walsh says when asked to justify relying on the Post Office. “I don’t know. I’m usually too busy watching paint dry.” He sells himself short; he still manages to keep a hand in everything, including the avant-garde Farms in Trouble, who used the kick-off event as platform to release a full-length called The Gas Station Soundtrack (ACT003). The appropriately titled compact disc — 27 tracks inside a collaged cardstock sleeve adorned by Activities’ signature classic typeface — plays like an impulsive pit-stop receipt. There are sound experiments (“Field Sweep”), short/sweet ditties (“Hot Lunch/Cold Lunch”), sunshiny pop (“Like a Needle in Heaven”) and even a stab at hip-hop (“Many Boss Levels”). A follow-up disc, One Word, is under way, but in the meantime, Activities plans to release The Gas Station Soundtrack on the thriving cassette tape medium. “There will always be something for everyone that wants some at Activities. That is our 200% guarantee,” says Walsh. “And if not we will give the people a commemorative Brett Favre 24 gold karat layered MVP coin.” Either he is legitimately confident, or he has quite the tacky collection to unload. “The only thing we can hope for is that people will like the music,” says Walsh. As for all the rest, he instead focuses on why small imprints like Activities are founded in the first place: “a necessity to create without worrying about how.” VS Check out the record release show for the Trusty Knife on December 6 at Mad Planet, and/or see the Candliers play the Cactus Club in Bayview on November 29, 2008. If you like what you hear, you may direct all inquires about sales and […]

MUSIC ISSUE SPECIAL: The tour’s the thing
MUSIC ISSUE SPECIAL

The tour’s the thing

By Dan Agacki     With gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon, my band, Bored Straight, decided it was high time to throw some money away. None of us had ever toured before, so contacts were sparse. Half of the shows we booked came to us within a week of leaving. No one knew our band, and our record was out as of that week, so no one had even heard it. It was a patchwork, fly by the seat of your pants sort of deal. Perfect. Our first night was a house show on the south side of Chicago. Attendance was sparse and payment was adequate. Our set was strong, opening up the tour on a good note. We stayed with the FNA’s – cool band and even cooler dudes. The next show was in Clarksville, Tennessee. Traversing Illinois in 90+ degree weather was no picnic. Once in Clarksville, we met up with our friend, Nico. He lead us to the smallest basement I’ve ever seen. But in the face of potential disaster, the kids went nuts. We sold records to kids who didn’t own record players. The hippie mom at the house told me her son was having a bad acid trip. Ah, small town America. I love you so much. Going on no sleep and with me behind the wheel, our next destination was Richmond, Virginia. The drive was tedious on its own, but then we hit “The Accident” – a flaming blocking all three eastbound lanes. Three hours and six miles later, we were on our way. Luckily, our guitarist, Eric, likes driving fast. We got to the show just in time to unload and play immediately. Barely anyone watched, which was good because we stunk. We party-hopped after the show and fell asleep in the daylight. Every city was so new, we wanted to take in every last minute we could. We spent our first off-day of the tour in Richmond. It was a lazy day, ending with earlier bed times than normal. The next morning welcomed us with the site of an open parking space where our van had been parked the night before. Apparently the city of Richmond takes street cleaning seriously. After a two hour bus riding fiasco, we got our van out of impound. Starting our drive three hours later than planned, all spare time evaporated. We headed north to Allentown, Pennsylvania. An accident just outside of Richmond slowed us up even more. Upon reaching Allentown, we promptly got very lost. Fortunately, the show turned out to be amazing. It may have been the best show I’ve ever played in my life. Sweat was dripping from my nose by my third strum. Someone threw a folding chair. Kids were running everywhere. That show still brings a smile to my face. With another day off, Brooklyn was next on the list. We met up with an ex-Wisconsinite and headed out to Coney Island. I wasn’t impressed, but the night was more […]

Under 500

Under 500

By Brian Whitney Fun fact: In my pre-teens, I subscribed to Disney Adventures magazine, perhaps fulfilling a secret craving for pictures of the voice actors from Beauty and the Beast or Andrew Keegan’s thoughts on his three minutes of screen time in Independence Day, though I honestly don’t remember. One thing I do remember is a DA story about the potential for the nascent internet, which discussed in great detail how we would be doing homework, playing games, “instant messaging” friends and watching movies all at the same time, all on one computer. I immediately equated the article with stories about flying cars and personal space travel. We all know what happened next. Five years ago it would have been difficult to think of a world without the internet. Now it seems difficult to picture the internet without YouTube, the video sharing site that consistently averages about 14 million hits daily. YouTube makes it possible to fluster or celebrate – but ultimately publicize – anyone, almost instantly, from the insanely famous to – well, someone like me. It, and its budding counterparts like Google Video and Hulu, are the new, great playing-field levelers, and nowhere are their effects more manifest than in the music industry. Observe the case of OK Go, a marginally successful major label band who raised the stakes in the music world when they posted a video for the song “Here It Goes Again,” featuring a choreographed dance on treadmills. The video vaulted them to fame, earned them a performance on the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards and ultimately won them a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. Not too shabby for a vid filmed by the singer’s sister on a borrowed camera. So, have local bands embraced this brave new world? Most web videos in general end up looking like local television commercials, replete with poor lighting, shoddy audio and bad performances all around. But several Milwaukee musicians have made compelling pieces of cinema on the cheap and utilized internet video technology for personal gain, notoriety and perhaps even minor fortune. Like Juiceboxxx. The Milwaukee rap wunderkind has made quite a name for himself on the national stage, performing frantic, sweaty shows around the country and appearing on MTV2’s Subterranean with the video for his song “Thunder Jam III.” While “Thunder Jam” cost more than some musicians make in a year ($11,000+, according to producer Lew Baldwin), the shoot for his follow-up video “I Don’t Wanna Go Into The Darkness” was a wildly unglamorous affair. The premise is simple enough: Juiceboxxx rocks a crowd with his usual stage antics. He packed sometimes-venue the Vault with various Milwaukee music scene mainstays and supplied them with free PBR. The production crew erected a makeshift stage that probably cost about $30, depending on how much duct tape they purchased. After the free beer was consumed and the crowd was visibly buzzed, Juiceboxxx took the stage, performed the single a few times, then blasted out a couple more songs. […]

Smoked Out

Smoked Out

In celebration of America’s annual Great American Smoke Out, join VITAL Source and our fabulous host, Milwaukee’s legendary Cactus Club, for “Smoked Out: A Great American Rock Show.” Yeah, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, given that you’ll be spending the evening in a bar in Bay View (read: NOT smoke-free), but play along with us and come down for one last sweaty, all-out hootenanny before you get swallowed by the holidays and all the requisite insanity that comes along for that ride. Just five dollars gets you through the door for one amazing lineup: Celebrated Workingman IfIHadAHiFi Canyons of Static Plus between-set spins by DJ How of the Establishment. Wow. You can’t beat that with a stick. So don’t. Just be there. Saturday, November 15 9 p.m., 21+ CACTUS CLUB 2496 S. Wentworth Ave. Milwaukee

Various artists

Various artists

By Eric Lewin While college-rock (for lack of a better term) graduated into grunge and alternative-rock in the early ‘90s, Milwaukee has maintained an interesting relationship with the subgenre: the city’s biggest export is still the Violent Femmes, its most popular record stores are the size of bedrooms and its independent radio stations maintain an army of devoted local listeners. So while Activities Compilation: Volume 1 might play elsewhere as a futile effort to fit ‘88’s sound into ‘08 in another market, its context makes it a refreshing throwback, echoing a citywide love of independent music and its roots – notwithstanding an uneven collection of tracks. For a compilation that features more than 20 local bands, each contributing no more than two songs, Activities is sonically consistent: that is to say, lo-fi as it comes. Whether purposely as a production technique or the result of limited resources (common sense suggests the latter), the results are mixed as to which bands sound charmingly sparse and which just sound unfinished. Farms in Trouble’s “Empty Arrows and Exit Signs” is a wonderful, psychedelic folk romp, and the male-female harmonies of the Candliers’ “Bird Eyes” plays like The Vaselines-meet-Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. On the other hand, Crappy Dracula barely miss exceptional sleaze-rock with “No Chance with the Mermaid Queen” by cheating themselves with a too-small drum sound. And on the other other hand, “Area Man” by Nothing in that Drawer is simply unlistenable. While the majority of the songs included are rather forgettable, most of them don’t suck, and a few are actually pretty good. That might not seem like high praise, but it’s a claim that most local scenes across the country can’t make. Activities might not stack up against legendary Wisconsin/Milwaukee compilations like Badger-a-go-go, but it certainly holds its own.

Moon Over Buffalo

Moon Over Buffalo

By Jenna Raymond Very often, comedies can be overdone. Characters can seem generic and ridiculous as the entire plot grows to completely unrealistic proportions. However, under the direction of Debra Krajec, Marquette University’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo is nuanced, seamless and zany in the best way. The action takes place behind the scenes of a traveling theatre company in Buffalo, NY in the early 1950s. George and Charlotte Hay head up the company that used to employee their daughter, Rosiland. She has since left to lead a “normal” life outside the theatre, including a weatherman fiancée, Howard. Rosiland returns to introduce Howard to her family, only to find that her father has impregnated another company member; her ex-lover is still in love with her; and the family attorney wants to run away with her mother. And then Frank Capra calls to say he needs to re-cast his next movie immediately and will fly out to catch their matinee as an audition for George and Charlotte. Mistaken identities, chases, missing persons and frantic confusion ensue. The roles of both George and Charlotte require an immense amount of physical acting: duels and fights abound, and George appears in several stages of drunkenness that cumulates in a fall into the orchestra pit. Senior Kevin Hogan is flush with excellence in this roll. Even when it’s revealed that George has cheated on his wife, Hogan is able to keep George endearing. Nick Inzeo, playing the part of Paul, Rosalind’s ex-lover, displays superb physicality that is an added bonus to the relationship between Paul and George. The two are able to reach slapstick without compromising the integrity of Ken Ludwig’s play. As Charlotte, Jennifer Shine is over the top in the best way. Charlotte is certainly meant to be extremely emotional, and Shine is able to consistently reach Charlotte’s heightened reactions. Bonnie Auguston plays Rosiland, and after the first few scenes she was able to fully emerse herself into the character and was especially charismatic in her scenes with Inzeo. Comedy is often much more difficult to perform than drama. Timing really is just about everything and the entire cast hit nearly everything spot on. Comedic acting is mostly talent with excellent guidance, and director Debra Krajec chose an apt cast that benefited from her experience and instruction. Marquette University opened its 2008-2009 season with a high benchmark. If Moon Over Buffalo is indicative of the kind of theatre Marquette is capable of this season, their theatre department should be regarded on the same level as some of Milwaukee’s professional theatre. Moon Over Buffalo runs through October 5 at the Helfaer Theatre on Marquette University’s campus. For tickets or more information call 414.288.7504 or visit Marquette’s Theatre department website at: www.marquette.edu/theatre.

Sign your name here!

Sign your name here!

Death Note DVD Review

Death Note DVD Review

Splashcast

Splashcast

A dog with a bone- more footage from the RNC
The power of the google

The power of the google

The power of the google

The power of the google

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost

By Jaymee Sherman Lights … camera … Shakespeare? Milwaukee Shakespeare’s opening night performance of the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost was not just another go at the Bard in a modern day setting, for these renditions are recently legion. No, this was a headlong jump into the deep end that successfully brought a hilarious Elizabethan era play to a media-savvy, pop-culture-drenched, 21st-century audience. As you take your seat in the hip studio theater in the Broadway Theatre Center, don’t expect to see the stage set with turret or tower, in throne room or great hall. Instead, the trappings of a television studio beckon you into the world of reality TV to eavesdrop on the goings-on of a group of royals who have agreed to live their lives transparently for you and for the cameras as they battle out the emotions of everyday life. As the play begins, Ferdinand, King of Navarre has summoned three of his courtiers to consider a worthy proposal. Would they agree to join him in near-monastic life, devoting three long years to study without the distraction of all things worldly – namely, women? Though ill-received at first, the King’s gift of persuasion prevails to ennoble the suggestion and, in time, the three young men consent. The rub? – the imminent arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely, eligible attendants. No sooner do the four men finish congratulating themselves on the merits of their intended intellectual pursuits and the forsaking of the baser pleasures than they are confronted with temptation and hurled down the garden path of unbridled romantic emotion. Director Jennifer Uphoff Gray has assembled a strong, talented cast to bring this classic comedy close to home. Kevin Rich is brilliant in his portrayal of reluctant Berowne, who struggles most with making the commitment to sterile scholarship. On the surface, an unreasonable, combustible sort, Rich’s Berowne is at once the most reasonable as he weighs and measures and over-thinks with a passion unfelt by his less complex, if milder cohorts. He is the perfect foil to Wayne T. Carr’s calm, noble, self-deluded King, whose vulnerability to love and its ensuing frustration is both touchingly down-to-earth and hopelessly funny. Chris White is charming as the easygoing Longaville. Jake Russo, as the slow-witted, ever-present cameraman, Anthony Dull, gives a minor role the personality and presence of a major character. Molly Rhode plays the dignified, self-assured Princess of France with grace, and Victoria Caciopoli brings a wonderful depth and exuberance to her portrayal of feisty Rosaline. Norman Moses’ performance of Don Adriano de Armado may have you purchasing tickets to see this comedy more than once. His love-sick Spaniard, a manly man swamped by his emotions, is a hilarious study in contrasts. Angela Iannone brings a mischievous sense of play to her portrayal of the impish instigator Boyet, and T. Stacy Hicks is the consummate Shakespearean clown as Costard. Although schoolteacher Holofernes is slightly histrionic, Richard Ganoung’s adeptness at verbal high jinks in this role is delightful. […]

A call for widespread police investigation in the Twin Cities
More protest coverage- is it a riot or a protest???
What I did during McCain’s speech- more protest news
RNC Day 4 protest coverage- my morning report
People are listening- an update on Keith’s story
Brief morning update- news of brutality starting to slowly spread
Missing video, fear, and a little bit of hope from readers
As promised- footage and pics!
More updates on police brutality at the RNC
More video and pic- more on the RNC brutality
Info needed for AP photographers/videographers
I’m a little discouraged this morning
More on RNC police brutality
The media starts to pay attention
Political news- why is it always so scary?
The reality of protest- police brutality in Minneapolis
Police Brutality- part two
A mother’s perspective aka Police Brutality part three
New Faces

New Faces

By Peggy Schulz Arts groups in Milwaukee are used to dealing with turnover – it’s the nature of the beast. But the 2008-2009 season will introduce even more fresh faces than usual. Along with a handful of smaller-scale galleries and museums (see Judith Ann Moriarty’s visual arts preview on page 22), at least five major arts institutions in Milwaukee have new leaders on board as a sixth, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, prepares to welcome a new Music Director and a new Pops Conductor in 2009. Roll call Perhaps the most familiar new face to the Milwaukee arts scene is one known worldwide for composing, conducting and arranging – Marvin Hamlisch, the new Principal Pops Conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Hamlisch’s distinguished career is notable for any number of reasons; he has won virtually every music award that exists, including three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globe awards, plus a Pulitzer Prize for his groundbreaking show, A Chorus Line. Hamlisch is an enthusiastic advocate of the power of music to bring people together. “Music can make a difference,” he says. “Music is truly an international language, and I hope to contribute by widening communication as much as I can.” To further propel the momentum for its upcoming 50th anniversary season, world-renowned conductor Edo de Waart will assume his position as Music Director of the MSO with the 2009-2010 season, but anticipation of his arrival is already feverish. de Waart has conducted every major orchestra in the world, and Time Magazine called him “one of the world’s most accomplished and sought-after conductors.” He is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland. Wisconsin is not totally new to de Waart: he currently lives in Middleton with his family. But it was far from a default decision. Before de Waart would commit to the MSO, he had to conduct them. “I rehearsed with the orchestra in December for two days. I had a ball. It was fantastic.” de Waart is excited to begin work with the MSO in 2009, but for Milwaukee audiences salivating to see the man in action, he’ll conduct two upcoming concerts: October 31 – November 2 and November 7 and 8, 2008 Like de Waart, Daniel Keegan, recently installed CEO of the Milwaukee Art Museum, has ties to Wisconsin – he grewup in Green Bay. Prior to joining the Art Museum in February,Keegan served as Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Art in California for seven years, and he was Executive Director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City for three years before that. According to Keegan, “The chance to work here was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Part of the attraction of the Art Museum is that it’s “an internationally recognized, fabulous collection, and a very talented staff. The opportunity to lead this institution is tremendous.” Keegan already is impressed by the level of […]

The Silent Years

The Silent Years

By Kyle Shaffer Maybe it’s time pop music got a little more contemplative. It’s all in good fun to keep the party going, and no one wants to be a walking rain cloud, but maybe the only frontier left for the genre lies in the gap between metallic truth and blinding possibility. To muster all your courage and face up to your existence, greeting it with “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met,” seems a task for the theologians and philosophers. But The Silent Years make this a mission for the common folk, binding melody to wonder with their most recent release, The Globe. There’s depth in the simplicity and quirky straightforwardness here that will no doubt invite comparisons to Nada Surf or the Shins. Lead singer Josh Epstein makes bizarre observations and realizations that evoke everyday conversations without sounding like a burnt-out Malkmus-ian knock off. Whether in the sunny bounce of “Someday” or the almost withdrawn folk of closer “Lost At Sea”, The Silent Years present an outlook of comfortable uncertainty, never pressing agendas and always looking for input. And for all its accessibility and spunk, there’s not a single note played to be a selling point. There’s a candor in the songwriting and a purpose in the band’s delivery that’s undeniable. The Silent Years are the real deal, and they invite us all to search for meaning beyond our doorsteps. “May we all find something in this. Hallelujah!” Amen, dude.

A JIHAD FOR LOVE

A JIHAD FOR LOVE

By

WATER LILIES (Naissance des pieuvres)
Soulstice Theatre’s CHICAGO
Manfred Olson Planetarium: Northern Lights Friday night show
Manfred Olson Planetarium

Northern Lights Friday night show

Milwaukee is a little too far south to see northern lights often, but this fact won’t stop you from enjoying them during the Friday night shows at the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee this fall. Not only do you marvel at the beauty of the aurora borealis — as they are also known — you explore why they occur and where to see them. As always, you look at the stars and other special astronomical objects such as galaxies and nebulae in the current night sky displayed on the newly renovated dome of our theater. You might be surprised to see the difference between city skies and country skies. At the end of the program you have a chance to ask the presenter questions that she gladly answers. When: 7:00-7:55 pm, September 5 to October 31, 2008 Admission: $1 per person. Location: 1900 East Kenwood Blvd in the UW-Milwaukee Physics building. This show is not intended for children under 6 years old. Our theater is wheelchair accessible. Tickets go on sale at 6:30 pm, 30 minutes before the show begins. We recommend arriving at that time because sometimes the shows are sold out. Unfortunately, latecomers cannot be allowed to enter so plan to find your seat a few minutes early. For additional questions, please contact the planetarium director, Jean Creighton, at (414) 229-4961. www.planetarium.uwm.edu

Do we ever learn

Do we ever learn

McCain vs the cake

McCain vs the cake

Spinning Into Butter

Spinning Into Butter

By Jill Gilmer Every once in a while, a play comes along that reminds us why we love independent theatre. Bold. High-energy. Daring. Provocative. Transforming. Pink Banana’s Spinning Into Butter is such a play. Award-winning playwright Rebecca Gilman has created a fresh examination of the usually taboo subject of race by peeking into the lives of four faculty members at a liberal arts college in Vermont. Spinning Into Butter follows the administration’s attempts to quell the firestorm that erupts on campus after an African American student receives a string of hate mail at his dormitory. The story centers on Dean Sarah Daniels, a self-described cynic who came to Vermont to escape black people and the intense emotional turmoil they elicit in her. The climax of the play is a 20-minute monolog in which Sarah reveals her true feelings about blacks – a toxic mix of guilt, loathing, compassion, anger, empathy and disgust. The play presents a rare look at the attitudes of educated whites toward race. Through a series of conversations that take place in Sarah’s office, we observe myriad attitudes toward minorities and the actions that emanate from them. What is interesting is that these conversions take place almost exclusively between the administrators, a fact at the core of the racial problems on campus. Indeed, there is only one minority character in the play. Instead of seeing the minorities with its own eyes, we hear about them through dialog between white people. Through this dialog, we learn that minority students feel talked about, talked around and talked down to by the administration – everything except talked with. The administration’s lack of genuine understanding and respect for these students leads to adverse consequences for the students and aggravates the campus’ racial problem. In one of several scenes that are rich with insight, Sarah accuses one of her colleagues of idolizing a homeless man on the bus. She says: you see him as many things, but none of them is “peer.” The genius of this play is its gentle probing into the antidote for racial conflict. Gillman suggests that the solution lies in forging real relationships between people of differing backgrounds. This requires less talking and more listening among all parties. It allows for all of us to hold racial biases, which is as unfortunate as it is inevitable. But the real tragedy is when we focus our energy on ourselves and our self-interests as opposed to attempting to get to know another group on a personal level. It’s a solution that can be applied to conflicts of all kinds. Pink Banana brings Spinning Into Butter to the stage on a shoestring budget, but uses its resources wisely. The Tenth Street Theater, housed in a church, provides an appropriately prim backdrop for its New England college setting. Set details reveal little about location, encouraging the audience to resist the temptation to dismiss the disturbing messages as unique to a particular time or place. The cast is as passionate about the play’s […]

Random Exposure

Random Exposure

By Bridget Brave To quote Ansel Adams, infinitely more knowledgeable about photography as art form than I: “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” For the third annual Random Exposure photography contest, VITAL’s judges honored that exact notion, finding in each of our winners something striking, something amazing. Photographs capture a certain moment in time, and thereby capture the emotion behind that moment. Joy, despair, victory, heartbreak – a well-timed photograph can place the viewer inside the moment, freezing it forever in time. Whatever that image might make you feel, the fact that it makes you feel something is a testament to its power. That power is what distinguishes a picture from a great picture. Each of the selected winners brought one of those amazing moments to light. Children frolic and play; we see beauty, isolation, adoration. Amateur photographer next to professional, the images on the following pages were created with similar purpose: to record an instant in time that forces a response. Black and white and color photographs were judged in each category: action, abstract, landscape/still life, portrait and motorcycles, with a separate winner for amateur and professional in each. We’d like to extend our eternal gratitude to the distinguished panel of judges who carefully evaluated nearly 300 entries: Tim Abler, Chair of the undergraduate department of art at Cardinal Stritch University; Scott Krahn, a veteran Creative Director at BVK; and highly accomplished commercial photographer Scott Ritenour. Many thanks also to Cori Coffman, Executive Director of the Eisner American Museum of Advertising and Design for doing so much to ensure that both the judging and the upcoming celebration maintain the highest possible standards and for providing one year Eisner memberships to all of our winners. To experience and respond to these photographic moments firsthand, please join VITAL at the Eisner on Thursday, August 14 for Random Exposure: The Show. The winners, jury selections, and VITAL’s staff picks will be on display, and you’ll have an opportunity to vote for your favorite as well as win prizes.VS BEST OF SHOW Best Portrait – Amateur Nikki McGuinnis, “Keep Refrigerated” Best Action – Amateur Nikki McGuinnis, “Lennox” Nikki McGuinnis began by watching. Then she took to documenting what she saw – or imagined. She has studied shape, symmetry and balance through drawing, painting and most keenly through photography and image manipulation. She is most moved by saturation and intimacy and works to recognize opportunities to capture images that offer the brightness of life with the promise of pain – a bruised beauty. meancamp.com Best Action – Professional Nathaniel Davauer, “The Main Event” Born and raised in the countryside of southern Wisconsin, Nathaniel Davauer spent his formative years working on the family farm. He left the cows behind to earn an art degree at UW Madison in the 90s. His love for photography developed while living and working in China. He photographs people, weddings, sports and kids but his passion still lies in fleeting, mysterious moments captured while […]

The Wackness

The Wackness

By

Mummy 3 Review

Mummy 3 Review

The Police

The Police

By Jim Cryns You can identify the number of 80s bands that can currently sell out a major venue on one hand. The Rolling Stones and The Police are among first that come to mind. The Police are and always have been a hard-hitting band with more power than three men should be able to provide. Together, they flex musical muscles greater than ensembles with twice the members. On a steamy summer night on the shores of Lake Michigan, Sting seemed genuinely happy to be in Milwaukee. On previous tours decades (or lifetimes) ago, he appeared to have a huge chip on his shoulder and an Elvis sneer, all part of his bad-boy image. As the band released Ghost in the Machine in 1981, Sting appeared to rage against the machine as well. Last Friday he was more avuncular and seemingly approachable. And some thirty years after the band first roared onto the U.S. music scene, Sting’s voice miraculously hasn’t lost a step. From the opening tune, Sting was into the gig, smiling, smirking, making eye contact with the front row. He was also sweating up a storm in his black pullover, black jeans and black combat boots. He grooved and swaggered with his well-worn bass flailing in his arms, sporting a rugged beard. Andy Summers sported what can only be described as a cross between Seinfeld’s puffy shirt and Jimmy Buffet Parrot-Head blouse. Stewart Copeland was just plain cool in a Police jersey and head band. Since the band’s last tour in 1984, technology has developed exponentially. Video screens and HD cameras capture every nuance of a performance, and The Police utilized the medium effectively at the Marcus Amphitheater. Four screens captured the finger-work of Andy Summers, the frenzied percussion precision of Stewart Copeland, and the charismatic visage of Sting and all he embodies. During “Invisible Sun,” the screens displayed children from throughout some of the world’s most devastated places, as photographed by friend and photographer Bobby Sager. The images are powerful, even heart-stopping. Twenty-five years ago the it was possible to miss the message in the melody; not so now. It took this series of images to bring the song to its full fruition. The band was tight both musically and in physical proximity, as if to give the impression (maybe to the guys themselves?) that the show was happening in a much more intimate venue. Copeland’s drum kit was quite close to the edge of the stage. Sting and Summers were right on the flanks of Copeland, rarely straying from their microphones. The Police didn’t need to jump around to entertain the crowd, their huge catalog of songs strutted ably on its own. While the production values were as impressive as one would expect, they were used to good effect rather than to upstage the music itself. Like all good maestros of rock and roll reunion tours, Sting cajoled the crowd to sing along, and Milwaukee didn’t disappoint. The band was playful, perhaps a bit mischievous, like […]

Systems, Please Wait Ten Minutes & This is Entitled: This is Entitled
Systems, Please Wait Ten Minutes & This is Entitled

This is Entitled

By Jaymee Sherman On a muggy Thursday evening they filed into the dark space in search of something cool and refreshing. But it wasn’t air conditioning or beer on tap that beckoned them – it was hip and, for the most part, satisfying theater that was anything but escapist. Tonight, beyond the Fourth Wall, the audience would be invited to explore along with the actors the existential ruminations of three playwrights. The Alchemist Theatre in Bay View currently hosts Insurgent Theatre’s original series of meta-theatre pieces that all take aim at the Fourth Wall – prodding it, peeking through it, breaking it down and sometimes completely demolishing it. At evening’s end one is left to ponder just when fiction and reality began to merge and where scripted lines gave way to improv. Everything melds into one and the rules fall by the wayside. The evening started out with a bang with Russ Bickerstaff’s Please Wait Ten Minutes, the story of two hired assassins, polar opposites in demeanor, who debate over their profession, life and the findings of the Warren Commission. Pensive Nova, played deftly by Peterson Kuyk-White, laments over the absence of honesty and morality in the modern world. Soma, played to perfection by Kirk Thompson, is a guy who asks no questions and just gets it done. When responding to Nova’s sudden meeting with conscience he replies with a sardonic, “We’re assassins,” and then the play takes off. Thompson’s comic prowess and his unselfconscious portrayal make Soma a likeable guy – for a hitman. Nova, the neophyte, is more philosophy professor than assassin’s protégé. The Fourth Wall begins to crack when Nova admits to being ill-at-ease in the presence of witnesses. At any moment, their target could appear and they’d be called to action before this strange group of people, the audience. Soma completely dismantles the Fourth Wall when he reminds Nova that they’re only actors playing a part. No one will really be killed, therefore no one need feel guilty. Thereafter, while seated at a table, the actors flip through the script referring to lines of dialog and the playwright’s intent in a casual and off-the-cuff style. Their skillfulness with comedy and their unaffected delivery throughout made laughter both easy and irresistible. Companion piece Systems by Peter J Woods featured the delightfully fresh and funny Tracy Doyle as the superficial Diawl and Cynthia Kmak as Mior, the perfect picture of today’s modern worker lost in the system and trying to find a way out. Another study in opposites, here two people pressed into the same lifestyle cope with futility – one thrives, the other squirms, frets and struggles to find meaning where there is none. Diawl, content to live a lifetime of redundancy, is cheery and playful, taunting her co-worker and companion in a space-age style version of the office cubicle. She jabs at Mior with impish glee as Mior strains to lift herself out of an existence devoid of promise. Beyond the Fourth Wall, where the light […]

Dark Knight Review

Dark Knight Review

Both Sides of The Tube: NBC
Both Sides of The Tube

NBC

Paint the Town

Paint the Town

By Burt Wardall What if a pair of terrorist revolutionaries lived among us? These days we tend to picture terrorists as olive-skinned men who speak in broken English. But what if terrorists looked and sounded just like us? What would they do? How would they act? How would they live in today’s society? Rex Winsome’s Paint the Town provides a glimpse into just that. Paint the Town is a tale of young revolutionary couple Big Red (Winsome) and his girlfriend Nadia (Kate Pleuss), who live in a cardboard shack in a long-forgotten corridor of a subway system. They have isolated themselves from the norms of society and live by their own rules. They rob and steal for the majority of their sustenance. Nadia’s mother was also a terrorist once, but has since changed her name, married and lives a “normal” life. Red – clearly severely disturbed – believes it’s Nadia’s birthright to continue the life her mother forsook. Nadia’s half-brother Arthur (Jason Hames) has chosen a different path in life, following his father’s footsteps to become a doctor. Nadia and Arthur still maintain a close relationship, but obviously Arthur doesn’t understand or approve of his sister’s lifestyle, nor does he care for Red. Red thinks he’s “saving” Nadia from her perfect little family – so he sets out to eliminate them, creating explosive devices both deceptive – one is designed to look like a present – and elaborate. Red may be a horrible murderer, but he is passionate about his craft. Winsome conveys Red’s despicable personality so skillfully that you’d probably hate him just as much if he were a bank teller rather than a killer. He’s highly intelligent – but he’s annoying. He’s condescending. And his always-calm demeanor makes you want to smack him! You can just tell that his character gets a perverse pleasure from flustering his verbal opponents while he remains stoic and composed. Paint the Town is satisfying, disturbing and highly entertaining. Its glimpse into a world of terror – devoid of emotion – chills, even when we feel, somehow, a little sympathetic toward Nadia, even though she is every bit the monster that Red is, or distressed for Arthur when he loses it. A quote on the back of the program reads: “If all society is a sculpture, then a revolutionary has to be an artist.” Nadia’s final scene takes this quote to grotesque proportions. And that’s a good thing. VS

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Spring Green
MHC Member Makes History as First American Selected for All-Ireland “Poc Fada”

MHC Member Makes History as First American Selected for All-Ireland “Poc Fada”

A Milwaukee athlete is on the verge of an historic first: Dan McAuliffe, a member of the Milwaukee Hurling Club, has been selected to participate in one of Ireland’s most popular and prestigious sporting events – the “Poc Fada” (“long puck [hit]” in Irish) on August 2, 2008. This marks the first time that an American-born player will be competing in this cross-country version of Ireland’s signature sport. In its usual form, hurling is a team sport played on a field or “pitch” slightly larger than a soccer field. Grouped in teams of 15, the players use a curved stick made of ash (a hurley) to move a baseball-sized sliothar (pronounced “slitter”) down the field. The Poc Fada takes the sport to an individual level. Beginning in the town of Annaverna, Ireland, twelve invited competitors must “puck” a sliotar with a hurley along a course that runs a little more than five kilometers over the Cooley Mountains. An Corn Cuailgne (“The Cooley Cup”) is awarded to the player who takes the lowest number of hits. Featuring a field of hurling’s “All Stars” from the best teams in Ireland, the competition garners a great deal of television and press coverage every year. The event, which has taken place annually since 1961, is currently sponsored by M Donnelly & Co. Ltd., Ireland’s leading distributor of Milwaukee Power Tools. M Donnelly has also been a strong supporter of the MHC, and will once again be a sponsor of the club’s Youth League trip to Ireland in spring of 2009. “As far as being the first American to compete, I’m thrilled and honored to represent Milwaukee,” McAuliffe says. “I believe being invited reflects that Milwaukee has made a name for itself in the hurling world, not only for its introduction of the sport to a broad American audience but also its level of skill.” Training has presented a bit of a challenge for Dan, as Wisconsin is a little short on mountains. However, he has been improvising by running up the larger hills in our area, and is being assisted by an ad hoc training “team” of proud colleagues from the Milwaukee Hurling Club. About the Milwaukee Hurling Club Founded in 1996 by a group of locals who were inspired by a friend who had seen the game in Ireland, the MHC has since attracted attention and respect throughout the world for its growth and support of the sport. In the last two years alone, the club has been honored with founding member Dave Olson wining the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Presidents Award in Ireland, NAGAA championships for Junior B Hurling and Junior Camoige teams, the youth league’s first trip to Ireland, and GAA President Nicky Brennan’s visit to Milwaukee. A unique mix of aggression, speed, grace, and skill, hurling is a team sport played on a field or “pitch” slightly larger than a soccer field. Grouped in teams of 15, the players use a curved stick made of ash (a hurley) to move a […]

Celebrate Your Independents Prize Drawing

Celebrate Your Independents Prize Drawing

The prize drawing entry form is available online here: http://www.vitalsourcemag.com/index.php/events/celebrate/

Icy Demons

Icy Demons

By Kyle Shaffer An open-door policy in a musical project seems is an obvious catalyst for experimentation. But when that collective implements an initiation process – involving alter egos – all your circuit-bent guitar pedals and Godspeed You Black Emperor! albums may not prepare you for what you’re about to experience. That’s the idea behind Icy Demons’ latest, Miami Ice, as the group challenges listeners to journey into poppy experimentalism as opposed to experimental pop. Chris Powell (aka PowPow) and Griffin Rodriguez (aka Blue Hawaii) are the group’s founders, though no one really appears to be at the wheel of the project. A slew of guest artists, including Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker, make up the supporting cast on this trippy, unpredictable release. Icy Demons hit their stride amidst quirky, repetitive melodies a la Broken Social Scene on “Spywatchers” and “1850,” making use of everything from cello riffs to vintage keyboard sounds. And while the title track hints at pop immediacy, the songs keep shifting in the neo-prog/jazz of opener “Buffalo Bill” and the lounge room sway of “Summer Samba”. Were it not for the spacey time shifts and alien synth lines, Miami Ice might almost sound terrestrial. But this album may as well be the soundtrack to a robot-only sex party or Martians shooting up heroin. There’s certainly something to be said for the ingenuity and left-field antics that run amok on this release – it just may not be translatable in any earthly tongue.

Triptych

Triptych

By Nicholas Grider Triptych sells itself as a cross-disciplinary experiment in the ways that three different media — visual arts, dance, and music — mesh and fail to mesh in a performance setting, and on those terms alone it’s a great success, despite the somewhat apologetic attitude of the piece’s creators. The result of both collaboration and independent (but side-by-side) work, Triptych presents the efforts of composer Christopher Burns, visual artist Leslie Vansen and choreographer Luc Vanier to explore how effectively their methods might be synthesized. The fact that the answer to this question is yes and no provides the audience with a rich, provocative experience of a work that already has multiple points of entry. And besides that, the work is a sheer pleasure to watch. Luc Vanier’s choreography, in particular, was a welcome shove away from traditional dance concert, with roots in the work of the Judson Dance Theater and Allan Kaprow’s early happenings (as well as a pretty direct nod to Goat Island). Vanier uses the various rooms of the performance as a means to break or ignore many of the conventions of traditional dance theatre. My favorite piece of inspired recklessness: the well-lit floor space where you expect the dancers to stay doesn’t represent any real boundaries at all, and often dancers would swing very close to the audience or move completely out of the light so matter-of-factly that the rooms themselves became sculptural spaces and light became as much of a participant as the music, choreography, or animations. (Also keep your eyes peeled for the play with gender roles in the duet in part two.) There were smaller signs of a tossed-aside rulebook, too – like the lack of presence or tension in the dancers’ arms during their more quotidian moves – but in the mashing-together of art, music, and dance, it is Vanier (and the uniformly excellent dancers) who does most of the heavy lifting. This is not to say that Burns and Vansen’s contributions aren’t just as engaging – just crowded out a little by the physical fact of bodies in motion. This is one discovery that Triptych makes, and even if it’s not new, it’s relevant: it’s awfully hard to balance very different modes of expression (as was the plan in part two of the triptych). Sometimes simply setting things alongside each other is more successful, as it was with Burns’ lead-off percussion solo in the first act (think Morton Feldman with the volume cranked) and the labyrinth of the triptych’s third part, in which Vansen’s drawings and animation appeared as projections through which dancers and audience members have to navigate, filling Vansen’s elegant abstractions with the narrative implications of both the dancers’ and spectators’ shadows. I still feel, here, as if I’m selling Triptych somewhat short, because what’s ultimately thrilling about it beyond its quality is that it’s openly and unrepentantly an experiment, a kind of willingness to raise the stakes that Milwaukee has rarely seen since Theatre X in its […]

Reasons to vote Republican
Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!

Smoker’s Paradox: Photographs by Mike Brenner Annual Members Show June 20 — July 25 Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 911 W. National Avenue Opening reception: Friday, June 20, 6-9 pm Mike Brenner, former proprietor of Hotcakes Gallery, has emerged from that grave, and, at age 34, is busy re-inventing himself, most recently in the annual Members Show at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (WPCA). He sent me notice and a link to his “Smoker’s Paradox” series wherein he seems to be wearing a hunk of pink fluff on his pate while smoking cigs around town. Three of his 8.5”x l1” photographic images (priced to sell @ $20 each, unframed, and $40 framed) will be available. You don’t have to be a smoker to buy them. Last year around this time, 67 artists participated in the exhibition, so Brenner won’t be flying solo. From what I saw online, Brenner’s entire series (three selected for the exhibit) fill two of my basic three rules for what art is: content and consistency. As for the craftsmanship in his photographs, Brenner emailed this to me: “Overall, I’m not super happy with the quality of the final product, but I think an important part of the process is to put ideas out there and get feedback. My camera was stolen when the gallery was robbed a few years back, so the images were taken with a cheap-ish point and shoot digital and I just printed them out on a printer at home because I’m broke right now and couldn’t afford to send them out to be done.” Brenner studied art for a year and a half at Colorado State University, then went on to study photography at MIAD before graduating in 2000 with a degree in graphic design. WPCA – housed in a building that once belonged to Mr. J.L. Burnham, creator of cream city bricks – is a good fit for him. People like to hang out on the front steps smoking cigs and soaking up the local color. Early issues of Art Muscle magazine were produced in the ballroom on the third floor, and over the years, many artists have lived in its apartment spaces. A few have continued to work in the arts. In many ways, the historic venue is like Brenner himself, who is also a gritty survivor. His “Smokers Paradox” photographs set off lyrics from Tex Ritter’s 1947 tune (written by Merle Travis) … I light up a cig and listen to this wafting through my head: “But nicotine slaves are all the same at a pettin’ party or a poker game; everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette.” This past December, Brenner sold out the photographs he exhibited at Miami Aqua. Using the alias “Samuel Baxter,” he even earned a mention on artinfo.com. “What a coup for a kid from Wisconsin to get a blurb for selling $5 photos in Miami,” Brenner says. But whoa, is Brenner really smoking cigarettes these days? He told me he […]

Insurgent Theatre needs your old junk!

Insurgent Theatre needs your old junk!

Insurgent Theatre ain’t too proud to beg cuz their commitment to re-use, re-cycling, and re-ally affordable theater is more important than their pride. Here is a list of materials needed for their ambitious summer plans (check out insurgenttheatre.org to see what those plans are): RAW MATERIALS -1 x 4 lumber, lots of it. Approx 4 ft lengths or longer -4″ diameter PVC pipe, we need 11 ten foot lengths. -4″ PVC couplers, right angles, three sides, T-bones, etc -Duct tape -electrical tape -loose pin hinges (common door hinges) -silver paint that will stick to PVC -8 to 10 yards heavy white fabric (for sewing into costumes) SET PIECES (LARGE PROPS) -a cot that folds up real small and brings the sleeper at least 12 inches off the floor. -two identically matching desks, either white, or can be painted white, with drawer -two identically matching straight back armless chairs, also white or paintable, should look okay with the desks -2 rolling office chairs PROPS -2 matching unbreakable white dinner plates -2 fake sniper rifles -How-To books about basic electrical work, demolitions, or hand to hand combat. Especially with large audience-readable titles on them. -shiny wrapping paper, to wrap a box the size of a hatbox or large shoe box -4 large heavy duty canvas sacks, no printing on them -4 inflatable pillows (to go inside the sacks and make them look full) -old paint rollers/brushes -an old, non-working cell phone COSTUMES -2 50’s style men’s suits (sizes TBA) -black button up shirts -black beret -2 identical pair white high heel shoes, size 8 and 9. -6 mother of pearl buttons -2 pair nylons -2 identical pair white button earrings – fashionable medium to small sized long raincoat, film noir-ish. If you’ve got this stuff laying around, or know how to get it cheaper than normal, please call Rex at 414.305.9832!

Incredible Hulk Review

Incredible Hulk Review

The Undiscovered

The Undiscovered

By Ken Olson A door closed noisily. With a lazy start, Greg Norton woke up. Even in the dark, he squinted as he propped himself up on one elbow, listening. Had the door been one of those inside his apartment? Or even the front door? It took him a moment to remember that he wasn’t home alone as he normally was. Tonight he was babysitting his best friend Gina’s son Adam. Maybe the kid had gotten up and gone to the bathroom. Only, it didn’t look like the living room light was on. If it were, he could see it under the bedroom door. Surely Adam would need to turn a light on in order to find his way to the bathroom. The layout of Gina and Adam’s apartment three floors above Greg’s, 602, was the same as his, so maybe not. Greg listened for a minute or two, waiting to hear the toilet flush, or any other sound. But after a few minutes, there was still nothing. He clicked his bedside lamp on, and the room was filled with a golden light, throwing deep, black shadows to all corners. He pushed the sheets behind him and got out of bed, picking up a T-shirt that he’d dropped onto a chair. Greg put the shirt on and stuck his head out the bedroom door. From there, he could see the rest of the apartment. The bathroom door was ajar and the light wasn’t turned on. In the living room, the fold-out bed was indeed empty. There was no one in the kitchen. “Adam?” he called, stepping toward the bathroom door. He leaned in and turned on the white light. Nobody there. He rushed into the living room and turned on the nearest lamp. The kid was gone. “Shit,” Greg said aloud, throwing a glance at the front door. The bolt was unlocked, and the chain was hanging loose. He’d locked them both after he’d put Adam to bed. He jogged to the front door and opened it. He called Adam’s name again, looking side to side down the pale green hall. He didn’t see anybody. “Fuck. Adam?” he called more loudly, stepping out and closing the door behind him. Greg suddenly realized that he wasn’t wearing anything on his feet, and he didn’t want to leave the apartment unlocked if he left to go looking for the kid. With another curse he returned to the apartment and put his keys in the pocket of his sweat pants. He sat on the edge of the fold-out bed and put his shoes on. While he tied them, he thought back to the previous day, Saturday, when Gina had first asked him to babysit Adam. When he’d hesitated to say yes, Gina had said, “Please? Come on, there’s no one else.” “But I don’t like kids.” Out of range for Adam to hear it of course. “It’s just for one night. I’m not leaving until seven, he goes to bed at eight, and […]

Pygmies in Chimayo

Pygmies in Chimayo

By Justin Burke Long before they filed for divorce late in 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Bourbon had lost their hankering for the Corriente cattle ranch. Over the last decade they had made the venture successful and had profited greatly from the growing rodeo market. In March of the following year they auctioned off the stock, equipment, and work vehicles while a realtor out of Las Vegas placed a “For Sale” sign to the left of the massive log placard that arched over the entrance and read in a deep wood-burned script: Bourbon Ranch National Corriente, Ltd. Ocate, New Mexico Mr. Bourbon moved to Phoenix where he had a girlfriend and she moved back east to be with her own people. After cleaning out and locking up the living quarters, the score of ranch hands embraced and wished each other luck before sauntering out in a dusty line of pickups. They all had plans, or at least they all claimed to have work lined up elsewhere. Everyone, that is, except Darren. Until the dissolution of the business and the dispersement of the family of co-workers he had known for the past five years, he assumed — at the age of 28 — that he would grow old on the Bourbon Ranch. Darren had imagined an unbroken destiny of outdoor work, busy hands, the daily pitting of man and beast, the surreal midnight birthings, hooves of horse and calf pounding an anxious beat along the pink earth and the whir of hemp cycling through a dry blue sky. The young man could hardly fathom an end to the monthly Saturday dinners at the Las Vegas Hotel — hearty meals courtesy of the Bourbons, chased by cold pilsners, petty gambling, shots of whiskey that fell in quality at every round, jovial boasts and fibs, and finally, with any luck, a shrugging off of desire and waking to a quiet Sunday morning with Sandy the hostess, who, for the last two years, had demanded nothing of him. All in all his ambitions were met. During the sell off, the most commonly asked question around the ranch was “What are you gonna do?” And until he turned and looked for the last time at the weathered placard towering above the “For Sale” sign, Darren still had little idea. Since they had barely spent a sober moment together and though she had offered respite, he was wary of imposing upon his goodtime girlfriend in Las Vegas. A mother and sister in Oklahoma held no interest for him. But he did have an open invite from an old school friend living in Chimayó and thought he’d pay him a visit—Tricky Nick, currently managing properties and as always, selling marijuana on the side. Without enthusiasm Darren made up his mind and throttled his old S-10 outside of the gate, kicking up dried sprigs of chamisa on his way out. “No, Bro. You can have it,” said Nick as he jarred the entry door, rattling the length of the […]

The smell of fresh water

The smell of fresh water

This short story was a finalist in VITAL Source's 2008 fiction contest.

The Phreaks

The Phreaks

By Ken Brosky I knew this guy, babe, he could do things with his mouth you ain’t never seen. And I ain’t talking about sex here, all right? All right? Get your head out of the gutter and listen to me, because this is a story that’s gonna blow your mind. There was a guy named Steve who called himself Nines and a guy named Simon who called himself Case. And they were both Phreaks — not the kind we used to make fun of back in high school, not those freaks. I’m talking about Phreaks, babe: phone hackers. Guys who could work the phone system like a clitoris. They could do things that weren’t even supposed to be possible. Getting free calls was just the beginning for these guys, babe. Let me start with Nines, because Nines was the godfather of them all. Nines didn’t really start the whole idea of phone hacking, I don’t think, because there’s no way to tell who really first started hacking phones, you know? But Nines was something incredible, and he knew it and he flaunted it. What did he do? I’ll tell you what he fucking did. He whistled. It all started in the 1960s, when Cap’n Crunch cereal included a free toy whistle in every box. The whistle just so happened to produce a 2600hz tone, which is the exact same tone that AT&T used as a steady signal for unused long-distance lines. Bear with me, babe, bear with me. I’m gonna explain this so even you understand it and appreciate it. What happened was someone figured out that by dialing a number and blowing the whistle into the phone, the phone company was tricked into assuming that the line wasn’t being used. After you blew the whistle, you could call anyone in the world for free. You get it, babe? We’re talking free phone calls anywhere in the world, just by blowing that whistle into the phone. Think of AT&T Bell as a big fat bitch—she’s tough to get by, but she’s gotta have a sweet tooth of some kind. You get it? Good, so get this: Nines taught himself to whistle that tone. Not only did he match the 2600hz pitch, he could whistle all of the tones for each of the numbers, which made it even easier to dial free long-distance anywhere. It started as a parlor trick, something he could do at college parties to get free beer or to get laid. Hey, how bad could that have been? Sure the guy was ugly as hell, but those long-distance bills to the parents could put a dent in the drinking money. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t consider it, babe — three minutes of sex with the lights out in exchange for a free half hour of family talk? Hell, I’d consider too, back in those days when there weren’t any cell phones and shit. We’ll get back to the sex, because the sex turns out to be […]

Chickens

Chickens

By Craig Reinbold It was already mostly bone when he found it, the rooster, white ends picked clean, marrow exposed, sucked dry, bone still stuck here and there with pieces of feather, little strings of meat. The head was untouched, preserved, pristine, except for the eyes, which had been eaten. Chickens will eat their own, once it’s dead, if it’s left, if it’s not cleaned, not disposed of. It had been there for days. He only found it then because she had driven off that morning and in the new quiet he had heard them—and remembered it had been a week since they’d been fed. That was the morning. Now it’s night, a Friday in August. The air is warm, the sky is clear, and at this time, this far out from the city, there is nothing to do. He sits at the edge of the patio behind their house, a glass with more whisky than coke on the concrete beneath his hand. His feet kick at the dirt that will still someday—he hopes—be grass. He listens for something, but there is nothing to listen for and he knows that — this is what he wanted. To live next to nothing, and in doing so to have everything. That was the idea, his idea. The chickens had been hers. He can barely hear them now, all their squawking, though there are a dozen of them twenty feet from the house, cooped up. He thinks of sleeping, but doesn’t want to move. Stars, stars, trees, and darkness, and nothing in the world to do. He wonders when she will come home. * They drove his Civic out to the lot on a Sunday so Sarah could see the land before they made it theirs. Forty minutes on the freeway, twenty more on small roads past land separated by wires and fences. It was being offered cheap. The owners were an old retired couple. One had died, the other was put in a home. They had lived there less than a year. The house was almost new, but none of their family wanted to live that far out, better to sell it quick, get what they could for it. The mailbox was one of those big specialty mailboxes, painted with a muscular bass splashing out of green water, an oversized hook caught in its lip. The driveway was unpaved and lined on either side by a row of small pines. They parked the car, stepped out onto the gravel. Some small deciduous trees, it was hard to tell what kind exactly, were scattered around the yard. “Someday these trees are going to be big.” “Where’s the grass, George?” “He said the yard needed some work.” She surveyed their potential land. “Is the house at least finished?” “He said it’s in perfect shape.” They looked towards the single-story saltbox house at the bottom of the driveway, light-blue, with a black shingled rooftop. “The yard’s why we can get it so cheap.” “Right.” He […]

Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares @ The Pabst Theater

Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares @ The Pabst Theater

By Ellen Burmeister Photo by CJ Foeckler Ecstatic, chilling, astonishing and profoundly moving: at a time in which most vocal music is digitized and synthesized to the nth degree, the sound of the Bulgarian Women’s Television Choir (known since the 1980s as “Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares” — the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices — from their renowned, influential recordings) is a refreshing blast of reality in an increasingly homogenized global culture. Emerging from one of the lesser-known corners of Eastern Europe, this choir of about 20 women is a living example of the effects history can have on art. While many of the arrangements they performed at their May 16 appearance at the Pabst Theater are the creation of modern Bulgarian composers, the music they perform reflects the influence of past empires and invaders: Ottoman Turks, Byzantines, and even far older traditions from the ancient Greek world. Even their tone is something very different. While trained singers in the West concentrate on rounded, open tones powered from the diaphragm, the Bulgarian style comes from the throat and head. This is music meant to be performed outdoors, and its hyper-focused timbre ranges from sustained straight notes that seem to go on forever to vocal acrobatics that evoke Middle Eastern music. Starting the program arrayed across the stage in stunning regional costumes, the choir filled the pitch-perfect space of the Pabst with one amazing arrangement after another – all a capella and all memorized. These were not simple repetitive tunes, either: they broke into two, four, even six parts. The harmonies were even more astounding, “breaking the rules” with seconds, sevenths, and forays into quarter tones, gliding in and out of dissonance and resolution with ease. Add in the demands of mind-boggling rhythms and tricky diction, and the result was an entirely new exposition of the possibilities of “the choral art.” In the second half of the show, the group switched to more contemporary black concert dress. The effect was interesting; it helped to showcase the music itself, and seemed to put it in a more “modern” context (the opening number, “Mehmetyo [Girl’s Name]” included close harmonies and rhythmic undertones that evoked minimalist composer John Adams). Director Dora Hristova handled these formidable forces with ease, but this multi-generational group also exhibited the kind of ensemble sensitivity that only comes from years of practice and rehearsal. Boldly confident in their entrances, seemingly intuitive in their group interpretations, and charming in their interaction, they also easily broke off into trios, quartets, and other small groupings, some with male vocalists. This is music that definitely challenges our ideas of what choral music is all about, with its unexpected yips and cries, snippets of dialogue, and full-throated, wavering chords. Ancient and post-modern at the same time, the sound of the Bulgarian Women’s Television Choir reminds us that the human voice on its own is still the most powerful, versatile instrument ever created. VS To listen to clips of Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, visit the […]

May 24th – Tiger Army @ Turner Hall

May 24th – Tiger Army @ Turner Hall

Get ready for this Vital sponsored invasion of the Tiger Army. It begins at 8PM on May 24th at Turner Hall. Opening acts are The Unseen and War Tapes. Members of Vital will be there to give out goodies and we’ll have drawings for free tickets to other Vital shows at Turner. Don’t miss it!

We’ll do it live! (NSFW)
BIKE TO WORK WEEK SPECIAL: More than just a ride
BIKE TO WORK WEEK SPECIAL

More than just a ride

By Rebecca Cook Photos by Harvey Opgenorth + Photo of Harvey by Rebecca Cook Milwaukee artist Harvey Opgenorth looks to his surroundings for inspiration and the ever-present possibility of an art experience. A man with an eye for detail, Harvey constantly surveys his environment, savoring details as simple as a crack in the sidewalk. Examining the everyday objects that many of us take for granted has moved him to artistically explore fresh ways of presenting these objects. The result causes the viewer to pause and reconsider; Harvey challenges traditional perception. Over the last few years, he’s plumbed the possibilities of the art inherent in the design and use of bicycles. It started with a fixed gear; it was love at first sight. The attraction lay in the simplicity and utilitarian nature of the bike. It represented a convergence of form and function that fascinated Harvey. It also provided another outlet for his creative impulses. In honor of Bike to Work Week, Harvey sat down with me to talk about the role bikes play in daily life. VS: Do you remember your first bike? HO: Definitely. It was a blue bike with a yellow plastic seat and chrome fenders. I think it was a Sears Special. I remember always using my feet as breaks. There is actually Super 8 footage on me riding that bike! VS: How many bikes do you have? HO: Three. I have two fixed gears; one is my commuter and one is my track bike. The other is my multi-speed road bike. VS: Your background in painting and sculpture, no doubt, plays a significant role in the bikes you build. What’s your process? HO: With the first bike I built, I wanted a bike that was the dictionary definition of a bike. So when I was building this bike I had a very specific blueprint in my head of what a quintessential bike is to me and utilized that to build it. It was very simplified. There weren’t any logos … it was almost making a cartoon of itself. A good comparison would be to think of a tree. It’s probably an idealized tree in your head, and that is how I treated that project. Of course, the quintessential idea is different for everyone, and the process is different with every bike. For example, low-riders are primarily about aesthetics. It functions smoothly but is about the look. It’s not necessarily about getting from point A to point B quickly. Whereas the high-end racing bike is more about technological advances and the way it functions. The aesthetics are secondary. My personal interest with bikes and art is to find a good balance between both sides, to make the project well rounded. The bike, for me, needs to both function well and be easily maintained, but also have a pleasing aesthetic … basically making something that is timeless and built with quality versus a fad. VS: Do you consider yourself a bike artist? HO: No, I see myself as […]

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

New Name for Milwaukee Dance Theatre now in its 20th Season!

New Name for Milwaukee Dance Theatre now in its 20th Season!

Isabelle Kralj & Mark Anderson’s Milwaukee Dance Theatre, celebrating its 20th Anniversary, approaches the next 20 years with a new name! Why the name change? Founded in 1987 by Isabelle Kralj, Milwaukee Dance Theatre (MDT) was conceived as an eclectic performance group with an emphasis on dance, but not dance alone. During the first decade of MDT, besides pure dance concerts, Kralj produced her own work, which was a combination of text, dance and music – or what is known as hybrid theatre. Some of the most popular of those early theatre works included, Escapades of Kurent, A Soldier’s Tale, MDT Meets Mozart. And now, at the cusp of the next 20 Years – full of ideas and ready to embrace constant conceptual growth, Kralj and Anderson and the Board of Directors readdressed the name and its accurateness in defining the company brand. The big question was, what do you call a company committed to creating original, collaborative, and innovative hybrid theater? …and the answer was THEATRE GIGANTE (pronounced “ji – GAHN – teh”).

Fat Pig

Fat Pig

By Jill Gilmer I eagerly anticipated the opening of Fat Pig, if only to learn who its catchy title referred to. The answer surprised me. Contrary to popular belief, the Fat Pig was not the overweight leading lady, played with perfection by Tanya Saracho. Neither was it her commitment-phobic boyfriend or one of his obnoxious co-workers, although any of them could have easily earned the title. The Fat Pig may well be society. Fat Pig is a romantic comedy centered on a skinny, all-American guy named Tom who falls for a pretty but obese woman named Helen. The story explores the fall-out when two of Tom’s co-workers, Jeannie and Carter, discover the latest object of Tom’s affections. Carter, Tom’s misogynistic buddy, posts a photo of Helen in the company cafeteria in an attempt to shame Tom into ending his relationship with his overweight girlfriend. Jeannie, a beautiful and slender accountant who becomes obsessed with Tom after their brief romantic relationship ends, is equally incredulous. One of the funniest scenes is a cat & mouse exchange between Tom and Jennie in which she attempts to expose his lie about a recent dinner with “a colleague from Chicago” by demanding that he turn in an expense report. The colleague, of course, was Helen. Playwright Neil LaBute attempts to create more than a simple romantic comedy. He tiptoes on social commentary by slamming society’s – and many men’s – obsession with thinness as the standard of female beauty. He also suggests that our rejection of overweight people is rooted in our own insecurities. During a rare moment in which Carter is not acting like a character from American Pie, he reflects, “We’re all just one step away from being what frightens us. What we despise. So we despise it when we see it in anybody else.” This is LaBute’s signature style: his depiction of immoral characters who preach about morality. Unfortunately, the script does not go far enough to develop these ideas on more than a superficial level. More disappointing is this production’s failure to tap into the most intriguing element in the script, which is the opportunity to force the audience to turn a mirror on itself. How willing are we to fight for that which we believe in – even that which we love? LaBute seems to encourage the audience to root for Tom to have the strength to follow his heart. But this necessitates that they identify more closely with him. Although Braden Moran portrays Tom as a likeable enough character, he overplays Tom’s insecurities to the point that the audience feels more pity than empathy. Despite these shortcomings, Fat Pig is an entertaining play. Director Susan Fete should be commended in her casting of Wayne Carr and Tanya Saracho. Both of them deliver outstanding performances. Moreover, casting Carter as an African-American and Helen as a Mexican-American plays nicely to LaBute’s slightly irreverent script. For these two performances alone, Fat Pig is worth the ticket price. Fat Pig, presented by […]

Life’s remedy

Life’s remedy

By Charise Dawson One Milwaukeean has no trouble likening medicine to art. Dr. Curt Kommer, a Milwaukee artist and physician, will exhibit his artwork in his first gallery show at Lakeshore Gallery. The exhibit, Travelogues, a collection of oil and acrylic paintings, runs May 2 through May 31. According to Kommer, being an artist is like being a doctor: both roles require discipline and detail. “When I sit down, I can bring a lot of focus in it. A lot of the qualities of a doctor require the same focus and detail that artists need.” During his work as a family physician, Kommer made house calls to former UWM Professor of Art Joseph Friebert. The two discussed art and the late Friebert asked Kommer to show him his paintings. His encouragement inspired Kommer to continue showing other people his artwork. “He passed away about two years ago. I know he’d be so proud of me,” Kommer said. For the internationally known artist, painting was Friebert’s lifetime work. According to Kommer, he was still painting at 89 years old and reworking pieces he had done 30 years ago. “I used to be so sensitive about revising my work. You don’t want a physician who isn’t a perfectionist. You want him to get it exactly right the first time. But in art, you can start over. Friebert showed me that art is a living thing. It evolves. As it develops, we may change our minds,” said Kommer. Kommer, a Chicago native, had never left the city until he was 18. As a Chinese interpreter in the military, he took watercolor classes in Asia to relax. Ten years ago, his wife bought him a set of oil paints. He now uses oils and acrylics to create textures in his paintings. He received his M.D. from the University of California at Davis. Kommer has been with Columbia St. Mary’s since 1985. He is semi-retired from his family practice and works half-time in urgent care. Since his semi-retirement, Kommer wanted to see if any gallery would consider showing his paintings. Roger Tsang at Lakeshore Gallery was the first person he approached, and though Tsang really liked Kommer’s work, Cranston in the Third Ward was the first to show his art. Kommer and Tsang kept in touch, and about a year ago, the gallery showed and sold some of Kommer’s artwork. He was delighted when Tsang offered to have an entire show of Kommer’s work at Lakeshore Gallery. Kommer, who paints in the back bedroom of his house, said that seeing his paintings on the wall of the gallery, professionally lit, was thrilling. The exhibition is the first time the artist has seen all of his paintings in one place. “I’ve got some butterflies,” Kommer admitted about his first opening night reception at Lakeshore Gallery, a chance for art-lovers to meet the artist. “I don’t know if they are expecting me to walk around with a pipe and talk about every detail of each painting,” he […]

A New Brain

A New Brain

By Charise Dawson A real-life personal experience with arteriovenous malformation and the healing power of art inspired a Broadway musical now debuts in Milwaukee. Windfall Theatre closes its 15th season with A New Brain at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Avenue. The production runs May 2 through 17. William Finn’s A New Brain is a musical journey through the author’s real life. Finn, who was hospitalized shortly after winning Tony Awards for Falsettos, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and the musical is an attempt to recreate what it was like when he thought he would die and ended up living. The main character, Gordon Michael Schwinn, is a middle-aged songwriter who becomes ill with a brain disease. Actor Larry Birkett captures the characters’ struggle ably, balancing the news of his illness with the often exhausting comfort of his mother, lover and those around him. Meanwhile, he is charged with the task of writing the song that he hopes will become his legacy before undergoing a dangerous and risky operation. Supporting roles include Mr. Bungee, a children’s television star, who torments Schwinn’s psyche by telling him he is an artistic failure. The character is played by Thomas Rosenthal, who wears a bright frog costume and roams the stage on a green vintage bicycle. Roger Delli-Bovi is Schwinn’s lover, played by Marty McNamee. McNamee creates some of the play’s most vulnerable moments, including a song in which he invites Schwinn to spend the night before his operation sleeping in his arms. When the character believes his lover will not recover from his operation, he delivers a truly memorable performance of “A Really Lousy Day in the Universe.” Mimi Schwinn, the main character’s mother, is played by Marilyn White. White brings the perfect amount of sass and heart to the role, reminding the audience that a mother is a mother, no matter how old her son is. David Flores brings laughter to the role of as Richard, Schwinn’s nurse – a quirky gay man with hilarious facial expressions and physicality and a strong, idiosyncratic bass voice to boot. Tamara Martinsek, Kristin Pagnekopf, Carol Zippel, Bob Hirschi and Ben Geroge complete the cast. Each actor shines in his or her role while managing the ensemble pieces wonderfully. A personal favorite, “Gordo’s Law of Genetics,” is a funny number, showcasing the casts’ ability to coordinate various melodies and vocal parts. The musical direction by Chris Wszalek is solid, Kim O’Brien’s choreography is lively and thoughtful. Director Shawn Gulyas moves the action through the music seamlessly, a difficult and commendable task, considering the play’s complex settings and that it was almost completely sung-through. VS A New Brain runs May 2 through 17 at Village Church Arts at 130 E. Juneau Avenue. For tickets and information, call Windfall Theatre’s box office at 414-332-3963.

I’m sick!  Of health care talk, anyway
Spamalot

Spamalot

By Jim Cryns Like so many great comedy sketches, Monty Python’s antics tend to have an incredible life-span. From rather humble beginnings on PBS back in the ‘70s as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the Python empire has churned out some of the most enduring cult hits of our time, including Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was “lovingly ripped off” for Broadway three years ago in Spamalot. The production at the Marcus Center, part of Milwaukee’s Broadway Across America series (now – May 4), has something up its sleeve for everyone. If you know the films, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s coming, and I mean that in a good way. Spamalot is a hit with both women and men, a rarity where most musicals traditionally draw women. The loose plot follows King Arthur has he attempts to round up a cast of suitable knights to assist him in his quest for the Holy Grail: Sir Lancelot, Galahad and the timid and trouser-fouling Sir Robin. Tony Award winner Gary Beach is King Arthur, and you never get the feeling that Beach is a stage-glomming prima donna. He’s very giving onstage and present throughout the performance, save for a brief respite during the gay Galahad number. Brad Bradley, also a member of the original Broadway cast, says he loves his character Patsy: “He’d truly die for the king,” Bradley says, “and that’s an amazing quality. Patsy is dedicated, selfless, he truly cares.” Bradley admits the Python humor went over his head in high school, but he made up for lost time in college. “People come into the theater excited, even before the show starts.” American Idol phenom Clay Aiken joined the Broadway production as Sir Robin, the chicken-hearted knight who shits his armor throughout the show. Rocky Horror alumni Tim Curry originated the role of King Arthur on Broadway; Bradley says he was also great to work with. “Whenever you were with Tim,” Bradley says, “you always felt you were with the King. We’re all having a great time; we get to laugh for a living.” Familiar scenes from the movie come to life on the stage: the Trojan rabbit worked to perfection, as did the cow over the castle wall and blood-thirsty rabbit. Monks cross the stage chanting while smashing themselves in the head with wooden boards. You’ll see King Arthur defeat the Black Knight by cutting off his arms and legs, and in the “dark and very expensive forest” where the crew meets the Knights who say Ni, Patsy delivers one of the most popular Python bits, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Bradley says numbers are cut from shows with regularity. “They cut the ‘lighter than a duck’ scene from the play, and that was kind of depressing.” Part of the convention of Python is different roles played by the same actors. Bradley says producers have to ‘kill their babies’ periodically and take out songs […]

Happy Trails: VITAL’s Online Summer Recreation Guide
Happy Trails

VITAL’s Online Summer Recreation Guide

As promised, here’s our comprehensive guidebook for living low-impact this summer, with links, contact info and more good ideas than you can shake a stick at. Have fun! ADVENTURE CHARTER BOATS Lake Michigan dive charters, right outta Milwaukee. THE ALDO LEOPOLD FOUNDATION E13701 Levee Rd., Baraboo BIKE TO WORK WEEK May 11 – May 16, statewide. And check out the City of Milwaukee’s Milwaukee By Bike map! BURLINGTON CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL May 23 – 26 in Burlington CAVE OF THE MOUNDS 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd., Blue Mounds CEDAR GROVE CHEESE In Plain. 800-200-6020 CIRCUS WORLD MUSEUM 550 Water St., Baraboo 866-693-1500 CIVIL WAR MUSEUM 5400 1st Ave, Kenosha 262-653-4140 HOUSE ON THE ROCK In Spring Green. 608-935-3639 HEIDI FESTIVAL/TASTE & TREASURE of NEW GLARUS June 27-9 in New Glarus. LEN-DER CHARTERS Lake Michigan dive charters from Milwaukee. 414-482-1430 LIVING ADVENTURE 88260 State Hwy 13, Bayfield 866-779-9503 MILWAUKEE COUNTY PARKS Need we say more? MOREL MUSHROOM FESTIVAL May 17-18 in Muscoda NEENAH STREETBALL CHALLENGE June 14-15 in Neenah PORT WASHINGTON PIRATE FESTIVAL June 6-8 in Port Washington THE RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUSTAINABLE LIVING FAIR June 20-22 in Custer SPRING FORAGER’S HARVEST May 17-18, W5066 State Hwy 86, Ogema TEN CHIMNEYS ESTATE & FOUNDATION In Genesee Depot. 262-968-4110 WISCONSIN STATE PARKS Info on all of the parks, forests, recreation areas, state campgrounds and trails. GROTTOS DICKEYVILLE GROTTO 305 W Main St, Dickeyville 608-568-3119 GROTTO OF THE HOLY FAMILY St. Joseph, WI RUDOLPH GROTTO 6957 Grotto Ave., Rudolph 715-435-3120 WEGNER GROTTO Cataract, WI MEMORIALS KOREAN WAR MEMORIAL PARK OF WISCONSIN Worzella Pines Park, Plover MEMORIAL CLOCK TOWER Mead Rapids View Park, 1st and Baker St.,Wisconsin Rapids WISCONSIN STATE FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL Ben Hanson Park, 2nd Ave., Wisconsin Rapids MUSEUMS AMERICA’S BLACK HOLOCAUST MUSEUM 2233 N. 4th Street, Milwaukee 414-264-2500 BETTY BRINN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM 929 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee 414-291-0888 CAPTAIN FREDERICK PABST MUSEUM 2000 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee 414-931-0808 THE HEARTSTONE HOUSE 625 W. Prospect, Appleton 920-730-8204 THE HISTORY MUSEUM AT THE CASTLE 330 East College Avenue, Appleton 920-733-8445 HISTORIC MUSEUM WALKING TOURS 828 N. Broadway, Milwaukee 414-277-7795 INTERNATIONAL CLOWN HALL OF FAME 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue (inside the Grand Avenue Mall), Milwaukee 414-319-0848 KENOSHA HISTORICAL CENTER 262-654-5770 KENOSHA PUBLIC MUSEUM 5500 1st Ave, Kenosha 262-653-4140 MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee 414-224-3200 MILWAUKEE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY 910 N. Old World Third Street, Milwaukee 414-273-8288 MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM 800 W. Wells Street, Milwaukee 414-278-2702 MITCHELL GALLERY OF FLIGHT General Mitchell International Airport 5300 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee 414-747-5300 RACINE ART MUSEUM 2519 Northwestern Avenue, Racine 262-636-9177 RACINE HERITAGE MUSEUM 701 South Main Street, Racine 262-636 3926 WEIS EARTH SCIENCE MUSEUM University of Wisconsin Fox Valley Campus 920-832-0125 NATURE/GARDENS THE BARLOW PLANETARIUM 1478 Midway Road, Menasha 414-276-5760 BOERNER BOTANICAL GARDENS 5879 S. 92nd Street, Hales Corner 414-425-1130 GORDON BUBOLZ NATURE PRESERVE 4815 N. Lynndale Drive, Appleton 920-731-6041 GREEN BAY BOTANICAL GARDEN 2600 Larsen Road, Green Bay 920-490-9457 HECKRODT WETLAND RESERVE 1305 Plank Road, Menasha 920-720-9349 LAKE GENEVA ANIMAL GARDENS 5065 Highway […]

Son of Rambow

Son of Rambow

By

Story of the Year

Story of the Year

By Kyle Shaffer Defining one’s sound on a passing trend can prove a death blow for most acts. But, perhaps even more daunting a thought is that of trying to reformat a band’s sound to remain relevant. Story of the Year’s heyday was the release of Page Avenue amidst an explosion of screamo bands. Two albums and a few Warped Tours later, the St. Louis crew emerges with The Black Swan, a supposedly seamless integration of the catchiness of their debut with the heavy riffing of 2005’s In the Wake of Determination. While this album may mark the group’s ability to survive without major-label support, it’s full of enough generic guitar riffs and less-than-inspiring lyrics to make the dudes in Avenged Sevenfold hold back chuckles. Throughout, this record is shaking with the fear of committing to a sound. Opener “Choose Your Fate” attempts Thrice-like energy and lands somewhere between 30 Seconds to Mars and whatever “band of the week” Vagrant Records is promoting. This is not a giant step forward in Story’s growth. Lyrically trying to tackle more serious subject matter, songs like “Message to the World” struggle to articulate communication problems between the U.S. and the rest of the planet. Even more painful is listening to lead singer Dan Marsala feign his concern for racial equality in “We’re Not Gonna Make It.” These are serious issues in the modern world, but Story of the Year’s contrived sound minimizes their importance. For a band that left a major label for ethical reasons, The Black Swan sure sounds like a record written for a paycheck.

Sentimental outing

Sentimental outing

The Cuckoo Then, on Every Tree: Three Artists Celebrate Spring May 16 – June 28 Portrait Society Gallery 207 E. Buffalo St., Suite 526 The word cuckold is derived from cuckoo. A song in Shakespeare describes spring as the time when, “the cuckoo then on every tree, mocks married men, for thus he sings: Cuckoo!” It’s said that three birds in hand are worth three in a bush – or something like that. The Cuckoo Then, on Every Tree, is what you’ll see at the Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., May 16 – June 28, with an opening reception on Friday, May 16, in Suite 526 (5-9pm). Three artists define the season via trees, wee animals and birds. It’s been a grim winter, but the willows are greening along the Milwaukee River, the squirrels are scampering, and near my home a cardinal hopefully whistles for a mate. Get out your Crocs and toe-revealing sandals. Fire up the grill. We’ve survived yet another winter. Trees are a turn-on for Slobodan Markovic (or “Bob” if you prefer), though why that is remains a mystery for this artist. It could be that with fewer and fewer trees populating the globe, memorializing the remaining ones defines his art. The same could be said of artist Michael Kasun – the bird guy – who, with Markovic, attended MIAD’s predecessor, The Milwaukee School of the Arts, in the late ‘70s. Keiler Sensenbrenner paints small-scale images of animals, for example a majestic goat. Gallery owner Debra Brehmer describes Sensenbrenner’s style as fluid and painterly, “reminiscent of Courbet or Manet,” which is a fine thing for a goat to be. Or a squirrel. A teacher at DePaul University, she makes clothes to replace her commercially manufactured wardrobe when she’s not enlightening students or making art. The third artist in the “Green” trio, Michael Kasun, began painting images of birds for the “mini” exhibit at the popular Art Bar in Riverwest. Half of his 4” x 5” (or 4”x 6”) gouache paintings in the Portrait Gallery show are of birds he has actually sighted. Kasun’s favorite spring spot for observing his feathered friends is at Perot State Park above Trempeleau, Wisconsin, and wisely, his winter spot is Florida’s Everglades. On his 2008 spring list of sightings are brown creepers, vireos, nuthatches and even tundra swans in Lake Michigan off of North Point. “The most unusual bird I’ve seen is the least bittern, an amazing small heron that looks like a feathered dinosaur or a collared lizard when it displays,” he says. Don’t ask if he has caged birds in his home, or he’ll tell you they should be “free agents on this earth,” though $50 – $80 will buy you a Kasun bird, forever captured in paint. For strictly sentimental reasons, I popped for a spunky bluejay – they were everywhere in the cornfields in the state of Iowa where I grew up. So go ahead and admit you are sentimental. Should you have a particular tree, […]

Spring 2008 WEED OUT!

Spring 2008 WEED OUT!

Milwaukee has taken its time warming up for spring. But instead of snow, parks throughout the county are now blanketed with a new seasoned enemy: the garlic mustard, the dames rocks and the burdock, just to name a few. These are the worst of the worst, the most appalling agriculture on this side of town. So with that said, IT’S TIME TO GET THE WEED OUT! For the 2008 season, the Park People are soliciting volunteers to remove those nasty, persistent, and just plain pesky plants that unfortunately take root throughout Milwaukee. Obviously this is not a one-man (or woman) weed job; each year hundreds of volunteers assist in removing these invasive plants from our high quality parks. So, with a good pair of gloves and a few other tools of the trade, join persistent pullers and put your green thumb to good use! For more information on specific dates, times, and locations, please call (414)73-7275.

RANDOM EXPOSURE 3: VITAL’s 2008 Photo Contest! SUBMIT NOW!
RANDOM EXPOSURE 3

VITAL’s 2008 Photo Contest! SUBMIT NOW!

In August 2008, VITAL Source Magazine will publish the work of the winners of our annual photo contest. Images will appear online and in print, and receive prizes TBD. Once again, the Best in Show photo will run on the cover of the August edition of VITAL Source. Winners determined solely by a panel of expert judges. 1st and 2nd place winners chosen in each category, plus an overall Best in Show winner. We reserve the right to award separate prizes for black and white and color, or amateur and professional photos, depending on submissions received. Categories: 1) Portrait 2) Still-life/landscape 3) Action 4) Abstract 5) 2008 BONUS CATEGORY: Motorcycles! Submission Guidelines: 1. Submit up to one color and one black and white print in each category. 2. Submit 8 x 10 un-mounted black and white or color prints only, with index cards affixed to the back of each entry. 3. Index cards must include: Your name, full mailing address, email address, phone number, equipment used (be specific and include software) and photo name (if applicable). Indicate top edge. 4. Specify whether you are an amateur or a professional. Professionals are defined as photographers who have received direct compensation for their work more than twice. 5. Only complete entries will be accepted. 6. Include SASE with adequate postage to have your work returned. 7. By entering this contest, you agree to allow Vital Publications, LLC to publish your entry in print and online. Rights remain with photographer. Send or hand-deliver entries to: Photo Contest VITAL Source Magazine 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave, Ste. 409 Milwaukee, WI 53204 Submission Deadline: JUNE 20, 2008

Pedal Push: A Vital Bike-in on May 16th
Pedal Push

A Vital Bike-in on May 16th

A VITAL Bike-in! (Bikes optional) FRIDAY, MAY 16: 5:30 – 7:30 pm @ Wicked Hop’s Jackalope Lounj, 345 N. Broadway -Meet up for cheap Lakefront taps and $5 Van Gogh martinis, plus amazing appetizer specials! -Win a sweet set of wheels from Sun Ringlé and Hayes Bicycle! -“Trail Mix” by DJ Madhatter! At 7 or so, we’ll fittingly finish Bike to Work Week with a group ride to the Bike Federation’s first Bike-In Movie of the summer (Klunkerz, the fast-moving documentary tracing the global rise of mountain biking, 8 pm sharp at the Media Garden, 1758 N. Water under the Holton St. viaduct). Don’t bike? Just come for the party!

Fan Belt Milwaukee

Fan Belt Milwaukee

Celebrate 7 Years of STRIPWAX  at the Hi-Fi!

Celebrate 7 Years of STRIPWAX at the Hi-Fi!

Come see one of VITAL’s own amazing artists this May at Hi-Fi. You won’t want to miss it!

Be a Friend of Milwaukee’s Rivers at the 13th Annual Spring Cleanup!!!

Be a Friend of Milwaukee’s Rivers at the 13th Annual Spring Cleanup!!!

It’s that time of year again-the winter snow has melted away, and spring is here! In an effort to curb the degradation of Milwaukee’s three rivers and connect people to their water resources, Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers is organizing its 13th annual Spring River Cleanup. The cleanup will take place on Saturday, April 19 at 36 locations throughout the Milwaukee area, stretching from Milwaukee’s South Side to West Bend. Volunteers will work from 9 am until noon, pulling tires, shopping carts, bottles, cans and other trash out of the rivers and adjacent parkways. Last year over two thousand volunteers turned out to clean the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. Many schools, community groups and organizations will collaborate with Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers to participate in the cleanup. Partners include Alverno College, Brewer Company, CH2M Hill, Eastbrook Church, Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail, Groth Design Group, Menomonee Valley Partners, Milwaukee County Parks, Public Allies, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, Trout Unlimited, Unitarian Universalist Church West, University School of Milwaukee, UW-Milwaukee Service Learning Department and Urban Ecology Center. Visit milwaukeerivercleanup.org for site map and other information.

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

It’s the most depressing play I’ve seen in over a year. I checked. Tennessee Williams didn’t just want to tell a sad story — he wanted to agonize about it for eleven relentless scenes. He might not have known at the time that he was writing what was destined to be one of the most respected works of American drama to come out of the twentieth century, but he knew how to tell a story people wanted to remember. This month, Blanche, Stella, Stanley and all the rest of the characters from 1940’s New Orleans renew their suffering on the stage of the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. Director Mark Salentine has said that he wanted to go back to Williams’ original Broadway script, which focuses on the plight of Blanche DuBois, played here by Mary C. DeBattista. DeBattista renders an impressively complex performance as a fading beauty with faltering psycho-emotional stability. Angela Beyer makes a solid contrast as Stella, exuding an earth-bound pragmatism that fits really well in the role. As Stella’s husband Stanley, Andy North grounds his aggression with a driven, stubborn emotional gravity that maintains the dynamic between the three principals. This isn’t a perfect vision of imperfection. Environmental sounds are extremely flat and musical scoring added to amplify the intensity proves more of a distraction than an enhancement of the atmosphere. But few minor flaws aside, this is one of the best productions Salentine has directed in recent years. The flow of movement and emotion across the stage is impressively well-modulated. The full ensemble immerses the production in an organic atmosphere aided by a realistic J. Michael Desper set and fight choreography by Gene Schuldt. It’s difficult to make stage fighting convincing, but as we’ve seen before, Schuldt does well with messy brawls; his fight choreography is particularly graphic. His talent is in perfect form here to show the full brutality of drunken human aggression. And then there’s the smoke, which creates an intense sensory atmosphere that drives home the earthiness of the production. I’ve seen and smelled cigarettes wafting across an audience before. Sometimes the smell of cigarette smoke in an auditorium brings the reality of a character or two into the audience in a novel way. In this production, there are only one or two characters in the entire show that don’t smoke. Stanley’s got a few guys over for a poker game and there are at least four lit cigarettes onstage. The smell of cigarettes, however brief, fills the entire auditorium. A hazy miasma rises into the stage lights. This is a gritty, gritty production, perhaps the darkest Sunset production in years. VS Sunset Playhouse’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire runs through May 3. For more information call the Sunset Playhouse box office at 262-782-4430 or visit the Sunset online.

Chad M. Rossi’s big ideas

Chad M. Rossi’s big ideas

By Charise Dawson Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre closes its 22nd season with Milwaukee Playwright Chad M. Rossi’s comedy Eureka! The company calls the play a randy comedy of “fourplay,” rife with young-adult growing pains, a love story or two and aliens from outer space. The production exemplifies the Boulevard’s mission to provide training for emerging artists. Rossi came to Milwaukee from “up north” five years ago. He knew he wanted to pursue a job in the arts and worked at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts as a house manager. Here he had his first opportunity to see a performance on the big stage and watch how people reacted to each production. His interest in theatre “just clicked.” “There is human connection,” he said. “It’s the old idea of storytelling. Having people laugh, cry, connect and come together as a community to listen to a story.” Eureka! is Rossi’s first try at a production of this scale. Triggered by the theme of grandiosity, Rossi created a character, Clyde, caught up in the mania of a changing world. The title comes from Clyde’s ideas, or as Rossi puts is, his “eureka” moments. “He becomes disillusioned. He creates big ideas to deal with what he cannot control.” The play is also a relationship play. “It shows the evolution of friendship and how an old college relationship changes when one person meets someone else. Clyde was going through a disgruntled time [and] learning that life was not all roses.” “How do you deal with the bad and still have love and find beauty?” Rossi wanted to ask. “There has to be a natural balance. An acceptance. How can we connect as human beings and at the same time be worried about what could happen to us? Our society can make people so mean and hardened by experience.” Strong women, drawn from life Rossi also used his script to explore the strength of women in male/female relationships. The women characters take over the play from the moment they are introduced. Rossi has always had strong women in his life. “They’ve always run the house. They’ve always run the show. They still do.” Audience members had a hard time liking one strong female character, Nancy, a seemingly uptight shot-caller. Many called her a bitch and struggled to understand what her male counterpart saw in her. Rossi defended her. “Mark made a great comment the other night. He said ‘If the apartment would suddenly start on fire and all four characters were in the apartment, Nancy would get everyone out.’ She is in control. She makes sure everyone is doing well. She won’t take anyone’s bullshit. “My wife has read more of my work than anyone on the planet, including me,” admits Rossi. Once his wife “got” the script of Eureka! and thought it was funny, Rossi knew it was fine. Rossi’s wife, who has an academic background in philosophy, will join Rossi on his wild theories and big ideas, but always brings him back […]

Eureka!

Eureka!

By Charise Dawson The Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre, located at 2252 S. Kinnickinnic, opened the world premiere of Chad M. Rossi’s Eureka! on Wednesday, April 9. The play runs through Sunday, April 27. Modern theatre needs new writers. According to Artistic Director Mark Bucher, theatre competes with television, film and technical writing. Without new theatre writers, audiences would suffer through endless re-stagings of Arsenic and Old Lace and Nunsense. New playwrights and new scripts attract new audiences, provide new opportunities for actors and demand a collaborative partnership with all of the talents on board. Eureka!, a new play by a new writer, is a perfect example of the seeds that a fresh production can sow. According to Bucher, pages, subplots and an entire character were cut from Rossi’s original script over the course of one month of rehearsals. Now it’s up to the audience and critics to test the piece and provide valuable feedback to the playwright. In turn, the playwright will continue to develop his piece. The comedy takes place in modern-day Milwaukee and features two male roommates under the wiles of two female friends. It explores what can happen to a male friendship beyond the college years and takes a compelling look at the driver/follower relationship on both the platonic level and the romantic level. Generally, the male/female pairings produce more chemistry than the friendly banter between the men. The first half of the script is devoted entirely to the men in the four-person cast, and the interplay between the two becomes strained over time. The play spins its wheels for too long before the women enter to infuse the story with more life. The characters are credibly sketched, though each seems a bit one-dimensional during his or her time on stage. There is the dreamer, the achiever, the bitch and the free-spirit. A lack of reversals, transformations and surprises keep the characters from going beyond a “type.” Bucher attempts to play up the script’s comedic aspects by adding a more rigorously physical dimension to the acting than the text might imply. The result seems discordantly cartoonish, although there are some very effective choices in the scene between Clyde and Teri (Jason Krukowski and Rachel Lewandowski). The actress suggests an impromptu after-bar dance party and tries to coax her partner into dancing. The physicality was wonderfully awkward and offbeat. The director’s notes affirm that this is an attempt to fully “produce” new work rather than simply “develop” it. But while Eureka! may be on the right track, both the script and Bucher’s interpretation feel distinctly as if they are still in the “development” phase. VS For more insight on Eureka!, Read Charise Dawson’s interview with Chad M. Rossi. Eureka! stars Rachael Lau (Nancy), Rachel Lewandowski (Teri), Cesar Gamino (Wayne) and Jason Krukowski (Clyde). All performances are at the Ensemble’s theatre space, located at 2252 South Kinnickinnic. For tickets and information, call 414.744.5757 or visit the Boulevard online.

Ben and Jerry made me think of more than ice cream- a lesson in responsible consumerism
Vital Source Facebook Page!
Sinners + Saints – 4.18.08

Sinners + Saints – 4.18.08

Enter an otherworldly realm with us this Friday at THE ARTS BUILDING, as 10 artists from divergent traditions – from Kristopher Pollard’s compelling ink portraits to Adam Werther’s ethereal and disturbing imagery to the typographic riffs of Jeremy Pettis – take on heaven and hell, devotion and doubt, temptation and resistance, iconography and iconoclasm and everything in between. With acoustic reconsiderations of sex, drugs and salvation by Andrew Falk and Joe White, a reading by Milwaukee’s bard of bald-faced truth Eddie Kilowatt, and a generous contribution from SPARKS, this party will make you a believer! PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Kat Berger, Jeff Kenney, Brandon Minga, Judith Ann Moriarty, Ken Pitt, Jeremy Pettis, Kristopher Pollard, Greg Schoeneck, Scott Van Vreede and Adam Werther 7-10 pm • 133 W. Pittsburgh, #409 Come early – the multi-talented members of The Arts Building will open their studios for perusal at 5 pm!

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE!  STOLEN PAINTING OF HEATH LEDGER

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE! STOLEN PAINTING OF HEATH LEDGER

CALLING ALL RESIDENTS OF MILWAUKEE!!! If you (or any cowboys you know) have any information on the whereabouts or location of a one of a kind modern masterpiece entitled Cowboy Love Connection in Blue, please contact River Rat Galleries 347-9833 or The Palomino 747-1007. This highly collectible acrylic painting, framed in hemp rope, features the late Heath Ledger of Brokeback Mountain and the new Batman movie, The Last Knight.

Cymbeline

Cymbeline

By Morgan Shelton Milwaukee Shakespeare Theater’s Cymbeline offers an appropriately layered artistic depiction of the play’s complex storyline. Cymbeline tells a story of fighting – whether it’s for love, power, revenge, land, spite or respect – through a string of sub-plots, each blending together and circling around a bubbling political scene. Posthumus, played by Wayne T. Carr, is a man of low birth who secretly marries the daughter of British King Cymbeline, Princess Imogen, played by Sarah Sokolovic. After learning of their marriage, King Cymbeline banishes Posthumus to Italy. There, the couple’s love is tested when Posthumus agrees to a wager with Roman soldier, Iachimo, testing his wife’s faithfulness. While Imogen passes the test, false reports cause Posthumus to sentence her to death. Meanwhile, Imogen’s stepmother concocts methods to win her son, Cloten, the throne. A late twist in the play, however, reunites King Cymbeline with his biological sons, whom were kidnapped at birth. As these sub-plots unravel, Britain and Rome turn from friends to enemies as Rome invades Britain and war breaks out. Just as Cymbeline’s numerous plots reflect some struggle or fight, the text of the play itself features competing storylines that ultimately unite. As these plots overlap and merge into each other, the audience learns the history of one character while hearing the fate of another. It’s fitting, then, that Director Jeffrey Sichel physically thrusts the audience into this world consumed by love, faith and deceit. The audience feels that circling effect when actors break the fourth wall, unraveling the play from all parts of the theater. The simple, yet symbolic set design offers a practical solution to scene transitions and visually reflects the connection between the characters and storylines. Misha Kachman, scenic and costume designer, overcame potential space limitations by creatively incorporating all parts of the studio into her work. The play’s strong cast is certainly equipped to handle the complexity of this production, and to add another twist, an interesting casting choice brings us an African-American actor as Posthumus. This decision obviously provides a deeper meaning behind to the King’s disapproval of Posthumus. Joe Foust as Cloten provides the ultimate comedic relief, crafting a character so likeable and sympathetic that his ultimate doom is almost unbearably tragic. VS To order tickets for Cymbeline, running March 22 – April 20, 2008, please call the Broadway Theatre Center box office at 414.291.7800 or visit milwaukeeshakespeare.com. Tickets range from $15-$50.

“Give them the Remote”

“Give them the Remote”

By Bridget Brave Cerqua Daniel Keegan doesn’t want to be a casual observer. “Don’t just give me a TV monitor with something playing. Give me the remote. Give me the options, give me the control.” And he’s not letting you slack off, either. “That’s what [the museum experience] needs to be: visitor options, visitor choice. Give them the remote. Tell them to direct their own experience.” His audience-enabling attitude speaks volumes about his vision for the Milwaukee Art Museum. “I’ve always felt that art is really cool,” Keegan says. A Green Bay native, he took the reins as director of the Milwaukee Art Museum in March after more than six years as executive director of the San Jose Museum of Art. Now he wants to introduce that “cool factor” to Milwaukee’s urban population through a stepped-up commitment to a changing audience. “We’ve all become multi-taskers,” Keegan says. “We’re expecting the experience to be much more multi-dimensional. We have been conditioned by the amazing dynamic energy of the mass media: HDTVs, TiVo, iPods, everything … it definitely changes the way we experience life on a daily basis.” He references a recent New York Times article detailing the challenges museums face as new, younger, more plugged-in consumers begin to demand a say in their experiences. “Cell phone-ready audio guides are one way to put control into the hands of the visitors,” Keegan says. “Handheld devices such as Blackberries or iPods can offer additional text, video clips and interviews, all at the push of a button.” “The first thing people ask when they see or hear about a piece of art is ‘What’s the relevance? How does this impact me?’ If the connection isn’t clear, they’re going to move on and not become engaged in the piece.” Engaging a visitor is one thing, but maintaining engagement is a big hurdle. “We’re the sixteenth largest museum in the country – but that doesn’t necessarily translate into visitors spending quality time with the art.” Keegan says. “What we need to do is figure out a way to slow visitors down, give them access to the information behind each piece, and then find a way to keep them engaged with that work, even after they leave.” The problem is “center tracking,” a phenomenon prevalent in museums across the world: most visitors are not drawn to a particular piece or exhibit butsimply dash through the galleries at a fast pace, roaming the halls without sticking to anything. Less static, more active He also recognizes that museums tend to keep static collections even in the midst of dynamic, growing communities. Answering the question of relevance is difficult for most cultural institutions today, but Keegan believes the way to get people to appreciate art lies in giving them a broader range of access and letting them find what speaks to them. “What we’re looking for is the Google experience,” he said. “Imagine taking a group of kids into the museum and saying, ‘Okay, what is your favorite thing in […]

New Releases

New Releases

April 1st Anti-Flag The Bright Lights of America RCA Dave Barnes Me + You + the World Razor & Tie Black Francis Svn Fngrs Cooking Vinyl The Black Keys Attack & Release Nonesuch Lili Haydn Place Between Places Nettwerk Kathy Mattea Coal RED Moby Last Night Mute Van Morrison Keep It Simple Lost Highway R.E.M. Accelerate Warner Joe Satriani Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock Epic Sevendust Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow Warner April 8th Eric Avery Help Wanted Dangerbird The Breeders Mountain Battles 4AD Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Dig!!! Lazaruz Dig!!! Anti-/Epitaph Clinic Do It! Domino Meat Beat Manifesto Autoimmune Metropolis Melanie C This Time Red Girl Gavin Rossdale Wanderlust Interscope Tapes ‘N Tapes Walk It Off XL Recordings April 15th Asia Phoenix EMI America The Brian Jonestown Massacre My Bloody Underground a recordings Mariah Carey E=MC2 Island Everclear The Vegas Years Capitol/EMI Frightened Rabbit The Midnight Organ Fight Fatcat The Kooks Konk Astralwerks The Little Ones Morning Tide Astralwerks M83 Saturdays=Youth Mute Phantom Planet Raise the Dead Fueled By Ramen The Plastic Constellations We Appreciate You Frenchkiss Dianne Reeves When You Know Blue Note Ashlee Simpson Bittersweet World Geffen Supergrass Diamond Hoo Ha Astralwerks Thrice The Alchemy Index: Vols. III & IV – Earth & Air Vagrant Jordan Zevon Insides Out New West April 22nd Tab Benoit Night Train to Nashville Telarc Blind Melon For My Friends Adrenaline Billy Bragg Mr. Love & Justice Anit-/Epitaph The Cat Empire So Many Nights Velour Music Michael Doucet From Now On Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid Fiction/Geffen Flight of the Conchords s/t Sub Pop Jeff Healey Mess of Blues Ruf Kerli Love Is Dead Island Def Jam Whitesnake Good to Be Bad SPV April 29th Mark Chesnutt Rollin’ With the Flow Lofton Creek Def Leppard Songs from the Sparkle Lounge Universal Madonna Hard Candy Warner Nerf Herder Nerf Herder IV Oglio Portishead Third Island Carly Simon This Kind of Love Hear Music Steve Winwood Nine Lives Columbia

Knowledge is power- at any age
Milwaukee distillery wins prestigious gold medal

Milwaukee distillery wins prestigious gold medal

Milwaukee’s own Great Lakes Distillery has received a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Gin. This small local distillery beat out over 800 entries from 63 countries in a blind tasting with their unique spirit that combines the flavors of sweet basil and Wisconsin ginseng to create a gin that’s truly…intoxicating! For more info, check out their website!

More than numbers in Iraq
March 20th-Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks @ The Pabst!

March 20th-Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks @ The Pabst!

STEPHEN MALKMUS and THE JICKS! MARCH 20@THE PABST! VITAL is sponsoring Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks on Thursday, March 20th at The Pabst Theater! This indie show is sure to please, and as always, VITAL will be setting up a table chock full of great stuff, including giveaways to other great shows! Our fun and friendly staff will be happy to load you up with copies of our March issue, stickers and tote bags, if you play your cards right. It’s good stuff, so come and check us out! More information available online!

WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee Public Radio Presents Radio Lab

WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee Public Radio Presents Radio Lab

Milwaukee Public Radio invites you to join an intellectual investigation. For one week in April, WUWM presents Radio Lab, public radio’s award-winning series about wonder, discovery and big ideas. Radio Lab is produced by WNYC, New York Public Radio. The one-hour documentaries will air the week of April 7 – 11 at 11 a.m. Co-hosted by veteran reporter Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, Radio Lab is a science show for people who don’t think they like science. These days, science coverage is largely reduced to either a sexed-up, politically-charged controversy or a dry, lifeless, technical summary of academic findings. Radio Lab breaks the mold, re-creating – with joy, wonder and humor — the thrill of “Aha!” moments in scientific breakthroughs. Abumrad and Krulwich unearth the implications of the latest scientific findings, bump into surprising stories, traverse philosophy, history, and culture, and converse with some of the scientists doing the real work along the way.The result: a potent elixir of real science, first-person storytelling and radio theatre, all wrapped up in some of the most innovative sound design ever to spill out of the radio. Since 1964, WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee Public Radio has been part of the UW-Milwaukee family and has been serving as southeastern Wisconsin’s premiere public radio source for news, information, and entertainment programming for 37 years. WUWM is listener-supported radio that is licensed to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and operated by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Letters and Science. Listen on-air at 89.7 FM or on-line at wuwm.com.

MKE’s Alterra boasts 2nd and 3rd at Barista Competition!

MKE’s Alterra boasts 2nd and 3rd at Barista Competition!

After months of preparation Justin Teisl and Scott Lucey, baristas at Alterra Coffee, won second and third places, respectively, at the 2008 Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition (GLRBC), held in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, March 14th-16th. The GLRBC is one of ten annual regional barista competitions held nationwide and is designed to encourage and recognize professional achievement in the art of espresso beverage preparation and service. Baristas representing over 15 coffee companies from Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota prepared and served espresso-based drinks to a panel of six judges. Each participant was evaluated according to the taste and quality of the beverages, technical skill, presentation, and the ability to prepare three rounds of espressos, cappuccinos, and signature drinks in 15 minutes or less. Teisl and Lucey, experienced baristas as well as trainers for Alterra employees and wholesale accounts, made it to the final round of competition after beating out over 30 other participants. Both had a final score of 599.5, with Teisl gaining second place by scoring more top marks overall. Justin Teisl has been with Alterra since 2001 and works at the company’s Riverwest café on Humboldt Boulevard. He is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of Fine Arts and was the artist responsible for creating the trophies presented to the GLRBC’s top 3 finalists. Scott Lucey has worked at Alterra’s Prospect Avenue café since 2002, and began training other employees in 2005.

My words aren’t as good as his
It’s 2AM and I’m drunk and finished
Be a part of Luckystar Studio’s MAIL ART SHOW! DEADLINE is 4/5!

Be a part of Luckystar Studio’s MAIL ART SHOW! DEADLINE is 4/5!

You draw it, paint it, silk screen it, spray paint it, throw a stamp on it and we’ll exhibit it in Wish You Were Here! This limited-run exhibit will be held during the very popular Spring Gallery Night, Friday, April 18, through the West Side Artwalk, April 25 & 26. The envelope, postcard, package or crate is your is your canvas! 1. Draw it, collage it, print it, stamp it, sculpt it, photograph it, etc. 2. Ship it! (USPS, UPS, Fedex, Bike Messenger, etc.) 3. Luckystar will exhibit it! Note: Do not price artwork. Art will be sold at a flat rate with proceeds from the sales to be used to cover cost of the exhibit and reception. All artwork becomes property of Luckystar Studio. Luckystar will not accept the promotion post cards from galleries or artists as mail art. Deadline: April 5, 2008. Enter now! Have some fun!

EXTENDED: Seed Cycles by Sally Kuzma @ Villa Terrace Arts Museum
EXTENDED

Seed Cycles by Sally Kuzma @ Villa Terrace Arts Museum

Seed Cycles at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum has been extended through April 6. After collecting various plant specimens, Sally Kuzma uses a simple computer scanner to upload the images of plants, such as corn, soybeans, sunflowers, lilies and garlic to create a digitally manipulated piece of art. The details of each plant are shown intimately, along with their colors and patterns. Read VITAL art critic Judith Ann Moriarty’s review of the show.

VITAL’s 2008 Short Fiction Contest: Call for entries!
VITAL’s 2008 Short Fiction Contest

Call for entries!

Submission Guidelines: • Entrants may submit two original, unpublished pieces of short fiction (max. 3,000 words). • Entries will be judged by professional editors and educators not affiliated with VITAL Source. • Winner will have his or her entry published in the June print edition of VITAL Source Magazine and on our website. • Runners-up may have selected text from their story published in the print edition and up to their entire entry published on the VITAL Source website. Honorees will be asked to participate in a public reading event in June at a Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore, location TBD. Entries must be formatted as follows: • 8.5 x 11 page • 1” margins all the way around • Times New Roman 12 pt. type, single-spaced body text, 14 pt. title, left-justified • Double-return between paragraphs – no indents • Title and word count at top of page • Include contact information (author name, address, phone number, email address) and a brief biography (50 words maximum) on a separate sheet. Submitted entries will not be returned. Email electronic entries to: contest at vitalsourcemag dot com Mail hard copy entries to: VITAL Source Magazine Attn: Fiction Contest 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave. #409 Milwaukee, WI 53204 No calls, please.

Last chance to submit reels & clips for REEL MILWAUKEE! Deadline is 3/14!

Last chance to submit reels & clips for REEL MILWAUKEE! Deadline is 3/14!

REEL Milwaukee On Saturday March 22 from 9 to midnight, VITAL Source Magazine and The Social are throwing a party in conjunction with our March cover story on filmmaking in Wisconsin. As part of the evening’s festivities, we’re looking for Milwaukee filmmakers to submit videos to be included in a looping film montage at the party. There is NO fee. ALL video samples are due by March 14. NO EXCEPTIONS. There is no guarantee your film will be included, but early birds get more worms. It doesn’t need to be a complete film or your complete reel, but it does need to come from a completed work that either has or is likely to at some point soon be shown. Submission Guidelines *Include the title of the video and director(s) names of the video. *Include contact information: Name, phone, e-mail, street address. Please send media on a DVD, mini-DV tape, or VHS tape. If submitting a DVD make a “data disc” with a video file in one of the following formats. If you send a DVD that is “playable” in DVD players then the media needs to be ripped from the DVD and may not be usable for the video project. “”NO”” other tape formats will be accepted. Video formats: QuickTime Movie (.mov) *preferred Windows Media (.wmv) AVI (.avi) Image Sequence (animations) Note: Other video formats may work. Those listed above are the easiest to use. Here are other questions to consider. If you know the answers, please send them along. What is the frame size? (NTSC 4:3, HD 1440×1080, etc.) Is it anamorphic 16:9? What is the frame rate? (29.97, 23.98, etc.) What are the audio settings rate? (48 kHz, 44.1 kHz, etc.) Write the start time for the most important moment of the video. Send to: VITAL Source Attn: Video Collage 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave. #409 Milwaukee, WI 53204 Reply with questions. No deadline extensions, sorry. Hope to see you March 22!

My cynicism is showing

My cynicism is showing

More film news where that came from: The Film Wisconsin Clean-Up Bill
More film news where that came from

The Film Wisconsin Clean-Up Bill

As Major Film Project Announces $20 Million Investment in Wisconsin, New Bill Circulates to Speed Development of the Industry Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton announced today that Senator Jeff Plale and Representative Pat Strachota circulated a bill to improve Wisconsin’s Film Production Tax Credit Services Program for co-sponsorship, and she asked the legislature to move it through the process with all due speed. “Today, Governor Doyle announced that NBC Universal will bring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Michael Mann – not to mention $20 million – to Wisconsin,” Lawton said. “I see this as the lead edge of the economic development and jobs coming in response to our film incentives. This bill will improve our potential to capture more film industry jobs for Wisconsin, and I urge the legislature to move it forward to solidify Wisconsin’s competitive position nationally.” The bipartisan bill would allow film production companies to transfer unused, nonrefundable credits to other taxpayers, such as other film production companies. It would also phase in residency requirements for eligibility of film production employees for tax credits as the talent infrastructure needed for productions fully develops in our state. Currently, Wisconsin’s incentives are a hybrid of refundable and non-refundable, nontransferable tax credits. States experiencing the greatest success in the industry enhance the value of their credits by making non-refundable credits transferable. The language of the bill allows for limited transfers and includes important safeguards to prevent fraud in transfers. Administration of the program will be funded by a fee paid by both parties in the transaction to the Departments of Revenue and Commerce. The bill’s chief sponsors are State Senator Jeff Plale (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend). HOW YOU CAN HELP A hearing has been scheduled for AB 907 before the Assembly Committee for Jobs and the Economy. Please take a moment to complete the following action items by no later than Thursday, March 6, 10 am. The Legislature will adjourn sometime in the next two weeks and they will not reconvene for this type of work until 2009. Contact Assembly Speaker Michael Huebsch (R-West Salem) at: Rep.Huebsch@legis.wisconsin.gov. Ask Speaker Huebsch to support AB 907 and to schedule a floor vote this session, when it is voted out of committee. Register your support with the members of the Assembly Committee for Jobs and the Economy and thank Representative Patricia Strachota, the Committee’s Chairperson, for holding the hearing. Tell your legislator(s) why this bill is important to you as a member of the creative industries or to your business. Here are some talking points: The purpose of these incentives has always been to grow the film industry in Wisconsin. The incentives have already increased the film industry activity here and therefore the opportunity for existing Wisconsin businesses and the small, talented Wisconsin film industry workforce. Already at work on the new film Public Enemies are Wisconsin Set Designers, Location Managers, Art Department construction crew members, Art Department coordinators and Location Scouts. New films including Dust and The Violinist are in […]

March 15th – The Scarring Party at Turner Hall!

March 15th – The Scarring Party at Turner Hall!

SATURDAY MARCH 15TH! THE SCARRING PARTY W/ GRANT HART OF HUSKER DU AND JOHN THE SAVAGE AT TURNER HALL! VITAL is sponsoring the CD release show for Milwaukee quartet the Scarring Party at TURNER HALL on Saturday, March 15th. We’ve staked out some real estate at the show where you can sign up to win free tickets to upcoming shows, snatch up a few VITAL goodies and make nice with some of the staff. They’re nice people and they want to give you free stuff! See you there! More information available online!

Weekend Music Report #3 – Doc Hammer/Video Games Live
VITAL’s 2008 Short Fiction Call for Entries OPEN

VITAL’s 2008 Short Fiction Call for Entries OPEN

  Entry Deadline: APRIL 18, 2008   Submission Guidelines: • Entrants may submit two original, unpublished pieces of short fiction (max. 3,000 words). • Entries will be judged by professional editors and educators not affiliated with VITAL Source. • Winner will have his or her entry published in the June print edition of VITAL Source Magazine and on our website. • Runners-up may have selected text from their story published in the print edition and up to their entire entry published on the VITAL Source website. Honorees will be asked to participate in a public reading event in June at a Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore location TBD. Entries must be formatted as follows: • 8.5 x 11 page • 1” margins all the way around • Times New Roman 12 pt. type, single-spaced body text, 14 pt. title, left-justified • Double-return between paragraphs – no indents • Title and word count at top of page • Include contact information (author name, address, phone number, email address) and a brief biography (50 words maximum) on a separate sheet. Submitted entries will not be returned. Email electronic entries to: contest at vitalsourcemag dot com Mail hard copy entries to: VITAL Source Magazine Attn: Fiction Contest 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave. #409 Milwaukee, WI 53204 No calls, please.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

By Jill Gilmer “A play based on an American classic is only worth doing if it can spark a revolution.” This was the inspiration behind Rebecca Holderness’decision to direct Of Mice and Men at the UWM Mainstage theatre. Through the effective use of archival material and a variety of other unexpected touches, Ms. Holderness attempts to shine a light on the political messages that are usually overlooked in this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s heavily-analyzed novel. Time will tell if this student production achieves its director’s lofty goal, but Holderness clearly succeeds in creating a moving experience that simultaneously disturbs and inspires. Of Mice and Men is the simple tale of George and Lennie, two migrant workers who roam the countryside during Depression-era California seeking work to finance their dream of buying their own ranch and living off “the fat of the land.” George and Lennie are an unusual pairing in the ranch-hand community. Lennie, a mildly-retarded giant of a man who doesn’t know his own strength, is in many ways the antithesis of the sophisticated George, who offers a vision of a better life and the brains to make it happen. Their tight bond of friendship is a source of envy for the other ranch-hands, many of whom travel solo and fight intense loneliness to maintain near-poverty wages. The story follows the evolution of their relationship as George seeks to balance the benefit of Lennie’s brawn and friendship with the liability associated with his uncensored comments and his propensity to touch soft things, including mice and their boss’ wife’s hair. The superb student cast brings authenticity to characters much older than the actors who portray them. Moreover, the cast successfully captures the delicate balance between sadness and hope that makes these characters seem so familiar and the story so stirring. Andrew Edwin Voss is excellent as Lennie. His innocence and unbridled honesty is perfectly juxtaposed against acts of depravity related to a series of conflicts between the ranch hands. Marques Causey, who plays the only African American character, strikes a chord with the audience as the amiable and devious Crooks. As George, Daniel Koester appears slightly less comfortable in his role than the other actors. However, he succeeds in communicating the internal struggle between his loyalty to his friend and his desire to achieve his dreams. Black-and-white photos on elevated screens combine with dramatic lighting and a minimalist set to transport the audience to the 1930s. Another effective mood-setting device is a series of monologs by two characters that take place prior to the start of the play. Powerful archival images outside the theatre combine with excellent performances inside to penetrate the soul. The overall effect is a production that transcends a study of generally likeable characters to compel the audience to examine the priority of friendship and money, dreams and character in their own lives. The commentary on issues of labor and race may be more of a backdrop for exploring these broader themes than a central focus of […]

Fashion Ninja

Fashion Ninja

Theater at UWM

Theater at UWM

Milwaukee Rollergirls

Milwaukee Rollergirls

Experimental Milwaukee

Experimental Milwaukee

Present Music

Present Music

Milwaukee Rocks

Milwaukee Rocks

Travel Milwaukee

Travel Milwaukee

Spirit of Milwaukee

Spirit of Milwaukee

Outpost Natural Foods

Outpost Natural Foods

Our Milwaukee

Our Milwaukee

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

The Social

The Social

Choose Milwaukee

Choose Milwaukee

Fashionable Milwaukee

Fashionable Milwaukee

Metro Milwaukee

Metro Milwaukee

Big Andy’s Myspace

Big Andy’s Myspace

Broad Vocabulary

Broad Vocabulary

Schwartz books

Schwartz books

Woodland Pattern

Woodland Pattern

Muzzle of Bees

Muzzle of Bees

Michael Gull

Michael Gull

Kristopher Pollard

Kristopher Pollard

Dwellephant

Dwellephant

Max Estes

Max Estes

Paper Boat Boutique

Paper Boat Boutique

Luckystar Studio

Luckystar Studio

Jim Herrington

Jim Herrington

Scott Winklebeck

Scott Winklebeck

Brandon Minga

Brandon Minga

Holy Mary Motor Club

Holy Mary Motor Club

Aimless Blades

Aimless Blades

Spiral Trance

Spiral Trance

Milwaukee website links
Art Bar

Art Bar

The Pabst/ Riverside/ Turner Hall
MOCT

MOCT

Play in the City

Play in the City

Taste of the Town

Taste of the Town

DJ Diamonds Blog

DJ Diamonds Blog

REEL Milwaukee – A Major Party Event

REEL Milwaukee – A Major Party Event

March 22 9 to midnight No cover The Social 170 S 1st St. Milwaukee Music by Marcus Doucette Film cuts by local Milwaukee filmmakers Tabletop film trivia quiz Play “Six Degrees of Mark Metcalf” with your host MARK METCALF PLUS! Coppola wine bar featuring $5 Coppola wines and $7 Coppola Director’s Cut Complimentary appetizer bar $3 Lakefront taps $3 Rehorst vodka drinks Take our tabletop film trivia quiz and you could win a $50 gift certificate from The Social, film books from Harry W. Schwartz or classic films on DVD HEY FILMMAKERS As part of the evening’s festivities, we’re looking for Milwaukee filmmakers to submit videos to be included in a looping film montage at the party. Submission Guidelines: There is NO fee. ALL video samples are due by March 14. NO EXCEPTIONS. There is no guarantee your film will be included. If you submit early you have a better chance. If you submit: *Include the title of the video and director(s) names of the video. *Include contact information: Name, phone, e-mail, street address. Please send media on a DVD, mini-DV tape, or VHS tape. If submitting a DVD make a “data disc” with a video file in one of the following formats. If you send a DVD that is “playable” in DVD players then the media needs to be ripped from the DVD and may not be useable for the video project. “”NO”” other tape formats will be accepted. Other video formats may work. Those listed above are the easiest to use. Video formats: QuickTime Movie (.mov) *preferred Windows Media (.wmv) AVI (.avi) Image Sequence (animations) Here are other questions to consider. If you know the answers, please send them along. What is the frame size? (NTSC 4:3, HD 1440×1080, etc.) Is it anamorphic 16:9? What is the frame rate? (29.97, 23.98, etc.) What are the audio settings rate? (48 kHz, 44.1 kHz, etc.) Write the start time for the most important moment of the video. Send to: VITAL Source Attn: Video Collage 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave. #409 Milwaukee, WI 53204

Myspace

Myspace

TheMilwaukeescene.com

TheMilwaukeescene.com

Milwaukeefood.com

Milwaukeefood.com

WMSE radio station website
WUWM radio station website
Radio Milwaukee 88.9

Radio Milwaukee 88.9

102.1 Radio station website
Cedar Block

Cedar Block

Fasten Collective

Fasten Collective

Bad Movies In Bay View

Bad Movies In Bay View

Vote!  Speak Out! Stand Up!
These New Puritans

These New Puritans

By Kyle Shaffer Beat Pyramid, the debut full-length release from UK dance-rock stylists These New Puritans, tows the line between brash post-punk and freak-out electronica. The record, which would sound as appropriate in a voguish pub as it would on a catwalk, brims with dance floor drums, noisy samples and artsy/obscure references sure to have the hippest of hip scratching their heads. After the creepy opening piece, “I Will Only Say This Twice,” “Numerology AKA Numbers” sets the mood with a skittering guitar line and Barnett’s dissection of the psychological significance of numbers. It’s a sign of things to come: great beats driving frantic, noisy compositions about everything from global climate change to the kidnapping of a BBC journalist. The entire record is an aural overload, cramming in enough sounds, samples, beats, melodies, layers, blips and beeps to induce epileptic seizure. This method at times culminates in devastating, white-noise virtue on tracks like “Infinitytinifni,” but proves distracting and even incoherent on tracks like “Swords of Truth” and “Colours.” While the disc’s talk-singing single, “Elvis,” proves a rewarding listen, perhaps the stand-out track is the instrumental “Doppelganger,” which springs with space and groove — an antithesis to the album as a whole. These New Puritans have crafted a heady record that, though a bit pretentious, warrants a good listen, even if it’s only born of curiosity.

The new film coast?

The new film coast?

By Matt LevinePhotos by Jeff Kenney With local film icons as disparate as experimental luminary James Benning and the ubiquitous Mark Borchardt, Milwaukee’s cinematic offerings have always been eclectic and fruitful. But in the last several years, our film scene has seen rapid development — the onset, perhaps, of a new period of national exposure to compare favorably with that of New York or Los Angeles. Sound unlikely? Maybe not after the recent initiation of Senate Bill #563: the Film Wisconsin bill. Signed into law in May of 2006, the bill went into effect on January 1 of this year, granting Wisconsin some of the nation’s most film-friendly tax incentives. Filmmakers may claim an investment tax credit of 25% for Wisconsin-based productions, as well as a 0% tax for all film and television services contracted by out-of-state production companies, a 15% state income tax credit for media businesses that make a capital investment in Wisconsin, and other magnanimous boons. The bill is unofficially named after the non-profit organization that helped usher in its existence — Film Wisconsin, whose efforts are dedicated to sustaining Wisconsin’s film and media industry. Film Wisconsin was created to fill the void left by the Wisconsin Film Office, which, due to budget cuts, was forced to close in July 2005 after 18 years of service. In April of the same year, aware of the Wisconsin Film Office’s impending closure, a task force of filmmakers set out to create Film Wisconsin, touring the state and working closely with its production community. A grassroots effort began to grant competitive statewide tax incentives, an effort that gained surprising speed as its economic payoff became apparent to state legislators. Following the bill’s inauguration, Film Wisconsin has touted our state as the “new affordable, film-friendly third coast.” And why not? The bill’s economic, cultural and artistic returns are so obvious as to be practically inevitable. You’ve probably read about Public Enemies, the new Michael Mann/Johnny Depp film that has committed to shooting on location here in Wisconsin — an arrangement that has Wisconsin’s film industry salivating for the big-budget commerce yet to come. “You’ll see an increase in the number of independent films made in Wisconsin and in the number of commercial films that come here,” says Scott Robbe, head of Film Wisconsin, which is based in downtown Milwaukee in office space shared with Visit Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Cultural Alliance. “The logistics of making movies will be much easier, and you’ll have a much greater synergy with Chicago’s film scene.” Indeed, Robbe speaks with enthusiasm of a partnership with Chain Reaction Studios in Milwaukee and Fletcher Camera in Chicago, the “Midwest contingent” that recently spread the word at the Sundance Film Festival about Wisconsin’s plentiful filmmaking incentives. CLASH OF THE INDIE TITANS The benefits the bill brings to Wisconsin cannot be overstated. There are tangible gains: the direct and indirect sources of revenue, the jobs a new industry will create both on and off sets and soundstages, the profits for […]

Women without borders film festival
Queers and running-mates: sadly, not actually the same thing
Queers and running-mates

sadly, not actually the same thing

THIS SUNDAY! The Black Lips w/Quintron and Miss Pussycat @ TURNER HALL!

THIS SUNDAY! The Black Lips w/Quintron and Miss Pussycat @ TURNER HALL!

We are sponsoring this sure-to-be-spectacular show at beautiful TURNER HALL this Sunday, March 2. Visit us at the VITAL table and sign up for ticket giveaways, grab a copy of the new March issue, get some VITAL crayons or a limited edition VITAL 5th Birthday tote bag, or just say hi! Or dance with us! We are champions on the dance floor. We hope you come say hi!

88.9 RadioMilwaukee announces winners of Milwaukee Music Awards

88.9 RadioMilwaukee announces winners of Milwaukee Music Awards

Local music artists Element with J. Todd and Paul Cebar won top honors Tuesday in 88Nine RadioMilwaukee’s first annual Milwaukee Music Awards, which recognize the best of Milwaukee-area music in 18 different categories. The song “Bombs Away,” by hip-hop artists Element and J. Todd, was named Song of the Year in the awards’ urban category, and R&B/world music bandleader Paul Cebar’s song “Her New Church” won Song of the Year in the pop/rock category. Other top awards included Element’s Life is a Heist as Album of the Year (Urban) and Fever Marlene’s Civil War as Album of the Year (Pop/Rock). The station honored Adi Mack (of the band Growing Nation) as Vocalist of the Year (Urban) and Scott Starr (of Fever Marlene) as Vocalist of the Year (Pop/Rock). RadioMilwaukee announced the Milwaukee Music Awards winners on the first anniversary of the station’s new format. The station launched the new format on February 26, 2007. The seasoned music staff of RadioMilwaukee, which has been featuring local artists heavily since the new format began, chose most of the winners. More than 1,000 area music fans also selected Listener Choice Awards winners in several categories by voting online. Winners of the Milwaukee Music Awards are as listed below: Song of the Year (Urban) – “Bombs Away,” Element with J Todd Song of the Year (Pop/Rock) “Her New Church,” Paul Cebar Album of the Year (Urban) – Life is a Heist, Element Album of the Year (Pop/Rock) – Civil War, Fever Marlene Vocalist of the Year (Urban) – Adi Mack (of Growing Nation) Vocalist of the Year (Pop/Rock) – Scott Starr (of Fever Marlene) Best New Artist – Leo Minor 414 Music Award (in-studio performance of the year) – Ali Lubbad & The Desert Sound Ensemble TNT Award (artist most likely to blow up nationally) – Northern Room Kick-Ass Guitar Riff of the Year – “Can U Dig It?” Certain Stars Earwig Award (catchiest single song of the year) – “Losin’ My Mind,” ShutDemDown Productions Album Cover of the Year – Dance Casador! The Championship Best Band Name – Dark Horse Project Winners of the Listener Choice Awards: Artist of the Year (Pop/Rock) – Northern Room Artist of the Year (Urban) – Element Live Performer of the Year (Urban) – De La Buena Live Performer of the Year (Pop/Rock) – Northern Room Club DJ of the Year – Old Man Malcolm Listeners are invited to the station’s anniversary party from 8 p.m. to close on Saturday, March 8 at Moct, 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave. Four local DJs will spin records, and station disc jockeys will attend. Admission is $10, with all proceeds going to RadioMilwaukee. VITAL congratulates 88.9 RadioMilwaukee on a great first year!

Weekend Music Report #2 – The Chain
Political thoughts through the fog of a hangover
Catholic School Girls

Catholic School Girls

By Charise Dawson Despite what you may think, Catholic School Girls is not a dark drama of how Catholic schoolgirls are horribly mistreated by nuns or a sexy story of parochial schoolgirls gone wild – for the most part. Four girls in plaid skirts and matching white blouses girls do fantasize about “doing it,” and sometimes the nuns push them around, but this humorous and tender play by Casey Kurtti is mostly about the obstacles and achievements of female classmates and friends at St. George’s Catholic grade school in Yonkers, NY. The Milwaukee premiere runs at the Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre in Bay View through March 16. The play offers a snapshot of 1960s history, moving from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to “One small step for man …” The popular music of the time that plays during scenic transitions — “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “Stop in the Name of Love” – is one of the most enjoyable artistic selections of the production. Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre’s founder and Artistic Director Mark Bucher directs this play, and he is in his element here. He has four characters that, on casual inspection of the script, do not seem particularly distinct: they are all the same age and gender and speak in the same generically youthful cadences. Digging into the text for subtleties and exercising faith that his actresses will pull it off, he gives each schoolgirl her unique feel and personality. The four schoolgirls of the title are well cast and charismatically performed, particularly Anne Miller in the role of Elizabeth McHugh, who undergoes the harshest spiritual crisis. The girls have a convincing chemistry as an ensemble while each actress pops at the appropriate moments with her own personal quirks and compulsions. The girls are the stars, but they are supported ably by the nuns. Stuck with the largely thankless job of saying hurtful things and potentially offending certain audience members, they make the most of their roles, ultimately delivering some of the production’s biggest laugh-lines. Good acting, skilled direction and the author’s sense of wit make for a laugh-filled evening, the only downside being an over-extended and overly sentimental ending. Catholic School Girls will run through Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at 2252 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. To reserve seating, call 414-744-5757 or visit the Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre online.

Behind the numbers

Behind the numbers

Three Days of Rain

Three Days of Rain

By Charise Dawson Windfall Theatre’s Three Days of Rain, the Pulitzer-Prize nominated drama, opened on Friday, February 15. The small three-person drama plays in the intimate space of Village Church Arts through March 1. The play opens with Walker (Jeremy Welter), a wandering thirty-something, crashing in the unoccupied Manhattan apartment of his late father, a famous architect. Walker talks erratically about his nearly mute and always aloof father and his crazy, out-of-touch mother. When we meet his sister Nan (Angela Beyer), it is easy to see that Walker shares many of his neurotic mother’s traits. The siblings meet to divide their father’s inheritance. Joining them is Pip (Robert W. C. Kennedy), whose late father was the architect’s design partner. When the lawyers determine that Pip is to be left with the landmark residence designed by the architects, the drama heightens and the three form theories about their parents’ lives, behaviors and choices. Walker becomes fascinated by his father’s diary, which described years at a time with emotionless, fragmented entries. The siblings brush off the first short entry, “Three days of rain,” as a weather report. The second act of the play reveals much more about those three rainy days. In Act Two, Ned, Lina and Theo appear in the same Manhattan loft, but 35 years earlier. Theo (Kennedy) is a charming and promising architect. Lina (Beyer) is a Southern-belle transplanted to the city. Ned (Welter) is an unsure and stuttering architect. All three characters are full of hope and life, but things change during three days of rain that change the paths of their lives — and the lives of the children they will someday have — forever. All three actors fill the space nicely with movement and voice in this ensemble piece.Nan and Walker (Beyer and Welter) weave together the story of a terrible night during their childhoods gracefully and brightly. Walter captures Ned fully in Act Two, using his eyes to say what his stuttering character cannot. Robert W. C. Kennedy plays both Pip and Theo with charm and flair. His characters have a knack for storytelling, and Kennedy executes the part seamlessly. Lighting designer Larry Birkett creates a simple arrangement that illuminates the stage and actors. Props and scenery are designed to suggest the same apartment in two periods: an unoccupied loft in 1995 and a tenanted loft in 1960. Both arrangements feel too pleasant for the mood that was created by the script and actors. In the second act, Lina describes Ned’s dwelling as a “dilapidated apartment,” yet the physical environment was neat and tidy. Overall, Windfall Theatre’s mission is to search for answers and provoke questions about the world we live in, an aim that Three Days of Rain appropriately meets. The play’s exploration of how the decisions of parents shape the destiny of their children charges the audience to decipher what influences each character and answer the question, “How well can one person fully know another person?” Richard Greensberg’s Three Days of Rain, presented […]

The delegate race- who matters?
The debate debate

The debate debate

McCain gives a thumbs up to torture
VITAL’s 6th Birthday Funhouse!
VITAL’s 6th Birthday Funhouse!

VITAL’s 6th Birthday Funhouse!

It’s VITAL’s 6th birthday, and we’re celebrating with a coloring party for grownups only, Saturday February 23 at MOCT Bar, 240 E. Pittsburgh Avenue on the border of Milwaukee’s Third and Fifth Wards. Join us from 9 pm to close for no cover, spins from Chicago DJs E6 and Matt Roan and our beloved Diamonds, plus much more! —Goodie bags for the first 100 guests, stuffed with candy, custom VITAL crayons and trinkets from our sponsors. Six lucky bags will contain a golden ticket worth a DVD set from HBO! —$3 Jack Daniels drink specials —A coloring contest with two lucky winners selected at random from all entries to win 6 months worth of Time Warner Cable’s “All The Best” – high speed internet, premium cable and digital phone service! Winner announced at midnight, so come early and color like it’s 1999. —A giant birthday card for you to decorate and sign. We get to keep it at the end of the night. We’ll put it up in the office by the bar. You can come see it at our next Gallery Night event in April. –Plus other surprises we can’t mention just yet… Want to wave to the crowd from above? {encode=”aelliott@vitalsourcemag.com” title=”Email us here”} for your chance to party with the VIPs. You’ll enjoy two free cocktails plus tasty hors d’oeuvre and all-evening access to the upper deck. Be sure to write “VIP” in the subject line of your email.

Soulstice Theatre issues open call for actors

Soulstice Theatre issues open call for actors

Soulstice Theatre is seeking four actors to complete the cast of Marvin’s Room by Scott McPherson. The show will be produced the last weekend of March and the first weekend of April in our studio. Rehearsals will begin at the end of February. The open roles are Bessie, Ruth, Lee and Charlie. If you have questions, or if you know anyone who would be interested, please contact Director Jake Russo or call 414-737-1357 to set up an appointment for Saturday, February 16th. Learn more about Soulstice Theatre online.

Milwaukee International Film Festival announces new director

Milwaukee International Film Festival announces new director

The Milwaukee International Film Festival (MIFF) announced today the appointment of Byron Alpers as executive director. Alpers assumed his position on February 4, 2008, replacing the festival’s co-founder, David Luhrssen, who will remain on MIFF’s board of directors. Alpers comes to the festival with more than 25 years of experience in developing and implementing marketing programs, chiefly for investment management companies. A vice president for marketing at Scudder Funds in his native Boston, he came to Milwaukee to serve as both director of marketing and creative director at Strong Funds. After a similar stint at Heartland Funds, Byron joined Artisan Funds, where he served as a partner. Until recently, he was an independent marketing consultant to such clients as Baird Investment Management, U.S. Bank and Ziegler Capital Management. No stranger to the creative world, Byron minored in art at Dartmouth and earned a Masters in Creative Writing from Boston University. One of his plays, Just Looking, was produced off-Broadway as part of the Rosetta Festival of New Works. He is also a sculptor. His works in stone and turned wooden bowls are represented in a number of private collections on the East Coast. “I’m delighted to be part of MIFF. It’s one of Milwaukee’s major cultural events, and the opportunity to help lead it is very exciting,” Alpers said. The Sixth Annual Milwaukee International Film Festival opens September 18 and runs through September 28, 2008.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

A scene from the Milwaukee Rep’s staging of Glengarry Glen Ross By Tracy Doyle Foul language. Crude behavior. Men being men. In the dark recesses of the underground parking garage, behind the open back doors of a parked van, a group of men bonded, argued, smoked the magic weed and emitted nearly tangible clouds of testosterone. At the same time, four floors above them, on the stage of the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, an entirely different group of men were ruthlessly trying to claw their way to the top of a fictitious Chicago real estate office. Both clans demonstrated the most primal activities of mankind, yet the group above ground, with their suits and ties and briefcases, may have displayed the more animalistic behaviors. In the Milwaukee Rep’s staging of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, four salesmen resort to desperate measures to succeed in the harried world of real estate. Deception and manipulation are the tools of the trade, and over the course of the play we watch these men devolve in front of our eyes, following their most primal instincts to come out on top. Mamet may be best known for his unique stylization of dialogue; every “er,” “um” and “I …” is written out, and overlapping dialogue reigns supreme. Director Kate Buckley ushered this production to success through mastery of this difficult technique, known affectionately as “Mametspeak.” However, an even greater challenge of producing Glengarry Glen Ross is to create something original and not simply a lower-quality version of the beloved 1992 film version starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin et al. It is tempting to parrot the film’s unforgettable performance, and unfortunately, too many of this evenings’ actors were reminiscent of the cinematic greats. James DeVita as Richard Roma has a quiet, almost Kyle Maclachlan-like energy to him, very boy-next-door. Yet consistently, he would inject near perfect imitations of Pacino into his role. These sharp contrasts to the character he had already established made DeVita’s Roma difficult to follow and believe. A more successful invention of character was created by Peter Silbert, who was challenged to break the “Jack Lemmon” out of his character, Shelly Levene. Although Silbert shares physical and vocal qualities with Lemmon, he was successful in his own right. The monologue in which he describes his unbelievable sale of eight units of property to the Nyborgs was an impressive moment of dramatic clarity; it was impossible to look away from him. Jim Pickering as Dave Moss submitted another notable performance. The play is witty, fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, although it leaves the audience with a pretty bleak picture of humanity, especially men. Upon leaving the theatre and heading back to the parking garage, we found our pot-smoking, van-dwelling acquaintances from earlier relieving themselves and grunting wildly, assumably having missed the performance all together. Although they were acting like animals, I had to question who the real beasts were. I think Mamet would agree that the answer is the fuckin’ salesmen. […]

Weekend Music Report

Weekend Music Report

Little bits before the Big Day
Collections of Colonies of Bees

Collections of Colonies of Bees

By Charlie Hosale The central aspect of Milwaukee natives Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller’s musical projects has always been accessible experimentation. Collections of Colonies of Bees, thanks to an evolving and expanding lineup of musicians, have had a number of dynamically different sounds over the years. This new release finds the band on a new label with a filled-out lineup consisting of Jim Schoenecker, Daniel Spack, and Thomas Wincek. From the record’s first note, the change in the Bees’ sound and approach is palpable. Customer, released in 2004, found the group experimenting with free forms and electronics, with a focus on floating melody. Those influences are still present on Birds, but the band has shifted to a much more structured process. Instead of trying to see how far music can go, like the unconventional structure and melodic re-imaginings of Customer, they attempt to break music down to its simplest emotional form. Birds shifts to pulsing rhythms and delicately structured melodic layering to create a musical catharsis—something that, before Birds, the Bees hadn’t really done. Birds is an entirely different record for the Bees, but it still sounds like everything their listeners have come to love about them. Their songs have always sounded like instances of beauty, like a friend smiling or a tear dropping, and on Birds those pictures are still there; it just sounds like now the Bees are ready to take on the whole story, instead of only living in the moment.

Checkers or Chess?

Checkers or Chess?

Maybe no one will win this election By Donald Kaul American elections are nothing if not amusing; solemn rituals laced with equal measures of irony and hypocrisy, with a touch of absurdity thrown in for taste. The victory speeches alone are worth the price of admission. Take for example the statement of Mitt Romney after he’d been declared winner of the Michigan caucuses: “Tonight is a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism,” he said. Implicit in that statement is the belief, widely held, unfortunately, that optimism is a good thing in and of itself, and that to be pessimistic is somehow un-American. Balderdash. Hogwash. Fiddle-faddle. There, having exhausted my supply of 19th Century rebukes, let me tell you why the idea is dangerous nonsense. A little optimism is fine, necessary, even. It helps one get up in the morning and face the day. When it reaches the point of self-delusion, however, it masks the real problems one faces and makes a solution impossible. Romney’s victory took place at the precise moment that the national economy seems poised to plunge into a full-blown recession and in a state that has been living that recession for the better part of a decade. Michigan’s unemployment rate, at about 8 percent, is the highest in the country; its chief economic engine, the auto industry, is reeling from foreign competition and shows little sign of recovering any time soon. Plants, one after another, keep closing. It doesn’t need optimism; it needs rescue. Romney says he can bring Michigan’s lost jobs home. By cutting taxes, of course. That’s the Republican answer to Hadacol. It cures all ills. Let me say this about that: Cutting taxes does not necessarily create jobs. Rich people and corporations do not invest in plants and equipment simply because they have the money to do so. There has to be some expectation of profit. And if there’s nobody out there with money to buy anything, that expectation does not exist. I will never know how Democrats keep losing elections to Republicans. The GOP has controlled Congress for most of the past dozen years and the presidency for the past seven. Having inherited a budget surplus, a boisterous economy and a healthy dollar, they’ve managed to squander those advantages and run the economy into a ditch. And now we’re seriously considering keeping a Republican in the White House? That’s like hiring Michael Vick as your dog walker. On second thought, I think I know how Democrats keep losing elections. Their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is all but supernatural. Take, for example, the decision of the national party to ignore the Michigan caucuses. Michigan, seeking to achieve some relevance in the presidential selection process, had moved its caucuses up right behind Iowa and New Hampshire. This so offended the leaders of the Democratic party that they punished the state by stripping it of its delegates at the national convention. The major presidential candidates went along with the gag (most […]

VITAL turns six with Puzzles + Games

VITAL turns six with Puzzles + Games

By VITAL friends and family Download PDFs of all of our puzzles & games! Just print and play! Coloring page by Natalia Rubanov: VITAL’s birthday girl! Coloring page by Dwellephant Coloring page by Tim Edgar Hidden picture puzzle by Coth Paper doll by Tea Krulos Coloring page by Kristopher Pollard Coloring page by Jeff Noise Find the differences puzzle by J. Jason Groschopf Giant word search Giant crossword Kris kross puzzle, anagram jumble and mega-sudoku

The Mac, the PC, and the McCain
2008 HANDBAG EXPO at FASHION NINJA: Seeking designers
2008 HANDBAG EXPO at FASHION NINJA

Seeking designers

Do you design handbags or know someone who does? Are you interested or would they be interested in selling them at FASHION NINJA for the 2008 HANDBAG EXPO? The HANDBAG EXPO was founded three years ago by designer Areka Ikeler as a way to feature one-of-a-kind, hand-made handbags. This year marks will be the third annual HANDBAG EXPO, held at the Fashion Ninja Boutique. We expect over 200 handbags this year to consume the retail boutique for one weekend only. This EXPO. will kick off on Friday, April 18 with a gallery night party scheduled from 7-11pm, with live music and food to celebrate. The Boutique will sell handbags on opening night and through Saturday and Sunday. APPLICATION DEADLINE for the 2008 HANDBAG EXPO is 2/15/08. Email Fashion Ninja for an application or call 414-481-3865. Visit Fashion Ninja online for more information.

Milwaukee Ballet’s new fundraising efforts so far a resounding success

Milwaukee Ballet’s new fundraising efforts so far a resounding success

The Milwaukee Ballet announced today that business planning and fundraising efforts with the organization’s new leadership team in place have resulted in new investments totaling more than $625,000. Leading the major contributions were the Dohmen Family Foundation with a gift of $375,000 and the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation with a gift of $100,000. Additional donors gave more than $150,000 during that same period toward future artistic The Dohmen Family Foundation gift will be used to eliminate the Ballet’s debt, which has grown over the past few years to approximately $375,000. A relatively new contributor to the Milwaukee Ballet, the foundation is excited about working with the Ballet’s leadership team to strengthen this artistic and community treasure. “Over the years, the Milwaukee Ballet has been, and continues to be, supported by passionate and visionary community leaders and we’re very grateful to all of them,” said Bob Dohmen. “Now it’s our turn to join them. We hope our gift inspires others to support the Milwaukee Ballet as they embark on an exciting new era that will enhance this precious community asset.” The Ballet’s recent reorganization of its operations included opening a new business office led by Sam Bahr. Bahr, previously the longtime Controller for Carroll College and a former dancer, continues to strengthen the Ballet’s capacity. New business planning initiatives that focus on supporting the artistic and the Milwaukee Ballet School team’s long-term vision have already led toward more than $150,000 in new gifts. As the Ballet embarks on a new strategic marketing plan, The Herzfeld Foundation grant will be utilized to upgrade its Web site, e-commerce and ticketing functions while developing new resources and flexibility for Milwaukee Ballet School families, all of which provide a more seamless experience for patrons. These new tools will allow the Ballet to better satisfy and maintain relationships with its loyal patron base while reaching out to build relationships with new patrons. In 2007, the Ballet set in motion a plan that gave the organization new strategic priorities to help guide it into the future. Over the last several years, it became clear that the Ballet was facing a new set of challenges and opportunities. One of those challenges was shifting ticket patron buying patterns. “We realize that the needs of audiences and school families, along with their purchasing patterns, are changing. That means it was essential for the Ballet to change if we were going to accomplish our goals,” said Buehler. “Our organization has a rich, cultural vision and pioneering spirit,” continued Buehler. “Those attributes will continue to guide us as we make the changes necessary to become more efficient, strengthen our endowment and improve the reach of our school while creating the nationally acclaimed, innovative and timeless productions our audience loves.” Founded in 1970, the Milwaukee Ballet strives to inspire its audiences to think within and beyond traditional ballet through the presentation of quality performances and the implementation of educational opportunities. The Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Ballet School are recognized among the […]

VITAL Gallery Archive

VITAL Gallery Archive

Listen to Super Tuesday coverage on WUWM

Listen to Super Tuesday coverage on WUWM

On Tuesday, February 5 from 7 to 9 pm, WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee Public Radio will carry NPR’s Special Election Coverage of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. With competitive races in both parties and a chance that there could be at least one presumptive nominee by the end of the night, NPR will begin providing live coverage of the primary/caucus results at 7 pm. NPR will host coverage from Washington D.C. with updates from NPR reporters in every key state. Election related material will be updated and carried throughout the evening, as dictated by the news, including candidates’ speeches. Extended coverage may air until 1 am. WUWM programming will be pre-empted for this coverage. Listen for coverage about the primaries in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, American Samoa, and the caucuses in Alaska, American Samoa, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and the Republican Convention in West Virginia. Additional reports will air during NPR’s Morning Edition on Wednesday, February 6 from 5 to 9 am. Very exciting.

New Pix Now in our Photo Gallery!

New Pix Now in our Photo Gallery!

Check out the pictures from our Gallery Night show, "Family Album," held January 18 at our new office. If you weren’t there, you probably know someone who was. Click here to go to the Gallery.

A SMALL ARMY OF LITTLE GOLDEN MEN
Your Support

Your Support

The Kennedy family endorses hope
Support Independent Media
When Cans Got The Lip

When Cans Got The Lip

Arabesque Music Ensemble

Arabesque Music Ensemble

By Blaine Schultz Umm Kulthum was a very popular Arabic vocalis; in her beautiful and powerful voice, she performed songs composed for her by a trio of talented men. Zakariyya Ahmad, Muhammad al-Qasabji and Riyad al-Sunbati are known as the Three Musketeers. This album is made up of tunes written in the 1930s and 1940s – some of which were originally recorded for movies. This is not a reissue, but a contemporary project of the Chicago-based Arabesque Music Ensemble. It is a tribute to the composers. For these recordings, the ensemble worked with 75-year-old vocalist Youssef Kassab, who transcribed the original recordings. While most of the group members are in their 20s and 30s (and have recorded with Shakira and Beyonce), they sought to recreate the vibe of the original era. The Three Musketeers were traditionalists for the most part, but added touches of Western influene – hence the appearance of cello alongside ‘ud and qanun. Liner note translation of the lyrics speak of sacred and secular devotion and patriotism – love in its many forms. What stands out is the care the musicians took with this music. Lilting melodies glide and rage with ease. The Arabesque Music Ensemble performs February 5 at the DeKoven Center in Racine.

Our responsibility for the lying Bush
Martin Luther King Jr and Politics as Usual
Outside the Free Speech Zone
Chief Flynn and the Unknown Plan
Michigan Democrats get the shaft
The edible and incredible Russ Feingold
10th Annual Milwaukee Short Film Festival: Call for entries
10th Annual Milwaukee Short Film Festival

Call for entries

The 10th Annual Milwaukee Short Film Festival, named Best Local Festival in MovieMaker’s Winter 2006 issue, is scheduled for May 10-11, 2008. The event includes industry judges, panel discussions, social events and awards, with a Grand Prize of $1000. Submit now in any genre. Early Deadline is January 31 with an entry fee of $10. Regular deadline is February 29 ($15) and final deadline is March 26 ($20). Email Dirty Job Films for more information or visit either their website or the Short Film Fest MySpace page. Best of luck!

Kucinich, Diebold, Kerry, oh my!
Confounding the pundits

Confounding the pundits

The Politics of Fear

The Politics of Fear

DECISION 2008…..Your Vote Matters!
RESCHEDULED: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares @ Pabst Theater
RESCHEDULED

Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares @ Pabst Theater

In our January Picks, we featured Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, scheduled to appear in concert at the Pabst on Friday, January 18. The show has been rescheduled for Friday, May 16. All tickets previously purchased will be honored and current ticket holders will be contacted by the Pabst to inform them of the change. Here’s what we said: “The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir, more poetically known as “Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares” (the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices), have moved at least one critic to describe their singing as “the most beautiful music on the planet” (St. Louis Post Dispatch). Dropping jaws around the world since 1951, members of this ensemble are handpicked from rural farms and villages across Bulgaria and train extensively in the unique musical structures that give them their ethereal sound. It’s been hip to be worldly in the past couple of decades, and the Voix Bulgares have garnered international attention from sources as disparate (nay, unlikely) as Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Linda Rondstadt and the United Nations. But it’s not because they’re kitschy, overproduced or in any way unauthentic. What does it really say about them? Everyone loves them, and you will too. 414-286-3663. pabsttheater.org” We believe this will all still be true in the spring.

National webzine announces Latina writing contest

National webzine announces Latina writing contest

We received this press release today from Austin, Texas: Following a reverse trend in publishing, Latinitas Magazine, the first digital magazine made for and by Latina youth, is augmenting its successful online publications with the launch of a print magazine for “‘tweens” in 2008. To gather “voces authenticas” (authentic voices) from all over the United States, the magazine is launching the Latinitas Magazine National Writing Contest, seeking feedback from Latina youth ages 14 to 21 on what it is to be Latina. Winning writers will see their articles published in the print and online issues of Latinitas Magazine. Media tends to either neglect or misrepresent Latina identity, crystallizing her in over-sexualized images or excessive portrayals of servitude. Aside from ABC’s Ugly Betty, much of mainstream media depicts Latinas as uneducated gangster “cholas” or maids. According to media watchdog Children Now, negative media portrayals of youth have been associated with damaging body image and self-esteem among children and teens, particularly among girls who often find themselves marginalized by media. Contest Criteria: Contestants should be between the ages of 14 and 21. Submissions should be 800-1000 words in first person or Associated Press style on one of the following subjects: What is it like to be a Hispanic/Latina female in your hometown? What does it mean to be a Hispanic/Latina female to you? As a Hispanic/Latina female, are you doing something in your community to make a difference? If so, what? Describe the biggest challenge facing the young Hispanic/Latinas today. Applicants should submit articles to latinitasawards@yahoo.com by midnight February 10, 2008 or mail a copy: Latinitas P.O. Box 4284 Austin, TX 78765 “Latinas come from the barrios and the ‘burbs. We are hoping to hear from Hispanic young women who represent the large diaspora of Latinas,” explains Alicia Rascon, Latinitas co-founder. “I was born in Mexico, but you have other Latinas in the United States who may have never seen their family’s country of origin – yet they practice the culture and traditions of that place. Those are the stories we are excited to read.” The U.S. Census reports that by 2025, one in every five teens will be Latino. Clearly, what goes on among Latina teens not only affects the Latino community, but also has an extraordinary impact on the nation as a whole. VITAL Source hopes you’ll spread the word and wishes you luck!

Wall Street Journal loves The Norman Conquests

Wall Street Journal loves The Norman Conquests

Deserved and markedly positive attention was paid to Milwaukee this weekend in a major coup for the city and its arts scene with a glowing review in The Wall Street Journal of The Norman Conquests at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. “Revivals of so complex a theatrical undertaking must of necessity be rare, and I very much doubt you’ll see a better one than this,” writes the Journal’s drama critic Terry Teachout, amidst praise for Artistic Director Joseph Hanreddy, the Rep’s resident acting ensemble and the costume and set design. Read it for yourself online — then head over to The Rep’s website and get your tickets now. This show is a huge deal, and it closes in two weeks, so this is your last chance to see it for a long time. As Terry Teachout points out, this ambitious production is rarely, if ever, revived in America.

Open to interpretation

Open to interpretation

By Joe White “We’ll all have walkie talkies, and I’ll pretty much be like the quarterback,” says Kevin Stalheim. Such a statement might seem unusual coming from a member of a classical music ensemble, but when the ensemble in question is Present Music – a gaggle of adventurous virtuosi who have trained their fans to expect the unpredictable – the imagery seems in character. On January 12, Present Music stages “Art, Architecture and Music” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, using the entire Museum as a canvas for a concert. “We’ve been there for a long time, and we always go in there and do a concert where people sit down,” says Stalheim, who serves as the ensemble’s artistic director. “I thought that someday I’d like to do something where we’re moving around the galleries.” Before the performance, UWM students and professional video artists will display their work in Windhover Hall while models from Fashion Ninja pose around the museum. After a talk between Alex Mincek and MAM chief curator Joe Ketner about the dialogue between art and music, the action will move to Windhover for the world premiere of Mincek’s “Portraits and Repetitions,” as well as “In White” by longtime Present Music collaborator Kamran Ince and “Women at an Exhibition” by Randall Woolf. After the performance, concertgoers will split into groups and disperse to different sections of the Museum for music and recontextualized art. Roughly every 20 minutes, the groups will switch places. “What I’m imagining is people walking around in these groups [in] a very quiet way, in a contemplative way, the way someone might in a cathedral or a library,” says Stalheim. “The music will be happening, but people can feel free to move around.” Afterward, guests can enjoy an after-party with access to the Martin Ramirez exhibition, an impromptu runway show by Fashion Ninja and a presentation by multimedia ensemble donebestdone. While the works of Randall Woolf, Alex Mincek and Kamran Ince comprise the traditional sit-down-and-listen section of the evening, they are anything but stereotypical “serious” musicians. Those imagining composers of classical music to be crusty, gray and near-death will have their prejudices particularly challenged by Randall Woolf, who played in garage rock bands in high school and did not have an interest in classical music until college. “I do modern classical music – modern in the sense that it has sounds, ideas, videos and other elements that you would be familiar with in our world, like electric guitar, turntables and drum machines,” Woolf says. His resume includes Harvard and Tanglewood (perhaps conforming more to the “I don’t own a television and never smile” stereotype of serious composers), but his MySpace page includes PJ Harvey and Bubba Sparxx, and his music reflects as wide a range of styles. Woolf wrote “Women at an Exhibition” on commission from the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Akron Art Museum and premiered the work in 2004. The piece incorporates recordings of women speaking and singing and is played in tandem with […]

Reverend Organdrum

Reverend Organdrum

The Reverend Horton Heat (specifically, band leader Jim Heath) is pretty much a brand name with the best of‘em. For over twenty years, the Rev has built quite a church on the strengths of his electrically – charged, vaguely psychotic musical sermons, with admirers in a wide spectrum of music appreciation, from the purists to the curious. Hi-Fi Stereo, a collection of entirely instrumental covers (save “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”), falls more on the purist end. Though Reverend Organdrum (I’m betting the moniker brainstorming sessions took three seconds, tops) is quite a pairing, with Asleep At The Wheel’s Tim Alexander providing the organ, there is more miss than hit here. While expertly played and arranged, this disc leaves nothing to the listener’s imagination. From song selection to production to performance, nothing even remotely transports the listener. The lack of anything compelling tells me this was done in pure fun, and probably knocked off with little engaged energy. “Experiment in Terror” is worthy, with some nice atmospheric touches; “James Bond Theme” and “Theme to Route 66” are underlined with a bit of cool. But sadly, those are the only highlights worth mentioning (or even remembering). In a career that has been nothing but success — artistically, commercially, and critically — this project can only be heard as a disappointment. 

Milwaukee Moments Photo Contest: call for entries!
Milwaukee Moments Photo Contest

call for entries!

Looking for something to do now that the holidays are pretty much done with? Spend some off-time with the family reliving memories by going through old photos for the Milwaukee Moments photo contest. The Milwaukee Press Club announces a photo contest for the 162nd City of Milwaukee Birthday Party to be held January 29, 2008 at The Pfister Hotel. Residents and amateur photographers can pick out their best captured Milwaukee Moment and view contest rules and entry instructions on the web site. Submissions must be uploaded electronically. All FedEx/Kinko’s locations throughout metro Milwaukee are available to scan photos and assist residents in submitting their snapshots. The public may vote for the winning photo from ten selected finalists online January 18-25. The winner will be announced by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at the City of Milwaukee’s 162nd Birthday Party. This year’s event will be held at the recently renovated Grand Ballroom of The Pfister Hotel. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Milwaukee Press Club website. The “Milwaukee Moments” photo theme will be utilized throughout the event and the ten finalists will be present. For more information visit www.milwaukeemoments.com.

Holiday Alchemy

Holiday Alchemy

IN:SITE call for proposals
IN

SITE call for proposals

IN:SITE, a local organization fostering temporary public art in Milwaukee County, and Sherman Park Community Association are pleased to announce that they are collaborating on temporary public art installations in the Sherman Park neighborhood for 2008. There will be two five-month cycles of temporary public art, the first in April and the second in September of 2008. One project for each cycle will have a community involvement component. In addition, one project for each cycle will feature IN:SITE mentoring an emerging artist from the Sherman Park area. Currently, IN:SITE is accepting Spring 2008 proposals for the following sites in Sherman Park: Sherman Park (four city blocks, bounded by Burleigh on the north, Locust on the south, Sherman Boulevard on the west, and 41st Street on the east): This site is open to all artists, emerging or established, though the project must retain a community involvement component. IN:SITE encourages using the park’s pathways and using materials that will last up to four or five months. Sherman Park Community Association Office (3526 W. Fond du Lac Avenue): This site is only open to artists residing in the Sherman Park area. Interested artists should attend the meeting on Saturday, January 5, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at Sherman Perk Coffee Shop (4924 W. Roosevelt). Please be sure to go to IN:SITE’s website for detailed descriptions and images of the specific sites. Once you have an idea of what you want to propose, submit a thumbnail sketch. To do so, fill out the proposal form and submit via email or by mail at P.O. Box 151, Milwaukee, WI, 53201. Submissions are due by February 1, 2008. The installations have to be in place before the May 3 opening. Please think inside the realm of TEMPORARY public art, outside of the permanent public art box. Your project could be a mural, sculpture, or a video. Since the stipends are not large ($200-$500), think about appropriate use of time and materials. Funding for the art is made possible by a matching grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board (WAB) with funds from the Challenge America program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The money from the WAB, supported in part by funds from the State of Wisconsin, is matched with funding through SPCA’s involvement in the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. VITAL wishes you luck with your proposals!

But Only Because People Are Asking
Know What They Call A Quarter Pounder With Cheese In England?
What A Wonderful Closing Song
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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol at a time when there was a new focus on our growing human family and the plight of the poor. It was also a time when the urban Christmas tradition had started to lose meaning. Although a century or so has passed, A Christmas Carol still reminds us of the importance of charity and love for humanity that’s especially pertinent this time of year.

VITAL’s predictions for 2008

VITAL’s predictions for 2008

Formulating predictions for a new year can be ironic -- they usually revolve around the roadblocks we couldn't bust through in the previous year. What license are we issued to move the immovable just by the setting and rising of the sun one more time, one more bout of shuteye, one more flip of a shiny but flimsy paper calendar?

Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Chr

Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Chr

By Jill Gilmer From the moment you are greeted by the white-haired ladies at the entrance to the playhouse, it’s apparent that this will be no ordinary night at the theatre: this is the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society. This very amateur acting troupe attempts to perform Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with comic results, ranging from falling sets to missed lines to an apparent no-show by the actress who plays Scrooge, forcing the company’s director to try to solicit a replacement from the audience at the start of the play. Farndale Avenue is a series of 11 plays-within-plays produced by the society ladies’ drama guild, including their attempts to perform Macbeth, a murder mystery and a French farce. Theatre-goers expecting A Christmas Carol may be disappointed. The seasonal favorite is really just a backdrop to showcase a host of theatrical mishaps and odd divergences from the original script. At the end of the play, the cast abandons the story altogether and leads the audience in a game of charades. The clever script by David McGillvray and Walter Zerlin Jr. is packed with classic British humor, and the challenge for any American theatre company is to capture the play’s wit without degenerating into silliness. Unfortunately, the company has only limited success in this endeavor. The audience laughed throughout the show but at a level far more restrained than might be expected. In many scenes, the ensemble appears to be trying too hard. This production misses the sharp wit of the parody, which requires a much higher degree of subtlety in both its acting and its direction. Bright spots include an excellent performance by Beverly Sargent, whose character inches across the stage wearing a neck brace she acquired in a supermarket accident. Elizabeth Keefe brings a sweet innocence and natural humor to her characters, especially her portrayal of a snowman in the opening scene. Matthew Patten, the only male member of the women’s drama guild, plays the role of a clueless cast member with just the right level of happy-go-lucky confusion. Farndale Avenue continues through December 31 at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. For tickets or more information, contact the box office at (262) 782-4430 or visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com.

Milwaukee in Miami? Hotcakes takes us there

Milwaukee in Miami? Hotcakes takes us there

Hotcakes will be bringing art from Milwaukee to Miami for the Aqua Art Miami art fair and international market from December 5 through December 9, since most of us aren’t fortunate enough to go there ourselves this chilly time of year. The exhibition will be at the Aqua Hotel, a classic South Beach resort which has become a favorite gathering spot to relax and socialize during Art Basel week. The event is located within walking distance of Art Basel, and an Aqua shuttle will run in a continual loop between the hotel and Art Basel Miami Beach each day during regular event hours. Hotcakes will be showing the following artists at Aqua Art Miami: Annie Aube, John Balsley, John Will Balsley, Joseph Bolstad, Rory Burke, Peter Carlson, Melissa Dorn Richards, Meredith Dittmar, Bill Dunlap, Gregory Euclide, Noah Friedman, George Jirasek, Gary John Gresl, Ariana Huggett, Jeremiah Ketner, Mayuko Kono, Matthew Kirk, Paul Kjelland, Tara Klamrowski, John Loscuito, Miel Margarita-Paredes, kathryn e. martin, Colin Matthes, Kevin J. Miyazaki, Ashley Morgan, Christopher Niver, Micaela O’Herlihy, Josie Osborne, Nate Page, Kristopher Pollard, Michelle Sherkow, Robert Smith, Roy Staab, Ric Stultz, Sonja Thomson, Heimo Wallner, Betsy Walton, Dan Wilson. We’re happy to be there in spirit, if not in body. We hope our art gets a good tan and has a nice couple of drinks on the beach.

Marcus Doucette

Marcus Doucette

By Kenya Evans His distinctive voice graces our radio waves as a host on 88Nine, Radio Milwaukee; chalk up his tranquil tone to his meditative practices as a Yoga instructor. By night you may have found him scratching and mixing on the 1’s and 2’s at local hot spots like Jackalope Lounj and Hi Hat Garage – maybe you even caught him opening for Meshell Ndegeocello at Turner Hall in November. A DJ on the local scene for eight years, Marcus Doucette describes his work as “The Mystic Art of Just Being Yourself.” What made you turn to DJing and radio jockeying after school? I [graduated] from Marquette University back in 1998 … I had a really hard time finding a job that was anything other than another paycheck and another week of getting by. At first, DJing was an accident (because I had some records), then it was for fun (because I worked and partied too much anyway), then it was money (because I always needed it). Then something happened; with all of these motivations in mind, I sort of got lucky and landed a gig at 91.7 doing their world music slot, and that was the best opportunity. With the freedom to play music that inspired words, I found that radio was a great place for me to be. Two years at WMSE honed skills that would become a job at 88Nine. The odd thing is this is the job I had never “planned” on getting. What do you think of the Milwaukee arts scene? I have always thought of the scene here as being creative as well as progressive. With MIAD in town and the overall support of events like Gallery Night, Milwaukee has talent as well as some support for that talent. Add a party-like vibe and you have a sense of my sense of the scene in town. What are you working on and who are you working with? Right now I’m doing work with anyone who wants to work with me … currently a musician named Eltron, and another DJ, Dirty Francis, as well as The Architect, Tarik from 88Nine. How do you draw people to your work? Come to my show, I’ll probably ask you; we’ll have a beer and work it out on the dance floor. Talk about your approach to your art. I don’t really consider myself an artist in the traditional sense of the word. If you mean “being involved in creative endeavors,” then maybe, but just barely. I do appreciate it when someone calls me one; I would say that I use a little art in what I do – and that’s stretching the definition a bit. With DJing, I feel my approach is all about the moment. I’ve never been able to plan a set because the impact of the room is very important and the “art” in my DJing is all about how the environment affects my Center … what spins off of that becomes my set, […]

Holiday Fun Guide

Holiday Fun Guide

It’s hard to get into the “seasonal spirit” amidst mobbed malls, wintry wind chill and foul fruitcake. But besides these holiday high jinks, there’s enough merriness and cheer for all to enjoy in Milwaukee.

Insurgents, Bananas and Holidaze
Listen to the national Democratic Presidential debate 12/4 on WUWM 89.7

Listen to the national Democratic Presidential debate 12/4 on WUWM 89.7

Milwaukee Public Radio will air the national Democratic Presidential debate live from 1:00-3:00PM (CT) on Tuesday, December 4, 2007. The national debates are an exclusive radio-only broadcast and will also stream online. NPR News and Iowa Public Radio (IPR) are hosting this debate, which will be held at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. NPR News journalists and hosts Steve Inskeep, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel will serve as moderators. The two-hour event, leading up to the Iowa Caucus, will offer the first audio-only debate of the presidential, using the format introduced in 2004 by NPR and the NPR Member Stations of Iowa. All major Democratic candidates are confirmed to attend. Breaking away from the question-and-answer structure traditionally presented by the television networks, the NPR/IPR debate will feature three areas of discussion and the moderators will enable the candidates to conduct a dialogue with each other. Following the initial exclusive broadcast and webcast, NPR will make the recording fully accessible to all media outlets and individuals, without license restrictions. It will also be available for permanent on-demand streaming at NPR’s website and at wuwm.com. NPR is offering listeners the opportunity to submit questions online. Visit wuwm.com to share your questions. NPR will put some of the questions to the candidates at the debate on December 4. NPR and IPR are working with the Republican presidential candidates to reschedule the forum originally planned for December 3. The leading Republican candidates cited scheduling conflicts and multiple debate requests from news and political party organizations. NPR is currently working closely with them to identify another suitable date and location.

GREETINGS!

GREETINGS!

By Tracy Doyle If you’re looking for a little holiday fun that isn’t your 234th viewing of A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, or It’s a Wonderful Life, head to the Off-Broadway Theatre for Next Act’s delightful presentation of Tom Dudzick’s GREETINGS! This holiday favorite tells the story of the Gorski family on Christmas Eve as they entertain two very unexpected guests. Andy Gorski, who has moved from his small town to the big city, returns home for Christmas with his new girlfriend, Randi Stein. Almost immediately upon arrival, Randi, an atheistic Jew, and the Gorskis, devoutly Catholic, start to argue about religion. Sparks fly and the holiday seems to be ruined until Andy’s younger mentally disabled brother Mickey saves the day. As the evening progresses, old beliefs are challenged, new beliefs are forged, and the family is drawn together by the arrival of a second incredible holiday guest. Although the script is heavy handed at times and each plot line hammers the same idea over and over, the loving spirit of the play shines through. The cast of GREETINGS! is stellar and enjoyable to watch. David Cecsarini and Debra Babich are very believable as Mr. and Mrs. Gorski; they bicker and jab as only a long-married couple can, yet they are never stale or stereotypical. Often I found myself wondering how the heck my grandparents had found their way onto the stage. Elizabeth Audley (Randi Stein) and Eddie Collins (Andy Gorski) were also quite pleasant, but Marcus Truschinski (Mickey Gorski) stole the show with his spectacular portrayal of a mentally disabled twenty-something. Truschinski used his entire body, from every twitching muscle in his face to every awkward twist of his ankle, to create an entirely believable, never politically incorrect, character. He was funny, yet serious – definitely the star on the top of this production’s Christmas tree. It all comes together for an unforgettable night of great theatre – if you see GREETINGS!, be prepared to laugh and open your heart and mind a little to let in the true spirit of the holidays. GREETINGS! runs through Decmber16 at the Off-Broadway Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling the ticket office at 414-278-0765 or online at www.nextact.org.

Carolin’ Carolynne’s Comin’ To Town

Carolin’ Carolynne’s Comin’ To Town

By Jill Gillmer Is it just me, or does the title Carolin’ Carolynne splashed across a red-and-green banner suggest that this holiday revue might include a few Christmas carols? This was how I convinced my elderly aunt and mother to accompany me to the performance. When I found myself waiting for the first carol nearly an hour into the show, I realized that Carolynne was going to make a liar out of me, despite the creative arrangement of Silent Night (with different lyrics) and a few bars of one or two other Christmas favorites sprinkled between non-holiday songs. But the “rollicking tunes” featured in the Stackner Cabaret’s holiday production were more appropriate for a Holiday Booze Cruise – I mean Blues Cruise – than a Sunday afternoon with conservative relatives. Once I got past the disappointment of a carol-free performance, though, I was able to enjoy the ride. Billed as a vacation for those suffering from holiday-related depression, Carolynne Warren’s one-woman show features a series of wacky characters gently coaxing the audience out of its melancholy with a charming array of songs and skits. Its success isn’t due to the humor in the writing – indeed, much of the comedy borders on slapstick. Nor is it because of Ms. Warren’s average singing voice. Carolynne Warren is a hit with audiences because of the warmth and compassion she obviously feels for the characters she’s penned. One stand-out is a mermaid/Genie in a Bottle/vixen who addresses the lovelorn souls who unfortunately sought her advice. In another scene, a therapist enthusiastically espouses the virtues of anti-depressants over psycho-therapy. As a writer, Ms. Warren has a special gift for tapping the humor and sadness that coexist in the human heart. And it’s hard not to identify with at least one or two of the pathetic ballads she croons as the potential Soundtrack of Your Life. Ms. Warren’s piano accompanist, the immensely talented William Knowles, adds a calming balance to her frenetic energy. The many costume changes and creatively-rewritten songs keep the pace lively. All in all, it’s not a bad way to cure your holiday malaise. VS Carolin’ Carrolynne’s Comin’ to Town runs through January 6 at the Stackner Cabaret. For tickets and information, contact (414) 224-9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com.

Indian Blood

Indian Blood

By Carrie Beilke Without awkward family gatherings, the holidays would just be a time to eat turkey and spend too much time at the mall. The Boulevard Theater’s presentation of A.R. Gurney’s Indian Blood is an intimate peek into one such Christmas, with plenty of dysfunctional family members, arguments and wholesome helpings of Americana to go around. This memory play, set in the late 1940s, is sparsely dressed with plain wooden chairs. There are no other props and actions are mimed. To keep things light- hearted and remind us of the Christmas spirit, carols sung by Caitlin Kujawski cue the scene changes. High school student Eddie (played by actual high school student Joseph Redemann) does heavy lifting as both the narrator of the holiday memory and an instigator of trouble. Eddie’s been kicked out of school, blaming his “Indian Blood,” and though his parents aren’t particularly happy, they try to smooth things over for the Christmas dinner at Grandmother’s. Eddie’s mother, played by Maureen Dornemann, is serene as the out-of-place in-law, kindly reminding her son that there are already plenty of old conflicts at the table. There’s another twist to this year’s celebration: in a display of charity, Grandmother invites Eddie’s weasel-y cousin Lambert (a pleasantly annoying Hugh Blewett). Lambert isn’t interested in charity, though, and would prefer to use the opportunity to take Eddie down. It may look like an innocent game of musical chairs, but to the boys, it is a battle. These sorts of skirmishes, which pop up all over the drama, are welcome respite from some drearier social commentary – as you might expect from a sketch of the last century, the story at times wavers into confusion as it pokes fun at high society, WASP family values and the decline of the city of Buffalo. Overall, though, it’s a fun show, so watch your table manners, don’t fill up on the bread, and save room for the homemade pumpkin pie served at intermission. VS Indian Blood runs at the Boulevard from November 14th through December 2nd. Call 414-744-5757 for ticket information.

Lame Dreams – Vol. 1

Lame Dreams – Vol. 1

The song remains the same?

The song remains the same?

By Ellen Burmeister Once regarded as the epitome of the excesses of the 1970s rock landscape, Led Zeppelin is currently undergoing a revival of sorts, which is expected to culminate in a much-heralded reunion concert in London this December. For those of us who can’t book a flight to Heathrow, an admirable substitute came to the Riverside Theater November 9 as a 50-piece subset of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Under the direction of composer/arranger Brent Havens, they presented “The Music of Led Zeppelin”, a “rock symphony” of fifteen of the band’s best loved tunes. Notching up the rock chops of the ensemble were – most notably – vocalist Randy Jackson, guitarist George Cintron, electric violinist Allegra, and drummer Powell Randolph (granting the crowd a sampling of a truly Bonham-worthy solo on “Moby Dick”). While no one can match the vocal acrobatics and writhing tight-pants sensuality of Robert Plant at his peak, Randy Jackson proved that the art of rock vocals is a worthy equivalent to that of any other highly trained vocal discipline, especially when backed by a professional ensemble. Almost academic in his approach, Jackson gave a thrilling “reading” of the varied styles in the Led Zepplin playbook – classic rock, blues, and even English folk – and played some great acoustic guitar as well. Kudos to guitarist Cintron and violinist Allegra as well. Jimmy Page’s fabulously inventive and complex riffs got their due props thanks to this unique splitting and doubling of his musical vision among these two talented musicians, particularly on “Black Dog” and “Heartbreaker.” And – despite the challenges of competing with an amplified bass line that approached “11” – the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra brought a rich timbre to the tracks. Subtle changes such as the addition of an oboe to the flute meanderings on “Stairway to Heaven” or the lush backup lines on “In the Evening” reminded the appreciative audience of the beauties hidden in tracks so often taken for granted. And of course, “Kashmir” never sounded more exotic or epic as when a full orchestra takes on its throbbing rhythm and evocative harmonics. The capacity crowd was visibly proud of its hometown orchestra (a terrific outreach project for the MSO if there ever was one) and participated wholeheartedly in every opportunity for interaction that arose. By the time “Stairway” reared its ubiquitous head (complete with the rarely heard guitar and vocal prelude), there was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction in the crowd. No one was alarmed by bustles in their hedgerows. VS

As You Like It

As You Like It

By Tracy Doyle As You Like It, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular pastoral comedies, has long sparked debates over its merits. Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production is no exception. The play is set in what is most likely France and opens after Fredericke, the younger brother of the reigning duke, has usurped the dukedom and banished his brother. The action centers on the rightful duke’s daughter, Rosalind, her eventual flight of the dukedom and her convoluted relationship with Orlando, the youngest of three sons of the late Sir Rowland deBoys. Like many Shakespearian works, there are endless love intrigues and twisted relationships; basically, Rosalind disguises herself as a man and playacts with Orlando, who thinks she is “Ganymede.” Ganymede tries to free Orlando of his love for Rosalind by pretending that he is Rosalind (of course, he/she is) and teaching Orlando about the perils of loving a finicky woman. Everything works out in the end and weddings abound, and generally, it could be quite the amusing romp in the woods. However, Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production takes away some of the value of this piece. Much of the acting is unbelievable and childish. The dialogue is rushed through like an unwanted chore, and even the plot is obscured by silly, show-stealing business. Critics of past productions of As You Like It have wondered whether it is a serious work with intrinsic literary value or a mere entertainment. In this production, it is impossible to critique the script itself as much of the dialogue was incomprehensible. Judging the entertainment value of the show is equally challenging. Because extraneous stunts were included in nearly every scene between Rosalind/Ganymede and Orlando, serious viewers are constantly distracted from the story and unable to lose themselves in the fun. Whether this was intended to divert attention from the obvious homosexual overtones of the play or to “pep up” a script the director found too boring on its own is unclear. But as much as this reviewer disliked the performance, the entire cast and audience seemed to be having the time of their lives. The young faces of the Shakespearian troupe gleamed with constant excitement, and the audience reacted strongly, laughing, oohing, and ahhing at their loved ones on stage. Both the adorable Aaron Taylor Klein (Orlando) and the charming Allyss Elaine Martin (Rosalind) have a very likeable energy with the promise of good performances to come. However, if you’re looking for good Shakespearian theatre, keep looking, because this production is definitely not as you like it. Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production of As You Like It runs through November 10. For more info, visit http://www.wlc.edu/arts/

The Art of Work

The Art of Work

By Kerensa Edinger Milwaukee already has an art museum that in itself is a feat of engineering, but a museum dedicated to the art of engineering is another thing altogether. It may seem an anomaly, but we now have one of those, too. The new Grohmann Museum, on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), is home to Man at Work: The Eckhart G. Grohmann Collection, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. From agriculture to alchemy, coal mining to tax collecting, the approximately 700 paintings and sculptures display the vast breadth and evolution of human industry. With few exceptions, the artwork comes from the private collection of Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, an MSOE Regent, Milwaukee businessman and avid collector. Grohmann grew up in Germany, where he would often visit his grandfather’s marble processing business and quarry in Silesia (now part of Poland). In watching the stonecutters and sculptors toil to select and transform their raw materials, he developed an admiration for the beauty of work. To Dr. Grohmann, work is an essential, evolving aspect of human progress. Currently the chairman and president of Milwaukee’s Aluminum Casting and Engineering Company, which makes high-volume aluminum components for the automotive industry, Dr. Grohmann began his extensive art collection in the 1960s. Grohmann and his wife, Ischi, have long contributed to scholarships for MSOE students and donated funds to buy the property for the Kern Center, MSOE’s health and wellness facility, just a block from the museum. In the same philanthropic vein, Grohmann donated his collection for the purpose of establishing a museum and provided the funds to purchase and renovate the building that would house it. Constructed in 1924, the three-story, 38,000 square-foot concrete structure was home first to an automobile dealership, Metropolitan Cadillac, and then later occupied by the Federal Reserve Bank until 2004. To fit the needs of the Federal Reserve Bank, the building had relatively small windows and secure, anonymous entrances. MSOE purchased the structure in 2005; demolition and renovation began in September of 2006. Uihlein-Wilson, the project’s architects, kept the small windows –ideal for allowing in just enough light to preserve the delicate artwork – but replaced the corner of the building at Broadway and State with a glass cylindrical atrium capped by an open metalwork dome. Soaring over the museum’s entryway is the 700-square-foot mural, its two hemispheres, Vulcan’s Forge and Great Minds of History, linked by a spinning celestial wheel. Vulcan’s Forge reinterprets The Element of Fire, a 16th-century painting by a student of Francesco Bassano that depicts the Roman god Vulcan forging arrows for his son Cupid while Venus, combing her hair with one breast demurely bared, looks on. For his mural, the German artist H.D. Tylle lifted these primary figures from their cluttered, gloomy backdrop and set them against a simple landscape of rolling hills and blue sky. He used live models and new costumes to paint the figures, transforming the placid, stylized originals into striking creatures of flesh and blood. The […]

Recalling the Wisconsin Idea

Recalling the Wisconsin Idea

By Barry Wightman A century ago there was a political agenda known as the “Wisconsin Idea.” As Sanford D. Horwitt, author of Feingold: A New Democratic Party, puts it, the idea at the center of then-nascent progressive political thinking “became widely known as shorthand for new, enlightened rational government that would rein in laissez-faire capitalism, invest in vastly expanded educational opportunities and infrastructure, and use the expertise at the University of Wisconsin to create pioneering programs to promote the health, safety and economic interests of ordinary workers and farmers alike.” One would be hard-pressed to argue with that agenda. Famed Wisconsin Governor and Senator, Robert M. La Follette, one of Russ Feingold’s political heroes, personified the progressive Wisconsin Idea. And understanding La Follette is key to understanding our current senator. Having read La Follette’s autobiography as a high school student, Feingold was steeped in the progressive tradition. Simply put, true progressives believe in competence, community and thrift and are fervently against the power of big money and behind-the-scenes influence. With roots in the Northern European traditions of many of Wisconsin’s 19th century settlers, progressives cover a wide political spectrum that, in today’s terms, is neither red-state nor blue-state. And it is that pragmatic, party boundary-crossing approach that is central to Feingold’s politics. Progressivism as a coherent political movement is largely forgotten, its tenet planks scattered among the dusty platform statements of the two major parties of the 20th century. But Feingold is, by the historic definition, a progressive. Asked about the prospect for a progressive revival in 21st century America, Feingold was hopeful. Saying that his hero Bob La Follette would be “passionate” about today’s possibilities, Feingold is clearly working to speak for the independent, pragmatic and public-minded of Wisconsin. Those are not the words of cautious man. Feingold’s habit of confounding the leaders of the Democratic Party establishment would have been familiar to “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Feingold’s was the lone vote against the Patriot Act in 2001 and he was one of the few to vote against the authorization for war against Iraq in 2002. He was also the only Democrat to vote to continue the Senate Clinton impeachment proceedings in 1998 – a very unpopular position, at least among Democrats. And with Republican maverick John McCain, he has consistently championed campaign finance reform, attempting to drive corrupting big money from the national political process. Feingold, Horwitt writes, can be counted on to vote for reform, not to play it safe. As a result, Feingold frequently tangles with his more cautious contemporaries. His 2002 public dust-up with Senator Hillary Clinton on campaign finance – she claimed he wasn’t living in the “real world” – rocked the party boat, as did the recent failed Feingold-Reid Senate bill to end the Iraq war. Many Democrats veered away from him. But Feingold remains undeterred, going about the business of serving his state and nation unbowed by what some might perceive to be political failures. In speaking about the war at one […]

CORRECTION: November 2007 Music Releases + Pagination
CORRECTION

November 2007 Music Releases + Pagination

Due to a file error, the album titles in the new releases listing on page 14 are illegible. We regret the oversight. A full listing of November releases is available here. Please also note that the pagination in our Table of Contents is inaccurate. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, drop us a line — we’ll be happy to provide your favorite article’s correct location, so email us, won’t you? Or you can think of it as a special holiday-season kick-off scavenger hunt. We hope that these unfortunate mistakes do not detract too drastically from your VITAL reading experience. We aim to please! We really do!

November 2007

November 2007

November 6th Angels & Airwaves I-Empire Geffen Chris Brown Exclusive Jive Jimmy Buffett Live in Anguilla Mailboat Cassidy B.A.R.S. Full Surface/J Counting Crows Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings Geffen Kevin Elliot and The Broken Damage of This Day Broke City Rob GEE Rob GEE Rock Ridge Music Jay-Z American Gangster Def Jam Kanekoa Under the Coconut Sky Major Hana/Fontana/ Universal Keak D Sneak Deified Broke City Little Big Town A Place to Land Equity Music Group Monster Magnet 4 Way Diablo SPV Nonpoint Vengeance Bieler Bros. Nicole Scherzinger Her Name is Nicole… Interscope Rick Springfield Christmas With You Gomer November 13th Boys II Men Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA Decca Dane Cook Rough Around the Edges: Live From Madison Square Garden Comedy Central Dillinger Escape Plan Ire Works U.K. – Relapse Céline Dion Taking Chances Epic Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Epic Aretha Franklin Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen Arista The Hives The Black and White Album Octone/Interscope Ja Rule The Mirror The Inc. Alicia Keys As I Am J LCD Soundsystem 45:33 DFA Nelly Brass Knuckles Derrty/Universal Pitbull The Boatlift TVT Seal System Warner Shaggy Intoxication Big Yard/VP James Taylor One Man Band Hear Music Wu-Tang Clan The 8 Diagrams Loud/SRC/Universal Trisha Yearwood Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love Big Machine November 20th Foxy Brown Brooklyn’s Don Diva Black Rose Entertainment/Koch Daft Punk Daft Punk Alive 2007 Virgin November 27th Mary J. Blige Growing Pains Matriarch/Geffen Kylie Minogue X International-EMI

Seven Guitars

Seven Guitars

By Jill Gilmer Who would believe that backyard banter could capture the soul of an entire people struggling to realize their dreams in the wake of economic and political oppression? This was the ambitious goal of August Wilson’s elegantly-written Seven Guitars, which opened University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s fall season Tuesday night. Seven Guitars is part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s 10-play series, “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” The series explores the African American experience by peeking into the hearts and minds of working class blacks in Pittsburgh during each decade of the 20th century. Seven Guitars takes place in 1948 in the backyard of town gossip Louise following the funeral of Floyd Barton, a charismatic guitarist and ladies’ man. Floyd’s freshly-successful musical career was cut short when he was imprisoned for a minor offense and later mysteriously murdered. Through a 3-hour flashback, Louise and her neighbors recount Floyd’s life through his relationship with the other six cast members. The most significant of these characters are Hedley, a West Indian chicken sandwich vendor who appears to be teetering on insanity; Vera, Floyd’s plain-Jane girlfriend whom he abandoned to run off with a woman he claims believed in his dreams more deeply; and Canewell, Floyd’s fellow band-member and friend. The play is as much poetry as prose. Its somber social messages seep into our hearts gently and unexpectedly through humor and music. But while poetry and lightness give this play a more hopeful, upbeat quality than some of Wilson’s plays, it is not enough to offset an almost unbearably tedious first act. The UWM student cast does a commendable job with this difficult material, but it lacks the maturity needed to capture the passion in these complex characters – essential to keeping the audience focused during the passages of rambling dialogue. The Generation Y ensemble may have had difficulty connecting with the language and lifestyle of the 1940s. A notable exception was David R. Weaver, Sr., who plays Hedley, an older character. Hedley’s nearly constant state of rage offers a bridge between the frustrations that blacks faced in the 1940s and the anger beneath the violent crime plaguing many inner city neighborhoods today. The younger male characters were most convincing when they described their encounters with the justice system. When one of them stated, “I was arrested for being worthless,” he seemed to be giving voice to the agony of the current generation of African American males, which is experiencing grossly disproportionate rates of incarceration. Other notable performances were Leandra Renaa Williams as Ruby, Louise’s frisky mantrap niece, and Stephanie Roland as a nicely underplayed Louise. Louise’s deadpan lines might tempt many an actress to become a scene robber. The play’s shortcomings are partially corrected by a warm and inviting set, lovingly crafted by Bruce Brockman, and dramatic lighting by Stephen Roby White. Director Bill Watson may have missed an opportunity to soften the dialogue through greater use of music, as some other productions of Seven Guitars have done. Music would have tapped into the […]

When It Leaves The Screen
Talking Heads

Talking Heads

Angela Iannone in Talking Heads Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, a series of six monologues, was so succesful in its incarnation on BBC television that it is living another life in live theatre. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre brings these monologues to the stage in two alternating programs at the Broadway Theatre’s main stage this month. The show opened with a performance of Series A — the all female show. In the first monologue, set in sparse domesticity suggestive of the mid-1980s, attractive actress Lesley (Wendy Bazar) relates landing a marginal role in a marginal film solely because of her physical attributes. It’s a clever bit of comedy revealing the true depth lying dormant in a woman who seems to be genuinely shallow, and what Bazar lacks in presentation (her accent, presumably meant to be British, wavered somewhere between that, Scottish and Irish, and occasionally Southern) she makes up for with a charming presence that nearly carries the monologue. The second monologue in Series A, “A Lady Of Letters,” features Raeleen McMillion as a lonely old woman named Irene whose civic-mindedness has reached obsessive levels. She’s writing letters to public officials about every conceivable inefficiency and flaw and casting a concerned eye toward house of the young couple that has moved in next door. McMillion carries Bennett’s repetitious monologue with a captivating performance that easily pulls the show through to intermission. Still, it is unfortunate that Bennett stretched this one out longer than it deserved. Certain plot points are repeated in an apparent attempt to pad out the monologue, and while the character is interesting, Bennett does not delve into her personality enough to keep the monologue fresh for its complete cycle onstage. The show returns after intermission with Angela Iannone in “Bed Among the Lentils.” Iannone, who has shown considerable talent for monologue, plays Susan, a vicar’s wife. Strikingly articulate, Susan is recognized solely for her status and otherwise rarely gets any attention. Here she speaks to the audience in clear stream of consciousness, relishing the opportunity to speak about whatever she wants. Iannone seems to enjoy the role a great deal, delivering Bennett’s humor with soulfully precise comic timing. A particularly busy weekend for openings didn’t allow for review of Series B, which includes performances by Laurie Birmingham, Norman Moses and Milwaukee Chamber co-founder Ruth Schudson. VS Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Talking Heads runs through November 4 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling the box office at 414-298-7800 or online at www.chamber-theatre.com.

Doubt And Misery

Doubt And Misery

Damage / Repair

Damage / Repair

Stolen Art in Bay View

Stolen Art in Bay View

These custom, one of a kind, hand-painted black high-top Nikes, with bullets around the heel and bright yellow laces, were stolen from FASHION NINJA, a small business in Bay View on Wednesday, October 17, at 3:00 pm. They want the shoes back. If you see a student wearing them, please contact the authorities or the Bay View High school principle to retrieve the shoes for us. The shoes where stolen by a Bay View High School Student. Fashion Ninja filed a police report with a description. The artist, Logan Herte, is a 20 year painting major at UWM. His collection — 12 pairs of custom painted shoes and 5 2D paintings — are up at Fashion Ninja for Gallery Night. His collection is priced between $50 -$275. Logan is taking the show down because he doesn’t feel his work is safe in Bay View. The collection was supposed to be up for 30 days. Spread the word to help Fashion Ninja retrieve the shoes. The store is accepting contributions to help pay for the loss. “We are really looking for $10 donations from all area business owners, the community and its leaders” says Fashion Ninja owner and operator Areka Ikeler. Drop by for Gallery Night to show your support, and contact Fashion Ninja if you have any information: 414-481-3865 or www.fashionninja.com.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Every Picture Tells a Story

In becoming a photographer, one makes a choice to be the teller of stories rather than the subject, witness to the deeds of others, a visual historian to a particular moment in time Milwaukee photographer Jim Herrington has stories of his own, of course, but what fascinates is his body of work – and that’s the way he wants it. He has a gift for capturing the essence of his subjects, preferring native settings over studios and just shooting until he captures that perfect moment. “It’s like writing a song. Sometimes it’s there from the beginning and you have to get out of the way and let it happen.” To peruse Herrington’s portfolio is particularly delightful for lovers of American music. There’s almost nobody he hasn’t shot, and he has stories to tell about the rest. He also climbs and has incredible pictures, not so much of mountains, but of mountaineers. Something of a dreamer himself, he gravitates towards others like him, recording their visages for posterity and his own collection. Herrington will show work on Gallery Night at Cedar Gallery, upstairs at 326 N. Water St. But what you won’t get on October 19 is a sense of the stories he’s amassed along the way; how his photos came to be, a sense of the person behind each still image. Some of those stories are told here, in his words; a few others are on his website at jimherrington.com. The rest are his own – as it should be. VS

Goodbye, My Friend

Goodbye, My Friend

Eddie Kilowatt releases new book + has a party!

Eddie Kilowatt releases new book + has a party!

The release party for Eddie Kilowatt’s latest book, Carrying a Knife in to the Gunfight, will be this Friday, October 12th at The Social, with music by High Lonesome and DJ sets by Von Munz and Flavor Dav Monroe — and of course, Eddie will be reading poems. $10 gets you in and a copy of Carrying. The Social is just south of the Third Ward on 1st and Water Street (sharing a wall with the Alterra on the corner of 1st and Pittsburgh). Festivities begin at 10pm. The social is a bar, so make sure to bring your parents if you’re not yet 21! Eddie Kilowatt and VITAL Source hope to see you there!

Cryptogram: FINAL WEEK!
Cryptogram

FINAL WEEK!

By Tracy Doyle Windfall Theatre’s latest venture is a bold attempt at staging a very intriguing and challenging piece of drama, David Mamet’s Cryptogram. Mamet’s work, famous for its frequent interruptions, trail-offs and swear words, is often difficult to nail, but Windfall comes close with this production. And although some of the clues in this play of mystery may be misguided, overall the experience is highly engaging and worth the effort. The definition of a cryptogram (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) is a communication in cipher or code, and that is exactly what to expect from Cryptogram. Words, props, set pieces, even gestures are all part of the code, and you, as an audience member, need to piece together the clues to figure out what is going on. The play revolves around the strangely absent Bobby (who never appears), his wife Donny (Carol Zippel) and their pre-adolescent son John (Avi Borouchoff), who is set to go on a camping trip with his father. As time passes and Bobby’s absence continues, the situation becomes more and more absurd: secrets are revealed and John drifts further and further toward a strange mental place children should never go, due in part to his insomnia and in another part to his role in the adults’ affairs. John starts questioning everything from the existence of countries on the globe to whether or not his mother has ever wanted to die and eventually brings the play to its surreal ending. The character development is outstanding with Larry Birkett as the family’s bachelor friend, Del, displaying an unsettling, quiet passion. Borouchoff shines with talent rarely seen in young actors, while Zippel’s struggle as her life comes crashing down around her is amazing to watch. However, the pacing was off at times, especially in the first scene, and the blocking left much to be desired. Misdirection of some of the key clues may lead audience members to incorrect conclusions, but all in all, this is a difficult yet fun piece not to be missed. Cryptogram continues though October 13 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. For tickets call 414-332-3963.

Element Everest

Element Everest

By Kenya Evans Life is a Heist tells the spiraling stories of the hood rich just trying to get by and delivers a verbal vengeance signed and sealed by Ms. Everest personally. The first and only lady of local hip hop group Black Elephant – 2006 WAMI runners-up for best unsigned artist – Element Everest (yes, her real name) is debuting her first solo album. She’s no stranger to MCing, writing rhymes and shutting down naysayers who criticize or question her authority as a female rap artist. Gritty and unapologetic, Life is a Heist booms with 808s, snares and brassy beats against Element’s smoky voice. The up-tempo “Intro” has the layered instrumentals of a marching band, dramatic and charged with musical action. “Good Girls,” the first single, which premiered on local radio station V100, is a sexy and sassy boy-meets-girl love song that’s mellow and made to groove to. Element upholds what Black Elephant does best – telling tales of the city, from grinding streets to head-bobbing beats – but brings a bit more soul to her own songs. Element sings a cappella on “The Wire,” reminiscent of an old Negro spiritual, channeling the stark realities of modern-day urban strife and the continuous struggle of black life: that there’s no difference between slaving in the fields to becoming slaves of the mind and products of an impoverished environment. “Katrina,” a duet with local guitarist/singer/songwriter Evan Christian, speaks for the dismal and discriminated New Orleans natives who were victims of a natural disaster and their own government. Overall, it’s rich and hard-hitting, both lyrically and musically: Element doesn’t play nice. Get ready to take a bite out of some ghetto melodies that bite back.

Question

Question

An Interview with Paul Robeson

An Interview with Paul Robeson

By Jill Gilmer Interviewer: “Why did you stop making films?” Paul Robeson: “Because little Negro girls go to the movies looking forward to experiencing fantasy. But when they come home, they feverishly try to rub the color off of their skin.” The excerpt above is one of the provocative question & answer segments from An Interview with Paul Robeson. The Next Act Theatre opens its season with this probing drama about the legendary African American scholar, entertainer and political activist. The play, written by John Kishline and Paul Mabon Sr., with Mabon starring in the title role, examines Robeson’s life and legacy through a lively discourse between him and a New York Times reporter. Paul Robeson appeared in 12 films and stole the show in the musical Showboat with his soulful rendering of “Ole Man River.” In 1943, he achieved critical acclaim playing Othello in Broadway’s longest running Shakespearean play. Prior to establishing himself as a performer, Robeson led a distinguished academic career. He overcame overt racism and physical abuse to graduate as valedictorian of his class from Rutgers University in 1918, the third black student to attend that institution. In his spare time on campus, he earned 15 athletic letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He went on to graduate from Columbia Law School. Beyond this string of accolades, Robeson is well-known for using his celebrity to draw attention to social and political issues. He criticized the racial stereotypes that permeated American media during the Jim Crow era and challenged the idea that black people should fight to defend a country that denies them many of the privileges of citizenship. Robeson defended his provocative beliefs with personal sacrifice. He stopped making films that perpetuated racial stereotypes. He announced that, for two years, he would only perform songs about social justice. Robeson’s actions are sometimes credited with jump-starting the Civil Rights movement. Robeson was also a target of the McCarthy era investigations. On several occasions, he visited the Soviet Union and found it a warm and welcoming nation. For urging peace with the Soviet Union and his outspoken views about race in the U.S., the House Committee on Un-American Activities blacklisted his films and recordings for eight years. They also revoked his passport, limiting his opportunity to perform in Europe, where he had his strongest following. Today, it is still difficult to obtain copies of Robeson’s work. The play’s strength is its examination of Robeson’s childhood and early adult years and his contributions to the intellectual debate about fascism and the interplay between class, race and power. Director David Cecsarini creates an ideal venue for showcasing Robeson’s ideas and talent with a minimalist cast and set in the intimate Off-Broadway theatre. Paul Mabon embodies the strength of Robeson’s intellect and character. His rich, bass voice brings a stirring authenticity to Robeson’s most memorable songs, including “Ole Man River.” The playwrights do a commendable job shining a light on Robeson’s ideas while holding the audience’s attention with the drama of […]

Girlyman at Shank Hall

Girlyman at Shank Hall

How do you know you’ve made it as an Indie-Gender-Folk-Pop group? Is it playing to a crowd that sings along to almost every one of your songs? Witnessing members of your audience placing the now ubiquitous concert calls to friends who couldn’t make it to show? Or is it being called back to the stage, not once but twice, for encores? On Friday night, Girlyman had all of this and more as they played for an enthusiastic crowd at Shank Hall. Before they took the stage, their long-time friend Adrianne played an opening set comprised of original songs that were both well written and well performed. She did play one cover in a nod to the “music of her youth” – the song she referred to as her Cheesy Embarrassing Eighties Favorite, the Thompson Twins’ classic “Hold Me Now.” She won over the cheese-heads and closed her performance by saying, “I’ve only played in Milwaukee a few times and every time it’s been cool. And tonight is infinitely cool!” Girlyman echoed Adrianne’s sentiments by saying repeatedly, “People are nice here!” It’s not hard to be nice to a band that is as humble as it is talented. The three members of Girlyman – Nate Borofsky, Doris Muramatsu and Ty Greenstein – played their own brand of folk music and told the crowd stories about their lives. The setlist consisted mostly of songs from their April release, Joyous Sign, with a smattering of material from their first two albums and a couple of numbers thrown in to make the audience laugh. They cut up onstage to an impromptu “tuning song:” as Ty worked to get her guitar ready for the next number, Nate and Doris sang what started as a schmaltzy ballad and ended with an overstated and hilarious chorus of “We’re not going to tune it/No, we ain’t gonna tune it” to the melody of the old Twisted Sister song. A particular standout from the new album was “Reva Thereafter,” written by all three band members to help Nate work through his grief following the death of his grandmother. Before the song, Nate told the audience a little about her and eloquently painted a picture of a strong, determined woman who took her own life at 95 years old. “You wrote the letters one by one into the setting of the sun/Tell me, what was it like to send yourself into the light that night?” When he openly sang of his pain, we could feel it with him. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of most songwriters? To make your listener feel? As the members of Girlyman interacted with each other and with the audience, we all became invested in the stories that they told in each song. Doris’s profession that her optimism inspired “Good Enough” (“Somewhere back in time we made each other laugh / And I could see how that was good enough”) was sincere and heartfelt, and Ty’s confession that ”Hey Rose” is about a dark period of […]

VITAL Source 2007 Halloween Guide!

VITAL Source 2007 Halloween Guide!

The leaves are changing colors and that chic orange-black palette is resurfacing across front yards everywhere, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to celebrate the only appropriate occasion we have to put on a costume, look ridiculous (or sexy or terrifying) and demand candy from strangers. This time of year brings out the devil in everybody. Children are the spearheads of the season, dashing across lawns with flashlights and orange buckets, but college kids and grown-ups proper can cut loose on this spirited holiday, too – with an emphasis, perhaps, on “spirits.” So listen up, Wisconsin: do not hesitate to engage in this year’s shenanigans, pumpkin patches, haunted houses or even a petrifying play. VITAL Source is here with our annual Halloween guide to ensure that, whatever the method, you get your scare on. Gothic History Tours October 26, 28, 31 Historic District, Cedarburg Rain or shine, take a 90-minute walking tour through the scary side of Cedarburg and witness the creepiness of this quaint town, from the Civil War to the present day. cedarburgculturalcenter.org. Halloween Glen October 12 & 13 1130 N. 60th St., Milwaukee Bring the entire family for an event that evokes the spirit of Halloween without the scare. Events include interactive educational skits about the season, as well as Halloween cartoons and tasty treats. 414-647-6050 or milwaukeerecreation.net/halloween-glen. Halloween in Delafield October 27 Downtown Delafield Trick-or-treat with the kids in downtown Delafield shops from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. and stay for the Grand Pumpkin illumination. 414-888-294-1082 or delafield-wi.org. A Theater of Lost Souls October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19-21, 25-28 & 31 500 E. County, Oshkosh Celebrating its 4th year, this haunted house has been completely revamped with tons of vampires, ghouls and evil clowns for everyone. 920-731-8555 or atheateroflostsouls.com. Bear Den Autumn Family Fun October 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 & 28 831 Big Bend Rd., Waterford Bask in all the fall festivities that a farm has to offer: hayrides, pumpkin patches and pony rides add up to a perfect family outing. 262-895-6430 or beardenzoo.com. Bear Den Haunted Woods October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 6831 Big Bend Rd., Waterford Take a chance and get a scare walking through the haunted woods of Waterford. 262-895-6430 or beardenzoo.com. Deadly Intentions Haunted Yard October 26, 27 & 31 1621 N. 26th St., Sheboygan Leave the kids at home for this free haunted house in a local Sheboygan home. 920-254-4354. Dominion of Terror October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 25-27, 29-31 2024 N.15th St., Sheboygan No scare is the same in this 15-room haunted maze. dominionofterror.com. EAA Haunted Hangar October 19-20, 26-27 3000 Poberezny Rd., Oshkosh Find out what goes bump in the night with an all ages ghost tour. 920-426-6880 or airventuremuseum.org Gilly’s Haunted House October 5-6, 12-13, 18-21, 25-28, 31 1559 W. Forest Home Ave., Milwaukee Gawk at the freak show and take a spin in the vortex tunnel at this not-so-typical haunted house. 414-645-0292 or gillyshauntedhouse.com. Morgan’s […]

The Music Issue

The Music Issue

Here at VITAL, we love music, and we figure it’s a pretty fair bet that you love music, too. Every year we showcase everything that thrills us about the wide world of melody and harmony, rhythm and tempo, sound and silence, and this year it’s even more close to our hearts — it’s 100% homegrown. We talked to Milwaukee folk singers, Milwaukee hip-hop artists, Milwaukee legends, Milwaukee upstarts, and one remarkable Milwaukee rock photographer. We talked to five Milwaukee DJs about their best and worst nights and we talked to Milwaukee record collectors about the history of recorded music. We even visited the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music for a photo shoot. And our record reviews were local — we reviewed new releases by The Cocksmiths, The Saltshakers, Testa Rosa and Element Everest. It happened rather by accident, but what emerged from all of this was a sketch of an often misunderstood — and underestimated — music scene. Milwaukee is home to a vibrant, striving and passionate community of music lovers, makers and sharers. A lot of it happens under the surface, but it’s there, pulsing and singing and getting people up on their feet. But it’s there. And it’s here in our pages, and on our website. We hope you like it.

Gary

Gary

Death Becomes You: Awesome show at Luckystar Studio!
Death Becomes You

Awesome show at Luckystar Studio!

VITAL Source is sponsoring this quirky, creepy show at Luckystar, just before the mad Gallery Night rush. Check out what they have to say about it — and mark your calendar. Milwaukee, WI: Leaves are changing color and falling from the trees, flowers are dying and the mosquitoes have disappeared. Fall is in the air and with it Mother Nature’s grandiose presentation of death and decay. In the spirit of the season Luckystar Studio (5407 W. Vliet St.) presents Karl Unnasch , Joe Borzotta and Stephanie Towell in Death Becomes You; the gallery’s eighth anniversary exhibit, opening Saturday, October 13th, 6-10 p.m. Influenced by the accidental death of a kitten by a sleeping bull, Karl Unnasch has twisted animal carcasses into bizarre vignettes to “create art that can intrigue via concepts of beauty while still generating meaning with the usage of surreal narratives focusing on the clash between the urbanized and natural worlds.” For those concerned over legal and public health we’d like to ensure you that every precaution has been taken, by the artist, as they pertain to endangered and protected species, pathogenic, infestation, introduction and domestication issues, transport and storage of animal matter, etc. Karl explains that “In short, if there is potential for legal problems, I don’t bother using certain material.” “The penalties are just too great.” On a somewhat ethical note Karl “refuses to end the life of any animal for the sake of art” but, as a card-carrying carnivore, does enjoy hunting and fishing as a means of food gathering. On a lighter note and in the spirit of Halloween; Luckystar Studio also presents the Luchador series from Joe Borzotta. Stemming from Joe’s childhood admiration for wrestling star Mil Mascaras. “He was like a superhero come to life!! Huge physique, mask, cape, and he did acrobatic moves that made him look like he was flying!” These portraits capture the odd mix of man and mask, reality and cartoon, and the round canvases presents the image as almost a religious icon each capturing the pageantry and color of Lucha Libre. As the final component the gallery also presents the assemblage work of Stephanie Towell. Her intricate work evokes a feeling of nostalgia. “I question my past, I seek answers and truth in the future” states the artist. The perfect metaphor for the season and the inevitable ending of another year. Luckystar Studio will not be open for Gallery Night; opting instead to open Saturday , October 20 from 12 pm – 4pm and hosting a Gallery Night Hangover Party.

A Star Onstage Might Be A Memory Onscreen
MPTV Airs “Milwaukee” Antiques Roadshow!

MPTV Airs “Milwaukee” Antiques Roadshow!

Antiques Roadshow, the most popular program on PBS, visited Milwaukee last July. Now, Milwaukee Public Television will air three programs revealing what Milwaukeeans brought in for appraisal: Monday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. and repeated at 8 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. and repeated at 8 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. and repeated at 8 p.m. Among the more unique items appraised was an 18th century New York desk and bookcase that once belonged to a governor of Connecticut and could possibly be the most valuable object of the Antiques Roadshow season (see picture below); a ruby and diamond encrusted bracelet from Austria’s Empress Eugenie which the owner’s great grandmother purchased in the 1890s; and two game-baseballs autographed by Milwaukee Brave and Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. One baseball was from Spahn’s 327th victory, which made him the all-time winningest lefthander in history, and the other was from his 300th career victory, the gold standard for pitchers. VITAL is really excited about this! You should be too! And look how excited the Keno Brothers are about that bookcase!

CORRECTION: “Jobs, jobs, jobs”
CORRECTION

“Jobs, jobs, jobs”

On the cover of our September issue, we incorrectly stated that “Jobs, jobs, jobs … ?”, an article about Mayor Tom Barrett’s employment report, would appear in the magazine’s pages. The article by our Commentary contributor, Ted Bobrow, will run in our October print edition. It will also be available on our website starting October 1st. VITAL regrets the error.

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco

By Allison Berndt Ani DiFranco is a true entertainer. Whether it’s in her racy, controversial lyrics, her man-handling of the guitar, her feminist and political ideals or even her own radical personal style, she’s certainly a woman who’s paved the way for female activist artists. Canon, DiFranco’s 17th studio album, is a two-disc compilation of the most memorable songs from her 17-year career. Included are such classics as “32 Flavors,” “Fire Door,” “Little Plastic Castle” and “78%H2O.” As an added bonus, five previously released tracks have been re-recorded for this release. The new recording of “Shameless” is most definitely worth a listen – it zones in on DiFranco’s intense guitar picking and rhythmic diversions. “Both Hands” is more percussive with a slight hint of island sound in this latest recording. “Your Next Bold Move” is revamped in a very slow, very dramatic, very beautiful way (if one can really sound beautiful when railing on politics), the lyrics a quintessential example of what defines DiFranco’s songwriting style – insightful and provocative words with a folk-guitar soundtrack. Canon is an album anyone who’s ever been interested in Ani DiFranco should own. It’s a sampling of her best work, a little bit of everything she’s done since 1990. Fast, slow, controversial, tame, it’s all entertaining and it’s all Ani.

The Anatomy and Physiology of Arts and Entertainment

The Anatomy and Physiology of Arts and Entertainment

Living in our bodies can be a terrifying prospect. Their epic mechanics – hundreds upon hundreds of bones and muscles, tens of thousands of feet of blood vessels, 45 miles of nerves, a quadrillion chemical synapses in the brain – allow them to toil 24 hours a day at daunting projects to which we are mostly oblivious: turning food into energy, repairing wounds, building new cells and tissues, fighting viruses, rocketing oxygen through the whole system every 10 seconds. In one hour, the human heart works hard enough to lift one ton of weight one full yard off of the ground. Human bodies are so strong, so impressively engineered, and yet so unpredictable and delicate. To live in one is to stumble the earth, assaulted by stimuli and impelled by mysterious impulses, able to process your surroundings just enough to know that your body could be destroyed – or could destroy itself – at any moment. Life would be pretty joyless if it weren’t for the wonderful things our bodies let us do, like taste food, see shapes and colors, walk around, explore and communicate with other people. When we experience something pleasurable, we feel it everywhere in our organism. The fine arts offer perhaps the most comprehensive of these sensory satisfactions. Fusing the kinesthetic, the tactile, the visual and the auditory, art funnels all of the onslaughts and inklings of everyday life into something that even our bodies can understand. It is no wonder that we so frequently describe our impressions of art in physical terms – the taste we have for music, or the warmth of a color. Indeed there may be few other ways to describe the arts with such accuracy. The body of work produced on local stages over the course of a season itself showcases an infinite array of physical and emotional properties. It can be dizzying to consider the vast spectrum of living art breathing through the many and varied chambers employed as venues. The vitality of performance has been known to thrive in small spaces as few look on and languish in a teeming crowd. Here, then, is the city’s fine arts season – dance, theatre, music and visual arts – dissected and presented in an anatomical and physiological guide. Let this be an attempt to catalogue the Anatomy and Physiology of Arts and Entertainment. We know that your arts experience this year, transmitted through your body’s remarkable five senses, will be felt most keenly in your heart. To read all of our Fine Arts season previews, check out the current issue.

“Music’s golden tongue Flatter’d to tears this aged man and poor”

“Music’s golden tongue Flatter’d to tears this aged man and poor”

By Barry Wightman If the tongue is a muscle of love, a notorious logo of leering lascivious brown-sugared rock & roll, the taste it produces in our mouths, the perception of flavor, is simultaneously a deeply personal perception of quality, an aesthetic discernment, a judgement we use to assign value in art, literature and music. Like a snake’s tongue testing the dry desert air, a tiny flickering antenna on some strange, primitive wavelength, each of us unfurls an antenna of taste, unique to ourselves, difficult to explain but critical to the art of being human. Extend your antenna, and taste new flavors. Like a bite of breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mancini at the Movies, a sumptuous spread of classics by Henry Mancini performed by his Grammy-nominated daughter Monica Mancini comes to the Wilson Center’s Kuttemperoor Auditorium this month. Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, brings her tasty, glittery Motown licks to Wisconsin Lutheran College in October. Taste the bittersweet of War and Remembrance: Music in the ‘40s, the still strong, fervent melodic flavors of Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughn Williams performed by the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra have aged well. From two or three dusty menus from old but familiar countries, the krazy klezmer kosher kings of souped-up Yiddish music, The Klezmatics, come to Alverno’s Pitman Theatre in December and stir Woody Guthrie’s corn-fed lyrics with matzoh and Manishevitz and come up with a blintz of Hanukkah cheer. Sugary and toothsome as a favorite Christmas cookie, the Milwaukee Symphony Pops can’t miss with its traditional Holiday Show at the Marcus Center. The Bel Canto Chorus sings Latin American holiday music by Ariel Ramirez at the Hamilton Fine Arts Center and Basilica of St. Josaphat. Then in the depths of winter, savor the classic kitchen table American fare of the imposing bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at the Schauer Center and Randy Newman, composer, performer and humorist at the Marcus Center in March. His voice is like a gumbo from Lake Charles, Louisiana by way of Southern California, a Tabasco’d taste of America.

Global Union Music Previews: 17 Hippies and Dobert Gnahore
Global Union Music Previews

17 Hippies and Dobert Gnahore

By Blaine Schultz Dobert Gnahore Na Afriki Cumbancha There is a pulsating sense of energy just beneath the surface of Dobert Gnahore’s music. Her fluid vocals are gently propelled by musicians led by acoustic guitarist Colin Laroche de Feline. With roots in Africa’s Ivory Coast, it is no surprise that the English translations for Gnahore’s songs tackle some heavy issues – dipping into gender politics, economics and war. A percolating battery of percussionists and vocalists adds up to some intriguing music with a message in any language. Appearing Sunday 5:30 p.m. Global Union festival at Humboldt Park 17 Hippies Heimlich Hipster Records The title cut of 17 Hippies Heimlich “tells what happens when a strong feeling should be kept a secret, so as to keep that feeling alive and strong; whereas blaring it out would destroy it.” But there is nothing secretive about this tribe. While many kids went techno when the Berlin Wall fell these folks went the other route picking up ukulele, dulcimer, violins, accordion and various horns to form this moveable feast. Alternately rollicking and melancholy, they pick and choose influences from Morocco, Romania, France and Germany. This rag-tag bunch is hard to peg unless Cajun-Balkan-Indian is a new genre. One of the members even dated the Velvet Underground’s Nico. Appearing Saturday 1 p.m. Global Union festival at Humboldt Park

Rufus Wainwright at the Pabst – August 26, 2007

Rufus Wainwright at the Pabst – August 26, 2007

It’s always a little surprising that rock bands look and sound as good as they do at the Pabst, a gilded German theater full of red velvet, Italian marble, and busts of famous Austro-Hungarians (Beethoven, Wagner). But it never fails – dirty, dance-y, pounding shows are exalted by the baroquerie of the opera hall, not diminished by it. What a venue like the Pabst does for a performer like Rufus Wainwright, though, is something else entirely, something remarkable. For nearly ten years, the troubador has been crafting exquisite chamber-pop informed by opera, cabaret, lyricism, late-Victioriana, early modernism – melding every manner of anachronistic influence into something metropolitan, contemporary and very intelligent. We had gallery seats – eye-to-eye with the 2-ton Austrian crystal chandelier – but there is intimacy, maybe even privacy, in the vertigo of the second balcony. From way up high, with glasses of wine (actually, I had a glass of wine; my date had a PBR), we enjoyed the sonorous, humble sounds of opening act A Fine Frenzy, a pleasant piano/drum/synth trio that did not in any way overstay their opening act welcome. Not so for The Magic Numbers, a jumpy, bass-heavy band from England that started out fun and stayed on to the point of anxious tedium. Rufus took the stage elegantly late, attired in a patchwork suit, backed by a full band (including three horn players) dressed in stripes. The concert opened with the title track from his new album, Release the Stars; at each chorus, the disco ball over the stage – a grand foil to the crystal chandelier – showered us with hundreds of points of light. He is every inch a star, and probably always has been. His demeanor is classical, his presence hypnotizing. He played brassy, jangly songs with his acoustic guitar and wrought, rich songs on the grand piano: one from his new album, “Going to a Town,” aches with a weary refrain: “I’m so tired of you, America”. The concert was being taped, so some of the songs – notably “Art Teacher,” another sad little aria about a schoolgirl who falls in love on a field trip to a museum – had to be performed twice, which was no cause for complaint. It was almost like a salon, a parlor soiree – another welcome effect of the Pabst’s relative smallness – and Mr. Wainwright was the charming host, endearing us to him with fluttery banter and an uncanny command of the mood, from goofy (performing “Between My Legs” perched atop his boyfriend’s shoulders with a handful of giggly front-row fans dancing around him) to gorgeous (channeling Judy Garland in a lone spotlight) and exuding a certain tenderness for the audience (wearing liederhosen after his first set — this is, after all, German Athens). I felt like an honored guest, even up in the nosebleed seats. I left before the end of the concert, more than two hours into his performance. It was getting late, the dim lights were making me […]

About Vital Source

About Vital Source

Never Offer Drink To The Guy Who Is Tied-Up
SHOOT THE BLUEBIRD at the ASTOR THEATRE!

SHOOT THE BLUEBIRD at the ASTOR THEATRE!

The internationally famous “Bluebird” (by Al Emmons) is in place atop the Astor Theatre. On September 8, 2007, from 9 am – midnight, visit the Astor at 1696 N. Astor Street (on the corner of Brady and Astor) to shoot photos of the Bluebird. There will also be a 5 foot tall fairy (outfitted by Kim Huber of Kim’s Costume Shop) and some sort of non-hallucinogenic mushroom. The photo shoot is not quite as easy as it sounds. Drive down. Take a look at Bluebird. Does the photo need to be shot from across the street? How is the photo framed in? Do you use a ladder to get a different angle or shoot from street level? How tight do you shoot the photo? From what angle is the shoot taken? The fairy will be moving about Bluebird. Careful — she has a magic wand. Don’t forget what happened in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rules: Submit 5 x 7 (or larger) photos of the Bluebird, the mushroom & the fairy, with a max of 5 photos allowed. Application blanks are available at the Brady Street Pharmacy. Entries must be received by September 23, 2007. Judging will be the following week. The judges are John Alley, PJ Boylan and Bob Pecher, all nationally recognized photographers. Winners will be notified by mail and will receive an invitation to an elegant reception during the first week of October to which they may invite their immediate family and friends. Awards will be presented at the reception with food, beverages, and classy music on the Steinway. Fabulous prizes include: 1st prize: $1,000.00! 2nd prize $500 3rd, 4th, and 5th prizes – $200 gift certificates for each of the following restaurants: Bosleys, Emperor of China and Glorioso’s (all on Brady Street.) For more information, call Jim at the Brady Street Pharmacy at 414-272-4384. Good luck!

LET IT BLEED

LET IT BLEED

I Love Cooperation

I Love Cooperation

Footloose

Footloose

By Tracy Doyle Check it: a beloved ‘80s movie starring Kevin Bacon, over a decade later made into a moderately successful Broadway musical, revised in 2007 and this past weekend made its local premiere in Elm Grove’s Sunset Playhouse. Why yes, I am talking about Dean Pitchford’s Footloose! Noi-ce! Mark Salentine’s director’s notes clearly stated what one should and should not expect from the performance. “Don’t expect the movie… and don’t expect the original Broadway play… Expect a story of triumph and celebration. And, of course, you should expect to cut loose – footloose!” I wholeheartedly agree. The musical centers around the story of angst-ridden teenager Ren McCormack (Zander Bednall) who is uprooted from Chicago to the biggest little nothing of a town, Bomont, in the middle of Oneofthosestates. A bit of a troublemaker from the get go, Ren attempts to release his pent up emotions through biting sarcasm, friendly brawls and his real passion: dance. However, Ren quickly discovers that dancing has been outlawed in Bomont and he makes it his personal goal to bring back the beat to this tiny town. Along the way he befriends a hodgepodge collection of kids, the less-articulate, yet heart-of-gold side-kick Willard (Andrew Hollenbeck), the gorgeous misunderstood preacher’s daughter Ariel (Allie Beckmann), the giggling gaggle of teenage girls and the jealous meathead boyfriend of aforementioned preacher’s daughter. With his gang behind him, Ren confronts the religious authority running the town, learns a few heartfelt lessons and becomes a man. I liked the movie (shoot, shouldn’t be talking about movie) but I loved this musical! These kids can rock. The carefully reined enthusiasm of the ensemble paired with the attitude the size of North Dakota oozing out of every angsty pore in Bednall’s body was enough to keep this girl rocking and cause some audience members in close vicinity to shout out “YEAH!!!” at the end of “Footloose (Finale).” Neither Bednall nor Beckmann is the best singer in the world, but their acting was quite believable and enjoyable. Anne Gore (Rusty) shone brightly in her rendition of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” one of the several popular ‘80s songs to make it into the musical score. This show is not out to change any lives. It’s not going to change the world and I doubt you’ll leave the theater foaming at the bit over all the unfortunate souls living in danceless communities at this very moment. However, the show overwhelming succeeds in its goals of “triumph and celebration.” You’ll leave the house tapping your toes and humming a catchy bar or two; just promise me you’ll watch where you’re kicking off those Sunday shoes. VS The Sunset Playhouse’s performance of Footloose runs through August 5. For more information, call 262-782-4430 or visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com.

2007 Short Fiction and Poetry Contest

2007 Short Fiction and Poetry Contest

Intro by Jon Anne Willow It’s possible that only a writer can understand the difficulty of being one. It is not a skill or avocation, but the most primal of callings, an obsession at least as deep-rooted as any felt for love or high ambition. Writing is a cruel muse, leaving you when you need her most, clawing at your back when your thoughts should be turned to other things. Follow her and you may, through a tortuous process, eventually taste the manna of creating something that isn’t truly awful; turn your back and you will surely be left in peace to wade eternally in the tide pool of regret that you did not listen when you had the chance. Just the act of writing consistently takes courage; to actually put your words out there for others, even more: any “writer” who does not know this is either a rank amateur or an imposter. With this belief, VITAL would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who submitted their work to our first Short Fiction and Poetry Contest. Their work was judged blind by talented working professionals who all used the same criteria to score each piece up to 100 total points in different categories. Both first and second place winners in each category are printed here; first place winners will also receive a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble, whose Mayfair store helped to sponsor this competition. Enjoy. —Jon Anne Willow FICTION WINNER “Confitero” By Anne M. Rice Like savoring a last cigarette before the executioner’s blindfold, I hold the gold cufflink between my fingers, tracing the engraved initials repeatedly with my thumb. The arc of my fingernail revisits the path of the engraver’s pen in lines and curves. Whether I do this to scratch the initials out of existence or because I feel them branding my being, I do not know. I stand motionless – except for this tiny, recurring gesture – in the middle of the bedroom, staring out the leaded glass windows, for what might be hours. Again, I do not know. Time seems almost intractable. Below, the light is reflected on the wet pavement where milky shafts glare up at me. He was in a desperate hurry to leave this evening, choosing to wear the lapis pair – barely securing his French cuffs, grabbing his suit jacket, knocking this offending monogrammed piece onto the Oriental rug near my toe as he flew past, the scent of Kiel’s almond lotion lingering behind him. “Don’t wait up,” he offered, not unkindly, but unnecessarily. I know better than to do that. These evenings have become a part of our routine, even if they are a charade. And I am very clear about how to carry out my role. Early on in this arrangement, I would boast of a busy schedule and a vibrant, separate social life that also kept me out on evenings such as these. And occasionally, I indeed had penciled things in on nights like […]

Found in translation

Found in translation

By Evan Solochek With so many misconceptions, half-truths and flat-out ignorance surrounding the Middle East, immersing yourself in its diverse culture and rich history for a weekend seems a good first step to enlightenment. In a time where stories of bombings and body counts are a nightly fixture on local and national news, it’s easy to overlook the positive and encouraging aspects of one of the oldest and most influential cultures in history. During Europe’s Dark Ages, Arab nations took in its “heretical” scholars, especially those practicing science and medicine, fostering their work and saving the world from losing invaluable knowledge. They gave us our system of numbering and have produced some of the finest architecture, artistic artifacts and textiles known to man. This month, Milwaukeeans can witness first-hand what we won’t be likely to see on television. Now in its ninth year, Arab World Fest is a multi-cultural celebration loosely grouped under the label “Arab World,” which is itself one of the biggest confusions. Much greater than just the Arabian Peninsula, the Arab world spreads across 22 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and while most Arabs are Muslims, the Arab world also includes significant Christian and Jewish communities. Yes, there will be falafel and belly dancing and camel rides. But more importantly, there will be the opportunity to foster a better understanding of and appreciation for Arabian cultural heritage and the political awareness and sentiments of its citizens. To that end, one of the Fest’s newest and most highly anticipated attractions will be its film festival, highlighted by Occupation 101. “We brought this last year and were showing it in a small tent and there was standing room only,” says Ihsan Atta, President of Arab World Fest. “We were surprised at the overwhelming positive response, which led us to have a film festival this year.” A powerful and moving documentary, Occupation 101 details the current state and the historical roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the first massive Jewish immigration from Europe in the 1880s and the 1948, 1967 and Yom Kippur wars to the Oslo Peace Process and Intifadas of 1987 and 2000, this film offers one of the most comprehensive analyses – along with first person testimonials – of this seemingly unending conflict. Other entries of note include Paradise Now, which was released in 2005 by Warner Independent. The harrowing story of two Palestinian childhood friends who are recruited for a suicide strike on Tel Aviv, Paradise Now chronicles their last two days together as they say goodbye to loved ones and family and prepare for their mission. While en route to meet a driver who will take them to Tel Aviv, the two young men are separated from their handlers and intercepted at the Israeli border by a young woman who, after discovering their plan, tries to make them reconsider their path. It’s a first-hand look at the lives and motivations of two would-be faceless martyrs. Most Westerners don’t really understand what the […]

Thanks for taking the Milwaukee Music Survey

Thanks for taking the Milwaukee Music Survey

Thanks for taking our survey. We’ll post the results in the October issue of VITAL and on our website. Your email address will be kept confidential and we won’t contact you again unless you’ve given us permission. You can forward the survey if you like and your friends can vote, too. Please don’t be a jerk and make everyone in your office vote for your cover band, though. With today’s modern technology being what it is, we can see through you, and may even out you to our readers if you’re really obnoxious. Love to all, The VITAL Staff

Take VITAL’s Milwaukee Music Survey

Take VITAL’s Milwaukee Music Survey

Click here to take the survey. Results will be published in the October issue of VITAL Source, which is our annual Music Issue. There are only 12 questions, so it’ll just take a second. Thanks, as always, for playing. The VITAL Staff

Project Runway at LELA

Project Runway at LELA

Cathedral Square Farmer’s Market

Cathedral Square Farmer’s Market

Deep in the heart of the concrete jungle, otherwise known as downtown Milwaukee, lies an oasis—a breath of fresh air if you will. It is here that good ‘ol city folk gather on some green amidst the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life. Welcome to the Cathedral Square’s Farmers Market, on the corner of Kilbourn and Jefferson Streets. I had the pleasure of visiting the market recently on a ravishing Saturday morning, complete with crystal clear skies and the anticipation one gets when delving into something new. I was not quite sure what to expect. I suppose, after recently visiting Old World Wisconsin, that I half-expected to see women dressed in prairie frocks and crisp linen aprons selling brick oven pies while nearby the men bartered off the family cattle. There were no such sights, of course, after all, this was downtown Milwaukee 2007, but there was certainly no shortage of tantalizing sights to see, feel and my favorite—taste! People come from all over Southeastern Wisconsin to sell their alluring handmade, hand crafted or hand-picked treasures. A pair of Amish friends traveled over 150 miles from Kendall, Wisconsin just to sell their mothers’ baked goodies. Also present was the family who nurtured their hobby of raising honey-bees into a sweet business, Rolling Meadows Honey Farm, offering everything from honey mustard to refreshing honey-lemonade. And the family who runs Lakeview Buffalo Farm. They enticed shoppers with a hearty snack of real Wisconsin cheese and buffalo meat sticks. Perhaps you would enjoy perusing the dozens of elegant pens from The Write Stuff, a father-son venture that turned into quite the talent (The vendor by the way is quite a charming Sophist—in a good way!). Maybe taking home a fragrant bouquet, a basket of fresh veggies, or some gorgeous summer jewels is more your style. Oh, and don’t forget to listen to the music! This time I got to enjoy Repeat Offenders, a cover band that is made up of 3 attorneys, 2 engineers and 1 paralegal (hence the name). Sitting under the shade of a maple tree I watched as children chased blue-gray pigeons while their parents engaged in neighborly conversation. It truly makes you begin to appreciate the simpler things in life. You know, life just tasted a little sweeter that Saturday morning. Stephanie S. Beecher Vital Source Street Team

Traveling Art Circus

Traveling Art Circus

Street Team Saw Fever Marlene @ Summerfest

Street Team Saw Fever Marlene @ Summerfest

For the past several years, as Summerfest approaches I always say I’m not going, citing my distaste for large drunken crowds and snobbish taste in beer as the reasons. Then i get chided because it is a music festival not a beer tasting party. Then I remember, oh yeah, I like music. Spurred by a dead-end tip that Andrew Bird was going to be opening for some band I’d never heard of, I decided it might be worth braving the herd. I was not terribly disappointed, instead, I was delighted to be introduced to the musical manifestations of Scott Starr and Kevin Dunphy, a handsome duo by the stage name of Fever Marlene. In searching for proof or denial of the Bird rumor I searched Fever Marlene’s website and got a dose of danceable rock compelling enough to ride my bike to the grounds. Honestly – the sound on stage, playing over concrete and metal bleachers, does not equal the same sound from their recordings. In my own private listening space I’m content to just do the chair rock and go about my business. Sitting in front of them up on stage I was galvanized by the raw attitude the music effused. At a festival of many less than exciting bands, these guys pulled in a very attentive crowd. From what it looked like, half at least knew half the songs, the rest were just drawn in by the half-electro, half-rock, all good beats. The best songs, I noted, were lip-synched by the crowd – Red Fire and We Are All Colors – both of which you can hear on their new album, “Civil War”. If you get the chance, check out one of their upcoming shows, it’s well worth it.

Fever Marlene, Summerfest 2007
Milwaukee Sketch & Improv Fest Goes National
Benefit Show for Pat Kasthurirangaian
Become a MARNmentee!

Become a MARNmentee!

MARN seeks Mentees for Mentoring Program! To strengthen the network of support for artists, provide in-depth professional resources and to contribute to the health of Wisconsin’s arts community, MARN has created MARNmentors specifically for visual artists, literary artists, filmmakers and arts administrator in the Milwaukee area. MARN will act as a liaison between established working artists and administrators and those who are pursuing a career in the arts. Twelve established artists and three established arts administrators with a track record of professionalism and who have a desire to pass on their knowledge to developing artists, have been selected as Mentors. MARN and its Mentors believe it is essential to Milwaukee’s art community that we cultivate relationships among our artists, and provide opportunities that encourage emerging artists to stay and work in Milwaukee. Deadline to apply is July 31, 2007, please submit: *One page letter of intent, detailing what you’d like to get out of MARNmentors. *10 Visuals or samples of your work. *One page personal statement, include information about you and your work. Send to MARN, P.O. Box 713, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Questions? Contact Mike Brenner, brenner(at)marnonline(dot)com or 414/433-1900. There is a $200 fee for MARNmentors, due upon acceptance to the program. Scholarships and payment plans are available. Visit the MARN website. MARN’s MISSION Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) is a nonprofit art-service organization dedicated to enriching the community by supporting individual literary, performing and visual artists. MARN empowers artists with access to educational and professional resources and creates a network for communication and collaboration. MARN sponsors arts-related events, including and involving other organizations and businesses, making the arts accessible to people of all economic and educational backgrounds. THE VISUAL ART MENTORS Santiago Cucullu was born in 1969 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and currently lives in Milwaukee. He received his M.F.A. from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1999 and his B.F.A. from the Hartford Art School in Connecticut. In addition he was a resident at the Core Program at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Recent solo projects include exhibitions at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; INOVA, Milwaukee; Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston; and Julia Friedman Gallery, Chicago. Group exhibitions include the 2004 Whitney Biennial; How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Fresh: The Altoids Collection at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New Waldek Dynerman is a professor in the Fine Arts Division, where he has taught drawing, printmaking, and painting since 1983. He works in wide range of media including painting, works on paper, and sculpture. He was the recipient of Milwaukee County Fellowship in 2001, and he showed his work in over sixty group and solo exhibitions in U.S. and Europe. Lane Hall is a Professor in the Department of Visual Art at the Peck School of the Arts at UWM. He works collaborately with artist Lisa Moline on […]

Coming soon — Scene and Heard
VITAL Source Presents Random Exposure 2

VITAL Source Presents Random Exposure 2

Join VITAL Source Magazine after work this Thursday, June 14 at the endlessly fascinating Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design for Random Exposure 2, a gallery exhibit of over 60 finalist and winning photographs from VITAL’s annual photo contest. Last year’s event was a smashing success, and this Thursday will set a new bar, with beverages provided by Point Brewing Co. and the Milwaukee Ale House, appetizers by Bremen Café and music by The Glamour. A short film presentation of the judging process will loop in the auditorium as party-goers nosh and take in some amazing photography in one of Milwaukee’s most interesting art spaces while surrounded by the funky sounds of Milwaukee’s most dynamic DJ duo. Just $3 at the door and the rest is free! 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Eisner Museum of Adverting and Design, 208 N. Water St. Thanks to the sponsors: the Eisner, Point Brewing Co., Picture Perfect and Bremen Café. Under 21 welcome.

This Thursday! VITAL Source Presents Random Exposure 2

This Thursday! VITAL Source Presents Random Exposure 2

Join VITAL Source Magazine after work this Thursday, June 14 at the endlessly fascinating Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design for Random Exposure 2, a gallery exhibit of over 60 finalist and winning photographs from VITAL’s annual photo contest. Last year’s event was a smashing success, and this Thursday will set a new bar, with beverages provided by Point Brewing Co. and the Milwaukee Ale House, appetizers by Bremen Café and music by The Glamour. A short film presentation of the judging process will loop in the auditorium as party-goers nosh and take in some amazing photography in one of Milwaukee’s most interesting art spaces while surrounded by the funky sounds of Milwaukee’s most dynamic DJ duo. Just $3 at the door and the rest is free! 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Eisner Museum of Adverting and Design, 208 N. Water St. Thanks to the sponsors: the Eisner, Point Brewing Co., Picture Perfect and Bremen Café. Under 21 welcome.

PrideFest Photo Galleries

PrideFest Photo Galleries

Please visit our new PrideFest and Pride Parade photo galleries! Enjoy!

Starting Here, Starting Now

Starting Here, Starting Now

By Tracy Doyle If you’re looking for some light, summertime musical fare, check out In Tandem Theatre’s production of Starting Here, Starting Now, which captures the many phases of romantic involvement, everything from waiting for the love of your life to come along to the wretched throes of the breakup. A musical revue written by long time collaborators Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, Starting Here, Starting Now is a collection of songs about love written by the duo and compiled in 1977. Maltby and Shire’s collected body of work include the Broadway musical Baby, the Fats Waller revue Ain’t Misbehavin’, and the score to cinematic success Saturday Night Fever. This is the first time this show has been staged in its entirety in Milwaukee, and director Jane Flieller did an amazing job rearranging the order of the songs to give it a semblance of a dramatic arc. The songs were grouped into categories such as dating, proposing, parting and starting, which let the audience identify with the storyline and take us on an emotional roller coaster of love. The night opened with surprising David Lynchian flair. The stage has been beautifully transformed by set designer/ stage manager Chris Flieller into a giant piano, with a trio of musicians set in the upper right corner. The lights were dim and the show hadn’t started yet but Mr. Flieller, probably after performing some of his stage managerial duties, sauntered across the room in his dashing tuxedo, snapping his fingers to the beat of the band and brought to life a two minute scene straight out of Twin Peaks. Mr. Flieller was a staple throughout the production, moving set pieces and also functioning as bartender, drunken confidant and purse snatching comic relief. An ensemble of only three singers, these performers filled the room with their light and cheery voices and smiles. Taking turns with the songs, Mary C. DeBattista, Marty McNamee and Kathleen A. Miller brought to life a wide variety of music with consistent performances. The section titled “Parting” was the most impassioned, with stellar performances of “Autumn” and “Crossword Puzzle.” A night sprinkled with polite applause from audience members after each rendition, I let out a grand “whoo-hoo!” after McNamee’s bitter, heartfelt “I Don’t Remember Christmas.” The ensemble harmonized well and the choreography was simple but appropriate for the space and breadth of songs. Overall the show was enjoyable although it ended with a whimper compared to the bang of the mid-section. For a night of good music and light-hearted fun, go check it out. And congrats to In Tandem’s recent acquisition of their own performance space, look for them next year at Tenth and Wisconsin. VS In Tandem Theatre’s production of Starting Here, Starting Now runs thru June 10 in Broadway Theatre Center’s intimate studio theatre. Tickets and information can be found at www.intandemtheatre.com or by calling 414-444-2316.

Various Artists

Various Artists

By Nikki Butgereit Anchored In Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash is the musical counterpart to John Carter’s biography of his mother. Clearly, this album was a labor of love, not just for the grieving son, but for the artists and relatives who came together to celebrate Carter Cash’s musical legacy. The album opens with Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson’s duet of “If I Were a Carpenter.” The song evokes June’s relationship with Johnny Cash, and the contrast between the older and younger artists throughout reinforces the tone of the album – today’s country music principals honoring the music of the past. To that end, Brad Paisley sheds all traces of modern country on his cover of “Keep On The Sunny Side.” The plucky banjo and lilting vocals of The Peasall Sisters and Billy Bob Thornton’s husky spoken word on “Road to Kaintuck” form just the right juxtaposition to elicit memories of an old-time radio show. But the album’s standout track is Elvis Costello’s slowed-down version of “Ring of Fire,” which removes all of the gritty urgency of Johnny Cash’s version and turns the song back into a true ballad. The inclusion of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” reinforces the strong impact that June Carter Cash and her family had on folk and country music. The songs are classic, and the lyrics and melodies as quaint as they are strong, much like the woman herself. The Carter family’s footprint on the landscape of modern country is large and deep, and Anchored In Love is a fitting tribute to an influential voice. VS

Black Strobe

Black Strobe

By Ally Berndt Norwegian death metal. Gothic French electro. ‘80s electronic body music. Something totally different. Any or all of the above can be ways used to describe Black Strobe. Burn Your Own Church – “Brenn Di Ega Kjerke” in Norwegian – is Black Strobe’s latest album, and while all 11 tracks reflect the group’s Depeche Mode and ‘80s rock influences, most also represent a darker, trance-like mood. The sound is good, but probably best appreciated if you’re hopped up at a Euro rave. “Blood Shot Eyes” is a quirky song that’s mixed well and puts the synthesizer to great use, yet sounds oddly reminiscent of the Super Mario Brothers theme if set against Norwegian metal. Included on the album is a cover of Bo Diddly’s “I’m a Man.” It’s bluesy but more hyped up – a little bit out there, but enjoyable nonetheless. And if Rammstein put together an ‘80s house mix, I’m pretty sure it would sound very much like “Not What I Need,” with its deep half-spoken lyrics in Euro-metal drag. The last two tracks – “Last Club on Earth” and “Crave for Speed” – are by far the best, featuring not only the strongest vocals, but also some great piano work. It’s a welcome switch from synth and showcases Black Strobe’s low-key side. Burn Your Own Church is a decent album with a lot of great production work; the mixes are actually the best part. There could’ve been a little more guitar and a little less of the often over-powering keyboards and synthesizers, but overall Black Strobe has put together a well-rounded record that pulls elements from many styles of music and then lays them over acid-infused beats. Americans should definitely check it out, if only for the fact that it’s just not your everyday electro mix. VS

FREE MICHAEL MCGEE!!!

FREE MICHAEL MCGEE!!!

Good-Bye,  Mr. Davis

Good-Bye, Mr. Davis

2 Guys

2 Guys

The Cultural Iconography of My Generation
Just Break EVERYTHING

Just Break EVERYTHING

BUSH HAS LOWEST APPROVAL RATING IN HISTORY
The Baker’s Wife

The Baker’s Wife

By Tracy Doyle Opening night of Windfall Theatre’s staging of The Baker’s Wife, I was warmly ushered into the intimate and awkward venue and the best of the remaining seating was pointed out to me. The space, which must double as a meeting room of some sort for the Village Church Arts, was perfectly suited for this cluttered musical fable, music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz and book by Joseph Stein. The play is set in a very small town, where everybody knows everybody and no one can stand anyone but themselves. The everyday grind is thrown off when the town’s sole baker dies and a replacement shows up along with his beautiful and much younger wife. A typical Schwartz musical, the songs are long and boring, never striving for anything other than ordinary and the plot follows suit. The show opened with the sound of a man shooting himself in the foot. The first lines of “Chanson” are in French and I really wish a dialect doctor had been called because I was in pain. (Ba dum ching) But seriously, since this show started at such a low point the only way it had to go was up and it did. The lead roles of the baker and the baker’s wife, played by Larry Birkett and Linda Steiber, were beautifully constructed and developed. Both possess outstanding singing and acting abilities, which in local musical productions is a rare treat. The baker, Aimable, who struggles with the knowledge that his wife will eventually leave him, captures a real innocence and love of life that is all the more poignant she finally does leave him. Genevieve leaves Aimable for the young and charismatic Dominique, charmingly played by Thomas Rosenthal, whose lack of musical genius is made up in energy and comic timing. Highlights of the show include a hysterical Freudian orgy of bread and song, in which long loaves of fresh bread baked by Milwaukee’s own Wild Flour Bakery are acrobatically tossed and gnawed and shared between townspeople. Musically, Genevieve’s touching “Meadowlark” stood out as an honest rendition of a woman’s struggle to figure out just what to do with her life, and reminded me of many a night singing to myself in the privacy of my own home. My favorite part of the whole night coincided with the appearance of Albus Rosenthal as Pompom, who is (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) the very first real live cat I’ve ever seen on stage, something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. I make an open suggestion for a new byline, Windfall Theatre: Making dreams come true. Props to Windfall for a show full of energy and performances worthy of a much better script. VS Windfall Theatre’s Production of The Baker’s Wife runs now through May 19th at Village Church Arts. For more info, call 414-332-3963 or visit Windfall online at www.windfalltheatre.com.

Matt Cook . . . Bombs?

Matt Cook . . . Bombs?

Colin Hay, May 3 @ The Miramar Theatre

Colin Hay, May 3 @ The Miramar Theatre

By Erin Landry Dropping in at Bay View’s local watering hole, the Palomino, you might have had the pleasure to be served a drink by Colin Hay’s opening act Thursday night: the talented Davey von Bohlen (of Cap’n Jazz, Promise Ring and Vermont fame), a regal name he says that was given to him at birth, which after the first few songs you realize is in direct contrast to his humble disposition. Starting off a set with “songs that preamble” by his own admission, he covered material from his “younger days” as well as songs recorded by his current band, Maritime. His voice warbles then cracks at one point, he misses notes, he stops then starts when he forgets lyrics, he laughs and chides himself, all of which just add to the spontaneous feel of his music. The imperfections and mistakes, instead of being distracting, conveyed the creative process and created an intimate performance. It was less of a concert, more of an impromptu experimental venture, music in its most raw form. And, though no explanation was necessary, after a youthful chirp from his two-year-old at the back of the crowd, he confesses that instead of practicing before the show, he “slacked off” and took his son to the children’s museum. How can you not forgive that? During intermission, the ladies room titters with rumors that Colin Hay’s live performances include his wife who does interpretive dance. Back inside the theatre, the lights dim and a rousing backstage introduction, which sets the tone for the rest of the night, describes Colin as a multi-platinum performer who “believes football is played with a round ball, enjoys sunsets, walks on the beach, and ladies, if you’re wondering, he’s a cancer.” Let’s get this right out of the way; Colin Hay is so much more than a blip on the ‘80s pop icon MTV screen (Men at Work). Since that time he has assembled an enviable body of work that has been touted through television via “Scrubs” and film via the indie hit “Garden State.” He is an artist that withstands the changing times, providing a new body of work of evocative and bittersweet songs and contemplations on life. In any case, the night’s performance is less pop concert more all-inclusive variety show (in the best possible sense) with song, poetry, comedy, storytelling and, true to rumor, an array of vocals, kazoo playing and interpretive dance by his gorgeous wife, Cecilia. The first hour was a sprinkling of newer songs overshadowed mostly by Mr. Hay talking about youth, life lessons and other musings including an admission that, while he recently wrote a song about the infamous Bob Dylan (his opening song: What Would Bob Do?), he’s never actually met the man in person. But instead of working on an album or song with Dylan, he says how he’d prefer to work on a car together, talk about alternators and transmissions…or maybe walk around a Costco in search for toilet paper, all the while […]

Lady Day

Lady Day

By Jill Gilmer It’s hard not to have a great evening at the Stackner Cabaret. The nightclub-style setting creates a relaxed and festive atmosphere and the well-heeled crowd doesn’t seem to mind sharing tables with strangers and chit-chatting over cocktails or coffee and dessert. Add to this backdrop the wonderful music of Billie Holiday performed by Grammy award-winning singer Regina Marie Williams and you have the recipe for a string of sell-out performances, which Lady Day has enjoyed since it opened on March 16. But theatre-goers hoping to learn more about the life and legacy of this jazz icon may leave the Cabaret disappointed. Like many theatrical productions that examine a celebrity figure, Lady Day focuses less on Ms. Holiday’s life and career and more on her personality. While this in itself is a worthy endeavor, director David Hunter Koch’s obsession with her surprising dark side nearly overshadows both her story and her talent. The story takes place at the Emerson Bar & Grill, a hole-in-the-wall jazz club in Philadelphia and the actual site of one of Holiday’s last performances before her death in 1959, at age 44. Emerson was, apparently, one of the few clubs in the U.S. where she was still welcomed. A series of temperamental incidents – most likely exacerbated by alcohol and heroin abuse – had tarnished her reputation and limited her performance venues. Regina Marie Williams delivers a riveting enactment of Ms. Holiday’s descent into a drunken trance over the course of her 1-hour and 15 minute performance. At least, we can only hope it was alcohol that fueled the seemingly-endless string of expletives that dotted her performance and the insults she hurled at her unsuspecting audience. This drunken rant was a stark contrast from the image of graciousness suggested by her strapless white satin gown, elbow-length gloves and trademark gardenia in her hair. Leaving the show, audience members who are unfamiliar with her contributions to jazz might even question whether the accolades history has bestowed on her are justified. These thoughts were sufficiently disturbing to send this writer surfing the in search of “the real Billie Holiday.” The artist I read about online seemed to bear little resemblance to the obnoxious faded starlet portrayed in Lady Day. The lack of balance in this portrayal of Ms. Holiday leaves an unwarranted black eye on this great artist. Despite her unbalanced portrait of Ms. Holiday, Regina Marie Williams does a superb job capturing the emotional intensity and famed uniqueness of Ms. Holiday’s voice, if not its exact tone quality. A highlight is a soul-stirring rendition of “Strange Fruit,” her classic song about Jim Crow-era lynchings. The song is a fitting conclusion to Ms. Holiday’s account of a racist incident she experienced while touring with Artie Shaw. That story reminds us of the difficult era (the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s) during which she succeeded in establishing herself as an African-American singer with a ground-breaking sound. The enormous obstacles she had to overcome are proof that this lady […]

Simply the best

Simply the best

By Evan Solochek + Photos by Kat Jacobs and Gene Martin He is one of the recording industry’s true living legends; some call him the godfather of modern music. His name is as synonymous with rock & roll as Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. What’s that? You say you’ve never heard of him? Well, take a closer look at that cursive signature on the headstock of that Gibson guitar your favorite musician is playing. That’s his. His name is Les Paul. Born Lester William Polfuss in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Les Paul took to music at an early age, performing semi-professionally by the age of 13 and with Rube Tronson’s Cowboys by 17. Shortly thereafter, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri and joined the Wolverston’s Radio Band on KMOX. By the 1930s, Paul was in Chicago playing jazz on local radio stations, and in 1936 he released his first two records. However, despite this early success, Paul was generally disappointed with the musical equipment with which he had to work; he found the acoustic bodies of the ‘30s-era electric guitars to be too dampening for noisy clubs. So, Paul began experimenting, and after some initial success in 1935 with “The Log,” which was nothing more than a length of fence post with a bridge, neck and pickup attached, Paul perfected his design in 1941 and built one of the first solid-body electric guitars, a revolutionary design that made rock & roll’s signature sound possible. By the early ‘50s, Gibson Guitar Corporation had finally taken an interest and used some of Paul’s design suggestions to build a prototype that would come to be known the world over as the “Les Paul” model, immortalized by the likes of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Bob Marley, Joe Perry, Slash and countless others. Today the Les Paul design remains virtually unchanged and one of the most popular guitar models around. While Paul also made many groundbreaking innovations in the area of multi-track recording, overdubbing and reverb, he is much more than an inventor. Widely considered the greatest jazz guitarist of his generation, over his 75 years in music and radio Paul has released over 10 albums, recorded and performed with the likes of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005 and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2006. Also in 2006, at the age of 90, Paul won two Grammy Awards for his album Les Paul & Friends: American Made, World Played. Now 91, this musical visionary will return home to Waukesha on May 10 to play a concert at the Milwaukee Marriott West hotel (tickets are $1,500 for up-front Premier Tables of four or $300 for general admission) that will also include appetizers, dinner, a silent auction and an autograph session. While the concert will only be 45 minutes long, it will mark the […]

Robbie Fulks

Robbie Fulks

By Allison Berndt The best way to describe Robbie Fulks’ new album Revenge! is to call it an eclectic hillbilly mix produced live on the road for an audience that’s looking for some good ol’ country music alongside a good laugh. Well, it’s true. Fulks, known for his catchy country songs and humorous lyrics, has put together an impressive collection of his very best. Hints of jazz, bluegrass and even a little ‘50s rock are evident in this generally hillbilly-esque compilation. Revenge! is a two-CD set of live recordings, half of which are brand-new songs. “I Like Being Left Alone” is a perfect example of a song that makes you laugh while engaging you musically with a charming melody. The best tracks on the album include previous hits “I Want to Be Mama’d” and “Cigarette State,” as well as a cover of Cher’s “Believe.” Fulks goes off on a guitar tangent that’ll take the listener through some masterful riffs in “Mama’d,” and “Cigarette State” is bound to be a crowd pleaser no matter where or when you hear it – it’s a staple in his repertoire. To hear a western cover of “Believe” is laughable in general, but even more so with the adaptation Fulks provides. Slower and more serious, “The Buck Starts Here” is a great theme that showcases a classic twangy country sound. Revenge! has a smattering of everything on it: old songs and new, covers and originals and any tempo for which you could be in the mood. It’s a solid collection with one constant element: hillbilly. VS

Time to grant women equal rights

Time to grant women equal rights

By Martha Burk The new Congress has been busy, what with scandals in the Justice Department and votes to rein in war spending with some accountability and better training for the troops. Both are good things, and proper priorities. But both are likely to end with standoffs as they go head-to-head with the White House, no doubt because the 2008 election season is already well under way. The president is determined not to give Democrats an edge with voters. But some members of this Congress are already looking ahead and hoping to boost the party’s stock with the majority of voters – women. These Congress members are going beyond non-binding resolutions and bills that won’t get past the president’s veto pen. They are talking about passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Recently renamed the Women’s Equality Amendment and introduced March 27 by its chief sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), to a standing-room-only news conference, the ERA would grant equal constitutional rights to women — something we have yet to achieve. It’s a simple concept that had the blessing of both political parties until the Republicans struck it from their platform in 1980, with the Democrats following in 2004. The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, but was not passed and sent to the states for ratification until 1972. Unlike the 27th amendment, ratified after hanging around for 200 years, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed with a time limit of only seven years for approval by the states. In that brief time, it was ratified by 35 states, but was stopped three short of the required 38 by millions of corporate dollars backing Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-woman storm troopers. They feared unisex toilets more than they valued freedom from discrimination. Schlafly always resurfaces at the Republican platform committee hearings leading a band of zealots campaigning for their own constitutional amendment banning abortion. She says Republican women want to do that. (No doubt a few do. We saw just how few last November, when 100 percent of anti-abortion ballot initiatives were defeated.) Much has changed in the 35 years since Congress first passed the ERA. Women have become the majority of both the population and of the electorate. Most are now in the work force full time, including nearly three quarters of mothers with children between 6 and 18. Women head one third of all households, and a whopping 61 percent of single parent families. While much has changed, little progress has been made. On average, women still make only 76 cents to a man’s dollar, working full-time and year-round. They hold 98 percent of the low paying “women’s” jobs and fewer than 15 percent of the board seats in major corporations. Three-quarters of the elderly in poverty are women. And in every state except Montana, women still pay higher rates than similarly […]

Subversions:  You, Mii and D&D
Subversions

You, Mii and D&D

Sunday, April 1, 2007 6:30 a.m. In the years following my retirement from professional bass fishing, I’ve accomplished a great deal: I’ve survived Catholic grade school, gotten laid, graduated from college and even managed to watch all seven Police Academy movies in one sitting. Until recently, however, I had never once gotten up at the butt-crack of dawn in order to wait in a Toys ‘R’ Us parking lot. Joined by my long-suffering girlfriend, I’m among a dozen other foolhardy souls braving the morning freeze in hopes of scoring the impossibly hard-to-find Nintendo Wii. Though this video game-fueled madness certainly represents a troubling descent into pasty-faced, fan-boy territory, it’s merely the topper to a weekend already filled with role-playing games, minor sci-fi celebrities and a puzzling lecture on ghost hunting. Get out your 20-sided dice, grandma, ‘cause this column’s rolling with a +8 Dexterity… 15 Hours Earlier… It’s a perfectly lovely Saturday afternoon and I’m spending it listening to a handful of 19-year-olds discuss their favorite Super Nintendo games: “Did you know that Breath of Fire III was the first SNES game to utilize an Active Time Battle system?” …I actually did know that. After following a sizzling hot tip, I’ve found myself – again, with my patient-to-a-fault girlfriend – at the 2007 Concinnity Sci-Fi and Gaming Convention held at the MSOE Campus Center. Like the once-Milwaukee-based Gen Con (the largest sci-fi/gaming/still-living-with-your-parents convention in the country), Concinnity offers up RPG demos, video game tournaments and bored-looking vendors hawking used fantasy books and black light dragon posters. Of course, everything here is on a much smaller scale, a fact that bears out in the lineup of special guests: instead of Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax and a Billy Dee Williams meet-and-greet, Concinnity has, um…an anime voice actress and some guy who used to write Tomb Raider novels. It’s this micro-sized quality that gives the “con” it’s wonky charm, however, along with the small and endearingly awkward group of attendees that populate it. Fittingly, the place feels like a rec room sent from heaven (or hell, if you’re averse to these sorts of things): a few clutches of seasoned gamers roll dice in a faraway corner, a group of younger Evil Dead aficionados mull over arcane rule books in the back and, near the entrance, a pleasant-enough fellow recruits for a zombie LARP game (Live Action Role Playing). My girlfriend and I stroll through the room cautiously; though we’re enjoying ourselves, most of the attendees seem to steer clear of us (the requisite “guy-dressed-up-as-a-Jedi” seems especially aloof). It’s a strange feeling I can only equate to my experiences with gay bars: no matter how hard you try to blend in, no matter how kinda-sorta gay you may be, the pros will always sniff you out. Following the aforementioned Super Nintendo discussion (dubbed “AwesomSNES” on the schedule), as well as a look at an Alien-themed board game, we grab our seats for the highly anticipated lecture on ghost hunting. The star of […]

2007 Short Fiction and Poetry Contest

2007 Short Fiction and Poetry Contest

WRITE ON VITAL’s 2007 Short Fiction and Poetry Contest Sponsored by: BARNES & NOBLE, Mayfair Mall Entry Deadline: June 25, 2007 Submission Guidelines: 1. Entrants may submit one original, unpublished piece of short fiction (max. 1,500 words) and one original, unpublished poem (max 1,000 words). Entries will be judged by professional editors and educators not affiliated with VITAL Source. 2. Short fiction judged in Adult and Youth categories. Youth is defined as students between seventh and twelfth grades (entering in 07-08 school year). 3. All Youth contestants will be invited to a young writer’s workshop to be held in July, with details TBD. 4. Poetry category open only to Adults (18+). 5. Winners will have their entries published in the August issue of VITAL. First and second place winners will also receive Barnes and Noble gift cards valued at $50 and $25. Entries must be formatted as follows: • 8.5 x 11 page • 1” margins all the way around • Times New Roman 12 pt. type, single-spaced body text, 14 pt. title, left-justified • Double-return between paragraphs – no indents • Title and word count at top of page Include your contact information (name, address, phone number, email address), category (Adult or Youth, Fiction or Poetry) and a brief biography (100 words maximum) at the end of each entry. Email electronic entries to: contest@vitalsourcemag.com Mail hard copy entries to: VITAL Source Magazine Attn: Fiction/Poetry Contest 2609 N. Bremen St. Milwaukee, WI 53212 Questions? {encode=”editor@vitalsourcemag.com” title=”Email us here.”}

When The Illusion Drops

When The Illusion Drops

Gun control laws save 32 on Virginia Tech Campus
S/T

S/T

Finessing The Titanic’s Memory
Unintended consequences

Unintended consequences

By Jon M. Gilbertson Sweden apparently values a well-rounded education for its children. That’s probably why Emil Svanängen – the man who releases modestly constructed, eminently beautiful albums under the curiously affectionate name of Loney, Dear – was playing clarinet when he was 8, then playing piano and fronting a jazz trio in his teens. Even after a few years of less directed musical pursuits, he got a bit of help from Jönköping, the town where he grew up. “I got a computer from my hometown,” Svanängen says. “They started to rent them out for the citizens, and that is how I got the opportunity to have one. I started recording with it and real cheap equipment and making record after record, and suddenly, I had a fourth record ready.” That record, Loney, Noir, initially came out in 2005, and in much the same manner that Loney, Dear records had always come out. Svanängen had played and recorded the entire album himself, largely in his apartment or in his parents’ basement. Then he transferred the stuff to CD-R’s, put together some cover art and sold the things. And he was fine with doing that. “I was quite happy, and I wanted the music to spread, but I wasn’t chasing anyone to release it,” he says. “It was living on its own as it was. The only pressure came from myself. I could sell albums the day I was finished and it wasn’t a problem. It was a good situation to check out how people could react to the music.” In one of those rare occurrences of pleasant serendipity, however, the good music of Loney, Dear went further than Svanängen had intended. It started getting attention in the Swedish press, and the British imprint Something In Construction released the third Loney, Dear album, Sologne, in 2006. And that March, Svanängen visited Austin, Texas to perform – with a full band, no less – at the South By Southwest music festival. “Our manager wanted us to go there, and that made a change for us,” he says. “He’s more interested in progress than I am. That is where things started happening.” Shortly thereafter, Svanängen got an e-mail from Tony Kiewel, the head of A&R at Sub Pop, the deservedly famous indie label that introduced Nirvana and Postal Service to the world. The label wanted to work with him, and he, in turn, was ambivalent toward the label. “I got a record deal in the mailbox and I didn’t sign it for five weeks because I was kind of afraid of it,” he says. “I think I was afraid of too much touring and tough jobs. They wondered what had happened to the deal.” He did sign, and so it was that Loney, Noir finally got its stateside release this February. It’s the sort of record that should do better on an indie than on a major: its songs deal in small-scale majesties, in slow build-ups to moments of exquisiteness and the magnificent […]

A Few Questions Answered

A Few Questions Answered

By Nate Norfolk I’ve worked in a wine shop for almost nine years and there are many questions customers ask me over and over again. So I thought that there would be no better forum to answer these reoccurring quandaries than this article. I hope you find the information useful, and if you personally have anything wine-related you would like to ask me, feel free to send me an email at nate@downerwine.com. Why do wine labels say “Contains Sulfites”? Are sulfites bad for you and do they give you a headache? What are they, exactly? Sulfites are produced by all grape-based wines naturally during fermentation. Even with no addition of outside sulfites, wines still contain them. Some people are intolerant of the stuff, especially asthmatics. If someone were allergic to sulfites, the consumption of any kind of dried fruit, especially apricots, could be fatal. Most wine contains somewhere between 10 and 200 parts per million of sulfites, with white wines typically having a higher concentration. But sulfites alone can’t always be blamed for giving wine drinkers headaches. The wine induced-headache is more likely caused by dehydration or a reaction to histamines that naturally occur in red wines. Over 99 percent of commercial wineries add a small amount of sulfites to their wines solely for the sake of preservation. Without a small amount, most wine would turn into vinegar within a few months. The U.S. is one of the few countries that have a mandatory sulfite labeling law. So keep in mind, if you buy wine in Europe and it doesn’t say that it contains sulfites, it’s not necessarily because they aren’t there. Can you buy a truly high quality wine for $10 or less? If so, what do you recommend? I think there are great wines in the $10 range. That’s best thing about wine right now – there is so much of it and the competition among the cheap brands is fierce. I’m personally a huge advocate of Spanish wines in this price range. That’s where I think the best value to quality ratio is. A few favorites are Borsoa 2005 Tempranillo/Garnacha at $8, Tres Ojos 2004 Garnacha at $8 and Navarro Lopez 2001 Crianza Tempranillo at $11. If you see a low-priced bottle of wine with the same high Wine Spectator, e.g., professional rating as an expensive bottle, are they of the same quality? This depends. For instance, you might see a bottle of Merlot from Napa Valley that is rated 92 points and costs $15, and maybe it’s right next to different bottle of Merlot from Napa Valley that is rated 88 points and costs $45. In this instance, the less expensive of the two is supposedly of a higher quality. But it would be entirely unfair to assume that every wine with a good rating will be something you’ll like. If you hate port wine and stumble upon one that’s incredibly cheap with a stellar rating, in the end you still won’t like it. When wines […]

Not just another teen movie

Not just another teen movie

By Evan Solochek + Photo By Kat Jacobs FADE IN: INT. PIUS XI HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM SPRING 2006 A thin, dark-haired man in his early 30s stands before a classroom of disinterested high school kids. His name is Dominic Inouye and he is an English teacher. Normally he teaches AP English Literature but on this particular day he has taken over a colleague’s freshman English class with the task of helping them finish their short stories. Despite his best efforts, Dominic receives only tepid responses. DOMINIC (V.O.) “Most of them were not terribly invested in what they were writing. They were, once again, writing for their teacher and the tiny group of classmates, who cared even less about reading something their peers wrote.” Frustrated, Dominic ponders alternatives. Then comes a breakthrough: the video camera. Dominic jumps from his desk and haphazardly passes out the students’ stories. After every student has read through everyone’s stories, he has the students vote for the two they think would make the best movie: a love story about an arachnophobic butcher and one about a haunted house. MONTAGE OF STUDENTS WORKING DOMINIC (V.O.) “I set them to translating the stories into storyboards, forcing them to create visual and auditory detail that just wasn’t present yet in the original stories. That done, we spent three days filming.” FADE OUT While this may read as trite Hollywood melodrama at its worst, some alternate beginning to Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers perhaps, it’s not. This is the story of the Milwaukee Spotlight Student Film Festival. A cooperative effort between Dominic Inouye and James Carlson, Executive Director of Bucketworks and founder of the School Factory, the MSSFF, now in its third year, remains the only event in Milwaukee dedicated solely to supporting high school filmmakers. “We want to see young filmmakers grow up in our state, or come from other states to learn here, and share skills with others,” Inouye says. “We want to see educators embrace video as an authentic, powerful assessment tool and allow children of all ages the chance to see, record and transform their worlds in new ways.” For many students, the MSSFF is their first opportunity to exhibit a film publicly, a chance many filmmakers don’t get until much later in life, if ever. And that is precisely what makes the MSSFF such a fertile proving ground for its participants. “The festival gave me an experience of what it may be like working in the real world of film,” says Kaleigh Atkinson, who won Best Live Performance or Event in 2006 for her film Battle of the Bands ‘05: The Twitch Kids and who is currently studying film at UWM. “It encouraged us to find the true artist within, to branch out and put our visions to work.” For Inouye, however, the MSSFF is about much more than just making movies; it’s about breaking down what he sees as entrenched educational barriers and, ultimately, enriching kids. “Teaching tends to be very ghettoized,” says Inouye. […]

April 2007

April 2007

Thoughts on “Low Numbers” Your “Strength In Low Numbers” [Covered, March 2007] piece was a good read, one of the more comprehensive looks at WYMS that has appeared in the local press. I started working there in late 1981, and saw my 21-year career end rather unceremoniously in April, 2004. In between I hosted talk shows and jazz programs, provided commentary for Spelling Bee broadcasts, built an absolutely one-of-a-kind jazz library from scratch, suffered through agonizing fundraisers (or Begathons, as the staff referred to them privately), watched on-air technology change from turntables to CDs, endured countless summer weekends when the heat and humidity in the studios was so bad the equipment would sweat (they turned the AC off on Friday afternoons…), and took out the trash when necessary. I also had the privilege of serving a unique audience that was fanatically devoted to jazz, and that made it all worth while. But the 88.9 radio torch has been passed, and time will tell if RFM’s grand experiment succeeds or fails. Thanks to your article, I now know more about what that experiment entails than I ever did before. Thank you for writing it. Bill Bruckner Former WYMS Music Director In your latest issue, your “Left of the Dial in Milwaukee” states MPS could no longer afford to support the station. What is little known is that when WYMS went to pre-programmed JAZZ, all donations dried up, and MPS ended having to budget almost twice as much to run the station! (I know as I saw the budget). Spence Kortze or whatever his name can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Dan in Milwaukee Ed. Note: I actually stated that “MPS announced that it could no longer afford…,” which is different from me stating it as fact. In a shorter piece it’s hard to go into depth on every point, but I saw the same budget and – Wow! What a mystifying choice the Board made… Jon Anne … More “thoughts” from our online readers: Even after reading the above story of the evolution of your new format on WYMS, I still say, “Bring back our jazz, man.” —Marilyn Holbus You need to consider not throwing out the baby (JAZZ) as you continue to format and develop your programming. I hope there is still someone out there protecting this vital part of distinctly American, music culture.—Paul Carlson The new music is a big mish mash of too many types of music. Milwaukee is a very provincial town with peoples’ tastes pretty well set. The jazz format worked. It is the only music that is truly indigenous to America. Bring it back and dump the musical smorgasbord that can not appeal to anyone. Thanks—Chuck Sable I was skeptical at first, and for the first few weeks it was clear the station was searching for its “special something,” but I think it’s got it now. It works, surprisingly well. This is a station for people who just love music plain and simple: […]

Cyann & Ben

Cyann & Ben

By Nikki Butgereit Sweet Beliefs, the third album from Paris-based quartet Cyann & Ben, could be a soundtrack to a film comprised of views from a car window on a psychedelic drive. The tracks pile vocals on top of synthesizer effects on top of organ and piano on top of guitar and drums. The effect is a swirling kaleidoscope of sounds where the meaning of the songs comes more from music than lyrics; the nine tracks flow almost seamlessly, building on each other while creating different moods and moments. The twinkling effects and scratch beats in “Sunny Morning” evoke rays of light sparkling on a lake with the persistent, long-held organ notes creating a hum in your head. “Let It Play” sounds like a whirling carousel that picks up speed as the song goes along, making your head spin slightly as the music intensifies to an exuberant crescendo. The track drops off abruptly and the next song, “Somewhere In The Light,” is a spare and melancholy, featuring Cyann’s sweetly lilting vocals, a piano and little else. Cyann & Ben’s music is reminiscent of Sigur Rós, particularly “In Union With…,” where the different instruments seem to be doing their own thing, like each part was created independently and then mashed together to form something that sounds richer for its spontaneity. With the promise of spring whispering all around, Sweet Beliefs is the perfect music to surround you and stir up daydreams as you cruise along the highway. VS

VITAL’s Guide to Companies, Art Spaces and Venues
VITAL Source co-publishers on WUWM’s Lake Effect

VITAL Source co-publishers on WUWM’s Lake Effect

On March 21, 2007, VITAL Source founder and co-publisher Mehrdad Dalamie and co-publisher and editor in chief Jon Anne Willow sat down with Lake Effect’s Jane Hampden to talk about what it’s like to make it for five years as an independent, alternative print publication in an increasingly aggregated, corporate-owned media world. Click here to listen to the interview.

VITAL PHOTO CONTEST 2007

VITAL PHOTO CONTEST 2007

The Best in Show photograph will be featured on the cover of the June issue of VITAL, first and second place winners in each category printed inside the magazine. Other prizes awarded TBD. ENTRY CLARIFICATION: (updated April 6, 2007) Photo prints must be 8 x 10. Borders are acceptable and photos may be of a different orientation and proportion, but must be either 8″ or 10″ in length or width. THE PARTY! – On June 14, there will be a party for the winners and top submissions at the Eisner Museum of Art and Design. Last year’s party was a blast and this year’s promises to be even bigger. – FREE food and drink – Music by DIAMONDS THE JUDGES Cori Coffman – Executive Director, Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design Deone Jahnke – Local professional photographer Sonja Thomsen – MIAD Professor, Head of The Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA)

The Days of Wine and Roses

The Days of Wine and Roses

By Russ Bickerstaff As anyone who has been anywhere near it could attest, there is little if anything romantic about alcoholism. And as quaint and idealized as the picture of Irish drinking culture has become in this country, there is little that separates an Irish alcoholic from a Russian alcoholic from an American alcoholic from an alcoholic anywhere in the world. Exploring the tragic nature of the addiction, the Boulevard Ensemble Theatre trots out Owen McCafferty’s compelling dramatic duet The Days Of Wine And Roses. On an exceptionally bare set, Amy Kull and Tom Dillon star as Mona and Donal, an Irish couple meeting for the first time at an airport in Belfast in the early ‘60s. They meet as each are headed to London. He’s going there to further his career as a bookie; she’s going there because she’s fascinated by what she’s heard abut London. The two find themselves leaving familiar elements and have that first drink of whiskey together. Things are never so happy as they are in this opening scene, which manages to capture much of the initial euphoria of two people meeting and falling in love. The Irish accents are solid enough to sound reasonably authentic for Milwaukee ears. They aren’t alarmingly real, but thankfully, both Kull and Dillon know when to tone down the accents and simply let the characters breathe. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this opening scene. The two agree to spend their lives together in the second scene, but we begin to see the seeds of emotional and physical dependency take hold. Things begin to get a bit darker with the third scene, set a full two years after Scene One. We begin to see all the classic charm of an abusive alcoholic romance. It’s not real pleasant to sit through, but Kull and Dillon provide performances with enough depth to keep things from ever getting too entirely dark. Everything does, however, continue to get less and less comfortable as the play crawls toward the ninth and final scene. It’s a very slow crawl to the end in the intimate confines of the Boulevard Theatre. Based on J. P. Miller’s mid-century original drama, a story like this was much more powerful when it first debuted. Alcoholics Anonymous had only been around for a couple of decades back then and the real drama of addiction had only just started to surface on the stage and screen. Now that it’s been thoroughly explored and dissected in dramatic presentations of every shade, The Days Of Wine and Roses doesn’t come across as shocking – just kind of pathetic. As uncomfortable as it is to spend an evening with a couple of abusive, drunken people, it’s even less comfortable sitting through a couple of hours watching a couple of bad actors attempting to portray a couple of abusive, drunken people. Thankfully, we are spared that here. Kull puts in her usual stellar performance and Dillon matches that with what might be his best […]

The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie

By Jill Gilmer It’s beginning to show its age… or is it? When Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was first produced in 1945, it drew praise from audiences and critics for its portrayal of a man’s struggle to balance his family responsibilities with his longing for inner fulfillment. This theme, which had broad relevance in the post-depression era, seems quaintly outdated in 2007. However, The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre breathed new life into this American classic by bringing it to the stage with a talented African-American cast and director, creating a provocative theatre experience that challenges racial stereotypes. The Glass Menagerie gives us a peek into the world of the Wingfield family. At its head is Amanda Wingfield, an aging and irritating Southern belle played magnificently by Brenda Thomas. Amanda is struggling to hold on to the privileged lifestyle with which she grew up. Her goal is complicated by her charismatic husband’s decision to walk out on her and her two children many years earlier to pursue his dreams. Amanda is left with the daunting task of maintaining a household with her two adult children: Laura, a shy and crippled 24 year old at risk of becoming an “old maid,” and Tom, a restless 22 year old trying to live up to his mother’s expectations to support the family on a factory worker’s salary while yearning for real-life adventures on par with the movies he adores. This tension-filled family unit begins to unravel when Tom invites Jim Connor, a charming and ambitious co-worker, to dinner with the covert objective of marrying off his sister. What would happen if this all-American story were depicted by African-Americans? Would this classic play transcend race, or would race transform the story? These were some of the questions that motivated director Jacqueline Moscou, who also directed an African-American cast in Death of a Salesman. I believe the answer is both. The human experiences of love, guilt and desire for social status and self-actualization are not bound by race. A blind theatergoer may be unable to detect that the characters are black. However, a sighted audience brings a range of expectations about class and race that this production may confront and challenge. Were there really wealthy black families whose daughters aspired to marry plantation owners? (Yes.) Are there black men who anticipate technological revolution (i.e. the coming of television) and have the discipline and focus to position themselves to take advantage of it? (Yes.) Are black men who abandon their families to follow their dreams any worse than affluent white men who do the same? Ms. Moscou’s Glass Menagerie depicts a world with which few Americans, black or white, are familiar. The story of wealthy African-Americans, many of whom have hired help (and for some, back in the day, slaves), is rarely depicted in the mass media. The references to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the 100-year-old college sorority for black women, may have escaped many in the audience. This production could be praised as refreshing and […]

The Voysey Inheritance

The Voysey Inheritance

By Russ Bickerstaff The forced perspective is ominous in every single detail and I’m not just talking about the set. Scenic designer Linda Buchanan has taken what probably is little more than glass, plywood and metal strips and turned them into something that brilliantly conveys a feeling of overwhelming immensity in the finite space that is the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. This set doesn’t represent just any ban – it represents every bank. The bank frames the action in The Rep’s production of playwright Harley Granville-Barker’s early 20th century political drama, The Voysey Inheritance. In one of the Rep’s best performances of the season, Brian Vaughn plays Edward Voysey, a man set to inherit the substantial fortunes of the family business from his father (James Pickering). The play opens as Mr. Voysey reveals to Edward certain particulars of the business he is set to inherit. In a particularly fascinating bit of dry business conversation, Edward expresses outrage at the fact that his father has been taking money from people who have entrusted it to his business in order to finance a very lavish lifestyle. The elder Voysey assures Edward that the money will be there for his clients when they need it. Thus begins the journey of discovery that every subsequent generation learns from the one which preceded it. All is not as neat and tidy as we have been led to believe and the responsibility for the colossal mess will soon rest in our hands. All too quickly the elder Voysey passes away, leaving Edward with the choice of either putting things right with the business or maintaining things as the have been for decades. It’s a difficult choice that involves not only his substantial fortune, but also that of a large extended family that relies on money unlawfully amassed by the business. Aiding Edward in his decision is his long-time romantic interest Alice Maitland (Jessica Bates). Edward has proposed to Alice on numerous occasions to no avail. Bates and Vaughn do an admirable job of delivering the kind of chemistry that attracts two equals romantically interested in each other while also accurately portraying the kind of perpetual posturing that keeps them from ever really getting together until outside forces necessitate it. It’s the most satisfying romantic performance to hit the stages so far this season. The rest of the Rep cast rounds out the stage quite well. We see Rose Pickring in a clever performance as the hearing impaired widow of Edward’s father. Yes it’s incredibly lowbrow and more than a tad insensitive, but as old as deaf comedy is, it never fails to hit. It’s Rose’s brilliantly delayed timing that makes it work so well here. Jonathan Smoots plays vanity with his usual flair as the pompous Booth Voysey. Capable of lending fresh elements to any ensemble, Gerard Neugent cleverly plays the artistically inclined Hugh Voysey. His decision to forfeit his inheritance for the good of the company near the play’s end holds a startlingly memorable bit of […]

Bob Mittnacht and the Crowning Glories

Bob Mittnacht and the Crowning Glories

By Blaine Schultz Tuning into WMSE on Tuesday nights for the Midnight Radio program might give you some advance warning of the influences that figure into Bob Mittnacht’s talents as a songwriter. Coming off somewhere between Garland Jeffries and T-Bone Burnett, Mittnacht and his band combine guileless lyrics with an organic rock sound the features great pedal steel swells by Ken Champion and Hammond organ parts from Larry Byrne. As a guitarist Mittnacht’s clean and economic Telecaster lines add punctuation with punchy riffs. Prismatic childhood memories of older gearheads as well as thoughts of raising one’s own family root these songs in something other than the latest hipster fad. There’s nothing trendy here, just sturdy tunes built for the long haul. Not that Mittnacht doesn’t have an axe to grind. “All Screwed Up,” the ominous “There’s A Better Way” and “Ivory Tower” illuminates his social conscience and frustrations with the powers that be. Here’s to the emergence of the Port Washington Sound. VS See Bob Mittnacht and the Crowning Glories opening 3/11 at Shank Hall with Chris Difford of Squeeze

A Lie of the Mind

A Lie of the Mind

By Russ Bickerstaff Playwright Sam Shepherd is known for some pretty brutal drama. People go through intense stress. People get hurt. Sometimes things get weird. And, in the case of A Lie Of The Mind, sometimes things get REALLY weird. Windfall Theatre continues its 14th season with a thoughtful staging of one of Shepherd’s most compellingly off-center works. Thomas and Sonia Rosenthal play Jake and Beth, the archetypal abusive young lovers who really should never have gotten together in the first place. With Shepherd’s script, we don’t see them together for much of the play. This is after the pain and suffering of incompatible love. The play happens well after the relationship has completely fallen apart. Beth is in the hospital and Jake has put her there. Mistakenly assuming that he has killed her, Jake goes to see his brother Frankie (Keith Tamsett) to help him sort things out while Beth finds herself visited by her brother Mike (Robert W.C. Kennedy) in the hospital. As Frankie tries to piece together what Jake did to Beth, Mike spends time with Beth trying to help her recover. The Mike and Beth dynamic is much more interesting at this point. Beth has been severely damaged by the beating Jake gave her. She can barely speak the language, as many words are lost to her. Shepherd gives her some very powerful lines with a severely limited vocabulary. Sonia Rosenthal performs the lines impeccably. It’s one thing to sound stilted by deliberately sparse dialogue . . . it’s another altogether to make that stilted dialogue sound natural. Sonia plays it beautifully. Through Sonia, we see the damage that has been done to Beth and it carries much of the first act. Thomas Rosenthal’s performance as Jake, however, is missing something early on. Mike struggles as Jake struggles to express himself to a world of which he’s very fearful and suspicious. Rather than being compellingly uncomfortable, Jake’s early scenes are just plain uncomfortable, which has its own effect entirely. The play rolls into its second act as we are introduced to more characters. Frankie takes Jake to be with their family so his mother can look after him. Carol Zippel plays Jake’s mother, Lorrain, with all the misguided pride that comes with a character who has spent a lifetime covering for her son’s brutal mistakes. Zippel’s performance enhances Jake’s end of the story considerably. CommedySportz’s Stacey Meyer takes a fascinating dramatic turn playing Jake’s sister Sally. She just might be one of the brightest, most pulled together characters in the entire play, which means that as an audience, we’re seeing things more through her perspective than any other character in the play. Rarely has a character seemed this interested in being the emotional medium between the world of the play and the world of the audience. Meyer plays the character with precisely the kind of disinterested strength for which the role calls. Meanwhile, Beth is taken home to be with her brother, father and mother. Here […]

Macbeth

Macbeth

By Russ Bickerstaff It’s a bombed-out brick wall that looks like it’s just barely survived some sort of apocalypse. There are sweetly sick trees dotting the stage. There’s a decaying playground merry-go-round over to the left. Civilized civilization has been here and left. What else could this be but Macbeth? Marjorie Bradley Kellogg sets the stage for Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production with a design meant to invoke an ambiguous contemporary era. The production design, a collaboration between Kellogg, Director Eleanor Holdridge and a few others, stands as one of the few modest innovations in an otherwise uncharacteristically unimpressive and disappointing production for Milwaukee Shakespeare. The witches. It always starts with the witches, played here by Alison Mary Forbes, Laura Gray and Ted Dyson. Immensely clever sound design by Joshua Horvath wraps those first few moments of the first act in a feeling of decay. That isn’t static or distortion everyone’s hearing over the speakers . . . this is Milwaukee Shakespeare – they have some of the slickest productions seen on local stages, they would’ve worked out any problems with the sound system in tech rehearsals. No, that’s not static; it’s a sound reminiscent of the clicking of a Geiger counter. We’re in terribly diseased times here and Horvath brings the setting across with strikingly subtle clarity. In walk the three witches in rags . . . every bit as creepy and diseased as one would expect. Dyson is hardly visible beneath garb and makeup and mannerisms that transform him into an old crone. Laura Gray looks refined and faded in somewhat dated fashions . . . like she’d just walked out of an old photograph on decades-old newsprint that had turned yellow in a gutter somewhere. She’s got a deliciously disturbing poise about her. And then there’s the fresh-faced wholesomeness of Alison Mary Forbes, which costuming, makeup and lighting have bleached into sickly emaciation. The three double as excellent background décor. They’re post-apocalyptic scavengers who seem to take particular pleasure in making scene changes and the action moving. Things settle down once the action takes hold. Relatively fresh from his performance as King Lear with the Rep earlier this year, Mark Corkins graces the stage for his second performance in the title role of a Shakespearian tragedy in a single season. Corkins is brash and gruff in the role of Macbeth with just the right amount of authentic fear peaking through from beneath it all. There something that doesn’t feel quite right about the way Corkins fills the role, however. At the risk of sounding overly critical (and downright pretentious), I preferred James DeVita’s performance in the title role of the American Players Theatre’s 2005 production. DeVita had the distinction of being both cold and vulnerable in the role of the tragic figure, making for a much more textured performance on the surface. Corkins’ vulnerability as Macbeth is much more subtle, making for an entirely different experience. Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production is everything one could expect from a well-funded theatre group […]

A Lesson From Aloes

A Lesson From Aloes

By Russ Bickerstaff Juxtapose three people in a domestic setting and you probably could end up launching a production of just about anything. Milwaukee Camber Theatre uses three actors and a domestic setting to launch a particularly moving bit of drama with Athol Fugard’s A Lesson From Aloes. All appears reasonably peaceful on the set as the lights rise but it’s an illusion. Aloes takes place in the oppressive days of the early 1960s in South Africa. We see the effects of a police state on three distinctly different individuals. It’s an interesting set up that is masterfully executed by three talented actors under the direction of a Milwaukee theatre icon in a lush and detailed set that is tastefully illuminated. A Lesson From Aloes is a compelling evening of drama. As the play opens, Piet Bezuidenhout (Brian Robert Mani) is feverishly studying tiny potted aloes that he had collected. The stage is decorated in great numbers of them and he is talking about them with great passion. It’s easy to get caught up in Piet’s interest as the intensity of Mani’s performance animates Fugard’s subtly poetic bits of dialogue. As preoccupied as Piet and much of the play seems to be with Aloes, we find out later on that it’s only a recently acquired hobby for him. There’s a lot more to him and his life and his relationship with his wife than breathes through the surface. The brilliant thing about Mani’s performance is that, as central a figure as he is onstage, the complexity of his personality comes as something of a surprise as it is slowly revealed. While there is very little direct foreshadowing to this complexity, it doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere when it finally becomes apparent. As the lights come up on that first scene, Piet’s wife Gladys (Tracy Michelle Arnold) is sitting not far from him wearing a big, dark pair of sunglasses. As simple as this seems, she’s a bit of a mystery even in the opening minutes. We’re not even seeing her eyes. The character slowly seems to get more and more comfortable with the third wall as things progress. Fugard slowly coaxes her into greater and greater prominence as the plot navigates its way to the end of the last act. Tracy Michelle Arnold plays it with a style and poise that gazes right into the heart of the character. The role requires much of her expression to be nonverbal. Nowhere is this more apparent than when she is alone at a writing desk in the bedroom. As the audience, we’re seeing the bedroom from a cutout in the wall. It feels very invasive watching Arnold in the bedroom even though she’s actually doing very little. It’s one of the most delicate bits in the entire play and she carries it off remarkably well. Patrick Sims rounds out the cast as Steve Daniels – an old friend of Piet’s. Steve is a black man reluctantly moving to England because […]

Van Morrison

Van Morrison

By Blaine Schultz Ducks don’t come much odder than Van Morrison. He refers to his biggest hit “Brown Eyed Girl” as “the money shot” when he deigns to play the tune live. Often times it is not on the set list and it is strange that a guy who doesn’t exactly banter with the audience would offer a pornographic backslap to introduce the tune. As the teenage leader of Belfast’s Them, Van wrote the garage-punk anthem “Gloria” and that tune typically gets short shrift as well at his performances. Yet give Morrison utmost credit for being true to his muse over the course of a four decade career. He’s gone from garage R&B to pop hits to the stream of consciousness masterpiece Astral Weeks to albums that veer dangerously close to New Age, but he’s always done it on his own terms. Only Bob Dylan and Neil Young have lead such long and winding careers. For his 1974 appearance at the Montreux jazz festival Morrison’s most recent studio album had been Hard Nose the Highway – a likeable record but not exactly a career marker. For this date he’d left behind his sprawling Caledonia Soul Orchestra and, according to legend, assembled a piano/bass/drums group at Montreux. Very few artists, even in the open minded post-hippie 1974, would be willing to take such a chance with a pickup band of stellar players. Which goes a ways to explain why so few artists fall into a category with Morrison. And true to form, the set list reflects no expected choices and is littered with tunes that would be played rarely over the years. “Twilight Zone” eventually surfaced on the Philosopher’s Stone compilation as a different arrangement featuring an odd falsetto vocal. At Montreux Van acquits himself on acoustic guitar picking out spare bluesy riffs while Jerome Rimson’s upright bass and Pete Wingfield’s piano also take melodic turns. He also takes turns on harmonica (impressive) and saxophone (less so). If the first show is a unique document the second avails its riches with repeated viewings. In 1980 Morrison would again return to the expanded band format, highlighted here by ex-James Brown sax player Pee Wee Ellis’ extended solos. It is evident that Morrison trusts his musicians and gives them reign to tap into the moment while Morrison loses himself as well. “Summertime in England” builds to a Morrison and Ellis call and response near-Evangelical situation verging on hypnosis and as the tune fades the band launches into “Moondance” and Morrison looks like an alarm clock just went off in his head and he’s wondering what he’s doing onstage. This particular segment is a gem; that sense of a Holy Grail moment that players and listeners will tell you justifies an obsession – to paraphrase Van himself – sometimes “it ain’t why, it just is.” The next pair of tunes “Haunts of Ancient Peace” and “Wild Night” offers a similar juxtaposition. The set list is a near-perfect 15 song travelogue moving from trance inducing […]

Girls on film

Girls on film

By Russ Bickerstaff Once again, winter ends with Women’s History Month, and in recognition of this the UWM Film Department presents its 3rd Annual Women Without Borders Film Festival at the Union Cinema. The festival celebrates film by and about women who have crossed borders of every kind. And as in the past, this year’s festival features a wide range of compelling work. Documentaries cover such disparate subject matter as modern menstruation (with Giovanna Chesler’s Period on March 7), teenage life complicated by tribal culture (with Tracey Deer’ Mohawk Girls on March 11) and the story of the first woman to hijack an airplane (Lina Mackboul’s film about Leila Khaed on March 10). Lots of strange little experimental bits rush across the screen in a program that should prove to be quite an experience. One of the most provocative double features of the festival occurs March 9. Therese Shecter’s I Was A Teenage Feminist {Image 3} starts at 7pm, followed at 9pm by Gillian Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgartner’s I Had An Abortion {Image 2}. The former details Shecter’s attempts to come to terms with her life as a feminist after a lengthy time away from the movement. Her story begins at the dawn of women’s liberation while she was a teenager and follows the feminist movement through to the present. On the whole, it’s a nice, conversational introduction to the first principals of feminism, though most people already familiar with the movement won’t see much new here unless they find Shecter particularly interesting on her own terms. The brief street interview with the self-proclaimed feminist protesting abortion is a brilliant, yet passing, moment in the film. And as strange as it is that so much of the film is centered around Shecter’s formative feminist experiences watching the children’s TV special Free To Be . . . You And Me, it’s captivating to watch one of its writers tell her that the idealistic children’s program really didn’t promise her anything about gender roles. I Had An Abortion is more cohesive. Aldrich and Baumgartner put together a well thought-out history of abortion from women over the past several decades and from various socio-cultural backgrounds who have experienced it firsthand. The narratives are placed in chronological order, starting with a compelling account from over half a century ago. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s recounting of her own abortion early on in the film is almost hypnotic, but it’s the most recent narratives that really ground the film. I Had An Abortion draws its strength from its relentlessness. It’s not often that women casually mention the abortion they had. Regardless of how one feels about the issue, it’s profoundly moving to see this many women talking about it so openly. Possibly the best single documentary in the festival, Diana Ferrero’s They Call Me Muslim {Image 1}, opens yet another stirring double feature on March 10. It’s a piece so brilliantly framed that it’s surprising it hasn’t seen wider distribution at film festivals since its first […]

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams

By Blaine Schultz Having followed Lucinda Williams’ career since 1988, I find it no surprise that she has moved gracefully from cult artist to icon. She has maintained a consistently high level of songwriting and her choice of musicians and band mates has been impeccable. It doesn’t matter if she wears her heart on her sleeve or writes in character, Williams delivers the goods. West is imbued with Williams’ trademark blend of weariness and grit – it’s obvious when she’s pissed off and it’s obvious when she allows the light of optimism to shine through. On the best tunes here, Williams romantic heartbreak and personal loss (the death of her mom) are grist for the mill. But philosophically, the album’s spotlight is “What If,” a tune she previewed at her last solo Pabst Theater gig. It is a list of absurdities (“… the president wore pink…God was a bum…The sky began to bleed” ) that comes to a head with a simple quest for compassion. And that is what makes any art great: the attempt at connection no matter how great or small the gulf. It’s easy to pigeonhole Williams as a hood ornament for the NPR crowd. But she’s more genuine than any marketing scheme and more complex than many of the one-dimensional artists clogging the limited airwaves and record store CD racks. She can shift like a motorcycle in a minivan culture – not that she seems to care. As easily as she could sing her poetic numbers at an open mic night (“Are You Alright?” ), Williams can go toe-to-toe with the shit-kicker honesty of “Wrap My Head Around That.” Some of these tunes are so bare-wristed that it will be interesting to see how she deals with them live. Then again, that’s pretty much how she’s lived her career so far. It’s too bad she’ll never get to be in a Robert Altman movie. VS

March 2007

March 2007

By Erin Wolf March 6th Air Pocket Symphony Astralwerks Antibalas Security Anti-/Epitaph Apostle of Hustle National Anthem of Nowhere Arts and Crafts The Arcade Fire Neon Bible Merge Patti Austin Avant Gershwin Rendezvous Bright Eyes Four Winds EP Saddle Creek Mary Chapin Carpenter The Calling Zoe/Rounder Cheeseburger s/t Kemado !!! Myth Takes Warp Ry Cooder My Name is Buddy Nonesuch John Frusciante Ataxia II Record Collection Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy Geffen Albert Hammond Jr. Yours to Keep Scratchie/New Line Illinois What the Hell Do I Know? Ace Fu Lovedrug Everything Starts Where it Ends The Militia Group Son Volt The Search Transmit Sound/Legacy The Stooges The Weirdness Virgin Maria Taylor Lynn Teeter Flower Saddle Creek Mary Weiss Dangerous Game Norton March 13th Aqualung Memory Man Columbia Death By Stereo Death Alive Reignition The Dollyrots Because I’m Awesome Blackheart The Innocence Mission We Walked in Song Badman Recording Graham Parker Don’t Tell Columbus Bloodshot Jon Rauhouse Steel Guitar Heart Attack Bloodshot The Tragically Hip Sinners Stick Together Universal March 20th Andrew Bird Armcahir Apocrypha Fat Possum Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson & Ray Price Last of the Breed Lost Highway I’m From Barcelona Let Me Introduce You to My Friends Mute LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver DFA/Capitol Ted Leo and The Pharmacists Living With the Living Touch & Go Low Drums and Guns Sub Pop Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank Epic The Ponys Turn Out the Lights Matador Joss Stone Introducing Joss Stone Virgin March 27th Good Charlotte Good Morning Revival Daylight/Epic Macy Gray Big Will.I.Am Kaiser Chiefs Yours Truly, Angry Mob Universal Klaxons Myths of the Near Future Rinse/DGC Prodigy Return of the Mac Koch Timbaland Shock Value Interscope

Strength in low numbers

Strength in low numbers

By Jon Anne Willow During any given week, over a million Milwaukeeans listen to the radio, according to MediaAudit, which surveys the market twice a year. Of those, a surprisingly hefty 145,000 listen to public stations, namely WMSE, WUWM, WHAD and WYMS. And while the number may not seem like much in comparison to the total, public radio listeners are the cream of any community’s crop – typically engaged, educated and interested in what makes the world around them tick. Following the events of 9/11, public radio, primarily NPR, gained new listeners as people looked for in-depth news coverage. The trend continued into the first two years of the Iraq war, but since then the amount of time people spend listening to news, and especially national news, on the radio has declined. Even so, public radio is alive and well – and thriving financially like never before – at both the national and local levels. And in Milwaukee, the appeal of the left end of the FM dial may be about to become even stronger. (( The long and winding road )) In 2003 when MPS announced it could no longer financially support 88.9 WYMS (“Your Milwaukee Schools” ), the station was nearly handed off to WUWM without an open bidding process. When word got out, a small but vocal group of the station’s mainstream jazz supporters tried to “save” the station, citing its long tradition of supporting local music and civic discourse in all its forms – from polka shows to live airing of school board meetings. The group was unsuccessful in raising the capital needed and in the end, the school district invited requests for proposal (RFPs) for a new management operating agreement for the ailing station. One group responded – Radio For Milwaukee. The deal was finally inked in 2004. Headed by former Milwaukeean Peter Buffet, Radio For Milwaukee (RFM) came to the school board with a seven-year proposal for a radio station that would serve a wide swath of the community. The stated goal was to connect to as many facets as possible of the city’s exceptionally broad multi-ethnic and multi-cultural population while continuing to serve the civic need of broadcasting school board meetings and developing educational opportunities for high school students. RFM brought to the table a group of men dedicated to local music and familiar with the population terrain, but more importantly to the long-term feasibility of such a venture, they brought cash. To date, $1 million has been raised and/or pledged for operations, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has given a grant for $225,000 for community programming and upgrading the signal to digital, so that like WMSE, WHAD and WUWM, the station will also broadcast in HD. An undisclosed source has also donated $10,000 toward starting a web-based student radio station. The station will garner additional operating revenue through underwriting. WYMS, which will call itself 88Nine, RadioMilwaukee, had hoped to launch in 2005, but when the group finally got the keys […]

South America’s outstanding wine oddities

South America’s outstanding wine oddities

By Nate Norfolk There is a glut of inexpensive South American wine and just about every other grape-growing region in the world. The best thing about this is that consumers have wider access to inexpensive wine. The down side is that a lot of the inexpensive wine is either just plain bad or redundant and boring. The bulk of South American wine coming in to the U.S. is definitely on the cheap side, but if you are a little adventurous you can find some truly unique bargain wines. Chile and Argentina are good places to find them. Although these two countries are regarded as relative newcomers to our retailers’ shelves, they have been producing wine for hundreds of years. A brief version of a long history The grape vines of Chile and Argentina were planted by missionaries who came from Spain with the conquistadors in the mid-sixteenth century. As the country’s population expanded, wine production moved from the church to European plantation owners. It was so successful by the early 1800s that the North and South American wines imported to Europe began to affect the Spanish wineries. The Spanish government took action to protect the wine industry there. All across Mexico and South America, vineyards were uprooted and heavy taxes were placed on those remaining. This all but destroyed the wine industry in Mexico, but Chile and Argentina continued to produce wines commercially. Argentina Argentina is the fifth largest wine producer in the world, and its star red grape is called Malbec. Originally from southwestern France, it is used in small amounts in the red wines of Bordeaux and as the main component of a rather obscure French wine called Cahors. Although many will argue that Malbec is Argentina’s finest grape varietal, other reds and whites are being successfully introduced, notably Cabernet Sauvignon and the mysteriously floral, yet dry white grape Torrontes. Malbec wines from Argentina taste a lot like Merlot wines made elsewhere, though with the current Merlot backlash that may not be a great selling point. When you taste a Malbec wine for yourself, you will likely encounter a full-bodied wine with a soft mouth feel full of soft silky tannins and dried fruit flavors. There will be plenty of black currant, cassis and red fruit flavors like plums and berries as well as hints of black pepper and other spicy notes. A really good Malbec wine is something to behold. Chile In Chile, almost half the grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, but other reds and whites are grown there, the most important being the red Carmenere. The history of Carmenere wines is similar to that of Malbec. Both were once prominent in France, both were brought to South America in the mid 1800s by the French and both have become a very important part of South American wine-making. They also have both fallen out of favor in their native country of France and are only produced in extremely small quantities anywhere outside of South America. That’s where […]

Strong medicine for the healthcare access crisis?

Strong medicine for the healthcare access crisis?

By Ted Bobrow When Governor Jim Doyle laid out his health care proposal during his State of the State address in January, he dramatically transformed the debate about health care in Wisconsin. He summed it up succinctly: “The simple truth is, the time has come for the wealthiest nation in the world to provide access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance for its citizens – and Wisconsin can lead the way.” It’s an attractive scenario and perhaps very timely. Health care in today’s United States is truly Dickensian: the best of worlds and the worst of worlds. For the very wealthy and for people with good health insurance, there is practically no limit to the quality of available care. Double, even quadruple bypass surgeries are routine. Many cancers can be detected early enough to be treated completely. And promising new treatments are in the works for neurological disorders like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and depression. What a wonderful world we live in, eh? Well, some of us do. In reality, the U.S. is a nation of haves and have-nots, where 47 million people, including 9 million children, have no health insurance. For many in this group, paying out-of-pocket for a routine mammogram or even going to an emergency room at the onset of chest pains is not an option. And the problem is only likely to get worse. With the cost of health care and the insurance to pay for it escalating at twice the rate of inflation and the primary U.S. employment base shifting from large companies to small (less than 100 employees), fewer and fewer employers are able to offer decent health coverage. Early innovations in our own state served as the model for the nation’s current system of unemployment insurance. The time may be right to turn Wisconsin’s progressive tradition towards the problem of the uninsured. The Clinton plan: a costly lesson While access to basic medical care would seem to be a need most appropriately addressed at the federal level, neither the President nor Congress have shown much interest in comprehensive health care reform since Bill and Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated attempt in the early 90s. When President Clinton took office in 1993, he identified health care as the first big challenge of his presidency and he appointed his wife to head a task force to come up with a solution. First Lady Hillary Clinton, now a senator from New York and the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, assembled a group of the nation’s leading thinkers on health care and got to work. The Clinton task force eventually put forth a proposal that sank like a stone. There were many reasons for this failure, but the most instructive of all was that the Clintons did not build adequate support for the proposal among several key stakeholders including, incredibly, Congress and the American people. The Clinton proposal was complicated, and it became an easy target for opponents, most notably health insurance companies and small businesses, who […]

Consolidating control of the Titanic

Consolidating control of the Titanic

By Donald Kaul Admit it, you were fooled. You listened to that wimpy State of the Union address and you thought President Bush was in full retreat before an angry electorate. Yet again you misunderestimated the man. The retreat was merely tactical. Less than a week after the speech, he returned to the fray, guns blazing. He signed a Presidential directive that, in effect, grants him control over all federal rules and policies developed to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy. The directive, which does not need Congressional approval, requires regulatory agencies to have a policy office run by a political appointee who makes sure proposed regulations don’t cost the regulated industries too much. (And by “too much,” I would imagine, they mean “anything.” ) In the past, such regulations have been the responsibility of career civil servants and scientists. From now on, political hacks will be running the show, preferably ones who don’t believe in abortion, stem cell research or evolution. If you liked Katrina, you’re going to love the next two years. As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.” It occurs to me that what President Bush is doing, in his way, is resurrecting the administration of Richard Nixon. Like Bush, Nixon tried to put his political operatives at key positions in virtually every department of the government, to better exercise power. Like Bush, he wire-tapped his enemies, opened their mail and spied on them. He also had a burglary team working for him and we don’t know whether President Bush has one of those – yet. The genius of Bush, however, is that while Nixon had to resign his Presidency and nearly went to jail for his crimes, Bush commits them openly and no one lays a glove on him. It’s the War on Terror, don’t you know. Everything he does is legal because he’s a war president and he says it’s legal. It’s a terrific hustle and you have to give him credit for pulling it off. So he’s down in the polls a little, so what? The people he’s taking care of now will take care of him down the road. I do worry about our vice president, however. He seems to have gone a little…I don’t know…soft in the head, I guess you’d call it. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Cheney sat down with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and answered critics of the war in Iraq. “Hogwash.” That’s what he called the criticisms. The war, far from being a failure, has been a string of “enormous successes,” he said. We got rid of Saddam, we got rid of his sons, we established a democracy in the Middle East, we gave the Iraqis a constitution. “The world is much safer today because […]

Cé

By Evan Solochek + Photo By Richard Galling With Milwaukee’s strong Irish heritage, it’s no wonder that traditional Irish music is a fixture in this city. For proof, just check out Irish Fest, the Badger State Feis, the Cream City Feis, the renowned Celtic Irish Studies Program at UWM and the numerous pub sessions that occur on a weekly basis throughout the city. And prominent at each one of these Irish institutions is Milwaukee’s very own Cé. This local trio, made up of Asher Gray (flute, whistle, bouzouki, bodhrán), Randy Gosa (guitar, tenor banjo) and Devin McCabe (fiddle, concertina, whistle), play traditional and contemporary music from Ireland, England and Brittany. And while young, these three multi-instrumentalists have more than 35 years of musical experience between them and bring to this old-world craft a unique modern perspective, not to mention a level of skill often only seen in musicians twice their age. To hear more from Cé, check out myspace.com/cemusic or cemusic.net. 1. How did you three meet? I (Asher) met Devin when I was 14 or 15 and we’ve been playing together in sessions and different bands like Anam Rí and now Cé. Around the time that Anam Rí was coming to an end we started playing tunes with Randy in sessions around Milwaukee. It just seemed right that the three of us start a new group because we all shared a common passion for the music. 2. How would you describe Traditional Irish music to someone who had never heard it before? Traditional Irish music is dance music. It is directly connected to the roots in the dancing that accompanies it. Tunes provide a framework for dancing and for musicians to improvise over. 3. How does your young age affect your reception from either the audience or fellow Irish musicians? People who aren’t familiar with the music are sometimes surprised to see three guys in their 20s playing traditional music. I think it gives a little edge and helps to keep the audience’s attention. Anyone that plays it, though, knows that it’s music for all ages. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an 8 year old playing with an 80 year old. 4. Who would Cé like to collaborate with and why? We have always wanted to work with singers. As an instrumental band, our music yearns for that final element of vocal expression. Recently, Randy has been working with a singer from Boscobel named Andreas Transo, who would be a lovely addition. 5. What are your goals for Cé? We’re focusing on getting more gigs around the country and in Europe. There are so many great festivals and venues all over the world that focus on world and Celtic music. We’re also going to record a new album and hopefully release it this summer. VS

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Allen Toussaint  @ The Pabst Theater

Allen Toussaint @ The Pabst Theater

By Blaine Schultz After an quick instrumental tune to warm up, Allen Toussaint ran through a medley of some of the hits he wrote and produced for other artists – just in case you didn’t know who he is. In 2006 Toussaint collaborated with Elvis Costello on a post-Katrina album and tour that refreshed the public’s memory that since the 1950s Toussaint has written and produced a swath of music that remains quintessentially New Orleans. “A Certain Girl,” “Mother In Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Working in a Coalmine,” “Lipstick Traces,” “Brickyard Blues,” “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?,” “Yes We Can” and “Southern Nights.” While fire engines swarmed City Hall Saturday night at the Pabst Theater, Tousaint and his four-piece group moved seamlessly from regional hits to blink-and you-missed-it classical interludes to anecdotes introducing many of the tunes. In his double-breasted suit and Birkenstock shoes, Toussaint comes off as the personification of erudite and just plain cool. As a vocalist he’s laidback and funky. It’s easy to see him as living through vocalists like Lee Dorsey and Ernie K-Doe while settled into the studio life of a writer/producer/arranger. But this night’s rare performance proved he’s equally adept on stage. The audience could have used a dance floor. As a musician, Toussant’s piano playing is heir to the great Professor Longhair, and it is that rolling lefthand rhumba that anchors many of the tunes. But he also exhibits his genius in re-imagining Longhair’s rollicking “Tipitina” in a minor key as “Ascension Day” on the Costello collaboration, The River in Reverse. At the Pabst Toussaint alternated between the two. While he’s been covered by everyone from The Yardbirds to Devo to Warren Zevon (not to mention arranging horns for the Band), arguably Glen Campbell’s cover of “Southern Nights” is where most listener’s have come into contact with Toussaint’s music. He ended his set with long spoken introduction to the song, reminiscing of family trips out to the Louisiana countryside as a child to visit relatives, all the while playing variations on the tune’s melody. The band members listened with their heads bowed as if transported as well. It was one of the few moments all night the audience was still. Opener Pieta Brown played a short set of her folk and blues tunes accompanied by guitar guru Bo Ramsey. As the daughter of esteemed songwriter Greg Brown, Pieta is challenged to move away from the old man’s shadow – but she is well on her way. Her singing coupled with Ramsey’s filigrees created some hypnotic moments that took the listener into movies her lyrics created. Songs about escaping small-town life and characters with a “train in his head just looking for a track” suggest her career is moving in the right direction. VS

Almost, Maine

Almost, Maine

By Russ Bickerstaff As temperatures climb after some of the coldest days of the year, the Boulevard Theatre opens a wintery romantic comedy set in frigid rural Maine. Almost, Maine is a series of short dialogues between eight pairs of people who all have different relationships with love. It’s a pleasant evening in the intimate space of the Boulevard that is well worth going out into the cold to enjoy. The stage is a deep blue decorated in white. A few evergreens inhabit the tiny space accompanying a huge snowman holding cards that state the title of each short. It’s an interesting effect coming in from the authentic cold of Bay View in February to arrive in the warmth of an artificial winter onstage in the fictional space known as Almost, Maine. It’s explained relatively early on that the name is used to identify a section of the state that never quite gained its own name. In the cold of rural America in the dark of winter, people struggle to make and keep romantic connections through the course of eight different stories. The opening bit also closes the show. Liz Mistele and Siddhartha Valicharlavenkata play stereotypical young lovers working out a geographical paradox of intimacy. It’s a somewhat clever bit that establishes Mistele as the woman who sets the stage in a variety of different costumes. It also establishes Valicharlavenkata as a pretty solid actor. He last showed up as a waiter in Boulevard’s production of Beyond Therapy this past August, but here he is given the center of the stage and takes to it pretty well. While it’s pretty safe to say that playwright John Cariani probably wasn’t imagining a deep Indian accent mixing in and amongst the locals in rural Maine, Valicharlavenkata has such an engaging presence that it seems natural. The introductory bit is followed by a short entitled, Her Heart. It’s a piece about a lost woman (Jan Nelson) and the stranger (Michael Weber) whose lawn on which she has pitched a tent. Weber puts in a solid performance here and later on in Where It Went – the programs most intense bit of drama. Cynthia L. Paplaczyk was originally cast as the woman in this piece, but had to drop out of the performance on Friday night of opening weekend. Jan Nelson was acting with a script, but she managed a compellingly heartfelt performance nonetheless. Nelson’s performance in The Story of Hope a little later on in the program is a bit more intense as she plays a woman attempting to confront a romance she turned away from years ago. Beth Monhollen also makes quite an impression in a couple of bits about friendship becoming something more intense, first with Valicharlavenkata in Seeing the Thing and then with Kirsten Mulvey in They Fell. Monhollen brings the same sweetness to the stage that she did in Boulevard’s production of Marion Bridge last month. Love that had been cast away is looked at from a completely different […]

From the flood waters

From the flood waters

By Jon M. Gilbertson Allen Toussaint is one of those legends whom not a lot of people know – by name, that is. They might, however, be familiar with songs he wrote: “Working In a Coalmine,” “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette).” They have probably heard songs he produced: the original version of “Lady Marmalade,” Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya.” They even might have noted his piano playing: as a session man for Joe Cocker and Albert King, among others. He doesn’t seem to mind being a relatively anonymous individual. “It merely is my life’s vocation to be a producer,” he says in the mildest of tones. “I’ve been happy to do what I’ve been doing, by being so satisfied and so much in the comfort zone that I never thought much more about that. I don’t really regret or feel anything that should’ve happened didn’t happen thus far.” Nevertheless, Toussaint has recently experienced greater visibility, in substantial part because in the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded his home in New Orleans (the city of his birth in 1938) and washed him out of a lifetime of memories. He moved to New York City and began playing there – in fact, he still does a club residency there. In New York he encountered an acquaintance, Elvis Costello. Toussaint had worked with him just a little bit before, and on Costello’s 1989 album Spike had played lovely, dexterous piano during the ballad “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror.” Costello had an idea. “He told me he always wanted to do an Allen Toussaint songbook,” Toussaint says. “And with the timing as it was, we decided to see about bringing that to fruition. It was his brainchild.” Ah, but children do often surprise us in delightful ways, and so it was with The River in Reverse, the album that Costello and Toussaint released last spring. As fans of either would expect, each brought incredible musicians to the collaboration: Costello the Imposters, Toussaint the Crescent City Horns and guitarist Anthony Brown. And Costello delved well into the Toussaint songbook, narrowing his broad enthusiasm down to seven classics. Then Costello and Toussaint wrote five songs together, and as a further surprise, the new and the old material coalesced beautifully, as did the musicians. Costello, famously a first-rate singer with a third-rate voice, didn’t so much rise to the occasion as bound up to and vault over it. For Toussaint, The River in Reverse modified an old adage: when one door is submerged, another crests the surface. “I must say with the displacement of Katrina, working with Elvis has sort of launched a different career for me that’s still going on,” Toussaint says. “Touring is very much a part of my life now, and it’s quite a lesson to be there right with the people, because you can feel the pulse of them all, as opposed to being in the studio waiting for the red light to come on.” He says this pleasurably, as though the pulse is […]

Finessing The Titanic

Finessing The Titanic

Honor Song

Honor Song

By Milwaukee’s theatre season has been host to a higher than normal concentration of single-person shows, and some rather lofty figures have been conjured to the stage this season including Charles Dickens (James Ridge in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Dickens In America) and Harry S. Truman (Don Devona in Boulevard Theatre’s Give ‘em Hell Harry). Single-person autobiographical monologues can be really tricky to pull off, requiring the right actor matched up with the right historical figure animated by the right script in the right space. It’s a tall order. If it works, there’s an alchemy between actors, stage an audience that is among the most primal theatre experiences imaginable. If it doesn’t, it’s an audience trapped in a room with a single actor for a period of time no watch could accurately quantify. Thankfully, In Tandem Theatre has found a satisfying combination of the right elements with its production of Honor Song: The Dr. Rosa Minoka-Hill Story. In the cozy basement of the historic Brumder Mansion, Laurie Birmingham stars as Wisconsin’s first female Native American doctor. Only the second Native American ever to receive a medical degree, Dr. Rosa Minoka-Hill spent much of her time with the Oneida in northern Wisconsin in the first half of the 20th century. Birmingham cleverly delivers the thoughts and feelings of Minoka-Hill as carefully written by local playwright Carol O. Smart, Minoka-Hills granddaughter, who used to spend summers with her. The life of one of the country’s first female doctors has got to hold many more fascinating stories than could fill a single monologue. Smart’s composition here is well thought-out and well paced. The script has been evolving since it was first produced in 1993 in collaboration with Carroll College, and when Minoka-Hill speaks through Birmingham, one gets a sense of that journey peering out between Smart’s words. There are only a few dry stretches in the story, which covers the events of Minoka-Hill’s life played out steadily with no intermission. The historic Brumder mansion’s basement is an excellent space for this production. One has a sense of walking into history when entering a place contemporary to the real Minoka-Hill. The modest set amidst much grander trappings from the same era is a bit disorienting at first, but once Birmingham takes the stage the illusion begins to settle in. The audience loses itself in the story of the many difficulties of being a doctor for the poor and the impoverished in the rural Midwest from the perspective of a very, very compassionate woman. It’s a thoroughly engrossing, compellingly concise single-person drama. Actor and character mesh, with Birmingham dedicating more than enough of herself to the role to capture the audience’s attention for the entire length of the monologue. VS In Tandem Theatre’s production of Honor Song: The Dr. Rosa Minoka-Hill Story runs now through February 11 at the Brumder Mansion. Tickets can be purchased by calling In Tandem at 414-444-2316. Form more information, visit In Tandem Theatre online at www.intandemtheatre.com.

Tartuffe

Tartuffe

By Russ Bickerstaff Based on the original play by Molière, Kirke Mechem’s Tartuffe is one of the most successful contemporary American operas ever written. A competent realization of Molière’s classic tale, the Skylight Opera Theatre’s production closes this coming weekend. Set in ancient France, the story tells the tale of a wealthy man named Orgon (David Barron) who has befriended a man named Tartuffe (John Muriello) whom he believes to be a thoroughly pious man of God. His family tries its best to convince Orgon of his foolishness as he heaps wealth praise on Tartuffe and generally makes a colossal fool out of himself. It’s a long and twisting plot that lends itself well to modern opera. The excessive dramatics and overarching themes of deceit, love and such all work exceedingly well in opera. While some of the finer, more subtle moments in Molière’s brilliant comedy are lost in the adaptation, the story gains a certain emotional depth in song that isn’t explicit in dialogue alone. The Skylight cast deliver on some of the stronger moments Mechem has adapted for the opera. David Barron makes for a likeable Orgon. Alice Berneche is quite brilliant as his daughter Mariane. The scene between the two of them when he asks her to marry Tartuffe is one of the most memorable in the entire production. A lot of its strength rests quite squarely in the anxiety pouring out of Berneche as she directly faces the audience in not so subtle reaction to what her father is asking of her. Berneche’s voice is beautiful, but it’s the rest of her performance that beautifully rounds out a role that isn’t nearly as impressive in previous non-musical productions. Danielle Hermon Wood also puts in a memorable performance as Dorine, Orgon’s maid and Mariane’s friend who schemes to stop the wedding arrangements with Tartuffe and decisively rid the household of him. Dorine is often quite clearly the sharpest character onstage. Wood makes this intelligence seem organic and effortless. The title role of Tartuffe can be played in a million different ways. John Muriello plays it with intriguing texture. His long, disheveled hair and ragged clothing don’t just look shabby . . . the way Muriello carries himself, they actually look unhealthy. He’s playing a comic villain in a way that’s almost sympathetic. It makes for a surprising depth at the center of the production when Muriello finally appears on stage in the flesh well into the story. Lee Ernst takes the stage with the role in a couple of weeks with the Milwaukee Rep. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s going to do with the character. Production elements of Tartuffe are everything one would expect out of a big budget Skylight production. Costuming is lush without being overpowering. Lighting by Cynthia Stilllings provides the comfortable illusion of physical depth that is not actually present on stage. Van Santvoord’s set design adds considerably to the illusion of depth as well as scenic elements rotate to change settings. […]

Frozen

Frozen

By Jill Gilmer A series of asymmetrical screens line the back wall of the set of Frozen. During the play, the screens project rays of blue and gray light, appropriate hues for this dark and disturbing story. But as the cast takes its bow, the screens change to a collection of light and dark still photos surrounding the single image that is in focus: a vibrant amber sunrise. Audience members who quickly exit the theatre may miss this visual synopsis of the play’s underlying theme; forgiveness causes dark experiences to fade into the light and offers the promise of hope. The light display also mirrored the journey of characters Nancy and Ralph. Set in modern day England, Frozen follows the lives of Nancy, Ralph and Agnetha over 25 years. Nancy is an angry and grief-stricken mother whose 10-year-old daughter was sexually abused and killed. Ralph is the flippant inmate convicted of the girl’s murder, and Agnetha is a quirky psychiatrist who chose Ralph as the subject of her research study. In one scene, the audience is cast in the role of students at Agnetha’s lecture on “crimes of evil vs. crimes of illness.” We are asked to consider the evidence supporting the theory that some offenders are biologically incapable of remorse, and are, thus, unforgivable. Ralph appears to be a prime illustration of this theory. Many years after her daughter’s death, Nancy visits Ralph in prison and offers her unsolicited forgiveness. The visit simultaneously leads to a life-changing emotional catharsis for Nancy while setting off a destructive wave of guilt in Ralph. In her interview with Footlights magazine, director Kate Buckley forewarns the audience, “This is not light entertainment.” Frozen explores the cheerful topics of pedophilia, suicide and psychiatric theories about the brains of criminals. It presents images that are shocking and painful. Yet, the brilliance of this play is Buckley’s ability to leave the audience with an unmistakable feeling of hope. The powerful images and topics presented in Frozen appeal more to the intellect than the heart. The characters are introduced through a string of monologs. But it is only when the live action begins that the audience begins to feel a connection with them. Laura Gordon brings a stirring complexity to Agnetha. However, the rest of the cast fails to engage the audience on an emotional level. These “frozen characters” may have been consciously built into Bryony Lavery’s outstanding script. The Broadway production was nominated for four Tony awards in 2004 and the script was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Despite this shortcoming, the play soars in its ability to provoke thought on the origins of morality, the prudence of capital punishment and the limits of forgiveness. The combination of intelligent writing and the subtle spiritual message of forgiveness explain why this is a widely-produced play. Its compelling theme left me speculating whether the tragic turn in Ralph’s life would have been avoided if he had been able to forgive himself. VS Frozen runs through February 18 […]

Smokin’ Aces

Smokin’ Aces

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Paris Ortiz

Paris Ortiz

By Blaine Schultz + Photo by Kate Engeriser Paris Ortiz’ fluid guitar sound has been integral to bands in Milwaukee from Psychedelicasi to Big Dumb Dick to his current group The Cocksmiths. If we believe the cliché that lead guitarists in heavy-leaning rock groups are typically as subtle as brontosauri, then Oritz is more like an archaeopteryx in the sky above – often less a focal point than an integrated part. With The Cocksmiths’ trio of guitars, sonic real estate is at a premium, which means listening is as important as playing. 1. What is the one piece of musical gear you find essential to your sound? My Marshall amplifier. It has such a distinctive, versatile sound. It gives me a solid, crunchy/dirty sound for my rhythms and a sweet, sustained tone for my leads. It has the most amazing feedback. I can hit a note, then stand in front of my amp and that note will sing out for as long as I stand there holding it. 2. What lessons have you learned, good or bad, that you apply to The Cocksmiths? Be true to yourself. Just go out there and play what’s inside of you. There was a point in my life where I had managers and labels telling me what to wear, how to move on stage and how long a song should be. Of course The Cocksmiths want a record deal but we don’t pay attention to who’s popular and who’s getting the most airplay. Everyone in this band has different influence from rockabilly, swing, hard rock and indie music. Yet, we all come to a common ground where no one feels cheated or like they’re playing something they don’t want to. 3. How does your heritage influence your music? I am Hispanic and Latin music is very rhythmic and percussive-oriented, but I don’t know if it’s heritage as much as environment. I grew up in a dominantly African-American neighborhood, so my early influences were Prince, Funkadelic and Hendrix. It really made me a very rhythmic player. As I got older I had friends from all walks of life. Those relationships introduced me to everything from Zeppelin to Ozzy to The Eagles. If I need to be bluesy with a country flair I can do that. I’ll have a reference and if I need to bring it and hammer out an aggressive wah-filled solo I can do that too. 4. If someone had never seen or heard The Cocksmiths, how would you describe the band? A huge wall of whiskey rock. Our bio states, “Picture if the Black Crowes and Soundgarden had a child and it was raised and beaten by Johnny Cash – that’s The Cocksmiths.” 5. Is there a solo (not necessarily guitar) that you never get tired of hearing? That’s a hard one. I would say any solo by Jimi Hendrix. They were passionate, bluesy aggressive solos that fit the song. He was the master. I always loved the solo from “Sultans of […]

Topdog/Underdog

Topdog/Underdog

 

Translations

Translations

By Russ Bickerstaff Language rarely gets the center stage in any major theatrical production. Even in the best scripts, language is far too busy conveying meaning to call much attention to itself. With Translations, Irish playwright Brian Friel (Dancing at Lughnasa) has deftly coaxed language into the spotlight with charm and passion in a story of love and loss in the slow fade out of a culture in decline. The Milwaukee Rep continues its 2006-2007 season with a powerful production of the drama on its main stage. The play is set in a meticulously detailed Hedge School in County Donegal of rural Ireland in 1833. As the lights rise to illuminate the beginning of the first act, Manus (Jonathan Gillard Daly) is working with a woman named Sarah (Colleen Madden). She has great difficulty speaking. With great struggle, she manages to whisper her name and where she’s from. Madden doesn’t speak much in the role, but she’s always saying something. Subtle glances and movements convey a great deal in an excellent performance by Madden. From humble beginnings between student and teacher, the play broadens rather quickly into a large ensemble play. A particularly sharp Torrey Hanson plays educated Irish native Owen who has moved away to England. He has returned to County Donegal with British soldiers to help them rename the geography so that it can be spoken in clear British English. As a native Irishman, he is assisting British Lieutenant Yolland (talented Chicago actor John Hoogenakker) in the job. Yolland is quite taken with Ireland’s charm, which contrasts against the more progressively minded Owen. Irishman-turned-Brit plays against the Brit-becoming-Irish in an interesting thematic dynamic. When it becomes clear that Yolland is falling in love with local woman Maire (Leah Curney), things get considerably more complicated for everyone involved. The Irish in County Donegal all speak Gaelic, so Owen is acting as translator. Friel wouldn’t have much of an audience for the play if most of it was spoken in a dying language, so everyone speaks English. This has the strange effect of making it seem like the British and the native Irish could understand each other in the play if they’d just stop and listen. It’s a casual absurdity that keeps conversations between British and Irish accents interesting for the entire length of the play. A talented cast plays out the intricate interplay between many different shades of character as one culture takes over another. James Pickering is strong as a highly educated Irishman named Hugh who teaches at the school and spends much of his spare time drunk. There’s quite a bit in this play spoken in Latin and he’s usually he one instigating it. His students include a weaselly farmer named Doalty (a clever Jonathan Wainwright), a clever girl named Bridget (Sarah Sokolovic, back from New York for the role) and, of course, the highly progressive Maire. As all struggle to be able to recite Latin etymological derivations on a moment’s notice for their shrewd teacher, Maire […]

They Came From Way Out There

They Came From Way Out There

By Russ Bickerstaff With all the many different themes and subjects floating around local stages these past few years, it’s surprising that the paranormal hasn’t received much attention. The Milwaukee Rep rectifies this with a production of Jahnna Beecham and Malcom Hillgartner’s cabaret musical They Came From Way Out There. Authors of last year’s acclaimed cabaret show Chaps!, Beecham and Hillgartner have put together another enjoyable evening of song and dance for the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret. The show is set at a meeting of a fictitious paranormal society. The performers each play a candidate for the Society’s next president. Every major different aspect of the paranormal is represented in the cast. Michael Herold plays the Society’s founder – a man who had a close encounter in the Nevada desert half a decade ago. Jill Marie Anderson plays his wife, who he met during an out of body experience. (Their meeting is illustrated in a clever country-western-inspired musical number entitled “You Stepped Out Of Your Body and Into My Life.” ) Anderson’s character is a prim, Christian New-Age type cleverly offset by the pseudo-neo-pagan New Ager played by Katherine Strohmaier. In a clever turn for the character’s archetype, she sings a sweet love song to a Bigfoot that manages a brilliant end rhyme with the word “Yetti.” Lenny Banovez plays the stereotypical young, paranoid conspiracy nut. Banovez cuts a pleasantly erratic figure onstage, performing the same song in both rock and hip-hop styles before performing a tender duet with Strohmaier near the end of the show. Chip DuFord rounds out the cast as a scientist who had worked for NASA, privy to strange government secrets about the paranormal. In one of the production’s best moments, DuFord discovers evidence of mysterious home furnishings appearing in the skies all over the country. He is confronted by a hyper-intelligent recliner who offers to answer any question he asks. Michael Herold plays the recliner in what has to be the single most brilliant costume to appear on a local stage in a very long time. It’s amazing. The show’s pacing is wild and irreverent, including some surprisingly offbeat experimental stuff for The Rep. There’s an entire skit involving a rampaging bunny shadow puppet that may not be particularly funny (or really have much entertainment value, to be perfectly honest) but it shows a staggeringly edgy spirit for a mainstream show. Much of the rest of the fringe elements inherent in They Came From Way Out There are relegated to minor asides and obscure references that don’t detract from the overall experience. For all of its strange asides, this really is a mainstream show that will appeal to a relatively wide audience. Its weaker moments keep it from being completely enjoyable, firmly grounding it in the commercial end of the spectrum. The many different skits and songs provide an opportunity for the actors to perform a wide range of different characters. DuFord’s straight-laced scientist is accompanied by multiple performances as burnt-out drunks. Strohmaier is sweet as […]

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth

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Volver

Volver

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The Joke’s Over

The Joke’s Over

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Your last/next month

Your last/next month

By Matt Wild Your last month has been rife with unexpected changes, moments of self-loathing and at least one severe car accident. The New Year – still so new! – has left you reeling. It would be easy, therefore, for us to look back and catalog your last month, to dredge up and analyze its highs and its lows. But let’s be honest; the past is for suckers. Instead, let’s pretend your last month is your next month; let’s rewind the Cassingle? of your life all the way back to the first yawning minutes of 2007. There you are – bleary-eyed, drunk and hopeful – kissing the strange/familiar boy/girl next to you, blissfully unaware of what will happen over the course of the next 31 days. This, in fact, is what will happen: You will make a trek back to your hometown to spend time with your family. You will go bowling, smoke some shitty cigarettes and drink an alarming amount of alcohol. One night – while rocking out to William Shatner’s version of “Common People” – you also manage to rear-end another driver, nearly totaling your girlfriend’s car. In the ensuing 48 hours, you will learn a series of valuable lessons: 1). Never give a fake name, number and address to the 17-year-old girl you just hit. 2). Never assume, in a town of barely 5,000 people, that the cops won’t somehow track you down and impound your car at 5 in the morning. 3). Never drive a vehicle off a tow lot – even if it’s your own – without politely asking first. By the end of the weekend you will become small town gossip fodder and rack up nearly $3,000 in damages and fines. Nevertheless, you’re thankful no one was hurt and that your arresting officer graduated high school with your younger brother. Back in Milwaukee, you will decide to keep your nose clean and your head down, your chin turned away in anticipation of the next blow. You will attend any number of dreadful events: hipster dance parties, adult spelling bees, trivia nights. You will make a vow to forever avoid any event prefaced by the word “adult” (kickball, dodge ball, lawn darts). You will start taking more cab rides and keep feeling bad about your girlfriend’s car. Your long-time East Side neighborhood continues down the fast track to becoming a condo-littered strip mall, leaving you bitter and disenchanted. You fall out of love with your city and consider hopping on the “We’re moving to Portland!” bandwagon popularized by that one Dead Milkmen song. You will go out and see some rock shows (the excellent Candliers prove to be a revelation), smoke some shitty cigarettes and drink an alarming amount of alcohol. In spite of all this (or perhaps because of this), you feel bad for yourself a great deal, and often contemplate running yourself through with a 10-inch railroad spike. A concerned friend will eventually calm you down and tell you that trying to off […]

Liberty and injustice for all

Liberty and injustice for all

By Cole J. White If there is ever to be equality in this country, surely it must begin in our courts of law. If we are to believe all men are created equal, then shouldn’t they be judged equally as well? –Thurgood Marshall It has been 43 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Amendment, and still we have crushing poverty, humiliating discrimination, demoralizing racism and a legal system that sees color as an indictable offense. Every night on the news, we hear about another “brown” person committing another crime, another arrest, another conviction, another… another… another. Why? Because the civil rights movement of the 1960s didn’t create a utopian melting pot, where justice is even-handed and equality is equal. Because, in America, if you’re black you have a greater than 1 in 4 chance of going to prison; you have a higher likelihood of being the victim of violence (sometimes, believe it or not, at the hands of the police) and nearly a 40 percent probability that you will live your entire life in poverty. The sheer lack of options makes an “average American life” little more than a fairytale for many “urban” kids. For them, slangin’ and gangin’ have become a means of survival, of pride, of identity. This puts many of these at-risk children on a disastrous collision course with a criminal justice system that has been co-opted by legislative hypocrisy and duplicative agenda-setting. Retired judge Phillip Seymour said, “Playing politics with the law is a dangerous, dangerous thing to do. And every time I hear a politician talk about getting tough on crime, I know someone’s getting screwed.” The class-A rodgering begins with the draconian Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS) guidelines. Trickle-down sentencing Ostensibly, mandatory minimum sentences were designed to target “kingpins” and high-level dealers – a trickle-down drug policy. But these laws almost never nab kingpins. More times than not, addicts and – worse still – innocent people are the ones who wind up in prison. And those people are mostly black. Why? Because mandatory minimums disproportionately target minorities, a claim substantiated by the FBI, which reports that 60 percent of those prosecuted (and convicted) for drug crimes are black; while most drug users – some 74 percent – are white. Intentional or not, these laws are racist. The racial divide is highlighted by the crack and powder cocaine guidelines. A majority of crack users are black. A majority of powder cocaine users are white. Five grams of crack will get you five years. It takes 100 times as much – 500 grams of powder cocaine – for a five-year sentence, effectively creating a generation of young black men who will spend the rest of their lives on the wrong side of the law. Despite the obvious problems with sentencing laws and the objections of the legal and civil rights communities, some members of Congress, like Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, have fought to make mandatory minimums even more stringent – all to appear “tough […]

Cortney Tidwell

Cortney Tidwell

By Nikki Butgereit Cortney Tidwell’s Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up is an imaginative blend of subtle vocals and electronic sounds that is altogether unexpected from an artist touted for her relationship to the Nashville music scene. Echo effects enhance the delicate, breathy quality of Tidwell’s voice. On the album’s title track, she sounds like vintage Björk, with her combination of quiet enunciation and powerful yodels. Each song is layered with multiple instruments and vocal tracks, which lends an experimental feel to the record. Most songs meander along without verse or chorus, creating an emotional experience rather than something to which you can sing along. “Illegal” is a creative cacophony, with buzzing, whirring and crowd noise alongside keyboard beats and chords. Upbeat synthesizers and stronger vocals on “Missing Link” add another facet to the otherwise down-tempo album. This song is much more frenetic than the others and shows off Tidwell’s underlying versatility. Cortney Tidwell’s music is not pushy or jarring – each track sort of dissolves into the next. Headphones really highlight the intricate craftsmanship – in the car or on a home stereo, the music tends to create a mellow hum, and you can almost forget it’s on, save for the relaxing mood it elicits and the occasional abrupt upswing in volume and tempo. Tidwell has created an enjoyably mellow listening experience built on layers of experimental sound. Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up manages to be low-key and exciting all at once. VS

February 2007

February 2007

By Erin Wolf February 6 The Apples in Stereo New Magnetic Wonder Simian/Redeye The Backyard Fire Vagabonds and Hooligans OIE/Redeye Bloc Party A Weekend in the City Dim Mak/Vice/Atlantic Fall Out Boy Infinity on High Island/Fueled By Ramen Patty Griffin Children Running Through ATO/RCA Rickie Lee Jones The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard New West Belinda Carlisle Voila Rykodisc The Dexateens Hardwire Healing Skybucket The End Elementary Relapse Sondre Lerche Phantom Punch Astralwerks Lonely, Dear Lonely, Noir Sub Pop Eleni Mandell Miracle of Five Zedtone Lee Ann Womack Finding My Way Back Home Mercury Nashville Mnemic Passenger Nuclear Blast Yoko Ono Yes, I’m a Witch Astralwerks Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul Barsuk The Used Berth Reprise February 13 Anais Mitchell The Brightness Michael Chorney Young Dubliners With All Due Respect: The Irish Sessions 429/Savoy Label Group Seafood Paper Crown King Cooking Vinyl The Infamous Stringdusters Fork in the Road Sugar Hill Lucinda Williams West Lost Highway February 20 The Ataris Welcome the Night Isola Recordings/Sanctuary Jill Cunniff City Beach Streetwise Lullabies/The Militia Group Dolly Varden The Panic Bell Undertow Explosions in the Sky All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone Temporary Residence Ltd. The Frames The Cost Anti-/Epitaph Fu Manchu We Must Obey Century Media Kittie Funeral for Yesterday Kiss of Infamy The Magic Numbers Those the Brokes Heavenly/Capitol Reel Big Fish and Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer Duet All Night Long ReIgnition The Nein Luxury Sonic Unyon Trans Am Sex Change Thrill Jockey Trouble Simple Mind Condition Escapi February 27 Dean & Britta Back Numbers Zoe/Rounder Dr. Dog We All Belong Park the Van Kaiser Chiefs Yours Truly, Angry Mob U.K.-Universal Jesse Malin Glitter in the Gutter Adeline/Warner

Puzzles and Games

Puzzles and Games

By Puzzle Answers Page 1 Puzzle Answers Page 2 Puzzle Answers Page 3

Golden Apollo

Golden Apollo

By Russ Bickerstaff Local playwright John Manno’s Golden Apollo is a clever fusion between contemporary aesthetics and ancient legend. Having opened a couple of weeks ago, the reasonably offbeat theatrical presentation’s debut run with Insurgent Theatre ends this coming weekend. While the Insurgent’s cast manages an ensemble performance that respectably fits the script, Manno’s Golden Apollo has more than enough potential to deserve a much bigger venue than the tiny confines the Insurgent Theatre provides at the Astor Theatre. Somewhere near the center of the story lies a brilliant immortal woman named Leto. Leto’s been around for several millennia, having taken the form of an attractive, young woman played by Stephanie Adela Barenett. She is immensely wealthy and powerful, living in a huge, palatial mansion looked after by an exotic servant who used to be a king (Shawn Smith). At the opening of the first act, we see Leto begin an experiment that results in fusing the more brilliant qualities of three different men into one known as Sinbad, (Jason Hames). He was perhaps meant to be the perfect man, but can that guarantee happiness? There in the first moments of that first act lie all the elements that are going to occupy the rest of the play. Lofty intellectual ideas are discussed with some pretty interesting dialogue by earth bound voices adorned in simple, modest costuming on a very minimal set meant to represent a vast mansion. The discrepancy between the tiny space of the Astor Theatre’s stage and the place it’s meant to represent is functionally diminished by use of sparse lighting and negative space. Still, it would be interesting to see this story play out with a substantially bigger budget. As Leto, Barnett has enough poise to carry her end of the production quite well. Playing a compelling, modern, three-dimensional goddess would be a challenge for any actress, but Barnett carries it off well. She plays Leto’s intellectual brilliance with precisely the kind of elevated modesty Manno wrote into the character. Her relationship with Sinbad is a complex one. Leto plays many different roles in relationship to Sinbad, but it’s toward the end of the play when we see the maternal aspect of her relationship with him, which really shows the kind of thought Barnett has put into the character. As Sinbad, Hames plays a number of angles quite well, but the greater character seems a bit out of reach. We see his interest in Leto gradually give way to frustration. We see these elements play out in someone who is extremely human, but Hames doesn’t quite reach the complexity of a person who has been forged out of three people. There are strong parallels between Sinbad and Dr. Frankenstein’s creation in the original Mary Shelley novel. Though, the greater challenges of playing a creation grown resentful of its creator never quite materialize in Hames’ performance. Many actual moments work for Hames, particularly those with Barnett, but there’s a larger sense of the character missing from the […]

Rockin’ Bones – 1950s Punk and Rockabilly

Rockin’ Bones – 1950s Punk and Rockabilly

By Blaine Schultz Everyone knows Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, but when you think of rockabilly’s iconic image the person who comes to mind is Ersel Hickey. You might not know the name but trust me, odds are you’ve seen the photograph of this proto-rockabilly cat – all greasy pompadour, suggestive stance and hollow body guitar. It has been said that rock & roll died when Elvis was inducted into the Army. Truth be told, around the same time Little Richard saw the Light, Chuck Berry was doing time and Buddy Holly died in a plane wreck. So, yeah rock & roll had pretty much shot its wad by the end of the ‘50s. But prior to that there were untold countless backwoods wannabees, regular guys who had a little talent and inspired maniacs who were aimed like Halley’s Comet for their one shot at the big time. Rockabilly’s premise couldn’t be simpler: here’s three chords stolen from country music or the blues and some primed teenage angst. Toss in the sharpies at small record companies looking to make a buck, a handful off green pills and more attitude than Hollywood could ever manufacture and what you have is mid-20th century American History in four acts. Produced by former Milwaukeean Cheryl Pawelski and James Austin, this four disc set plays out like a soundtrack to a time when things were changing fast. For the first time in history teenagers had expendable income and were beginning to challenge the older generation in terms of popular culture. Every parent’s nightmare was that their son would end up a juvenile delinquent or their daughter would be attracted to one. (And while the title of this collection uses the term “punk,” no self-respecting JD would have been called that without a fight breaking out.) Now in a perfect world we would all have access to The Cramps’ record collection, but this will save you the time you’d spend digging up all these 45s on your knees in dusty backrooms of thrift stores (presuming you own a record player), not to mention the collector scum prices you’d fork over if you went the auction route. Consider each of these gems a musical resume whereby the artist gets to grab your attention. And usually in little over two minutes it’s the musical equivalent of 0 to 60 and a chugged Red Bull. Lightning in a bottle, even. In the world of rockabilly obscure is often better. While the Big Four are all represented – plus a pre-operatic Roy Orbison – it is not with their most recognized tunes. In Fact, Elvis’ “One Night of Sin” oozes blues. Representing what can be considered the next echelon of artists – never quite becoming household names – these folks managed to have careers in the music biz, and were often held as icons in Europe and Japan. You get a dose of Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Link Wray, Johnny Burnette/Rock & Roll Trio and […]

Paradise

Paradise

By Russ Bickerstaff As complicated and as brutal as things have been in the West Bank over the years, it seems incredibly mundane to mention that people actually live there. This fact is important though, because without it, none of the bloodshed or brutality that’s gone on over the course of the past several decades makes the slightest bit of sense. Shedding light on the human element of the West Bank conflict, playwright Glyn O’Malley’s controversial Paradise is a very human drama about two girls living on the opposite sides of a river while dealing with the problems that go along with the distance that separates them. Next Act continues its season with a thoughtful production of O’Malley’s very human political drama. Leah Dutchin plays a 17-year-old Palestinian girl named Fatima living in a refugee camp with her family. She’s irrepressibly human in a place that threatens to tarnish that humanity with duty that is bound to history. Dutchin talks with friend and relative Omar (Joseph Fernandez), a boy who dreams of getting out of the West Bank and into a decent college on a soccer scholarship. Her human side comes out in the dialogues with Omar. There is something other than basic humanity in her interactions with a darker figure known as Bassam (Luke Leonhardt). Leaonhardt cuts a particularly memorable performance out of relatively little stage time. When a cell phone goes off in the audience at the opening of the play, it’s his. Placing a character like Bassam in the audience at the beginning of the play is an intriguing way of bringing the reality of the drama into the audience before the story starts. It’s a bit unnerving considering the last conversation he has with Fatima. Bassam instructs Fatima in something chillingly foreign to the minds of most Americans. It’s a simple moment, unclouded as it is by the complexity of human pretense, but Dutchin and Loenhardt fashion fascinating tension out of the simplicity. On the other side of the river, Sarah (Emily Trask) lives with her mother (Mary MacDonald Kerr) in a Jewish Israeli settlement. It’s an entirely different kind of life for Sarah than it is for Fatima, but they both share themes of trying to grow up human in a world shaped by a history that goes back to a time long before either were born. Sarah’s mother has a sense of belonging in the West Bank that Sarah lacks. It’s an interesting interaction between Trask and Kerr. Aside from staged internal monologues, we only ever see Sarah interacting with her mother, which makes for a particularly focused dramatic energy. Trask has a sophisticated stage presence that seems at odds with the youthful inexperience of the character she’s playing here, but measured against someone who has been performing for as long as Kerr, the illusion is complete. For her part, Kerr shows the kind of textured performance that has made her such a pleasant and entertaining addition to Milwaukee stages for the past 11 […]

“I Love New Orleans” is the new “How Are You”
Check out the pix from VITAL’s 5th Birthday Carnival and Karaoke Ball!

Check out the pix from VITAL’s 5th Birthday Carnival and Karaoke Ball!

It was an amazing evening filled with twinkling lights, striped tents, cotton candy, popcorn, carnival games, music and of course, cocktails! Check out the pictures from possibly the year’s most photogenic party. Once again, special thanks to Time Warner Cable, WMSE and all our sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without you! Wanna see ’em now? Click here.

The Curse of the Golden Flower
What do Bono, Brangelina and Pamela Anderson have in common?
Marion Bridge

Marion Bridge

By Russ Bickerstaff Three somewhat estranged sisters come together and end up substantially closer as their mother passes away in Daniel McIvor’s Marion Bridge. The play, set in the pastoral stillness of Nova Scotia, has met with some considerable success since it first appeared on stage several years ago. The Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theater presents an intimate look at the drama and comedy of the three sisters in its production running through the middle of the month. The play opens with a monologue by Carol Hirschi in the role of Agnes. Agnes is a struggling actress living in Toronto and has been away from her mother and her sisters for quite some time. For the most part, Hirschi’s wild and brazen stage presence serves the role remarkably well. The edge of authenticity slides off her performance very occasionally, but it doesn’t detract from her overall effect on the production. Hirschi’s wild, frenzied energy is counterbalanced by Cheryl Ann in the role of Theresa, Agnes’ sister who happens to be a nun. Theresa is the pseudo maternal glue that holds the sisters together. She’s been looking after her ailing mother with a degree of Christian self-righteousness. McIvor’s script slowly adds emotional depth to the character over the course of the story and such subtlety isn’t lost to Cheryl Ann, who graciously complies with the level of depth the character is being offered, but it isn’t enough. McIvor simply does NOT allow Theresa enough of an opportunity to expand outside the standard image of a prim and proper nun. As a result, the character works best when placed in situations that are interesting enough to make her appear to have greater depth. Theresa is also looking after her sister Louise, who lives at home with her and their mother. Beth Monhollen plays the shy, inexpressive Louise, who spends much of her time watching TV. Gradually, the character opens up to cast and audience alike, providing some of the McIvor’s most vivid, descriptive dialogue. Each of the sisters has a monologue at some point in the play and Louise’s is by far the most moving. The really impressive end of Monhollen’s performance, however, doesn’t even involve dialogue. Hirschi and Monhollen share a scene playing a game of cards. There’s a lot here that isn’t expressed verbally between the characters. Something is communicated in actions and mannerisms over the course of the brief card game that is almost certainly being misunderstood by both parties. It’s a clever moment that recalls a similar scene in The Rep’s production of Born Yesterday. The production is modest, consisting of a very cozy-looking domestic set complete with a few small details. Occasionally we hear the sound of Louise’s soap opera coming in from the next room. The audio for the soap opera that’s been pre-recorded for the production is a lot of fun. An uncredited Joe Fransee and a similarly uncredited female actress ooze over-the-top melodrama ever so briefly. Even though it doesn’t sound at all like the […]

Restoration

Restoration

Gorilla Theater: Berzerk!
Gorilla Theater

Berzerk!

By Russ Bickerstaff The Bucks won a close one against the Timberwolves at the Bradley Center on the evening of December 16. Across the street that night the late 19th century decay of the Tuner Hall Ballroom looked like something out of Escape From New York. Lights that were cast into a vast darkness mixed with light coming in from downtown to bathe the mostly empty 7,000 square feet in a pleasantly eerie visual drama. The restoration of the Ballroom is far from complete, giving the overall impression of a once great performance space that is slowly waking up from a long hibernation. Alamo Basement and Insurgent Theatre were set to perform a series of alarmingly short bits – an evening they’d titled: Gorilla Theater: Berzerk! Before the show began, Alamo Basement’s Mike Q. Hanlon took audience-suggested sentences and playwrights were then given the task of incorporating them into theatrical bits they were given 10 minutes to write. The bits were set to be performed at the end of the show. Someone in the audience suggested something about low-fat lard that fell on deaf ears. Local stand-up comic Rich Greenfield suggested, “The dog went home,” which was perfect. Anyone who has ever attended an improv comedy show knows that the vague and ambiguous suggestions tend to illicit the best responses. In the less than two hours that followed, roughly 20 – 22 short plays quickly cascaded through the shadows. Prior to the evening, local writers were given lines from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and asked to form whole bits of staged comedy and drama from them in ten minutes or less. As evidenced by the show that night, the writers had met with mixed success. Voices and footsteps echoed around the darkness announcing the title and author of each piece. The lights raised and a piece was performed by actors dressed mostly in nondescript black garb. The lights fell and there was applause mingling with the sound of actors scurrying about in preparation for the next bit. With the audience flanking the actors on two sides with folding chairs in the big empty of Turner Hall Ballroom, voices echoed a bit much at times and it was a bit difficult to hear all the dialogue, but Alamo Basement and Insurgent Theatre put on an unsettlingly enjoyable evening with Gorilla Theater. The bits ranged in style quite a bit, but the overall feel was one of surrealist comedy. Stand outs included Hanlon’s eerie Anticipation and Wes Tank’s vividly surreal The Un-Rainbow Kind. John Manno’s Iphegenia’s Doggie was the story of a woman losing her pet dog as told in the fashion and passion of a Greek tragedy complete with chorus. Shannon Smith’s I Never Heard of Uglification featured perhaps the most visionary visualization for the space. A narrator from the second floor balcony vividly spoke words detailing actions performed in silence on the stage below. The Ballroom’s balcony was used in a number of pieces, most prominently in Alisa Rosenthal Haywire […]

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond

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Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web

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The History Boys

The History Boys

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The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

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Beyond the Beltway

Beyond the Beltway

By Donald Kaul Remember “earmarks”? They’re those awful things Democrats kept railing against during the recent election, shabby political deals made “in the dark of night” that funneled taxpayers’ money into the districts of powerful politicians. Perhaps the worst of a bad breed, you’ll recall, was the infamous $200 million “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. (Actually, it was to a small island where 50 people lived, which technically may not be “nowhere” but you certainly can see it from there.) Republican Sen. Ted Stevens was the project’s godfather and he was insulted – positively outraged – that anyone would find fault with spending $4 million per person on a bridge in his state. The practice of attaching these earmarks, often anonymously, onto legislation without discussion of their individual merits, simply as a favor to the legislator involved, had gotten entirely out of hand, said the Democrats. Under Republican rule, the cost of earmarks had ballooned to $64 billion a year and Democrats were going to do something about them; yes they were. Now that they are about to take control of the appropriations machinery, however, the Democrats have morphed into Roseanne Roseannadana. “Never mind,” is their battle cry. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the 82-year-old Democrat who is taking over as chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, the largest pool of discretionary spending available for earmarking, said that he didn’t contemplate any “monumental changes” in the system. He said that he’d met with Sen. Stevens, the current defense appropriations chair, before the election and they’d come to an agreement. “We pledged to each other that no matter what happens, we will continue with our tested system of bipartisanship and we’ve been doing this for the past 25 years, and it’s worked.” Yes it has, particularly for Alaska and Hawaii. Those two states get more bucks per person in earmarks than any other state. Hawaii gets about $750 per resident per year, Alaska $1,677. The way the system works is that the majority party gets 60 percent of the booty for its projects while the minority settles for 40 percent. Now that the Democrats have become the majority, is it really fair to expect them to give up their turn at the public trough? “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee. She, incidentally, threatened her colleagues with reprisal if they voted against Stevens’ bridge. Who said there’s no bipartisanship in Washington? These projects, after all, are a way of rewarding political contributors and convincing working stiffs that you have their best interests at heart. Some of them are even worthwhile. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, says he is an unabashed supporter of earmarks, which he prefers to call “Congressional directed funding.” He claims that 14 years ago he started directing millions of dollars out of the defense budget into breast cancer research. “Now, was that bad?” he asked The New York Times reporter […]

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

By Russ Bickerstaff Pop music master Roger Bean’s work returns to the Stackner Cabaret with another pleasant evening of 60s tunes in Why Do Fools Fall In Love? The man who put together such past favorites as The Marvelous Wonderettes, The Andrews Brothers and Lana Mae’s Honky Tonk Laundry manages his latest foray into the world of the cabaret musical with a bit less flair than he has in the past. Why Do Fools Fall In Love? is, nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable evening of cabaret music. Four women meet for a modest bachelorette party at the home of bride-to-be. Through a series of songs about love, the four women learn quite a bit about each other and themselves. Making her Rep debut, Jessica Rush stars as Millie – the young woman set to be married to a dreamy guy who we soon discover isn’t as dreamy as he looks. Her friends include the liberated individualist Sally (Susannah Hall), the overwhelmingly shy Florence (Robin Long) and the overzealous sweet-tooth-suffering Dee-Dee. The personalities are distinct enough and the four actresses do an excellent job in the roles, but Bean hasn’t managed his usual magic with giving the four of them a strong enough plot with which to interact. Rush is called on to play some of the more intricate emotions in the play and holds up quite well. Susannah Hall (who previously played Cindy Lou in Bean’s Winter Wonderettes at the Stackner in 04/05) is similarly charismatic in what proves to be a somewhat complicated role itself. While admittedly very little is going on in the actual story here, it is refreshing to see some of these old-fashioned 60s love songs fashioned into a plot that seems to lead toward the women becoming more liberated by the end of the story. Hall’s character Sally goads Millie in the direction of taking charge of her life, which makes for a reasonably satisfying plot resolution at the end. Scenic design by Vicki R. Davis is distinctively 60s enough to set the mood. Costuming by Alex Tecoma is completely over the top on this one. The costumes are a vivid technicolor vision with amazing blocks of simple, blinding color. As usual, Milwaukee dance guru Sarah Wilbur has mapped out some incredibly fun choreography to accompany the music. The choreography accompanying “I Will Follow Him” features a magic eight-ball and a box of Bugles snacks rather prominently in one of the most visually memorable moments in the entire production. As usual, song choices range from familiar classics to some of the more obscure pop hits of the 60s. The title song, “My Boy Lollipop,” “He’s a Rebel,” “Goin’ Out of My Head” and others join relatively less popular songs like the inexplicably catchy “Gee Whiz” and the surprisingly compelling “Watch Out Sally!” For the most part, the music is an entertaining trip to the 60s with good music performed well. The title song, however, falls a bit flat. The song as recorder by Frankie Lymon and […]

The high cost of low maintenance

The high cost of low maintenance

By Jon Anne Willow Dear Readers, I have the good fortune to be in a family situation that most now consider old-fashioned for all of its modern details. My sisters, my best friend and our respective partners have taken up the old standard of extended family and applied it to the structure of our daily lives. My youngest sister and her four year-old son share my house with me. My middle sister and her three children live in the upper of the duplex behind me, with her partner and two dogs in constant attendance. My best friend and her son live in the lower. My boyfriend and his four kids spend weekends with us. My roommate-sister’s boyfriend has custody of his young daughter and takes care of his toddler nephew; they are increasingly often in the mix. Between us, we have five dogs, three cats, four fish and a guinea pig. For those of you keeping score at home, seven adults and twelve children share three bathrooms and three total garage parking spaces, one of which belongs entirely to bicycles and sleds. It’s not for everyone, but it’s perfect for us. With all this closeness, however, comes a sometimes complex and even sensitive communication network. It’s easy to figure out the morning carpool to school; at 8:00 someone makes the first call and by 8:20 the four elementary school kids and at least two moms are in one car and on the way. But it gets complicated in the area of personal sharing and conflict resolution. At work, there are generally structures in place to deal with these things. Business information is given on a “need to know” basis. Conflicts are dealt with through human resources in a best case scenario, or by the more popular means of drama. And no matter how bad a work day is, at the end of it you go away. But what happens to grownups when they have three or four best friends and live with them all? Do you have to share equally with everyone all the time? How do you confront the desire to not be watched, to not feel judged, in an environment where the people you love best are up in your business every waking moment? The late 20th century created the mobile, global society and successfully fractured the practical application of family as people’s social and emotional center. Today, the majority of “family life” outside our own walls is lived through email, phone calls and stressful, architected trips “home” for cornerstone events. Friends, jobs and even homes come and go, becoming memories that never had the chance to settle into our bones before they’re gone. Our parents live in Texas; our best friend is in New York. Our corporate headquarters is in Idaho. We’re spread out in ways perhaps not even suited to human nature. It’s okay to leave a job, spouse, a friend and even family members when we’re uncomfortable and don’t know how to deal with the […]

Why the caged bird sings

Why the caged bird sings

If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have thought that “Extraordinary Rendition” was something that Barbra Streisand did at her shows; but the reality is decidedly more grim than a chorus line performance of Yentl. Extraordinary Rendition is, in fact, the name for our governments’ extrajudicial practice of kidnapping, detaining and utilizing third-party nations to torture individuals with “suspected terrorist links,” a practice that is destroying our nation’s moral credibility and eroding the foundations of our Constitution.

Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

By Blaine Schultz It’s all there in black and white – Neil Young’s black Gibson Les Paul and Danny Whitten’s white Gretsch ( well maybe he played the orange one that night). This album is about guitars. While bootlegs of both early and late Fillmore shows have circulated for years, it is great that Neil decided to give this recording a legitimate release. After Young hijacked three members of the Rockets and renamed them Crazy Horse they quickly went into a studio and cut the album Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. That record’s visceral aesthetic was not going to get it confused with any of the Woodstock hippy hangover music clogging radio’s arteries back in 1969. Live at the Fillmore East is the first volume of Young’s long-awaited archive series. While the Fillmore album does not include Nowhere’s “Cinnamon Girl” (the closest tune to a solo hit Young would have until “Heart of Gold” broke the bank in 72), it does add “Winterlong” and “Wondering.” The former would surface on the collection Decade and the latter would not see the light of day until Young’s rockabilly vacation with the Shocking Pinks in 1983 – regardless of how he introduces the tune here. Fillmore also adds Jack Nitzsche’s watery Wurlitzer electric piano to the lineup. At its core Crazy Horse was (and still is) a rhythm section, creating a huge warm hypnotizing pocket for Young’s guitar playing. Meanwhile, back at the Fillmore, the doomed guitarist Danny Whitten (equal parts Georgia hillbilly and California surfer) spurred Young’s playing to dogfight levels that rock & roll would not hear again until a group called Television inhabited the same Fillmore neighborhoods and sonic airspace a decade and a half later. In fact, if you listen close, Whitten’s singing and playing is nipping at Neil’s heels like a young pup – alternate bootleg mixes of officially released songs seem to bear this out. Seems if Whitten hadn’t checked out early because of an overdose he could have been a real contender. He would later be an inspiration for Young’s arguably greatest album Tonight’s The Night. Ironically on Fillmore Whitten sings the rave-up “C’mon Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” a tune about copping and paranoia. But for the real crackerjacks take a listen to the pair’s tremulous singing on the chorus of “Winterlong.” Now tell me, what could cause this terror that makes them sound like Robert Johnson turning the tables and finally chasing the hellhound on his trail? Peace and love with Nixon and Manson waiting down the hall. Which brings us to the twin towers of dread and shred, “Down By the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand,” two rock & roll epics that sit real nice on the same shelf with Dylan getting rearranged by Hendrix. Could it have been something in the air – Miles Davis was also on the bill at the Fillmore – because Neil Young and Crazy Horse stretch rock & roll’s time/space equation into something that Davis and John […]

Jayk

Jayk

By Evan Solochek + Photo by Dan Kocka With Robert Smith hair and a smooth yet commanding baritone that evokes a maturity and polish beyond his young age, Jayk is poised for big things. His debut album, everything ever, will be released any minute now, and yet Jayk has already landed a sponsorship deal with DC Shoes, toured the country from coast to coast and appeared on MTV2 and Fuel TV; not bad for a 22-year-old kid from West Bend. To hear more from Jayk, check out www.myspace.com/thatjaykwhosings. 1. What are your musical influences? I’ve always really appreciated the bands that I thought were great at writing lyrically as well as musically: Death Cab for Cutie, Rachael Yamagata, Tegan and Sara, City & Colour, Decibully… Most recently, Imogen Heap has really struck a chord with me. There is a side of me that still loves metal and hardcore too. 2. What was your earliest experience with music? Both my parents were involved with the church choir when I was very young; my father played the guitar and my mother sang. My dad was very much a jazz/blues guy, but he definitely had a lot of great classic rock albums. The first album I ever got into was a Yes album my dad kept in his collection. I remember being about 5 years old and I would sit in front of the record player and listen to “Roundabout” over and over. 3. What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far? The first real show I did was opening for Since By Man and Misery Signals. Apparently the original opener dropped off, and I was really worried that no one would like me. These were hardcore bands, for Christ’s sake, and I’m pretty much the furthest thing from it. I played like 5 songs and got the shakes really bad, but I got through it and with a very good response from the crowd. 4. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it? I’ve heard myself compared to many things I like (Jeff Buckley, City & Colour) and many things I dislike (Jason Mraz, Howie Day, even Ryan Cabrera). I like to let everyone make their own assumptions about what they think they hear. I play guitar and I sing. To me, I sound like me. 5. Where were you a year ago, and where do you see yourself this time next year? A year ago I was a struggling, inexperienced kid chasing what seemed like the impossible – no job and barely a roof over my head. Although I am now making giant steps in my career, it will always be a struggle to consistently create great music and keep everybody’s ears tuned in. By next year I hope to have settled with a record label that I am comfortable with, and be writing and recording more than I currently am; I’ve got a lot yet to say. VS

Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls

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The Good German

The Good German

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Just like real life?

Just like real life?

By “Life here is painless, that’s what they choose,” the old Receiver of Memories tells Jonas in Lois Lowry’s book The Giver, awarded a Newberry Medal in 1994 yet remaining on many lists of banned books. And yet today, 13 years since its first publication, The Giver is still creating controversy. First Stage Children’s Theater made a bold choice to produce Eric Coble’s adaptation, opening January 26. Because of the provocative material contained in the book and script, Jeff Frank, artistic director for First Stage, is encouraging parents and teens to read the book before attending the play and to then discuss them both as questions arise. Frank believes, “It’s incumbent on us as a theater to present plays that promote challenging discussion in the schools, and for families.” The Giver provides “a richness of idea and thought,” continues Frank, “that will resonate deeply with everyone.” For Lowry’s book presents a future world without any pain. “Sameness” pervades this world, represented by dull gray in the production and the book. There is no color, no choice; climate control contains the snow, wind and rain. At 12, adolescents are awarded their “assignment,” or occupation, in life after careful evaluation of their talents by the governing group of elders. Adults petition for a spouse, also chosen by the elders, and for the “two children each family unit is allowed.” Adults over a certain age are confined in “The House of the Old” and celebrated, “released,” at a certain time. Above all, Jonas, the protagonist in Lowry’s world, is without love. For love is considered imprecise language, without a clearly understood meaning, obsolete. Love is seen as a dangerous way to live. For love involves choice, sorrow and risk. The Giver’s world is perfect, without sadness, only similitude. That leaves love and pleasure as remnants of an antiquated way of life, recorded by the “Receiver of Memory,” who stores all the memories of the past in case they are needed by future generations and whom Jonas has been selected to succeed. A world without pain is appealing at first, seducing the reader into thinking that without suffering life would be wonderful. “It is easy to be seduced into thinking a perfect world, sameness, would be better,” Lowry says. “I created the book to be seductive in the beginning.” Why wouldn’t society choose to be free from war, illness, uncertainty and even snow? But would giving up all choice be worth a perfect world? A world without even the simplest of diversity? Imagine a world of continual grey, not only in the skies, but people’s faces, clothing, everything. Jonas realizes the “perfect world” in which he lives is empty and shallow, a world created by Lowry to be both utopian and nightmarish. This imagined loss of color in the book is visualized, translated to the stage as a constant theme. The set, scenery, costumes and skin tones are all shades of grey. Only The Giver will have a touch of color as he retains […]

January 2007

January 2007

By Erin Wolf January 2 Carly Simon Into White Columbia January 9 Blinded Colony Bedtime Prayers Pivotal Recordings Ty Herndon Right About Now Titan/Pyramid/Universal Lang Lang Dragon Songs Deutsche Grammophon Lil Jon Crunk Rock TVT Erin McKeown Sing You Sinners Nettwerk Rich Schroder Your Kind Words Anova Recording Company Kenny Wayne Shepherd 10 Days Out: Blues From the Backroad Reprise Ron Sexsmith Time Being Ironworks Music Sloan Never Hear the End of It Yep Roc Sqad-Up We Here Now Emergent/92E Trashlight Vision Alibis and Ammunition EVO John Waite Downtown: Journey of a Heart Rounder Yo-Yo Ma Between Friends: A Romantic Journey for Cello Sony Classics January 16 America Here & Now Burgundy/Sony The Holmes Brothers State of Grace Alligator Coco Montoya Dirty Deal Alligator Diana Ross I Love You Manhattan Stars of Track & Field Centuries Before Love and War Wind-up Wanda Sykes Sick & Tired Image January 23 Get Set Go Selling Out & Going Home TSR Kristin Hersh Learn to Sing Like a Star Yep Roc Dustin Kensrue Please Come Home Equal Vision The Affair Yes Yes to You Absolutely Kosher Blackfield Blackfield II Atlantic Doyle Bramhall Foodland Yep Roc The Chemical Brothers title TBA Astralwerks Deerhoof title TBA Kill Rock Stars John Mellencamp Freedom’s Road Universal moe. The Conch Fatboy Pretty Ricky Late Night Special Blue Star Entertainment International/ Atlantic Ken Navarro The Meeting Place Positive Music Only Crime Virulence Fat Wreck Chords Xavier Rudd Food in the Belly Anti-/Epitaph Saliva Blood Stained Love Story Island The Shins Wincing the Night Away Sub Pop You Am I Convicts Yep Roc January 30 Lily Allen Alright, Still Capitol Everlife title TBA Buena Vista/Hollywood Clinic Visitations Domino Harry Connick Jr. Oh My NOLA Columbia Crime Mob Hated On Mostly BME/Reprise Art Garfunkel Some Enchanted Evening Atco Norah Jones Not Too Late Blue Note Hella There’s No 666 in Outerspace Ipecac Dave Koz At the Movies Capitol Permanent Me After the Room Clears Stolen Transmission The Smithereens Meet the Smithereens! Koch 2XL Neighborhood Rapstar Monopoly/Tommy Boy Youth Group Casino Twilight Dogs Epitaph

The Broken West

The Broken West

By Heather Zydek Prior to last fall, The Broken West were The Brokedown, until a Midwest punk band claimed they came up with the name first. After the name change, the quintet released one EP (The Dutchman’s Gold) until Merge recently snapped them up. The band’s own MySpace page describes its sound as “ghettotech/regional Mexican/rock” and cites influences like Unicorn, Spinal Tap and George Harrison. The sound on I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, their debut full-length rlease, falls somewhere between the boozy frivolity of classic party rock and the artful pop of classic alt/college-rock. The dozen songs on I Can’t Go On unroll at a medium pace, revealing songwriting that is melodic, if a bit clichéd. The songs are pretty enough not to offend the ear, but stubbornly refuse to stick in the mind the way really, really good songs (and really, really bad songs) do. The exception is “So It Goes,” a lovely, slightly melancholic pop-rock ditty reminiscent of something Teenage Fanclub might have written circa 1990 (see: “Star Sign” on Bandwagonesque). Serious power-pop aficionados and fans of more upbeat classic rock will probably enjoy I Can’t Go On, as will those who prefer the tried and true over the gimmicky and novel. For the rest of us, The Broken West’s music is respectable but more or less forgettable. VS

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani

By Nikki Butgereit It’s hard to tell who’s copying who when everyone sounds the same, and Gwen Stefani has fallen into this trap with her second solo effort, The Sweet Escape. On the album’s first single, “Wind It Up,” you can sing the lyrics to the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” to its bridge, and the beat sounds exactly like Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.” Minor redemption comes by way of a sample from The Sound of Music and a driving chant reminiscent of 2004’s “Hollaback Girl.” The rest of the music is catchy and enjoyable on its own, but doesn’t work as well when coupled with Stefani’s intensely “personal” lyrics: yet another song about her first love, songs about domestic discord and claims about being “just an Orange County girl,” which come off as terribly contrived in her pouty whine, considering her years of No Doubt and solo fame. The album closes strong with a song co-written by pop hit-maker Linda Perry, who (strangely enough) makes Stefani sound more like herself and less like the other artists on the radio today. It’s this song, the songs produced by No Doubt band mate Tony Kanal and the ballad “Early Winter” that most clearly reflect the creative promise Stefani demonstrated on her first solo album, 2004’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Ideally, she’ll focus future efforts more on setting – or, better yet, ignoring – trends, rather than following them. VS

He says…

He says…

By Terisa Folaron On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, the largest and most notorious of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. On the same date in 2007, the United Nations will commemorate the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day, though the unanimous approval of the General Assembly’s resolution didn’t come without concerns regarding the remembrance of other genocides. The reservations of some Assembly members were most aptly summarized by Maged A. Abdelaziz, the Egyptian ambassador, who stated “No one has a monopoly on suffering.” It is a point well-made. Ongoing acts of genocide are still being reported in Darfur, Sudan, and the recent Review of the Holocaust Global Vision Conference in Iran set out specifically to debunk the substantive fact of the Nazi genocide during World War II. And with violent and hate crimes on the rise in Milwaukee and recent reports chronicling Milwaukee’s poor race relations, January seems the perfect month to reflect on the impact of past hate and violence as a cautionary tale for today. Albert Beder wore a yellow star on his chest. He survived the Holocaust, and his story reminds us of the strength of the human spirit. Albert was born in Kovno, Lithuania (now Kaunas) on June 13, 1928. Albert lived through death marches, diphtheria, overcrowded ghettos and forced labor camps. He was just 13 years old when he was placed into his first ghetto internment camp. He says, I had a family. I had two older brothers, two older sisters, one younger sister. I had a mother and a father. Albert was in a summer youth camp near the occupied East Prussia/Lithuanian border when his family, still in Kovno, attempted to flee from the advancing Nazis. “They managed to get maybe 30 kilometers before the Germans caught up with them. But they lost my little sister Reva on the road. She was 6 years old. There were many families running and trying to escape. Planes were shooting at them.” The Germans collected Albert, along with the other Jewish youth in the camp, and, like his family, he was returned to his Kovno family home, where Jewish citizens were preparing for their forced move into the Kovno Ghetto. “In Kovno, we received orders that all Jews had to move and had to live in that area that was fenced in with barbed wire. It was August, 1941. The consequence for not following these orders was the death penalty. You had to wear the star. If you did not, that was also the death penalty. Back then everything was the death penalty. They let us take everything into the ghetto. We didn’t know in the end it wouldn’t matter. Twice, as we were preparing to move, soldiers came looking for my father to send us to Ninth Fort. We knew there were lots of killings there. They came to the door and asked for my father. My mother would say, ‘He is sick and cannot come to the door.’ She offered them silk stockings […]

Unseasonal

Unseasonal

Born Yesterday

Born Yesterday

By Russ Bickerstaff Over the years, Milwaukee Rep resident acting company member Deborah Staples has played sparkling intelligence in a variety of different packages. In Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday she’s playing a bright, hidden intelligence that makes for a fascinating centerpiece to the mid-century political comedy. Staples plays former chorus girl Billie Dawn, a beautiful, young woman following around millionaire blowhard Harry Brock (Steve Pickering). Billie joins Harry and the rest of his entourage in Washington DC, where he is looking to bribe the government into passing laws that will make his hugely profitable business even more profitable overseas. Harry’s lawyer (Tony DeBruno) has suggested that he be as pleasant and sociable as possible in his meeting with the well-greased Senator Hedges and his wife (Jim Baker and Rose Pickering). In an effort to seem more human than animal, Harry includes Billie on the social meeting. The problem is that, whenever Billie speaks she seems unsophisticated. This prompts Harry to hire a journalist (John Phillips) to educate Billie so that she can be more presentable to the congressmen he’s trying to bribe. Things, of course, get complicated and before long, Billie is falling for the journalist who is clearly falling for her as well. Billie begins to realize what kind of a sociopathic jerk Harry really is. Steve Pickering manages an impressively pleasant performance as Harry. There’s almost on operatic quality in the gravity of his slightly gravelly, percussive voice. He shouts quite a bit, but it comes across more as the music of drama than actual anger. This keeps the heavy bits of drama from ever completely weighing down the comedy while, at the same time, somehow managing a very credible, convincing performance. Staples’ performance as Billie has a great deal of texture and nuance. Even delivering the comedy early in the play as a vacuous, young woman we see that there’s more to her character than the script will allow. In subtle movements and glances, Staples foreshadows deeper elements that will come to the surface later on. When the journalist starts educating Billie, Staples performance goes beyond the “dumb-girl-becomes-smart” cliché to render a character who seems like a complete person. Staples has a great chemistry with Pickering that plays out its most fascinating elements when they aren’t even sharing dialogue. The play features the two alone onstage almost completely silent as they play out a few hands of Gin Rummy. Though it occurs at a relatively natural point in Kanin’s script, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to stop everything onstage while the two principle characters play cards and Pickering and Staples make it work spectacularly. Even if you are completely unfamiliar with the rules, you know exactly what’s going on without them ever having to explain it. It’s amazing execution. Kanin’s script doesn’t settle easily into one specific genre. The comedy here can be very light and lowbrow while in the midst of a plot that is very deep and serious. It’s a light character comedy […]

Four years and a new day

Four years and a new day

By Dear Readers, This issue of VITAL marks the beginning of my fifth year as Editor. That, for the record, is longer than I’ve held any post-college job. I’ve mentioned before how I ended up here by accident at a time when I needed a new start, an opportunity to see what I was really made of. One’s perception of time is a funny, stretchy, contorted and contracted thing. On the one hand we’ve been barreling down the road at 90 miles per hour. On the other, I look at pictures of myself at my original “desk” in the storage room in the back of Bremen Café and can barely recall who I was then. I looked different (long hair, heavier, less gray), felt different (scared, excited, supremely daring) and had a different set of concerns than the woman who now resides at the big desk with the comfy chair in our groovy storefront office suite on Bremen Street. In late 2002 I was on a mission from God (to quote Elwood Blues) to bring VITAL to the people, the overwhelming majority of whom remained blissfully unconcerned with the efforts of our ragtag staff of interns and volunteers. In a way, times were simple then. And the statistical impossibility of our quest was almost comforting – who would ever blame us if we failed? Things are different now, and that’s an understatement. In four years, we have more than tripled our circulation, flipped from a tabloid to a magazine, created a truly good website that attracts readers from all over the world (check it out if you haven’t), developed partnerships in the community, gained a loyal (and, in a measure of our long-term potential, also a casual) readership and have seen many of our writers and photographers move on to tremendous opportunities that wouldn’t have been as available to them if not for their work at VITAL. I am gratefully the president of the Milwaukee Press Club, the oldest continuously operating press club in the Americas, and one of the nation’s finest. My parents are proud of me, not just for my potential, but because I’ve done something. In a way, it’s like living a dream. But with a measure of success comes exponential pressure and responsibility. There are more constituencies to satisfy, from the employees who need to get paid on time to the readers and city leaders who now expect that we actually produce something worthwhile. I even have a dress code for meetings and Press Club functions. Sometimes I bring a suit and change out of my cowboy boots in the bathroom for business functions. Who would have thought? On a very microcosmic level, my situation reflects that of the Democrats. (Bear with me; I know this is a gross oversimplification.) They needed a new start. They worked their plan amidst skepticism and even derision (sometimes from me) and they succeeded in taking the Congress. Heady stuff. But what comes next is much more important. Now they […]

A Winter Harvest

A Winter Harvest

By Evan Solochek During the dreadfully short-lived Milwaukee summer, nestled between the bustling intersection of North Avenue and Kenilworth Place, local artists set up shop in the Beans & Barley parking lot. For many, it’s their only source of income and therefore their livelihoods depend on a strong summer return to get them through the lean, and exhaustive, winter. It was this reality that inspired Laura Richard to launch East Side Artist’s Boutique – Shop to Stop Holiday Hunger. “The idea initially came to me at the end of the East Side Open Market season as some of the artists discussed how difficult it is in the winter when there are few opportunities to show their work,” Richard says. “I wanted to do something to help them.” However, local artists are not the only group that this 32-year-old Riverwesterner has spent much of her life helping. She currently works part-time at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit that promotes fair housing practices in Wisconsin. She has also recently started her own business, Laura Richard Consulting, which does event planning, fund raising, marketing and promotions for nonprofits and local businesses. The East Side Artist’s Boutique will feature around 30 regional artists. In addition to offering these artists a winter market for their work, each will donate one piece for a silent auction with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee; same goes for the $5 cover. Friday evening, Beans & Barley, Twisted Fork, Trocadero, Café Hollander, Balzac, Hi Hat Lounge and Ichiban will be donating appetizers while Beans & Barley will also offer wine for sale, a portion of the proceeds of which will also go to the Hunger Task Force. For the last 30 years, the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee has been a voice for the hungry, promoting socially sound policies with the aim of ending hunger in our community. In Wisconsin, according to the Task Force, 9 percent of households are “food insecure,” which means that they are “uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food for all family members because they had insufficient money or other resources.” Additionally, in Milwaukee, according to the 2004 U.S. Census, 26 percent of Milwaukeeans live in poverty, which ranks seventh in large U.S. cities. For Richard, supporting them was an easy decision. “Beyond the obvious that they help feed Milwaukeeans who are hungry and sometimes have to choose between rent and food, the Hunger Task Force is active in advocacy work to achieve positive and far-reaching changes in our community,” she says. “My husband and I have taken to giving to the Hunger Task Force for the holidays in lieu of exchanging gifts since they need the money more than we need the ‘stuff.’ I knew if I did a fundraiser for them, I could give them so much more this year. That‘s how I mixed it together.” Richard strives to live her life selflessly, driven by the immortal words of Gandhi: […]

The Decemberists

The Decemberists

By Nikki Butgereit Those still afraid that The Decemberists’ move to Capitol Records from Kill Rock Stars indicates a possible sell-out need listen no further than the second track. For 12 glorious minutes, “The Island – Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning” moves through musical styles and moods ranging from 70s blues to classic Decemberists shanties to close with the melancholy repetition of “Go to sleep now, little ugly / Go to sleep now, you little fool / Forty winking in the belfry / You’ll not feel the drowning.” As is common in the loosely braided indie-rock genre, The Crane Wife is organized under a concept, recreating the Japanese folk tale of the same name. Punctuated by themes of love, trust, greed and loss, the music dramatically weaves calming vocals with hammered dulcimer and hurdy-gurdy. Amidst the antiquity, modernity pops up occasionally with a catchy la-la, na-na chorus. The occasional appearance of the electric guitar stands out. “The Perfect Crime #2” sounds like a Talking Heads outtake, and though quiet enough to maintain the tone of the record, it still manages to rock. The Decemberists create such layered music that second and third listens are required to feel the full effect. And while the music might seem outmoded on the surface, deeper listening reveals a body of work that is taking indie-rock to a new level, one composition at a time. VS

Radio Birdman

Radio Birdman

By Blaine Schultz In the mid-1970s, Michigan native Deniz Tek moved to Australia to attend medical school. There he met Rob Younger, an Aussie who shared Tek’s attraction to the high-energy music of bands like the Stooges and MC5. Tek and Younger formed Radio Birdman, a group that pulled into the New Wave tsunami and released their influential cult classic debut Radios Appear in 1977. Never quite part of any scene, they recorded a follow-up in England (Living Eyes eventually came out in 1981) and imploded while touring in a vehicle dubbed “Van of Hate.” Two decades down the pike and the members have buried the hatchet somewhere other than each other’s heads. September saw Radio Birdman playing Chicago’s Double Door as part of their first ever U.S. tour. The sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of faithful had no reason to believe they would ever witness this show. The energy between audience and band was only magnified by years of rock & roll mythology. The sextet of 50-somethings went through amplifiers the way other bands break strings. Which brings us to Zeno Beach, the album the band was touring to promote. You’d expect something heady from a band whose members’ day jobs include trauma surgeon and U.S. Navy jet pilot, and “The Brotherhood of Al Wazah” and “Heyday” recall the open-minded smarts that once got Radio Birdman compared to vintage Blue Oyster Cult. The opening track, “We’ve Come So Far (To Be Here Today),” could serve as the manifesto as well as feature for Tek and Klondike Masuak’s two guitar inter-lock. While vocalist Rob Younger’s presence may not be as manic as 20-plus years ago, his intensity is trained like a laser. Zeno Beach is a welcome chapter in the Radio Birdman legacy. Let’s hope the next installment happens sooner. VS

Built to last

Built to last

By Jon M. Gilbertson Any reasonably intelligent rock fan who lived through the 1990s can take a few seconds and remember an indie band that emerged from the underground and seemed this close to mainstream success. Pavement. Chavez. Sleater-Kinney. The Afghan Whigs. Guided By Voices. Not since the heyday of punk rock in the 1970s did so much promise turn into so much history. All of the above bands – and several more besides – dissolved, leaving behind a small shelf of work, a wall of interesting concert posters and a handful of memories. In this context, the continued existence of Built to Spill, more than a decade after their formation, is a minor-key miracle. From the listener’s perspective, it has been half a decade between Ancient Melodies of the Future and You In Reverse; from frontman Doug Martsch’s perspective, it’s also been half a decade, but not a silent time. “We toured for about a year, and then I took about a year off and I did some other musical things,” Martsch explains, obliquely referring to his 2002 solo album, Now You Know, and other projects. “Then we got back together and started touring and writing songs for a couple years, and then spent about a year making the record, and another year waiting for the record to come out. So there was really only a short break in there.” So if You In Reverse gives the impression of a creative revitalization brought about by an extended rest period, the premise is a false one. But the revitalization is there nevertheless. Even on the first track “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” which opens with a long passage of guitars running through a spectrum of interactions, Built to Spill sounds urgent yet relaxed. Martsch attributes this interesting quality to what he reluctantly calls “jam sessions.” “When I say ‘jam,’ I mean improvise with the attempt to make up parts,” he says. “We did the most jamming that we’d ever done to make the record. We’re not all just noodling around, but of course a little of that happens; we’re consciously trying to come up with patterns and chords that fit together. We’re trying to write songs as a band.” The rotating membership of Built to Spill has, in the past, made such open collaboration somewhat difficult, even though the ever-changing roster has usually involved one friend leaving and another returning. Even so, over time a kind of solidification has occurred. Besides the familiar rhythm section of bassist Brett Nelson and drummer Scott Plouf, the lineup currently includes guitarist Jim Roth, previously an accompanist on tour, and Brett Netson, an intermittent member who rejoined Built to Spill just in time to play on a few tracks and throw down a fantastic guitar solo on “Just a Habit.” “Netson is my favorite musician and I happen to know him, so I recruit him whenever I need someone,” Martsch says. “Caustic Resin, his band, wasn’t really doing anything, so I called him in again. […]

Champagne and other delights

Champagne and other delights

By Nathan Norfolk Let’s get this straight. Just because it’s bubbly doesn’t mean it’s Champagne. Champagne refers to a French province northeast of Paris, the only place from where true Champagne comes. The rest, my dear readers, is just sparkling wine. Okay, moving on. Where do the bubbles come from? In the process of making wine, carbon dioxide is produced. In wine without bubbles the carbon dioxide is allowed to escape, but for sparkling wines the carbon dioxide is trapped, creating bubbles and fizz. There are several ways to trap these bubbles, the most renowned of which is used in Champagne. Known as méthode champenoise (Doesn’t that sound pretentious?), the wine goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle. Any winery serious about bubbles uses this method, supposedly invented in the late 17th century by Dom Pérignon. The name Champagne is, however, protected by law and the term méthode champenoise cannot be used for wines made outside the region. Another crazy twist is that Champagne can only be made from a combination of three grapes: Chardonnay, which is a white grape, and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which are both red grapes. To keep from tainting the end-product with color, the red grapes are harvested very carefully and then cautiously crushed so that as little of the pigment from their skins interacts with the juice as possible. Some other sparkling wines are made in a big stainless steel tank by the Charmat method. The end result is rarely as elegant as the bottle-fermented method, but it’s much cheaper to produce and therefore purchase. The lowest form of sparkling wine production is the injection method, where carbonic gas is simply injected into the base wine, the same way soda is made. Yuck. The language of bubbles The first thing to consider when buying sparkling wine is how sweet or dry you like it. Here are some guidelines for deciphering the labels. Brut: Typically bone dry. Extra Dry: Less dry than brut, often showing a little bright fruitiness. Demi-Sec: Half-dry, which most people taste as just slightly sweet. Spumante: Simply Italian for “sparkling wine,” many American producers make cheap, sweet styles under this term. Don’t be fooled; spumante just means the stuff has bubbles. Dolce: Means “sweet” in Italian. Cava: Produced in northern and central Spain, and great values for those looking for inexpensive bubbles made in a traditional manner. Blanc de Blanc: Literally means “white of white.” This refers to any Champagne or sparkling wine made solely from white grapes. Blanc de Noir: French for “white of black.” The grapes are actually red, though the product is white in color. Prosecco: Made in the Venato region of northern Italy, this is the de facto before-dinner drink. Light, refreshing, slightly dry and modestly priced. A few fabulous true Champagnes: Joseph Perrier Non-Vintage ($30): This is the deal to end all deals when it comes to Champagne. It’s nutty, rich and crisp with aromas that mingle Granny Smith apples and fresh-baked bread. Duval-Leroy Non-Vintage […]

100 hours in America

100 hours in America

By In 1994, the Democrats lost control of a Congress awash in the same kind of scandals, unabashed cronyism, unmitigated fraud and unwarranted arrogance that were the Republicans’ downfall this past November. For years, there has been a slowly mounting chorus of voices clamoring for a change in what has been described as the Washington “culture of corruption.” So just like before, the American electorate has “thrown the bums out.” It’s a whole circle of life thing. Now, with the election behind them, the Democrats can turn their attention to governing, but caution may be the word of the day. The essential fact is, they didn’t win so much as the Republicans, and Bush in particular, lost. With that in mind, Americans can only hope that they live up to their promises and prove to the nation that there is an antidote to the right-wing, demagogic hate machine that has for 12 years eroded our economy, our personal freedoms, our well-being and our national and domestic security. Going into the election, it wasn’t clear if the Democrats would be able to effect much meaningful change even if successful in their efforts. Most analysts expected them to take the House, but the Senate, they said, would remain in the grip of the Republicans, resulting in gridlock. But with a narrow victory in the Senate and a strong margin in the House, the Democrats are now in a position to push many of their initiatives forward. Leading the charge is Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be Speaker of the House. She intends to announce broad changes within the first 100 hours of the new Congressional session and has promised to bring an end to what she terms the “rich mans’ welfare state.” So what exactly is on the docket for the first 100 hundred hours of the 110th Congress? The first 24 hours: Under Republican rule, lobbying in Washington has grown to grotesque proportions. There are over 35,000 lobbyists in DC “buying” legislation at an estimated $200 million a month. Lobbying has sparked countless scandals and cost several members of Congress their careers, if not their freedom. The Republican majority has repeatedly blocked measures designed to curtail lobbying. Because of this, the Democrats have said that they will put new rules in place to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.” This, they say, will help end the stranglehold that the Jack Abramoff/Tom DeLay K Street gang has had on the policy process. The second 24 hours: To date, less than 50 percent of the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations have been implemented, leaving ports, power plants, planes and us vulnerable. The Democrats plan to remedy this by enacting ALL of the remaining recommendations. “They [Republicans] claim to be the party of national security, yet they have failed to implement these vital recommendations to ensure the safety of our nation and our people,” John Kerry said during a recent interview with the Associated Press. The third 24 hours: In June, the minimum wage […]

John Sieger

John Sieger

By Blaine Schultz It would be very easy to take John Sieger for granted. It seems like the guy has been around forever, since the heyday of the R&B Cadets at Century Hall in the 80s to Semi Twang’s album on Warner Brothers to a move to Nashville and ultimately back to Milwaukee with his current Sub Continentals. A few years ago he began conducting songwriter workshops, though it is no secret local musicians have been taking mental notes at Sieger’s performances for years. His songwriting and guitar playing belies an omnivore’s musical appetite – from vintage New Orleans to The Beatles, from the reggae of The Harder They Come to Bob Dylan – and he does it all with his own style. No word on when his songs inspired by the 9/11 tragedy will be ready, but word on the street is a Semi Twang reunion may be in the cards. 1. What do you try to teach in your songwriting classes? I try to demystify songwriting and pull the curtains back to reveal the little, petty, manipulative tricks good songwriters use to bend you to their whims. I also try to disabuse anyone of the notion that poetry and songwriting are more than third cousins. Some of my favorite lyrics are truly crap, look at “Johnny Carson” off The Beach Boys’ Love You disc. Brian Wilson was paid in hamburgers to write that and it’s brilliant! 2. What have you learned from your students? Just how ingrained the love of music is and how it’s one of the things that makes us human. My songwriters are all optimistic and creative people who have often chosen a practical career path and accomplished a lot, professionally and personally. I am in awe of them. 3. If you could do the Semi Twang experience again, what would you change? Ouch! I would have read This Business Of Music and begged for fiscal restraint on the part of Warner Brothers Records. They were a spending machine and never met an expense in the making of Salty Tears that they didn’t embrace and then convince me to. Thing is, it was all recoupable… our money they were playing with and when we came up about a half a million short after selling 12 records, something had to give. 4. When did it dawn on you that you were able to write songs? When other people started recording them, including my buddy Paul Cebar, I thought maybe I had something. Then Dwight Yoakam sang “I Don’t Need It Done.” I felt like Otis Redding, who exclaimed upon hearing Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect,” “That gal stole that song!” 5. Your son is a musician. how do you see his initial experiences differing from yours? It’s hard for me to stand back and not drain all the fun out of it by telling him everything I know, but I think I manage. He seems to be having a parallel experience to the one I had […]

A Cudahy Caroler’s Christmas

A Cudahy Caroler’s Christmas

By Russ Bickerstaff Stasch, Pee Wee, Zeke, Nellie and the rest of the Cudahy Carolers return again this Christmas as In Tandem Theatre presents another holiday season of regional musical comedy with A Cudahy Caroler’s Christmas. Having been unduly bounced out of the intimate performance space at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, In Tandem launches the hit holiday musical in the much more luxurious space that is the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall. This year’s Cudahy Caroler Christmas is the same show that Milwaukee audiences have come to know and love in a substantially bigger space. However, the same show Anthony Wood wrote nearly half a decade ago struggles a bit to fill a bigger auditorium, suffering some small amount from the extra space. Lost somewhere in the transition to Vogel is the sense of immersion in musical comedy that is far bigger than the space it fills. While the auditorium has changed, the show’s content hasn’t. The show features all the old favorite Cudahy Caroler songs with the same old story. Chris Flieller returns to play old Stasch Zielinski who sets aside his differences with former best friend Pee Wee (the returning Joel Kopischke) to get the many estranged Cudahy Carolers back together for one more concert to be televised on local access cable. Other welcome returns to the cast include Kristen L. Pawlowski as Nellie,the lovely, aspiring Tommy Bartlett water ski queen and Ken Williams as as big, shy Zeke who has a tremendous, mildly perverse crush on her. As with previous seasons, the show sounds distinctly different than it has in the past as several new faces lend their voices to this year’s production. Linda Stieber makes a thoroughly enjoyable In Tandem debut as lonely stylist caroler Wanda. Far and away the most impressive is Alison Mary Forbes in the role of young, alcoholic librarian Trixie Schlaarb. The character always seemed to be the weakest one in the entire cast. A prim and nervous librarian who gets extremely wild when she gets drunk feels like something of an uninspired comedic space-filler. This is not Anthony Woods at his most inventive. However, Forbes takes Wood’s weakest character a lot further than she deserves to go. Forbes’ performance of the “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” parody is one of the more memorable performances from this year’s production. Wood gave the librarian some of the least funny moments in the musical, but Forbes manages to be staggeringly funnier than the material she’s given to perform here. Vogel Hall itself (its interior bearing some resemblance to the set of a 1970’s game show) seems slightly out of step with the production onstage. Chris Flieller’s set, which worked so well for so many years on a smaller stage, doesn’t work as well in Vogel. The set of rotating walls represent a number of different locations, but here they point forward at skewed angles, revealing other locations just as clearly to people near the far edges of the auditorium. Most of the […]

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Jonestown

The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

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Dickens In America

Dickens In America

By Russ Bickerstaff As respected as authors are onstage, they are rarely thrown directly into the spotlight. When they are given the stage, the results can be disastrous. It may be a bit extreme and overly dramatic to say that lead actor James Ridge has to achieve the single best performance of the 2005 – 2006 Milwaukee theatre season in order for Dickens In America to be any good at all, but I just did. (And he does.) Seeing as how Ridge is the only actor performing in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s mid-season show, he has to be entertaining enough to carry an entire production. The fact that he’s playing Charles Dickens means that Ridge also has to live-up to the stature of a literary legend without looking exceedingly foolish. Ridge manages both of these feats, almost single-handedly providing a substantially hipper holiday alternative (or supplement, if you will) to the Milwaukee Rep’s annual mega-production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Written by accomplished actor/playwright James DeVita, Dickens In America is a touching bit of historical drama surmising a public performance by the famous author in Milwaukee on his last tour of America. Nathan Stuber’s set is a lush, mid-19th century theatre setting. Red curtains and glass chandeliers reminiscent of the Pabst Theater adorn the stage. Footlights provide a striking effect as thick curtains draw back to reveal Ridge, buried somewhere beneath the distinctive hair and beard. Hovering visually somewhere between himself and his character, Ridge resembles a somewhat gaunt, hauntingly intense image of Dickens – the kind you’d see after reading a tattered copy of A Tale of Two Cities all night for a high school literature class. Ridge’s personal charisma as an actor fuels the performance. His eyes dart around the audience, drawing deep and disparate attentions to him with a gentleman’s charm. He recites Dickens’ work with an authors’ passion for and pride of his own work. He pauses at nearly perfect moments to affect intensity. Ridge delivers Dickens’ love of storytelling and theatrics in with infectious passion. There really isn’t anything that fans of Dickens aren’t already familiar with, but it’s a great pleasure to sit back, tilt the head, squint the eyes and picture that Ridge really is Dickens giving one last performance before he retires from the stage. Ridge brings a panoramic range of different British accents to the stage as he plays the theatrically inclined Dickens performing scenes from Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and more. Ridge plays Dickens performing a rather large cast of distinctly different characters, as well. There may not be enough plot development in any given scene to provide Ridge the opportunity to portray much depth in any individual character, but the real accomplishment here is that none of them blur together. As with any show, however, some characters are more memorable than others. When Ridge performs bits from A Christmas Carol, clever ears may hear something familiar in Ridge’s portrayal of Scrooge. It may be coincidence or fanciful hearing […]

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

By Russ Bickerstaff The Milwaukee Rep returns to another Christmas season with yet another production of Charles Dickens’ popular classic A Christmas Carol. With a cast of over 20 and enough scenery and props to comfortably furnish a rather large home, A Christmas Carol is an annual theatrical event attended by far more people than any other single show in Milwaukee. This is the Rep’s fourth outing with the shiny, new million dollar production that first graced the Pabst in 2003 and things are looking every bit as sharp as they did three years ago with a pacing that feels just a bit more streamlined than it was last year, even if they didn’t drop a single thing from the script adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and Edward Morgan. In her third year of directing the show, Judy Berdan is at the head of a fine tuned theatrical holiday behemoth. Everything seems just a bit more polished this year than it was in 2005. Even Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s dark, moody set for Christmas Future with its dramatically forced perspective seems to have lost some graffiti since the last time it was lowered. Milwaukee Rep Resident Actor Lee Ernst resumes the role of the tight-fisted, old Ebenezer Scrooge whose cold emotional detachment was brought about by psychologically damaging formative events he experienced as a young man when he looked a lot more like Gerard Neugent. It’s probably all in my head, but the difference between Neugent as young Scrooge and Ernst as old Scrooge seemed particularly drastic this time around. Neugent comes across with energetic, youthful hard work being tempered into cold ambition. Ernst comes across as miserly old age come overcome by its own comedy. The years between youth and old age have clearly not been very kind to old Eb. Mark Corkins resumes his role as Jacob Marley, the ambitious, brutally efficient businessman who draws Scrooge into an addiction for wealth so strong that a host of spirits are forced to stage a spectral intervention in order for him to regain the slightest shred of human generosity. Corkins’ stage presence is every bit as powerful as Marley’s ghost, aided by Barry G. Funderburg’s haunting sound design. As far as individual characters and performances go, this year’s production isn’t substantially different than any other in recent memory. Those who can’t make it this year are only missing out on yet another performance of an old holiday classic. The cast hasn’t changed much in the past three years, but there are always a few differences each December. For the first time, Melinda Pfundstein joins husband Brian Vaughn this year to play husband and wife Fred and Catherine. Eva Balistrieri returns for her ninth consecutive year with the show but this year’s performance as Martha Cratchit will be her last, as she is going off to college next year. Rep interns Donte Fitzgerald and DeRante Parker pick up small parts around the edges this season’s production. Laura Gordon returns to play Mrs. Cratchit […]

Early Holidaze

Early Holidaze

33 1/3 Editor Loves VITAL Review

33 1/3 Editor Loves VITAL Review

The current issue of Vital Source, Milwaukee’s free monthly arts magazine, carries the first review (by Barry Wightman) of our series anthology. I like the way Barry has captured the spirit of the series by throwing so much of himself into the review More at: http://33third.blogspot.com/2006/11/greatest-hits-reviewed-in-milwaukee.html

My Morning Jacket @ The Riverside Theater

My Morning Jacket @ The Riverside Theater

By Caz McChrystal + Photos by Kat Berger The Riverside Theater (GO HERE to see more photos from the show) My Morning Jacket presented a perfect specimen of an elusive form at the Riverside Theater this past Tuesday night, the modern rock concert. But it is difficult to tell what a rock & roll concert is supposed to look like circa 2006. Decades of formulaic mayhem have littered the genre with beefed-up boredom and created a vacuum. The days in which a rock band’s greatness was measured by its ability to roll into a city like Rommel and conquer a submissive audience waiting to be played at are over. Rather, My Morning Jacket exploded the notion of what a rock concert is by playing to a rapt audience and treating the show as if it was a fragile being to be nurtured and coaxed out into the open. By the time the lights at the Riverside had gone black and MMJ emerged to open with “Wordless Chorus,” the crowd was already on its feet and moving along with the intelligently complicated rhythms. And it stayed that way for the nearly two hours that MMJ played. The first quarter of the show steadily built upon itself, reaching a high point with the reggae nod “”Off the Record.” The tune’s intro, a direct quotation of the seminal Hawaii Five-O opening riff thawed-out the mid-November crowd, warming up the audience before cooling it down with a run of slower-paced songs. The downshift to slower, searching improvisations broke down the rock show format, in which slower songs usually get tossed in only sporadically, and then only to give the drummer a brief respite. Here, it felt as though the band wanted to give the audience a chance to regroup, and it was well timed. Although some of these extended instrumental breaks noodled a little too long, MMJ never lost the audience. Coming out of this mellow and spacey section, MMJ slid into “Golden,” an archetypal country song off the It Still Moves record. For that song, guitarist Carl Broemel sat before a pedal steel and belted out one of those heartbroken but hopeful Nashville harmonies that felt down home and far out at the same time. This wonderful slide playing, accompanied by the plaintive vocals of Jim James, drove home the fact that MMJ is not just a group of guys who plays instruments, but musicians who not only take pride in their craft, but take it seriously. My Morning Jacket ended its show with the anthemic “Mehgeetah,” which came at the close of a half hour long encore. The impact of the show, however, did not flow from any single song they unexpectedly pulled out or effectively performed, it came from the overall arc of the evening. The concert seemed to ebb and flow, rocking with high intensity for periods only to draw back into esoteric musical self-searching in other parts. The mood would change within some songs, and sometimes without any discernible […]

Even Writing It Down Doesn’t Seem Significant
Everything Feels Just a Little Bit Older
Kramer Hates Niggers!

Kramer Hates Niggers!

East Coast East Side

East Coast East Side

Not Now, Darling

Not Now, Darling

By Russ Bickerstaff With all the right treatment under the right conditions, life can be a late 60s British sex farce. One needs only gather the right adults together and get them to be a bit more fictitious than usual. No elaborate sets are needed. Costuming need not be extensive. The comedy comes naturally. With this social dynamic in place, RSVP Productions’ Artistic Director Raymond Bradford delves into an enjoyable evening of theatre as co-director and co-star in Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s 1969 hit comedy Not Now, Darling. Bradford himself stars as a diligent, honest furrier named Arnold Crouch. Alan Stevenson co-stars as his business partner Gilbert Bodley. Crouch, being a womanizing adulterous husband with a suspicious business sense, is quite the opposite of the virtuous Crouch. Crouch finds his morals slipping in a chain of events brought about when Bodley attempts to give a young married woman the gift of a very expensive fur coat. The chain of events is written to rush through the play in a blinding flurry. This is a comedy of escalation. With some 11 people in the cast swimming through the tiny stage at the Astor Theater, RSVP does a pretty good job of keeping things quickly enough to spark some laughs. The momentum may slip in places, but it rights itself quickly enough to shoot through a relatively entertaining evening of comedy. The roles are all written as exaggerated comic characters and the RSVP cast seems to have a really good time performing them. Kelly Simon plays the young Janie McMichael, hopeful recipient of Crouch’s gift coat. Simon plays Janie with the surreal affectations of a grossly amplified material girl. Earl Scharnick seems suitably confused as her husband Harry, who is also in an extramarital affair with an attractive young woman named Sue (played by Anne Miller) whose husband occasionally storms through the action, played by Ken Dillon. Things, of course, get even more complicated with Bodley’s wife Maude (Marcee Sturino) coming back early from vacation to find things in disarray. Notable supporting performances around the edges include Cynthia L. Paplaczyk as Bodley & Crouch’s oddly comic secretary and the tiny, talented Marilou Davido as a young, overly-friendly employee of the business. Rather than setting the production in a late 1960s England, Bradford has opted for a more ambiguous “Modern Metropolitan City” in the present. This spares the audience of having to hear a variety of different mid-western attempts at British accents, which makes the production all the more enjoyable. For anyone familiar with the style and pacing of dialogue in a British comedy however, it’s a bit disorienting. That ineffable use of silence, inflection and sarcasm with a hint of exaggeration seems to have been lifted from the script along with the accents. This distraction doesn’t detract enough from the comedy to be anything other than subtly confusing to those familiar with the genre. This is by no means deep or deeply moving comedy. Closing just one week before the Christmas […]

Trudy Blue

Trudy Blue

By Jill Gilmer “Can I speak to them?” Ginger Andrews asks, referring to her family as she watches them weep at Ginger’s funeral. She poses the question to a fellow angel who is watching the funeral with her from their heavenly perch. “No,” the other angel replies. “That is what your life was for.” Talk to the people you love while you are still alive. This is the simple yet provocative message of Trudy Blue, a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marcia Norman presented by the Dramatists Theatre. The play is based on Ms. Norman’s personal journey after she learns that she has two months to live. Like Ms. Norman, lead character Ginger Andrews, a novelist, later learns that her doctor’s diagnosis of lung cancer is wrong. Thus, she will have to continue living her dreary life, a fate more devastating to Ginger than the death prediction. The play takes place nearly entirely in Ginger’s mind as she contemplates conversations with her family and with Trudy Blue, a character from one of her novels who also represents Ginger’s alter ego. The play mingles these “real conversations with imaginary people and imaginary conversations with real people” interchangeably, an intriguing technique that is at times confusing to the audience. Despite the erratic effectiveness of this dramatic technique, the play succeeds in illustrating the results that ensue when a writer channels painful thoughts and feelings into fictitious characters and stories instead of sharing them with the people involved. As a series of surprising revelations unfold over the course of the play, the audience witnesses the potential damage to relationships when a person conceals their true persona from the people they love. It’s a dynamic that is likely experienced by introverts and artists of many types. The Dramatists Theatre’s production of Trudy Blue is a commendable adaptation of a difficult story. Unfortunately, its overall impact is diminished by an inexperienced cast, which offers the audience minimal assistance in understanding or caring about the two central characters, Ginger and her alter-ego, Trudy Blue. A tedious first act may lose some audience members while the stage is set for the more compelling second half. This notwithstanding, a play of this complexity is an impressive accomplishment for a theatre company in its second season, operating on a shoe-string budget. (The actors were not paid, and artistic director Marjorie Shoemann also manned the box office and snack bar.)VS Trudy Blue is the second installment in the Dramatists Theatre’s series of plays by Marcia Norman. Each season, the company showcases the work of a single playwright. Trudy Blue runs through Saturday, November 18 at the Marian Center for Non-Profits, 3211 S. Lake Drive. Tickets are $16. For reservations, please call 414-243-9168.

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

By DJ Hostettler Once upon a time back in the 1980s, there was a genre called “alternative.” It’s hard to believe these days, but back in the day, labeling a band “alternative” actually meant it was an alternative to what you’d hear on your local corporate top-40 radio station. Siouxsie and the Banshees didn’t sound like Pat Benatar, and that was a beautiful thing. Then when “alternative” became meaningless in the 90s, “indie rock” sprung up to remind us that no, Sebadoh doesn’t sound like Pearl Jam either. These days, indie rock still doesn’t sound like what you’ll hear on the local Top 40 station, but thanks to The Hold Steady, it definitely sounds like your local classic rock station. It’s an odd state of affairs when Vagrant Records’ hottest new acquisition sounds like Bob Seger with Thin Lizzy’s guitar solos, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Boys and Girls in America is the perfect title for The Hold Steady’s third full-length. The no-frills hard rock herein evokes images of Midwestern blue-collar Night Moves-style Americana, while Craig Finn’s trademark love-‘em-or-hate-‘em spoken-sung vocals spin yarns about modern boys and girls going to “all ages hardcore matinee shows” (the crazy catchy “Massive Nights” ) and apparently taking lots and lots of drugs (just about every song on the album), giving the retro soundtrack distinctly modern subject matter. The constant theme of teenagers in love taking loads of drugs is worn thin by the end of the record – “Chillout Tent’s” dueling he-said/she-said boy/girl choruses are pretty annoying, to be blunt – but overall, Boys and Girls in America is solid, rockin’ and has a few potential classics (I dare you to not hum along with the “woah-woahs” in “Chips Ahoy” ) without sounding as stale as the classic rock it references. VS

Four

Four

three

three

Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

For The Next Thirty Minutes, The Part of Your Id Will Be Played By Kendall Yorkey
Rain

Rain

For E.

For E.

Smell My Neck

Smell My Neck

Check out VITAL’s blogs.

Check out VITAL’s blogs.

From politics to parenting, music to mayhem, VITAL has seven new blogs with a little something for a lot of different tastes. But you should click here and see for yourself.

American Hardcore

American Hardcore

By

33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
Matthew Schroeder

Matthew Schroeder

By Blaine Schultz + Photo by Kate Engeriser Matthew Schroeder, guitarist and department chair at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, has traversed the entire spectrum of music, from guttural electric with local rock groups Pet Engine and The Barbeez to Signal, his recently released debut solo album of original acoustic finger-style compositions. On November 18, Schroeder will launch the Midwest Guitar Summit with longtime friends and collaborators Dan Schwartz and Ben Woolman at the WCM. Find tickets at www.matthewschroederonline.com. 1. With instrumental music, do you have certain images that come to mind for songs when you play them? Imagery is central. In composing it helps you stay the course, and in performing it takes you where you need to go emotionally to best play the piece. If you play well, you create art in the mind of the listener, and much like a good book, it’s a bit different for everyone. Many times someone will know just what the tune is about, and what’s best is when they add surprise details to the picture. 2. What makes for a good instrumental guitar tune? There are no particular elements that need to be present. I simply need to enjoy hearing and reacting to it. I do like tunes that incorporate something slightly off the beaten path in note choice or technique. A tune that succeeds in the imagery category is John Fahey’s “The Approaching of the Disco Void.” Recorded live in Tasmania, it will scare you! In the groove/melody area, Leo Kottke’s “Orange Room” is pure fun. 3. What drew you to this music? Coming from a rock background and looking for more, finger-style guitar was a means of expression outside of the traditional classical or jazz guitar idiom. Along the way I fell in love with the style. Many people keep searching for what they should be doing with their life. I feel I’ve found it. 4. What is the Midwest Guitar Summit? The Midwest Guitar Summit is a finger-style guitar concert featuring myself, Dan Schwartz and Ben Woolman. We all met in the early 90s while attending the cooperative guitar program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and received BFAs in American finger-style guitar performance. We enjoy each other’s music and friendship, and have stayed close over the years, so doing some shows together is a natural result. A typical MGS performance will consist of each player doing a short solo set, some duets, and culminate with all three guitarists onstage together, displaying their versatility by including other instruments such as lap steel, bass and electric guitar. 5. How do you define success as a musician? I currently teach and perform. When my students are learning, and I am moving people with music, that is success for me as a musician. VS

Look back and laugh

Look back and laugh

By Howie Goldklang I want to tell you a little story ‘Cause it makes me warm inside It’s about some friends growing up And all the things they tried I’m not talking about staple shit They went for something more I guess it was too much dreaming Too much to hope for One day something funny happened But it scared the shit out of me Their heads went in different directions And their friendship ceased to be Minor Threat, “Look Back And Laugh” From Out of Step (1983, Dischord Records) “Today’s kids are missing the point, man. They need to take out the iPod headphones and log off of fuckin’ MySpace and listen up.” Steve Blush, on the phone from his New York apartment, is emphatic. “This film is the story of American hardcore.” Blush is the author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History. After publishing his book in 2001, Blush and fellow scenester and music video director Paul Rachman spent four long years tracking down musicians, fanzine writers, girlfriends, promoters, photographers, indie label owners, fans, college DJs and club owners: anyone that helped define the hardcore movement; a short-lived, riotous era in punk rock music whose lasting effects are what makes up the dirt under the nails of rock and punk music today. The result: the landmark documentary film American Hardcore – The History Of American Punk Rock 1980-1986, which stands as an unflinching, 100-minute lightning bolt of hardcore history featuring 115 interviews, highlights culled from over 100 hours of rare stock performance footage and hundreds of photographs of hardcore heavyweights in their prime. American Hardcore made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year and was immediately picked up by Sony Pictures Classic. “They haven’t changed a single frame of the movie,” says Rachman, also checking in from New York. “It’s all there.” Data Control Making American Hardcore American Hardcore is a film of non-stop cuts and clips, seamlessly mixing vintage live performance footage of Bad Brains, MDC, Minor Threat and Black Flag with numerous contemporary interviews with the grown-up versions of the scene’s major players. “The film is very direct, with a first person point of view,” explains Rachman. “That was very important; to get the story told from the people who shaped it.” “We were able to get the interviews because between Paul and I, we know people all over the country from the hardcore network, and we never fucked anyone over, you know?” recalls Blush. “Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat) and Keith Morris (Circle Jerks) never return half the calls they get, but they know we’re legit. We were a part of the scene. We started with a set of interviews in Boston in late 2001 and just kept it rolling from there.” Using the book “as a roadmap,” Blush and Rachman set out with bare equipment essentials: a DV camera, a few microphones and a laptop for editing. “I did shop the book around,” admits Rachman. “But it’s hard to sell a project […]

A brief history of whiskey

A brief history of whiskey

By Nate Norfolk Whiskey is so important in Celtic culture that the word itself is derived from the Gaelic phrase for “water of life” – uisge beatha to the Scottish and uisce beatha to the Irish. There are four basic types of whiskey, named for their countries of origin: Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, American whiskey and Canadian whisky (note: the Irish and Americans spell whiskey with an “e,” while the Scotch and Canadians spell it without). Each carries many subtle variations, they all begin with a mash of water and grain to which yeast is added to induce fermentation. All whiskey is aged in wooden barrels while some, most notably Scotch, require an extra first step of malting before creating the mash. The pride of Scotland Using peat fires to dry the germinated (malted) barley is unique to Scotch whisky and responsible for its strong smoky, earthy flavors. A single malt Scotch is always the product of one distillery, whereas a blended Scotch is made from a variety of Scotches. Scotch whiskies are further differentiated by region: Islay, Highland, Lowland or Campbeltown. Whisky from the island of Islay has both the strongest smell and the most heavily-peated flavor, capturing the aromas of both the ocean and the peat bogs in the region. If you’ve ever heard someone say a Scotch smells like the sea, this is what they are talking about. Two great examples of peat-influenced Islay whiskys are Lagavulin and Laphroiag. Expect to drop at least $40 a bottle for either. The Lowland whiskies are generally lighter and more uniform in flavor. Whiskies from the Northern Highlands are sweeter and more mellow than Lowland. They possess a richer flavor and, in some cases, a peat-like dryness as well. Whisky from the Eastern Highlands possesses a fruitiness with a hint of smoke. Campbeltown malts are traditionally full-flavored and full-bodied, with a slightly salty tang in the finish, which earns them a comparison to sea mist. Whiskey, not whisky Though sharing a common Celtic heritage, pronounced differences in taste and style distinguish Irish Whiskeys from Scottish. We’ll never know who invented the “water of life,” but what is known is that Ireland and Scotland each developed their own interpretations of the art of distilling long before the first Roman ever trod on British soil. Irish whiskey differs from Scotch whisky from the malting stage. While the barley used for Scotch whisky is dried over open peat fires, the malt in Irish whiskey is dried in sealed ovens to ensure that only the pure malt flavor exists in the final product. Irish whiskey is distilled three times (as opposed to twice for Scottish whisky), which further adds to its smoothness. To be called Irish, whiskey has to be distilled from native grains and stored in wooden casks for at least three years. Born in the U.S.A. America also produces its share of whiskey, notably bourbon and rye. The principal difference is that rye is made almost exclusively from rye grain, while bourbon […]

Re: The Milwaukee Music Scene (TM)
Re

The Milwaukee Music Scene (TM)

By Matt Wild For those wayward souls either out of the loop or too tired to care, let’s review some of our humble scene’s defining characteristics: permanent inferiority complex, constant denial and counterproductive discussion of said complex; also small but thriving, erratic yet vital, too few clubs and too many people (or vice versa), ambivalent feelings for Chicago, ambivalent feelings for self, wearisome sighs when touring bands play a few bars from the Laverne & Shirley theme song, etc. etc. Yes, you’ve heard it all before, and no, you don’t need a sniveling putz like me to lecture you on it. After all, as a likely member of and/or contributor to the Milwaukee Music Scene (TM), you’re intrinsically part of the problem/solution, and therefore don’t need a “state of the scene” rehash. With that being said (and due to the fact that my past month has been filled with 16-hour work days and out of town DUI’s), I present to you a short, easy to read, easy to write, wholly random and non-exhaustive list of the good and the bad, the amicable and the peevish, the life-affirming and the just plain annoying aspects of the Milwaukee Music Scene (TM). (If it really needs to be noted: When I use the term “music scene” I unfortunately refer solely to the white, bespectacled, indie/punk/spaz-rock scene that betrays my sensibilities. If your tastes hew closer to Milwaukee’s thriving hip-hop scene, for example, my sincerest apologies for not accommodating you. If you happen to musically align yourself with groups like The Love Monkeys, U2 Zoo or Pat McCurdy, well, that’s between you and your God, isn’t it?) Let’s start with a few personal Pet Peeves. While certainly not unique to our fair city, these gaffes should nonetheless be both disparaged and avoided at all costs by each and every member of the MMS. 1. Begging The Audience Dear God, this is a sad one. Nothing says “deep-seated desperation” quite like asking the audience to a) Come away from the bar and watch your band, b) Cross the invisible band/crowd barrier and come to the front of the stage, or c) Dance to your un-danceable music. It’s amateurish in the worst sense of the word. Face it, kids: sometimes the audience is on and sometimes they’re not. The wisdom to know this and play on regardless is what separates the men from the man-boys. 2. Goofy Band Bios No, your band wasn’t created by a whiskey-drinking mad scientist from the Netherlands during the second week of Lent, and no, your band members aren’t really retro-cyborgs programmed to bring a heartwarming yet dangerous message of hope and rock to the denizens of Earth. We all know you’re just a bunch of schmucks from Brookfield that slapped together a few songs about girls and got an opening slot on a Thursday night at the Riverwest Commons. Seriously, this shit is about as funny and novel as a typical episode of Family Feud (the one with the guy […]

Dangerous ignorance

Dangerous ignorance

By Melissa McEwan Recently, Jeff Stein made an alarming revelation in the New York Times: most counterterrorism officials and Congress members to whom he’s spoken don’t know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. “For the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? “A ‘gotcha’ question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want? “…But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?” As Stein correctly notes, it would have been incredible for British counterterrorism officials dealing with Northern Ireland not to know the difference between Catholics and Protestants. And yet one of the fundamental differences driving the civil war in Iraq and delineating disparate interests between – for example, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda – are not understood by many of our counterterrorism officials – and members of Congress in key positions relating to intelligence and defense. “Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? I asked him a few weeks ago. “Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: ‘One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.’ “To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. ‘Now that you’ve explained it to me,’ he replied, ‘what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.’” Gee, ya think? As Tristero at Hullabaloo notes: “Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when the sound of the military airplanes patrolling the skies of Manhattan were still traumatizing everyone, I picked up some books on bin Laden, the Middle East, and Islam. I also peppered with questions the few people I knew back then who had some expertise on the subjects. In fact, lots of people I knew were doing the same thing; we were passing around books, articles, and clippings, emailing links to each other. This strikes me as totally unremarkable behavior.” It strikes me the same way. And, beyond what one would expect in terms of self-education […]

Deep Roots

Deep Roots

By Blaine Schultz + Photos by Kat Berger “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” Genesis 1:28 Popular music, semi-popular music and even obscure music all seem to run in cycles. Immigrants first arriving in this country from the British Isles brought folk ballads with them. African slaves carried their own musical traditions, which included the distinctly characterizing Americana sound of the banjo. From these various foundations grew the structures of Americana music today. In 1927, Ralph Peer set up recording sessions in Bristol, Tennessee and hit not one, but two grand slams by recording The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Dubbed the “Big Bang” of country, Peer’s sessions with these future music superstars put hillbilly music on the map. Meanwhile in New Orleans, cornet player Buddy Bolden was never recorded. His legend alone lives on. To trace the history of American roots music, one must go to the source—the Mississippi River. As cities grew up along the waterway, so did the music, from New Orleans to St. Louis to Chicago. East of the river, Philadelphia and rural Appalachia developed their own voices, and New York City was a major focal point for both nightlife and the business of music. Nashville and Memphis would later play significant roles. West of the river, outposts in Kansas City, Tulsa and later Austin shouted regional sounds, as Los Angeles settled in as Showbiz Central. In the 1950s, teenagers finally had a little spare change and rock & roll dug in, fueled by fast cars and fast-talking DJs. Parents began scratching their heads, and things haven’t been the same since. Milwaukee itself supports a vibrant roots scene, with music from all over that spectrum available for your listening pleasure just about any night of the week. From smoky blues clubs in the central city to bars in Riverwest and coffee houses everywhere, folkies, thrift store hillbillies, suit-sporting wailers and flannel-shirted rockers throw down the music that defines the American sound. Each band or artist brings their own interpretation and vision to the music they play. For this story, VITAL spoke with over a dozen players and asked them each the same four questions. What follows is a glimpse into the music that’s helped to shape the Milwaukee music scene for over 20 years. DEFINE YOUR MUSIC. John Sieger I’m trying to locate that line that runs halfway along the American racial divide about 50 years ago. I’ve avoided steel guitars and fiddles like the plague because that tips the balance. Horns are acceptable but hard to find. Slide guitar is wrong for me, because it’s easy to cheat. I’m pretty specific about things. Ray Charles and Buddy, I mean Charlie, Rich had it exactly right. Jason Mohr – Juniper Tar Folk-influenced rock with punk, country and noise backbones. Bobby Rivera – Bobby Rivera and the Rivieras I’ve played a lot of different material in many different bands. My primary stuff right now is the rock & roll instrumental stuff, western […]

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

By Jon M. Gilbertson For anyone who loved Willie Nelson’s 1978 classic Stardust – the country legend’s first successful attempt to interpret truly great songwriters – the prospect of Songbird is mouthwatering. Not only is he taking on more contemporary tracks by the likes of Leonard Cohen and Gram Parsons, but he’s also getting assistance from Ryan Adams and Adams’ backup band, the Cardinals. While Adams often comes off like an arrogant prick, he does share key qualities with Nelson, such as a fondness for recording as many albums as he possibly can and a broad yet discriminating love for any music that’s good. Adams also produces Songbird unobtrusively, unlike some studio mavens (Daniel Lanois, for example) to whom Nelson has previously given relatively free rein. With the Cardinals alternating between sheer brawn and dulcet subtlety, and with regular harmonica player Mickey Raphael accompanying him, Nelson glides through a raucous take on Parsons’ “$1,000 Wedding,” a simple gospel-hush version of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and a perfectly pitched waltz-time cover of Harlan Howard’s “Yours Love” with an easy grace unmatched by anyone this side of Tony Bennett. Adams and the Cardinals set up a kind of consistency on Songbird that allows a few of Nelson’s own compositions and even a new one by Adams, “Blue Hotel,” to sit well alongside the interpretations. If this album isn’t quite the achievement that Stardust was, and if Nelson’s voice isn’t entirely what it once was, Songbird still offers the sound of an American icon taking unmistakable pleasure in his craft, and using it on the art of others.

Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters

By Nikki Butgereit Ta-Dah, the second album from the Scissor Sisters, is highly produced, uber-stylized and no less creative and fresh than their first. The songs are kitschy, cheesy and overwhelmingly disco, but they work. The perky catchiness of Ta-Dah is undeniable. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” is the ideal opener to an album that makes you want to move. The kooky drum machine fills and raygun blasts are a perfect complement to the song’s beat. Although Elton John is credited with co-writing and playing piano on “Dancing,” the second track, “She’s My Man,” also reeks of his influence. Just like with their self-titled debut, Ta-Dah features more creatively funky songs between the straight-up dance tracks and ballads. It’s this juxtaposition that makes the Scissor Sisters fun; you’re never quite sure what they’ll try next. “I Can’t Decide” combines a vaudevillian piano melody with murderous lyrics – one of the many odd contrasts that are fast becoming the group’s trademark. On “Kiss You Off,” Ana Matronic channels Debbie Harry in a tribute to Blondie in both sound and girl-power lyrics. Ta-Dah has an overtly sexual tone, sneaking raunchy lyrics into the peppy pop songs. Yet the bawdiness is balanced out by the sweetness of other tracks. “Land Of A Thousand Words” is tailor-made for a prom scene in an 80s movie. “The Other Side” is an electronic groove carrying a romantic message that’s at odds with other songs on the album. Ta-Dah reinforces the idea that the world will always need party music. And The Scissor Sisters are just the band to provide it.

Lloyd Cole

Lloyd Cole

By Blaine Schultz Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ 1984 debut album, Rattlesnakes, garnered a good amount of airplay (both on college radio and MTV) and press. In the years that followed, this competent record would be lionized as a masterpiece. In hindsight, the dude had a ways to go. Twenty-plus years and a dozen albums find Cole releasing another sophisticated pop album. Or mature pop album. Or literate pop album. Let’s just say that, lyrically, Cole comes across as pretty sincere… verging on humorless. He is content to merely litter the landscape – dropping hip, young urban references whenever he gets the chance. His jumbles of words come off like a blatant attempt to impress the listener. Covering Moby Grape’s “I Am Not Willing,” he sings of a romantic breakup: “I’m so grateful, no longer willing to have a home,” relieved that she gave him a reason to split. The very next song, “Slip Away,” offers this: “I propose an exit strategy… to slip into the ether where I belong.” Maybe only a true artist can blur the lines between woe-is-me and self-satisfied sneer. Maybe Lloyd Cole is that artist… Maybe. But a typical album is a good year’s hard work, so let’s not pitch this disc into the landfill just yet. Musically and sonically, the album is brilliant. The stylish arrangements build on Cole’s modern folk tunes, adding brushed drums here, textured keyboards there and even a richly impressive string section on a few tracks. Rhythms lean toward bossa nova, while subtle loops and delayed guitar riffs add to the palette. If you can get beyond the lyrics, Antidepressant would be perfect listening in a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble.

Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom

By Erin Wolf When one insists on being called a “harper” rather than a harpist and becomes peeved when told that one sounds “childlike” (“Bjork-ish,” too) even though the description is nail-on-the-head, it’s obvious one’s perception of oneself is a tad bit off-kilter. Some would call this stubborn, some would call it quirky; most would call it self-absorbed. This self-absorption, though, is just what makes Joanna Newsom’s music work. Her first two EPs and full-length album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, were studies of self-absorption, created from a world not known to anyone other than the 24-year-old herself, characterized by music and lyrics straight out of the writings of Homer and a “childlike” voice more like a infantile gnome with a bad cold piped in between harp pluckings. To write music that sounds centuries old, the writer must obviously not be spending too much time watching television. Going from the intriguing base that is her first album, Newsom’s latest, Ys, is a wash of strings and rich orchestral sounds, surrounding the ever-plucky “harper’s” own string manipulations and warbling. Ys was produced and mixed by Steve Albini (!) and Jim O’Rourke, and adding even more magical elements with string arrangements was Van Dyke Parks of Beach Boys fame. Blending lyrics that are pure poetry (“there is a rusty light on the pines tonight / sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow / down into the bones of the birches and the spires of the churches”) and music arranged in a manner that resembles an old school Disney score takes incredible patience and craft. It also takes incredible patience on the listener’s part, as most of the songs clock in between 7 and 17 minutes long. It is worth it to be patient with Ys, though. It is an album meant to be reflected upon, for it has definite stories to tell. There’s a slim to none chance that the five songs featured here will ever make it to Top 40 radio, but this is just exemplary of the diamond in the rough quality Ys possesses.

Anders Parker

Anders Parker

By Frank Olson On his self-titled album, former Varnaline frontman Anders Parker displays a knack for capturing a lonely highway vibe not dissimilar to The Rolling Stones on their old country songs. Parker, though, is neither as engaging as Mick Jagger nor as good a songsmith as the Glimmer Twins, which, while not a criticism in itself, casts a long shadow for Parker to sidestep. The end result is a singer-songwriter album with dreary, light-grunge singing and forgettable songwriting. There are a few decent songs here, including the opening “Circle Same,” which uses a looping structure to give the standard going-nowhere lyrics more weight, and “False Positive,” which marries a tightly-coiled verse section to a George Harrison-esque chorus. But even these bright spots seem more the work of a good producer (Adam Lasus, who has worked with Clem Snide) and a good band (including former members of Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks) than of the spotlight talent. The album’s best moments are the ones that allow the band to stretch out and reshape the generally uninteresting songs. A dramatic electric guitar/steel pedal duet ends the otherwise dull “Dear Sara;” instrumental breaks change up the pace of “Airport Road;” thundering percussion underlines a sensitive pedal steel solo in “Under Wide Unbroken Skies.” But these moments are few, and most of Anders Parker is dominated by generic alt-country songs and lyrics that often literally sound like Hallmark cards.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

By Erin Wolf Polyvinyl must love Boris, seeing as the respected indie label is presenting a freshly remixed and remastered version of their original 2005 release, Broom. To give this album a review so late in the game is almost ridiculous, but the fact is that SSLYBY hasn’t been playing by the particular rules that govern indie-rock publicity. SSLYBY only recently surfaced from the depths of their homemade environs (originally recording Broom in an attic) when they placed a few songs on the World Wide Web. Then, Magic Blog-land whipped itself into a frenzy of admiration for the band and their album and hastily posted criticisms, which admitted that although SSLYBY did sound an awful lot like Olivia Tremor Control, Beulah, The Shins, Of Montreal, Weezer, Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, Ben Kweller, etc. … that gee, they sure could write a nice song. After being background-checked and deemed inoffensive copycats, Broom became slightly legendary. Just like the original release, Broom is filled with unintentionally precious and breathy off-key vocals and yodels, strummed guitars and the air of relief for not being a political band, despite the name. The songs slip one by one down a string of lyrics ranging from travel songs revolving around packs of cigarettes to girls named Anna Lee. Pleasant and familiar, like reading a well-worn book of short stories in the sun, Broom isn’t a half-bad way to pass a half hour. Now that they’ve ventured a bit further from Internet notoriety, perhaps they’ll become more adventurous in other ways as well.

November Record Releases

November Record Releases

By Erin Wolf November 7 …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead So Divided Interscope Bowling for Soup The Great Burrito Extortion Case Jive Foo Fighters Skin and Bones Roswell/RCA JJ Cale & Eric Clapton The Road to Escondido Duck/Reprise Josh Groban Awake 143/Reprise Kenny G I’m in the Mood for Love: The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time Arista Talib Kweli Ear Drum Blacksmith/Warner The Long Blondes Someone to Drive You Home Rough Trade The Magic Numbers Those the Brokes Heavenly/EMI MoZella I Will Maverick/Warner ODB A Son Unique Damon Dash Music SugarLand Enjoy the Ride Mercury Keith Urban Love, Pain & the Whole Damn Thing Capitol Nashville Dionne Warwick Me & My Friends Concord Lucinda Williams The Knowing Lost Highway November 14 Army of Anyone self-titled The Firm/EMI Bad Astronaut Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment Fat Wreck Chords Depeche Mode The Best of Volume 1 Sire/Reprise The Game Doctor’s Advocate Geffen Jamiroquai Greatest Hits Epic Luciano Pavarotti The Ultimate Collection Universal Nanci Griffith Ruby’s Torch Rounder Maroon5 TBA Octone/J Brian McKnight 10 Warner Mya Liberation Universal Motown Joanna Newsom Ys Drag City Joan Osborne Pretty Little Stranger Vanguard Robert Plant Nine Lives Rhino Damien Rice 9 Warner Styles P Time is Money Ruff Ryders Sublime Rarities Geffen Tamia Between Friends Gallo Record Company/Image Tenacious D Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny Epic Kenny Wayne Shepherd 10 Days Out: Blues From a Backroad Reprise Neil Young Live at the Fillmore East 1970 Reprise Yusuf (formerly Cat Stevens) An Other Cup Ya/Atlantic November 21 Patti Austin Avant Gershwin Rendezvous Crowded House Farewell to the World Parlophone Incubus Light Grenades Epic Jay-Z Kingdom Come Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Killswitch Engage As Daylight Dies Roadrunner Oasis Stop the Clocks Epic Our Lady Peace A Decade Columbia Rock Star Supernova TBA Epic Snoop Dogg Blue Carpet Treatment Doggystyle/Geffen Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas Asthmatic Kitty Throwing Muses House Tornado (Remastered) Wounded Bird Tom Waits Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards Anti-/Epitaph Lee Ann Womack Finding My Way Back Home Mercury Nashville November 28 The Early Years self-titled Beggars Banquet

Dance

Dance

By CATCH AS CATCH CAN Janet Lilly hosts an evening of work by her, Sean Curran, Heidi Latsky and Peter Sparling with the Danceworks Performing Company from Nov. 10 – 12. 414-277-8480 or www.danceworks1661.org. BLESSED OFFERINGS Ko-Thi Dance performs its annual harvest dance concert Nov. 10 – 11 at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre. 414-382-6044 or www.ko-thi.org. IMPROSCAPING Susan Carter presents improvised choreography designed to create a visual landscape. A one-woman dance featuring live jazz guitar Nov. 12 and 19 at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts. 414-871-1523 or www.carterproductions.com. INCA SON The rich, colorful dance and music of the native cultures of the Andes comes to Wisconsin Lutheran College on Nov. 14. 414-443-8802 or www.wlc.edu/arts. IN FROM THE CHILL: YOUR MOTHER DANCES Danceworks hosts an evening of new works featuring Elizabeth Johnson, David Parker, Sara Hook and more. Nov. 17 – 19 at the Danceworks Studio Theatre. 414-277-8480 or www.danceworks1661.org. VARIOUS STATES OF UNDRESS Wildspace Dance performs new pieces by Artistic Director Debra Loewen and Katie Sopoci. Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 at the Stiemke Theater. 414-271-0712 or www.wildspacedance.org.

Just the way it is

Just the way it is

By Jon Gilbertson On a late October afternoon, Hank Williams III is touring the East Coast and feeling poorly – not because of the fondness for John Barleycorn that supposedly afflicts all in his line, but because of the more banal bugs that don’t cure easily over a long stint on the road. He isn’t whining about a head cold, though. “I chose the hard road as opposed to the easy road a long time ago,” he mutters across the wires. “I got that drive and that’s what keeps me going.” Like much of what Hank III has said since he stepped directly into his legacy more than a decade ago, those lines require only a little editing to make fine country song refrains. But he’s spent a great deal of time mixing up that legacy with the punk rock and heavy metal he’s loved ever since he was a kid. “People do realize that I’m into many things besides country,” he says. “People see a realness. That’s what I hear a lot.” But not every fan shows equal appreciation for each of his facets. “There’s a certain breed out there that loves Slayer and David Allan Coe,” Williams says. “It might come from the same place, but some of the fans just don’t get it. There’s a bunch of snobs and you’ll never be cool because you’re not punk or country enough for ‘em. Each little group has its thing.” If Hank Williams III has a thing, then that thing would probably be lifelong defiance. Born Shelton Hank Williams in Nashville in 1972, he didn’t really get to know his father, Hank “Bocephus” Williams Jr., because he wasn’t around. While the two have crossed paths more often in recent years, it should be noted that during our entire interview, he referred to his father only once; as “Hank Junior” at that. Hank III didn’t really know his musical lineage, either, and was content to smoke weed and rock hard until a crushing and sudden need to make regular child-support payments sent him to the tourist town of Branson, Missouri to earn his keep imitating his grandfather. (The resemblance, vocally and physically, is eerie, and has been commented on so much elsewhere that it need not be dwelled on here.) Now, rather than imitating his grandfather, he seems to be cutting a parallel path, at least in terms of having a difficult relationship with the music industry. In 1996, Hank III signed with Curb Records and has been head-butting with the label and its head, Mike Curb, ever since. “I’ve been fighting in court to get off that label forever,” Williams says. “This goes back to a family name, back to spite. This is people holding us back. There are all these rich-ass motherfuckers who don’t want to let me go, even though they don’t understand me and will not market me.” It didn’t help that the label’s first use of Hank III was to put his voice together with […]

November 2006

November 2006

By IN:SITE Insight I had no idea IN:SITE would be on the cover of VITAL! This is fantastic! Thank you so very much (Covered, October 06). I love the photo on the cover. It is exactly what IN:SITE is about: SITE-SPECIFIC temporary public art. I was so glad that the focus was on the artists, the collaboration with business groups and the reactions of people on the street. Amy worked hard and it shows. And the whole texture of the piece with Amy mentioning the SOUND of “Super Subconscious” speaks to her background as a poet. Bravo! Pegi Taylor Lauds for Leiter I thought the article [on Saul Leiter] was great (Interview, October 06). It made me laugh out loud a few times. You really depicted his personality very well. He’s a unique individual, so I know this is not easy. Margit Erb Howard Greenberg Gallery New York To VITAL: Great article on Saul! You really capture his endearing demeanor and communicate the significance and originality of his work. I’ve forwarded it on to him, and I’m sure he’ll be pleased. All the best, Lisa Hostetler Assistant Curator of Photographs Milwaukee Art Museum To VITAL: I went to the most amazing event last evening thanks to you and your magazine. I was looking through VITAL when my husband said he wanted to see a movie or a play. I was not in the mood for either and was just finishing up reading your article, “Shoot from the hip,” when I saw the ad for “Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Art Museum. We went and – Wow! It was the most amazing exhibition I have seen in a really long time. Not only were Saul Leiter’s photos so pure and wonderful to look at, but so simple and so relatable. In addition to Saul’s exhibit, Cedar Block’s exhibit of local photo artists was really inspiring. I have to say that John Miller’s photo montage in the rain was done in the same feeling as Saul Leiter’s [work]. It’s great to see local artists being exhibited in the very public domain of the MAM. Thanks so much for a really great date! Toni Milwaukee Open Season on Butgereit? Thanks for taking the time to review Jeremy Enigk’s new record (Music Reviews, October 06). It’s interesting, though, that Ms.Butgereit [the reviewer] felt Enigk’s use of melancholia derailed the album. It makes me wonder if she ever heard 1996’s Return of the Frog Queen, Enigk’s first solo record (which she failed to mention) and what she thought of that. I, for one, feel like both of these albums are fantastic, despite the tone and pace, and aren’t “exhausting to listen to and difficult to enjoy,” as she puts it. By her estimation then, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Sebadoh’s The Freed Weed and virtually every Smiths album no doubt “becomes overwhelmingly grating as the songs tick by,” simply because they dabble in the depressing. What other artists should we recommend steering […]

Chickenshack 101

Chickenshack 101

By Jonathan P. Ziegler WMSE has always had a commitment to local music of all types. However, other than blues programming, the station never really had a long-term show that was 100 percent dedicated to roots music. The Chickenshack was started in the Summer of 1997 for the dual purpose of spotlighting historic/forgotten roots artists and providing a platform for local and up and coming acts to be heard. Over nine years later, the mission is still the same and the show is even broader in spectrum. The strength of the show is in its diversity. You can hear honky-tonk, western swing, rockabilly, bluegrass, old-timey music, blues, rhythm and blues, rock & roll, singer songwriter even a little folk and some soul from time to time. On any given Friday you can hear music ranging from field recordings of people who never even played on a proper stage to artists like The Cramps. To me it all fits under the roots/Americana umbrella. The show has been and will always be a key venue for promotion of local artists and for the club owners willing to stick their necks out and book roots music. I try to make the show as accessible for these people as possible. Whenever a new roots band starts playing out in the area I get an email or a phone call from them and I am thrilled to be able to help them with airplay and live in-studio appearances and interviews. Being a musician, I fully grasp the importance and responsibility of having a forum like this. Throughout the years the support that I have received from artists and fans of the music has been overwhelming. When I started the show, I would have never dreamed that it would have the loyal listenership that it does. I feel like a proud papa when I see the Chickenshack shirts and stickers around town. It also serves as a reminder that the listeners take this kind of music very personally – who hasn’t choked up when they hear a Johnny Cash song in the last couple of years? And the people expect a high level of quality in the music that I play on the show. I’m always looking for the best songs and best performances by the artists I put on the air and will continue to do so. I only wish that I had a longer show so I could play more music. Jonny Z.’s Chickenshack can be heard Fridays from 9 am to noon on 91.7 FM, WMSE.

Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean

By Jill Gilmer During a 20-minute scene in the second act of Gem of the Ocean, the audience finds itself in the belly of an African slave ship, consumed by the sights, sounds and emotions of human bondage. Water literally pours through the walls of the playhouse, as if the theatre itself were crying symbolic tears for the terror and loss endured by a People. I emerged from the scene transformed. My experience paralleled that of the protagonist in Gem of the Ocean, the epic play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Gem opened at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre on Friday. It recounts the story of Citizen Barlow, a former African slave living in Pittsburgh in 1904. Tortured by guilt after committing a crime that led to a man’s death, Barlow seeks the assistance of Aunt Ester Tyler. Aunt Ester is a 286-year old woman reputed to be able to “cleanse souls.” Under her tutelage, Barlow embarks on a mystical journey to the City of Bones. This mythical place is a burial ground in the Atlantic Ocean for thousands of African slaves who expired on their torturous journey to the United States. Coming face to face with the grief of his past has a restorative effect on Barlow. He emerges from the City of Bones at peace with himself and empowered with a renewed sense of purpose for his life. Gem of the Ocean uses the rarely discussed topic of African slavery to tell an epic story of redemption and spiritual renewal. The genius of this production is that director Timothy Douglas invites the audience to participate in Barlow’s spiritual transformation as more than mere spectators. He dares to evoke a type of transformation in them as well. By the audience’s enthusiastic standing ovation, it was a risky gamble that paid off. As with August Wilson’s other plays, Gem of the Ocean explores the problems that have plagued each generation of African-Americans. It studies the psychological roots of internalized racism, drawing back to its origins in slavery. It’s a timely analysis for Milwaukee and other cities that struggle with the persistent problems of poverty, crime, anger and despair in the black community. Although these issues have special relevance to African Americans, they are presented through characters with which people of all races can recognize and identify. By focusing on the core themes of faith, honor, love and duty, August Wilson presents a story that transcends race and has the potential to unite human beings. The play suffers from two common criticisms of August Wilson’s work. It is exceedingly long – the total running time is 2 hours and 50 minutes. And the first act is, at times, painfully slow. But plowing through the first act is a worthwhile investment for the chance to experience the re-enactment of the Middle Passage in Act II. The relatively inexperienced cast does a commendable job bringing a familiarity to rarely-seen characters: former African slaves. Particularly noteworthy is the performance of Stephanie Berry, who captures […]

Memory House

Memory House

By Russ Bickerstaff There are only two people in the cast: mother and daughter. Mother and daughter have an extended dialogue. The mother is baking a pie. The daughter is working on an essay for a college application. The play carries along for just over an hour. There is no intermission. This probably doesn’t sound all that engaging. It is. Renaissance Theaterworks proves that something as simple as a conversation between two people can be solidly entertaining theatre with its production of Kathleen Tolan’s contemporary drama Memory House. The stage is set as a modest apartment. There’s just enough evidence of life to suggest a cozy domestic space, pictures and books adorn a small bookcase in the living room. Cristina Panfilio rests on a couch in front of a laptop. She’s playing Katia, a girl on the verge of adulthood trying to figure out who she is before she leaves home for college. Linda Stephens plays her mother Maggie, a clever, educated woman on the verge of being the sole parent in an empty nest. She’s divorced. Her daughter feels as though she isn’t living up to her potential. She’s afraid that when she goes off to college, her mother will become completely withdrawn from the world. The essay that Katia is writing brings up questions she has about her past. Her mother and father adopted her from Russia when she was a very small child. She’s recently been thinking about the country she was born in and her birth mother. Her mother tries her best to answer Katia’s questions but the answers aren’t easy. As the two talk, Maggie is making a blueberry pie from scratch. Performing from what appears to be a very lived-in set, Panfilio and Stephens develop a very authentic chemistry. Panfilio puts in a sympathetic performance as Katia. While Tolan’s dialogue is very intricate the role could’ve easily been read as a somewhat whiny teenager. However, Panfillo’s performance is very insightful. She never exaggerates the mannerisms of youth. Likewise, Stephens puts in a textured performance as Maggie. The role could’ve easily read as a 2-dimensionally wise old woman in many places throughout the dialogue. Stephens plays many angles of an aging divorcee who just might be settling for less than what she deserves professionally. Music choices are particularly clever in this production and flesh out the characters in an interesting way. In conversation, Katia holds a great deal of respect for her father, the college professor, but whenever he calls her cell phone the ring-tone that we hear is Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Every time he calls, we hear the rhythmic pop punk refrain, “don’t want to be an American Idiot.” Quite a few layers of meaning could be inferred from the character’s choice in ring-tone. Clever. Over the course of the play, Stephens is, in fact, baking a blueberry pie. The oven in the kitchen onstage appears to be a working oven. As Katia continues to put off work on her essay, her mother […]

VITAL Seeks News/Politics and Music Writers!

VITAL Seeks News/Politics and Music Writers!

We’re looking for writers for CD and concert reviews, interviews, news features (not lifestyle) and political commentary. If you think you’ve got what it takes, contact us today by clicking the link below. You’ll be taken to a contact form. Fill in the subject line as follows: SEEKING WRITERS. In the body, include your interests, your background, your contact info and any links to your work already available online. Hopefully we don’t need to say that your message should be well-written and demonstrate that you have a command of the language, as well as grammar and punctuation. Click here to contact us.

Halloween Guide October 2006

Halloween Guide October 2006

By It’s that time of year again, when the air starts to sharpen, the leaves start to turn and everyone, if only for a night, gets to act like a child. Halloween is, indeed, a magical time of year. A palpable sense of folly and frivolity permeates the city as costumed kids fill the streets, cobwebs and cardboard skeletons drape houses and adults sneak candy from their children’s baskets whenever their little Supermen or Princesses aren’t looking. And despite (or perhaps because of) its pagan origins, Halloween is a unique and wholesome celebration. From haunted hayrides to haunted caves, Wisconsin is awash in paranormal activity this season. For details on the following events plus a complete listing of Halloween activities in Wisconsin, check out www.hauntedwisconsin.com. All Hallow’s Eve: A Beggar’s Night October 28 Old World Wisconsin S103 W37890 Hwy 67, Eagle 262-594-6300 Bear Den Haunted Woods October 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 6831 Big Bend Rd. (Hwy.164), Waterford 262-895-6430 Bloody City Haunted House & Burial Chamber Haunted House October 6-7, 13-15, 19-22, 26-30 500 N. Lake St., Neenah 920-727-4669 Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” October 20-22 Old World Wisconsin, S103 W37890 Hwy 67, Eagle 262-594-6305 Charlie House Halloween Happenings October 27 & 28 The Charlie House/Studio 5545 N. 40th St., Milwaukee 414-536-9924 Creepy Cornfield Adventure at Meadowbrook Farm October 1-30 2950 Mile View Rd., West Bend 262-338-3649 Dominion of Terror October 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 26-31 2024 North 15th St., Sheboygan www.dominionofterror.com Fright Hike October 27 & 28 Lapham Peak State Park W329 N849 Highway, Delafield 262-364-7773 Halloween Candlelight Cave Tours October 20-21 Ledge View Nature Center W2348 Short Rd., Chilton 920-849-7094 Halloween Nature Hikes October 20-21 Kettle Moraine State Forest N1765 Hwy G, Campbellsport 920-533-8322 Haunted Cornfield at Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm October 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29 Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm 2970 Mile View Rd., West Bend 262-338-3649 Haunted Tours of Burlington October 1, 6-8, 13-15, 19-22, 27-29; November 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 UFO and Paranormal Center 549 N. Pine St., Burlington 262-767-2864 Mars Haunted House October 6-7, 13-15, 19-22, 26-30 734 W. Historic Mitchell St. 414-384-7491 Morgan Manor October 1, 6-8, 13-15, 19-22, 26-31 Waukesha Expo Grounds 1000 Northview Rd., Waukesha 262-547-6808 Pumpkin Walk October 24 Brillion Nature Center W1135 Deerview Rd., Brillion 920-756-3591 Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse Midnight Movies October 13-14 (The Shining) October 20-21 (The Exorcist) 6823 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa 414-607-9672 Salem’s Plot Haunted House October 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 27-29 Don Happ’s Pumpkin Patch, 24121 Wilmot Rd, Salem 262-862-6515 Splatter Haus October 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 26-29, 31 W5806 County Rd. W, Cascade www.splatterhaus.com The Corn at Linden Farm October 6-7, 13-15, 20-22, 26-29 Lindners Pumpkin Farm 19075 W Cleveland Ave., New Berlin 262-549-5364 The Dark Side October 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 N1255 Hoard Rd., Ixonia 920-273-0612 The House of Darkness October 1, 6-8, 13-15, 19-22, 26-31 Walworth County Fairgrounds 411 East Court St., Elkhorn 866-9-HAUNT Not-so-Scary Halloween October 26-29, noon to 4 p.m. Little Monster Bash October 27, 5:30 […]

The Who

The Who

By Jon M. Gilbertson Strictly speaking, Endless Wire is the first full Who album in 24 years. But strictly speaking, it’s not an album made by the Who. And while it may be true that nobody is absolutely irreplaceable, the dearly departed Who rhythm section of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle come close. So what, or Who, remains? These days it’s just singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist, songwriter and general mastermind Pete Townshend. With the support of a few other musicians, politely listed in “Principal” and “Guest” classifications, they continue the group name. The recognizable group sound is another matter. Age is a sigificant but not overwhelming part of the complication. Daltrey has never had an overtly beautiful voice, but he’s always had a hoarse sort of expressiveness, and that hasn’t changed. Townshend has, for obvious reasons (hearing impairment, for one), muted his power chords, but can still find a precise electric blues line or an eloquently simple acoustic progression. Townshend does less well, however, when trying to frame the songs that rely for support upon whatever melodies he can wrest from his guitar(s). The latter half of Endless Wire is taken up with “Wire & Glass,” a mini-opera (not a la “A Quick One While He’s Away” ) that seems constantly to be looking back on old, familiar themes: rock & roll, the deceptive innocence of youth, the inexorable decay of years. The themes are not without interest, but Townshend can’t make them coalesce. He never really could, as proven by Tommy and Quadrophenia and even his solo album White City, but that music was strong enough to leap the narrative and intellectual gaps. This music – even the first half of Endless Wire, which is given over to more various thoughts and more varied songs than “Wire & Glass” – favors sub-thematic structure over genuine artistry. The most glaring difference between the modern Who and the old Who, besides the absent cohorts, is that their music now offers moments and flashes rather than journeys and explosions. It presents the lovely bitter folk music of “A Man in a Purple Dress” and the soft coda of “Tea & Theatre.” In another 24 years, Who’s Next and Empty Glass will probably remain in the collective memory. Endless Wire probably won’t.

Between Stages

Between Stages

According to our new arrival
Stay Away From Me

Stay Away From Me

Salon

Salon

The Daily Kos

The Daily Kos

Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politcs
Box Office Mojo

Box Office Mojo

Internet Movie Database

Internet Movie Database

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Pitchfork Media

Pitchfork Media

Tiny Mixtapes

Tiny Mixtapes

Dusted Magazine

Dusted Magazine

Toothpaste For Dinner

Toothpaste For Dinner

Get Your War On

Get Your War On

Milwaukee Indy Media

Milwaukee Indy Media

Testing Page for Evan

Testing Page for Evan

By Subhead here This is one paragraph. This is another. And another. This is bold.

A lifetime in color

A lifetime in color

By Evan Solochek “I don’t even know why you’re wasting your time interviewing me,” Saul Leiter says in a soft, weathered voice. “Really?” I ask sheepishly, “You know you’re kind of a big deal, right?” He just laughs. Leiter’s warm laugh, not to mention unwavering humility, would be a frequent guest during our half-hour conversation. At 82-years old, laughter comes easy to a man who simply doesn’t take things too seriously. Leiter recalls one day a few years back, when a curator from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art met with him at his studio. Upon examining samples of his work she exclaimed, “You must be very dedicated.” “I told her I wasn’t,” Leiter says through labored laughter. “I think that upset her because people expect you to be serious about certain things. I think that if you’re familiar with art, the history of art and all the very great things that have been done, you don’t take yourself that seriously. There are photographers and artists who are very unfamiliar with the history and as soon as they do something they think they’ve done a Rembrandt. I haven’t been burdened by that kind of illusion.” Serendipitous success To hear Leiter discuss his career in photography it seems as though it happened almost by accident, or at least in spite of the man himself. It has been a long and winding journey these past 50 years, and along the way Leiter has sat in the passenger seat and watched as the path unfolded before him. “No one has ever accused me of being a very clever career person,” says Leiter. “In order to have a career you have to want to have a career and have to be obsessed with having a career. I didn’t find that obsession attractive.” From this point of view, Leiter’s success can be more easily attributed to raw talent and a unique perspective than to relentless ambition. Arriving in New York City from The Cleveland Theological College in 1946, the then 23-year-old son of a rabbi was an aspiring painter who quickly befriended Richard Pousette-Dart, an abstract expressionist painter who Leiter calls “one of the great American artists.” It was Pousette-Dart’s experimentation with photography that turned Leiter on to the camera. Originally utilizing black and white, Leiter soon moved to color, for which at one time he received much apathy but today he is most widely regarded. And much like everything else in his life, Leiter attributes this career-defining shift to mere happenstance. “I bought a roll of film one day and it was a roll of color,” he says. “I had been doing black and white and I bought a roll of color and I used it and I liked it so I went on using it. That’s how it all began. There were people who looked down on color; it was considered inferior by some people to black and white. I don’t understand why. The history of art is very often the history of […]

Test Article For Jon Anne

Test Article For Jon Anne

By Jenny Doe

Pegi Taylor

Pegi Taylor

By Blaine Schultz + photos by Philip Krejcarek Pegi Taylor is a performance artist and writer. And she herself has been a piece of art for the past 25 years as hundreds of photographers, painters and sculptors have used her as both inspiration and subject. But according to her, “Artists and the Model: A Quarter Century with Pegi Taylor,” her upcoming Gallery Night show at the Elaine Erickson Gallery, “is really not about me. It is about the artists who have drawn me. The chapbook I’m writing for the show has short essays about how all of them have changed me.” 1.If you were headed for a desert island and could only take one work of art, what would you choose and why? “The Flaggellants” by Carl von Marr. Marr was born in Milwaukee and the painting hangs in the West Bend Art Museum. It would remind me of home. The only reason I’d be going to a desert island is if the world had descended into ruin, and the painting portrays followers of a medieval religious sect flogging themselves as an act of penance for the plagues. I’d want to be right there with them. There are hundreds of figures in the painting, so I would have lots of “company.” It is 13’ by 25’ so I could use it to shelter me, if necessary. 2) What goes through your mind during your modeling sessions? I’m thinking most about the next pose I will take. There is so much to consider. Should I stand, kneel, squat, recline or sit? Where should I face my body? Should my legs be apart, crossed, together? Maybe one leg should be higher than the other. Is the pose short enough that I can twist my back and not hurt at the end of it? What should I do with my arms? What about my hands and fingers? Maybe I want my palms up, or to make a fist or point. Where should I turn my head? Do I want it tilted up or down or to one side? What attitude do I want to express with the pose? 3) Your job is to inspire artists. How do artists inspire you? The attentive quiet in the studio calms me and slows me down and ideas flood into me. Making art, though clothed, they are so much more vulnerable than me. Their willingness to expose themselves demands that I be as fearless as possible. 4) What is the craziest comment you have heard about donating your skeleton to MIAD? I don’t get crazy comments. It makes people think about how our bodies have value. If anything, it leads to discussions about the nefarious body parts trade going on throughout the world. After the show, I want to return to my goal of establishing a national maceration site where people can legally donate their skeletons. 5) As an artist you value and appreciate your senses. If your child were to have only one sense, which would […]

October Records Releases

October Records Releases

By Erin Wolf OCTOBER 3   Beck The Information Interscope   Jim Brickman Escape SLG/Savoy   Lindsey Buckingham Under the Skin Reprise   Cities Variations Yep Roc   The Datsuns Smoke & Mirrors U.K. – V2   The Decemberists The Crane Wife Capitol   Evanescence The Open Door Wind-up   The Dears Gang of Losers V2   Jet Shine On Atlantic   The Killers Sam’s Town Island   The Kooks Inside In/Inside Out Astralwerks   Amos Lee Supply and Demand Blue Note   Sean Lennon Friendly Fire Capitol   Pernice Brothers Live a Little Ashmont   Rodrigo y Gabriela Self-titled ATO/RCA   George Strait It Just Comes Natural MCA Nashville   …and you will know us by the Trail of Dead So Divided Interscope   Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 Olé! Tarantula! Yep Roc   The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America Vagrant   OCTOBER 10   The Be Good Tanyas Hello Love Nettwerk   The Blood Brothers Young Machetes V2   Chin Up Chin Up This Harness Can’t Ride Anything Suicide Squeeze   Califone Roots & Crowns Thrill Jockey   Lloyd Cole Antidepressant One Little Indian   Albert Hammond Jr. (Strokes guitarist) Yours to Keep U.K. – Rough Trade   The Memory Band Apron Strings: Songs of False Love and True Bloodshot   Oxford Collapse Remember the Night Parties Sub Pop   Robert Pollard Normal Happiness Merge   OCTOBER 17   Patti LaBelle The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle Universal   The Slits Revenge of the Killer Slits SAF   Clinic Visitations U.K. – Domino   Diddy Press Play Bad Boy/Warner   Jeremy Enigk World Waits Sony BMG   Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Love Their Country Fat Wreck Chords   Badly Drawn Boy Born in the U.K. XL/Astralwerks   OCTOBER 24   The Blow Paper Television K   Converge No Heroes Epitaph   The Heart Attacks Hellbound & Heartless Hellcat/Epitaph   John Legend Once Again Columbia   The Walkmen Pussy Cats Starring the Walkmen Record Collection   My Chemical Romance The Black Parade Reprise   Brian Setzer 13 Surfdog   Sparta Threes Hollywood   OCTOBER 31   The Clipse Hell Hath No Fury J   Copeland Eat, Sleep, Repeat The Militia Group   Dead Poetic Vices Tooth & Nail   Jim Jones Bright Lights Big City Koch   Barry Manilow The Greatest Songs of the Sixties Arista   Aimee Mann One More Drifter in the Snow Super Ego   Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose Virgin   Willie Nelson & The Cardinals Songbird Lost Highway   Paul Wall Get Money, Stay True Atlantic   The Who Endless Wire Universal Republic

The Places In Between

The Places In Between

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The Eagle’s Throne

The Eagle’s Throne

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Shortbus

Shortbus

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The Science of Sleep

The Science of Sleep

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High time for a high tide?

High time for a high tide?

By Lefty McTighe The 1994 national elections were a watershed moment in American political history. In the first midterms of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Republicans trounced Democrats by more than 4.7 million votes nationwide, triggering a 54-seat swing in the balance of power in the House of Representatives, and handing the GOP control of that chamber for the first time in 40 years. It is that dramatic outcome enthusiastic Democrats and Progressives hope to emulate in the upcoming 2006 midterm elections, just a month away. After all, they argue, many of the factors that contributed to the Republican rout in 1994 exist today: an unpopular president, a culture of corruption crippling the party in power and a sense that the nation is heading in the wrong direction. Yet while the problems that plague Republican incumbents in 2006 bear a strong resemblance to those that doomed Democrats in 1994, an even more critical piece of the puzzle remains, at the moment, missing. Democrats in 2006 are still struggling to match the success of Republicans in 1994 in developing, articulating and rallying around a shared vision for the nation. And that could be the crucial difference in whether Democrats can win control of Congress this November. Incumbents in the crosshairs The parallels are intriguing. In 1994, scandal rocked Democratic Congressional leaders, just as for Republicans today. For Dems, it was a check-writing scam involving the House bank. Republicans today are saddled with Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and corruption involving political contributions. Widespread dissatisfaction with the chief executive also existed in 1994. Bill Clinton had a rocky first two years in office, marked by a highly controversial debate over gays in the military, an unexpected flashpoint in Somalia, and the political fiasco that was his health care plan. George W. Bush is perhaps even more unpopular rolling into his midterm elections. The 43rd president has consistently polled below 40 percent of late, with his leadership and judgment in serious question over Iraq, Katrina, economic issues and more. In both years the same party ruled the White House and Capitol Hill, creating a sense of politicians run amok and a lack of accountability; ethics clouds hung over both parties, and the president lacked the political capital to rally his party to victory. But will that be enough for Democrats this November? The “Vision” thing In September 1994, six weeks before the November midterm elections, Congressional Republicans unveiled the ‘Contract with America.’ It was an ethos that propelled the Grand Old Party to electoral victory, and three factors made it an enormously powerful political tool. First, the Contract articulated a clear conservative vision to American voters, and an undeniable alternative to the Clinton White House. From lower taxes to welfare reform, from revamping Social Security to tort reform, it was a crystal clear agenda from the right end of the spectrum. In politics, where contrasts matter most, the differences couldn’t have been more obvious. Second, the Contract was signed by all but two Republican candidates for […]

Salad Days

Salad Days

By David Seitz When Wisconsin voters consider the proposed constitutional ban on civil unions and same-gender marriage on November 7, it will mark the first time the fate of unmarried domestic partners (lesbian, gay and heterosexual) and their families has been subject to direct legislation in our state’s history. While the legislature has long debated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, the proposed amendment injects LGBT rights directly into the public discourse in a new way, blurring the boundaries between the personal and the political in ways not seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Drawing the lines As a 22-year veteran of the state legislature who is also an openly gay man, State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) speaks clearly about how he maintains professional relationships with colleagues and constituents whose votes or views harm the interests of LGBT Wisconsinites and their families. “I respect those who philosophically believe in what they’re doing, as opposed to those who know it’s baloney, or who didn’t decide for themselves,” Carpenter says. “Some who personally opposed the ban but voted for it said to me, ‘It’s nothing personal, but I voted that way.’ Privately, I’m disappointed, and I’ll think a little less of them as human beings, but it certainly doesn’t keep me from working with them on behalf of my constituents.” He also notes that he only rarely hears negative comments from constituents about his own sexual orientation, and that when confronted, he simply moves on to the next person. By contrast, Carpenter’s colleague from a neighboring district, State Senator Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis), has come under fire from constituents, LGBT community leaders and his election opponent for his support of the ban and handling of related issues. Reynolds is seeking re-election in the 5th State Senate district. Reynolds has not been criticized for the sort of election-oriented cynicism Carpenter describes as so disappointing. On the contrary, Reynolds appears to fall into the category of those who “philosophically believe” in the ban. An evangelical Christian, Reynolds was the only state legislator to attend the 2003 “International Conference on Homo-Fascism” in Milwaukee. He also professed support for the ban in campaign literature, writing, “…the secular humanists are trying to normalize all perverse human desires.” He has been reproached for failing to develop that ability which Carpenter describes as so vital to a professional legislator’s work: separating personal opinion from professional priority. As one of Reynolds’ constituents, I experienced this firsthand. I am openly gay and continue to actively oppose the marriage ban. I mentioned those facts during a listening session Reynolds held at my church on the matter in 2004. After that meeting, Reynolds personally sent me information on “re-orientation therapy” for gay people on his state senate letterhead and franking. Though this encounter and one other took place two years ago, I only felt comfortable speaking publicly about them this spring. Since my story came to light, I have learned of other gay citizens who say they’ve had similar […]

October 2006

October 2006

By LEFTY: THINK FOR YOURSELF. I opened the August 2006 issue of VITAL hoping to find some interesting cultural happenings when I stumbled upon “The Distraction in Iraq” by Lefty McTighe. The article reinforced my view of Milwaukee as a bastion of the predictably ordinary. It’s as if Lefty sits in front of his TV watching ABC News then runs to his computer to regurgitate whatever claptrap dribbles out of Stone Phillips’ mouth. Claims like Iran “founded Hezbollah” which is the “same radical terror group responsible for today’s crisis” lack any historical truth or critical analysis. “Iran now stands on the brink of developing its own nuclear arsenal” and “North Korea is learning to deliver nukes to the U.S. mainland” sound like the word-for- word fear mongering that Tony Snow dishes out to help buoy the administration. The basic premise of the article, that Bush has bungled the WAR ON TERROR!, is based on the absurd premise that the war on terror actually exists outside of the Network News. My legal advice is that VITAL Source stop plagiarizing Wall Street Journal articles and attributing them to Lefty McTighe. My business advice is that VITAL Source should consider providing its readers with some fresh perspectives to distinguish itself from other run of the mill Miltown rags. Finally, although I still harbor hope that McTighe’s nickname refers to the hand he favors, I fear he believes it represents his politics. If my fears are correct, I would like to suggest that he change his name to “Hum Drum” or perhaps “Middle of the Road” or “Off the Mark” McTighe. Aron Corbett Riverwest BICKERSTAFF BITES THE HAND THAT FEEDS HIM. I am writing in regards to the head-scratchingly obnoxious tone of Russ Bickerstaff’s contributions to your September cover story (“Thespians, Troubadours, yadda yadda…” ). Now, I will fully admit up-front that I have never been a fan of Mr. Bickerstaff’s writing style, which includes his pre-VITAL Source work, finding it to be generally pretentious – and occasionally even backhanded and snide – in nature. However, I felt I had to comment on two points in the article in question. First, his reference to the upcoming original comedy, “Dracula vs. the Nazis,” I found to be especially petty and uncalled-for: “It’s a fascinating premise for a comedy and should prove to be a really interesting show if [Michael] Neville’s script is competent enough to deliver on it.” Now, as one of the actors involved in that play, I certainly can’t claim to be unbiased, and only time will tell if the show delivers enough to satisfy Mr. Bickerstaff’s discerning palette. But as an alleged writer himself, you’d think he’d extend a little common courtesy toward his fellow local scribes rather than tossing out such cheap barbs. My second point concerns his entire section condemning Broadway musicals as evidently being far worse than all the plagues of biblical Egypt combined. This piece of work is so outlandishly nasty that I almost want to believe he […]

The Pernice Brothers

The Pernice Brothers

By Frank Olson Now that we know that The Pernice Brothers can make an album as solid as Live a Little, it’s time for them to show that they can do better. Live a Little would be passable as a debut album, but one expects 10-year veterans to develop a more distinctive (or at least less wussy) sound than the one on display here. And there is definitely only one sound on Live a Little; for an album only 41 minutes long, it sure overstays its welcome. Younger bands ranging from The Shins to Of Montreal perform the same type of throwback pop, but do so with far greater playfulness and invention. Live a Little does boast a handful of truly catchy songs (“Automaton,” “B.S. Johnson,” “Conscience Clean” and “Lightheaded” ), but the overall tone is so light and chirpy that the album seems to evaporate as you listen to it. Most of the songs are hampered by tinny orchestral accompaniment that sounds as if it was created on Casio keyboards (though real musicians were involved). It is hard to tell whether the fault lies in the unengaged performances of the session musicians, the uninspired arrangements of Joe Pernice or the airy production of Michael Deming, though I suspect it is some combination of the three. Live a Little isn’t bad, per se, but it does virtually nothing to set itself apart from (or above) the rest of the albums coming out this month.

Jeremy Enigk

Jeremy Enigk

By Nikki Butgereit The new album from Jeremy Enigk, former singer and primary songwriter of Sunny Day Real Estate, is a melancholy trip to the depths of emo. Unfortunately, it never makes its way back from the pits. The album begins with the instrumental track “A New Beginning,” a jubilant symphony of violins and dramatic chiming bells. Here is where the pep begins and ends as the remainder of the album has a folksy, contemplative, philosophical vibe that’s rather depressing. Enigk’s raspy vocals are reminiscent of Perry Farrell, with a touch more whine. While that style fits in perfectly with the quietly dreary tone of the record, it becomes overwhelmingly grating as the songs tick by. Musically, the album is long on depth. The songs layer violin and mandolin on top of piano and guitar. The melodies are sweeping and sometimes powerful, but even the “upbeat” songs are downers. “City Tonight” has the closest thing to a driving rock beat you’ll find on this album, but it still keeps the pace at a slow drag. Enigk’s first solo venture in 10 years has none of the vigor and punch of the early Sunny Day Real Estate, which is unfortunate. While the songs are solid and the compositions lush, the moony lyrics and snail’s pace make the album exhausting to listen to and difficult to enjoy.

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

By Jon M. Gilbertson As cult artists go, The Indigo Girls are perhaps halfway between Richard Thompson and The Ramones. Unlike Thompson, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have had a couple of hits (although the big ones go back a decade and a half); like him, they have a dependable core audience. Like The Ramones, they have not been encouraged to vary their identifiable style; unlike The Ramones, they cannot claim to have invented, or at any rate, popularized it. For The Indigo Girls, this tricky situation means that minor distinctions take on magnified importance: one disastrous track throws an entire album out of whack, but absolute familiarity breeds boredom if not outright contempt. Under the circumstances, Despite Our Differences is a qualified success. As usual, Ray slips into the role as the plainer singer and more direct thinker of the two (the driving “Money Made You Mean” represents her side), with Saliers being the more sweetly melodic and more poetic (the waltzing “Lay My Head Down” epitomizes her side). Depending on who’s out front, their harmonies have either mid-autumn crispness or mid-spring breeziness. Really, that’s about it. Pink – returning the kindness the duo paid her by appearing on her album I’m Not Dead earlier this year – juices up the loudest track, “Rock and Roll Heaven’s Gate.” Famed producer Mitchell Froom manages, for once, not to bend the sound toward his quirks. True believers will love it. Casual fans will like it. People outside the cult… who knows?

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

By Blaine Schultz With Modern Times, Bob Dylan finds himself inhabiting the itinerant bluesmen’s spirits he merely impersonated when he cut his first album in 1962. As with the masterful Love and Theft, Dylan immerses himself in American music forms, touching on blues, old-timey country and Tin Pan Alley pop, and lets his band rip into these templates, reinventing them in his own image. If these songs sound familiar it is simply because Dylan is not shy about borrowing generously – a Muddy Waters line here, a slide guitar lick there – from source materials that were magpied plenty of times before he got to them. But like Miles Davis and Bill Monroe, Dylan reconfigures the very DNA of the music. This is the second album in a row Dylan has chosen to record with his current touring group and, musically, Modern Times excels when the players work in their signature driving, roadhouse blues that allows for real-time interaction and bits of improvisation. Not unlike his legendary work with The Band, this lineup is a stellar example of how songs are treated in the hands of sympathetic players. Unfortunately, in Dylan’s tour of the American songbook he seems to have developed a jones for crooners. While his cragged voice woks great for the Old Testament cane-stompers, there’s too much Bing Crosby included here; that’s my lone caveat. Consumer note: some pressings include a DVD of four fantastic performances, and orders from his website include a CD of Dylan’s Theme Time satellite radio show with his hilarious commentary on baseball-themed tunes.

Jet

Jet

By Jon M. Gilbertson There was no denying that Jet’s 2003 debut, Get Born, was energetic. That distinguished both the Aussie band and their songs from Oasis, with whom they have otherwise shared numerous characteristics: brotherly consanguinity (the Cesters vs. the Gallaghers), a producer (Dave Sardy) and a fetish for wearing yesterday’s fashions as though they were today’s. Not a lot has changed on Jet’s follow-up, Shine On, but it is a stronger album because of how every little evolution accumulates over the course of its 15 tracks. The most noticeable improvement lies in the band’s ability to vary tempos. Get Born’s best songs were its faster ones, period, and never mind that the clumsy “Sexy Sadie” rewrite “Look What You’ve Done” was a hit. Now, whether tearing through the mid-tempo AC/DC-derived “Stand Up,” gently developing a Pink Floyd tangent via the title track, or throwing noise all over the garage in “Rip It Up,” Jet sounds just that significant bit less reverent of their sources. As frontman and lead singer Nic Cester spearheads the turn toward determined looseness, both his shredded-speaker scream and his Abbey Road-era croon have gained something akin to personality. Mostly, though, Jet and Sardy don’t tamper with what worked before: Chris Cester’s Ringo-solid drums, Mark Wilson’s power-trio bass (which sounds heavy in the quartet setting) and Nic Cester and Cam Muncey’s too-perfect guitar interplay. Yes, what worked before for Jet was actually what worked 35 years before Get Born got born. It still works, and probably shall as long as cheeky bastards like this have the energy and arrogance of youth.

Needles and Pins

Needles and Pins

By Evan Solochek The ballroom of Turner Hall is filled to capacity. Patrons can barely squeeze past one another to reach the next vendor’s table. The temperature outside is in the low teens, lower with wind-chill, a shockingly cold day even for mid-November 2005. It is the sort of bone-shattering weather that keeps people bundled up at home, unwilling to bear the elements for any reason. And yet, the ballroom of Turner Hall is filled to capacity – a testament to the resolve of people or, more specifically, to the people’s love of crafts. Art vs. Craft is one of Milwaukee’s premiere craft fairs, featuring over 100 artists from Milwaukee and beyond. Inspired by such fairs as I Heart Rummage in Seattle, Bazaar Bizarre in Boston and Chicago’s D.I.Y. Trunk Show, Milwaukee is riding the national independent design wave. All across America, as price-slashing megastores choke off the locally owned and operated businesses, an underground collective of artisans is taking a stand. With knitting needles and fabric swatches clenched in their fists, these crafters are refusing to succumb to the sterility of Big Retail and are, instead, embracing a world of consumer goods where each individual item is made with personal affection. “I think that the popularity of handmade hip goods has created an alternative to mass marketed goods and that has encouraged many creative types to get involved locally and nationally,” says Faythe Levine, founder and co-coordinator of Art vs. Craft, co-owner of Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery in Bay View and sole proprietor of Flying Fish Designs. “Art vs. Craft provides Milwaukee with a chance to view many different kinds of work. It also creates an exciting space for networking and sales, which in turn stimulates the arts community in a positive, fun way.”     One-of-a-kind fun Fun is a key component of the scene. The personal touch of the designer makes each item unique, and that is precisely what drives most craft shoppers. Silk-screened and stenciled clothing, embroidered bags, reconstituted vintage wares and kitschy knickknacks when you buy from an independent designer you are not getting a mass-produced product. Having an item no one else owns fosters a truer, more individualized sense of ownership that also appeals to many. “Younger people are really concerned that their individuality will be swallowed up by mass consumerism,” says Amy Schoenecker, who sells reconstructed vintage clothing through her label Softly, Fiercely. “As a designer, I emphasize with that fear, and make pieces that are one-of-a-kind in order to revolt against the notion of a herd of sheep or mere followers.” The idea that these creations are functional works of art also allows the consumer to take pride in what he or she chooses to buy and wear, a rare thing today. There is something to be said for buying a one-of-a-kind piece you know was labored over with love, as opposed to pulling your size off the rack. At that point, what one buys becomes much more than just an […]

Of guns, gays and gas.

Of guns, gays and gas.

By Lefty McTighe In case you haven’t been paying attention, fellow Wisconsinites, your GOP-controlled State Legislature has been hard at work for you this past December, tackling the pivotal issues that truly matter most. In a political trifecta that pushes all sorts of emotional buttons, the Republican leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly will have closed out the 2005 calendar year with votes to allow citizens to carry concealed handguns, place a constitutional ban of gay marriage on the November 2006 ballot and end the automatic increase of the state gasoline tax. If you thought health care, education and job creation were important, well, you are clearly out of step with your lawmakers. You simply don’t share the values and priorities of those you have sent to Madison. Each of these GOP-sponsored initiatives tug at the heartstrings of the conservative base, mixing Republican catchphrases like ‘tax cuts,’ ‘gun rights,’ and ‘family values’ into one delectable brew served up to the narrow interests of the rabidly right wing. For the rest of us hoping to find a better job, a better school for our kids, or maybe even expanded health care coverage for our family, we will have to wait our turn until the important business of the state gets done first. But that’s not even the most troubling part of the story. For those of us rightfully outraged by the backward priorities of the Republican legislature, there is another group of folks who should be even more irate: those conservatives who genuinely care about concealed handguns, gay marriage and the gas tax. Because in truth, these bills fail to adequately solve the problems they claim to fix. These proposals have been shepherded through the Legislature by political flim-flam artists in the Republican leadership who have put their personal electoral success above sound public policy. Not only are they abdicating their responsibility to address real issues that matter to most voters – like health care, education and jobs – they have gleefully played on the worst fears of their conservative base, playing them for suckers and hoping to whip them into a panicked frenzy and send them flocking to the polls. Who benefits from this ploy? The GOP members of the Legislature and the Republican Party of Wisconsin in this November’s elections. GUNSThe new legislature-approved bill would allow those 21-years and older to carry a concealed gun once they pass a state sanctioned training program. For those who worried that there were not enough guns on the street, hand-wring no more – now it’s legal to walk around the neighborhood strapped. Of course, there are limits. Lots of them. According to the December 7 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, these are the places where concealed guns would be prohibited: child care centers, domestic violence shelters, churches, hospitals and clinics, schools, college campuse, police stations, prisons, jails, courthouses, most sporting events, airports, taverns and restaurants where alcohol accounts for more than half of sales. Additionally, public facilities and private […]

Revealing light

Revealing light

By Evan Solochek Bruce Nauman has spent his life and career bending artistic conventions, one of the few living artists successful at avoiding labels. And regardless of how one feels about the work itself, he is inarguably viewed as one of the most innovative living artists of our time. Recently, Nauman made the top 10 of the London Financial Times� �Top 100 Art World Movers and Shakers.� Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1941, Bruce Nauman�s family followed his father�s job as an engineer for General Electric around the country. They landed in Milwaukee while Nauman was still a boy. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he began honing his renaissance approach to life and art, studying mathematics and philosophy, music and physics. Eventually, Nauman�s interests began to focus on what would bring him fame in later life, and in 1964 he graduated with a Bachelor�s Degree in Art. The following year, Nauman began work on his Master�s Degree at the University of California-Davis, where success found him quickly. In 1965, at the age of 24, he headlined his own gallery show and published his first art book, Pictures of Sculpture in a Room. Nauman originally studied painting, but felt limited in the medium�s ability to adequately subvert what he saw as artistic preconceptions and order, and quickly abandoned it. Entranced by the old neon beer signs he saw from the window of his first studio in San Francisco (a former grocery store), Nauman turned his attention to the light itself, using its stark but fluid form and motion to play with language, imagery and iconic symbols. And while he has successfully explored a wide variety of mediums from sculpture to video, it is his work with neon that has garnered the most widespread attention. With works like My Name As Though It Were Written on the Surface of the Moon (1968), in which he tackles the relationship between name and identity, and One Hundred Live and Die (1984), which bombards the viewer with the banalities of life and forces reevaluation, Nauman sits at the top of the art world. And while each piece has its own identity and message, an overreaching theme does exist. �Nauman makes artwork that doesn�t look like art,� says Joseph Ketner II, Chief Curator of the Milwaukee Art Museum. �He wants to make it in a non-traditional medium, and so he employs a commercial medium, neon signs.� While rebellion and non-traditional art is nothing new, one facet of Nauman�s work transcends conventional subversion. He doesn�t �make� any of it. Nauman designs his pieces on paper, then hands the plans over to a neon fabricator to construct. �It parodies this whole romantic notion of the artist hand being the supreme expression of humanity,� Ketner says. �This whole exhibit will contain no objects touched by Bruce Nauman.� This inevitably raises questions about basic artistic tenets. Can a man who never physically touches his own art be considered an artist? What�s more important, the vision or the […]

Babyshambles

Babyshambles

By Paul Snyder Stateside knowledge of Pete Doherty is little more than �that walking hypodermic needle that got Kate Moss hooked on cocaine.� In England, he�s revered as a romantic, tragic figure: always arrested for possession, always missing gigs, always getting his ass kicked, and always writing great songs along the way. He was part of The Libertines, though his own demons got him ousted before they�d made their U.S. debut. But while the other three limped to their finish, Doherty formed Babyshambles and released a couple of punchy singles intent on outdoing his old mates and re-instilling faith in his pale, skeletal frame. Down in Albion was intended to be the pièce de résistance. It�s a piece, all right � 16 scatterbrain tracks that scream �addict!� far more often than �genius!� The lyrics so frequently recycle the themes of fading belief, depression and pleas to be left alone that they caricaturize themselves before the record�s finished. �I can�t tell between death and glory.� Er� right. Clever. The thing is, with some proper guidance and editing, this could have been a sucker punch. It�s hard to deny the great spark in �The 32nd of December� and �Loyalty Song,� but they�re in such droll company that no fire is ever allowed to catch. So download those two, plus the single of �Killamangiro� and their sprightly contribution to the Help! benefit album, �From Bollywood to Battersea.� But don�t shell out for this mess; if you do, you already know how Pete�s going to spend the money.  VS

Cat Power

Cat Power

By Erin Wolf Cat Power�s Chan Marshall has become something of a gothic folk legend, like the music she�s created over the past decade. Part indie rocker, part folk storyteller, part mystery, with complements of dark and brooding lyrics and extreme stage fright and self-doubt, Marshall rises above all her clouds with The Greatest. Going back to her Georgian roots, she employs her cultural background as the main emphasis on The Greatest, leaving the foundation of previous albums. Sonically, she re-constructs and tweaks her new songs with the help of capable Memphis musicians, including Al Green�s guitarist Mabon �Teenie� Hodges, Jim Spakes on saxophone and Doug Easley for a little dose of pedal steel. The Greatest begins with the startlingly beautiful title track about a boy who wants to be a boxer; its wistful reflection sets the tone for the album. The second track, �Living Proof,� warmly swells with horns and organs, showcasing Marshall�s lovely, throaty voice, which is better suited to the role of soul singer than dejected chanteuse. The Greatest features personal songs soaked with the languidness of a Southern afternoon, favoring relaxed storytelling and at times breaking the circle with piano-crooning introspection. 2006 finds Cat Power in a more comfortable and truly natural place � it�s as though all the tension and angst from previous albums has finally run its race, and Marshall is finally at ease. The Greatest speaks volumes for her personal journey.   VS

Madonna

Madonna

By Jon M. Gilbertson When music industry observers can refer to an album that �only� went platinum as a serious failure, then it�s clear they�re talking about an artist who�s redefined the concept of success. In the last 25 years, that could only be Madonna, whose 2003 work, American Life, sold over a million copies without one Top Ten single. Hence Confessions on a Dance Floor, which revisits the clubs that first played her. Musically, it�s clearly a throwback; the tracks run together like the set of a particularly adroit DJ who knows her listeners don�t want to hear a single moment of silence to break their absorbed movement. Although �Future Lovers� touches upon the multiple harmonies of psychedelic-era Beatles, and �Hung Up� leads off the album as a genuine single, this is less a pop album to be heard than an extended mix of beats to feel as the lights flash and the drugs and alcohol do their things internally, and the sweat and sexual energy do their things externally. Lyrically, Confessions is mostly as empty as Madonna�s bank account is not, although that doesn�t prevent one or two musings, notably �Let It Will Be,� on the price of fame. Yet the combination of self-importance and everyday cliché�plus the use of the word �dork� as a rhyming lynchpin in the East Coast solipsism of �I Love New York��are in this context as beside the point as Esther, her Kabbalah name. The album is all about rhythm and motion, even if both point to the past rather than to the future, where Madonna supposedly was once leading the rest of us.  VS

The Reigning Sound

The Reigning Sound

By It�s a cold November night when Greg Cartwright and his group The Reigning Sound take the Mad Planet stage. Cartwright clears his throat and apologizes for his hoarseness. But that�s not a problem, he sounds somewhere between Bobby �Blue� Bland and Paul Westerberg. In that perfect parallel universe, Cartwright�s songs are hits and writers don�t drop obscure references. A white artist hasn�t exhibited this much soul since Charlie Rich exited the planet, and as a young man Cartwright should have plenty of years ahead. With The Oblivions and later The Compulsive Gamblers, Cartwright helped pilot Memphis projects of chaos, blues, punk and Gospel. The Reigning Sound albums took a decided turn toward melody, featuring Alex Greene�s proto-soul keyboards and slowed tempos. While still wholeheartedly a mix of garage and R&B, lyrically Cartwright wears his heart on his sleeve and backs the whole thing up with hooks that refuse to leave your head. Outtakes, different arrangements, an odds & sods compilation: call Home For Orphans what you will, but this band�s crumbs are better than most groups� top-shelf material. �Funny Thing,� as close to a perfect song as you might hear, adds uncredited pedal steel to notch the melancholy factor. Much like Roy Orbison, �What Could I Do� frames what could be a short novel or black and white movie based around the interactions of three people, and leaves the listener intensely curious about the outcome. Chicago�s Green and vintage Brian Wilson come to mind throughout the album as The Reigning Sound work from solid, tried and true song structures, guitar or Hammond organ solos that build off the tune�s melody, and la-la-la vocal choruses. Nothing you haven�t heard before, but rare to hear it done so well in this day and age. And just when you fear it�s getting a bit introspective, the album�s finale is a live blast through �Don�t Send Me No Flowers I Ain�t Dead Yet.� Maxwell�s is a blurred snapshot. Recorded on a weeknight at the legendary New Jersey club, The Reigning Sound blast through a set that includes covers of Sam Cooke and Sam & Dave as well as a blitz through �Stormy Weather.� Not entirely breakneck, but when Cartwright asks the audience to bear with his guitar playing, �I�m down to three strings,� you know these guys will stop at nothing to get the music across.  VS

John Cale

John Cale

By Eric Lewin Postmodern music sure is ironic. �Progressive� bands such as Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Warlocks and the rest of the MySpace-endorsed shoegazers generally make their way by rethreading Velvet Underground�s effects and hypnotic hum, some pulling it off more ably than others. Even more ironic is that John Cale, Velvets� second-in-command behind Lou Reed, refuses to overtly borrow from his old band. Black Acetate has its influences, to be sure, but none of them hung out with Andy Warhol. Acetate plays like a Frank Zappa record in that it relies heavily on eerie effects, creepy voices and funked-out Mothers of Invention-style bass lines. A well-lit room is recommended during the spooky �Brotherman;� when Cale groans that he writes �reams of this shit every day� in a Leonard Cohen grunt, it�s downright terrifying. For better or worse, Acetate doesn�t dwell in the horrific for too long. Hell, it doesn�t dwell anywhere for too long. Cuts like �Gravel Drive� and �Satisfied� are undeniably beautiful, not to mention flavorful, when positioned next to rockers �Sold-Motel� and �Perfect,� which border on danceable. Trying to outrun a monster legacy like Velvet Underground at all costs is an impossible task that Cale doesn�t attempt. While Acetate contains minimal elements of White Light/White Heat, it comes filtered through Velvet-inspired records such as Love and Rockets� Earth Sun Moon. A musician being influenced by musicians that he himself influenced? All this post-modernity is confusing, but it sure is fun.  VS

Slow Man

Slow Man

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Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain

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The Matador

The Matador

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Inner Space

Inner Space

By Eric Francis Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) Is there a room in your house suitable as a movie theater? I think there is, even if it’s a modest digital theater. This is the year of the Aquarius Odeon, to which the whole neighborhood can be invited regularly. It’s the spirit that counts more than anything, and the quality of what you present – make it weird, intellectual, retro and neo all at once. Given that your whole life has taken on this cinematic quality, Hollywood is the perfect decorating theme. This will help keep the dramas where they belong, on the screen rather than acted out in real life – unless you’ve been planning to audition for something, which I do recommend. Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) Weird has been your middle name for a couple of years now, and you love it. You have the license to invent whatever you want and call it beautiful; if Andy Warhol got away with it, so can you. The essence is experimentation, fast changes and keeping what works. Going international would spark your imagination, and for some reason, African comes to mind. Dark colors, reds and browns – or pure white, not the usual blues and purples you’ve always loved so much. Keep it deep, and remember that all wealth comes from the Earth. Aries (March 20-April 19) You’re not the type to collect stuff, or even be particularly interested in it; but suddenly the material world means a lot more to you: material as in the textures of fabrics and colors of cloth that come to life in your fingers. This developing inner sensitivity seems to have become a passion, as if you’re seeing dark reds and browns for the first time in your life. Or like you never noticed the luxury of mahogany. Or food that you cook at home all afternoon. Will you ever go back to glass and chrome? Or Chinese take away? Let’s not ask. Taurus (April 19-May 20) Most of your renovation and redecoration is going to be psychological, so we might ask what constitutes the design equivalent of therapy. The answer starts with art, which needs to reflect the inner landscapes that have become so familiar recently. Choose pieces that represent who you are becoming, and images that depict feelings or settings you would like to make real. You’ve worked out your stuff’ enough to be feeling an unusual degree of dedication, passion and spiritual fire rising up. Keep it in sight, and look at it often. Gemini (May 20-June 21) For Gemini, the emphasis this year is on water, and a little goes a long way. You don’t want too much; it’s possible to use water for inspiration, or to drown emotionally. Balance is key. An aquarium would make a great addition to your home (invest in the best lighting you can get, so the plants will thrive), which will remind you of what the world of feelings is really about. At the same time, […]

Amy X Neuburg

Amy X Neuburg

By Paul Snyder The audience at the Milwaukee Art Museum on January 7 will probably have no idea what to expect of Amy X Neuburg�s performance. That�s okay. She doesn�t either. �I�m very nervous,� she says. �But I thrive on that.� That evening, �The Metaphor,� a piece written by Neuburg for chamber ensemble, voice and live looping electronics, and commissioned and performed by Present Music, will have its national debut. The technology and looping, of course, pose no fears in the author. After all, she�s made a name for herself in the electronic music genre (though she prefers to call her stylings �avant-cabaret� ).  Her solo live performances feature Neuburg and a stack of computers, building voice layer upon voice layer to create fully dimensional songs. The challenge with �The Metaphor� is going to be implementing this solo predilection for looping into an ensemble act. Now on top of countless loops of Neuburg, there will be countless loops of each individual player in the ensemble as well. Daunting as it sounds, she�s up for it. �It�s something new for me,� she says. �And I like that. I always want to challenge myself, and the ensemble asked me to compose this piece for them. There�s going to be a lot of high-tech sounds in addition to solo live-looping, but the thing with this is to get everyone looped simultaneously. When you can achieve that, six players end up sounding completely different. It�s immense.� It also demands a lot of precision. Neuburg says that she likes to let people know what�s going on in her shows, so she constructs her songs piece by piece on stage, which requires starting and stopping loops at exact moments, lest the entire song fall apart on the spot. This aspect is again made a bit more challenging by the addition of an ensemble, but Neuburg thanks her musical background for helping her work through it. �I notate everything,� she says. �Which is difficult sometimes, because I majored in voice, not composition, but you have to be so precise for the benefit of the other musicians. It�s not just a matter of starting a loop and stopping it � I write out exactly what I�m going to be doing.� A classically trained singer with a near four-octave vocal range, Neuburg received undergraduate degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (voice) and Oberlin College (linguistics), and an M.F.A. in Electronic Music from Mills College CCM. She started her professional music career as a member of the musical-theater group MAP, and then moved on to drumming for Amy X Neuburg & Men. Her last solo release, 2004�s Residue (Other Minds), received positive critical response.  While Neuburg will incorporate some of her solo material into the show on the 7th, she says her new kick is working as a collaborator again, composing for ensembles. In addition to the Milwaukee performance, Neuburg also ventured to New York in December for a performance with three cellists. In March, she�ll take the spotlight at the San […]

Is this a dream?

Is this a dream?

By Nathan Norfolk Restaurateurs know there is money to be made at the bar, especially when it comes to wine. If you�ve ever noticed that the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon you buy for fifteen dollars at the store goes for forty five dollars on a restaurant�s wine list, this is already clear to you. Do you get angry and storm off, left to curb your hunger by your own devices? No, you just don�t buy wine there. Maybe you think to yourself that everything about this dining experience is an elaborately designed scam. In truth, the majority of restaurants mark up wine about three times cost. But there is hope for wine lovers who want to imbibe while dining out. For the last few years, a trend has been growing on the coasts for restaurants to restructure their wine programs towards retail pricing, meaning that a bottle of wine in a restaurant costs roughly what you would pay for it in the store. But you don�t have to fly to L.A. to catch this wave. Dream Dance restaurant at Potawatomi Bingo Casino quietly began employing this retail pricing method to their wine list of over 300 selections more than a year ago. From the modest Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc at $12 to the hedonistic 1999 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon for $115, the wine list is filled with great buys. General Manager Christian Damiano notes their pricing policy has been �highly successful.� He was also happy to say that even bottles in the $1,000 range are subject to the same markup. At Dream Dance, Krug Grand Cuvee non-vintage Champagne costs $125 a bottle. That doesn�t sound like much of a deal, but the same champagne costs $220 at another restaurant in the city. What inspired the change? Damiano says, �People are just so much more wine savvy than they ever have been. Guests are going out to California, they�re visiting vineyards. They know what they are paying for when they buy directly from the vineyard. They know what they are paying when they buy from retailers.� He also points out that restaurants in Manhattan have been doing this for years with notable success. If it works in New York, shouldn�t it work in Milwaukee? Incrementally, the best savings come from some of the lower and mid-priced wines. Keegan Russian River Valley Pinot Noir sells for $30 at Dream Dance, which is slightly above the retail price of $25 but nowhere near the $54 which another restaurant was charging. Bartender Seth Bauer says guests of the restaurant �are excited before they even order a bottle, as opposed to just settling for something because the price in restaurants is normally too high. Now they can get into a bottle that they have always wanted to try and it�s at a price that they are more than happy paying.� Dream Dance delivers when it comes to unique wine. This is where they really deserve credit. Of course they have the Californian staples and some […]

Lefty  McTighe

Lefty McTighe

Six Milwaukeeans’ Best (And Worst) Holiday Memories

Six Milwaukeeans’ Best (And Worst) Holiday Memories

By Evan Solochek Tom Barrett (Mayor of Milwaukee) When I was 12, I served as an altar boy on Christmas morning. My mother woke me at 4:30a.m. for 5:30a.m. mass. We met my best friend and his mother and drove to St. Sebastian. I remembered being amazed at how many people would actually get up at that time in the morning to go to mass. It was a beautiful and meaningful service. When it was over, my mother and I set out for home, my anticipation of opening my presents growing to near-urgency as we approached our house. As I raced to the door ahead of my mom, she stopped me and gave me the heartbreaking news. My younger sister still believed in Santa Claus and, to preserve her imagination, I would have to wait until she awoke to see the presents under the tree. Of course, all Christmas stories should have a happy ending and this one does too. When I finally was able to look at the presents, I saw a brand new toboggan. There was fresh snow from the day before and I spent hours with my brother and sisters riding in Washington Park. Mark Borchardt (filmmaker, American Movie star) Last Christmas the cat got stuck up in the tree. Family and friends, including my kids and Ken Keen, were gathered at the house for the yearly celebration, but this unforeseen event became the main narrative of the day. What started out as a pedestrian incident turned into a tense, day-long ordeal. A variety of initial rescue attempts proved futile as the cat only moved further up the tree. Finally, the fire department was called, but they had abolished the service and their basic philosophy was that the cat got itself up there and the cat can get itself down. So much for that. It grew colder and night was closing in. The cat would surely meet a bitter fate if a rescue was not accomplished. Though my youngest daughter Dara’s heart grew increasingly concerned, it could not be broken. I climbed up on the motor home underneath the tree and vigorously shook the main branch that the cat had sunk its claws into. Terrified, it clung for dear life, so I shook the branch even more violently. The cat determinedly stayed on it for a while but then its grip started loosening, its stamina weakening. Excited voices rose as I shook the limb even more intensely. Suddenly, the cat’s back legs gave way and swung out in the air, a ballet of madness. Gasps from the ground erupted as the front legs finally gave way and the body took a free-fall through the dead branches of the tree. The plummeting cat almost missed the blanket but caught enough to break its fall. It bounded off and raced around the house. Dara reappeared with the cat in her loving arms and Ken concluded that the rescue required some kind of a fermented beverage. Keith Tozer (Milwaukee Wave […]

Why Unity Matters

Why Unity Matters

By Phillip Walzak In a letter to the editor printed in the last issue of Vital Source (November 2005, Vol. 4, Issue 10, pg. 6) a left-leaning and clearly impassioned reader excoriated me for a mistake I made in a previous column. In the piece entitled “Political Math 101” (August 2005) I wrongly attributed to Al Gore the infamous “I invented the Internet” line – a line he never actually said. It was clearly an error, and I fully acknowledge it and apologize. But the reader’s letter revealed far more than a sloppy mistake on my part. It unmasked an ugly trend that has seeped into lefty politics since the departure of Bill Clinton, and threatens progressivism’s chance for electoral success in the future. The Letter. “If the author would have checked his own facts,” the reader penned, “he would have found that what Mr. Gore actually said was that he ‘funded’ the Internet.” Actually, It appears we both got it wrong: then-Vice President Al Gore really said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer in March 1999: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Certainly not as bold as claiming Gore himself invented the Internet in a computer lab, but also more forceful than simply asserting he appropriated funding in some spending bill. No matter, the semantics are petty and pointless – but I admit that I enjoyed the irony for being taken to task over incorrect information by someone who himself got it wrong. I don’t mind being shown up – if I get something wrong, call me out. I can take it. To the point, it was the angry, negative, visceral tone of the letter that caught my attention. The enraged reader wrote he “was appalled to find the author regurgitating the same right-wing-fueled misquote of Al Gore” and slammed me for being “too damn lazy to do his own research.” After recovering from the body blows, I checked my wallet to be sure I wasn’t a card-carrying member of the RNC. The Politics of Disunity.It’s too bad the reader was so quick to dismiss my points, because my article basically blasted the Bush Administration for having no credibility when it originally sought office on a platform of being credible. I used the Al Gore line to demonstrate Bush’s line of attack, and to highlight the Administration’s hypocrisy in the wake of the Valerie Plame leak. The reader would probably agree with that. But instead of talking about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby and how the Bushies have played politics with our national security, the end result is that two progressives have now expended time and energy discussing a six-year-old quote from a now irrelevant politician who hasn’t held elective office in half a decade. In political jargon, we’re off-message, and this gaffe – not my misquote, but rather the reader’s obsession with it – epitomizes the penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to politics that our reader and so many other […]

Erin Wolf’s Road Trip Rules

Erin Wolf’s Road Trip Rules

By Erin Wolf When reality television asks, “Wanna be a rock star?” and slaps the title of ‘American Idol’ on your Hi My Name Is: tag, they fail to disclose miniscule bits of information otherwise known as reality. A musician is not pulled into each show by golden horses and whisked away into a crowd of adoring, salivating fans. Pop the bubble now. Fledgling bands, you will find love in music, but it will be tough. And it starts by nestling in the incapable arms of the Road Trip. Elusive until you finally get enough gear and a decent mode of transportation, the Road Trip will hold many surprises. Here is a short, personal account of my own road trip lessons. Rules of the Road: A Rough Guide to Making It Through the Tour 1. The vehicle. Is it road-ready? Make sure the band-mobile is fueled up, and the tires have enough air. Coolant is also nice on those extra-hot Midwestern days. If you forget the coolant originally, be prepared to wait for it to work by blasting the heater on a 110-degree highway. 2. The route. MapQuest maps are not all they’re cracked up to be– learn this now. 3. Bring a pillow. Otherwise you’ll end up sleeping with your face on top of something during your van-ride nap that will leave interesting lines for hours. “What happened to your face?” is not a great way to open a conversation. 4. Eat right. Avoid anything at the gas station that involves jalapenos, fake or rotating meat or any edible that is free. These items contain smells that will linger in the non-circulatory air of the van for-EV-er. 5. Park strategically. Try to secure a parking spot within a few feet of the actual venue. If there’s nowhere to park, and you’re forced to park blocks away, you’ll be glad your amps and cabinets have wheels. If you’re assigned a Fender Rhodes piano, though, you are gonna be shit-out-of-luck. Did you eat your Wheaties? 6. Turn up the lights. Always make sure to get good lighting onstage (especially if over half your band is vision-impaired). Kicking the lights all the way up also helps if you have stage fright – you won’t be able to see the audience. Forget the ‘picturing people in their underwear’ deal. Not seeing them at all is way better. 7. Free beer is a trap. Although the tap beer is free, avoid it like the plague, unless spending the wee hours of the morning curled up, pm the bathroom floor in the fetal position is an acceptable trade-off. 8. Know where you’re sleeping. Line up a house to stay at after the show. Otherwise, you’ll end up sleeping in the van or in a motel reminiscent of a 1950s bomb shelter, complete with metal walls covered in vinyl and smells suggestive of the inside of a wet sock that a cheap cigar was snuffed into. 9. Pack lots of clean t-shirts. But if you forget […]

Simple Joys

Simple Joys

By Evan Solochek As autumn quietly fades into winter and morning frost starts to take hold, Milwaukee holiday cheer abounds. Lights illuminate Wisconsin Avenue, snow blankets Lake Park in peaceful starkness. And if you can push past the madness of shopping, working late to “get ahead” before your never-long-enough holiday weekend and the chaos of too many over-planned days, there’s real joy to be found in the season. Milwaukee has its share of mall Santas and giant holiday shopping expos, but we’re also steeped in some wonderful traditions that reflect the finer character of our city and its residents. Any holiday excursion in Milwaukee simply must begin with the official Holiday Lights Festival. This impressive exhibit includes roof and street level lights, along with animated displays at Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square. Downtown ablaze with holiday lights is truly a stunning kickoff to the holiday season. Almost nothing is more perfectly symbolic of the best winter has to offer, more the incarnation of a Norman Rockwell painting, than ice skating outdoors. While Red Arrow Park, located on busy Water Street downtown, may not be a frozen pond in the backyard of a whitewashed farm house, it still offers – at no charge if you have your own skates – one of winter’s most beloved pastimes. Conveniently, the Slice of Ice sits in front of, and shares space with, Starbucks, so bring a few bucks and pop for some cocoa for the kiddies or that special someone. Afterwards, venture over to the Milwaukee County Zoo and explore its Winter Wonderland. Stroll among the tranquil, snow-capped trees with the animals, enjoy live music, make holiday crafts and even take a hayride “From Africa to Antarctica.” Back in civilization, the (not very) subtle hum of a hundred thousand Christmas lights is your call to Candy Cane Lane. Located on Milwaukee’s Southwest side, this energy-consumption extravaganza has to be experienced to be believed. Lines of cars and people stretch for blocks for the chance to gaze upon the most elaborately adorned houses in the city as volunteers pass out candy and accept donations for the MACC fund. Not to be outdone, the Historic Third Ward offers its own holiday celebration December 2 and 3. Bathed in the majesty of Milwaukee’s most storied neighborhood, there will be a tree lighting, fireworks and the de rigueur appearance by Ol’ Saint Nick himself. After all is said and done, any one of the elegant Third Ward restaurants is the perfect place to warm up with a late dinner and a drink. Ever wonder how the holidays looked at the end of the 19th century?  For a trip to Yuletide days of yore, travel to the Pabst Mansion where its nationally recognized annual Christmas display returns with “Christmas Memories of the Past.”  Every room is decorated with exquisite holiday antiques, most notably Elsbeth’s room, the site of “Dear Santa, Please Bring Me: 100 years of Children’s Toys 1870-1970.”  From paper dolls to board […]

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

By Paul Snyder Aristawww.brianwilson.com The Christmas market is tricky. All the holiday CDs end up in the red cardboard bin at the front of Sam Goody. And, to be fair, Brian Wilson has had his chance. The Beach Boys’ 1964 Christmas LP did spin off the charming “Little Saint Nick,” which, on last count, had surpassed “Up on the Rooftop” in Christmas party popularity and was closing in fast on “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Only appropriate that it would be revisited here, along with “The Man With All the Toys.” Maybe it’s my distaste for Mike Love that finds something gained in the retreads. Wilson’s backed by the same group that reconstructed SMiLE, which works to his advantage, not only in providing the panoramic sound he’s always loved, but, in adding sympathetic accompaniment to a voice that’s a long way gone from 1966. There’s nothing special about Wilson’s takes on standards like “The First Noel,” and his swing at “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” verges on clumsy. There is, however, an impressive surf-rock take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” featuring plenty of Fenders and a great little organ solo. Of the two new songs, the Bernie Taupin co-authored title track and “Christmasey” (with lyrics by Jimmy Webb) are pleasant enough and certainly less offensive than a certain Wham! holiday original. What I Really Want For Christmas isn’t necessary, but neither is eggnog. At the right time of year and when ingested in tolerable amounts, however, both do no harm. You know Wilson’s not in this for the financial spoils, so it adds a genuine touch where a lot of other Christmas albums falter. After all, even “God Only Knows” had sleigh bells on it.  VS

The Dials

The Dials

By Erin Wolf Latest Flame Recordswww.thedials.us Chicago’s The Dials debut album Flex Time is an exciting encounter in the already well-behaved genre of dance-band pop/rock. Snarling like the throttled vocals of Sleater-Kinney and equaling their growly, growly guitars, yet jumping off of dance-y influences such as early Joy Division and Franz Ferdinand and pure poppers such as the Go-Go’s , B52’s, and The Waitresses, The Dials are a motley crew of influences, indeed. With claims to the Chicago music scene, probably better known for its harder-edged sounds, The Dials’ music is a surprising shade of bubblegum laced with pop rocks. Patti Gran’s guitar crunches up chords, Rebecca Crawford’s bass devours the capable drum lines set by the late Douglas Meis, while Emily Dennison’s Farfisa combo organ nibbles at the main rhythms by creating intertwining surf-rock beeps. The whole effect is like listening to The Waitresses who have had too much coffee on the job – wiry and invigorating, and definitely in your face. The lyrics are fun and pop-punchy in the same vein as The Ramones. In “Bye Bye Bye Bye Baby,” Crawford taunts, “You’ll be sitting pretty in your new shitty city with your new girlfriend / I can’t wait until it ends.” Crawford, Gran and Dennison trade vocal shrieks and sneers with the grace of well-executed high-school hallway insult swap. Flex Time is full of dynamic energy, the quartet slamming out notes and chords so fast, they threaten to self-combust. It’s dance music at its best for it has enough raw energy to not be coma-inducing, nor does it put on any airs – The Dials have a lighthearted yet raw and energizing sound, censored of any false pretences.  VS

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane

By Blaine Schultz Blue Notewww.bluenote.com About a half-century ago, giants walked among us. They wrote and played music for extended low-key club dates, performing special concerts and releasing records periodically. Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane were two of these giants, and this recently discovered November 29, 1957 recording from the Library of Congress vaults is a vital contribution to their respective legacies. In the summer of ‘57, Coltrane joined Monk’s group at an NYC club called the Five Spot. The Carnegie Hall recording presents the group in more genteel surroundings. Regardless of venue, these musicians are at the height of their powers, Monk certainly the more established and Coltrane ready to open doors previously unseen. If Monk’s piano playing is less spiky and angular than typical (if there is such a thing as “typical Monk”), he certainly gets into the loose sparring with Coltrane’s sax. Opening with “Monk’s Mood” from the early show, the soloists riff and dance around and through each other’s phrases. By the second tune, “Evidence,” a slipstream opens up and Coltrane blows at will. This is the early stage of his technique of playing the notes of a chord in succession—later to be called “sheets of sound”—still within the tune’s melody. But with the benefit of hindsight, it seems he’s testing the boundaries for his later masterworks. Ahmed Abdul-Malik ‘s bass provides a sinewy walking line that is both strong and resilient enough to support and propel the tune.  At several points, Monk and Coltrane play unison lines to state a tune’s theme. The effect is a thickness and depth that sounds like more than a piano and saxophone, with the keyboard sounding concise and the sax just on the verge of over-blowing. Credit also Shadow Wilson’s drumming and cymbal work, which seem to have been brought into focus with the digital mastering. The closing tune, a partial take of “Epistrophy,” can be heard as Monk’s statement of purpose. On this night there is a feeling of openness and genuine collaboration. Monk is ultimately unique and not always the easiest player to get a grip on. But this evening he, Coltrane, and the others sound unguarded in their enjoyment.  VS

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

By Kevin Krekling Surfdogwww.briansetzer.com It’s that time of the year again. A time for shoveling snow, mistletoe hookups, eggnog hangovers and Brian Setzer Christmas albums. The former Stray Cat is back again with his second holiday record in three years. And, what you get here with Dig That Crazy Christmas is pretty much the same as what you got with 2002’s Boogie Woogie Christmas. But we’re talking about a guy who has changed virtually nothing about his style since the early ‘80s, so what do you expect? The album is simply Setzer reworking old Christmas classics in his familiar uptempo, horn-driven, rockabilly style. But given the fact that the two newly penned originals are easily forgotten duds, and that Setzer’s voice sounds pretty rough, the album is actually quite fun. Does it stack up to A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector? No. But, at the same time, it’s not ‘NSYNC Home For Christmas, and that is something we can all be thankful for. So, if you’re looking for something festive, fun and tolerable to throw on this holiday season, this may be right up your alley.  VS

The Darkness

The Darkness

By Erin Wolf Atlantic www.thedarknessrock.com When The Darkness crash-landed on the stagnant rock scene two years ago, it startled hordes of music fans into stupefied wonder, creating either strong affinity or distaste. Cheeky hair metal can produce nothing but strong feelings. For those hordes still recovering from the initial shock of their first release, Permission to Land, The Darkness bring it on back with their latest, One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back. Somewhere, Freddie Mercury is listening intently to his emulating, three-octaved vox counterpart, Justin Hawkins. Hawkins, sibling Dan, Ed Graham, and Frankie Poullain have become Britain’s most-loved (and hated) rock band for sheer bombast, guitar solos straight from the ‘80s and stage personas amplified by J. Hawkins’ elaborate cat-suit costumes. The Darkness again come clawing through the paper bag that has confined rock music for nearly a decade. One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back slams another dose of tongue-in-cheek, elaborately sung and lovingly frosted heaven down our throats. Take the medicine with a spoonful of sugar or leave it. More solos, more vocal trills, more arena-rock bliss, more flippant than ever, The Darkness’ latest is just more. Confident to the point of annoyance, The Darkness rip through tales of rock-star woe, complete with cocaine sniffing. More orchestrally polished, thanks to producer Roy Thomas Baker (who also has worked with Queen and The Who), the band experiments with piano sounds, bagpipes, sitar, Moog and enough pan flute intro to satisfy Jethro Tull. From Bryan Adams-esque ballads to the fist-pumping title-track, One Way Ticket sounds more pulled together, more ballsy, and more competent: they don’t take themselves seriously, yet they can seriously play their instruments. The Darkness return with a triumphant scissor-kick in the air.  VS

The Truth (With Jokes)

The Truth (With Jokes)

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Ouisconsin: The Dead in Our Clouds
Ouisconsin

The Dead in Our Clouds

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TransAmerica

TransAmerica

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Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

By Paul Snyder Studs Terkel can talk. This is unsurprising to those familiar with the Chicago legend’s broadcast career. Terkel’s voice could be heard on radio waves in the City of Big Shoulders as far back as the 1930s, when he would provide dialogue for soap operas and announce news and sporting events to the city. One of the most eclectic and enjoyable disc jockeys on the air, his award-winning Studs Terkel Program aired until 1997. There was also a short-lived TV show in the 1950s, called Studs’ Place. But his wider audience may know him mostly for his books. Required reading in assorted classrooms throughout the United States, Terkel’s print work expanded his audience from one city to the entire nation, and established him as a preeminent voice in the American oral history genre. Titles like Working, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression and The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream exposed readers to stories of the common man and told about our country’s history from the eyes and mouths of those who lived it. Terkel was 44 when his first book, Giants of Jazz, was published in 1956. Now 93, he has just released And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey, to positive reviews. It’s ridiculously difficult to avoid clichés like “full circle,” but it seems more than apropos that a half-century’s worth of published work is book-ended by two volumes on one of the man’s deepest passions – music. And They All Sang chronicles Terkel’s time behind the mic hosting The Wax Museum, his radio show that debuted in 1945 and explored all genres of music. Interviews range from Edith Mason to Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin to Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie to Ravi Shankar. But those are the big names. Mention one of music’s unsung heroes, and Terkel raves like your best friend trying to turn you on to this great new album he’s just heard. Take Bill Broonzy, for instance… “Big Bill Broonzy!” he exclaims. “Oh, he was wonderful! You like him? He’s an underestimated blues singer of our time, and none of the guys ever mention him. I’m glad you did. That was his farewell song that he did on my program. He was saying goodbye to all his friends. That was a wonderful one. Boy, you’ve got good taste.” In reading Terkel’s interview with Broonzy, one can almost imagine high school teachers and college professors poring over the socially-conscious undertones of the interview for history lessons. It took place shortly before Broonzy’s death and found the artist musing on the new sensation of rock & roll and white folks essentially pilfering this old black music. Though the interview was far from containing hostile overtones (much less undertones), it is ironic to note Broonzy’s reflection on how much money and notoriety white folks were getting from playing the blues. Though considered highly influential in the music industry, even name-checked by George Harrison in his 1987 song, […]

The Gift of Wine

The Gift of Wine

By Nathan Norfolk During holiday crunch time, wine makes a perfect gift. Wine is festive and especially suited for celebrations. And it’s always great for that last minute what-do-I-get-my-boss-or-my-uncle situation. If you don’t know anything about wine, don’t be afraid to ask a wine merchant for advice. They want you to come back and buy wine at their store again so you can feel at ease in trusting their advice. Just tell them your budget and be firm about it. You can even be cheap. There are hundreds of great wines that retail for less than 20 dollars, and there are many that are simply good for less than 10 dollars. If gift wrapping strikes fear into your heart, you can easily just slip a bow on the bottle. Most retailers also carry a plethora of decorative bags  made solely for gift giving. If you’re paranoid about getting just the right wine for a gift, here are a few simple guidelines. First, get something different. The big California wine brands already get everyone’s attention. A decent merchant will steer you clear of all the normal impulse wine buys you could get at any grocery store. There are many good wines at every imaginable price point, so that avoiding the Beringers and the Kendall-Jacksons of this world should be easy. Second, if you are going to buy someone a gift, you may as well get one for yourself. This may sound self-indulgent, but when do you have a better excuse to treat yourself than the holidays? Try the wine out and see what you think. This will give you the ability to a give a gift that is that much more personal. If you don’t like the wine, don’t give it as a gift (or at least don’t give it to anyone you really like). If you do like it, share your thoughts on the wine with the recipient. No one will think you’re cheap if you just give one bottle. In the best-case scenario you can cater to someone’s wine desires, but if you don’t know what they like here are a few safe suggestions at a variety of prices. • The real deal French Champagne starts at about $30 a bottle. No other wine is quite as elegant or appropriate for the holidays. Most of them will have the word “Brut” prominently displayed on the label. This indicates that the Champagne will be bone-dry. If you seek something a bit fruitier, look for Extra-Dry or Demi-Sec styles. A great budget Champagne is the non-vintage Duval-Leroy. • For those with Champagne taste and a beer budget, there are plenty of sparkling wines in the eight-to-20 dollar category. Sparkling wine simply refers to any wine with bubbles that isn’t made in the Champagne region of France. Italian Prosecco is bit more floral and fruity than Champagne and typically about half the price. Two great producers of Prosecco are Jeio and Zardetto, both retail for less than $15. • If you think […]

Embracing the Misunderstood

Embracing the Misunderstood

By Russ Bickerstaff Performance art has evolved into a true art form. Remember when pretentious yet often ridiculous artistes would do interpretive dances with paints and foodstuffs in an effort to make political statements, whether or not their audiences even had a clue about what they were trying to say? No longer – at least at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ Vogel Hall, where the Milwaukee Performance Art Showcase will doubtless draw an appreciative crowd on November 12. It’s being touted as a fast-paced show with a wide variety of work in different genres by area performance artists. Expect poetry, theater, visual art, music – and hula hoops. Last year’s showcase drew more than 400 people, and it’s predicted that this year’s event will attract even more. One highlight: Milwaukee’s 2005 National Poetry Slam Team, organized by local performance poet Dasha Kelly. The already-heightened levels of excitement will be raised up yet another notch when these “slam poets” take the stage. For the uninitiated, “slam” poetry is a type of performance poetry known for energized, emotionally-charged performances. Slam style has a certain cadence, a certain rhythm that can be very moving in small doses. “Slam performances tend to be more intense and explosive than regular performance pieces,” Kelly says. “Performance poetry is wholly engaging because you’re watching the artists create their own balance between two crafts: writing and oratory. Once you add the competition and time restrictions of slam, then you have these artists giving the audience their absolute best.” At this year’s event, four slam poets will deliver a collaborative poem. “Essentially, synchronized swimming with words. They will likely introduce a number of audience guests to a completely new art experience,” Kelly says. Along with redefining the written and spoken word, performance art also plays with visual statements. Skewing popular notions of fashion has become part of the performance art scene over the past few years, as edgy fashion shows find unique ways to shock the runway crowds. A fashion show by MIAD student Lindsay Hayden promises one “unlike any you’ve seen before.” That should be a challenge, as this city already has seen an edible fashion show and a fashion show set in a parking structure and featuring members of a prominent local opera company. Yet Hayden’s perspective may very well be fresh enough to deliver on the promise. Performance art is all about theater in one offbeat form or another. Local filmmaker Peter Barrickman and actor Randy Russell will perform a theatrical debate featuring cameo appearances by other local notables. Russell, star of Chris Smith’s restless 1995 film American Job, should offer an intriguing counterpart to a performance of Barrickman’s often skewed themes. Combining theater with visual artistry, Renee Bebeau, co-owner of the Zodiac Lounge, will explore the celestial zodiac with local MPS art guru Jeff Cartier. Bebeau’s work will also be featured later this month at the Walker’s Point Center in a piece called “Skeletal Reflections,” as a part of their El Dia de […]

Secret Lives of the Service Industry

Secret Lives of the Service Industry

By Erin Wolf Double lives— Superman was the prime example of this once astonishing phenomenon. By day he was the affably geeky Clark Kent; by chance he was the wünder-boy with a red cape and a mission to serve the people, whether stopping trains or scooping up ladies in peril. With a secret life stashed neatly under his yellow belt, Mr. Kent may have been an anomaly back in the 1930s when he first crash-landed on the scene. Rocketing into the 21st century, however, into the mish-mosh of backgrounds that make up the labor force in the United States, untold legions of people line up to assume a Kent-like double life. By day, these contenders trot off to their white collar, blue collar, pink collar, ring-around-the-collar, or what-have-you jobs. By night, they are musicians, artists, writers, crafters, coordinators, small-business owners and cause-supporters. In the thriving arts community of Milwaukee, many of the jobs held by local double-lifers are in the service industry. The National Restaurant Association reports over 15,000 restaurants employing more than 262,000 people in Wisconsin, and much of the local arts community depends on these jobs to pay the bills and support their respective creative outlets. It’s not just about the Benjamins, though. They also enjoy the social outlet to balance the more solitary ‘artist’ experience, the connections made with customers and the incentive of ‘insta-cash’ for gear and supplies. In this month’s Vital, five Milwaukeean double-lifers share what it takes to keep a passion going while alternating creative time with hours punched in at their ‘day’ and ‘night’ jobs. Superman, eat your heart out.“It’s not always something to do to get through school. What if I were “just” a waitress? You gotta be cut out for it. People don’t realize how tough it is. You have to able to handle people, be easygoing, fast. It’s not for everyone,” says Colleen Drew of her part-time job as a server at County Clare Irish Inn and Pub. Freelance artist by trade, working on her paintings and illustrations in her personal time, Drew also works as a muralist for Artistic Finishes. She, with her partner and the founder of the operation, Laura Ashley, paints murals for private residences. “We just did a nursery that was a jungle theme with monkeys. We also did a whole room painted with old French posters.” Drew started in the service industry bussing tables at Mama Mia’s when she was fourteen years old and wanted some spending cash. “It was cool back then because I was so young and everyone else I worked with was seventeen and so cool– it didn’t seem like work,” she says. When it came time to decide on a career, Drew knew she wanted to be an artist. “When I was little, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m good at this!’ When we had to make Thanksgiving turkeys in school, I would put eyelashes and lipstick on mine, and everyone would say, ‘Oh, there’s Colleen’s.’” Her construction paper turkeys eventually became […]

The New Old South

The New Old South

By Phillip Walzak If you’ve been thinking our modern, enlightened 21st century American society is free of dubious political maneuvers that make it harder for our fellow citizens to vote, then you haven’t been to Georgia lately. Reaching back to the halcyon days of Jim Crow, the state of Georgia has approved new legislation that requires people to show only government-issued photo identification to vote at the polls. Drivers licenses are accepted, but people without them must purchase a state ID card to vote, at a cost of $20 for a five-year card or $35 for 10 years. On the surface this may seem a small cost, but even these fees create a financial burden for the poorest citizens. And though both the Republican governor of Georgia and the GOP-controlled state legislature have insisted this new policy is necessary to combat voter fraud, the New York Times stated September 12 that “the vast majority of fraud complaints in Georgia, according to its secretary of state, Cathy Cox, involve absentee ballots, which are unaffected by the new law.” Ms. Cox says she is unaware of a single documented case in recent years of fraud through impersonation at the polls. In the tumultuous days before and during the Civil Rights movement, the poll tax was a tried and true tactic of the forces in the South who were opposed to integration, equality and justice. A per-person fee was assessed on African-Americans in a base attempt to drive them from the political process. It was designed by people in power to prevent others from using their own political voice. It was remarkably effective until the Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that such barriers to participation were unconstitutional, declaring “the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened.” Not so different from our Southern neighbors.It could be tempting to dismiss the issue because it’s Georgia – a battleground in the Civil Rights movement and, up until 2001, a state that proudly boasted the Confederate stars and bars on its state flag. Yet a glance at our own Republican legislature in Madison reveals that similar proposals could very well become law here in Wisconsin, home of the Progressive tradition. Like Georgia, those here in Wisconsin without government issued IDs tend to be minorities. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on June 13 that a Department of Transportation analysis found that of “black males between ages 18 and 24, 78 percent lacked a driver’s license,” the largest percentage of any demographic in the study. Other groups in which a majority lacked a driver’s license were black males of any age (55 percent lack a license), Hispanic women of any age (59 percent), and black women, Hispanic men, and Hispanic women between ages 18 and 24 (all between 57 and 66 percent.) “By contrast, only 17 percent of white men and white women of voting age in Wisconsin lack a driver’s license.” These same demographic groups also tend to struggle the most financially. It is […]

November 2005

November 2005

By Thank You Vital Source For sponsoring that wonderful hour of music on WMSE. Jessica A. HatchAIG Life Brokerage Al Gore did not invent the Internet.I picked up a late copy of the August 2005 issue and, reading the article “Political Math 101” by Phillip Walzak, was appalled to find the author regurgitating the same right-wing-fueled misquote of Al Gore supposedly claiming that he “invented” the internet. If the author would have checked his own facts he would have found that what Mr. Gore actually said was that he “funded” the internet. And why not brag a bit about leading the charge to fund something that has changed the face of the world? It’s bad enough when the lazy-minded and devious right-wing opportunists proliferate this kind of political poison as truth to their own ends, but it is the peak of offense when a writer, obviously critical of the current administration and Bush, is too damn lazy to do his own research. The writer makes some good points in the article, but that single despicable anncoulterism discounts everything else the man tried to say. Al Gore is a great man who has made an immeasurable contribution to this country and to the world. The way he will go down in history has already been damaged enough by the right-wing political machine. Gore wasn’t perfect, but at least he did his homework. Jay Kummer Vital makes for a fascinating (and absorbent) placemat.Imagine, if you will, my complete surprise this day upon venturing into one of Mequon’s very new and very elite establishments offering food and drink to the weary. Well, not quite offering at no charge. . . . In fact their offerings are extremely high-priced for such basics as ham and eggs. As I approached the offered table, I could not help noticing the very unique placemats on every table. They were, of course, your very interesting magazine. Very novel, I must admit. While the food was just so-so to say the least, I found your magazine something fun to read while absorbing the meager breakfast I had been served. The “Editor’s Blog” had enough soft laughter in both sections to make ignoring the food a pleasant experience. Film reviews. . . . EH! Theatrical reviews, now we are getting somewhere. . . . Be they good or bad, at least they made you think about maybe taking a shot at one or two . . . hey how bad could they really be? No, please do not answer that one. Give Paul McLeary a silver star for his treatise on the forgotten war . . . same for John Hughes. Over all, you deserve at least one gold star . . . and besides it really is a very absorbent place mat. Especially for a slob like me. Good Luck on you future editions. George Madden  

Industrial Nature

Industrial Nature

By Evan Solochek Nebulous shapes and architectural insight, the seemingly mismatched marriage of organic and synthetic, thrive within the sculptures of acclaimed artist Kendall Buster. Somewhere between abstract abodes and biological remnants, her large-scale creations entice both the eye and the body, and offer the viewer the rare opportunity to truly experience art. These mammoth orbs of steel and South African shade cloth are reminiscent of a cored pear or a beehive with a slice removed. These missing cross-sections are an essential component of one of Buster’s chief intentions. The “accessible interiors,” a distinguishing characteristic in Buster’s work, allow for a more profound interaction with the piece. The onlooker is invited inside to not only view the structure, but to be enclosed within it. “For a lot of people, it’s the simple act of penetrating a form,” says Buster. “You’re so accustomed to having this relationship to a sculpture where you’re over here and the sculpture is there and you’re walking around it and very separated from it. You can certainly enter it with your eye, but to enter a piece with your body is a kind of commitment.” Once inside, a myriad of reactions ensue. From playfulness and ease to uneasiness and intrigue, Buster wants the viewer to respond in some manner, any manner, just as long as it is genuine and unexpected. Influenced by the work of twentieth-century theorists Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault, Buster attempts to incarnate their thoughts on the act of seeing and being seen. Fusing biology with architecture, Buster creates imposing sculptures that are interactive playgrounds where exploration and physical interaction are encouraged. Buster extends this facet through the use of translucent fabrics, which allows viewers to interact with one another by way of the sculpture. “Those inside the piece can see those outside the piece and vice versa so there is a little bit of a play there, which I find very interesting,” says Buster. “[The inside] is a small space, an intimate space. It’s truly a chamber and that leads to feelings of either enclosure or comfort. I like this idea of something being both comforting and threatening.” Suggestive of a cocoon or a womb, these membrane-covered structures envelope the viewer in a manner  foreign to most human adults. Buster, who is currently a professor of sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Arts, finds the worlds of biology and architecture intrinsically linked. “I think there are a lot of interesting things to think about in terms of architecture’s biological roots and the whole notion of how biological forms have informed certain kinds of designs,” says Buster. “For me, the vessel and architecture are really about marking an empty space.” Having studied microbiology at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Buster has always been fascinated by biological structures. From fungal formations to exoskeletons, Buster’s science background is clear in her sculptures. “In one sense, I know it’s a very romantic notion, but there is a part of me that is very attracted […]

Neil Young

Neil Young

By Blaine Schultz Reprisewww.neilyoung.com Every record Neil Young releases is an enigma in waiting, and Prairie Wind, with its deft orchestral passages, swelling horns and bluegrass touches, is no exception. On Prairie Wind Young seems to say, “Let me make a record with people I enjoy playing with.” His father’s slide into Alzheimer’s and subsequent passing leads Young to meditate on his own past and take stock. The title track finds Young in that 3 a.m. voice, singing, “Trying to remember what my Daddy said / Before too much time took away his head;” a female vocal chorus echoes “prairie wind blowin’ through my head” as a horn section punches away at Young’s harmonica shards. “Far From Home” is the other side of the coin, buoyed by the horns and sounding like a Saturday-night revival, Young tells of a trek from the trans-Canada Highway to the Promised Land of money and big cars. And only then can you bury him on the prairie. When Young lapses into a sentimental mood (“Falling Off the Face of the Earth,” “It’s a Dream,” “Here For You”) to pay tribute to friends and family, he avoids mawkishness. “When God Made Me” calls to task in a sincere ballad those who have interpreted God’s will since day one. But he’s not afraid to turn the camera on himself. “He Was the King” is a good-natured romp through memories of Elvis and “This Old Guitar” is a love song written for Hank Williams’ Martin guitar—Emmylou Harris’ vocals only sweeten the deal. “When I get drunk and seeing double, it gets behind the wheel and steers / This old guitar ain’t mine to keep, it’s only mine for a while.”  VS    

Sigur R’s

Sigur R’s

By Eric Lewin Geffenwww.sigur-ros.co.uk When Tortoise and Low first wrote the term “slow core” into the hipster dictionary, the proverbial jury was left to ask, “Is this where rock has lead itself, or are these droning songs little more than a cop-out for bands who don’t want to try?” After Sigur Rós’ additions to the formula and a recent surge of popularity among the indie proud, the verdict seems to be an acquittal. Compared to Rós’ back catalogue, particularly Ágætis byrjun (translated as “an alright start”) and the pretentiously titled ( ), Takk is considerably more subdued, but strange nonetheless. Songs like “Glosoli” and “Milano” build predictably, yet beautifully, leaving little room for argument about Rós’ predilection for the grandiose. “Gong” lets Rós’ Bends-era Radiohead influence show, an experiment held together by Jónsi Birgisson’s Thom Yorke-like wail. And speaking of vocal borrowing, check out the Chris Martin impression on “Anduari” and “Svo Hljott.” Coldplay really is everywhere these days! There’s no room for fence-straddling when it comes to Sigur Rós. With Takk, many are now heralding Rós as the best band in the world and ready to hand the championship belt over immediately. To others, Sigur Rós is about as exciting as a dream about mowing the lawn. Maybe the nay-sayers are confused or just bored. It’s also possible that they just liked Sigur Rós more the first time, when they were called My Bloody Valentine.  VS    

Paul Weller

Paul Weller

By Paul Snyder Yep Rocwww.paulweller.com Yep Roc Records is hailing As Is Now as a return to form from the man who brought us Wild Wood and Stanley Road a decade ago. This is a puzzling statement, considering Weller’s never taken a drastic step away from the songwriting that anchored his 1990s classics. It’s just that his albums haven’t been as popular. And truth be told, it may be because Oasis isn’t that popular anymore, either. No one championed Weller more than Noel Gallagher in the mid 90s, and the slew of Britpop bands citing Weller as an influence (even Morrissey covered “That’s Entertainment”) put the man in the center of the movement, whether he liked it or not. Wild Wood and Stanley Road were fine albums. But so was Heavy Soul. And Heliocentric. And Illumination. And As Is Now is a great record, too. It follows Weller’s “it is what it is