Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Vacation....

Today, I've started my vacation. I should dancing around and celebrating, but I'm not. Why? Well, money's tight this year. After paying the bills and making car payments, I'm searching my pockets to find loose change and I'm finding mostly lint. So this means some of the things that I'd really like to do are severely limited.

Well for sure, seeing U2 at Soldier Field is out. I definitely can not afford to pay the $250 or more for what is asked for a ticket.

Summerfest, I may go on Friday to see Styx and the Los Lonely Boys on the side stages. July 5th does sound good as well with Paul Rodgers. So does Kansas on the 7th. I'm taking it day by day.

For the rest of the vacation, nothing is really planned. Going Up North and/or camping has been discussed, but nothing set in stone. I've been looking online to see what going on around the region. Something tells me, I'll find something soon. As it stands, I'm taking it day by day.

At least, I'm sleeping in.....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Satuday Night Videos

I've been around....traveled... Over the years of my life, I've seen the majestic snow capped mountains of Colorado reflecting a mirror image on a crystal clear lake. Seen the vast waters and felt the sea breeze of the Pacific Ocean as I waded in the waves off the coast of Oregon. Gazed in wonder along the lines of palm trees at the golden sandy hills of Southern California. Yet, to this Midwestern native from Wisconsin, there is no place like home...

Home, that someone would describe as "flat as a pancake". Yeah. From what I see in this land of rolling hills of corn, the ample barns and silos and desolate towns and villages is the integrity of the people who live here. The integrity of who we are... Farmers and industrial workers. The blue collar of America's Heartland and taking pride in who we are....

Yet, some amazing music has come from America's heartland... First we have John Cougar Mellencamp. Born and raised in Indiana, Mellencamp often sang about teen rebellion, the plight of the farmers and life of the heartland of America.... He often gets political, but we're not going to into to it are we? Here's one of my favorites, "Small Town", from the Scarecrow album.

Next is Kansas, a progressive rock band from where else? Kansas, of course. This six piece band rose to fame in the '70's with their heart warming lyrics of spiritual uplifting, Native Americans and other things that will ponder the mind. Their music is a mix of American-style boogie-rock and complex, symphonic arrangements with changing time signatures. Here is a cool video of one of their lesser known songs, "Cheyenne Anthem" off of their best album, Leftoverture.

The recent passing of Clarence Clemons, of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band had affected me deeply. Few musicians can match the "Big Man" in the terms of the sax.His sax solo on "Jungleland" is one of the most impressive I've ever heard. I've never seen Bruce Springsteen in concert, but I've heard it's an experience itself. An experience I'd always wanted to try. "The Boss", lyrically has the most visionary approach to the America's Heartland that I've ever known. His blue collar feel singing away about the misfortunes of America, yet embracing to the heart. Springsteen is the true defender of the faith in the heart of America.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Not Feeling Well

"CRUNCH, CRUNCH!" Sleepily, I barely opened my eyes to a sound that I was familiar with. Harley was munching on an ice cube my girlfriend's daughter had given her. Bundled comfortably under layers of sheets and blankets, I did not want to get up! I had to. Somehow, I did an Ozzy Osbourne stumble to the bathroom. My head was in a fog. I'm all congested, barely able to breathe. Somehow, I made it back to bed. Just as I drifted back off to hang with the Sandman, my girlfriend brings me a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a grilled ham n' cheese. Perfect! As if she could read my thoughts....

We both went to Prompt Care earlier this week to find relief for our hacking coughs and feverish heads. Doctors told us that we both have asthmatic bronchitis and gave us antibiotics for relief. Somehow, my girlfriend has found relief sooner than me. Here I am, in a daze... Hopefully I'll feel better soon, because next week, my vacation starts...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Satuday Night Videos

As summer is getting closer to the mark, I've been finding myself hitting rummage sales and thrift shops, anywhere I could buy music for real cheap. One of these stops, was at at a blogging friend RWWackoStu's rummage sale in Sturtevant. There I picked up Oranges and Lemons from XTC. Those who don't know XTC, it is a band that is best described as New Wave meets the psychedelia pop of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds with a twist of REM. Sounds different don't it? It is. Oranges and Lemons is a record exploding with details, while sonically rich and filled with immaculately crafted songs.

This afternoon, my girlfriend and I stopped at the library to check out the book sale that they were having there. Not only we picked up some books and video cassettes for dirt cheap, I picked up a dozen albums for a buck. Two of these were for the Southern prog rock band, the Dixie Dregs. I've heard of these guys before and I was familiar with the guitarist Steve Morse who played for Kansas and Deep Purple. The Dixie Dregs is a complicated band. Mostly instrumental, the Dregs employ a wide variety of sounds to the listener. It's Southern rock with a violin player and a keyboardist. Kinda like an instrumental version of Lynyrd Skynyrd meeting with Kansas, Yes and bluegrass. Hard to explain, yet I like it. To make our day, we ran into OrbsCorbs on the way out.

The band I've been digging SOOO much lately is Badfinger. Although my Badfinger tapes have been silent for the past few years, much of the resurgence was due of interest in john's Rock Roots blog. As I pulled my tapes to listen to, I remembered what I was forgetting-a Beatleque like band with strong catchy hooks and crafty lyrics. Anyone can sing along to their songs! Anyways, Badfinger suffered dearly due mismanagement of the band. Once recording under the Beatles' Apple Records label, the band fell under hard times when Apple Records went under. Unable to secure a new label, the band went under. Because of the financial issues, guitarist/vocalist Peter Ham committed suicide by hanging, followed by the baas player Tom Evans years later. A damn shame, These are f#*king good! If you love the Beatles, you'll like these guys!

A Sad Day for Asbury Park.

Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen's life and music through four decades, has died. He was 69.

Clemons died Saturday night after being hospitalized about a week ago following a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla.

"We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years," Springsteen said on his website. "He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

At the Fair....

While there has been an abundance of bands playing at Summerfest year, one may not want to fork out $70 per ticket for an act at the Marcus Amphitheater. Even though admission for Summerfest is $15, there are the crowds and the traffic jams though downtown Milwaukee. There are other alternatives for good live music. County Fairs!

I know, I know, most of these fairs have your typical yee haw pig chasing, tractor pulling, demo derby fun ....and a lot of country. After sifting through site after site, I've found a few acts of interest across the southeast portions of the state.

Wisconsin State Fair West Allis, WI

ZZ Top Tuesday, August 9 2011
Whitesnake with Skid Row and LA Guns Thursday August 11 2011

Rock Fest Cadott, WI

Slaughter Thursday August 14 2011
Cinderella Thursday August 14 2011
Three Days Grace Thursday August 14 2011
Kid Rock Friday August 15 2011
Avenged Sevenfold Saturday August 16 2011
Jackyl Sunday August 17 2011
Tesla Sunday August 17 2011
Heart Sunday August 17 2011
Def Leppard Sunday August 17 2011

Rock USA Oshkosh, WI

Cheap Trick Thursday July 14 2011
Puddle of Mudd Thursday July 14 2011
Daughtry Thursday July 14 2011
Firehouse Friday July 15 2011
Warrant Friday July 15 2011
Candlebox Friday July 15 2011
Lynryrd Skynyrd Friday July 15 2011
Journey Friday July 15 2011
Dokken Saturday July 16 2011
KISS Saturday July 16 2011

Waukesha County Fair Waukesha, WI

Ted Nugent Thursday July 21 2011
Creedence Clearwater Revisited Friday July 22 2011
Collective Soul Saturday July 23 2011
Beach Boys Sunday July 24 2011

Wisconsin Valley Fair Wausau, WI

Beach Boys Tuesday August 2 2011
Sawyer Brown Thursday August 4 2011
Styx Friday August 5 2011

Washington County Fair West Bend, WI

.38 Special/Loverboy Thursday July 28 2011
Train Saturday July 30 2011

Fond du Lac County Fair Fond du Lac, WI

Beach Boys Thursday July 21 2011
Tesla Saturday July 23 2011

Outagamie County Fair Seymour, WI

Ted Nugent Thursday July 28 2011

Walworth County Fair Elkhorn, WI

Doobie Brothers Sunday September 4 2011

Racine County Fair Union Grove, WI

the Guess Who Thursday July 21 2011

Kinda impressive, huh? I know that I'm not going to see them all. Depending on where I'm at (weather here in Racine or Up North) I may go see some of these bands. So far, the Doobies is a sure thing...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cosmic Railroad

Yesterday was my birthday...To treat ourselves, we to see one of Southeast Wisconsin's best local acts, Cosmic Railroad, at their Family Gathering Pre Show Party. Located at the Local 72 Union Hall in Kenosha, the band pulled out an excellent show!

This is how the night went...

Doors to the place opened at 8:00. Looking around from the parking lot, I could see the usual tye-die hippie attire. This had to be the place...The first band that played was Terry n' the Front. From the first few bars of the Grateful Dead's "Feels Like a Stranger", I knew this going to be a long night. Five hours of music-with no place to sit down. Not wanting to hear another chessy Dead tribute band, we went back to the car and waited out the first band.

The second act, Asparagi, didn't fare any better in my eyes. Taking on a darker sound, this jam band sounded forced. The drums were too loud, drowning out the guitars. The singer seemed to be shouting into the microphone. Disgusted, we went back to the car to wait Cosmic Railroad to begin setting up.

Churning out free flowing, laid back sounds that immediately took me into a cosmic experience, Cosmic Railroad utilizes three guitar players, two drummers and a bass player. Cosmic Railroad is surprisingly unheavy while still utilizing all the guitars for some nice interplay. These guys listen to and feed off one another without going over the top. The teamwork of the two drummers is absolutely incredible, locking into a rhythmic groove that is addicting.

To describe Cosmic Railroad is rather difficult. The best way I could say it is, the Grateful Dead meets the Allman Brothers and Phish without the keyboards. Their catalog consists a different setlist each time they play. The band leaves up the moment to pick the next song. This is where you can see their mastery. As the night moves on, they continue to pick up steam, and things really start to roll. They'll do a Dead tune like "China Cat Sunflower" that would roll into an original tune of theirs like "Carolina" before segueing into the Phish-like epic of "Marco Polo" Then somehow, you're hearing "China Cat" again.

Just who is Cosmic Railroad? Well, they are a jam band based out of southeastern Wisconsin, forming in sometime in 1999. I remember seeing them several times playing in dives in the early 2000's. Each time I saw them, I noticed their fan base getting bigger and bigger. The past few years, I've noticed them playing in festivals all over the Midwest, including appearances in Jamaica. I would not be surprised (in fact, I hope they do) if they do get a recording contract.

The line up hasn't changed for them ever. The band consists of :

Greg Gierl -Guitars and Vocals
Brandon Shilts -Guitars and Vocals
Pete Rallo -Guitars and Vocals
Paul Aceto -Bass and Vocals
Mike White -Drums and Percussion
Shawn Laurence -Drums and Percussion

Here's one of my favorite tunes from Cosmic Railroad-Carolina.

For more information on Cosmic Railroad, check out their website.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy Birthday to My "Granddaugther"

I've mentioned about her before on my blog that I have a "granddaughter". Biologically she isn't my granddaughter, but she might as well be. How do I explain this? Well, my granddaughter's mother is my ex-wife's niece. My ex-wife and I raised her as if she our child, since she was four years till she was 20, when we got divorced. So to speak, she is like a daughter to me. (You get me so far?) Anyways, my granddaughter turned four years old today. She is cute little girl and and a bundle of energy. I really don't how anyone could keep up with her, yet the smile on my face is ear to ear when she calls me Gampa.

Anyways, my girlfriend and I had a cookout to celebrate her forth birthday. Along with our own kids (my son and her youngest daughter) we had burgers, brats and of course, cake! A good time was held by all....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Call it the Bargain...

Summer's practically here and my girlfriend and I already hit the rummages sales and the thrift shops. I'm kinda like my friend, Crabb, who like to out and look for music dirt cheap. Hey, much of my music COMES from rummage sales and thrift shops. In the past couple of weeks, I've come home with a quite a bit of stuff! Here's a sample of what I've gotten.

Asia Phoenix
Autograph Sign in Please
Babys Anthology
Blues Traveler North Hollywood Shootout
Meredith Brooks Blurring the Edges
Cult Ceremony
Donovan Barabajal
Feet of Clay (s/t) (local band)
Heaven & Hell The Devil You Know
Honeymoon Suite The Big Prize
Billy Joel 52nd Street
Billy Joel The Stranger
John Cougar Mellencamp Big Daddy
Van Morrison Moondance
Van Morrison The Best of Van Morrison
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Mojo
Pure Prairie League Bustin' Out
Soul Asylum Let Your Dim Light Shine
Steely Dan A Decade of Steely Dan
Toto (s/t)
XTC Oranges and Lemons
Yes Yesyears (box set)

The biggest "steal" I got was the Garth Brooks' The Limited Series box set for my girlfriend. A six disc limited edition box set (perfect condition) for five bucks.

This doesn't include the numerous upgrades I've got as well... Think I've got enough music? You're right...Nah.....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Amar Caballero

When I first heard of Babe Ruth, I was a young teen no more than 14, 15 , maybe 16 years old at the time. I was at a friend's house playing cards when he pulled out their debut, First Base. The album's first track, "Wells Fargo", took me by storm with the killer intro guitar riffing, Janita Haan's Joplin-like vocals and the hot sax solo in the end! As my buddy explained it to me then, Babe Ruth had broken up a long time ago and the album was out of print.

Not deterred by the out of print status, I spent much of the decade searching high and low for a copy of the album. Back then, there was no Internet, no Amazon, no way to order for it. If it was out of print, it was OUT of print. Years later, at a rummage sale, I finally did get it on vinyl...

Fast forward to now...During a recent trip to the library, I stumbled across a CD of Babe Ruth's First Base AND their second album, Amar Caballero. Whoa... An incredible find, if you ask me. Well, I could use a CD copy to crank it in my car and as for the second album...I NEVER even heard of it before! I snatched that baby up right away...

Glad I did...

Acknowledged more here in the States, than their homeland of England, Babe Ruth enjoyed their moderate success in the early '70's with a cult following. After hearing both First Base and Amar Caballero, one could easily see why. Babe Ruth is one of those bands that are willing to stick their necks out and take a risk. Amar Cabellero is a prime example of that.

Starting off with the bluesy/jazz classical "Lady" this 1973 release is a cornucopia of styles and genres led by guitarist Alan Shacklock. A mellowed out "Broken Cloud" follows. Rocker tune "Gimme Some Leg" has got some wild Joplin like vocals from Janita Haan with a killer guitar solo to end the track. The Spanish flamenco styled guitar work on "Baby Pride" was relaxing as it was impressive.

By halfway through this album, it was more and more apparent of the Latin influences that dominated this record. The crazy assed "Cool Jerk" gives prog rock a salsa twist. My head just spun around to hear the tone of the record change so quick. An instrumental classical tune called, "We are Holding On" was preceding the weird psychedelic funk of "Doctor Love". The eight minute title track end the record reminds me of Santana.

I'll admit that this album is not for everyone. It does take awhile for a listener to get used to. The band shows a great potential and that's because the wide variety of influences displayed here. That's were the understanding of the cult status comes in...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

North Beach Oasis

Memorial Day...Not only it is time for remembering our fallen troops that served our beloved country, it is the time for relaxing, beer and brats, and enjoying the sunshine at the annual opening of the North Beach Oasis. The Oasis, a concession stand that serves as a centerpiece for the North Beach, provides not only beer, soda and good food-offers live music. On some weeknights on and every weekend musicians from various local bands either jam together or put on a show with their own band. Over the years, I've seen a variety of local acts such as Mean Jake, Full Flavor, the Radioactive Squirrels, Melvin Barker and the Bluz Cruise, Roy Edwards Band, Shameless Place and many many more! All at NO COVER CHARGE!

A local jam session with various musicians

A typical crowd at the Oasis

View of the beach from the Oasis...

As you can tell, it's one of my favorite summer hangouts. So, what's your favorite summer hangout?