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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wed
Hi: 69
Lo: 60
Thu
Hi: 80
Lo: 64
Fri
Hi: 79
Lo: 62
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We don't have to like detours, but well-planned ones aren't necessarily a disaster.
We don't have to like detours, but well-planned ones aren't necessarily a disaster.
Is your blood pressure rising?
Is your blood pressure rising?

Construction done right

It’s easy to complain about highway construction in Milwaukee. After all, it’s pretty much a constant. When one project finishes, another begins … if we’re lucky. More often, it seems like every interchange or stretch of freeway is being worked on all at once.

While Milwaukee is an incredibly easy are to traverse, these projects slow us down with endless and confusing detours. They’re a necessity, maybe, but they usually feel like a boondoggle.

Take this weekend’s full closure of I-94. Smart that the DOT timed it when there wasn’t a Brewers game or State Fair, but we went to the drive-in movie on Saturday in Jefferson, so we had to use the long detour on Bluemound Road. Basically, our trip time was doubled, and even though communication about the project was good, there was no getting around the major inconveniences from the closure. It wasn’t pretty.

But one highway project has left me impressed. The Hoan Bridge reconstruction has been incredibly smooth for me, and I travel this stretch from home to work and back every day. Given the magnitude of what’s going on, the DOT has done this right.

A few parts of this construction stand out to me as model for how to do a major job. I’d never before seen a temporary barrier mover that lifts up and shifts the east side of the Hoan from one to two lanes and back, depending on day part. Because the road is literally wider during rush hour, what could be a challenging commute hasn’t been so bad.

And by reversing an on ramp and moving another, there aren’t many obstacles to get onto I-794, either. I dare say that the Hoan Bridge reconstruction is moving along so smoothly that I’ve barely hit a major traffic jam – no matter what time I use it.

While I don’t think I’ve ever said this about the DOT before, I’m impressed. I don’t always understand the politics or timing of road construction, but I appreciate a civic plan that’s so well thought out. For the many snarls of the Zoo Interchange, the Ho…

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You've passed this a million times.
You've passed this a million times.

The Gobbler is coming back!

I can’t believe it’s true, but the iconic Gobbler in Johnson Creek is coming back.

On May 22, Daniel A. Manesis, of Manesis & Associates of West Allis purchased the long vacant restaurant, that last was, as I recall, a barbecue place and served one of the worst meals I ever had in a restaurant. But that was probably in 1999 or so.

You’ve probably driven past the Gobbler a million times on your way to Madison. It used to have a slowly rotating floor, and was the ultimate in retro kitsch. Across the street once stood a the Gobbler Motel, with themed rooms. That’s gone, too, unfortunately. Johnson Creek Fire Department burned the motel to the ground as a "practice fire" for its firefighters.

Built in 1969, the new owners will convert the property into a live entertainment venue featuring music and comedy. This amazing place was designed by Helmut Ajango and finally closed in 1992. Its story is pretty great, and worth a read.

According to the release, interior remodeling will commence shortly with removal of the "Roost Dance Floor" and conversion of the kitchen area to a stage.

And yes, the revolving bar will remain.

With an anticipated opening in spring of 2015, the Gobbler Theater will provide stadium seating for up to 500. It is adding "state-of-the-art sound and lighting," too.

Here’s to hoping this plan works and the Gobbler is back for good!

G. Love & Special Sauce describes itself as making "soul drenched tracks pouring out their blues infused hip-hop." Yeah, that's about right.
G. Love & Special Sauce describes itself as making "soul drenched tracks pouring out their blues infused hip-hop." Yeah, that's about right.
The band played to a small but warm crowd.
The band played to a small but warm crowd.
Even at 41, Dutton is making fun, good-time, party music that is chill in its own way.
Even at 41, Dutton is making fun, good-time, party music that is chill in its own way.
Not too shabby for a more than 100-minute show on a gorgeous summer night.
Not too shabby for a more than 100-minute show on a gorgeous summer night.
The band was touring in support of its new album and 20th anniversary.
The band was touring in support of its new album and 20th anniversary.
Drummer Jeffrey "The Houseman" Clemens.
Drummer Jeffrey "The Houseman" Clemens.

G. Love's still special to Gen X

It’s been a while since I thought about G. Love & Special Sauce. And by a while, I guess I mean about 17 years since I spent any significant time listening to the Philly alt-hip hop band, back in my apartment on the East Side.

1997's "Yeah, It Was That Easy" was a good album for the time; Garrett Dutton with his laid-back, friendly white guy raps and jangley guitar riffs, the stand-up bass and loose drums. It was a very ‘90s CD. This was around the time I was listening to Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Blues Traveler and bands like that. So G Love brings back nice memories.

But G. Love & Special Sauce, now a 20-years trio, is still around, and they played at the Miller Lite Oasis on a beautiful Tuesday night. They certainly didn’t stop making records in the ‘90s, but to me, they still have that Gen X sound that this, ahem, older audience came to hear.

Touring in support of their new album, "Sugar," the band is also celebrating that 20th anniversary with its original lineup. And the crowd at Summerfest seemed to approve.

But talk about an empty crowd. The front bleachers were less than half full and the back tables were empty – yet the weed smell permeated the crowd within seconds of the first tune. Perhaps the jam band attendance was affected by Rusted Root also at Summerfest tonight. The guy next to me said last year's show here was packed.

G-Love played the explicit version of "Booty Call," and that's when I placed how Dutton sounds in 2014. He reminded me a little of a very white Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. That’s a compliment to his cadence and rhymes.

Tonight, we heard plenty of that rapping, plus lots of harmonica and drum solos, and one that transitioned into the Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."

Speaking of crossing genres, G Love was way more bluesy than I remembered (which was sometimes good and sometimes bad). Mixing old-school blues with, well, old-school rap, was mostly a unique and pleasantly surprising mash up. Dutton’s guita…

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You don't see a keytar every day!
You don't see a keytar every day!
Drummer Jeremy Keith.
Drummer Jeremy Keith.
Liz Ofte.
Liz Ofte.
On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat.
On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat.

Two's enough for synth pop duo Pet Tigers

"When’s the last time you saw a keytar?" asked Liz Ofte, in the middle of her set at Summerfest on Saturday afternoon.

That’s a good question, and even though the keytar is one only two of the instruments (along with drums) in the two-person Pet Tiger, Ofte and Jeremy Keith don’t really need more to produce a big sound.

As we previewed on Friday, today’s Summerfest show was a breakout gig for the New Wave garage punk band out of Las Vegas. Ofte grew up on a farm in Western Wisconsin: "I try not get emotional, but this was a dream of mine since I was a little girl," she told a small but excited crowd at the Harley Roadhouse.

Her nerves weren’t evident, though, as the band powered through its debut album, sounding a lot like No Doubt, Blondie, and even Toni Basil when it covered "Mickey."

Clearly, a little of the music was pre-recorded, but the stripped-down sound was almost all keytar, drums and Ofte’s strong vocals. Keith did a little backup, but oddly, it wasn’t needed – two people were just enough, and Keith sounded great on drum. Hey, it works for the White Stripes and Black Keys. Why not Pet Tigers?

Of course, the keytar can be made to sound like anything, so Ofte turned it into synth guitar for "Big Bad Wolf" and "Run This City." The former made use of a little rapping and almost reminded me of Debbie Harry in "Rapture."

Pet Tigers closed their roughly 40-minute set with their newest song, "You’re My Favorite Flavor," "Shake Baby" and "Go Go Girl," and surely made a few Milwaukee fans today.

How far can a retro, dance punk band go with just two members? Who knows. Their sound is full enough, but a third or fourth member might make Pet Tigers even better. On covers like "Mickey," they did sound a bit too stripped down – but not on their own tunes, which is exactly what matter.

On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat. Something tells me their first Summerfest show won’t be their last.

Set list:

Shoe…

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