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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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Miller christened the new BMO Harris Pavilion Wednesday night.
Miller christened the new BMO Harris Pavilion Wednesday night.
He sounded crisp, warm and inviting ...
He sounded crisp, warm and inviting ...
... but the blues portion of the set put the audience back into its seat.
... but the blues portion of the set put the audience back into its seat.
Miller talked about playing Summerfest in the '70s and called the venue one of his favorite places to place.
Miller talked about playing Summerfest in the '70s and called the venue one of his favorite places to place.
At 68 years old and decked out in business-casual classic rock garb and sunglasses, Miller might look like your boss jamming at a picnic, but he sounds great.
At 68 years old and decked out in business-casual classic rock garb and sunglasses, Miller might look like your boss jamming at a picnic, but he sounds great.
"The Joker" felt as nice as the first time I heard it.
"The Joker" felt as nice as the first time I heard it.

Steve Miller Band a smooth, safe gamble for new stage debut

As Steve Miller's best material is pushing 40 years old, it's somewhat telling that he headlined the Marcus Amphitheater in 2008, and Wednesday, he opened Summerfest at the brand new BMO Harris Pavilion.

To me, that says one of two things: Either the Tosa native wasn't big enough to headline the Amp in '08, or this new side stage is big-time enough to land acts that previously, fans had to pay big money to see.

I'll let someone else make that call, but having seen and reviewed Miller now twice in four years, I can say that this classic rock band, when it's doing what it does best, still gets people on their feet. Is the music safe, pitch-perfect recreations of the '70s album rock we've all heard a million times? Sure. Is it fun, summer music with a Wisconsin connection? Absolutely.

This spring, the Steve Miller Band released "Let Your Hair Down," so tonight's show wasn't strictly an oldies act. While Miller has continued to record steadily – albeit less frequently – since his 1968 debut, "Children of the Future," everyone in attendance was at Summerfest tonight to hear the hits.

Songs like "Jungle Love," "Take The Money And Run," "Abracadabra," "Fly Like an Eagle" and more, which Miller breezily nailed with aplomb. The first two tunes were a little rocky, but by the third, Miller was locked in. It was nice, too, to hear him talk about a Summerfest performance in 1974, as well as his relationship with the late Les Paul.

The only problem with the two-hour show was the middle section, where Miller got so bluesy he took the wind out of the crowd's sails. Yes, this audience was older than most shows I've seen at Summerfest, and it also featured the most sitting I've ever seen. I saw some people even leaving before it was over.

Also, Miller featured a backup singer who's cheesy dance moves were both sincere but a little distracting. His voice was excellent on the songs he led (while Miller played lead guitar), but it felt like a little much.

Miller closed with …

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Movies under the stars outside Kenosha.
Movies under the stars outside Kenosha.

Family date night: the drive-in

I've found that one of the coolest parts about having a child is that you can relive your own childhood memories through their eyes.

Earlier this summer, for example, I took my daughter strawberry picking for the first time. Saturday night, we went to her first drive-in movie.

I loved the drive-in as a kid, and back then, there were several to choose from. We usually went to the Starlite in Menomonee Falls, but sometimes went to the 57 Outdoor Theater in Grafton. Even, in my early 20s, I still packed a bunch of friends into a car and visited the now-demolished 41-Twin on South 27th Street.

Now, there are only two drive-in theaters within about an hour of Milwaukee, and until Saturday, I had only been to one of them. In the last decade, I visited the Highway 18 Drive-In in Jefferson several times, but not at all since my daughter was born.

Saturday, we gave the Keno Drive-in in Pleasant Prairie a try.

My impression: it's quite a bit more run-down than Jefferson. Pretty dumpy, even. But for an almost 4-year-old, this is not what she noticed. She told me she expected the screen to be black, not white, and she was surprised that SUVs and minivans parked backwards and people sat in their trunks. It's always fun to see how a child imagines an experience that's totally new.

Also different than Jefferson is that you aren't prohibited from bringing food and drink to the Keno. The dilapidated snack bar wasn't even that busy as patrons stuffed their faces with fast food and washed it down with bottles of beer. At the Highway 18, they make it very clear that no outside food is allowed. Prices are about the same, though: in Kenosha, it's $8 for adults, kids 5-11 are $4, and littler kids are free. In Jefferson, kids are $5.

The first-run movies at the two drive-ins are the same or similar. Both were showing "Brave" on Saturday for the first of the two features. We know our daughter would never make it all the way through the first movie, and with "Brave" finally starting a…

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So many cars, so little time. Mine, in the foreground, however, is not for sale.
So many cars, so little time. Mine, in the foreground, however, is not for sale.

Seems like a good time to make some bad decisions

On Sunday, I continued my Father's Day tradition of joining my family in Sussex for British Car Field Day, a classic car show devoted to the finicky but beautiful English cars of yesteryear. Indeed, 11 years ago, I bought myself a 1975 MGB convertible from a nice couple in Tosa. I paid $3,200 in cash, and while my friends laughed that I was going through a midlife crisis at age 27, I maintain the tiny red roadster was the best purchase I ever made.

At the car show, I saw much, much nicer cars than mine. Jaguars, Aston Martins, Austin-Healeys and some marques that I had only heard of because my dad – who bought a bunch of crazy British cars in the '70s – pointed them out to me.

A lot of them were for sale.

Of course, every year, some people bring out their weekend cars to see if they can sell them, but this year, the prices stopped me dead in my tracks. One guy was selling a '73 Triumph TR-6 for $3,000. Another was selling a '74 Lotus Europa for $11,000 or best offer. I even saw a '97 Jaguar XK convertible with 55,000 miles going for $13,000.

This isn't normal.

I asked my MG mechanic what was going on, and he confirmed that the classic car market is very, very soft right now. Even though many of these cars hold their value or even increase over time, people aren't buying, or even driving what they own. While my mechanic would never touch a Triumph a few years ago, now I see him restoring Austin-Healeys and Spitfires and even the occasional VW. Like all of us, any work is good work.

Semi-related, a coworker of mine visited Door County this weekend, and he relayed a tale that I, too, have seen on trips up north to my tiny cabin in Wausaukee: everything is for sale. From Kewaunee and points north, he saw boats, cars, snowmobiles, ATVs for sale. And as for real estate, it's everywhere. I can confirm this in the economically depressed northeast part of the state, but if it's true in the affluent Door County peninsula, then something strange is afoot.

Which brin…

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The long wait was worth it.
The long wait was worth it.
Many, many people gathered for breakfast on the farm.
Many, many people gathered for breakfast on the farm.

Breakfast on the farm

Have a cow, man. Why not? After all, it's Dairy Month here at OnMilwaukee.com. Join us all month long as we explore all things that make you go "Moo" and celebrate America's Dairyland during the Dairy Days of Summer! Brought to you by OnMilwaukee.com and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Yes, I grew up in Wisconsin. But no, for some reason, I had never heard of the concept of "breakfast on the farm."

Until this weekend, that is, when my family and I took the short drive to West Bend on Saturday to a not-so-intimate affair at the Homestead Acres. In my mind's eye, I expected a few dozen people to gather for pancake and eggs in a field.

In reality, we were one of hundreds (and maybe more) assembled for a breakfast operation of enormous scale.

And it was a lot of fun.

I knew this was a big deal as we parked in a giant bumpy field across the street from the farm. Several tractors circled around picking up and dropping off diners. Though we arrived at 8:45 – it started at 6:30 a.m. – we didn't actually get in line for at least an 30 minutes because the process of hopping aboard a tractor took forever. Then, we stood in a line worthy of Great America for 90 minutes, finally sitting down with our $7 pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee about 10:45 a.m.

As impatient as I am, my concern on Saturday was our 3-year-old, whose attention span is actually shorter than mine is. But she handled the long wait like a champ. That 90 minutes in both lines allowed us to inspect adult and baby cows, full-size and toy tractors, a petting zoo, balloons and polka music.

Despite the very warm weather, there were so many diversions that it barely mattered – although my sense was that the very simple serving options could've been streamlined by using more than four people for the hundreds assembled.

Still, breakfast on the farm was an awesome family experience, and I'd happily do it again – although I'd arrive much earlier. If you get a chance to visit one of these this summers,…

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