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Kids from Slinger Authors' Camp tour Slinger House as part of their Suburban Spelunking research.
Kids from Slinger Authors' Camp tour Slinger House as part of their Suburban Spelunking research. (Photo: Paul Walter)

Suburban spelunking in Slinger: winners announced soon

There are perks to this job, but few more rewarding than some of the emails I receive from readers. While kind words from friends are always appreciated and treasured, hearing from folks I don't know reminds me of the reach that some stories have.

Last week, I got a message from Paul Walter, a 7th grade teacher and co-facilitator at the Slinger Future Authors' Camp, a youth program at Slinger High School that's part of UW-Oshkosh's Fox Valley Writing Project (which is, in turn, affiliated with the National Writing Project).

"While gearing up for this year's camp," he wrote, "I was impressed by the Urban Spelunking stories featured on OnMilwaukee.com and discussed on 88.9.  (Co-facilitator) Robyn (Bindrich) and I spoke to our friend and high school sociology teaching cohort, Nate Grimm, about potentially incorporating the Urban Spelunking idea into our camp. Since Slinger isn't exactly an urban setting, Robyn and I decided on the term Suburban Spelunking, and Nate was kind enough to connect us to some of the community contacts he's made through his Slinger Community Nights. "

Last week, Walter and Bindrich took 17 middle and high school students on a walking tour of downtown Slinger and visited three locations.

"We started with Ken and Sue Blaine showing us around their salvage yard, which was the site of the old Storck Brewery (pictured below)," Walter wrote. "They explained how Storck made it through Prohibition by selling ice cream, while still secretly keeping the beer flowing and shared with us other aspects of the historic operation.  They then transitioned to Ken's racing career at the nearby Slinger Speedway, 'The World's Fastest Quarter Mile Oval,' and their current salvage operation. We even got a 'safety' demonstration regarding auto glass as wide-eyed campers took turns throwing rocks through the front and rear windshields of a Chevy Impala. 

"From Blaine's Auto and Truck Parts, we moved onto 80-plus-year-old Joe Merten's garage.  Joe gave us a …

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U2 on its first American tour.
U2 on its first American tour. (Photo: Richard Menning)
Guitarist Adam Clayton at one of the band's early U.S. shows at The Palms in 1981.
Guitarist Adam Clayton at one of the band's early U.S. shows at The Palms in 1981. (Photo: Richard Menning)

Bono's onstage pranks at The Palms: U2's Milwaukee debut

On Friday morning, April 16, 1981, Milwaukee Sentinel readers were treated to a series of album reviews in writer Lennox Samuels’ Sound Ideas column in the paper’s weekly Let’s Go section of entertainment news and features.

One of them dissected "Boy," the debut LP by a young Irish band called U2.

Samuels rated the LP 3.5 out of 5 stars, saying the youthful band – which Samuels noted comprised four boys 21 and under – had "precocity, fresh-faced brashness and originality." They also "boast lively harmonies and catchy guitar lines."

U2, he added, "shows talent and promise." But, he noted, as he shaved off stars, they "seem to lose sight of some of the ideas amid all the talk of shadows and following and general wandering about."

One thing Samuels neglected to mention – and that the paper failed to acknowledge in general – was the fact that Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton made their Milwaukee debut two nights earlier – Wednesday, April 15 – at The Palms nightclub, 2616 W. State St., as part of their first American tour.

I visited the long-shuttered venue for an urban spelunking feature this week.

Interestingly? Coincidentally? The very next page of the Let’s Go section had a lengthy feature on The Tense Experts, a Milwaukee-based band of Rockford natives. Not noted in this article – which was surely a media coup for a local band – was the fact that they opened for U2 at The Palms two nights previous.

(Photo: Jeff Menz/Facebook)

Across the alley, the Milwaukee Journal was a tad more up on the concert scene, perhaps, as it offered Divina Infusino’s brief review of the gig on April 16.

"The sound off The Palms nightclub stage Wednesday night collected the frayed edges of many types of music," she began. "The faded reflection of psychedelia, the emotionally outspoken attitude of punk, the melody and virtues of pop. None paused long enough to completely color U2's performance before a crowd of 500. Instead, the four-year…

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Bobby Sherman and Roland Kirk on the same grounds. I can't help but imagine a potential meeting.
Bobby Sherman and Roland Kirk on the same grounds. I can't help but imagine a potential meeting.

Remembering Summerfest '70 ... and a Sly demand for weed

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

Thanks to my co-worker Jill Jensen-Matelski, I saw this cool Summerfest 1970 poster that you can see above. She found it on the Facebook group "You know you are from Milwaukee WI if you remember..."

My eyes immediately went to "Roland Kirk" and I was blown away. Then I saw Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan and so many other amazing acts.

And teen idol Bobby Sherman. On the same grounds as Roland Kirk? I can only imagine how a meeting between the two of them would've gone.

I also noticed "Sidewalker Skippers," who I wrote about here.

But the real story comes from Gary Christensen, bassist and director of the All-Star Super Band, who, incidentally, celebrates his birthday today. Back then, Christensen was a member of Yesterday's Children.

"As the opening act for Sly Stone, Yesterday's Children began a tight, rehearsed 30-minute tribute to James Brown," Gary posted on Facebook. "Ninety minutes later we were still on stage covering for Sly, who refused to come out. The security fence was gone and the audience had their elbows on the stage. The band eventually stopped performing and ran into our bus parked next to the stage. At one point, Sly walked out on stage, promptly received a shock from the microphone – on the lips – exited and again refused to perform. The booker came on our band bus and begged for weed.

"He said Sly refused to perform unless more weed was provided. We all said we had none. Then one of our guys provided a couple of hand-rolled j's. I left when the beer tents were being invaded by the crowd. I thought it was 230,000 people, but the MPD estimated 190,000. Lots of angry people. Scary night. Summerfest does not talk about this night."

A few years la…

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The Flaming Lips brought the party outside at Summerfest on Saturday night.
The Flaming Lips brought the party outside at Summerfest on Saturday night. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

The Flaming Lips bring the party outside at Summerfest

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

How on Earth does one explain the ongoing success of The Flaming Lips?

Don't get me wrong, frontman Wayne Coyne and company make interesting and engaging music and put on a hell of a show, but since when has that been enough?

Hailing from Oklahoma City, the band spent the '80s playing the indie club circuit, building a following devoted to the group's quirky music and theatrical (puppets!) performances, before striking gold with "She Don't Use Jelly," in the heart of the "alternative rock" explosion of the early 1990s.

But "Jelly" could have been a novelty, an exception, and it took six more years for The Flaming Lips to crack open the mainstream consciousness once again, this time with "The Soft Bulletin," an album full of irresistible pop songs rendered in lush strokes.

The single, "Waiting for Superman" caught on and the record was a hit, especially in Britain. It's follow-up, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" dished up the title track and "Do You Realize??" in 2002 and cemented the band's success, as did "At War With the Mystics" four years later.

But in the decade since, the band has only issued two "traditional" (for lack of a better word) albums – 2009's "Embryonic" and 2013's "The Terror" – amid a flurry of engaging and interesting electronic music film scores, complete re-recordings of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and a pair of releases made with the band's "fwends."

A (seemingly unlikely) collaboration with Miley Cyrus is apparently in the works.

Challenging, groundbreaking, explorational, risk-taking ... yes, all of the above. But as a recipe for pop success, it seems like suicide.

And yet...

While the …

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