Tales of ego trips, prima donna performances and hissy fits are legendary among the rock and roll elite of the caliber that play major events like Summerfest.
But standing in stark counterpoint – and playing on the same stages, albeit earlier in the day – are the local musicians who are eager to share their skills for Summerfest patrons basking in the noonday sun or taking a lunch break at the festival.
Today, I was reminded of that twice when I hit the Big Gig at noon to check out two great local bands that include a number of area veterans. Both faced some obstacles and both leaped over them adeptly and with smiles.
First, at noon, The Chickadees, who specialize in intelligent, fun music for kids, were set to take the decidedly un-glitzy stage at the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone. Another act was scheduled to start a mere 45 minutes later, which ensured a 30-minute set for guitarist and singer Mary Karlzen, singer Carmen Nickerson and fiddler Rachel "Chili Mac" Trapp. Or did it?
In fact, due to issues of some kind or another, the trio actually took the stage at about 12:20 and there were exactly four people there (including me and a photographer from another media outlet) when they started.
But roots rocker Karlzen and her colleagues hit the ground running, breaking into an uptempo tune about a frog, and their enthusiasm drew a few more faces. Realizing their time would be limited, the group played an audience participation tune, "The Hiking Song," and encouraged the small crowd there to get involved.
That led to one young fan leaping up on stage, attempting to grab the mic from Nickerson and rummaging through band members’ bags at the back of the stage. But The Chickadees didn’t miss a beat and never stopped smiling.
Meanwhile, nearby at the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, The Tritonics – one of the rarest of creatures: a Milwaukee reggae band (and a good one, at that) – was creating the perfect soundtrack to a beautiful, sunny and warm day, playing Jamaican classics and originals rooted in the late ‘60s rock steady era.
Until something went awry with a connection to singer Jeff Stehr’s keyboard, causing his playing to go silent (though he never stopped playing) and a rude buzz to pierce the band’s sinewy sound, that is.
These Tritonics, however, played the song through to the end and took a quick break without leaving the stage to sort out the issue. They used the time to thank the audience for its patience and chatted amiably, announcing upcoming gigs. I didn’t see anyone get up and leave.
Back up and running, the band eased immediately back into its groove and reacted the same way when the problem cropped up one more time. After that, the music continued and the crowd began to grow.
There used to be a time when I only showed up at Summerfest as they sun began to set. Lately I’ve come to realize that some of the best talent onstage at the Maier Festival Grounds is based right here in Milwaukee. Stop down sometime early in the day and see what Milwaukee has to offer and support your local musicians. They’ve earned it.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Nov. 26, 2014
Big changes are on tap at Milwaukee Art Museum, where the collections galleries are closed while the permanent collection is re-installed and an expansion project is under construction. MAM's Senior Conservator Jim DeYoung is the man charged with getting it done on time, on budget and, most importantly, without damage.
Published Nov. 25, 2014
When Mayor Tom Barrett visited Highland Community School on Monday to welcome home a group of adolescent students from China, the trip -- according to the students themselves -- wasn't officially over yet. Today, it is officially complete.
Published Nov. 25, 2014
This year, Dental Associates completed its restoration of the Iron Block Building -- actually a pair of connected buildings dating from 1860 and 1899 -- and the work put a gorgeous new luster on one of Downtown's most aged landmarks. As Milwaukee's only iron-facade building, it's a real Milwaukee gem. To look at the historic Iron Block Building on the corner of Water and Wisconsin now, you'd be hard-pressed to believe it almost didn't survive.
Published Nov. 24, 2014
The photomontages created by Eau Claire's Then and Now Photography seamlessly meld images of the same place but from different eras, creating a fascinating and unique look at how familiar sites in Milwaukee have changed over the years.
Published Nov. 22, 2014
The world's most famous ice skating rink shimmers beneath what must be the most impressive urban tree, perhaps in the world, and the shop windows in the Center and along Fifth Avenue must be seen to be believed. Crowds queue to see the holiday spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and Times Square is decked out in green and red. And all America comes to check it out.
Published Nov. 21, 2014
Few likely know the idea of farm to table better than new Blue Jacket chef Justice Neal. Neal, after all, went from farm to table himself, having grown up on 40 acres near Beloit. Recently, Neal, who served as the restaurant's sous, was promoted to replace departing chef Matt Kerley, who had run the kitchen at Blue Jacket since 2013. Since he's already launched a new menu, we decided it was time to check in with him about his work in the kitchen.
Published Nov. 21, 2014
Milwaukee Public Library looks into Milwaukee's historic public schoolhouses with a small exhibit and panel discussion at Central Library.
Published Nov. 20, 2014
Thanksgiving is on the horizon and you're hosting (or attending) a family dinner. What to do about wine? How to find something that pairs well with both turkey and cranberries? How to find a wine that appeals to you, your parents and Aunt Millie? It can be challenging, but experts say a few simple rules can help guide the way...
Published Nov. 18, 2014
One of the most recent building "booms" at Milwaukee Public Schools added a handful of new schools to the city's landscape, but at least one planned project -- and perhaps more -- never saw the light of day.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
Serious music fans will relate. Though a lot of music enters my ears, very few make the kind of impression that Lucy Wainwright Roche's 2013 record, "There's A Last Time For Everything," made on me. A year later I can tell you exactly where I was when I first popped it into the CD player and sat transfixed, unable to move. Lucy Wainwright Roche comes to Milwaukee next week, and we talked to her about it.