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 â€“ and playing on the same stages, albeit earlier in the day â€“ 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 Childrenâ€™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 membersâ€™ bags at the back of the stage. But The Chickadees didnâ€™t miss a beat and never stopped smiling.
Meanwhile, nearby at the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, The Tritonics â€“ one of the rarest of creatures: a Milwaukee reggae band (and a good one, at that) â€“ was creating the perfect soundtrack to a beautiful, sunny and warm day, playing Jamaican classics and originals rooted in the late â€˜60s rock steady era.
Until something went awry with a connection to singer Jeff Stehrâ€™s keyboard, causing his playing to go silent (though he never stopped playing) and a rude buzz to pierce the bandâ€™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 didnâ€™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 Iâ€™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. Theyâ€™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 May 2, 2016
When I became a dad and my kids neared school age, I hoped they'd have a teacher like the one who made a lasting impression on me. A few years into their school careers, I can honestly say that my wish has already come true.
Published April 30, 2016
After a long hiatus from making music full-time, Carter Hunnicutt (of Those XCleavers and Flat Rabbits) is back in the game. He releases a six-track CD, "Dangerous World," at Circle A Cafe in Riverwest on Sunday, May 22. We got him talking...
Published April 28, 2016
We are deep into spring now, whether or not the weather is playing along, and being Milwaukeeans we can't wait to get outside and enjoy the fun months. Here are seven postcard images showing our forefathers letting loose in old Milwaukee...
Published April 27, 2016
Last year, the city approved a plan by Maures Development Group to redevelop a set of buildings, including the Henry Koch-designed former Garfield Avenue School, into mixed-income housing, a new America's Black Holocaust Museum and more. What's up?
Published April 26, 2016
Musician Gary Myers spent a number of years playing in many Milwaukee clubs with his bands The Night Beats, The Darnells and The Cashmeres (Mojo Men, later The Portraits). Fortunately, he also took photographs of the places where he performed.
Published April 25, 2016
The timing of a couple press releases today brings up the question of whether or not the images showing a revamped The Shops of Grand Avenue embrace diversity.
Published April 25, 2016
After putting together a design team to look at ways to transform The Shops of Grand Avenue, the property's owners today released a series of renderings showing ways the mall could be converted into a mix of large office spaces, retail - including a grocery store - and more.
Published April 21, 2016
Shortly after Prince's sudden and tragic death early this afternoon, OnMilwaukee met up with Victor DeLorenzo, who had a fun story and a few thoughts to share about the late musical icon.
Published April 21, 2016
While the site of the new Downtown Transit Center - at Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive - had previously been a surface parking lot, some skeptical Milwaukeeans thought a bus depot was ill-suited to Milwaukee's lakefront. Now, it's about to disappear.
Published April 20, 2016
There are eight MPS high schools that rank in the top 32 of Wisconsin high schools, according to U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post.