Summerfest was treated to a three-band Milwaukee reunion extravaganza Thursday night that included performances by The Wigs, Bon Ton Society and Yipes!, under the roof of the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage.
Other than a WAMI Awards Show performance last year at Turner Hall, it's been more than 30 years since Milwaukee got to see the band.
Both The Wigs and Bon Ton Society played reunion shows at Shank Hall in 2009.
As I wrote earlier this week to introduce an interview with members of Yipes!:
The Milwaukee power pop quintet got together, fortuitously, right as labels were eager to snap up the best of the "new wave" and these five hard-working musicians – Pat McCurdy, Mike Hoffmann, Pete Strand, Teddy Freese and Andy Bartel – were primed and ready to go, having been rehearsing hard and performing even harder, racking up 250 to 300 gigs a year in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin and beyond.
Millennium Records inked Yipes! to a deal and the band recorded two LPs for the label. At the same time, the group toured with the likes of Jefferson Starship, Cheap Trick, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, among others.
Yipes! burned brightly but briefly. In 1981, the year after the group’s second LP, "A Bit Irrational," was released, Millennium dropped the band and its members dispersed. McCurdy to a successful career as a solo performer, Hoffmann as an active musician and producer and Strand as a music attorney in Chicago.
Last year, Yipes! was inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame and performed a short set at the awards ceremony.
On Thursday night the band played for about 90 minutes, mixing tunes from its two records, and sounded like it's never stopped gigging – certainly not like one that hasn't really played together in 33 years.
Drummer Freese flew in from his home in northeast Italy to perform and the band spent a couple days rehearsing this week.
But perhaps I should have expected the intensive, well-executed set. Not long before the band took the stage, I ran into Hoffmann, who said that since Yipes! is only playing the one gig, he'd thought he'd only really have to commit the songs to short-term memory. But during rehearsals he this week he realized that these tunes were in fact hard coded into his long-term recall.
"I think if I ever get Alzheimer's," he said, and I'm paraphrasing a bit, "I'll still be able to play these songs, that's how embedded they are."
Though the venue wasn't full, the crowd was eager and responded especially well to signature songs like "East Side Kids" and "Out in California," though covers of "Dancing in the Street" -- with vocals by Bartel -- and The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" also drew an enthusiastic response.
Though Yipes! emerged during the new wave era and its records were produced with an eye toward that market, the band, it turns out, is really just a good old rock and roll band with to-the-point three-minute pop tunes. And with top-notch musicians, those songs sound as fresh today as ever.
Toward the end of the set, the animated McCurdy said, "We said if we ever got together to play some songs again we'd have something new to play. This is that song."
The band launched into a blistering double-guitar-fueled song – one of the most inspired and intense of the night – that ruminated on the passage of time and was inspired by the enduring bonds of five musicians, especially said McCurdy, between himself and Strand, who have been friends since the age of 12.
"Thirty years in the blink of an eye here we are again, you and I," McCurdy sang. "Where does the time go?"
Playing for a little more than an hour The Wigs performed equally impressively, with melodic rock songs that mined much the same territory, but with perhaps deeper roots in the British invasion era.
The group also performed a few covers including one of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding," with Bon Ton Society guitarist – and Summerfest marketing man – John Boler as a guest.
As was the case with Yipes!, The Wigs were so tight it seemed hard to believe that the band hasn't been performing together non-stop over the years.
(Sorry, Bon Ton fans, I arrived after the band had completed its set.)
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 Dec. 9, 2016
On Thursday night, 86 percent of the membership in attendance at the Italian Community Center voted to sell a 1.8-acre parcel of the center's parking lots in the Third Ward, adjacent to Summerfest, to the Milwaukee Ballet for $2.4 million.
Published Dec. 8, 2016
Let me just say up front that I love tips from readers and friends. Tips like this one I got last week: "Knowing you, you already know about this. In case you don't: There is a helicopter in the floor of the old A.O. Smith plant." Here's the story.
Published Dec. 6, 2016
On Wednesday, Richard H. Driehaus and M & J Wilkow, Ltd., owners of the Milwaukee Gas Light Building, 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., will flip the switch on a newly completed lighting upgrade that will cause the building's iconic weather flame to burn more brightly.
Published Dec. 6, 2016
As I enter the former warehouse at 2461 W. Center St., I stop to envision the mid-December day in 1927 when Martin Grueschow walked into his completed Eschweiler & Eschweiler-designed warehouse for the first time. Now, someone else has high hopes for the building.
Published Dec. 1, 2016
There was a time when Milwaukee had venues that hosted jazz gigs all the time. One of them, The Jazz Gallery, is catalogued in a new book by the club's owner Chuck LaPaglia. Get a peek at this great bit of Milwaukee music history at an event Friday, Dec. 2.
Published Dec. 1, 2016
The popularity of Facebook groups like "Old Milwaukee" and OnMilwaukee's own urban spelunking series shows that Milwaukeeans have a passion for their city and its history. Indulge that passion with a gift rooted in our collective story. Here are a few ideas.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the beautiful Victorian Gothic Judge Jason Downer Mansion, 1201 N. Prospect Ave., is now something of a temple to art history, serving as the headquarters of the Milwaukee Art Museum's library. We go inside for a peek.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
Today is Giving Tuesday and thus I'm re-sharing this post from December 2013 about how you can use Donors Choose to help out a local public school.
Published Nov. 28, 2016
The MPS Foundation gets a public reboot today when the foundation - which since 1998 has raised funds, beyond taxes, from the community in support of Milwaukee Public Schools - hosts its annual meeting at the Riverside Theater Downtown from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Published Nov. 23, 2016
As I prepare to pack up my stuff and head out to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the folks who work hard every day to educate Milwaukee's children, and give a special shout out to City Year MKE.