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 wroteÂ 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 â€“ Pat McCurdy, Mike Hoffmann, Pete Strand, Teddy Freese and Andy Bartel â€“ 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 groupâ€™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 â€“ 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, Â 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 â€“ one of the most inspired and intense of the night â€“ 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.Â
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 â€“ and Summerfest marketing man â€“ 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 May 5, 2016
It's Cinco de Mayo and now that I'm back on tequila - thanks to a switch to much higher quality tequilas than I used to taste - I've got a trio of Milagro Tequilas to sample and three recipes to make it happen.
Published May 5, 2016
Adventure Rock has begun offering hard hat tours of the new climbing gym it will open in June as part of Mandel Group's 46-unit Belay Apartments development on the corner of Commerce Street and North Avenue in Riverwest. This morning, we got a look inside.
Published May 4, 2016
Tenants have already started moving into the third phase of The North End complex along North Water Street, and the Fresh Thyme Market is shaping up to open next month. We got a peek inside.
Published May 3, 2016
Milwaukee Public Library has launched a new video series called "Stories from the Stacks," and the segments offer a mix of interesting stories about the library, including a powerful one about an author that wrote a book at the Central Library while she was homeless.
Published May 3, 2016
Rarely have I felt the pressure to write one of these spelunking stories so quickly. But, in this case, time might be of the essence. That's because last week I got a tour of the trio of buildings that were home to Laacke and Joys before it vacated a couple years ago and demolition was expected to start if not quite any minute, then certainly any day.
Published May 3, 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 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 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.