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 Feb. 27, 2015
You'll be unsurprised to hear that visiting interesting Milwaukee buildings of all kinds leads to meeting all kinds of similarly interesting Milwaukeeans. But, when I visited Milwaukee Fire Dept.'s Engine 01, 784 N. Broadway, recently, the folks I met there were at least as interesting than the building itself.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
The Milwaukee Board of School Directors on Thursday night approved the construction contract to renovate the vacant Malcolm X site, 2760 N. 1st St., into a new home for Rufus King International Middle School, which currently inhabits a former elementary school.
Published Feb. 25, 2015
It always surprises me how many hotels there once were in Downtown Milwaukee. Here's a little look at one of them.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
Brewing in Milwaukee thrives today and at a range of levels, from homebrewers to craft beer producers to major breweries. Despite the differences in scale, all these brewmasters share a basic love for the work and for the results ... and they feel the weight of the the city's tradition of brewing.
Published Feb. 23, 2015
Though it's no longer there, one Downtown venue hosted at least three landmark clubs.
Published Feb. 23, 2015
Tending bar can mean different things, based on the setting. Slinging drinks at a corner tap isn't anything like manning the wine station at an art museum event or concocting craft cocktails at a fancy restaurant. Milwaukee's Tammy Petoskey has worked at South Side saloons, but now she gets a different view from behind the bar at Wild Earth Cucina, the Italian restaurant in the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino.
Published Feb. 20, 2015
The Third Ward awoke to some sad news this morning. According to an email sent out by Nancy O'Keefe, executive director of the Historic Third Ward Association, Bella Caffe co-owner Tim Talsky passed away Thursday night.
Published Feb. 19, 2015
General Capital Group and Joseph Property Development bought three properties from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in September and unveiled plans to raze the structures to build a mixed-use development with retail, apartments and a commons space for MIAD students to replace one of the buildings, which had served as the school's student union. Two of the three are threatened with destruction.
Published Feb. 18, 2015
With news that the 50-year-old "Streets of Old Milwaukee" - one of the most beloved experiences for people of all ages in Milwaukee - will close briefly at the end of summer for a update, we started to think about what we'd like to see in the streets. So, with tongue sometimes firmly in cheek, I suggest...
Published Feb. 18, 2015
Though ticket prices will rise beginning Monday, March 2, individual admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum will now include free entry to a planetarium show, as well as admission to a new permanent exhibit that opens next month.