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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Milwaukee's Dogs in Ecstasy played at the New Music KNE stage on the last day of Summerfest.
Milwaukee's Dogs in Ecstasy played at the New Music KNE stage on the last day of Summerfest.

Dogs in Ecstasy helps close out Summerfest

Milwaukee grunge/punk trio Dogs in Ecstasy is only a year and a half old but has quickly created a strong presence on the local music scene through plenty of shows and active social media accounts (mainly Twitter).

Despite a crowd that was a little sparse Sunday evening at Summerfest's New Music KNE Stage, the band played a high-energy show that featured most of the music it has released so far.

Songs like "Buzz," "My Brain is Killing Me" and "E-cig" all have pithy, clever lyrics that on this night were lost to a poor sound system. That muddy mix was the show's only downfall.

The band's stage presence was laid back with attention focused on their instruments rather than the crowd. That isn't to say that the show wasn't enjoyable; the band's rhythms are instantly engaging and addictive.

Despite the sound issue, Dogs in Ecstasy's musical skills can carry it wherever it goes. And anyway, sometimes you just need to hear a song called "My Brain is Killing Me." 

R&B and soul legend Bobby Womack died last week at the age of 70.
R&B and soul legend Bobby Womack died last week at the age of 70.

Remembering R&B/soul legend Bobby Womack

A true R&B and soul legend, Bobby Womack died last week at the age of 70.

Womack played African World Festival here in Milwaukee maybe 18 years ago. It was a hot muggy night, not unlike tonight.

That year, I was lucky enough to cover concerts by both Otis Rush and Womack on successive evenings. As I recall, there had been some trouble at Summerfest that year with young people and guns. Eventually, Summerfest bought in metal detectors at the entrance gate (to be fair, historically Summerfest has an incredibly low number of incidents).

By this point, Womack had been off the charts for a while, but his legacy was very much intact. His early hits with his brothers, as The Valentinos, under the wing of Sam Cooke (he would later marry Cooke’s widow after the soul superstar was murdered) and later collaborating with Sly Stone secured his place.

On that night, other stages featured acts ranging from smooth-groove oldies to urban contemporary. As Womack was working his magic on the crowd, whose median age I would guess at well above 40 years old, there came a series of loud pops at a nearby stage. My guess is Womack never heard this onstage.

As a wave of young people came toward us, rapidly surging toward Womack’s audience, what struck me was the look in the eyes of older folks who feared what may be happening as they tried their best to get out of the way. Many could not move very fast. If you have never been in a crowd situation like that is, it really is helpless.

It was hard to tell if the young folks really knew what happened as some appeared to be fleeing while others were running and laughing. But the look in the eyes of those around me said, "This is real."

Sensing that something serious was going down, Womack brought the band to a halt and gently began playing Sam Cooke’s hymn "A Change is Gonna Come." The chaos peaked and then the audience realized the song Womack was playing. A church-like calm came over the audience as order was restored. We owed …

The author, Erik Buell and motorcycle journalist Aaron Frank.
The author, Erik Buell and motorcycle journalist Aaron Frank.

Buell carves new roads in Wisconsin motorsports landscape

With AMA Pro motorcycle racing coming to Road America in Elkhart Lake this weekend, it seems like perfect timing to write about Wisconsin motorsports legend Erik Buell and his latest ventures both on and off the racetrack.

Buell and his passion for motorcycles and racing have been part of Wisconsin’s business landscape for more than 30 years. Feel free to use Google for a link to Buell’s past, but we’re talking about his present and future here, which is a company called EBR Racing based in East Troy.

From a racing standpoint, the current EBR Racing / Hero / Amsoil team is led by ProSuperbike rider Cory West, who rode to a 10th place finish at Daytona Bike Week in March.

West rides the EBR 1190RS, which packs 175 horsepower and can push 200 mph on the track. West and Larry Pegram are slated to ride with EBR factory support in the AMA Pro Superbike race at Road America.

The old motorsports saying of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" has been a challenge for Buell motorcycles at times over the years, but the current EBR street bikes clearly reflect Buell’s mantra of being "fiercely independent."

First off, these EBR street bikes are designed for riders who like to enjoy serious fun, and that oxymoron makes total sense on the new 1190RX, which hits 185 horsepower, but weighs only about 400 pounds. For an extreme comparison, a typical Harley cruising bike weighs about 700 pounds and might reach 65 horsepower.

Recently, EBR held a promotional event at Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin, where some of Wisconsin’s fast and fearless motorcycle enthusiasts and experts came together to celebrate racing and see the new EBR bikes.

While walking around the 1190RX street bike with the EBR experts, it’s obvious that Buell’s technological innovation continues on a fast track. Known for their unique weight distribution, smooth handling on fast, curvy roads, aka "twisties," and accessible maintenance, Buell bikes have evolved with their riders’ expectations.…

Ron Cuzner, the legendary host of "The Dark Side" radio program, died 11 years ago today.
Ron Cuzner, the legendary host of "The Dark Side" radio program, died 11 years ago today.

Remembering "The Dark Side" and Ron Cuzner

It was 11 years ago today when my mother called me from Milwaukee and told me Ron Cuzner had died that day at 64. I was stunned into a Cuzner-like pregnant-pause silence. I had moved to Madison in 1989, so I lost my close connection to Ron in those pre-radio streaming years.

He had spun his last Ellington "Solitude" intro and uttered his last golden catch-phrase. He and his jazz program "The Dark Side" had finally moved on to the light.

Cuzner was the one-of-a-kind disk jockey who exposed countless nocturnal Milwaukeeans to his beloved music on various radio venues, starting in the early 1970s with an "underground radio" station (along with WUWM's Bob Reitman). His longest tenure was at the otherwise-classical music WFMR. Cuzner’s preferred time slot was midnight to sunrise. Hardly a vampire, he also emceed high-profile jazz concerts and ran a small jazz record store downtown.

Long-time Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel media critic Duane Dudek deemed him probably "the most singular stylist in Milwaukee radio history," who "took a slow drawl, meticulous diction and an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz to almost every radio station in the city." 

His on-air silences involved exquisite timing between words or phrases, inserting languid grace into his delivery – the opposite of Top 40 DJ hyper-prattle. And sometimes, after the silence, the concluding phrase would be in a slightly lower, softer register ("With a song … in my heart"). He knew how such a deflation of tone could convey emotion and sometimes pathos. 

This guy from Racine would quote a humbling lyric: "They’re playing songs of love, but not for me." He faithfully carried the torch for jazz but also another flame, for all the lonely people listening to him. Yes, his music kept him company through all those long, dark nights. But back then, he never knew really who or how many people were actually listening.

Cuzner surely spent countless nights utterly alone until sunrise, feeling sometimes like the …