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Gregg Allman (left on guitar) plays his hits at a Wednesday night show at the Northern Lights Theater.
Gregg Allman (left on guitar) plays his hits at a Wednesday night show at the Northern Lights Theater.

Northern Lights Theater set shows Allman's a survivor

Gregg Allman may still be playing cards with old man Fate, and he opened Wednesday night's concert by inviting those whom may have lost money in the casino to come in and drown their sorrows in some blues.

But God knows Allman has drawn many poor cards in his life, and it’s nearly a miracle he survived this long, with an almost savior-like gift for rebirth and renewal – especially in a life that’s been often gritty, unsavory and tragic, marked by the unforgettable deaths of his superlative guitarist brother Duane and Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley in a hauntingly similar motorcycle accident a year later. This Allman has borne the weight of drug addiction that very nearly killed him and several trying marriages, including a disastrous one to pop diva Cher. 

So the man who played the Northern Lights Theater still has the long blonde hair, beard and tattoos of a spiritual renegade, and many in the enthusiastic crowd perhaps felt like fellow travelers as the 67-year-old singer/songwriter, organist and guitarist transformed some of his trademark songs and put an indelible stamp on a number of blues high-water marks.

His unassumingly magnificent 2011 album "Low Country Blues" reasserted Allman’s profound commitment to the Southern blues idiom, deeply infused with gospel and strains of rock 'n' roll and jazz. The band’s consistently imaginative light show began with an extended tribute to classic bluesmen from Muddy Waters to Blind Lemon Jefferson to Robert Johnson.

So it was no surprise that Allman and his band really opened the floodgates of soulful passion with a stone classic T-Bone Walker song "Stormy Monday Blues," which he recorded on the Allman Brothers’ great "Live at the Fillmore East" album from 1971. Allman has massaged and expanded the tune for all its worth and made it the occasion to introduce his surprise guest performer Harvey Mandel, one the most singular and compelling blues-rock guitar stylists of his generation.

Though he …

Danielle Stobb and Maggie Polsean - two broke interns. Nice to meet you.
Danielle Stobb and Maggie Polsean - two broke interns. Nice to meet you.

Two Broke Interns: Hello, Milwaukee!

Danielle Stobb and Maggie Polsean are students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They came up with the idea of 2 Broke Interns as a way to share Milwaukee from a student’s perspective. Follow the blog each week for stories, recommendations and advice for successfully exploring Milwaukee on a budget. 

Danielle Stobb:

I’m a broke intern and come May, when I earn my journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I’ll be an even more broke college graduate. It took me three years to graduate, even with a change in my major. My parents are proud and my bank account is thankful.

My hometown is Green Lake. It’s a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it tourist town with an even smaller school. My graduating class was 20 students, most of which I knew from kindergarten. Growing up in Green Lake is one of the reasons I chose to attend college in Wisconsin’s biggest city. Milwaukee has so many places to go, things to see, people to meet … living in Green Lake was a mundane routine I was ready to break.

I have a type-A personality through and through. My desk is filled with post-it reminders and to-do lists. A Keurig sits nearby to brew my favorite chai. I click the refresh button on my email consistently.  

Over the past three years of living in Milwaukee I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me save money. I quickly realized my idea of purchasing groceries from Whole Foods (although so good) costs more, so I instead became a frequent visitor to Trader Joe's. I also learned that using public transportation is a great alternative to expensive parking on campus. It also means is engaging in small talk with the overly friendly riders. And as for dining out? I tend to order something I know will supply leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. If it’s good enough to eat once, I’ll eat it twice!   

I also save money in a rare way that most college students couldn’t fathom: I don’t party. In fact, I’m the one that breaks up college parties.…

Stone Creek Coffee barista T. Benjamin Fischer is competing in the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach.
Stone Creek Coffee barista T. Benjamin Fischer is competing in the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach.
Fischer cooks up a delicious espresso.
Fischer cooks up a delicious espresso.
Fischer serves up a perfect drink to four practice judges at a rehearsal Friday night.
Fischer serves up a perfect drink to four practice judges at a rehearsal Friday night.

Local Stone Creek barista heads to national coffee competition

With only two years experience "pulling shots" of espresso at Stone Creek Coffee, T. Benjamin Fischer is heading to the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach, Calif. 

The 24-year-old barista, who goes by T. Ben, rehearsed for the big show Friday night at the Stone Creek "factory store" located at 422 N. 5th St. As 45 spectators and four judges watched, T. Ben ran through his demonstration, an elaborate ritual lasting precisely half an hour.

The first 15 minutes of a barista presentation involves set-up as technical judges evaluate the competitor’s preparation techniques. During this time, baristas "dial in" their espresso, calibrating the time and temperature for the perfectly flavored shot. But it’s the second half of the demo that garners the most attention when the barista presents four judges with individual espressos, cappuccinos and a signature drink.

"That’s 12 drinks in 15 minutes," explains Fischer. "And the entire time you are talking about your presentation, explaining how you developed your recipe, what inspires you and your presentation theme."

Fischer’s 2015 competition theme is "Taste Perception." His signature drink features espresso from Costa Rican coffee spiked with juice from caramelized fruit sizzled with a butane torch in front of the spectators. He developed the recipe after reading dozens of scholarly articles on taste sensations on the tongue and experimenting with different coffee beans and espresso temperatures.

Last November, Fischer placed third in the Big Central Regional Barista Competition held in Minneapolis, making him eligible to compete in the national competition. For the last two months, he’s been refining his technique and recipe practicing between two to 12 hours a day. As he explains, "I’ve poured hundreds of cappuccinos preparing for this."

In the end, Fischer hopes the flavors "sing harmoniously" on the judges’ palates. Milwaukee fans can watch the competition live online at http://uscoffeechampionsh…

The New Pornographers put on a bright show at The Pabst Theater Thursday night.
The New Pornographers put on a bright show at The Pabst Theater Thursday night. (Photo: Benjamin Wick)

Indie rockers The New Pornographers deliver an evening of big sound

With a giant replica of their new album’s cover above them on the stage, The New Pornographers delivered a delirious set of extra-large pop during Thursday’s Pabst Theater performance.

But while some artists might direct that bigness to hair, lights, clothing changes, dance numbers and anything but the music, The New Pornographers saved it for their flab-free but massive sound (except for that big ass album cover, of course), which was heavy on thrills and loads of fun.

The now-veteran Canadian band, touring to support the highly touted "Brill Bruisers," featured its three most famous players (A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar) and played songs from across its catalog during the double-encore show – capped by a, uh, frothy take on "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism" from their 2000 debut album "Mass Romantic."

"Brill Bruisers" began the show, and its infectious "bo-bah’s" might have attendees chanting the refrain randomly – with or without the song playing – at a stoplight years from now. The throbbing, butt-shaker "Dancehall Domine" was a definite standout, one worthy of using the word infectious in back-to-back sentences. Bejar’s slow-building "War on the East Coast" – featuring harmonica from Newman – "Another Drug Deal of the Heart" and "Myriad Harbour" also delighted in the early-going.

Case, who was the recipient of "Neko!" cries throughout the night, shined on an emphatic take of "The Laws Have Changed." "Crash Years" showcased nice guitar interplay between Newman and guitarist Todd Fancey, and keyboardist Kathryn Calder took the vocal lead on the tender "Adventures in Solitude."

Bejar offered a good transition with the midtempo "Jackie," which implores listeners to "visualize success," while proclaiming that "the United States used to be a lot of fun." "Backstairs" was both moody and a workout.

Featuring Case, the classic "Mass Romantic" wildly concluded regulation before the band came back on stage. Band members offered limited ch…