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Brand New brings emotional energy to Summerfest

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here

Honestly, I didn’t really want to see Brand New live. They are an often incredibly depressing band that would bring down my Summerfest high. However, I owed it to the angsty 15-year-old Holden Caulfield in me to see this group in concert, one that used to be incredibly influential to me.

Brand New is an alternative rock group from New York. They began as a generic pop punk band in 2000, and by 2003 transformed into a darker, more serious group. To give you perspective, a bridge on their first album when they comparatively weren't as dark is, "Cause I’ve seen more spine in jellyfish/I’ve seen more guts in 11 year old kids/take another drink and drive yourself home/I hope there’s ice on all the roads/and you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield."

However, just because I wasn’t psyched to see them doesn’t mean I am saying they’re bad in any regards, because their music is some of the most impressive that I’ve seen in the past 10 years. Within the past few albums, the band's lyrics have gone into incredible depth with feelings of loneliness, death and worthlessness that countless other bands strive to achieve but fail.

Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of this group since they don’t do all that much or really any self promotion, including taking three-year breaks between releasing new material. Their last full length "Daisy" had one radio single but was devoid of any music videos; the last music video they released was 10 years ago. However, somehow even without self promotion, "Daisy" reached number six on the US Billboard 200.

The lack of self promotion didn’t hurt them at the Miller Lite Oasis eit…

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Gogol Bordello still managed to bring the punk to the BMO Harris Pavilion Tuesday night.
Gogol Bordello still managed to bring the punk to the BMO Harris Pavilion Tuesday night. (Photo: Jennell Jenney)

Gogol Bordello packs punky passion into its safe Summerfest setting

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

Last Friday, my friend from college took me to a grungy warehouse – I think it was still in the Dinkytown (actual name of an actual city) neighborhood where they live, but my Minneapolis geography is not adequate enough to say definitively – where people rode to up to the show on bikes taller than I am. My friends from college are playing in a band there for the summer. They live in a cozy apartment cramped by the eight people who share it. My friends work as line cooks and record store clerks. They have a certain predilection towards wearing dark clothes with faded colors from thrift stores, smoking Marlboro Red cigarettes and rocking out to punk music.

Anyways, inside the warehouse, I bought two $2 cans of Hamm’s and listened as punk was blended with noise rock, country, sludge metal and new wave sounds. Four band played, and I never saw more than a quarter of the people at the venue walk in to watch the show. They just stood outside in leather, smoking away at cigarettes and catching up and swapping wild stories with the many travel punks, old hardcore punks, arts kids and band members that loitered in the industrial yard out front. They were so punk, they wouldn't pay for a show or couldn't be bothered to. 

See, I have always enjoyed punk music. It’s loud, aggressive and stirs up some inner desire to be young, reckless and slightly stupid. I myself have never been able to embrace the "Live Fast, Die Young" mantra that punk music likes to espouse, though. That seems too tragic and dramatic for my tastes, but that’s beside the point. "Lovely" may not be the right word to describe the black clothes and angst, but I find the music and the atmosphere lovely. 

And so, as I sat down…

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Milwaukee Firehouse Engine Co. 2 is located at 755 N. James Lovell St.
Milwaukee Firehouse Engine Co. 2 is located at 755 N. James Lovell St. (Photo: Amy Grau)
"The Last Alarm" stands outside of the building, inscribed with the names of those who died fighting fires.
"The Last Alarm" stands outside of the building, inscribed with the names of those who died fighting fires. (Photo: Amy Grau)

Doors Open Milwaukee: An inside look at Milwaukee Firehouse Engine Co. 2

As most young boys do, I went through a stage where I wanted to be a firefighter. This was after circus clown but before I was to be an animator for Disney. I finally settled on becoming an architect, which I now am. While my interest in becoming a firefighter quickly waned, my adoration and respect has only grown for those who keep us safe from fires and so many other dangers.

On a recent afternoon in May, Amy Grau – who coordinates Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s Doors Open MKE event – and I were invited to have lunch with the firefighters at Engine Co. 2, on 7th and Wells. It was an opportunity that could not be turned down.  Engine Co. 2 is not only one of the largest fire stations in the Milwaukee Fire Department, it also serves as the headquarters and main offices. After lunch, we got a full tour of the building from Deputy Chief Aaron Lipski. What better way to be shown around a firehouse than by a third generation fire chief!

Admittedly, from the outside, Engine Co. 2 isn’t the most spectacular firehouse in Milwaukee’s fleet. It was constructed in 1966, at a time when sleek continuous horizontal lines had long replaced the striking Italianate corner lookout towers of earlier stations, and where aluminum and concrete block had overtaken all brick ornamental detail. Give it another 20 years, and we may all grow to really appreciate the simplicity and honesty of this firehouse.

Architectural style aside, Engine 2 is one of the most well-regarded in the fleet. Along with Engine Co #1, it shares some of the toughest jurisdiction anywhere in the city – notably, all of Downtown. As such, it is also one of the busiest of all of the engine companies. In fact, as we sat down to lunch, we were very clearly warned that the meal was very likely going to be interrupted.

There are two things you should know about firefighters. First, they’re great cooks. Well, at least the one that cooked for us was, I don’t know about the rest of them. Besides their engines and l…

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One of Milwaukee's native sons returns home for 10 days of summer fun and exploration.
One of Milwaukee's native sons returns home for 10 days of summer fun and exploration. (Photo: Bobby Tanzilo)

From Conejito's to church fests: A MKE native's annual summer return home

Steamy and stormy. That’s how I think of Milwaukee summers. And incredibly hectic, too.

Summer in the city is always crammed with more festivals, fairs and block parties than civically necessary or nutritionally advisable.

But it’s an integral element of my longtime summer routine, and I’m too old to stop now. Admittedly, though, some moderation has crept into my ritual over the years; I’ve already been back for 10 days on my annual visit to Milwaukee, and I haven’t had a frozen custard cone from Kopp’s or Leon’s yet (although in checking the website for whether or not Kopp’s has an apostrophe, I noticed chocolate peanut butter is an upcoming flavor of the day and my abstinence streak may need to be broken).

OK, I already have had a few Wisconsin brews, but I am from Milwaukee. My doctor will understand. Plus, I had to check out the new (to me!) beer gardens at Milwaukee County Parks.

When I do Milwaukee, I do the city right. I’ve worn out lesser men and women who’ve braved the journey with me over the years. One retired friend who visited during a particularly sweltering summer actually called the airline to move up his flight a few days after he feared he wouldn’t survive another sweat-drenched day of roaming Milwaukee with the local kid.

Just about every summer since I moved from the city in 1979, I return for at least a few days – always around Summerfest.

This year, I decided on a different approach. I took a couple of extra weeks off from my job teaching journalism at Colorado State University, loaded my Trek bicycle in the car and headed to my Wisconsin summer home (that sounds much nicer than the house where I grew up in the heart of Milwaukee). I figured the bike would give me a new perspective – at least one that I haven’t had since tooling around the neighborhood on my Schwinn Sting-Ray when I was 10.

And you know what? It did give me some interesting new looks at my favorite city. Heading south from my Walker’s Point ba…

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