Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com
The Grateful Dead performed for the last time as a group this weekend in Chicago.
The Grateful Dead performed for the last time as a group this weekend in Chicago. (Photo: Soldier Field Facebook)

A grand goodbye weekend to The Grateful Dead

Another phase of the big American adventure that is the Grateful Dead came to a close in Chicago over the weekend.

"Fare Thee Well" was billed as the final bunch of shows featuring the four remaining core members of the band, at least as a whole group. Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were joined for the big sendoff by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby on piano.

A couple of warm-up shows in Santa Clara last weekend had expectations of long-time fans somewhat tempered, as the current lineup of the band seemed at times to be feeling out what their roles would be. Anastasio especially seemed reticent to step on the toes of the longstanding members when taking on the role that Jerry Garcia used to occupy in the jams, despite constant encouragement from the fans.

Any worries about the quality of the last three gigs were largely unfounded, though, as the band seemed renewed and ready to roll from the first notes on Friday. The band opened the Chicago run with "Box of Rain," not coincidentally the last song that the Dead played with Garcia at the same venue almost 20 years before. The rest of Friday's first set featured almost wall-to-wall fan favorites from the band's extensive catalog, including "Jack Straw," "Bertha," "The Wheel" and "The Music Never Stopped."

The band really hit their stride early in the second set Friday, though, when they dropped a couple of classic song combinations. A perfectly blended "Scarlet Begonias" and "Fire on the Mountain" really got the set cooking, with the former featuring some outstanding lead work from Anastasio. After taking the customary trips through drums and space and a positively melting "Playing in the Band" it seemed as though they might be content to end with "Let it Grow." Instead, they finished with another classic sequence, this time the three-part run of "Help on the Way," "Slipknot" and "Franklin's Tower." Capping off an amazing night was "Ripple," sel…

Read more...
Sammy Hagar performed at the Miller Lite Oasis Saturday night at Summerfest.
Sammy Hagar performed at the Miller Lite Oasis Saturday night at Summerfest.

A conversation with Sammy Hagar

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!

At age 68, Sammy Hagar effortlessly exudes a casual, southern California kind of beach bum charm during an interview before his headliner show at Summerfest’s Miller Lite Oasis. "Hi, I’m Sammy," he says, jumping off a ratty sofa and shaking my hand. "So, what are gonna talk about," he says with a huge grin. 

That’s an open-ended question, coming from a guy who’s been banging around the music business since 1967. After joining – and leaving – 10 bands, Hagar stepped into the big time when he got together with guitarist Ronnie Montrose and recorded the album "Montrose" in 1972. One of the songs Hagar wrote for that LP, "Bad Motor Scooter," is one he still performs today.

After recording "Paper Money" with Montrose, Hagar left to pursue a solo career. By 1984, he was a headline act with rock anthems like "I Can’t Drive 55" and "There’s Only One Way to Rock" under his belt. The following year, Hagar replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen and stayed with the band for the next 11 years.

Those accomplishments alone are enough for a lifetime, yet somewhere along the way, Hagar found the time and energy to invest in bicycle shops, restaurants, nightclubs and a tequila franchise. Hagar sold the latter, Cabo Wabo Tequila, a few years ago for a reported $80 million dollars. It was the business side of the rock and roll icon that kicked off the interview.

Larry Widen: Most creative people don’t have the business acumen to operate one enterprise successfully. You, on the other hand, have a number of them to your credit. How is that?

Sammy Hagar: Our family was poor. I mean really poor. When I was a kid, I had a paper route, I mowed lawns, anything to make money. Being poor is probably b…

Read more...

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…

Read more...
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…

Read more...