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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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The "MST3K" crew brought big-screen laughs to The Pabst as Cinematic Titanic.
The "MST3K" crew brought big-screen laughs to The Pabst as Cinematic Titanic.

Cinematic Titanic relives its MST3K glory at The Pabst

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" may have gone off the air in 1999, but its status as a cult favorite has only continued to grow.

Cinematic Titanic, a five-member off-shoot of performers from the show's run, appeared this weekend at the Pabst Theater for a two-night stint, concluding with Saturday's sold-out showing of the 1976 film "The Astral Factor."  

Cinematic Titanic consists of original creator and star of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (a.k.a. MST3K) Joel Hodgson, as well as J. Elvis Weinstein, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Coniff and Mary Jo Pehl. This marked the third time the group has been in Milwaukee since they first began in 2007.

The show began with opener David "Gruber" Allen engaging the crowd with a few sing-along songs. While his nickname makes him sound like a certain local attorney, Allen is perhaps best known for his work on the TV show "Freaks and Geeks," where he played guidance counselor Jeff Rosso.

His live act consisted of the same type of attitude and tone that made his character on the show so memorable. After briefly leaving the Pabst stage, he returned as his twin cousin "Groover," a poet who shared two haikus and a lengthy rambling poem about the Four Corners of the southwest. It was a perfect parody of beat poetry, filled with random references and wordplay.

After Allen departed, he gave way to members of Cinematic Titanic to appear for individual showcases in which they weren't making fun of bad movies. Frank Conniff, who played TV's Frank on "MST3K," said he was going to read a poem he wrote called "Everything I Like About Scott Walker," with the bit being that he had nothing to say at all. While there was a loud positive response, it also attracted a number of boos. Overall, it was an ill-conceived insertion of politics and didn't fit the setting. Conniff also did a segment in which he read tweets from historical figures, which was funnier in concept than it was in execution.

Mary Jo Pehl, who played Pearl during the final ye…

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The end of a series for Juniper Tar.
The end of a series for Juniper Tar.

Juniper Tar's final Foster show

In anticipation of their April 27 album release concert at Turner Hall, Juniper Tar and friends played a special residency gig series at The Hotel Foster. This past Wednesday was the final show.

We'll it came and went way too damn fast, and we are all quite sad that trekking all of our gear to a beautiful bar every Wednesday has come to a close. We can not express our gratitude enough to so many people we encountered over this four week experiment.

Yes, I am going to take a minute to mention a few of those people.

First, to John Revord and the entire staff at Hotel Foster. Thanks for opening your doors, and being so great throughout the whole month. Without you guys, this month would NOT have been as wonderful as it was.

Alan Herzberg has shown up every week to photograph the evening, but what is notable about Alan's insane generosity is that each week he showed up with a disk of the photos in hand, along with printed 11 x 18 photographs for us to take home with us.

Cal Roach and his wife Jen successfully made it to all 4 shows. Jen was great enough to join us on stage for 2 of the weeks, and Cal was great enough to share his kind and encouraging words about our night with the world at his blog You-Phoria.

Blaine Schultz, a veteran of the Milwaukee music scene (Aimless Blades being our favorite), and someone we continue to admire provided really great insight and feedback that has kept us excited about playing music. (Doing this sh*t without feedback can get you down from time to time).

Matt Wild who is a terrific writer for The AV Club, watched quietly is the shadows each week. Don't think we didn't notice.

To everyone that made it out one time or each night of the party, we can't say thank you enough. We didn't plan on this adventure turning into a weekly love fest, filled with clanking mugs, hugs and fives, and an abundance of shots tossed around, so we appreciate everyone who helped turn Wednesday nights into something specia…

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Juniper Tar played the third night of their Hotel Foster residency with guests Black Eagle Child and Hello Death.
Juniper Tar played the third night of their Hotel Foster residency with guests Black Eagle Child and Hello Death. (Photo: Alan Herzberg)

Inside the residency with Juniper Tar: Week Three recap

Most everyone knows that we are extremely fond of Old Crow bourbon, and over the past seven years we've accumulated enough Old Crow bottles to build a small hut. Last night was, however, the first time that we'd ever been asked to sign one!

Yeah, it was one of those nights. If there is one downfall to having this residency on a school night, it's that we all have day jobs. Four hours of sleep on our aging brains takes its toll week to week, so this may not be the most coherent post you'll get today.

Next week we'll be bringing this fun little evening to a close, which has all of us pretty bummed out, but I'm pretty certain our bodies will be thrilled to not have Old Milwaukee taking over our blood streams.

In talking with a friend and fellow musician (who has done his part in doing innovative things with music/art in Milwaukee) this morning, it made me realize that the Thursday blues really are worth fighting through. The non-traditional approach to the night is accomplishing exactly what we'd hoped. Use the residency to create a community of great people, not to put on a rock show to promote our silly band each week. (Even though that is in essence what we are doing.)

It's been an amazing three weeks that have made us better as a band. We're meeting artists and musicians that we didn't know were doing great things in our own city, and we're almost going through withdrawal when we aren't together. I think those are really good signs that this was a good thing to invest our time in.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012, with resident guests Black Eagle Child and Hello Death

We're not going to lie, before arriving at Hotel Foster for Week Three we were really not "feeling it." Jason was sick and everyone else was just plain tired. But with any show, all it takes is to load up the van and the mental pre-show psych-up begins ...

Last week we met a great guy named Alan Herzberg who shot photos. He typically shoots sports and less rock 'n' roll-oriented events. But he arrived…

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Father and son in Milwaukee.
Father and son in Milwaukee.

An eight-month, cross-county journey into fatherhood

Rachael Jurek walked into the room holding the long, white cylinder. She had a confused expression playing on her lovely features. She scrunched up her nose and squinted her dark eyes.

"Take a look at this," she said. "I don't know what it means."

The instructions on the pregnancy test had seemed pretty straightforward. A horizontal line indicated there was no pregnancy. A "+" indicated a baby was on the way. Our test had only a single vertical line.

"This IS confusing," I said, swallowing hard against the excitement welling up inside me. I fumbled through the trash and found the box to the pregnancy test. My mind was racing as I scanned the microscopic instructions printed on the side. My 50-year-old peepers had rarely failed me when reading license plates during prolonged television stakeouts or trying to pick out the face of a political hack at a crowded fundraiser, but the tiny words before me now might as well have been written in Sanskrit. My aging ocular organs were suddenly useless. I turned the box over to Rachael and her 34-year-old optics.

Rachael's eyes narrowed as she reread the instructions. Her lips formed a thoughtful pucker. She cocked her head slightly to the side. Silence.

"Well?" I asked.

"I think this means we're having a baby," she said looking up. She didn't smile, instead looking toward me for my reaction. "It says false negatives are far more likely than false positives, any hint of a vertical line means pregnant."

I don't know what kind of look I had on my face at that point. It must have been something better than an expression of blind terror, because as I stared at Rachael's pretty face, framed by dark curls, her mouth spread into a slightly crooked smile and she began to giggle.

I reached out and wrapped my long arms around my tiny Rachael. She felt so small to me at that moment.

"Thank you for not freaking out," she said calmly. "You're going to be a great daddy!"
That scene played out just over eight months …

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