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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

Wed
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Fri
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With the amount of energy he still exhibits as a performer, it's hard to believe that Steven Tyler is in his sixties.
With the amount of energy he still exhibits as a performer, it's hard to believe that Steven Tyler is in his sixties.

Tyler and Aerosmith have still got it

It’s been a long time coming for Aerosmith to play at a Harley-Davidson Anniversary event, but man, the show they put on Friday night in front of a sea of denim and leather-clad bikers was absolutely worth the wait.

Aerosmith was one of the rumored "secret" headliners at the Harley 100th (most memorable for the visceral negative reaction to Elton John as the actual headliner) but they didn’t make it to Milwaukee for that. For Harley’s 105th, they were confirmed as a headliner for the H.O.G. Rally, but had to cancel the show due to "health issues" with band members.

So it’s no surprise that Friday’s show was one of the most highly-anticipated of the entire 110th weekend - and there were few empty seats anywhere in the house.

After selling out the Marcus Amp at last year’s Summerfest, Aerosmith was back, looking and sounding as tight as ever. But although this is technically part of the same "Global Warming" tour, this was not just a rehash of last year’s show.

That concert leaned heavily towards early Aerosmith – at the expense of many of their more recent hits. Frankly, a real treat for long-time fans, but not quite as popular with recent converts.

Last night, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members tore through a much more balanced, 19-song set that spanned the band’s 43-year career – from "Same Old Song and Dance" off of 1974’s "Get Your Wings" to "Oh Yeah" from their 2012 release "Music From Another Dimension!" They also tossed in a handful of amazing cover tunes, including Willie Dixon’s "I’m Ready" and their classic rock radio hit "Come Together" from the "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club" soundtrack.

After years of uneven live performances due to well-documented substance abuse issues, Steven Tyler is downright remarkable in terms of his energy level as well as the strength of his voice - which belie the fact that he’s freakin’ 65 years old. He’s clearly one of rock’s most talented and riveting front men.

Joe Perry sta…

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The Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee team at Bobby Mackey's in Kentucky.
The Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee team at Bobby Mackey's in Kentucky.

Milwaukee ghost stories: The haunted honky-tonk

On Aug. 11 I attended a meeting of the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee (PIM) at the West Allis home of the group’s founder, Noah Leigh. Noah greeted me at his door with a notebook in his hand, listing the meeting’s agenda. The majority of the items on the list concerned discussing and reviewing evidence from PIM’s out-of-state expedition in July.

While some people use their vacation time to plan trips to Honolulu or Orlando, the members of PIM plot time off to travel to some of the most notoriously haunted hot spots in America.

Stops on their most recent ghost road trip, which PIM termed "The Expedition," included the Mansfield Reformatory (a historic prison in Ohio), Sedamsville Rectory (located in the "armpit of Ohio," according to PIM member Jann Goldberg) and the Waverly Hills Sanatorium (a Kentucky hospital built to accommodate a tuberculosis epidemic).

All of these locations are well-known to ghost hunters as being "active," but the one place everyone was itching to talk about at the meeting was Bobby Mackey’s Music World.

There are a lot of unsubstantiated stories about Bobby Mackey’s, a honky-tonk style bar and country music venue in Wilder, Ky. Bobby Mackey’s, built on the grounds of a former slaughterhouse, is said to have been the scene of a gruesome murder in the 1890s. Two men murdered a pregnant woman, cut off her head and threw it in a well in what is now the building’s basement. The legend is that this was part of a satanic ritual that awoke evil spirits in the building.

In the 1930s, the building became a speakeasy, which leads to the story of Johanna, one of the club’s performers. Her father murdered her lover, she poisoned herself in her dressing room (also in the basement) and her spirit is said to still be hanging around. Bobby Mackey has immortalized her in song, although Mackey himself isn’t much of a ghost believer. His wife is, though. She claims an evil spirit pushed her down a flight of stairs in the …

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Spirit Family Reunion plays Live @ Peck Pavilion tonight.
Spirit Family Reunion plays Live @ Peck Pavilion tonight.

Spirit Family Reunion keeps the faith at Live @ Peck Pavilion

Live @ Peck Pavilion is a great opportunity for people to enjoy music while appreciating the view of the Milwaukee River and the chestnut grove on the Marcus Center grounds. With two concerts left for this year, homegrown American music by Spirit Family Reunion will fill the Pavilion tonight.

With vintage instruments and powerful lyrics, this one-time farmers market band has now been touring and exploring around the States. Nick Panken from Spirit Family Reunion took time to tell OnMilwaukee.com about his band and explained how humble he is and possibly still in shock when people show up to listen to them perform.

"I am completely privileged and honored if anyone comes in the room to see us play," he said. "It still surprises me. We are able to share our music, meet great people and see many new places on this tour. In fact this will be our first time in Milwaukee."

Besides playing at local farmers markets, Spirit Family Reunion's performance for the NPR Music office last year (also known as tiny desk concerts) helped get their music to a bigger audience.

"It's a great series," he said. "People all over the country said they heard about us from that. It was super low-key with about 10 people standing in the office who listened to us play before heading back to work."

Last year the band also performed at Newport Folk Festival, another move that helped get their music to more people.

"We hadn't toured or put out an album," he said. "We met great people at this festival, people who want good music and want it to get recognized. Instead of having a record label or a hit song, we met people who enjoyed our music and wanted others to hear it, which is what I prefer."

Known for their foot-stomping beats and gospel-like lyrics, this band is unique and not tied to any particular religious denomination. Spirit Family Reunion's career has leaped within the last year and has a strong future ahead of them.

"We play because we all feel like we have something to say," said…

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The "Mansi Photo," taken in 1977, is claimed to be a photo of Champ. Critics say it is merely a strange shaped piece of driftwood.
The "Mansi Photo," taken in 1977, is claimed to be a photo of Champ. Critics say it is merely a strange shaped piece of driftwood.
Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis believes Champ might be a population of pleisosaurs that has evaded extinction and adapted to conditions in Lake Champlain.
Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis believes Champ might be a population of pleisosaurs that has evaded extinction and adapted to conditions in Lake Champlain.

Milwaukee ghost stories: Brew City's own lake monster

The members of the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee recently went on a road trip to check out some famously haunted locations in Ohio and Kentucky. They got quite a bit of activity at one of the locations. I’ll tell their hair-raising story in my next "Milwaukee Ghost Stories," but meanwhile I’ll relay my own recent adventure, not with ghosts, but another mysterious entity ... lake monsters.

While PIM was getting throttled by ghosts, I was heading out to Lake Champlain, home to a lesser-known cousin of the Loch Ness Monster, "Champ" – the name given to what is imagined to be a small population of animals in the 100 mile-long lake. Nessie, Champ and British Columbia’s Ogopogo (of Lake Okanagan) are among dozens of reported "lake monsters." Theories vary as to what they could be – pleisosaurs, an unknown mammal, or a prehistoric whale. Skeptics say it is everyday flotsam like driftwood coupled with human imagination.

In Button Bay State Park, south of Burlington, Vt., I met up with an assembled group of cryptozoologists — people who study unknown animals. Their goal was to monitor the lake with underwater cameras, binoculars, night vision and thermal imaging gear and hydrophones to try to find any solid evidence of Champ. We didn’t find any, but the group is planning to return with more gear and a longer term camera set up next year.

One of the people on the trip was lake monster expert Scott Mardis, a walking database of information on the mystery creatures. When I mentioned I was from Wisconsin, he immediately recalled an item from his massive archives, which he scanned and sent to me.

It’s a 10-page booklet published in 1942 by the Wisconsin Folklore Society, written by Charles E. Brown. It’s titled "Sea Serpents: Wisconsin Occurrences of These Weird Water Monsters in the Four Lakes, Rock, Red Cedar, Koshkonong, Geneva, Elkhart, Michigan and other Lakes."

The book details Lake Monster sightings from the late 1800s to the …

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