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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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In Music

It's not unusual for the Hot Toddies to pause for a smoke or a shot during their boozy set of Christmas classics.

Local trio puts boozy spin on holiday classics


When thinking about Christmas music the mind tends to drift toward visions of angelic carolers, looped grocery store Muzak versions of "Jingle Bells", and -- depending on your age -- an occasional recollection of the "California Raisins Christmas Special."

But a trio of Milwaukee musicians is putting a new twist on holiday classics and providing the soundtrack for all those grownups who are more likely to find coal in their stocking come Christmas morning.

Performing under the Hot Toddies moniker, Patrick Fuller, Ashley Chapman and Nick Westfahl mix equal parts old Vegas lounge act, Christmas cheer and rail bourbon for a boozy musical concoction that would make the baddest Santa blush.

While the Toddies have played in some of Milwaukee's biggest bands -- Temper Temper, Red Knife Lottery, and John Burkes' Band to name a few -- its twisted take on the holidays is quickly turning into a Christmas sensation that's threatened to eclipse its members' actual bands.

"It's pretty funny that people want you to go into their establishment and just get totally drunk and sing really sh*tty Christmas songs in front of them. And they enjoy it for some reason," Fuller said.

"Like so many other projects, it's the thing you put the least amount of effort into that people respond to," Westfahl said.

Westfahl and Fuller formed the Toddies on a whim in 2007 in anticipation of playing a Christmas party at Comet Cafe, 1947 N. Farwell Ave., where they both work.

After a handful of practices and a notorious Christmas Eve set at the rough-around-the-edges Riverwest bar the Uptowner, 1032 E. Center St., that was memorable for everyone but the ultra-inebriated band, the Toddies solidified itself as Milwaukee's most debauched Christmas act.

"Wasn't there some guy who didn't want us to do it so he pulled his chair up right in front of me and I kept on yelling in his face or something and everybody thought he was going to beat me up?" Fuller asked his partner about the Uptowner show, "I don't know. I was black-out drunk at the time; that's just what someone told me."

Chapman, whose soulful pipes help bolster the act's surprisingly effective harmonies, did a couple songs with the Toddies the following year and officially joined in 2009.

"Ashley forced her way in," Fuller said.

While a typical Toddies set is a loose affair with hilarious between-song banter and cocktail breaks, the songs are surprisingly good.

"It is fun to actually croon and harmonize and do all that kind of stuff, because I don't know if any of us have actually had the opportunity to play that type of music before," Westfahl said.

It's something the trio clearly enjoys.

"These guys are a lot more into the Christmas thing. I love the farcical aspect of Christmas as much as these guys actually love Christmas," Westfahl said.

"It's actually kind of creepy how excited we get about it," Chapman chimed in.

With plans to record a set of original Christmas tunes and cut an album in the future, the Toddies have a slew of holiday shows lined up. The first of which falls this Saturday at the Hover Craft craft fair after-party which kicks off 8 p.m. At the Bay View Brew Haus, 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Admission is $5, and free to people who attend the craft fair.


Talkbacks

Bayviewboozer | Nov. 30, 2010 at 12:12 p.m. (report)

Like comedy without all that laughter baggage.

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Skip | Nov. 30, 2010 at 9:49 a.m. (report)

Like the Deerlick, but probably actually good.

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sandstorm | Nov. 30, 2010 at 7:32 a.m. (report)

so basically they've taken the lounge vibe of the 5 Card Studs and married it with the boozy, xmas songs the Mighty Deerlick trot out every December? cool...

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