Mike Benign and Paul Biemann were a formidable team in local pop in the '80s with Umbrella Man and Arms and Legs and Feet and in the '90s thanks to the brassy Blue in the Face.
But after just two discs, Blue in the Face packed it in, putting musicians of the caliber of drummer John Carr and keyboardist / saxophonist Bob Jennings back on the open market (although most BITF members were already in at least one other band, too).
In 2006, Peter Jest convinced the band to do a reunion gig at Shank Hall and my band also "reunited" for that gig. Full disclosure here: BITF bassist Biemann and guitarist Joe Vent were my bandmates for a long time.
At that time, Benign had put together, "Went Well With Bourbon," a CD of rarities, and Shank Hall was packed.
Now, the band reunites again -- I'm not playing that night -- at Shank Hall as part of a series of reunions celebrating Shank's 20th anniversary. Blue in the Face plays Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. This time the Wooldridge Brothers open the smoke-free show. Oh, what an incestuous little scene we've woven, eh? Admission is $12.
"Peter Jest approached us about getting back together for Shank Hall's 20th year anniversary series of reunion shows," Benign told me last week.
"Everybody in BITF agreed to do it right away. Not a shock, considering this isn't a band that ended in a pool of bad blood. We all get along remarkably well and remain connected to each other. Joe (Vent) and I have been recording together, my daughter babysits for John's (Carr) kids, Bob (Jennings) and John play together with John Sieger and The Subcontinentals, etc. So, playing together still feels very natural. Lots of love in the room and all that."
Although Benign says there will be no new tunes this time 'round, he'll have, "the rarities CD and a few other items on sale at the gig at ridiculously low prices."
The focus of the show will be on the band's 1992 debut, "Kicks & Deals" and its successor, "Curtains," and the rarities disc will each contribute three or four tunes to the set list.
"Saxophonist Pat Basler will definitely be there, along with everyone else from the first and second albums. Yes, (trombonist) Ed (Spangenberg) is coming in from Seattle. (Guitarist) Andy Buck, who replaced Joe on lead guitar for the 'Curtains' LP, will be coming up from Evansville, Ind., to join us on stage as well."
Expect a real Milwaukee music scene family reunion.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.