Last year was definitely the year of Field Report. Almost as soon as the Milwaukee-based roots rock band changed its name from Conrad Plymouth, big things began happening: there was a record deal, an acclaimed debut, a national media blitz and some high-profile touring slots, including opening for Counting Crows.
Field Report stopped home as part of that Counting Crows tour in summer and we talked to frontman Christopher Porterfield in advance of that show.
But it's been months and a lot happened for Field Report in the second half of the year. So as Porterfield prepared to take part in Alverno Presents' "Beautiful Dreamer: The Foster Project," and the band readied for a $10 Feb. 14 gig at Turner Hall, we caught up with him to get a report, ahem, from the field.
OnMilwaukee.com: 2012 was a pretty amazing year for you, wasn't it? We last talked about halfway through. Was the second half as whirlwind was the first?
Christopher Porterfield: The last time we talked, we were just kicking off the month-long tour we did with Counting Crows. That ended up being quite the trip. We started on the East Coast and went all across the country. We were home for a short time, then did some festivals and an east coast run when our record came out in September. Home again for a short time, then three weeks out west with Aimee Mann. Then we were home for a couple of weeks, then we did our first legit headlining tour, starting on the East Coast. We put 50,000 miles on the van from March to November.
OMC: Could you ever have expected you'd have a year like that?
CP: In a word, no! It's still a little surreal, reflecting on it. You never are entitled to anything like this, and you can never take it for granted. You have to keep your head down and do work.
OMC: Do you have some personal favorite moments to share?
CP: We got to play some pretty awesome places on the Counting Crows tour, including Red Rocks, the legendary natural amphitheater in Colorado. You really can't overstate the majesty of that place. And it was great becoming friends with their singer, Adam (Duritz). We took him to Transfer for pizza when we were here.
We really loved our trip with Aimee (Mann), and became great friends with her and her team. I got to sing a duet with her every night. I kept screwing it up the first few nights when I'd be watching her, trying to blend voices and remember the words, and she'd make eye contact and smile. Mercy.
OMC: How was the reception when you came home to play that Counting Crows gig at the lakefront?
CP: It was such a whirlwind. It fell in the middle of the tour, and there really wasn't a whole lot of opportunity to feel like we were home. The BMO Harris Pavilion is wonderful. The timing of that show was a little off, I think. It was right after Summerfest had ended, and it was the first non-Summerfest show at the pavilion. I think people still weren't sure how shows there worked yet. But the reception was positive.
OMC: But this upcoming show is really the first headlining gig in a long time, isn't it?
CP: Yeah, this Turner show is pretty much the first Milwaukee show that Field Report is going to headline. Which is weird. We played New York seven times, L.A. five times and dozens and dozens of shows in pretty much every market in between, but we wanted to be careful not to over-saturate home. The local media has been really kind to us, and we're grateful for the support at home while we've been out. We wanted to make sure to have the right show at home before we go out again, and this Turner show felt right.
OMC: I bet you will feel the love.
CP: We got a little taste of it at the RadioMilwaukee awards show – we played a brief set at Turner for that. And we weren't really sure how we were going to be received at home. I honestly half-expected some backlash for all of the nice coverage the media has given while we've been away so much. But people seemed genuinely excited to have us there, and they ended up awarding us with their Album of the Year, which was very kind.
OMC: Have all those hours at venues and in vans led to some new material or has it had the reverse effect of keeping you too busy to write?
CP: We've been home since Thanksgiving, so there has been time to recalibrate and stare at the wall, which has led to some new stuff. We'll try out some new things at the Turner show.
OMC: What do you expect 2013 will bring for Field Report?
CP: More of the same, only this time we'll be building on the foundation we built last year. We have a couple of amazing videos coming out. Vinyl in springtime. And lots of touring. There's really no way to do this job but to grind it out and earn it. We want to keep making friends and building relationships, one honest set at a time.
OMC: When does the next round of touring start?
CP: We'll be heading out in March again on a combination headlining and festival tour. We're heading to Florida and Georgia for festivals, then routing to Austin for South by Southwest again. We've got some cool things booked down there.
We learned a lot last year. I'm sure we'll learn a lot this year. Last year, our motto was "no excuses/no regrets." That will probably get picked up this year, too.
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.