By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 22, 2008 at 8:22 AM

Milwaukee's Testa Rosa released one of the best records in Milwaukee in 2007 -- there I've said it again -- but were sadly silent in '08, aside from playing some gigs. But as the trio prepares to rock the house on Boxing Day at Shank Hall, we decided to talk to Damian Strigens about what Testa Rosa is up to these days and what folks can expect on Friday, Dec. 26 at the Regifting Extravaganza.

The show also features performances by Kevin Brandt and John Sieger and the Subcontinentals.

Admission is $5 -- the show is a benefit for Hunger Task Force -- and everyone is encouraged to bring a crappy holiday gift received the day before. Every gift goes into a pot and earns the giver a ticket that can be exchanged for something from the pot at the end of the night. Remember, one person's trash is another one's treasure! What's new with Testa Rosa these days? Working on a new record?

Damian Strigens: It's been woodshedding / writing time for us. There's a bunch of sketches in different stages. A few that are a lot different than anything on our first record. We're taking our time though. The writing and creative process is the most fun part of playing music. Live shows can be fun but we really get the most out of writing and recording.

OMC: Will we hear new songs at the show?

DS: I'm sure we'll toss a new one in there, but for the most part this will be a Christmas themed set along with a few songs from the 1st record. At the very end of our first record (as an extra track) we have a song called ‘I Want To Be Alone On Christmas (Here With You) that Betty wrote a while back. They played it on WOKY last year which totally blew our minds. Suburban housewives were phoning up the station asking who it was ... Maybe that's the market we should be going after -- they actually BUY music!

OMC: There's been talk of some kind of grand finale. Can you spill the beans or give us a hint?

DS: Well... I don't know if it's really a "grand finale" per se, but we're attempting a rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas" that will feature some of our fellow musician friends tackling the different vocal parts -- Mark Waldoch (Celebrated Workingman) is going to be Simon LeBon, Charles Jordan (Knit Delicate) is gonna be Bono, Rich from Atomic Records is coming up as Bob Geldof, and there are others. Obviously there's not much time to rehearse it so be prepared to chuckle a bit. It should be good fun.

OMC: Since this is a regifting show, have you ever regifted at the holiday season?

DS: Absolutely! Each year, some friends of ours hold a Festivus party in which we are all told to bring a doozy of a ‘re-gift' which everyone pulls names for. Last year Betty brought a big, obnoxious gold candle that, when lit, starts to play ‘My Heart Will Go On' by Celine Dion! Needless to say, it was coveted by many ...

OMC: What's atop this year's wish list?

DS: A new president! Come Jan. 20, our wish will come true.

Some other gigs on tap as 2008 turns to '09 include:

Oh My God and Guido's Racecar play the Cactus Club in Bay View on Friday, Dec. 26 at 10 p.m. and on New Year's Eve, the Cactus celebrates with Malachi, Architects of the Aftermath and one more band that has yet to be announced.

The White Tie Affair plays The Rave on Saturday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Two nights later Rusted Root and Backyard Tire Fire team up for an 8 p.m. gig. Tickets are $21.50 and $26.50.

On New Year's Eve, Stellar Spark VI kicks off at 9 at The Rave. Crystal Method headlines and on the bill, among others, are Paul Birken, DJ Rozz, Delta 9, Chris Grant, Casey Lee, DJ Nitro, The Genome Project and Bobby De Maria vs Mike Dubz. Tickets are $30 and $70.

All three shows are all ages with drinking for those with I.D.

That good-time rock and roll outfit Cake returns to the Riverside to chime in the new year, reprising its gig of exactly two years previous at the same venue. Admission to the 9 p.m. show ranges from $55 to $75.

Shank Hall launches into 2009 with Oshkosh's polka-rock-zydeco duo Copper Box at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3. It's just $8 to hear "The Pink Floyd Polka (Comfortably Numb)" and other booty-shaking, crowd-pleasing favorites. How can you resist?

Over at the Cactus that night you can catch The New Loud, Revision Text and Elusive Parallelograms at 10.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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.