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Ironically, the word "big" appeared behind Blues Traveler's John Popper who underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost a lot of weight.
Ironically, the word "big" appeared behind Blues Traveler's John Popper who underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost a lot of weight.

Blues Traveler spices up mellow Sunday night

Prior to the Blues Traveler show, Summerfest had a mellow, "Sunday night" feel to it with a modest-sized crowd enjoying the breezy, beautiful summer evening. Hence, it was surprising how many people piled onto the bleachers at 10 p.m. to witness a show that sparked up Saturday night energy.

At the height of their success in the ‘90s, the Southern rock / blues band mastered dichotomy, and they continue to do so in 2009. On the one hand, the New Jersey-grown group attracts jam band enthusiasts fascinated by their improvisational live shows, but mainstreamers hooked on decade-old radio hits like "Run-Around" and "But Anyway" are loyal fans, too.

Originally, lead man John Popper’s extraordinary size and incredible harmonica-playing abilities added a circus-attraction element to the band’s mystique, and the group successfully entertained a variety of demographics for a half-decade before health issues pocked their success. In 1999, bassist Bobby Sheehan died of an accidental drug overdose and Popper struggled with obesity which led to diabetes and emergency heart surgery. Later, he underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost an extreme amount of weight.

Tonight, on Summerfest’s Briggs and Stratton stage, Popper appeared large but not obese, wearing his signature black-rimmed hat and a loose-fitting shirt.

Along with four bandmates, Popper ripped through a dozen songs without conversation other than the occasional, sincere "thank you" and a declaration that the show was a tribute to Michael Jackson. (Twice, Popper acknowledged Milwaukee by calling it "Mille-wah-que," referencing Alice Cooper’s pronunciation in "Wayne’s World.")

But what lacked in words was made up for with sound. The hour-and-a-half performance was almost a single jam -- one song rolled right into the next -- with crowd pleasers like "But Anyway" and "Run Around" mixed in with cuts like opening tune "Forever Owed," the high-energy "Save His Soul," "Look Around," …

If only she chose the red shirt instead.
If only she chose the red shirt instead.

Ticket giveaway leads to mistaken identity

Late this morning, I announced via an blog and Facebook that I would be giving away 20 Summerfest tickets at noon at the Alterra in Riverwest. I told readers I would be wearing a purple shirt and they should feel free to hit me up for a ticket or two.

When I arrived, just a few minutes past noon, there was a crowd of people standing out in front of Alterra, and I parked in the parking lot across the street. I walked about 10 steps towards the cafe, and the large group started running towards me. My adrenaline went from normal to sky-high in about two seconds. I felt like Danny Gokey.

Anyway, I gave away the tickets in under a minute, and most of the people were respectful, but a couple were pushy and grabby. (People, don’t do this. It’s just a Summerfest ticket.)

After I handed out the tickets and the crowd dispersed, a woman walked up to me holding a handwritten sign that said, "It’s not me." Turns out, she walked into Alterra a little before noon, also wearing a purple shirt, and so many people asked her for Summerfest tickets that she finally made a sign alerting them that she was not me.

I did not get her name -- I was still a bit shell-shocked from being bumrushed when she approached me -- but I did get her photo, and I really appreciated her good sense of humor.

Wish I could give that gal a Summerfest ticket.

Safety first. Wild "Bonnie and Clyde" fantasies second.
Safety first. Wild "Bonnie and Clyde" fantasies second.

I want to shoot a gun

I grew up on Milwaukee’s East Side, in a community of hippies and academics, so toy guns were a big no-no. I never even owned a squirt gun. In fact, when I asked my mother for one, she said "we don’t like guns" and bought me a baton instead. I learned to twirl, but I always wanted to give shooting a whirl.

About five years ago, I spent time at a family member’s cottage on Washington Island and, while my kids napped, we shot soda cans with a BB gun. It was incredibly fun, and surprisingly, felt quite satisfying. Turns out, my aim ain’t too bad, either.

Although I have no intention of joining the NRA or packing on a regular basis, I am interested in shooting responsibly at a range and I’m wondering where I should go. Any suggestions for locations or tips for a novice?

Don't worry, Mom. I'll be careful.

A good whistle is all about hand placement.
A good whistle is all about hand placement.

The family whistle

My husband is a great whistler. He has a variety of whistling styles, including a couple that involve fingers-to-mouth and a couple that do not. I have tried to improve my whistling for years now, but apparently, I’m missing the whistler’s gene. I think I’m more of a snapper and clapper, but that’s another blog.

His whistling comes in handy for all sorts of things, like dog herding and cab hailing, but most of all, for rounding up the family. Without discussion, he’s invented a distinct, low whistle for when he cannot find me at, say, Target. And another whistle -- higher-pitched and longer -- that’s perfect for trying to get my attention from, say, across a waterpark.

Honestly, before I had kids, I don’t think I would have been OK with being whistled at like this, but since we became parents, so much of our yammering is completely condensed because with the responsiblities of two little people, there’s no time for excess language. A few extra adjectives and someone could end up electrocuted.

Hence, a 10-minute discussion about finances is now settled with a few sentences, chatty phone conversations are three-worded texts and the word-free whistle tops the efficient communicado list.

It's like we're playing a version of the old game show "Name That Tune" where two people competed against each other to name a song on the piano in the least number of notes. We need to communicate volumes in the least possible words. I  might be able to plan a vacation in two e-mails, but he can unite the family from the far corners of Wal-Mart with a single mouth tweet.

Until I master telepathic communication, the whistler wins.