• 2015: Live Music

    Posted 12/29/2015 by cal

    As I’ve ranted on twitter, 2015 was a fairly shitty year in terms of live music in Milwaukee. The Pabst group’s renaissance appeared to be over, as those venues welcomed lots of youtube sensations and actors and 88nine bands and not many artists I was very interested in seeing. What’s that? You say I’ve aged out of the venues’ target audience? Well shit. There were exceptions of course, and 2016 is already looking like it will destroy 2015 in this regard. We need slow years from time to time. And maybe the big events from this year will ultimately shine brighter in my memory for years to come. It certainly seems like they ought to. Here are the ones (excluding Altos and associated acts, since I'm married to an Alto and friends with the whole gang) that I most love reliving in my mind.

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  • Magnaball

    Posted 08/28/2015 by cal

    Sometimes you have to look on the bright side, and sometimes the bright side is all around you. As soon as our crew parked our cars and started setting up camp, it was apparent that we'd been directed right to the perfect spot. Plentiful space, cool neighbors, nearby showers and water spigot, and most shockingly, an actual restroom facility right across the path. For a second time this summer, I found myself at a festival with most of the usual festival bullshit stripped away. There weren't even any long beer lines at Magnaball.

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  • Phish: Alpine Valley 2015

    Posted 08/12/2015 by cal

    Sorry if the Blossom review was a bit insubstantial. I promise this piece is way longer.

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  • Phish: Blossom, 8/7/2015

    Posted 08/08/2015 by cal

    My primary gripes about Phish 3.0: the crappy new material, the tight song rotation, the bungled compositions, the terrible first sets, the lack of jams, the second sets that peter out into cock-rock jukebox mode. None of these things happened at Blossom.

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  • Post-Fare Thee Well Thoughts

    Posted 07/12/2015 by cal

    After listening to the three Fare Thee Well shows from 4th of July weekend--y'know, members of The Grateful Dead plus Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti and our old pal Trey playing the Jerry role, sort of--I basically agree with the vague consensus I've found online and amongst Deadhead friends, which is that they were as good as they could possibly have been. It seems like everyone got what they needed out of that weekend; I couldn't help feeling giddy about the collective goodwill that was powering the sea of humanity in Soldier Field, and also a profound sense of relief having decided to skip it.

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  • Thoughts About This Dead 50th Anniversary Thing

    Posted 01/17/2015 by cal

    Confession: I have no great, abiding affinity for the music of The Grateful Dead. The love I have for that band boils down to a deep respect. They started something in music that has had so profound an effect on my life and our world that I'll never fully comprehend it. Many of the greatest experiences of my life simply wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the Dead. One of the best band names ever, too, by the way. Jerry Garcia: incredible musician and philosopher. Phil Lesh: unreal bass player. The other guys: great at what they were doing, for a very long time.

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  • The Best Shows I Saw In 2014

    Posted 12/23/2014 by cal

    In an effort to impress upon people who need these things explained the ultimate meaningless of the numbers involved in these lists I like to write, there is a tie for number one this year. The shows were so completely different and earth-shattering that I couldn't possibly choose. BUT THEN NUMBER TWO SHOULD REALLY BE NUMBER THREE. Are you happy now?

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  • Phish: Midwest Run 2014

    Posted 07/23/2014 by cal

    Reviewing Phish is quite a different undertaking than reviewing other music. For one thing, there's a whole dictionary of jargon and mythology that's taken for granted, making the critique virtually unreadable to the uninitiated, but going about it any other way would make the review tedious for almost anyone who might be interested in reading it. Also, rather than just take into account the experience of a single show, it's important to put it into a thirty-plus-year context and assess where it stands in the pantheon of live Phishdom. There's also a lot of puzzling over the intentions of the band, particularly Trey, and conjecturing about how much effort he's putting in and what sort of statement he might be making--mostly by people who've never had a conversation with the man himself.

    I didn't feel like thinking about all that crap on my birthday weekend this year. I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. In the long run, though, I have a lot of thoughts about the Midwest run, and I can't keep them all to myself. So here are some of them. Read more... Pre-Disqus Comments (2)
  • The Best Shows Of 2013

    Posted 12/15/2013 by cal

    Enough has probably been said already about that one thing my wife was in, right? Because that was my favorite live music event of the year/coolest thing that has happened in Milwaukee possibly ever, but even on my own blog, I probably won't write about that band much any more. After today, that is; there was a performance prior to my wife joining the band that I don't feel guilty mentioning, and from now on you can just assume that the Altos are still my favorite band in town and everything they do is awesome, until they break up or kick my wife out of the band. Mmmkay? So not counting the Film Fest, here are my favorite shows of 2013.

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  • #phishdicks

    Posted 09/04/2013 by cal

    After the first couple weeks of summer 2013 tour, I wrote a blog about how embarrassed I’d be to bring anyone I know who has any sort of musical knowledge to a Phish show. Trey was playing as many bad notes as correct ones, bending them in and out of key like a tone-deaf old man; the setlists were completely stagnant; and despite a noble effort to create explorative second sets, the jams were mostly awkward and formulaic, with only Page dreaming up any interesting ideas. I never published that blog, because, well, I got too busy. But I’m glad I didn’t. Deep down I knew damn well they’d get back to form. It was a well-oiled machine that rolled into Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena for a third consecutive Labor Day Weekend.

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  • #phishfork

    Posted 07/23/2013 by cal

    A little background: Several months ago, Pitchfork announced Björk would be headlining one night of its yearly festival.  As Björk was very near the top of our bucket list of live acts, my wife and I eagerly purchased weekend passes, even though Phish, as usual, was dragging its feet on announcing summer tour dates--WHAT ARE THE CHANCES, I scoffed.  Under normal circumstances, I might have seriously considered skipping a Phish show for Björk, having never seen her before.  But the problem with the Phishhead affliction is that you can't skip a Phish show on your birthday when you're already going to be only a few miles away from where it's taking place.  On the off chance that they play the greatest version ever of your favorite song, and you chose to skip it, you'd never be able to live with yourself.  On the other hand, your wife might not be so severely afflicted...

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  • Where my brain goes when I get impatient for Phish tourdates

    Posted 03/07/2013 by cal

    Been listening to a lot of Phish lately.

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  • The Best Shows I Saw In 2012

    Posted 02/03/2013 by cal

    When I started looking back on 2012, I definitely felt like it was amazing for records but not so amazing for live music.  If that’s true, it’s only because every year is great for live music, and 2011 will always be tough to beat.  And in terms of the Milwaukee scene, 2012 was easily the best year yet that I’ve been a part of, even if some of my favorite local bands (*cough cough ahem* CELEBRATED WORKINGMAN) virtually went into hiding.  Many highlights from unexpected bands, and of course some reliable greatness from perennial faves, make up this year’s list.  Read on for those highlights.

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  • Phish: Chaifetz Arena, 8/28/12

    Posted 08/30/2012 by cal

    As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  It may be one of the dumbest clichés ever coined, especially in considering Phish; we go see the same band night after night, and the results are drastically different each time, which is what we expect, so are we crazy?  What about the ones who drive 400 miles in the middle of the week to see one show in a dinky, generic college arena, only to drive home the next day?  These otherwise seemingly sensible people would only do such a thing if they saw it as a legitimately low-risk endeavor, probably.  In my case, the question to ask is this: How could Phish make a relatively dogshit assortment of tunes like the one they played at the Chaifetz Arena, featuring not a single song I’d ever put on my dream setlist, worth all that time and dough and effort?  The answer is simple: by being Phish, totally unpredictable, just like we like ‘em.

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  • Phish: Alpine Valley, 7/1/12

    Posted 07/06/2012 by cal

    “Soul Shakedown Party” doesn’t pop up randomly at just any show.  Its prior three appearances came in the superb Denver three-nighter last Labor Day weekend, Super Ball IX and the ’09 New Year’s run.  Whether or not that signifies anything to Phish, it felt to some like a ringing acknowledgement of the excellence of the 2012 Corn Run.  Some folks even caught a way-out-there tease preceding the Bob Marley classic--was that “Chalk Dust Torture Reprise”???  Still, it was Sunday; it also might’ve been a typically laid-back start to what would ultimately be a mellow, family-friendly show, except it wasn’t.  In every respect, Phish played at least as well Sunday night as Phish 3.0 has ever played.

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