• Milwaukee Psych Fest 3

    Posted 05/19/2015 by cal

    I won't lie, it was an ordeal, navigating normal life in addition to this Milwaukee Psychology Festival (third annual), down at the ol' Cactus Club. I think we all learned a lot about ourselves.

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  • My Ten Favorite WMSE Programs

    Posted 05/03/2011 by cal

    It is pledge drive time for the best radio station in Milwaukee.  If you listen, you should really give WMSE some money.  Set up a monthly payment plan; are you really going to miss five or ten bucks a month on your credit card?  Isn’t it worth that much to keep this Brew City institution alive?  And if you don't listen, what's wrong with you?  It’s not just a treasure trove of incredible music you won’t hear anywhere else; these DJs, most of them unpaid volunteers, put their hearts and souls into playing music for us.  After all these years, they’ve become like old friends (even if it’s kind of an odd one-way relationship).

    Some of you know this feeling already, and as you glance down this list, I know what you’re thinking: how could Buzz and Grant and Faux Eyes and Melissa and Cosmo Cruz and Alien Andre and Rich Mars not make this list?  Where’s the Chicken Shack and Five & Dime Show and the Mad Kids and Team Metal and Why My Head Hurts?  Answer: they’re all tied for number eleven, because I can listen to every one of ‘em front to back and never feel like changing the station.  On commercial radio, even disregarding the commercials, I’m lucky if I can get through three songs.  WMSE plays almost exclusively good music and way more of it than anybody else.  Wondering what shows you’d enjoy?  Just tune in, give it 15 minutes and see what happens.  That’s what I’ve done for the past 15 years or so; read on for my current ten favorite shows.

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  • Milwaukee's Best 2010

    Posted 12/15/2010 by cal

    After a 2009 lull, the Brew City stormed back this year with an astounding array of incredible records.  I decided I couldn’t extricate myself from my hometown bias, because I would put Milwaukee’s top ten records up against the rest of the world’s top ten without hesitation this year.  Credit local überproducer Shane Hochstetler in large part: he produced or co-produced six of the albums on this list and many more at his Howl Street Recordings, the new Midwestern music Mecca.  And wouldn't you know it?  His next door neighbor at Mystery Room Mastering and Recording, Justin Carl Perkins, had a hand in at least four of 'em as well.  And with the onslaught of online free/pay-what-you-want downloads (thanks, Radiohead!!), y’all have no excuse for not checking out at least half of this music (note: if the album title contains a link, it should take you to a download page).

    As the consumer paradigm continues to shift away from albums, the line between LP and EP is beginning to blur, so I’m lumping them all together here.  A cohesive and moving collection of five tunes can be just as powerful a statement as an hour-long treatise, and it’s kind of the year of the EP in Milwaukee anyway.  And with the rest of the world going all 80s retro this year, MKE seems to be taking its cues from much further back in time (warning: three different Buddy Holly mentions.  Unavoidable), but making sounds uniquely modern.  This is one of those lists where I feel bad for all the records that aren’t number one, ‘cause they’re all so damn good.  Enjoy.

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  • Brew City infiltrates SPIN

    Posted 05/26/2010 by cal

    There's no SPIN jinx, right?  No less than four mentions of Milwaukee appear in the latest issue.  There's the dubious notoriety of Weiland's latest crash-and-burn during STP's March show at the Rave ("...Weiland was out of it in Milwaukee, forgetting lyrics and looking confused...").  Summerfest gets a brief capsule in the festival feature story ("DON'T MISS: Thievery Corporation's politically fiery Bollywood-dub chutney"--no argument here).  Naturally, the review of the widely-acclaimed new disc from local heroes Kings Go Forth receives eight pink dots (that's four stars to the rest of the publishing world).

    But perhaps the most satisfying blurb is a shout-out to our very own Radio Milwaukee from Elijah Jones of The Constellations: "'We sent songs to everyone,' explains the singer.  'And 88.9 in Milwaukee was the first to catch on.  They invited us to play a show, and the day I got there, I heard three of our songs on the radio.'"  Between the Mighty 91 (still in need of ten grand in community support by the end of the month--show 'em some support at wmse.org!!) and 88Nine, we have the best radio airwaves pound for pound in the country.  Believe it, people: MKE is bustin' out.

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  • What's The New Mary Jane?

    Posted 03/02/2009 by cal

    I can’t deny it: going into Atomic Records gets more depressing every time. You know, I saw the Rolling Stones at the very tail end of their last gasp at relevance, but at least I’ve skipped out on the past ten years or so. You don’t want your last memory of something to be the last days of a dragged-out mockery. It’s not Rich’s fault; he doesn’t have the option of just ending it abruptly and gracefully. The relationship with the fans is infinitely more personal, doomed to an unavoidably clunky, unsatisfying end. There will be no more amazing discoveries at Atomic. Last time I was there, even the conversation was almost nonexistent. So I don’t really think I can go in there any more. Maybe for the grand finale.

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  • MSE Fest: Decibully, The Championship, The Celebrated Workingman

    Posted 09/04/2008 by cal

    If you had a good amount of free time one weekend prior to the big bike brouhaha, you could’ve caught a very nice smattering of bands that are contributing to making the Milwaukee music scene swell with excitement these days. I’m not going to say “if you had the money;” for the entirety of MSE Fest, which featured 29 artists at seven venues over the course of four days, you only had to fork over twenty bucks. Sadly, I was only able to make time for three of these artists, one night only.

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