Thursday, February 05, 2009

Three Down. How Many More To Go?

I went to another show last weekend at The Rave in Milwaukee, and that place is quickly becoming one of my favorite venues...if not always for the acoustics, then for the mystery of the building and its contents.

I say mystery, because I'm finding out that I don't really know how many separate musical venues are located there. And I'm beginning to think
that maybe nobody does!

I've seen a couple shows in the Eagles Ballroom (upper level). Late last year I saw Sister Hazel in the Eagles Hall, or The Rave II (lower level). And on Friday I was in what I believe is called The Rave Hall. There's also The Rave Bar, The Rave Vibe Room, the RockStar Lounge...none of which I've seen. Yet. At least not knowingly.

I'm fully expecting to one day order tickets to a Crows show, and when I get there, be led up several flights of winding, twisting stairs, down a long dark hall and into a small room with a couple tables and a fridge, and Adam Duritz standing by the sink playing a solo acoustic show for eight people in The Rave Kitchen.

Or maybe not.

— • — • —

The concert on Friday night was Big Head Todd & The Monsters, a band about which I know very little. I own Strategem, and can fumble along with the lyrics of a few of their songs, most notably, "In The Morning." Aside from that, I can't say I'm their biggest fan. I went mainly because it was a Friday night, a few good buddies, a few over-priced beers, and live music. Hello?? I can't say no to that! Well...I can. But I rarely do.

And after seeing what I saw on Friday night, I suspect I'll be returning to another Big Head Todd show in the future.

There was very little banter or crowd interaction between songs. All Todd and his three Monsters did was play high-energy, high-quality rock 'n' roll music. For two..and a half...hours. Todd's one hell of a guitarist, and I don't know how to describe the drummer...if he had, like...opposable wrists, or something? (yes, I just made that up. no, it doesn't make any sense. I know this.)

His hands just seemed to float above his cymbals, and then he'd go into an arm-flailing drum fill a second later, toss one of his sticks up in the air, catch it and switch back to a cymbal float. Hard to describe, except that he was a lot of fun to watch, really into what he was doing, and made so much of it look effortless.

The night included a few cover songs...."Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker; a good but not spectacular version of "Ring Of Fire," by Johnny Cash; and a blow-me-away-good rendition of Clapton's "Forever Man." Anyone who's geeked out about setlists can go and check out the rest of the night's lineup.

In a crowd of maybe 500 people—most of whom were very close to my age—it was a night of easy, relaxing, kinda bluesy, kinda rockin' live guitar music that did not disappoint, even for someone who was an almost fan going into the night.

One quick mention down here of something that did disappoint...and that was the opening act, Joan Jones. Had a hard time finding something to like during her short set, except for the saxophone player, who was as hot as she was talented.

Other than that, the songs were mostly filler until the crowd gathered for BHTM. One of her lyrics was, "Everybody wants to come to my party...wearing nothing at all." And I think that was supposed to be a ballad. 'Nuff said.

"Whoever fights monsters should
see to it that in the process he
doesn't become a monster."
—Friedrich Nietzsche


  1. Now, here's a post I can sink my teeth into!!!

    That was my third time, but it'd been about five years and while the other two venues (Orphium & what was Luther's Blues both in Madison) were nice, this was my first time to The Rave, and i'm a fan as well.

    I'm certainly with you on Joan Jones...easy on the eyes, but..eeesshhh. The way the younger crowd disrespected Jessie Baylin opening for Nathanson, I can only imagine what a crowd like that would've done to Jones.

    But yes, her sax player was super talented. Did you notice how even when they both came out to do some backing horns for BHTM the sax player was going to town outshadowing Jones while she was just kinda dancing in place with her trumpet?

    Glad you enjoyed your first BHTM experience. I can't let another five years pass before seeing them again, so hopefully they're around this summer and we can go.

    I have everything CD they've made, so i've been working on a mix set that'll find it's way to your car stereo next time we see each other.

    And there's a good chance that meeting will be at a BW's, so if you wanted to buy me a beer for in the last three months dragging you (kicking and screaming...not really) to two of the most talented guitar players you maybe didn't realize or know about (Dave Meniketti being the other), I'd be cool with that :)

    I'd e-mailed Smooth last week with my top five not so known big hit BHTM songs that i'd love to hear and to my delight, #1 on the list made it to their Milwaukee set...

    Driving far from home.
    On a midnight radio.
    Reckless and alone. On a long black road.
    The city is burning like a dream. Like a lady smoking in the night.
    And she lets out a silent scream. So far from the morning light.

    And I don't know where to go.
    And I don't know where I've been.
    And I don't know If I'll still be here.
    When the sun rises again.
    But somewhere in the distance. There's a tower and a light.
    Broadcasting a resistance.
    Through the rain and
    through the night

    Big Head Todd & The Monsters, "Midnight Radio"

  2. I saw them many years ago and really enjoyed it. Really do need to check them out again.

    Found this review on JamBase I thought you might appreciate.

  3. Scott, your hyper-link wouldn't work for me but i found it. Here is is on long form:

    But thanks, that's a good review...mind you not as good as our host's here (read: suck up...i'm still working on my free beer)