The Calm And The Crying Wind

Posted: January 2, 2015 in Humanity is a virus, Music nobody listens to, Shovels, Uncategorized

The booking group that manages three historic Milwaukee venues (Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, and Turner Hall) have gotten into a groove with New Year’s Eve bookings.  This year, they had Jim Gaffigan, The Get Down, and Trampled By Turtles; all of them are return bookings, not only popular enough for the performers to work on NYE, but to bring out a fair number of people on a fucking cold Amateur Night….

I love the recorded output of Trampled by Turtles.  It’s kind of aggressive folkie, heavy on bluegrass, and very much an outgrowth of alternative music.  Which made me very surprised, the first time I saw them at Turner’s, in how heavily neo-hippie and jam-band aficionado youngsters were in attendance.  It perplexed me, and still does.  But who am I to question it?  Welcome all, and if you could just scale back on the patchouli, it would be great….

Any case, we booked tix for the NYE TBT show this year, because why not?  The Riverside is such a lovely place, and ringing in the New Year’s there feels like we are part of the history of the place, a hundred years or so of Milwaukeeans partying in one place over time….

Although we are not so big on going to bars for New Year’s (amateur night, you know) we like to let musicians help us celebrate the end of the suck just past, and have done it in the Pabst/Riverside axis several time.  Once, it was Aimee Mann and Michael Penn for “the most depressing NYE ever” and once for the Hold Steady with one of the most exultant and triumphant  yowl of rock and roll imaginable.  Music is so much a part of my life, that finding a great band to help the year-change seems like a natural.

So, unlike mikey, we found somebody else to make our evening meal, and left Young Zombie and a couple of his friends to play Cards Against Humanity while they spoiled the fuck out of Lucy the Orange.  And off to the theater….

Opening bands.  Meh.  The second one, Har Mar Superstar were a good band and the singer had a tremendous voice as well as mastery of the Lead Singer Moves;  if only he didn’t look like Danny DeVito.  They often even sounded like the Jackson Five.  And while I am not so much into seventies pop and R&B, I was kind of on board.

Until Danny deHarMar took his shirt off.  Come on, dude, even Joe Cocker stopped doing that.

But hey.  TBT opened with a slow, churning, string based version of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” that was stupendous, then blasting into one of their own songs, burn.

Yep, that was our show.  Modern technology is wonderful, isn’t it Mrs. O’Reilly?

As if six dudes playing and abusing string instruments wasn’t enough, the added a lap steel player later and then a string quartet.  Dammit, I loved it so much…and TBT are the authors of one of my favorite songs of the last few years:

They played a cover with the dude from Har Mar Superstar after the new year, dropped, but that song is going to stand as my intro to 2015, and sweet living fuck, but if that is the launchpad for 2015, I cannot believe it is going to be as bad as some of those past….

Later I was reminded why we didn’t go to the TBT show last year.  Wife Sublime couldn’t stand quite so long, sat down and kind of dozed off; maybe partially inspired by the frequent whiffs of pot smoke that wafted through the theater.  We also bailed early and got home before the New Year had clocked in a full hour.  Of course, we then put our holiday beads and cardboard tiara onto Lucy the Orange,


because annual pet humiliation is a tradition in the zombie household:



TBT rocked the fuck out of the show, and I had a great time; notwithstanding the nasally-obnoxious women behind us who insisted on talking almost all the way throughout the band.  And when they stopped talking, they sang along, but that was kind of worse.  Eventually they got tired.

I liked hard rock and classic stuff when I started getting into music.  Then I saw a couple of SNL episodes and went off to college with fever for New Wave and eventually punk.  And then REM did something different to me, and suddenly Free Hot Lunch made me love folk and bluegrass, against all odds.  Later, I found bands like Split Lip Rayfield and much of Bloodshot Records repertoire, like Handsome Family or Lydia Loveless, and the idea of insurgent music was cemented.  I love music that challenges, that erodes boundaries, that is accessible to various people with no pigeonholing (hi, Zelmo!).  And there you go, Trampled By Turtles.  And they respond not only by covering Pink Floyd, but also by covering the Pixies:

SO DISAPPOINTED  they didn’t play that.

Anyway, here is what it looked like when the New Year happened:

IMG_1918 IMG_1921Funny to me, who have been seeing bands for decades, to see how stage lighting has changed from all lights on the artists, to a way number of lights on the audience.  I get that players may want to limit the damage their peepers take, but TBT seems to prefer being silhouettes.  Whatever; I know that dates at least back to the Genesis Lamb tours, when they blasted high-intensity lamps out into the audience while playing noise-rock.

Also worth noting that my pictures did not capture the Rover that eventually descended, made its way to the back of the stage, then back into the crowd whereupon it was terminated.  YOU’RE WELCOME, MCGOOHAN!

If you have been following the Empire for more than a little bit, you might have gotten the impression that I am a bit depressive, and that things sometimes looked like shit.  Hey, in 2008-2009, everything WAS shit; you may have remembered.  Well, let’s not be silly – everything is STILL shit.
However, in the last couple of years, the professional level has turned less severe; which, of course, makes all of the old interpersonal relationships less fraught  So.  Less zombie.  Less angst.  Less angry; and therefore fewer posts.  Of course, input from the bloggerhood has pretty much dropped off to nothing, so there’s nothing like the back and forth that used to exits, let alone the rampant Zardozing.  But let it go, let it go.  We were so much younger then and all that that.
I had so much difficulty back then.  No cash, no work, no professional prospects, and all of that made all of my personal relationships so much more intense and hair-trigger.  The kind of thing that all of us had to live through, and still do.  And I don’t mean to discount the issues of people who haven’t had the benefits that I have;  I recognize that this is more than fortunate and less than dire.  Except, of course, that it still felt that way, and made the brain-thing still pull the emergency-panic triggers more than once.
There were times I couldn’t sleep, and times that I wept without hope.   And those times have faded into the past;  and it will be admitted that much of that is due to the Stimulus package that Obama authored.  And further, that the increasing viability of construction due to the improving economy is also due to many of his actions.  While I disagree with  much of his Administration (as I would with any Democratic administration, even a Feingold/ Sanders regime, I will say that Obama inherited a full plate of shit (which iw typical for Democratic Administrations) and has still gone amazing balls-out accomplishments.  But…
Ahem. It all comes back.  There were a couple of years, that my projects (and they were great projects) were partially funded by the ARRA and partially by the Title 42 funding distributed by WHEDA.  Before, that is, Turdwaffle squeezed the fuck out of those so he could send that money to the extraction industry (which, as I constantly remind, is remarkably consistent in that EVERYTHING THEY SAY IS A LIE.).

Whoah.  I got off track there.

So, what I want to say is that there are a couple of songs that I feel are representative of the leveraging ourselves over the stupid, while meaningless, point of a new check date.  First of all, Heartless Bastards wh0 just make it all a mountain (and I am amazed that they di not have a great vision of this, but I am pretty much pushing this out to mikey, a hardcore woman guitar/songwriter right up there with Hynde:

whew.  That was awesome.  And I will surprise all of you with non-Mekon followthrough, and with the greatest video I know of by the Mountain Goats:

Dog Dammit, I have survived the last few years, and they haven’t killed me.  And a large part of that is because of my Imaginary Digital Friends who made me feel less than a pathetic loser.  Yeah, that’s you.

Some of them have dissolved, as you might expect; but as anyone who has ever had imaginary friends knows, they are always just out of frame.

But, here is what is important.  Some of you have allowed me to not be Mr. Zombie Suicide, and that it is kind of important to not do that.  And not just that; but having people show up and read my crappy-ass crappy word-writing,  that is kind of stupid on your part, but still kind of weirdly heartwarming.  So I m going to thank you, whether you want it or not.  And you know what you get?  yeah, it’s more Empire.  Hah!  Hah!  Bite me.  In the most affectionate way…




  1. Bite you?



    Mrowrrr. Wife Sublime, could you give us the room for 57 seconds?

  2. mikey says:

    It’s a feedback loop, dood. If you write more posts, you get more readers and more comments. If you only write two posts a month, yeah, people wander off and poke at bugs with sticks or something. I mean, I swept the kitchen floor this morning and you would NOT believe what I found there. Yikes.

    But I’ll tell you what. I’ll check out Trampled by Turtles, because you make them sound pretty good and their name totally cracks me up. I’ll report in afterwards…

  3. Scott says:

    I actually just sit here and hit refresh every 17.5 minutes, hoping, waiting, knowing that eventually you’ll grace us once again with your glorious rotting presence.

    Faith will be rewarded.

    • Holding a bag of potpourri to yer nose…

    • I actually just sit here and hit refresh every 17.5 minutes,

      Me too. It’s surprisingly ineffective….

    • I am continually amazed that Scott shows up here. He’s an accomplished writer type, and has a great music blog with intense, erudite reviews of almost all of my favorite bands, not to mention a couple of kids. Why the fuck that kind of guy stops by this staggering, inconsistent result of my brain’s leaking, I can’t figure out.

      I mean, the fact that fish never shows up here is obvious: IT’S FUCKING COLD AND HE IS FROZEN.

      And Jennifer’s absence is easily explained by he fact that she is far too nice to hang out with people like YOU.

      Von, of course, has had her own reasons: pretty evenly balanced between her hanging out with Jon Langford activities, and personal issues. So I figure that she won’t be around until we do a Zardoz, and then she will parachute in yelling at us all about how terrible we are for not letting her know a Zardoz is going on. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY.

      I have no idea why the upside-downeys aren’t around much anymore. I visit their site, and it seems to be a weird computer algorithm struggling toward sentience that has far too much weird art and Blue Oyster Cult lyrics in the databanks…

      mikey, of course, continues to stop by to tell me why I am wrong about everything….

  4. Pinko Punko says:

    Not only did you get to hear about Heartless Bastards from 3B, I just did a Pitchfork CW. Happy New Year, old friend.

    • Yes I heard about Heartless Bastards at 3B, and immediately embraced them in a way that alarmed you, as I recall. Also subsequently saw them from about 10 feet in front of the stage, screaming along with “The Mountain”. And then 3B flamed out and corkscrewed into a crocodile-laden swamp in the backside of Rick Perry’s “n******head resort. It was kind of awesome, in a Mythbusters, blow the shit up, kind of way….

      Pitchfork has now started mocking 3Bulls. It’s THAT way.

      You know, there’s an easy way to fix that. It’s making a CERTAIN ZOMBIE one of the designated Pitchfork review Pitchforkians. Of course, since they turned me on to a couple of bands, I may not be the guy that fits into your worldview….

  5. I am enjoying your fruitless head-smacking at LGM. You’re not going to win, especially against Oregon Loomis and the Denverite Crusade but it’s entertaining. And yeah, the best result of a Dal-Det game would have been mass arrests.

  6. Bite me.

    It’s not the biting that’s so bad, it’s the chunks that come off. Eeewww.

  7. Sheesh. So much talk, and all anyone focuses on is the “Bite Me”….

  8. Pinko Punko says:

    Send me your take on the top 30 this year and I will add and even respond!!!!!

    • Do you have a link to the PF? Because I have like ONE of those – the War On Drugs song (maybe 2 if I look at my Kozelek archive. And boy howdy, I like MK, so your comment is going to require a response, yes it will)

      If I have to chase them all down separately, I may not be able to give you satisfaction for some time…..FIRST season is upon us, and I need to build robots with teenagers….

      Not to mention, of course, that I am designing two transgressive buildings: One which expands the idea of how tall a wood framed building may be built safely, and one which is pushing the boundaries of the density that one of the first ring Milwaukee suburbs finds ‘safe’.

  9. Big Bad Bald Bastard says:

    Can’t go wrong with string-band alt-folkies.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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