Posted: May 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

As most of you know [Joe Strummer/ ALL THREE OF YOU/Joe Strummer] We recently went to Ireland and had a WONDERFUL time.  While there, we met a family that we already knew from Milwaukee, and spent much time drinking with Deb and Stu and two of their kids.

It was very weird and wonderful that we traveled thousands of miles to become good friends with people we had only met peripherally through our children’s school and activities, but that’s the universe for you.

Stu is guitarist for a local reggae band, King Solomon, who is currently in the midst of a monthly residency at a local music bar, Up & Under.  Yeah, if you’re in town, stop in.  It’s worth it; local drinking and music dive bar but you have to walk up.

Regrettably, Wife Sublime had urgent business to conduct in Japan, and they were playing on Saturday night.  I was up early, and did a bunch of varied tasks and duties during the day.  Walked the damn dog, and gave her her pills and took my own damn pills.  And then was very tired.  But after some slight dozing in the easy chair, I decided I should support local music, and headed down.  Five dollar cover CHEAP, dammit.

During the night, I remarked to several people that when I moved to Milwaukee, you couldn’t go out on the East Side without seeing live music.  SO MUCH MUSIC GREAT MUSIC.  One of the club owners was notorious for insisting that the bands play for the door, that if they couldn’t convince their friends to pay a couple-three bucks, they needed more or better friends.

And that since then, people have gotten stingier.  Fuck, I saw the people in front of me, and several other people after, want to circumvent the 5 dollar cover for this show.  Five dollars!  Won’t even buy you a Starbucks, darling.  Ridiculous, and an unsupportable outgrowth of the idea that people are somehow entitled to the work of artists because the internet makes it easy to steal it.

Fortunately, also talking to some people tonight, the Milwaukee music scene seems to be bubbling under with tons of amazing new artists, working to find new ways of making art and making money.

King Solomon played a lovely show, and although Deb (Stu, the guitarist’s wife) told me they were all kind of not on top of things — mainly due to the prior night’s birthday party for JD, the singer/toaster— it sounded good to me and the pretty full bar crowd, who were dancing and cheering and apparently it was part of the recordings for some future live release.  I confess I left shortly after the second set started, as I am old and I had to try to make my way home through the college crowd drinking areas.

During the night, however, I had a bit of time to reflect on moving to Milwaukee in 1983, when the music scene, especially on the East Side, was not only thriving but the major labels were paying attention.  There were so many good bands, but the local musicians were trading places in cross-pollination that made everybody support everyone else and all of them create new music that was different.  It was not an accident that the Pretenders asked the Femmes to open for them at the Oriental, it was destined. Da BoDeans were always going to be signed.  Local labels started up. Every weekend, if not every night, you could find great local bands doing great stuff.  At one point, I had a roommate bail on me, leaving me holding the lease, and when I was trying to figure out what to do, I would often go to Murray Tap to see a blues band play a smoking set from a plywood stage set up on one end of the bar.

Since then, it has become much harder for musicians and performers.  Especially in Milwaukee, where people balk at playing 5 dollars.

Paying for art of any kind is a hallmark of a modern civilization.  We are becoming a cruel, pinched and self-concerned society who not only resents supporting the arts, we want to punish artists by not allowing them access to any kind of health care.  And when arts are paid on the federal side, they are attacked as not being Christian or conservative enough.  Gilead enough?

But, while I was putting myself around a few whiskeys,  what I noticed in this small dive bar on an historic street in Milwaukee, is that a reggae band was playing for a wildly diverse crowd.  Fuck, in the immediate circle that I knew upon landing was a mixed-race African American, a Native American, another mixed race African American and before long a transgender man showed up. There were women dancing sexually with each other.  There was a guy I didn’t know who kept walking by and shaking my hand.

While I was there, the crowd was mostly…well, I will only say they were mostly brown.  I will not hazard a guess as to their racial makeup, and it merely points out that why should I care?  Being Milwaukee, there were also plenty of melanin-challenged folks, but at best we were a bare majority.  AT BEST.

And that is therein the crux.

I grew up in a white flight suburb of Madison.  And went, at first, to a very white cow-town land-grant college.  When I moved to Milwaukee, it was a tremendous opening of my eyes; after much work, I eventually became comfortable working with and within the black community.  To be honest, it also involved the members of the AA community becoming comfortable with me.

I will probably struggle with racism for all my life.  I grew up with it.  My parents were racist.  My wife’s parent’s were racist.  Some people will say they are no longer racist, but if they are white, they are lying.

Racism is boiled into the foundation of our country.  White people, for the most part, refuse to acknowledge that.

And for this time, tonight, watching a reggae band do what they do, while all kinds of people dance and drink and spend their time flirting and drinking, I knew this.   Party and music and dancing and having a good time is something that is inimical to the Republican party.  P.J. O’rourke once wrote (back when he still could managed decent writing and some humor) that he determined, through a time-honored method, that people of all races were basically the same; by sleeping around.  And that seemed to be the order of the night, it certainly did.

Hell, we even welcomed the people from Michigan who stopped in as refugees from the Hall & Oates concert.

At the end of the night, it was comforting reminder of why I came to appreciate and love living in a (relatively) high-density urban environment with healthy populations of minorities.  That America is made up of, and stronger for, immigration and diversity.  And that good people of many races and orientations get along JUST fine outside of right-wing divisive hate-fantasies.  And that music erodes barriers.  And that King Solomon is opening up for Ziggy Marley at Summerfest.  And that this is a zombie filled with love.



so, after-action subsequent action report.  We went to see Old 97s at Turner Hall the night after, and Good Friend Rory and I have seen this band 10 times?  Maybe?  At all kinds of venues, but they love Milwaukee and love Turner hall and Rhett Miller said they were a little worried about playing on a Sunday night, but they scorched the damn stage, one of the best tightest and hardest I’ve ever seen them play.  And on their new album, they have Brandi Carlisle sing a song – Good With God- with Rhett, and for the show they brought out opener Nicole Atkins (who is totally boning Rhett Miller, and hey he’s so gorgeous that I am tempted and Wife Sublime is basically in love with him) and she really just kicked Brandi Carlisle’s ass.

It as, of course, a completely different crowd from Saturday night, all pretty much white.

But in any case, it was a reminder that we have such a vibrant music scene in Milwaukee right now, it reminds me of when I moved here.  Except for the pain in my back and feet from standing all night.

  1. Mikey Hemlok says:

    Hmm – mixed feelings I find I have. I am not uncomfortable stating unequivocally I AM NOT A RACIST. Yes, I am utterly Caucasian. Yes, I grew up in a predominantly white (not to mention predominantly wealthy) community. And yes, it is certainly that there remains within my personality makeup some inherently culturally racist feelings. But if you do not embrace those feelings, if you reject them and embrace diversity and work to make certain that equality is the hallmark of what you do and how you live, then it is wrong to say that you are racist.

    We can’t change the past – America has struggled with race and tribalism and sectarian hatred since its very founding. But we can change the future, but carefully examining our motives and desires and working to be just a little better at this community thing than our parents were…

  2. Mikey Hemlok says:

    Just as when a woman insists that I am part of the patriarchy without ever having met me or spoke with me or spent time with me is making a false assumption based on hostility and victimhood, a person who makes these unnecessary and frankly insulting accusations of racism based on a person’s cultural and familial past is working AGAINST better, more diverse world. You have to let me participate in the cultural progress of my species, and you have to be willing to take yes for an answer….

  3. Color me jealous! The music scene in our little (way littler than Milwaukie, anyway) is pretty dismal. I get to see the occasional band in one of our small clubs (Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are doing a benefit for one of our venues this weekend, actually), but not a ton of stuff comes through. And I don’t really have a group of friends that will go out (they’re all some weird thing called “responsible” and/or “parents” or some other weird bullshit — I just don’t get it).

    Also, too, re: the comments about the lack of the bloggerhood being around. Some times we see a new post and come by to comment but some damn zombie has FORGOTTEN TO ENABLE COMMENTS ON HIS POST AGAIN, DAMMIT!!!!1one. But yeah mostly I just lurk anymore.

  4. mikey, as you are a big fan of Roger Clyne, I recommend giving the Old 97’s some consideration. They work the same punky Americana side of the street, with a decent amount of drinking, self-deprecation, broken hearts, and drinking.

  5. Also, friend of Zombie and longtime local musician Mike Benign and his band, the Mike Benign Compulsion, have a brand new album out. Fans of Elvis Costello and Squeeze might find much to like in their music, and there is an album release party on Friday, which I may or may not make, as the next day is Young ZOmbie’s graduation from expensive private collidge.


  6. Tata says:

    ZRM, I wonder if you crossed paths with my friend Merc Mike, his long list of bands or the Camp Gumby folks. Also: that song is hot.

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

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