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Breaking Stables, Quasimondo Physical Theatre, Animal Farm

QuasiAnimal Farm

Dusk had yet hit and I’m on the edge of some suburban, southwesterly boundary of Milwaukee County. The clouds hold harmonies of country fields, drawn off key a bit by encroaching gated communities. Historic Trimborn Farm in Greenfield was platted there, and gave plot for Quasimondo Physical Theatre’s physical and interpretive theater adaption of George Orwell’s classic socio-political commentary Animal Farm.

In the Dell

Kicking-off their second formal production season, with great ambition as always, Quasimondo devises several acts of scenes transforming puppets into the mammalian hides of domesticated animals. Mr. Jones (Ben Yela) farms these animals: a hand full of pigs with alphas Napoleon (Kirk Thomsen), Snowball (Jessi Miller), and Squealer (Jeff Kriesel); a charming Cow, Clover (Danielle Levings); a sturdy horse, Boxer (Michael Guthrie) and sumptuous phillie Mollie (Emma Kate).

Benjamin the donkey (Jordan Moran) gives the animal politic a no-nonsense layman conscious, bearing the burden of limited instincts held by a flock of sheep (Kristoffer Xavier), peep of chickens (Michael Petit), and a gaggle of geese (Kris Sukup), a pack of dogs captained by Bluebell (Julia Teeguarden), some birds and Moses the domesticated raven (Andrew Parchman) cawing mocking humor.

Animal Activity

The audience is invited into the social workings of Manor Farm‘s animal citizenry, a micro-civilization on the brink of revolt. Dissatisfied with their treatment under whip of their fiefdom ruler Mr. Jones, the animals plot to take over the farm and re-write the virtues of agrarian economics.

Urged by the philosophies and charisma of Animal Farm’s fallen fore-hog Old Major (voice of Brian Rott), the remaining inner circle of pigs record a manifesto of “Animalism” to guide their machinations to achieve freedom. A struggle for power ensues between Snowball and Napoleon. Who’s vision will carry Animal Farm to the future prosperity?

Plow Runner

As events on the newly liberated “Animal Farm” bring new order to the beasts, the natural trappings of power and privilege lead the farm into and self-inflicted oppressive abyss. Animals clash with farmers for animals sake; a sake quickly forgotten,as animals raise hooves to their own kind and assert their will. Eventually, the audience is left to decide whether the animals are better off under Mr. Jones’s lash.

The Quasi-way

Quasimondo’s fiendish hands always find a way to twist something really bizarre and visually interesting out of whatever they touch. The characters of Animal Farm are largely portrayed by hand-mended puppets, angular, almost Gothic, almost disfigured. They interact with the human farmers neighboring Animal Farm, initially with hostility as they ward of Jones, Pilkington, Wymper and Frederick. In the course of farm-making, some animals become “more equal that others” and endeavor more  amicable relations with humans.

Damn, Critical, Acclaim

Animal Farm is set literally in a barn house, befitting a production that includes choreographed puppeteering, and short individual interpretive movement scenes capturing the ethos and pathos of personified animals. In fact, much of the play’s action relies more on interpretive movement than dialog.

At times the choreographed scenes featuring movements of the entire farm stock appear slightly off-kilter and overshadow individual efforts of the ensemble members’ to magnetize the audience. In other places, well-blocked vignettes transition and summarize parts of the plot without explicit telling of what’s going-on .

Quasimondo first-timers Danielle Levings and Jordan Moran both standout in this right. Leving’s extraordinarily focused stage presence provides a consistently driven character in Clover as she tries with all good intentions to keep the moral fabric of Animal Farm from tearing.

Similarly, Moran‘s portrayal of Benjamin, while limited in part by the tertiary importance of his character in the story, takes every opportunity to make a subtle impressions of quality on the audience. Emma Kate as Mollie also has moments of individual brilliance, tussling with the choice of creature comforts bestowed on a show horse and freedom.

A live music ensemble of upright bass, guitar, banjo, drums, and other noise making props accompanies the drama dutifully, providing original score and timely sound cues composed and performed by Ben Yela, Wylie Hefti, Eston Bennet, and Eddie Chapman.

Taking Grains

Animal Farm is basically a heavy-handed story by an author with one of the heaviest-hands in literature, George Orwell. Quasimondo succeeds overall in taking a literary mainstay with a direct and clear agenda, and drawing-out artistic awnings to shade the audience from some of the glaring political overtones deliberately charging the story.

In some places, Rott grinds his own axes at the risk of nicking his blade on some audience members. This is theater though, rarely put on stage to sooth nerves. The play runs just short of three hours so there is a lot to see and digest. Some acts get a little jumbled when the direction exceeds the execution of the cast. Despite this, Quasimondo represents itself well once again.

Technical credits go to Posey Knight and Andy Walsh (Scenic Design), Edward Winslow (Lighting Design) and Andrew Parchman (Puppet Design).

Quasimondo’s adaption of Animal Farm has a few performances left this week beofre closing. You can see the play tonight Thursday July10, or July 11, 12, 13 all at 8pm on Trimborn Farm 8881 W. Grange in Greenfield (just West of Sourthridge Mall) and is worth a nice evening out in a pastoral corner of the county, catching your mood for a night of experimental theater.


Correction: George Orwell is the author of Animal Farm. Must be secretly craving some hardcore alien Sci-Fi.

The Field is on Our Side, Antony and The Tramps, BBC

antony and the tramps

Suns out at least for a day, so lets pretend it will be tomorrow as well. While one hundred thousand people will be down at Henry Meier Festival Grounds, the rest of Milwaukee will carry on the per usuals. BBC has Antony and the Tramps to simmer the musical stew tomorrow night. They got ambient American Gypsy down on the floor laying a woven mat of thread bare roots.

Grappling forces that oppose the good and bad times, Anotony and The Tramps sing their memories through their instruments. Unfolding their hands, they reach for what you have buried within your mental diary. The outfit carriers dimensions that overlap quadrants of taste.

Upright bass stands prominent in their soundscape, with an assortment of percussion, keys, brass, and woodwinds for ample sides, suiting their proclaimed gypsydom. Antony and The Tramps has roots, folk and Americana stained in their sheet music. Mother’s Nature Tree (The Warrior pt 1) typifies their ability to animate unvisited places scrapped off lonely paved country highways. Gradually, keys seep through thick layers of reverbed guitar scales, kept in their place by a mellow racket of drum snares.

Antony and The Tramps, Mother’s Nature Tree (The Warrior pt 1)

A harmonic chant brings you to The Warrior, a benediction to their self titled album, music heart bred.

Antony and The Tramps, The Warrior

Their out of that scary place 90 minutes south of here, coarsely ground good times leave the threats behind. They’re glad to take you deep enough to remember. Antony and The Tramps embark at BBC’s tomorrow nite Friday June 27.

Going the Length, Madden Miles, #HeroMusic


With so many artists having musical aspirations blooming everywhere at every moment, there just isn’t enough time to give everyone their due. North Coast kid Madden Miles, just keeps lining up raw and unsung projects. He does what needs to be done, in this era of mega pop like me simpleton tunes, the projects just are. Madden Miles was cool enough to give me a few moments to talk music and his latest project #HeroMusic.

Tried and Tried by Madden Miles ft. Amber Ruthe

Local Trolley: #HeroMusic makes the third Madden Miles proper beat tape drop. The Candace Bailey (2012) and Kate Upton (2013) tapes actually played like instrumentals of EP albums to me, more so than beat tapes. #HeroMusic actually features vocal performances, what was behind that decision? You realize #HeroMusic is an actually a pretty damn good EP. You basically just produced half a legit album, f- a beat tape.

Madden Miles: #HeroMusic was a mix of a few things I had going on behind the scenes. I had a couple MCs and a vocalist that I really just wanted to branch out with. I’ve prided myself on being ‘conceptual’ and staying the course with my projects. I also wanted to make something that was sonically huge. I’ve been wanting to take a step away from sampling to see what I could brain storm and I’ve always felt like I could make something special with the right mix of people.

I have absolutely no qualms that we’ve achieved that and even more beyond what I thought could be measured. #HeroMusic has taught me a lot as far as engineering, mixing, and just keeping the straight path on remaining positive. It took a lot longer then I expected, but I’m extremely pleased and grateful to everyone who contributed, listened, and complimented on the quality of work. I genuinely appreciate it with all sincerity.

I also appreciate the subtle compliment of #HeroMusic. It was never meant to be a beat tape. I just always felt like 10 tracks is a great balance of work. I could’ve had 17-18 tracks on here but I felt it would imbalance the 10 solid tracks that were done. I didn’t want to risk polluting it.

LT:  I caught a little thread on the twitter, I wont name names but something about a hip-hop bracket. Heads were picking match ups between Drake and Wayne, Lupe was in there… Everybody knows hip-hop is about competition, you care to speak on the state of hip-hop from a competition stand point, where do you see things being at right now?

MM: The way I see it, if you’re in it to get money, then.. Get Money. I like everyone to an extent, but I also have my preferences. I will say I myself, am waiting for the next ‘it’ guy for all ‘hip-hop’ fans. I realize there’s commercial success to be had, and someone has to get that, I understand that absolutely. Instead of being bias as a hip-hop fan, all I’ll say is, if and when you get called on as a producer, make the most of the opportunity. You may not like who it is, or stand for what they rap about, but truthfully, 2013 made me realize, you can’t be picky unless you’re in a position to be picky. So stay humble, grounded, sincere, and work your ass off to get to that position to where you can be picky and choosy. I realize [that's] more of a savvy answer…

LT:  I like that, it’s well suited. Seems to me among artists the competition factors is decreasing. Every now and then dudes will go at each other but most of now-a-days artists is playing by so many different rules, really the only comp is among fans. Speaking of competition, you went in the past 3 years at a long running producer battle hosted in Milwaukee and didn’t advance, take me from your first battle to now, how have you had to adjust your game?

MM: Battle one, that was an absolute wake up call, but it was awesome. I met a lot of awesome people that I still connect with to this day. I’ve never been what you’d title as a ‘battle producer’. I literally thought it was just go, play some beats, get some recognition and face time, and go. Then I was on stage, and I didn’t know WHAT the hell was going on. I looked at a couple of my friends in the crowd like, what the hell am I into here!? It was so hilarious.

The battle scene has been great just to meet new people, stay connected, build, and get better sonically. There’s so many good producers that it’s criminal. I have much respect for all of the competitors and everyone involved in organizing it. It’s influenced me to just all around get better. All in all when it’s said and done, I’ve enjoyed every year doing it as much as the next.

I pushed the bar about 2 years ago by having Alida do some live strings for me while I performed live. That was awesome. I have something that I think is pretty dope lined up for this year if I’m in it. Never been done before. I can’t seem to get people from my city to go to Milwaukee to support, and that’s fine. I’m more excited about the challenge to gain a new audience… That’s the ultimate thrill I’m going for this year.

LT: Yeah the battle format does lend itself to being a popularity contest. The Mil can be hyper local too, same with most of these woods. I’m going to just get this out of the way and give you a well earned Milwaukee pass. Any funny stories about pulling #HeroMusic together?

Beat the Odds by Madden Miles ft. Born Infinite

MM: Not terribly funny stories… Just more, compelling things in my opinion. On a more comedic side, I can’t tell you how many times I scolded Keno to get me the vocals for Gwen Stacy Sh*t. He came through clutch though. Honestly, the best story that I have or give is literally that I just sent them all the beats in the most basic format. They all performed what they did taking their own direction. I took that and stayed true to what the concept was, and catered to what they put down and their overall sound.

For instance, a good example would be Wanted:Heroes, I built that from the ground up. I had the beat, just bare piano, drums, breaks, and I went and recorded Amber. I was the only one that had the mix. All I did was tell everyone involved that was assigned a track what the concept was. They literally just gave me the pieces to the puzzle and I thrived on the challenge in placing it all as it came together.

I took about 3 to 4 months off from the project in it’s entirety because I was getting way too hands on and obsessive about everything. It needed to breathe and get a natural progression. By the time those months elapsed, I played what I was feeling. I was down and out at the time. I felt like I couldn’t finish it, wouldn’t finish it, and basically, not amount to anything as a producer, or life in that matter. It was an unbelievably hard time. But it rose me back from the dead, and as stereotypical as it sounds, it motivated me. I carried that motivation, and we cranked that shit out until it was done. I actually just listened to it on a drive and I am unbelievably happy and still so proud of everyone and happy that we could all do this. I absolutely love it.

LT: I’m not surprised to hear that artists just gravitated to your sounds without much direction. What I like most about your work is that it’s not very loop reliant. You got a hell of mixture of track themes, and the lyricist and vocalist are turned up.

MM: I appreciate the knowledge and understanding that I’m not entirely just predicated off of loops. Obviously, a loop drives the general feel of the track, but I’ve also had some awesome people guiding me, believing in me, driving me, and developing me to get away from that.

At times it’s beyond frustrating because you wonder if you’re ever going to meet the expectations that are made for you, but in retrospect, it’s all part of the growth. Like any producer, I definitely just started with a loop and just let it ride. It’s also hard because I have a lot of beats that may not even see the light of day because their victim of being too musical maybe. Too much going on, when maybe I needed to tone or scale back some of the intensity. I’m still learning but I feel like I’m getting there more sooner than later.

LT: You have unparallelled humbleness bro, #HeroMusic and everyone on it is quality, skull candy crush. I mean you got thoughtful tracks, philosophic, swaggin, grimy and that Born Infinite piece is just throw back hard. What do you think sets you apart most from other producers?

MM: I don’t know what sets me apart to be honest. Like I said, there’s just so many damn good producers. I’d say work ethic but I don’t want to because I know there’s others that work just as hard. I try to be out of the box with my concepts as much as possible. I try to do every kind of beat there is based on [the current] industry standards. My heart stays in the boom bap, grimy sample, dirty drums, heavy sound. However, in order to stand out, I look at artists like Just Blaze, Kanye, Pharrell, Timbaland, they wear so many hats and can make something different and unique and you still ‘know’ who’s behind that beat. That’s the crowd that someday, I reach to be mentioned in the same breath as…

LT: Pharrel killed the hat game over the winter. That was a vintage bored reaction. The Smokey the Bear joint? For real though… For real, for real  you brought up a interesting point though earlier about Racine not necessarily branching out to the Mil a ton, I’m going to extend that to places like Madison, Kenosha… The Mil don’t really branch out that much either, but now with the Mil going big at SxSW… Your thoughts on how that might change the game for whats possible for small markets if not through collaboration or through just getting out there dolo…

MM: I wasn’t able to attend, but I seen enough people that I know that were there and I felt like it gave me a good perspective. They’re hungry man, and again, that’s a testament to them. Go be heard. Don’t wait for it to come to you. I love seeing what people like Klassik, Unifi, Blax, Yodot, and Proph are doing to grow. I hope nothing for the best for those guys and look forward to hopefully working with all of them soon.

LT: Parting Shots?

MM: I hope any and everyone is able to at least give #HeroMusic the 34 minutes it earned… I wanted to make a piece of art, not an album. It’s not a record to me as much as it is a soundtrack. I can’t thank the people involved enough and can’t wait to do the second part of the series. #VillainMusic. If you digging it definitely connect with Madden Miles on facebook and twitter @MaddenMiles. I appreciate the reach out and hope all is well with you and yours.

LT: #VillianMusic without a doubt… you got rare ear for sound and song structure so glad someone is pushing that envelope…

#HeroMusic features performances from Amber Ruthe, Born Infinite, Jeff Spec, e.d.g.e., Alida Lacosse, and Keno. Check the free download here.

Wanted Heroes by Madden Miles ft. Keno, Alida Lacosse & Amber Ruthe

#HeroMusic Cover

Pulse Hard, adoptahighway, 414Melt


Suddenly tons of stand-up basses have rumbled on the Milwaukee music scene. Notably, Thistletown Thunders and Calamity Janes, Jaems Murphey’s Vedic Eden, and The Flood offer the bass’s ruminating thuds in bluegrass dialect. Add to that list Barry Paul Clark.

Fluent in Jazz and electric composition, Clark fused both as his super alter-ego adoptahighway at 414Melt. Adoptahighway superbly tasks his hands with queuing electronic samples of live recordings resonating from his bass strings that he played moments before.

The live instrument sampling technique compels attention every time it’s done. Maybe not quite as vicious as Manual Controller, but not many things are.

A recent discussion about what to do to grow Milwaukee’s music scene made me wonder what or where people look for music. Hyper-talented artists like Clark do their part by contributing to niche collectives like 414 Melt. He also spins a silken thread with traditional jazz adding to the potion blended by Unrehearsed Milwaukee, which you will have a chance to see this Sunday (May 4th) at the Jazz Estate

Colt 414, Horseforce, 414Melt


Showcasing for 414MELT, Horseforce spews dissonant sound concepts evading any accurate classification besides rocking. Carrying a persona projecting beyond his name, Horseforce embodies the performance aspect of electronic music rarely acknowledged by critics.It’s not necessarily easy on the ears, I’d compare it to anchovies on Caesar salad, a matter of taste. One thing you can’t deny is the dude is having mega fun.

Horseforce, 414Melt from Local Trolley on Vimeo.

Horseforce is mystical creature appearing only when barometric pressure increases 0.56 millabars during a 24 hour period.

Multi-Directional, Up and Under Pub, Shinobi Ninja

A few tried and true MKE hip-hop vets representing Unifi Records, and some new MKE kids GREAT and Bizz McFly from Safs Crew, warmed it up for Brooklyn-based Shinobi Ninja at the Up and Under last week. Definitely a Thursday night treat, Shinobi Ninja gives you a little rap, thrash metal and ska, feeding anyone with a hefty taste for urban couture quite well, in other words three guitars, a drum set, a DJ, a hype-girl and a emcee/vocalist is pretty kicking.

Shinobi Ninja kicking hard via Local Trolley on Vimeo

Pollination, Linneman’s, Caley Conway & The Lucy Cukes


She plays guitar and sings, her band backs her nobly. They have their influences but more importantly they have their voices and their instruments. Caley Conway fronts a musical outfit mellow enough for cautious listeners and understatedly rocking enough for the reasonably bibulous. Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes will release the Discipline Soup EP at Linneman’s Friday night, another chance to take them with you as go about you way.

The Lucy Cukes side of the river bring bass, slide guitar, and light percussion, while Conway drifts melodically on the guitar or uke. They warmed up for Jaems Murphy’s Vedic Eden late February release of Mono No Aware and rustled up a half bushel of ear pleasing tunes.

Light Craving

Conway’s voice has a soothing and purposeful vocal quality that WMSE’s Rockleidoscope Show host Erin picked out as shadowing Joni Mitchell. There is more there than adulation of Joni Mitchell and CCLC’s (ha ha their band is an acronym now) musical arrangements and themes have a lot do with that. Bassist Alex Heaton has a ton of stank that he keeps under pretty tight wraps with the Lucy Cukes, his bass lines providing a steadying force to the tracks. 

Tim Stone and Robert Weiss add essential accents to CCLC songs. They uniquely help the slide guitar and jazz style drum percussion transcend their traditional musical confines, finding a cozy corner in CCLC’s more contemporary folk/soft-pop bent. Conway vocal qualities and lyrical meter tie it all together, through her knack for digging profoundness out of otherwise mundane and hyper-personal experiences.

Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes follow-up their September 2013 Story Hill EP with the Discipline Soup EP release at Linneman’s Friday at 8p with guests Cat Ries, Lady Cannon, and Dupond Dupont.

Related Post
Album Review: Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes by Joe Guszkowski, MilwaukeeMag


Smelly Lines, Manual Controller, MALUS DOMESTICA

1) Enjoy this as a whole.
2) Wholly enjoy this.
3) This whole, enjoy.

Manual C Freaked fnl words
Manual Controller released his debut full length album Salutations July 2012 and it still has legs. Click the Malus Domestica (apple) to check it out on Bandcamp.

Manual Controller – CD Release (realtime) from Local Trolley on Vimeo.

Going Cosmic, The Quasimondo, Love & Cthulhu


Professor Whately (Kathryn Cesarz) notices a few people ambling down the long hallway leading to the humble Quasimondo Physical Theatre studio space. She points the way cordially before meeting the rest of the group touring Miskatonic University. Like most college kids we were a little eager, possible a bit anxious, going so deep into the annals of such a austere and cavernous building for the first time. Before the first scene, the strokes of genius laid in this production by Artistic Director Brian Rott and assistant Simon Eichinger begin. Even the audience must get in character.

New Research Wing

As if portions of the lecture hall are being a revamped, the first scene can be viewed through a torn tarp. A single window hung in one of the set’s partitions provides another vantage point to the opening faculty meeting. Dim white light glows through a mist that has overtaken the Dean’s office. The professors prone on the floor, writhe as if possessed, jerking as if stricken by tetanus. What has overcome them?

Meet the Professors

Unaware of the ordeals, the student body meets their new instructors as the faculty file in revealing each others’ finer points through charade. Dean Thurston (Jeremy Eineichner) introduces Dr. Judith Wilmarth (Jenni Reinke) professor of English, her knowledge and ambition for literary mastery unmatched.

Herbert West, Prof. of Medicine and Anatomy  (Kirk Thomsen) and his Graduate Assistant, Danforth (Alex Roy), make a formidable team capable of conquering mortality. Her eyes contemplating the wonders of the universe, Prof Whately’s gaze never leaves heaven’s stars, diligent in her research of Astronomy, she may have interdisciplinary interests. Physicist Randolh Carter (The Skrauss), practical and calculating, keeps the faculty grounded in reality.

Prof. Webb (Thom Cauley) doctorate of Anthropology, persistently searches for intellectual understanding of human cultures, desperately has intertwined with Amelia Dyer (Jessi Miller), Emeritus in Geology, who constantly pursues her life’s work through harrowing experience. Wound in the aesthetics of existence Professor of Art History Victoria Wilcox (Emily Craig), wields the power to interpret life through symbols.

The students who actually made it freshman orientation will get a fleeting chance to peer into each of these learned individuals’ life work and personal struggles, as they come to terms with their tenure being interrupted by Dean Thurston’s crowing discovery of the ancient text Necronomicon, and its translation by expert Semitic linguist Prof. Angell (Michael Guthrie). Eventually, each of the Professors’ personal complexes, personified by a celestial alien monster, will consume every one involved.

Love & Cthulhu Trailer from ALLFRIENDS FILMOGRAPHIE on Vimeo.

Beef Trimmings

Love & Cthulhu
is the most ambitious and inventive production Milwaukee has seen in recent years, quite possibly ever. Only one other comes to mind as even coming close. Directed into their strengths, everyone in the ensemble performed exceedingly well and with immense presence. Semi-lead roles by Thom Cauley, Kirk Thomsen and Jessi Miller stood out further, their roles accentuated by tenacious method and character.

Staged as a series of vignettes, Love & Cthulhu shows that the imagination of a few handfuls of dedicated individuals knows no bounds. They boil illusion, set design, props, movement, lighting, sound, pantomime, dance, acrobatics, live classical music, and miniature and large format puppetry into a cauldron that leaves the audience stirred, challenged, and awestruck; their imaginations’ still twisting at the curtain.

If Cthulhu rings a bell you are in rare air. That’s right Rott and his ensemble adapted Love & Cthulhu liberally from H.P. Lovecraft’s body of work that bridges the gap from Mary Shelly to Orson Welles.

Rolling Boil

Quasimondo’s production runs long and packs every scene with so many goodies this review would become an exposition. It’s run time is worth every moment of drama.

Love & Cthulu has gaping mouthed undiscovered tribes, expeditions “on belay” in distant lands, seething monsters, aliens, chanting cults, academic socialites that invite illusionist Nyeriathotep (Eichinger) to entertain them, geek romance over petri dishes and telescopic photographs, scientific experiments with Serum 3.2.1, and ballads of desperation.

Billboard Production

The Quasimondo’s tech work deserves extremely high regard. Puppeteers Dawn Swarty, Bridget Cookson, and Mike Petit, led by Andrew Parchman, animated inanimate objects such that Dr. Moreau would fly into a jealous rage.

Stage Design held the hallmarks of Quasimondo’s inventiveness, sparse and utilitarian partitions the main feature, constructed by Paul Bentz, Andy Walsh, and Rott and illustrated by Nerissa Eichinger and Andy Walsh. Costume hit the spot designed by Fabrizio Cappeli Salon, Carolyn Christianson and Rott.

Quasimondo’s company boasts a team fluid in multiple artistic disciplines, many of the cast double musical composers. Jennie Reinke, Steve Wolf, Kathryn Cesarz, and Simon Eichinger scored the show. Choreography and Dance directed by Eichinger, Reinke, Miller, Rott, and Couley.

You hardly are ever missing out on a show, but if you miss Love & Cthulhu you definitely are and you’ll miss the most epic scene change in the history of theater. Tonight’s the night, Love & Cthulu closing performance March 1 at 8pm at The Fortress. Arrive early, as your entry to the house is guided.

Soaring, Brewed Cafe, Jaems Murphy’s Vedic Eden


A lonesome voice brings everyone into his realm, they savor the feeling. His guitar sings the cryptic melodies of life’s winding road. Everyone’s route has its charms. Jaems Murphy quaintly celebrated the release of his most recent expulsion Mono No Aware, with a small ensemble of musicians and audiophiles at Brewed Cafe. Outside is cold as February in the year 2014.

A sheet draped over the picture window made a silver screen for the Vidic Eden to accompany Jaems Murphy’s numero uno rip Right Your Will. Murphy tumbles through escapades expected for a man in his shoes, somehow unscathed like sopping wet clothes renewed in a gas dryer, better for their tumbles.

Right You Will, Jaems Murphy’s Vedic via Jaems Murphy on Youtube

A gnarly bunch, the Vedic Eden has Murphy’s back on rhythm guitar, stand up bass, keyboard, trumpet and various percussion, not withstanding a door key chime.

If eclectic weren’t cliche they would be serially riding your emotional whims until personal sands are stirred. The Jaems Murphy’s Vedic Eden release can be sampled here on Bandcamp.

The Lathe Within, Alchemist Theatre, The Chairs


As the dialog in the theatrical duet The Chairs goes on, you begin to notice the Old Woman (Kelly Doherty) and the Old Man (Tim Linn<) nonchalantly bringing chairs from places all over the stage into the scene. Somehow 52 chairs have made it on stage by the closing scene. Who was this guy Eugene Ionesco and what was he up to?

At Leda Hoffman’s direction Doherty and Linn, guide us along the final bend of that sleepy road that married couples travel in their golden years. The Old Woman and Old Man sit in their chairs, frail, all movements an ordeal. The Old Woman gushes over her husband, of how talented he is and how many people he knows. None of that seems to matter any more, those days were decades ago. The Old Man laments his chosen fate to sequester himself from the world to tend to their humble existence.

A Captain on a Sinking Ship

The Old Woman endearingly butters up the Old Man to tell her a story she’s heard a million times, of how the Old Man revealed his treasured life work to the most important people of the world.

They routinely pantomime the guests’ arrival, as a couple might play a cribbage game together, cordially greeting and conversing with their imaginary socialites. Some guests the Old Man knows. He speaks with regret to his true love Belle, as the Old Woman flirtatiously entertains the Colonel. Soon after they witness a tawdry affair between Belle and Colonel.

More guests arrive. As the Old Man answers the door, the Old Woman fetches chairs and struggles to find places for them. At one point she’s distracted by salacious banter with a photographer who lures her into her own vanity while the Old Man is distracted across the room. Finally, the Emperor arrives.

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Over Bored

In a Pyrrhic victory over their futile lives the Old Man and Old Woman commit suicide in a dramatically metaphorical way, meeting the sea that they greet when the play opens, as they climb out of their humble abode’s windows before the plenary they’ve prepared even begins. The Orator enters dressed to the intellectual nines to deliver the Old Man’s message.

The Orator gathers himself and forcefully speaks a mumble, he cannot hear himself. He tries again. A strained sound exits his mouth, his tongue can’t find its way around his pallet, his is mute. He takes to the chalk board and rakes lines emphatically, inscribing what should be letters but are only line that happen to touch one another. He is illiterate.

Wringing Every Drop

Ionesco mastered “theater of the absurd”, and Leda Hoffman does well to see his vision through. Doherty and Linn share compelling stage presence convincingly portraying that intertwined distantness that elderly spouses sometimes have. The familiar routines, the prediction of the others’ mannerisms appear naturally through their portrayals.

Hoffman successfully makes space for the audience to interpret the piece. In her rendition. the growing distance between the Old Woman and Old Man leaves one to wonder do the chairs represent all those memories and lost interactions of the past each has held on to, drawing them further and further to isolation though their mutual company that never ends.

The Chairs closed The Alchemist’s 2013 – 2014 season February 22. Credit Antishadows for Lighting Design, Andrea Bouck for Costume Design, Stage Manager Jared McDaris, Dramaturg Emily Penick, Set and Sound Design Aaron Koepec.

Speaking of Variety, Best Place, Cabaret Milwaukee


Creative conspirators Sarai Yardbird Anzaldua, Josh Bryan and Jackie Benka hit their point on their first roll of Cream City’s newest live performance channel Cabaret Milwaukee.

Nestled in the catacombs of the The Brewery’s local watering hole Best Place, eager ladies and gentleman seated snugly around wood furnishings filled the rathskeller for an evening of Valentine’s night entertainment. They received large and savory helpings of melodrama and sideshow talent interludes set to a prohibition era radio show theme.

A Night Under the Cups

Radio host Richard Howling (Adam White), conducted the nights performances backed by the house jazz band stationing Anthony Deutsch on piano, Devin Drobka at drums, Clay Schaub on upright bass and Scott Hlavenka on guitar.

Between scenes that brought the mean streets of gangland Chicago pub side in episode one of The Jealous Revolver, Richard Howling played maestro to zinging one line comedic punches from Mrs. Milli (Laura Holterman) and show tunes belted by jazz siren Sadie Starlight (Jen Cintron).

The Howling Radio Hour talent interludes also featured Jason Hillman stirring the mood with a long form stand up routine, tapping toes of dancer Danielle Weber, and advertisements from the angelically persuasive voices of the Jingle Crew Steve Breese, Sarah Mellstrom, and Katrina Cengeri.

Artistic Brew

A visually enticing approach, the Creative Director Sarai Yardbird Anzaldua’s vision comes to life with scenes staged throughout the cabaret, and at times right next to audience members. In other spots, dual framed scenes allow players to discuss the goings while others are in action.

The technical acumen of co-producer Josh Bryan highlights it all, especially with resourceful lighting design. Jackie Benka’s knack for dialog flavors the entire production with requisite dramatic pace to keep the audience engaged at all times.

Acts of Noir

In episode one of The Jealous Revolver we meet a host of underworld characters. Nightclub owner Vick Marconi (Michael Keiley) has a couple of young workers, starlet Vivica (Michelle White) and Joey Yardbird (Ryan Nelson). The regulars Anna (Anna Ceragioli), Stella (Anzaldua), and Tommy (Bryan) keep the club rumor mill turning, as run ins with the local mob affiliates Jean (Jennifer Grundy), Tony (Brian Miracle), and Marco (Greg Ryan) heat up.

The action reaches a fever pitch when soon after Jean’s unfortunate alcohol induced demise, Marconi is called to a sit down with Marco. Marconi has eyes for Vivica all along, and pushes the issue insisting that she come to the sit down as a customary female acquaintance. Under Marconi’s thumb Joey rides along as the mission’s driver.

At Vivica’s pick up point there is no trace of her, she and Joey have plotted an escape from Marconi’s grip. When Marconi arrives at Vivica’s place instead of Joey, she realized something has gone awry. Marconi weaves through Viviva’s smokescreens, finally with sinister resoluteness applying heavy pressure revealing the Joey’s zip-cock misfired. In treachery Joey ran off before Marconi could catch him. In the nick of time Joey arrives at Vivica’s to intervene Marconi’s wrath, revealing his secret romance with Vivica. Now they’re both on the lamb… until the next episode of The Jealous Revolver.

It’s Alive

A lot of familiar faces from many other artistic efforts in Milwaukee appeared in Cabaret Milwaukee, an truly amazing prospect to see the nucleus of the art’s scene readily forming new bonds. Cabaret Milwaukee’s next stew is sure to be a crowd pleaser in its period homage, overacted glory.

Lit Corners, Sugar Maple, The Viper & His Famous Orchestra


Tucked neatly in the back of Sugar Maple, the Okka Disk performance space is best known for its annual jazz fest set to turn 6 years old this year. In the meanwhile it also makes a temporary home for jazz musicians and their extended family when the occasion calls. None more suitable that a rare new moon appearance of The Viper & His Famous Orchestra in Milwaukee.

When talent meets ingenuity in music, good things happen, like the The Viper & His Famous Orchestra. They’re a seasoned bunch of classically trained musicians and/or general life enthusiasts, who have mastered the mixology of traditional and homemade instruments, pouring out well measured roots country and swing jazz.

Bring the Mustard

Featuring a ukelele (Ryan Jerving), upright bass and viola (Riley Broach), trombone (Rob Hen), piano (Jon Peacock), percussion (Edward Burch), The Viper really gets interesting when these core ensemble pieces confront their DIY musical doppelgangers.

Meeting their match, Broach gets in the mud on washtub bass, Burch on suitcase drum confirms he and his doppelganger are one in the same , and Peacock ignores all street signage on stylophone, toy piano, and the atrocity that is the air-tubed melodica.

The Howl of Goodtimes

Once the The Viper gets going, the goodtimes roll. They take themselves 45 RPM less serious than their music, pulling out a few comedic bits for their sets to go with the sarcasm and pop culture wit from the ages.

The Viper will take over 91.7 WMSE’s Local Live tomorrow at 6p. If you really must see them live you get another chance March 7th at Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.’s new cafe on Bruce Street.

A Song for All Seasons by The Viper & His Famous Orchestra via The Viper on YouTube

Here to Fore, The Naima, Circle-A at 8, SD Release


You can’t go much further underground without calling diggers hotline, than the two ravens together know as the The Naima. A metal band playing to jazz principles can hardly be stopped, or seen. They’ll drop a super limited edition SD release this Sunday at Circle-A.

Supposedly there’s some crazy videos and other lo-tech stuff to distract you from their super ripping tunes, like this mysterious transmission that ended up on The Portuguese SoundCloud.

SD Release Alternate

Hod-A326MT_FINAL by thePortuguese549655404 via The Portuguese SoundCloud

The Naima will be setting clocks forward at Circle-A’s Live at 8 with The Nobody Brothers this Sunday January 26, 2014 at 8p. The Naima is not to be confused with Naima Adedapo or The Naima Train, so you don’t have to push your jacket sleeves up in the bitter cold or bring a mini-backpack. Actually, you probably shouldn’t search The Naima much on the internet because basically the internet avoids the The Naima.

Best Music Shots 2013, Secret Lover, The Lasso


Burrowing deep in a crease at an uncharted pole of your being, resonating frequencies in rare, often musty air; an entity bearing the mark of Rock music, Secret Lover arrives.

They cruise well after the nostalgia that has many clamoring for simple times found in early century blues roots. They dig far beneath concrete foundations, burying acoustic beat era folk in its shallow grave. They leave soundtracks of peace and protest at a forgotten rally with hand written signs. They’re really not known to break things that aren’t theirs, so they don’t need spikes.

They crimp midi cables and corrupt the digital interfaces hiding music hackery. They rewind self-loathing, and close the dairy. They care about what they do, their cool falls secondary, so collars down. Born before Moog was normal, they relish lo-fi. They hid in a shoe box until destiny knocked them off a dusty shelf. They ended up in a cassette tape deck, stellar-as-ever, post-punk, art-core and beyond.

Matter of Tongues

Rolling a new EP release, The Lasso, right at the end of 2013 Secret Lover has stolen the year, giving amplified instruments renewed purpose. Back in Milwaukee a year and half after testing their Summer Demo on a few willing heads, they recently meandered back to a small venue in Riverwest to kick off 2014.


Lyrics rarely carry entire albums so resolutely both in content and vocal quality, and there Sally Horowitz exudes everything that now means. Controlling the mood and moments in every song with her voice, she celebrates micro-drama paradigms and self-determined sensibilities, soaking them in perpetually shifting meter and tempo, unpredictable melodies and soul-snatching contralto octave switches; punctuating stanzas with an occasional evocative spoken “Oh Yeah”. And the band has the tab covered.

Mighty Healthy

Lead guitar John Guida divides himself on most songs between rhythm and solo parts, distortion and hollow pickups, like a man with no palms, and a third brain hemisphere. He’s the docent for The Lasso, quietly guiding ruddy ears on an indie journey, propelling Secret Lover’s purposefully crude product, substantiated by highly technical methods, to the moon.

Sewing the void left between vocals and lead, Lars Paulson pulsates sticky rhythmic effluvia on bass, following structure momentarily before dribbling spontaneous scales with nice handle, subtly giving the final outline to the emotional tones held in the jams, shaking stable feelings from their tree.

Noticeably beefing up the percussion from their initial 2012 release, Summer Demo, Dave Paquette hammers his kit, a contained riot determined to knock down an inhibition or two, pace-setting each song fluidly, throttling and coasting with his mates. Serve the whole ensemble with room temperature Hamm’s, and you’re basically set.


Taste Dorian to sample Secret Lover’s choice of ingredients. Presumably an ode to a friend, lighthearted and heartfelt, Horowitz dives in plainly, coyly, “Dorian you changed your name, and you cut off all curls…” The band rides right in, as Horowitz continues through though the chorus and bridge, each take their turn embellishing a verse with a slight variation. The song builds to the refrain with Paquette rolling, Guida veering off to a half scale, and Paulson syncopating nastily, by the close a climax is reached in deep in harmony, a simple exercise in bliss.

Dorian by Secret Lover off of the The Lasso EP (2013)

Infectious, present and packing some serious performative powers Secret Lover resuscitates and revives those dark and mundane places that harbor rough beauty. Where a lot of music tries really hard to be something, they just are something, and they’re evolving rapidly. Secret Lover is touring, so if you’re not killing baby red pandas you should check them out. The Lasso is a 6-track EP available for download, and so is equally worthy Summer Demo.

Related Posts
Secret Lover, Unpop Art Show, Orcanine Abbey,
(There’s a pretty nifty vid too)

One last thing 2013, The Skrauss, Subito Statua


Passers-by on the Riverwalk crossing at Wells Street, squint their gaze at the brownish human figure standing at ease, with arms bent at both elbows to let the most famous thumbs in history point to the sky. Everything’s Hey, OK.

For statues with notorious local reputations, the Bronze Fonze stands next to only the random Michael Jackson idol that was stuck in mid-pelvis thrust out side of Fulham FC’s stadium at Craven Cottage, London. Let’s face it, Fonze in the Happy Days… butter, today the Bronzie attracts its share of ridicule.

On one seemingly normal overcast morning, lurking an uncomfortable distance from the Fronze, another statue suddenly appeared. A seven-foot gangly clay figure glowered over the Fonze, disproportionately large hands’ pleading palms inward facing to its chest. It wore a blue suit. It stood on massive black booted feet. Someone had taken the ante up a notch higher than ever before.

Apparently, as the day went on people started to notice; as public art projects tend to be a hot button topic in this town. Having one appear in such a prominent location, with no public hearing, must have raised someone’s eyebrows.

A day later, Jim Stingl, known for scrounging up a scoop to post on JSOnline, sent out a plea on NewsWatch to get a bead on the goings on. Amazingly that yielded results in less than 24-hours.

via The Skrauss Speaks, You Listen on YouTube

Turns out a local artist The Skrauss, a recent MFA of UW-Milwaukee and long-time illustrator, has unmistakeable work. Jim Stingl somehow got a hold of Skrauss and pulled a few strained responses from him. A mysterious statue on the Riverwalk, makes a physical metaphor for random acts of love and outburst.

I suppose with a sketchy box van and 10-foot statue, pop-up public art is possible. The Skrauss has art that hangs on walls too, and sometimes cameos in indie films like The Wheel.

Related Posts
Sheer Groovy Outrage, The Skrauss,
Ascension into the Fiction, The Skrauss,

The Skrauss (c) 2013

How do you get around town? Zipcar Milwaukee is here and growing


Usually the debate about how to get about town in Milwaukee is a decent conversation piece. In the worst cases, it’s the way to find the poles of people’s outlook on life in the city. Wait what’s that? Milwaukee has Zipcar! Now there is even more to talk about, and they’re giving away a Zipcertificate worth $100 to get a worthy Milwaukeean moving (details below).

Get a Move On

As Milwaukee tussles with plowing towards becoming full fledged metropolis or remaining a fragmented mid-sized city of suburbs and enclaves, many urbanists vie for a more robust public transit system by adding variety to available modes. From buses, street cars, to bike shares multiple transportation options decrease reliance on cars and increase urban viability as a matter of public policy. Urban Milwaukee, has provided an ongoing commentary on the Downtown Street Car plan and other transit innovations that have made their way through the wringer a few times, some set to see the pavement in 2014.

Other Milwaukeeans make a conscientious lifestyle or personal finance choice to live car-less relying on any of the above, and in certain fits of principled defiance (read: “fun”) take “pedicabs” and pedal pubs. Others who come to the city from smaller towns, or who are just prideful locals, may swear by nothing other than a personal vehicle for transportation, lest they have their own personal Jim Anchower moment on the bus. It’s quite possible that with Zipcar, Milwaukeeans can now travel the middle ground about town when and how they choose.

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Did you know? Zipcars survived the Polar Vortex of 2014

If You Didn’t Know…

Zipcar is a car sharing business that has served Milwaukee for the past five years. This University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus got them first in 2007, and soon after Marquette University added the Zipcar option. This past August, Zipcar expanded its presence in Milwaukee to serve nearly 20 locations. Zipcar works like a monthly subscription to awesome cars that you can use by the day or hour, accessible right in your neighborhood.

What about insurance? It’s included. What about gas? It’s included, if you follow the very reasonable guidelines. What about the hassle, sounds like a rental car? Leave that to the concierge at the airport, with the deposits, and mandatory rental periods and every changing pricing. You sign up for Zipcar and use the mobile web (iOS or Android) or conventional internet to make a reservation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Modern technology allows you to access the car and drive off without having to talk to a person. Even in an middle of the night emergency you can get to where you have to go, as long as it’s not to Kalamazoo.

Getting the Picture

Have you a friend that’s coming in town on the Hiyawatha or by coach bus from a city like Minneapolis or Chicago that has Zipcar? Say on an occasion your schedules don’t match. If they are signed up they can arrange a Zipcar here, they can explore Milwaukee for an afternoon until you can connect.

If you live around downtown Zipcars are stashed about several neighborhoods for your shopping, business, or personal convenience. Juneau Town on Kilbourn and Van Buren, Eastown on Jefferson and Wisconsin, US Bank Center on Michigan and Cass, Public Market on Broadway and Clybourn, Third Ward at Buffalo and Jefferson all have Zipcars.

Some people need car for an afternoon once or twice a month, why go $15,000 in debt or get a hooptie that’s going to break down when you need it. For many people, Zipcar is a practical way to save money and abide by a low-car diet. You’ll probably be able to enjoy the luxuries of a much nicer car that you can afford while you’re at it.

You’re a responsible adult, so why shouldn’t you be able to drive an Audi Q5, Mini Cooper or Toyota Prius?
To Zipcar affordable does not mean economy. Each of these cars are available in the Milwaukee market in select locations. Other Zipcar makes include Mazda, Ford and Hyundai.

Hybrid City Dwellers

Using Zipcar doesn’t mean you have sold out public transit. Zipcar represents the shared option, which is the next most civil thing to the public option, without the nerve racking of lending or borrowing and bumming rides in someone else’s car. Matter of fact, it’s basically like a bike share but with cars. Well almost. Although our wildest dreams as kids were to put some coins in the kiddy horsey ride and ride off, you’ll actually have to sign up and get your Zip Card in the mail before using Zipcar.

Services like Zipcar are huge steps in the right direction and show the surge in vitality Milwaukee has recently experienced in its city center, so it’s at least worth knowing about. RadioMilwaukee has a spot with Zipcar’s Milwaukee marketing rep, and she’s got a great radio voice you can hear behind the “Love’s Gonna Get Ya”/”Plug Tuning” and “So Watcha Saying”/”Jackin’ for Beats” instrumentals.

To make their 2014 expansion a little more fun, the good people at Zipcar have decided to offer one lucky Milwaukeean, and Local Trolley reader, a $100 Zipcertificate to put towards a Zipcar membership and driving credit, and the folks at Local Trolley are honored to do the honors. To get a shot at starting your low-car diet on the house, “Like” Local Trolley’s Facebook page by January 15, 2014 to cast your lot.

One last thing 2013, R.I.P The Onion Print Edition and A.V. Club Milwaukee


I used to have this awfully bad attitude like most teens, especially toward popular media, and for some reason it extended to books of literature. I used to rant about how anyone could just start writing, making up any old thoughts and pass them off as facts or novels. Around this time, this newspaper started appearing in the halls of my high school.

It was filled with all sorts of non-sense like Air Jesus coming back to earth dunking in a Bulls jersey, commentary written under the pseudonyms like Smooth B, Jim Anchower and Higalec of the Healfdanes, and some classic spots like Point/Counter Point. It was foundational material emulate, fertilizer for a generation of native Milwaukeeans with a natural penchant for imaginative banter and hyperbolic heckling coursing through their veins. Milwaukee is of course the ancestral home of Jim Abrahams, Jerry and David Zucker, could anyone expect less.

One day buried, on page 5 or something, a random throw away column appeared, “New Study: Books Don’t Take You Anywhere”. In disbelief, my eyes swirled in a self-righteously justified tizzy at the mundane black and white picture of a 9 year old sitting in an over sized living room easy chair reading a book. That was the moment the The Onion played my chord, I was hooked.

One Bad Day

At year close Milwaukee abruptly lost a dear smelly old friend. The day it was announced that The Onion print edition was going away should grudgingly join that club of infamous, tragic and otherwise note worthy moments in popular history deserving of a “where were you when…” recollections. It was almost two months ago now when I first heard the news and I’ve already almost forgotten mine.

I’m pretty sure I saw a status come through the A.V. Club Milwaukee page and immediately dismissed it as “usual antics”. About a week later, I was driving down Prospect Avenue while texting and listening to The Disclaimer on WMSE, which included then A.V. Club Milwaukee editor Matt Wild, where the gory details were revealed.

Somewhere along the line, some bastards in Chicago thought Milwaukee shouldn’t have a newspaper it helped bring to national prominence over the previous quarter century, circulating weekly on newsstands with the admirable A.V. Club Milwaukee local insert neatly tucked inside. It figures, we also have more bars per capita than Chicago, and naturally more cool stuff going on per capita too.

In Memoriam

According to Wild , the Milwaukee outfit was still profitable, albeit likely on the curvy mounds about the ladies and gents in the Silk and chatline ads, profitable non-the-less (not a directly attributable sentiment of Wild). It is unknown if the same could be said in Madison, Boulder or any other of the cities The Onion phenomenon burrowed underground, later to be snatched up and tossed at a skateboarder.

Let us then remember The Onion as a true beacon of the oft’ hidden reality found in the sarcasm of cynical minds. A life line for the consciousness of free and critical thinkers to cling, a boil on the face of overcooked established journalism. The Onion: a testament to the vast potential contained in the sprig of an idea. To the A.V Club Milwaukee, a persistent tap on the side of the head to remind us that the local voice matters, and that their is always a reason to slug some Lakefront pints with your esteemed colleagues in the Onion Beer Society.

The Onion, a crowning contribution of Milwaukee to the patronage of cultural and political satire, one of the first and the last to circulate this Grade “A” American institution: The Onion print edition, gone but never to be erased from memory, at least not in the first two weeks of 2014.


One last thing 2013, R.I.P Art vs. Craft


Milwaukee blew living colors all year in 2013, with our fine city earning a couple of major national honors including a somewhat dubious “Brainiest City” from The Atlantic, and most notably a spot on ArtPlace America’s top art places 2013 list. On this list, Milwaukee bumped elbows with Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY, Seattle, Portland, Dallas, LA, Philadelphia, and San Francisco and few other name brand cities. The recognition specifically gold-starred the Third Ward for its civic centrality, a harbor of the fine arts.

While most Milwaukeeans appreciate the Third Ward for what it represents, it only gives a taste of Milwaukee’s arts culture. The Milwaukee art-scape evolved pockets, hideouts, scenes, lone rangers, academies and even congregations as the twentieth century turned. In 2013, Milwaukee lost the matriarch of them all, Art vs. Craft.

Comet Tails

Though preceded by several notable others including Morning Glory Art Festival and Community Arts Festival (both held annually at the Marcus Center), and Lake Front Festival of the Arts, Art vs. Craft changed everything.

Art vs. Craft took the mainstream fine art culture, spritzed afternoons with your parents sharing blush wine and munching pretzels, and distilled it into an around the clock ordeal of melding kinesthetics and aesthetics during everyday life; a way of life. For those pumping their time, energy and life force into mastering age old craft skills into making things, Art vs. Craft became the annual venue to unveil them to peers and Milwaukee’s neat-thing enthusiasts.

Art vs. Craft founder Faythe Levine must be credited as one of the foremost creative minds Milwaukee has every seen, welding her creativity, ethics, and force of will together to essentially found a niche industry, still maintaining her integrity at all turns. In 2008, collaborating with Courtney Heimerl, Levine released the documentary Hand Made Nation, giving a more global view of the phenomenon taking place in Milwaukee. It was screened around the world, to international acclaim.

Veering to a more specific path of craft professions, Levine and Sam Macon released Sign Painters in early 2013, currently winding down a world tour, capping another immense undertaking.

Leaving the Nest


Art vs. Craft’s final event was hosted by the Harley-Davidson Museum on November 30, 2013. Although a juried craft fair, Art vs. Craft 2013 took up two full exhibition spaces at the HD Museum. Patrons gathered with Printmakers, collage artists, jewelry makers, toy makers, book binders, ceramic dish makers and many others with obscure craft proficiencies, to toast the closing of Levine’s seminal project.

As I browsed that day, obliviously staring over at one of the booths while walking, I almost ran full into someone. Sort of giving way noticing at the last second, I realized in an awe-struck moment that it was Faythe. We ended up just brushing arms. Dammit should have been paying attention, we could’ve met!

Art vs. Craft is survived by venues WMSE’s Buy Local Bazaar, Hovercraft, and Made in Milwaukee, and likely has many budding offspring.


‘Tis Gift Season, Last Minute Shop Local


The holiday gift buying crunch time has arrived with well timed seasonal snow and ice, but don’t let that stop you. If you haven’t wrapped all your gifts yet, there are some great local shopping options worthy of a browse. One of a kind clothing, accessories, and art make great gifts, lets face it everyone likes custom.

This weekend shops are popping up and store front proprietors will have their doors to greet you. If you prefer online, most of these local options can accommodate e-commerce as well.

Last Minute Shopping List Part 1

Zen Dragonfly, Last Ditch Effort,
Handmade clothing and accessories by fashion house Zen Dragonfly, and hosting mini-craft fair Last Ditch Effort in Sherman Park Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12p.

Madam Chino’s Look Nook,
Madam Chino fashion house feature vintage and handmade fashion and accessories, pop up shop is open Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12p.

Roots Underground Outfitters, Nice Gear,
Urban fashion retailer Roots has custom fashion designs and independent brands from across the nation, their store is open regular business hours in Washington Heights.

Milrawkee Alt, Bubbler Studios,
Prepare for fun, Milrawkee Alt has original Milwaukee themed art and gifts of all types, perfect for the MKE junky with a love for funky stuff to put on their walls, located in Bay View’s Hide House.

‘Tis Gift Season, Local Fashion, Last Ditch Effort, Zen Dragonfly

A smorgasbord of makers will fill Zen Dragonfly’s 3rd Annual Last Ditch Effort. Created by local fashion designer Angela Smith, Zen Dragonfly carries a suite of skirt and dress designs derived from re-purposed fabrics, along with hats, knit tams and beanies and other hand sewn accessories.

Every year she teams up with other local artists and crafts people to have a year-end vendor market. This year the Last Ditch effort will convene at the Body and Soul Healing and Arts Center in Sherman Park’s Good Shepard Lutheran Church on 48th and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Past vendors at the Last Ditch Effort included bookbinders, visual artists, screen printers, jewelery artists, natural soaps and beauty products. In a stroke of luck for sweet teeth, several local bakers will also be in residence to help you spoil your appetite a little early, with a variety of tantalizing goodies.

The Last Ditch Effort will go down on Saturday December 21, 2013 from 12:00p to 6:00p at Good Shepard Lutheran Church, 3617 N. 48th Street. Like the Zen Dragonfly page for the latest updates on this event.

‘Tis Gift Season, Buy Local Fashion, Madam Chino’s

Many clothing items leave a first impression that they probably came straight from a major retailer, or worse yet a department store. I actually have a phobia of being seen in an item of clothing that has an immediately recognizable origin. Local maker Vanessa Andrew’s alter-ego Madam Chino will cure that ailment when you stop by the Look Nook on 100A E. Pleasant Street.

A treasure trove of handmade accessories and clothing, the Look Nook also has an extremely forward and very gently worn vintage clothing and shoe selection. Madam Chino is one of the contributors of Hovercraftadding to her resume of impeccable taste for quality hand tailored and curated found items.

The Look Nook will have an exclusive pop-up shop open Saturday, December 21, 2013 from 12:00p – 6:00p. Take a gaze at the Madam Chino Look Nook page for details on how to attend the shop opening.


‘Tis Gift Season, Local Fashion, Roots Underground Outfitters

Holding down Washington Heights, urban fashion gets a boost from Roots Underground Outfitters. Located on 54th and Vliet, Roots carries a carefully selected stable of gear must haves such a jeans, hats, tees, bags, and nap sacks in independent brands like Mishka, Kidrobot, 5Boro, along with your favorite local sports team apparel.

Roots keeps their banner namesake ‘Roots’ tees around so you can rock deep Vliet Street pride. They also teamed up with Rehughes Design to generate even more local flavor. Rehughes Design brought forth limited edition T’s graphics to amp Roots grand opening back in the fall, some styles worth looking into.

If you’re going really hardcore backlashing against any branding, Roots also has custom screenprinting services available to get you into that t-shirt idea burning a hole in your head.

Roots Underground Outfitters is located in 5328 W. Vliet Street

‘Tis Gift Season, Local Art, Milrawkee Alt, Bubbler Studios

Alternative fashion photographer Ryan Laessig and visual artist Amanda Iglinski formed the design house Bubbler Studios this past year. They’ve melded their highly conceptual creative forces to launch Milrawkee Alt as an ode to traditional science fiction culture and our favorite hometown Milwaukee.

In a series of original comic illustration-style paintings they capture superbly absurd scenes like King Kong romping on the Intercontinental Hotel, martians nuking the USBank building and the Kraken munching on the Calatrava. These are available in print and refridgerator magnets.

A second set of graphically illustrated prints lets Milrawkeeans get super local by expressing their neighborhood pride in series of Star Wars themed portraits. Infamous likenesses from mostly the Darkside of the Force paired with the Milwaukee ‘hood name enscribed in Star Wars-esque typeface can help geek out your walls.

Laessig and Iglinski also have their own individual contemporary artworks worth exploring. Check them out in person at Bubbler Studios in the Hide House or online at the Milwaukee Alt site.