An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for July, 2011

Super, Ultra, Listening, Marty McDoom

Making a few waves only takes one big ripple. Marty McDoom gradually builds his repertoire of music, adding tracks to his under-the- surface hip-hop playlists regularly. Marty McDoom recently dropped a EP demo online called Super, Ultra. Hey… McDoom might be on to something, Local Trolley got a chance to exchange a few words about his progress towards breaking his sound out.

Fuck it, I’m Depressed, Marty McDoom

L.S. Trolley: What best describes your style… hot water on a hot day or cold water on a cold day?

Marty McDoom: I’m Like….uh…uh…cold water on a hot day (laughing), Perfectly slightly colder than room temp water on a hot day..(laughing).

LT: You put out some EPs recently, dark themes, but still listenable, were you surprised by how they were received?

MM: Yeah they did pretty good for completely random projects. I tried to really capture my thoughts and what was going on in my life at the time and people responded pretty good to it all. I knew that i couldn’t be the only person who has those thoughts or has those feelings. I made them to be an accurate depiction of myself at the time, and relate-able.

LT: Yeah, in hip-hop emotions are basically to be avoided, even truth, I was listening to the Mad Kids on WMSE tonight and they were getting on Rick Ross, joking that he was a probation officer at one time or something, [quite] opposite of his persona. Rick Ross is one of the biggest out there, do you feel pressure to make music that responds to this tendency?

MM: I’m totally against this pressure…I think this “pressure” is whats killing Hip-Hop, no one feels free to be themselves, everyone is trying to live up to these expectations and normalities of what a hip-hop artist is suppose to be and represent, its all wrong…completely f*cked. If you ask me, instead of being an expression of real life , real thoughts and feelings, and real issues, its become a big advertisement. One huge show and tell of everything your suppose to want and want to be, but its all bullshit…f*ck a chain, f*ck a nice car, f*ck money. I mean that’s all nice, and should be a by-product of your success but it shouldn’t come as a replacement for reality.

LT: What was the hip-hop moment that pissed you off the most in this era… the one that gave you the, “man this is #$% ##%% #%…”

MM: It sounds cliche…but when they turned Kanye into a social villain for being spontaneous at that award show, at Taylor Swift’s expense… that’s the [real] reality and the flare we need back in not only hip-hop…but the world…everything is becoming so scripted, its lame.

LT: Oh ok it was the act of spontaneity, I’m surprised they didn’t tackle him [on stage]. Obama called him an ass for that, what was your take? Did you agree that Beyonce’s song was really better? or [fill in the blank]…

MM: Nah…he wasn’t an ass…He was just out of place..and drunk [laughing]. I never saw Beyonce’s video… Could care less to be honest. Think about it, who let him up there? A huge award show and no security? Fuck that..they let him up there… They just didn’t know what he was gonna do. He shocked all their asses [laughing]. Personally, I laughed for days.

LT: Do you see any hope for Milwaukee harboring scenes friendly for your flavor of music. Right now it’s really street or really traditional style battle rap.

MM: Not really no….but I love Milwaukee enough to know that it’s not all about Milwaukee. People are really receptive to my music in other places, other States to other countries. Once everyone else loves you…then Milwaukee will.

LT: Good getting a chance to hear some words from the mind for a few, any parting words for the fans?

MM: Stay tuned…Got a lot of cool music in the works, a lot of big things happening…No spoilers as of yet, but improvised sound is definitely in the works…!

Marty McDoom has two other Ep’s currently spinning online Destruction of Leviathan and Shut Your Freakin’ Gob and Listen.

Drink the Well, ExFabula, Terminal Milwaukee

ExFabula sounds kind of tricky to say, but a name you should get to know, quickly. They filled Club Garibaldi in Bay View to jump start the neighborhood segment of their story telling series, Terminal Milwaukee. Milwaukee has its share of characters, and the one’s sharing their tales in this episode of Terminal Milwaukee proved why Bay View might be the most grounded place in the City.

If you have ever hung out, known anyone or actually lived in Bay View you may have noticed a healthy, but subtle, self-contained shoulder-chip. Their level of neighborhood pride has a good reason. Terminal Milwaukee’s Bay View theme, “All in a Day’s Work”, gave venue for master historians and grizzled but good spirited working folk to dish proletariat-ism, uncensored, honest and unplugged. John Gurda author of The Making of Milwaukee, a 17 part documentary series that aired on Milwaukee Public Television, layered bedrock for the night’s story tellers.

Village on the South Shore

On a plainly lit stage, kept company only by the microphone and stand, John Gurda calmly explains that Eber Brock Ward, a Detroit iron magnate, established a branch of his iron conglomerate on the southern shores of Milwaukee, and named it Milwaukee Iron Works. With a new iron outpost in place, 1868 brought the founding of a mill town named Bay View, technically Milwaukee’s first suburb. Just 9 years later, Bay View residents voted to re-join the City of Milwaukee to enjoy access to public services such as water and plumbing. Bay View’s reuniting with Milwaukee changed daily life for its residents, ending the era of public wells and rustic rooms.

According to Gurda, Bay View also claims credit for being a bastion of the labor rights movement in Wisconsin. The iron rolling mill workers toiled in heat of over 150 degrees day in and day out, and still mustered the strength to organize themselves to protest Ward’s ungracious labor practices. When the first worker organizations in Milwaukee, led by the Sons of Vulcan, attempted to follow suit with the rest of the region and strike during the May Day Labor Strikes of 1886, Wisconsin Gov. Jeremiah Rusk called in the militia and ordered use of deadly force if workers did not stand down at the mill.

Adding facts far more accurate that Wikipedia, Gurda’s narrative reveals that the Captain of the militia attempted to call off the shoot-to-kill order. However, as the militia advanced on the stalwart workers, his orders to stand down, rendered inaudible from his post 200 yards behind the front line, fell silent under the sound of gunfire and frantic screams. In the end, 7 died including a retired mill worker living near the protest and a teenage boy playing hooky from school. The workers despite their tragic losses, eventually won 5 day work weeks and 8 hour regular work days. Only a few generations removed, many of the Sons and Daughters of those mill workers reside in Bay View to this day, Terminal Milwaukeeans.

Lost Island, Found Souls

Jones Island now houses the City’s waste facility. During Milwaukee’s time of high industry in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s it was our Hell’s Kitchen, for rough-knuckled and heavy drinking longshoremen. Before that Kashubian Polish immigrants settled Jones Island as fisherman. 

Terminal Milwaukee story-teller Tom Crawford, is like the Last Star Fighter of longshoremen. Like many before him, doomed to a life of hard-knocks and ridicule by anyone and every one that didn’t see him as having a place (not just because he stands a burly six five), he kept his nose to the grind stone. Rolling with fate’s punches, Crawford eventually found himself at the helm of Milwaukee’s renegade station 91.7 WMSE.

ExFabula casts Crawford as the  central character of the Terminal Milwaukee series. ExFabula’s venue selection mark sign posts that retrace the bumpy road of Crawford’s life. September 9th, in what most Milwaukee residents know as the Capital Court neighborhood, the story telling crossroads leads to Satin Wave Barber and Beauty for an evening centered on Barbershops. Having only heard Crawford’s musings about growing up on 27th and Lisbon, working sporadically at Pizza Man, watching a man get his arm torn off in a machine shop, before settling for a time as a longshoremen,  Barbershop should be  nothing short of interesting.

Moons before Crawford’s time, another breed of longshoremen existed. ExFabula gave voices to ex-longshoremen of this middle era that keep time by tracking strange events like the year Erza Pound died, the model year of a memorable Buick, or the year the ball almost didn’t drop to ring in the next.

Attempting to do justice to the stories told during All in a Days Work would be criminal indeed. A few morals may be in order though. Circa 1972, “Dirty” and “hard jobs”  supplied opportunities to forge a backbone in teenagers. When dealing with others tread lightly, you never know what kind of day someone is having. Good fortune, longevity and community follow the honorable. Finally, like the fabled last inhabitant of Jones Island, Capt Felix Struck, Terminal Milwaukeeans develop a certain stick-to-it-iveness, the ability to eek out more lives than a 3 legged and 1 eared cat.

They might be Giants

Patty Pritchard-Thompson, former president of the Bay View Neighborhood Association, and committed Bay View resident, told the story of her ever resourceful, determined and traditionally classy mother. Her story painting a scene where a woman with indomitable motherly voluptuousness pursues her life passion, a-fixing fashionable upholstery to furnishings using a now-banned epoxy called Hi-Bond 80, smoking cigarettes in an unventilated room in the basement,  evoked the reckless abandon in which Bay Viewers treat work, an all-in, no-limit commitment to making it.  Pritchard-Thompson’s mother, at the end of her story, stood as an archetype, a monument to Bay View and Milwaukee work ethic.

Exfabula continues its series throughout the remainder of the year making stops in the Capital Court, Sherman Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park neighborhoods of Milwaukee.

Suspended Hanging, MARN: Things on a String

Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) challenged its emerging artists to work vertically, in Friday night’s exhibition Things on a String. Roughly 35 designers worked with lengths of string that varied greatly in size, some dangling from the ceiling to the floor, others at a length reasonable for guests to reach the objects attached to the ends.

Confined to a surface area allowing minimal application of medium, affixing items of personal import brought meaning to fibers that normally need weaving, braiding or some type of hook and needle action to give them form.

Pieces that hung varied in theme. Beverage bottle caps and pull tabs, discarded bike parts, fabric and trinket fetishes covered string to make collages from miscellaneous materials. Other presentations were more playful, with objects inviting patrons to touch.

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Strings Attached

Art Without Boarders quotes exhibit curator Becky Tesch as wanting to do Things on a String to give artists a chance to re-center themselves with a light-hearted exercise. However, fearlessly string also tied up spiritual beliefs, unexpected emotions and personal struggles. Here are snippets of what gallery goers saw.

Hanging Out

Adam Horwitz craftily arranged oblong spheroid shaped eggs from very thing filament thread, so from afar they appeared to hover off of the ground. We all know were eggs belong, but upon closer examination, the shell plays host to the bird bedding.

In a shredded tire, two stuffed toys propped as if on a yard swing sit perilously. In place of a chain, a seat belt hoists Albin Erhart’s representation off of ground level. Let’s hope everyone was okay.

A face of Buddha in bronze, surrounded by black threads and weighted by a deep red tassel pulls a black string taught, it’s pinned to the ceiling. Angela Smith channels her meditative energy through a low impact movement process called Nia. Calling for balance Angela Smith offers a Buddhist talisman.

Curator, Becky Tesch featured 12 works in Things on a String, some of which focused primarily on rendering bike parts indistinguishable from their designed purpose by force and, in the case of a multiple bike chains, by illusion.

David Tesch’s “things” were on strings but didn’t last long, as warm air heated the colored ice molds, recessed from their cups that caught the drips of melt, as gravity returned them to their vessels as liquid.

Finding the key to anything happens partly by chance but also by persistence. An interesting game, invented by Jessica Poor and Rob Hoffman, pushed the patience of its avian role players. Key seekers strenuously tried to find the key that unlocked each of two birdhouses containing a hidden messages inside.

A dream catcher hovered above for those who took Judy Debrosky’s instructions to lay on the floor and rest my head on a pillow and gaze up.

Several older generation recording devices unwound provided enough length for Laura Gorzek to symbolically part with memories held in place by cassette tape magnetized film.

Knotted into macrame cords, bobby pins peeked out of Maggie Sasso’s string set, creating pincers for holding.

MARN’s Things on a String is kid friendly and on display until August 13.

Eerie Americana, John McLaughlin and The Rogues

The tipped brim of a black dimpled fedora hides the eyes of a man plugged into an ornate guitar, his ivory relic looks to have magical powers. A deep gaze of an indescribable repressed pain, looks passed his arm as he belts out a custom version of The Animals’ classic House of the Rising Sun.

John McLaughlin and The Rogues mend together several genres, played with an attitude conceivably born from wrestling rattlesnakes and cutthroats. Behind heavy crunch reverb, light piano keys and reeds, McLaughlin takes listeners through tribulations sung in folk parables and life bred tales. Thread by thread, John McLaughlin and The Rogues slowly unravel their musical influences. Their music sounds slick, comfortable and well-worn, like a pair of alligator skin boots.

At times mellow, and at other times raucous, McLaughlin plays a little something for all occasions. McLaughlin strolls with The Rogues to slow drone blues riffs that mix with toppling vaudevillian themes, sometimes repenting in harmony with gospel devotionals.

Lightening in a Bottle

McLaughlin coined Eerie Americana to describe he and his Rogue’s compositions. Musical styles come and musical styles go, they splinter and they fuse. McLaughlin succeeds in distilling a tasty and intoxicating sound, hosting his listeners in a smokey parlor room that captures the best of American music during any era of the past century.

John McLaughlin and The Rogues released their debut LP Short Stories in 2010, carried by several online retailers and locally at Bay View’s Rushmore Records. The Brass Rooster also carries the disc, well worth a stop to kill your new music and vintage fashion fix birds with one stone. Short Stories’ album cover art, designed by Leslie Ditto, pretty much says it all, two burlesque porcelain dolls, and a monkey in minstrel costume, crowded by carny road show baggage.

Here’s a sample of their sounds, including a couple very nice live pieces performed for 91.7 WMSE.

Storming the Bastille, Euphemistically Speaking, Forget Riverwest

Thursday night, somewhere deep in Riverwest a menace was brewing. It gained strength like a festering carbuncle with no medical attention and exploded on the corner of Kilbourn and Van Buren during the close of Bastille Days.

Blocking the road, 38 or so co-ed 20-somethings wear nothing but under-roos and their bicycle seats (as in tighty-whities, bras and panties, except that dude in the super tight cuffed-to-the-upper-thigh denim shorts). With a primitive loud hipster mumble for a go signal, they rode-off down Van Buren on their fixed-gear bicycles yelling non-sense like “Hail Satan” and “Bastille Days Suck”. I wonder if they took the Holton Street Bridge back to Riverwest.

The naked-biking incident, in and of itself entirely an underwhelming statement, did little but reenforce my knowledge that certain Riverwest residents are becoming more than a little annoying, they hardly ever touch reality.

That same Thursday night Bastille Days, a sportful appropriation of French culture, for the 30th year straight brought droves of Milwaukee’s most spirited summer revelers together to observe Bastille Day. I don’t know about you but Bastille Days seems to me like a great excuse to run 3 miles then slam a couple of beers or just slam a few beers and mow great food.

Not much, but a little Perspective

Growing up in Milwaukee, Riverwest wasn’t a transitional neighborhood and trendy place to live, it was another hood. One in which I used to buy 40 ounce beers when I was underage in the mid-90’s, for my suburban friends and I. It was an “old” hood that white people lived in too, just like most of the Northside.

I say that in the sense that some Wisconsinites may not think that there are regular ‘ol white people, elderly ones too, that live around blacks. It’s not shocking. It’s not history. It’s not a bold social statement, an attempt to realize integration, as one of the accosted on July 3rd was quoted as saying in Eugene Kane’s recent article in the Journal-Sentinal (more on that soon). It’s just a fact of life and no one who is psychologically well adjusted questions it.

Not only that, who is asking that you integrate into street culture? How can you assume that all blacks ascribe to street culture? Do you let blacks who ascribe to your cultural norms integrate into your social circles? The answers are nobody, you can’t, and you probably don’t.

Comment Box

The A.V. Club couldn’t resist chiding Kane for his after-the-fact remarks about the incident involving a group of teenagers and young adults deciding to go on a rampage (Let’s not talk about the Madison Halloween Riots in comparison) and then beat up a bunch of people.

The ultimate fun crusher, Chief Flynn of the MPD, actually had the most notable comments of the whole ordeal, reminding the public that 8 white people weren’t the only victims that night, 1 Asian, 4 Latinos and 13 blacks were also victimized. Then one must realize that blacks also have to deal with street crime.

Thumb in the Eye

Thursday night the band of naked Riverwest bike-riders needlessly tried to poo-poo a great time being had by others. It would be easy to blame Riverwest, as an entity of entitled socially degenerate scrubs. Doesn’t Riverwest bear the glut of Milwaukee transplants, increasingly representing our State’s small towns, and bringing with them their small town attitudes and anxieties into an already tense area? It may be easy to craft preconceived notions into fact-based statements, but I don’t think thats entirely fair when groups of people are involved.

I don’t hear it often noted that the diversity Riverwest stems from the many different “scenes” it harbors, more so than the racial make-up. Families, holistic health enthusiasts, social and political activists, yuppies and regular old town folk of all backgrounds make events like the Riverwest Follies, and the Community Gardens happen. Street hustlers, punks, apathetic hipsters, and other socially draining sub-groups stake their little piece of Riverwest as well.

Over the 4th of July holiday, some black teens that aspire to immersion in the street hustler scene, met head on with the other scenes in Milwaukee, including other black residents who just want to work and enjoy holidays like anyone else, including the plentiful number of black teens you see, from Metro Mart to Mayfair Mall, working part-time jobs so they can have some spending money.

Without question, the lost black youth scene (that eventually turns to the street hustling scene) did considerable damage to the delicate social fabric of Milwaukee and Riverwest. I wouldn’t be surprised though if a lot of street hustlers and thugs, who this incident might be attributed to, were even thinking “Y’all some stupid muthafuckas!”

Sadly, some white individuals have taken the opportunity to make wholesale judgements against every black person in Milwaukee. However, racial animosity towards blacks by-far predates this “mob” incident, despite the desire to use what happened to justify “new” feelings of animosity.

Sadly, some black individuals have tried to crawl out of their skin and make apologies. Sadly, with futility, the Police now post on corners in Riverwest waiting for the next vicious mob to materialize. Sadly, disregarding those who were beaten up on the 4th, their hipster counter-culture neighbors in Riverwest didn’t participate in Peace Action Coalition’s Peace Rally but took the time late on Bastille Days’ opening night to give Milwaukee the finger.

Looks can be Deceiving

A couple of parting references, a common ethic in West African culture deals very seriously with thieves and robbers. Let’s not forget that some of parents of the young adults that committed the 4th of July lootings turned their children in to the police and urged other to do the same. Lastly, a friend of mine traveling in Togo and Ghana recently shared this story about seeing a communities’ response to property crime. Please read, and remember Milwaukee is still a great place with great people and great events.