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

Archive for October, 2011

Sold Out, The Naima, Gnarrenschiff

Creeping in crevices up and down Milwaukee’s curvy strip of the Third Coast, for The Niama kicking-audiences’ arses comes second to just kicking-arse. The duo that makes up The Niama reek of deep Milwaukee roots that span both sides of the Hoan, and rock like skinned-elbows and the stories that go with them.

This dude Steve Gallam wears a new-school Milwaukee County Parks shirt, none of that blue pocket-T with the mini oak leaf logo. It’s black so it absorbs maximum stains and odors. Bandmate Mike Hodzinski looks pretty raw, head shaved strategically to maximize radness, but has bust-his-wrist-on-a-suckas-face-and-still-play-the-show guts to back it up (take that all you jive wanna-be long hyphenated word users).

Brandishing heavy percussion and aggressive guitar progressions, The Naima surfaces periodically like the Caddyshack gopher to amplify deviant and raucous live music.

With a blind fold on, you might think there are 2 guitars, 1 bass, and a drummer, but with no blind fold on you see that it’s just 1 guitar and a drummer playing leg and neck flexing metal instrumentals. It’s hard, it’s rhythmic and masterfully composed, pretty much two ornery musicians that put together a couple EPs (and an SP) worth of super sick songs by one-upping and stumping each other with their ideas.

Like true sell outs, The Naima headlined a very non-hyped show at Circle-A-Cafe’s Alive at 8 session over the weekend, that also featured Gnarrenschiff, a tough screw and rugged folk-blend of tambour and bodhran, spewing a beautiful and cacophonous layered mixture of notes.

As for next shows, you should be so lucky! (By the way, they are the last known band to effectively use myspace, what…? Myspace is cool again like flannels)

Gallery Night Fall 2011, MARN, Zimmerman Studios

Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) opened it’s Beyond the Canvas exhibition at Zimmerman Architectural Studios Friday night. The work presented in Beyond the Canvas featured a cadre of artists taking inspiration from the rejuvenation of the Menomonee Valley.

Their expressions took on a variety of mediums ranging from water color, collage, to photography created En Plein Air. Photographer and digital artist Sara Risley, whose submission won 2nd place in her category, and visual artist Edmund Mathews’ work captures attention, along with many other excellent art pieces.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios provided a tremendous venue for MARN’s Gallery Night event co-sponsored by the Menomonee Valley Partners and Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail. Vacant for several years, the expansive brontosaurus fossil of a building, just South of I-94, housed the Milwaukee’s Retort Building at the turn of the turn of the 20th century. The Retort Building operated a bank of coal furnaces capturing gas that circulated through underground pipelines into the City’s manually lit street lanterns,  to illuminate the night. Reconstructed by Zimmerman in 2011, the restored Retort Building brings a spark the Valley.

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If you missed it during Doors Open Milwaukee, the second night of Beyond the Canvas takes place tonight and features a silent auction of all the work on display. Zimmerman Studios offers a spectacular example of historic preservation on a grand scale, a futuristic trip back in time.

MARN’s Beyond the Canvas is tonight Saturday October 22nd, 5:00-8:00pm at Zimmerman Architectural Studios, 2122 West Mt. Vernon Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233.

(As a bonus you can peek in 4Seasons Skate Park on the way)

Dwelling on Cities, Gary Hustwit, Urbanized

Riding down Devon Street, on the way to Wrigleyville’s celebrated Music Box Theater, mothers wrapped in saris guide their children along by the hand. Cabs lurch from cross-streets attempting to join the main traffic line heading uptown. The sun slings low in the West beaming off building facades, some outfitted from the 1970’s with large, conventional, yellow-tinted lightbulbs wrapping marquees advertising Punjabi cuisine.

Feet have no fear of the sidewalks, neither people’s hindquarters of public benches. Faces greet known neighbors, and peer curiously at strangers. Bodies enter grocery stores and exit Bollywood movie variety shops. Arms carry gifts of jewelry and clothing from South Asian themed boutiques. Heading South on Clarke Street, the drive turns through a completely new global community. These way markers display the contours of City life.

Design By Design

An Urban Planner’s delight, Gary Hustwit takes his previous glances at how design influences us, in Helvetica and Objectified, and magnifies them to City scale in his latest work Urbanized. Never looking to impose definitions on his audience, Hustwit lets decision-makers, and descion-shapers, discuss the finer points of city design imperatives from perspectives in their corner of the globe.

Since cities rise and fall around economic and social activity, the forces guiding both pull tight the philosophical threads along the continuum of urban design practice. Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses and Oscar Niemeyer place major landmarks on the dialog. Hustwit then captures reverberations of these themes within contemporary echoes of the activist, developer and high modernists.

Urban champions, like Bogota’s former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, enrich the discussion of cities further and, more importantly, highlight practical quality of life considerations that make America’s civic values and local politics look ridiculous in comparison. Milwaukee, although not featured in Urbanized, benefited greatly from Mayor John Norquist’s experiments with New Urbanism, giving sweet kool-aid from which future domestic urban champions could develop their own flavors.

Providing more than a primer on Urban Planning, Urbanized also logs Hustwit’s travels during production of his previous two films. The cinematography energizes wanderlust as Hustwit wisks from Brighton, UK to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (I bet you can’t guess which is older) and a bunch of famous and not so famous stops in-between.

Urbanized screened in Chicago last weekend, stopping next in London on October 21st.

Related Post
John Norquist Milwaukee Tour – Congress for New Urbanism, Jeramey Jannene, Urban Milwaukee

Dark Passage, The Alchemist Theatre, Faust

Milling goes on in the Alchemist’s cozy Bay View Lounge before the show, tension in the air? Maybe. Tonight Faust: A Night at the Mephisto Theatre opens. Aaron Koepec’s latest opus, an undertaking certainly. Using the infamous “e” word would belittle the production. Groundbreaking? No not quite the connotation to apply, although the show does reveal the extent to which a production’s content can challenge audiences’ sensibilities.

Something keeps taking me to that scene from Time Bandits where that animated bald head chases real people down a hall way and they dive through a wall to a whole different dimension and you say “What!?” Until that point, my young eyes had never seen anything like it in special effects.

Only Boring People are Bored

The Alchemist’s Faust counts on the audiences’ willingness to move around and follow an abstract story line that takes place in different settings staged throughout the theater space. Third Coast Digest provides a good synopsis of Faust, a few additional notes should be taken with you.

Entering the show with a stationary spectator’s mentality will leave you dissatisfied, as well as being claustrophobic, socially awkward or immature. It’s an actor’s play, in the same way George Clooney is a man’s man. Actively following characters through the show and receiving limited instructions about reconciling missing information in the story in real-time, presents real life challenges to the audience both physically and psychologically that actors tend to embrace naturally.

As an audience member that is a part of the actors world but not in it, one can have a lot of fun with Faust just taking the “fly-on-the-wall” approach to social situations. Audience members are provided a masquerade to assist in this transformation, sorry no teleporter machines created by Seth Brundle to help you out.

Another World

The sets mimic five primary locations: a bedroom, a parlor room, a movie house, an alleyway, and a church. Neutral semi-scenes take place in the lounge and theater space proper where audience members can take a break if the story becomes to intense. In the lounge, Prohibition era crooners give ambiance for libations. In the theater, Sammy Dittloff and Beth Lewinski mock Faust in a radio show themed series of skits.

Burning Moral Coals

Alchemist’s Faust dabbles in the degenerate and absurd. In the play, the lead actor of the Mephisto Theatre tries his darndest to keep the acting stable committed to the Theatre’s operation, but the forces of doubt, temptation and greed manifest and the meek-minded receive nurturing from the devil himself. A German aristocrat investor further enables the devil’s deviance and lures other characters into lurid circumstances. The dark forces personified in the play gnaw at the veil of civility and quaintness that shrouds everyday life and eventually tears it down. By the end, no character escapes complicity in the devil’s frolics.

Dissuading Viewer Regression

Scenes reach a fever pitch amongst the players at certain points in the production, and adult situations do occur. Most great acts of art take risks without abandon. The Alchemist’s Faust makes no exceptions. Take this play in with a dirty martini and civilly-rogue attitude.

Faust: A Night at the Mephisto Theatre still had tickets for tonight’s show (10/7) last I checked, but the rest of this weekend is sold out. The show runs Thursday through Saturday until October 29th.

The players of Faust are Libby Amato, Randall Anderson, Grace DeWolff, Sarah Dill, Sammich Dittloff, Anna Figlesthaler, Joe Foti, Melissa Freson, Lindsay Gagliano, Erin Hartman, Beth Lewinski, Gracie Liebenstein, Rob Maass, Laura Meyer, Sharon Nieman-Koebert, Mike O’Toole, Rebecca Segal, Amber Smith, Lineve Thurman, Liz Whitford, Gwen Zupan.

The Old Board Room, Central Library

Engraved details in wood accented the crown molding framing the room from the ceiling down. Chairs held together by the original wood fibers surround a larger rectangular table warmed one time by a oversized fire place. Ferry & Clas designed the Central Library from the outside in, including the furniture.

Formal enough for public meetings in the old library wing during the early years and intriguing enough to serve as J. Edgar Hoover’s office in the 1973 movie Dillinger, the Old Board Room even has its own private bathroom restored to early industrial period decor and functioning overhead water tank.

Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library,
Pt 2 The Old Board Room
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within,
Pt 4 The Green Roof,
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office,