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

Archive for February, 2013

Some Ideas, Art Milwaukee, Eastside Music Tour


I like the idea of a one block tour, it’s the next best thing to traveling all over the country chasing your favorite bands! Keepers of the local ART Milwaukee are making it happen this Saturday on Brady Street all day with the Eastside Music Tour. They strung together an all day line up of shows to benefit the Cass Street School playground, which may soon be the grounds of Maryland Montessori. The overgrown and cuddly beasts calling the playground home need a new paint job.

The shows start at 4p and there are many. The entire line-up is pretty extreme, each hour will have a different band at up to 11 different locations simultaneously around the Brady Street Area. There are some obvious dinner time starts like Joe Wray (Cempazuchi at 4p) and Evan Christian (Casablanca at 5p), both solo crooners of the Rock, Blues and Blues and Soul persuasion.

Trocadero will have Fresh Cut Collective and Kane Place Record Club back to back starting at 7p in the Redlight, where they used to show soft romantic videos after hours (not to be confused with the now burned out Red Room). Roxie Beane, an extremely popular local rocker, also has a 7p slot (at Hybrid).

No Praise Required

If you’re in the mood for potentially new-to-you music, a couple of acts come to mind. The Thriftones mixes cocktail of rock and roll genres having all the ingredients that will give you plenty ambiance to day-drink to. I saw their recent Frank’s Power Plant show and they left quite an impression. More here… Birth of a Buzz, Thriftones,

On a whole different wavelength at 9p, Crisp will have Albydamned and Demix a duo that master party time like no other. They collaborate on a electronic music showcase called Beyond Awesome, and it is just that. Beyond Awesome recently collaborated with local beat-makers Deletah and special guest Team Bayside High to put on a ridiculous show. Don’t even try to sample this music on your computer speakers. More here… Miramar Theatre, Beyond Awesome,

Tickets to the Eastside Music Tour are available in advance only! If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, only “Procrastinator Tickets” are available. Sucking for you they don’t come with a Fanny Pack or T-Shirt. For $15 you can get into whatever shows have room for you, and you also get exclusive Milwaukee deals and specials.

Staying Out There, UWM DLS, Boondocks, Aaron McGruder


Maybe because it happened to be Black History Month did the irony of Aaron McGruder’s talk at UW-Milwaukee’s most recent Distinguished Lecture Series evening feel even more striking. McGruder’s comic strip turned animated adult cartoon series, picked-up steam the past three years as one of the only televised young and flippant pop-culture outlets originating from the Black community (I really can’t name another).

As The Boondocks appeals to wider and wider audiences, let’s just forgo the conclusion of it reaching cult status. McGruder brilliantly channeled from the ages, angsty, disconnected and disaffected black male attitudes through contemporary cartoon caricatures, to populate his illustrated world. He’s completed 3 seasons on air, preceded by 20 years as a syndicated comic strip of critical acclaim. The Boondocks, in its relatively short television run, has pushed its cult meter dial to negative 270 degrees, aligning with the skull with x-ed out eyes if not now, yesterday.

A Scene from Academia

McGruder in pre-mortem fame commanded 7 bucks per eye, or ear, to catch a whiff of his brain in live action. Copious forward-thinking collegiate troves filed non-chalantly into the Student Union’s Wisconsin Room, eager to hear the words of an unlikely aspiring comic, turned comic strip author, turned television series producer.  After laying some flags demarcating the invisible electric fence not to piss on, the fun could rush ahead. Posted were signs for no questions about Season 4, McGruder’s finances or personal life, etc…

As an appetizer, the moderator served McGruder some canned ham, allowing him to address his early influences of Doonsberry, Calvin and Hobbs, and Japanese anime. Social distiller extraordinaire, McGruder gave insight to his uncanny ability to deal satire with a beautifully stacked deck of current events, historical references and cultural archetypes.  McGruder quickly addressed how his worldview gained bearing, influenced by voices in his family expressing clear skepticism to news and politics, and admitted his impatience and impudence for criticism (hold that thought). It didn’t take long for McGruder to bare his teeth.

The moderator advanced his inquiry, feigning subtly and nuance, postulating as to whether McGruder ever concerned himself with a segment of his audience possibly missing the point of his story-lines, particularly the satirical elements, because of their maturity as measured in years of age. A snidely understated quip to the effect of “Age has little to do with understanding my work,” left a scald mark on the moderator’s face.

As that question sailed clear over the center field fireworks at Kaminski Park like a screaming fly ball and rolled around on the Eisenhower getting hit by tractor trailers, you could see where McGruder was coming from. One of the inherent tensions in The Boondocks stays tightly focused on the main character Huey, a 10 year-old that consistently wields knowledge and reason in the face of adults and peers, which usually lays useless. His friends, family and neighbors blindly ignore Huey’s logical rationales in preference to being engulfed by their own personal dramas.

Q & A

McGruder also fielded the world’s longest prefaced question, nearly five minutes long, recounting his early childhood experiences gathered from extensive background research, including his love of water, and cheeseburgers, finally diverging into glancing remarks about McGruder’s early professional experiences and dreams of authoring action comic books for a living.

When the run-on question mercifully received punctuation, miraculously McGruder was able to track the woman for long enough to discuss candidly being in his early 20’s and realizing he just wasn’t a good enough illustrator to make it in the full-length comic industry.  He refocused his passion to comic strips, a more manageable format, and placed greater emphasis on developing written content with steady punch. Gems often go uncovered in this format of discussion, but McGruder’s forthcoming remarks shone as a must have life hack. Separating pride from reality when detouring your passions, is essential to transforming dreams into something marketable.

Gushing, Slushing

The adoration ceded long enough for the moderator to ask pressing questions about criticism McGruder occasionally faces for his exaggerated and stereotypical depictions of African-Americans, particularly African-American women. Almost shockingly, given the underlying political and social charge The Boondocks maintains, McGruder absent any deliberation shrugged off the second-guess. He readily admitted that the show takes various African-American male perspectives, centers on their struggles and snags in the American social system, draws from the absurdities buried within those experiences to create comedy, not exempting African-American women from the shooting gallery.

Furthermore, he matter-of-factly expressed that The Boondocks never aspired to address deep social issues, particularly gender issues, as much as it needed to be funny, if not flat-out offensive, to maintain its standing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. McGruder implicitly kicked the noble-cause-trap of social justice obsessed “Race men” to the side, emphasizing that his personal responsibility lay with his creative  vision, and not speaking for Black people in general or to taking on issues of oppression that he personally doesn’t see fitting The Boondock‘s premise.

Whoa! In a room full of a students mildly leaning social activist, with more Black women than I’ve seen in one place on the Eastside, ever, his nerve probably took most by complete surprise. You couldn’t help but notice one African-American woman get up immediately following his comment, as if she just remembered her laundry was done, leaving the auditorium with indignant purpose.

Follow the Parallel Tracks

If you need some light background on the show, McGruder’s masterful animated series hones in on two Elementary school kids, Huey and Riley, who live with their Grandad in Suburbs, after having been raised on the Southside of Chicago. Two other notable on-going characters are Tom DuBois, a very assimilated African-American man with a White wife, and Uncle Ruckus an old ornery Black man with an undying contempt for his own people and unrequited reverence for the “White man”.

McGruder nails it almost every episode lampooning the lamest  of what NYC, Hollywood and cable motion picture and televised productions have to offer. Boiled down to its cultural relevance (not to be mistaken with content), The Boondocks is for Blacks young adults, what Family Guy and The Simpsons is for their White counterparts: make-believe mockeries of real social dynamics that glorify ignorant male perspectives.  Thankfully for the Boondocks, McGruder at least partially jabs pertinent issues in the mouth regularly, rather than just maintaining ignorance for ignorance’s sake as a form of comedy.

Black nerdom vs. The World

Inevitably, at McGruder’s UWM talk all the elements melded for a explosive build-up: controversial subject matter, general appetite for sarcasm, activist energy, a successful author of exceptional intelligence with an axe to bare on his shoulder, and a mixed-crowd of all ages and backgrounds. Let’s add a bit of context, before jumping off of the diving board into the most thrilling exchange with McGruder that night.

Where a long exposition on hipsterdom, Black nerdom and everyone else may fit here, I’ll just bypass that trouble. Most would agree that despite efforts planned and unplanned to make it so, and not so, the prevailing social winds of today are much the same as they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, and in some ways worse and more insidiously socially divisive.

Despite legal enforcement of institutional racism and cultural reinforcement of injustice at every turn years ago, there was still some willingness of an eager few to engage, at least intellectually, people of different backgrounds even if just in curiosity. The best examples of this happened on college campuses.

Although they were most likely all Radical Chic posers, we can at least imagine every member of the 60’s youth counterculture had a profound cause back then, and it wasn’t just to get “Likes” on social media. In today’s “post-racial” world, a relatively miniscule band of anti-establishment provocateurs have a true sense of engaging in social causes as a matter of seeking common humanity and social justice, and when you see them you know it. That brings us to the conclusion of the DLS talk with McGruder. A woman approaches the microphone.

Silence of the Lamb

She explained her interest in revisiting McGruder on the issue of negative and dis-empowering depictions of Black women on The Boondocks as being particularly troublesome. Her phrasing of the problem, a carefully spun knit scarf of sincere consciousness, recognizing pervasive mass media exclusion and abuse of non-white cultures, compelled silence from the crowd, as she successfully began backing McGruder into a corner about his reprehensible complicity in this practice.

McGruder reiterated his points about his comedic reach, lack of venue and proclivity to incorporate gender issues and balanced representation into his show. Continuing down the scenic justification route, he cleverly reminding the audience that much of what happens on the show is possible, only in the absence of well-adjusted and intelligent Black women.

Persistently she tried another angle, asking of McGruder’s knowledge of the recent controversy of the HBO series Girls (link via Pajiba), and Lena Dunham’s attempt to be inclusive of other backgrounds and cultures. McGruder a formidable plaintiff turned prosecutor, darted that Dunham did so only because she was facing public criticism, after initially being dismissive of observations about her show (link via Mother Jones).

McGruder’s Hattori Hanzo followed with a shadowless arc, “Besides that You’re White”. Her mouth ceased to speak, head tumbling to the floor. The crowd about 50/50 Black and non-Black, half erupted into oooh-ed laughter. She came millimeters away from thrusting her Shaolin spear through his temple, but valiantly fell in rhetorical battle for taking the wrong shot. Comparing McGruder, and his 20 year-old body of work, to a HBO series about White girls was basically like falling in a hole covered with leaves. Did he have any choice but to brazenly dismiss her in front of a predominately Black audience from Milwaukee?

The Non Fall Out

A young Black man, stepped to the mic next, “Ahem, Yeah, uh 1-2, 1-2… Just wanted to snaaaw, shout out Skiiizy, whut up little Tone… McGruder ganstalicious love yaaao…,” He was hissed by everyone and verbally escorted away by the moderator. I looked around. The Black women I could see were not phased by what just happened, the call to arms from the cult of womanhood was not heeded and they let their White ally die an unwanted martyr. Not a single Black woman questioned McGruder, maybe that was the answer to so many questions. Ironically, I doubt any of it mattered to McGruder at all, on any level.

Unfortunately for her, this wasn’t a Tarantino movie and Beatrix Kiddo doesn’t always win in real life. This type of defeat is what turns good White young adults into apathetic hipsters, hopefully she didn’t take it personal. I’m sure he’d say otherwise but I’ll just chalk McGruder’s response up to being skeptical of her intentions. If she really believes in what she says, she’ll continue to be an advocate for appropriateness regardless of McGruder or anyone else’s attitude about it.

The Macro Chip

Speaking of Tarantino, an audience member did ask McGruder about his thoughts on Django Unchained and the striking similarities between a couple of Tarantino’s characters and McGruder’s long-running animated meme Uncle Ruckus and a particular episode about Grandad’s Grandad Catcher Freeman (via YouTube). Simply put, McGruder said he would not comment beyond asking the audience member if he thought there were any obvious similarities that would make him ask that question. Sounds like Tarantino might have pulled a move like Stallone with Rocky. In a fitting twist of fate, Django Unchained just won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Aaron McGruder is a giant who truly owes no one anything. He’s deserves a lot of credit for nurturing a creative concept into a marketable body of work and also for freeing people to recognize he is not just a Black man, but an individual and entrepreneur that had an idea and the guts to pursue it. Likewise, McGruder has to take the criticism for pandering to the worst to low-end of humor just like anybody else, hopefully he won’t cop out next time. Congrats to UW-Milwaukee’s Distinguished Lecture Series and SocioCultural Programming for nailing this selection.

(Declaimer: I really can’t get enough of The Boondocks). The Boondocks season 1 – 3 is available on DVD and also air as re-runs on Comedy Central.

Madden Miles EP Release 2.14.13, Listening Party 2.21.13


Mark “Madden Miles” next project (Download the Kate Upton Beat EP) dropped on the net on Valenine’s Day. If you just couldn’t get enough of that you could have got out to the Kate Upton EP Beat Tape Release Party live in Racine February 21, 2013. Well if you missed that I suggest you cop the download, the play is extra nifty. Click on your favorite part of the Kate Upton EP cover art below and check the details.

Madden Miles’ last joint the Candace Baily EP Beat Tape dropped last year and is still bouncing. If haven’t pressed the player play button to get a snippet of Madden Miles’ beastliness you missing it!

“It’s ok, you can click me anywhere…” — Kate Up EP Release Party Details

Blow a Fuse, The Quasimondo, Robot Cabaret


The irony of robots is that they are kind of low tech now. In Brian Rott’s latest amalgamation of ideas, props, plot and actors Robot Cabaret, we find out that quite possibly robots have feelings too.

Extraordinarily imaginative, Rott, in creative tandem with Michael Guthrie, centers an underlying point of tension around a Robot Detective that seeks out and dismantles fritzing robots that are passing around a terrible virus. In this robot world, companionship develops between human and machine, as robots of various persuasions, interests and intelligence seek to emulate the best humans have to offer; or wait do the robots want to rid the planet of humans and keep the highest points of human invention preserved in exacting semi-conducted binary logic?

The best thing about Quasimondo’s productions (Robot Cabaret being no exception) is that they spin fractal like stories, within sub-stories within metaphorical vignettes, woven into loosely devised plots that don’t follow a logical or sequential pattern, their plays at least don’t seem to do so until you get home and say silently, “oh”. Most likely you’ll just have had several dramatic flashbacks to some completely outrageous joke that you missed live.

Quasimondo’s full commotion multi-sensory response inducing hijinks, always stack the shows with ample pop culture references and true renegade efforts from very talented performers of many different corners of stage art. Robot Cabaret even has guest cameos from famous imposter musicians of various glory ages that a conniving salesman has put his robot minions up to studying so that he can make sideshows out of them.  Bits and jokes galore litter the show, spewing from human and robot alike, and backed up by a house band… a house band? Yes!

If you’re into theater, nothing can bring more enjoyment than not knowing what to expect next from the next scene, or part of a dialog. Robot Cabaret far exceeds this threshold and the ensemble is an attractive bunch to put a bit of icing on the show.

The Quasimondo’s Robot Cabaret opened Thursday night and runs February 16, 18, 21, 22 and 23 and the following weekend all at 8p at the Fortress. There’s also a Matinee show on February 24 at 2p and pay-what-you can on February 18. Advanced tickets are available.

Miramar Theatre, Beyond Awesome


Beyond Awesome #somethingsomething via Spectral Productions on YouTube

If I said I didn’t have a taste in music vulnerable to electronic bass music, I’d be lying. The genre has had its fits and starts over the years but has solidly stayed under the rug of hip-hop and club-pop, since Disco died. Nowadays it has a spectrum that spans material making great soundtracks for basement booty-shake jams, warehouse thumping Drum-and-Bass and fun loving dance in the mirror House music. The gradients even go way beyond and have to many pseudonyms to discern, solidly separating the current forms from their musical predecessors. It really doesn’t matter anyway, the current mutation has crept out like some cold-ass Thriller-video zombies, with LED lit rainbow finger tips.

A coven of Milwaukee beat heads started bringing the boom back over the past few years, one group loosely coalesced under the Beyond Awesome banner. Expanding from hole in wall venues, Beyond Awesome now blows up little big spots into mini-full action mini-shows, A/V effects and all. The latest installment took over the Miramar Theatre this past weekend at Beyond Awesome #14-something, with Ryan Albydamed, Deletah and special guest Team Bayside High putting woofers to the test, lashing the faint-hearted with some nasty bass mash-up party music.

In Every City

Kind of beat up, the Miramar Theatre is basically one of the last true hold outs of super open format live music in Milwaukee, mostly extra local. Miramar is notorious and friendly to everything from open mic nights, to metal, to gangster rap, and folk all in the same night (I personally have even done my first and only stand-up comedy routine there on a dare, and the Miramar hosts were kind enough to record it to CD for me, to remind me not to do stand-up again).

More or less suitable for any type of crowd, except intimate, an ample open floor layout cuddled up to the stage where a gang of bass heads bumped, stomped, juked, nodded, and bounced, feeding off of rhythm and lazers. Actually, many due high-fives to Miramar for having ample house sound capabilities to handle the low end (or to whoever the sound dude was if that wasn’t an Miramar upgrade). The February 2013 installment of Beyond Awesome smashed again with a few sea-weathered DJs guiding the ship.

On Deck 1. What?! Beyond Awesome, Albydamned
On Deck 2, What?! Beyond Awesome, Deletah
On Deck 3, What?! Beyond Awesome, Team Bayside High

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