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

Archive for February, 2015

Another Wind, Riverside Theatre, Sleater-Kinney

Rumors of an instantaneous sell-out at Turner Hall added to the lore that made Sleater-Kinney’s highly anticipated post-Valentine’s Day performance at the Riverside legendary. You know you’re all grown up when you can say you’ve been to the Riverside more than once in a calendar year. My time has apparently come. If any band was to do it I’m glad it was them.

The Elephant Pose

Riverside’s gorgeous Baroque interior couldn’t mute the obvious mental chatter permeating the foyer atmosphere, brimming with posers poser-checking other posers, myself included. My then-girlfriend, now-fiance, caught me laughing out loud while watching Portlandia a couple years ago, and enlightened me on Carrie Brownstein. I admittedly only had at the tip of my tongue, ‘Oh that cool looking girl who’s pretty funny?’

I imagine 5 out 7 people attending stood in the category of Portlandia fans first. My fiance even confided her deference for Bikini Kill when she heard Sleater-Kinney was coming to town, and she’s not even as big a Portlandia fan as I am, right? Really, it’s not worth being like the SXSW hoard. Really, it’s physically, emotionally and socially impossible to have been there for everything, especially anything that happened before 2005.

SXSW Hoard via Jimmy Kimmel Live

Clear the Non-Sense

None of that poser-pretension mattered inside the Riverside auditorium, only that the die-hard pretentious were sharing their moment, gladly letting a little rub-off on everyone else. Neo-true skool Hip-hop serial-banger Lizzo had already tenderized the crowd and Sleater-Kinney went right to work.

They riffed, Carrie Brownstein funky as ever, in a capped shoulder blouse and jeans, throttled then soothed her guitar strings. They belted, Corin Tucker grounded herself as if she was drawing power directly from the floor to mega-amplify her cavernous voice. They banged, Janet Weiss pelted her drum kit furiously. They animated life-less objects, the backdrop of their staging hung motionless upstage, gray and textured like concrete; brought to life under DIY special effects, cut squares wafting upwards, blown by a giant fan.

Sleater-Kinney, Entertain – Live (2015)

Sleater-Kinney’s prowess showed best in their updated delivery of gravity carrying songs like Combat Song and their willingness to drift-off to distant glory held in frenetic anthems like Not What You Want, while introducing new material from their latest LP No Cities to Love. Brownstein heaped tons of praise on Milwaukee for turning out on a Sunday night and gushed a little at the Riverside’s handsomeness. I’m sure everyone welled-up a little with classic Milwaukee exuberance, wishing only to turn the entire lower level into the pit.

Understanding they are a piece of the heart and a gasp of the breath of the last generation to leave home en-mass and in earnest at 18 or sooner, Sleater-Kinney was nothing less that impressive musically. To know they played The Globe with a lot less lights and people, is even more ridiculous. What else is there to say, if you weren’t their you missed two damn good shows, hopefully in 15 years everyone in the audience and on stage will still have enough spunk to do it again.

Sleater-Kinney dropped into Milwaukee as one of 20 U.S. stops on their international campaign for their latest album No Cities to Love.

Advertisements

In the Realm of Innocents: An Exhibition of Mysticism and Lore, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts

A Guest Contributor Review by Helene Fischman

The artists in the current exhibit at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts approach mythological/ethereal/religious themes with both irony and sentimentality hidden in their works. “In the Realm of Innocents” takes us on a heterotopian journey through fairytale iconography. Each artist musters distinct painting techniques and passions one might expect only from an occult fanatic. While all the artists are worthy of mention, I will highlight two which lingered in my thoughts long after I left the building – Gina Litherland and Andrea Guzzeta.

Nether in Ether

Gina Litherland’s paintings are slick and elegant, your eyes slide across their smooth varnished surface. She captures moments, stopping the clock at pivotal watersheds as though she tore out an illustrated Gothic fantasy from her imagination. Litherland’s ornate and detailed strokes, hold a touch of Byzantine human awkwardness. Like Guido of Siena’s Enthroned Madonna, her two-dimensional beings struggle to fill out their three-dimensional destinies, perhaps only a day dream separates them. She creates tension in her piece with tight over-rendered brush strokes. Her persistent technique lays conspicuously visible as though she’s wrapping paint around the limbs of her subjects; their skin encasing them, a restrictive contraption attempting with futility to confine their energy.

Tea Leaf Reading exalts physical characteristics, her chosen archetype: thin and pale-complected. She poses two elegant, lean bodies next to one another. One woman looks over the other’s shoulder, both peeking into an oracular teacup.The posture of the primary figure appears physically strained, neck and wrist bent past human comfort, creating unease for an empathic viewer – I could feel my shoulders tense up when following that impossible curve with my eyes. Yet, behind the women, the air looks chemically fluid. It seems ready to spill and mix the background colors into an active wallpaper, a canvas for a bird in flight. Litherland’s visual composition reads as an extemporaneous chromatic explosion, betraying the painting’s initial stillness.

The perceptible intimacy shared between the women subjects of Tea Leaf Reading remains covert. In a cooperative gaze, they focus on the porcelain tea cup’s scattered leaf pattern, indicating their future. Their relationship seems intentional yet ambiguous. They have a strong likeness. Could they be sisters, perhaps mother and daughter?

My third thought is death. Their gaunt complexions can’t be separated from the possibility of an afterlife, or after-death. Are witnessing a doppelganger? They are, after all, doused in a bluish-purple haze which could serve as an allusion to post-mortem existence; the sighting of her twin, the doppelganger, possibly an omen of death? Perhaps we are seeing a woman foretelling her own demise. A goat accompanies the women, and a bird symbolizes a sacred unknown like a tarot card. The goat perhaps represents new beginnings, the bird… intuition?

In Litherland’s uncanny atmospheres, you are drawn into the environment in a true, haptic sense.  Her world begets authenticity, she lures you to suspend your disbelief – really go there – and then find yourself thrust back into your own life pondering the space between free-will and fantasy.

Bound in Angles

Andrea Guzzetta’s paintings send dizzying geometrical visual rhythms wrapped in a kaleidoscope of hues through your pupils. She works in allegory as though her canvas, beneath its top layer of gesso, hides a worn palimpsest scratched with medieval tales of life and death.

In Blood Nectar, a square-based angular pattern transforms into a swirling spirograph set in a palette of hot pink and bright teal. Paired flowers and skulls weave in an unlikely harmony. The eye cannot help but follow, in allegro. The highly saturated colors of the piece overstimulate.

Guzetta captures you, and tosses you into a cavernous hole at the center of Blood Nectar. She paints an porthole entryway, dotted with butterflies and surrounded by clouds, suggesting a threshold into another universe beyond the canvas. She paints with confidence that entices you to jump in and breathe her fluorescent air.

Her choices make pairs of object and color. Pink skulls, initially shock the viewer and seem dialectically opposed. Catching my breath, I found these concerns resolved in a new visual language, a neon lexicon. Guzzetta convinces you there is a beyond, and tasks you to envision the extension of this deceptively colorful world beyond the canvas edge.

Generally, her aggressive and well-executed surrealist drawing style creates a framework for the imagination, a launch-pad for curiosity, a yearning for the potential of things.  Gravity is turned on its head as the viewer is pulled outwards, perhaps upwards, into an unknown plane. Through this play on physics she insists we revisit old stand-by definitions. We can no longer rely on the tried and true. In a mixture of color which calls up memories of birthday cake frosting and little girls ribbons, rendering imagery of both bones and blossoms, her quandary between life and death lifts its head and roars a mighty roar.

In the Realm of Innocents: An Exhibition of Mysticism and Lore (curated by Michael Flanagan and Kimberly Storage) is on display at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 839 South 5th Street Milwaukee, WI 53204, from January 30 – March 7, 2015. Other notable artists contributing to this exhibition are Jean Roberts Guequierre, Claire Stigliani, Kristen Ferrell, and Linnea Bergstrom.  For more information on the author of this article, visit: www.helenefischman.com.


Bayou Fixings, Bronzeville, The Big Eazy

Bronzeville laid in wait, and nabbed a prize foodie establishment in The Big Eazy. Nestled on a quiet corner of Lloyd and Martin Luther King Drive, The Big Eazy offers authentic soul food staples from the delta region, raised a notch to unpretentiously meet the tastes of discerning diners.

Sticking to the gulf theme, helpings of seafood take up main street. Choices of red snapper partnered with sauteed squash or blackened catfish surfing on a bed of andouille grits or soft shell crab caked or seasonally fried under an egg Benedict take their final swim on your plate.

Terrestrial fare gets its due as well. Where the chicken usually gets chosen by default, The  Big Eazy hunts outside of the coop zeroing in on four legged stock. Pork chops, lamb chops and ribeye steak parade as drum majors to your table if you choose. The Big Eazy stands out as a place doesn’t mind providing multiple options, usually only reserving space on seasonal menus at boutique eateries around town.

The flavor profile of The Big Eazy departs reliable bulbous garlic and onion phases, in favor of the traditional Cajun pallet preferring pepper and citrus embellishments. The Big Eazy’s Herbs of choice shift menu further neutral of savory, or sweet. Sage, oregano, dill, parsley and cilantro gently complement main courses, as an alternative to more bracing standard choices of basil, rosemary or bay. In this way, authentic New Orleans inspired cuisine may prove challenging in comparison to Midwestern customs, however that should beckon a much appreciated welcome to an relatively uncharted culinary realm in Milwaukee. Save some room after dinner, rum cake, and with some luck, sweet potato cobbler will be available to represent the best Southern tradition of all, dessert.

The Big Eazy sets a classy-casual decor and atmosphere. Seemingly minor touches, such as furnishings, make a tremendous impression, and if done improperly can affect the taste of the food. Pleasantly, The Big Eazy’s sanded wood armed chairs padded with black vinyl cushions project quality and charm.

Matching black table clothes accent the table settings. A wall sized photo-wrap of Bourbon Street steals the scene. Mardi Gras masks, people portraits and street-scapes from New Orleans immortalize the past in the present, covering the remaining wall space.

America still probably can’t fathom the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina. The displacement of people and culture is tragic, but has very likely enriched Milwaukee. The Big Eazy keeps true to its Southern pace, open for business during the dinner hours and for Sunday Brunch. A husband and wife team run the outfit, sharing the helm in the kitchen and dinning area. The Big Eazy is located on 2053 N. Martin Luther King Drive and also offers catering and hosts private events.