tom smith | make green bay weird | aug. 2016
The highlight of the summer so far for me in regards to the local music scene was the performance by J-Council at Badger State Brewing Company opening for JD McPherson on July 16. J-Council, who contain members from the Green Bay/Fox Valley area, are a pretty recent arrival on the music scene, playing their first show last November. I had been hearing so many great things about these cats that the bar had been set high for them. Needless to say, they leaped that bar with plenty of distance, and unlike the Duran Duran Olympics, no Zika virus fears. The sound of this band is an amalgamation of blues, rock 'n' roll, soul and rhythm & blues played with the ultra-smooth precision and tightness of a band that has been around a lot longer than they actually have been. The lineup consists of Jon Wheelock on vocals, who not only is a great vocalist but a great front man who has been blessed with an incredible natural stage presence. I ran into Jon in the parking lot after their performance and I must add he also is a super nice guy. Sam Farrell plays guitar and co-writes the songs with Jon. Steve Wheelock also plays guitar (Jon's Father). Ryan Seefeldt is on drums and also happens to look like former New World Order member Kevin Nash.
The final two members are very familiar to Green Bay music fans. Alex Drossart is on keyboards who was formerly with Green Bay favorites Shaker & the Egg (Breaking News: Shaker & the Egg are doing a reunion Wed. August 17 at Gasoline). Alex also plays with The Priggs and Cory Chisel. Last but not least the only man who I have ever officiated a wedding for the one and only Matty Day on bass ... Matty currently also plays with The Foamers?, The Priggs, Muddy Udders, Cory Chisel and the Gung Hoes. Matty also has served time in Volksreagan, Pushing Clovers and Beach Patrol. I have been booking bands for 30 years and I can honestly say Matty is one of my favorite members of the Green Bay music scene I have ever worked with because of his dedication to original music and being such a swell guy. J-Council not only will be playing a number of shows at Mile of Music but will also be releasing an EP during this music festival in Appleton. No truth to the rumor they will be jamming with the drifter Elias Samson at Mile of Music. A full length is in the works, produced by Cory Chisel (Cory also produced the EP). Check this band out the next possible chance you have, you will not regret it. Must also mention the rest of the show was great. J-Council was followed by The 4onthefloor who, to me, really had a Drive-By Truckers thing going on that night. The headliner was JD McPherson who brought the house down with his '50s charged rock 'n' roll. Badger State Brewing Company's new event room was a big hit and I look forward to seeing other acts there. In fact, I already have booked my 50th birthday show next July 23, 2017, at Badger State Brewing Company, that is how much I was impressed with the debut event there. My only “complaint" with the show was they were out of my favorite beer – they brew Mean Green New Zealand Hop IPA – which was no big deal since they brew many other great beers there. I predict this venue will become a major player in the Green Bay music scene. How can it not be with Green Bay's best music promoter Tom Johnson working there?
Since we talked last, Green Bay was had a number of other great shows booked for this summer. The Lyric Room this August is getting a double shot of former Pixies bassist Kim Shattuck. Kim will be playing there August 6 with her band before the Muffs (and way before the Pixies) The Pandoras. Rounding out that bill is Beebe Gallini and the Jetty Boys. Kim then returns to the Lyric Room with the Muffs on Saturday August 27. This is such a big deal, I kid you not. The last time the Muffs played in Green Bay was at the Concert Café in 1997. The Muffs were one of the 10 best bands of the 90's and I would rank them over Nirvana for sure. This isn't no nostalgia trip either, they put out a new album in 2014 “Whoop Dee Doo," and it is one of the most impassioned albums in their long history. Also appearing: Rev. Norb & the Onions (the Rev. Norb opened for the Muffs in his previous band Boris the Sprinkler at my least favorite venue of all time, Milwaukee's Shank Hall, great show except for when I had to kick some drunk skinhead's butt) and Holy and the Nice Lions. I don't think it will be out in time for this show, but Rev. Norb & the Onions and Holly and the Nice Lions are releasing a split 45. I am a lucky guy to see the Muffs play Green Bay again and I am going to use my big mouth everywhere I go informing people they are stupid jerks if they don't go to this five star event. You should not judge a person by their race, wealth, or social position; just judge them on if they saw the Muffs live. Friday, August 26 the day before the Muffs make their triumphant return to Green Bay, the Luna Cafe and Roastery, 330 Main Ave., De Pere, will host two bonafide punk rock legends and you can't teach that. Kevin Seconds and Steve Soto will be both performing solo sets. Kevin is the singer of 7 Seconds, literally one of the area's favorite punk bands ever. 7 Seconds have a long history with Green Bay (including a show with a huge jocks vs. punks brawl). Steve Soto's claim to fame is the fact he was in both The Adolescents and Agent Orange. Since we are on the subject of Agent Orange they are returning to Green Bay to play the Lyric Room on Thursday September 15 with Counterpunch, The Pukes and the Lowlives. This may sound a little weird but have you ever had the desire to see a band that is primarily a parody of English heavy metal group Black Sabbath utilizing lyricism and imagery centered on fast food? If you answered yes, then Mac Sabbath is the band for you and they are performing with Clownvis Presley and George's Bush on Tuesday August 30 at the Lyric Room.
Dusty Medical Records.
Timebomb rating of 13 out of 13
The first thing I want to say about the second album by Milwaukee's Space Raft is NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP for these guys. Space Raft, who I have long heralded as perhaps Wisconsin's current best band, delivers the goods and takes no steps backward at all. When your debut album is as good as the first album by Space Raft it can be tough to make that second album even better. Well, I must say, mission accomplished. Maybe sticking with Shane Hochstetler as recording engineer and Justin Perkins mastering it again set them up to progress forward. Heck, maybe Tom Grimm doing the photographs again was the lucky charm. Whatever it was, thank you rock 'n' roll gods. What it really is: Jordan Davis and the rest of Space Raft continue to write great songs. The album starts out with future top 10 hit “Borrowed Time" which resides as my favorite song of 2016 so far. “Disconnection Notice" is a track that takes all my troubles and shoves them out of mind while I listen to this song. Love the keyboards on this track and I believe this whole album has Tjay Christenson's keyboards a little higher in the mix than the self-titled debut. This song is also a two-part song and the second part is an instrumental track that spirits channel Isaac Hayes through this fuzzy Memphis filter. “Red Arrow" is a song that makes me think of the all the unnecessary gun violence that seems to be in the news every morning I wake up. “Bitter Cup" is a song I have loved from Space Raft's live show for over a year. Whenever I listen to this song the keyboards remind me of the Dio's “Holy Diver" album (trust me that is a good thing). “Mountain" is another song on “Rubicon" that I can only describe as just beautiful and a perfect way to end the album because this song makes me realize life is great because you can never be down when listening to great music made by great Wisconsinites. Recently I saw Space Raft at a wedding in Algoma and the setting of a wedding in a tent on a farm in the middle of nowhere with a fog machine turned up to 11 can be a surreal thing of beauty just like listening to “Rubicon." This album, for me, is the odds on favorite to be my album of the year. Can't wait for the third Space Raft album.
Live long and remember we are all on borrowed time.
Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show in 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as MotÃ¶rhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.