The Summer of the Concert Café

Tom Smith

tom smith | make green bay weird | sept. 2017

Angela Austin Photography Fifty years ago this summer we had the Summer of Love. Forty years ago we had the Summer of Hate. When I reflect back on this summer, for me personally I predict I will tag it as the Summer of the Concert Café, which is kind of odd because the Concert Café/Rock & Roll High School ceased operations on December 1st, 2001. The obvious reason I will label it the Summer of the Concert Café is because of the large number of bands that I have seen this summer who played there. I think this is a better alternative than the Summer of Rain (especially during events in the Broadway District — if you happen to be a farmer and you are facing drought, don't mess with the rainmaker, just schedule an On Broadway Wednesday farmers market). The Summer of the Fidget Spinner sounds even worse.

Bands that I have seen since the middle of May who played the Concert Café are The Smugglers, The Muffs, Chixdiggit, The Electric Company, New Bomb Turks, the Humpers, Boris the Sprinkler, Tyler Keith of the Neckbones, Last Sons of Krypton, the Supersuckers and the Woggles. In the next month I get to see Giants Chair at the Lyric Room on September 23 and the Reverend Horton Heat at the Green Bay Distillery on September 27. Yes, my birthday show did have Concert Café written all over it; that was done intentionally. These bands I worked with at the Concert Café (touring and local) were not only great bands but many became great friends. I can totally make the argument that the get together we had of alumni of the Café was my favorite show I attended ever. Top to bottom all 11 bands had phenomenal, unique sets of music. The New Bomb Turks, what can I say? We wanted the best and we got the best. The New Bomb Turks, fresh off the European festival circuit, were a well-oiled machine blasting out hit after hit after hit. This band has lost absolutely nothing from when they were a consistent touring band in the '90s. The same goes for the Humpers. In fact, that could have been the best Humpers show I've ever seen, period. While I no longer believe that time travel will ever be possible (if you're curious to what convinced me of this, ask me the next time you see me on the street), I did briefly during the Humpers feel like I sort of phased back in time to an earlier Humpers show in history. I remember turning to my right and seeing Jessie Green (Jessie was a bartender at Speakeasy's which was right next to the Concert Café and she is one of world's foremost Humpers fans). When our eyes made contact we could both tell that we were absolutely loving this and we couldn't possibly be enjoying this as much as we are. But we were. I also have a theory that when we made eye contact, the look we had on our faces could have also been, “Holy frak, we went back in time to see the Humpers!" Boris the Sprinkler that night was also another blast from the past with a whirlwind set that covered all the bases, especially third base. It was amazing how tight they were since they only had one practice, the night before the show, where they ran through the set twice. Boris the Sprinkler never sold as many records as Green Day, Screeching Weasel or the Queers, but I would take them over those bands any day of the week and twice on Sundays. George's Bush from Green Bay also put on a blazing set of hardcore punk rock, and were placed on this show because I look at them as part of the future of Green Bay's music scene and wanted to connect them to these bands who were such a big part of the music scene in the '90s. Sort of kind of my punk rock “Will the Circle Be Unbroken." I get the feeling that these “kids" in George's Bush will someday, when they're in their 50s, look at some high school kids buying Dead Boys albums and think, “These kids get it" and want to foster their involvement in the Green Bay music scene, which will also be helping the circle be unbroken.

I definitely love setting up bands that I've worked with for 20+ years. These relationships have no expiration date and I already have plans to invite every band that played at my 50th birthday party to play my 60th birthday party, but it's necessary to help new bands like George's Bush and newer touring bands because if it's just all nostalgia, you're never going to get the next generation of bands that really excite you when you hear they're coming back to town. I saw one of those bands last night when Kira Jari from Denton, Texas, played with the Woggles (who turned in perhaps their best performance ever in GB). I booked Kira Jari because they were from Denton and we have had a 100 percent success ratio with bands we've booked from Denton, Texas — the Reds, the Chop-Sakis, the Marked Men and the Riverboat Gamblers. Seeing them live last night was my first time actually hearing them and I was blown away. The streak of bands from Denton, Texas, in Green Bay being incredible has been sustained. This will be the first of many times they will play Green Bay. Another band Green Bay has a long history with is the Supersuckers (first time for them in Green Bay was on a Monday night at Kutska's Hall in 1993) and they returned to GB recently at the Lyric Room. They are now a trio and have adjusted to that quite fine. They selected a set list which contained the cream of the crop of their really balls-to-the-wall rocking songs. I was ecstatic to hear the songs “I Want the Drugs," “Beat to Sh**," “Goin' Back to Tucson" and “Mighty Joe Young" in the same set. I had been waiting to hear “Mighty Joe Young" live for 24 years. Perhaps on purpose they left out the alt-country/country songs from their vast catalog. They did do, if my memory serves me correctly, a rocked up version of “Dead in the Water." I got the impression that their mission on this tour was to go, hey folks just in case you forgot we still know how to bring it and bring it they did. As I mentioned earlier the Reverend Horton Heat is playing GB again at the Green Bay Distillery and the tour he is part of is a doozy. The tour is called the Psycho Strung Out Fish Fry and in addition to the Rev. the bill includes Fishbone, Strung Out and Los Kung Fu Monkeys. Fishbone on this bill is a MAJOR event in GB because this is the first time Fishbone has ever played Titletown. I also have never seen them so I get to cross off a band that has been on my must-see list since 1985. Fishbone are a compelling combination of punk and ska and have a reputation of being a monster live band. This show is going to bring out different aspects of GB's music scene and I also suspect will offer great people watching. I'm also declaring this day officially to be Sean Bailey Day in Green Bay.

Sean is the tour manager and merch tech for the Rev. Horton Heat and is one of the nicest and coolest guys in the music industry. I first met Sean when he first came to Green Bay with the Dwarves (the off the hook show with Flipper). To prep you all for Sean Bailey Day I have asked him a few questions. Sean has been working with the Rev. in various capacities off on since the late '80s. Sean's current run with the Rev. started in 2013 with being the merch tech and other day to day aspects of keeping a artist on the road, with last year moving up to replace their tour manager who got a job that allowed him more family time. Sean pulls double duty now and is 50 percent of the crew for the Rev. Sounds like an efficient ship to me. Besides the Dwarves and the Rev., Sean has also worked for the Supersuckers, the Toadies and Bowling For Soup. Sean also has worked for the House of Blues, Dallas as a stage manager since 2007. I asked Sean what is his favorite part of life on the road. His answer was, “I would say my favorite thing about touring, is I love the travel part of it ... I like to be somewhere new every day and meeting all the great fans and friends and getting to do things that I normally wouldn't have the chance to do or see." I asked about the downside of life on the road. His response was, “Life on the road can be tough ... monotonous, lonely and filled with a ton of drinking, but the good times far outweigh the bad. I do miss my son when I am gone all the time, he is growing up so fast; he's 8 now and I try to see him as often as I can while I do get time off at home." I also asked Sean if he could work for any artist living or dead who would it be? His answer was, “I think if I had the opportunity, I'd say Willie Nelson; they have a great family vibe about them, and are all super cool folks." This is why I have always loved this guy. Make sure you say hi to Sean at the merch table, and while you are there, pick up some of the Rev. Horton Heat's fine merchandise. Live Long and BMX.

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 Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.

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