DJ Hostettler – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com Music, culture, gentle sarcasm. Tue, 11 Dec 2018 03:11:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0 http://milwaukeerecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/cropped-mrapp-32x32.jpg DJ Hostettler – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com 32 32 We spent the day playing vintage video games at every vintage video arcade in Milwaukee http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/spent-day-playing-vintage-video-games-every-vintage-video-arcade-milwaukee/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/spent-day-playing-vintage-video-games-every-vintage-video-arcade-milwaukee/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 15:15:58 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=55556 n case you’ve been an internet-free shut-in for the last year, vintage arcade video games are back in a big way. The arcade bar scene has been percolating nationwide for the last few years—Logan Arcade in Chicago, for example, has been thriving as a video game/pinball hot spot since it expanded into a full bar […]

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In case you’ve been an internet-free shut-in for the last year, vintage arcade video games are back in a big way. The arcade bar scene has been percolating nationwide for the last few years—Logan Arcade in Chicago, for example, has been thriving as a video game/pinball hot spot since it expanded into a full bar in 2014—and while vintage cabinets have been quietly popping up in Milwaukee in that time, it’s safe to say that the arrivals of 1983 and the recently opened Up-Down MKE are a signal that classic ’80s bleep-bloop boxes like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong are officially A Thing Again.

In fact, there are enough hot spots in the Milwaukee metro area that it’s hard to decide which one to visit on, say, a muggy Sunday on a Labor Day weekend. So why not try to hit all of them and destroy our wrists and posture in the process? Milwaukee Record teamed with some of our gaming enthusiast pals—Game & Movie Podcast co-host and former game tech Anthony Schwader, and Red Letter Media Best of the Worst staple Josh Davis—and plotted to hit five locations either promoting themselves as an arcade or known for having a viable game room. Follow along as we make our way from Menomonee Falls to Walker’s Point, playing four different Joust machines along the way!

We began the day cruising north to the Falls to maximize our allotted time for The Garcade (N85 W15920 Appleton Ave.), the all-ages game room opened in July of last year. An arcade more in the vein of Illinois’ Galloping Ghost, The Garcade doesn’t serve alcohol, which was just fine for three nerds getting their gaming started at 11 a.m.. Besides, if we really did want to subscribe to the adage “It’s always noon somewhere,” The Garcade’s $15 admission bracelet allows re-entry all day as well as free play on every game in the venue, so it’s plenty easy to take a food or drink break in the middle of an all-day marathon. And boy howdy, it sure is easy to make The Garcade a six- or seven-hour destination.

The game selection is extensive and well-balanced, with over 100 machines rotated in and out for maintenance or just shuffled around the room to keep the layout fresh and help the repeat visitor stumble across a title they may have missed previously. We were stoked to get our Crystal Castles and Sinistar fix, two titles that are generally hard to find and weren’t seen anywhere else the rest of the day. Nearly every game was in great shape (a copy of Kangaroo was a little fritzy but otherwise most maintenance-needy games were cycled out), and strategically placed fans throughout the complex teamed with the AC to keep everyone comfortable.

Tony was jazzed to find a Pump It Up: Exceed machine, a Dance Dance Revolution-style dance game originally developed in Korea, varying from DDR by putting the arrow panels in diagonal spots on the dance pad, rather than DDR’s front/back/left/right spots. We were happy to get our steps in and our heart rates up before moving on to some classic pinball (an Apollo-Soyuz Space Mission machine was an old-school analog treat), that first round of Joust (#1 Daily Buzzard right out the gate!), and discovering a weird, 1988 military helicopter shooter game called Viper. The double-joystick control mechanism was slaved to the game monitor, which swiveled like it might in a sit-down flight simulator (which Tony theorized the stand-up version may have been adapted from). The ability to increase your chopper’s firepower by shopping at “Crazy Ali’s Weapons Warehouse” was also…something. But the most interesting find was Donkey Kong Remix, a 2015 reworking of the classic that remained true to the original engine while radically redesigning many of the boards. After 30+ years of standard DK play, we were so discombobulated on our first go that we racked up a cool 200 points before losing our last life. Sorry Pauline.

One welcome side product (or maybe an instigator?) of the current retro gaming revival is the plethora of game programmers designing new console games in the video arcade tradition. The Garcade boasts one of these in Cosmotrons, a vector-graphic style game (think Battlezone or Tempest) with a fun multiplayer button-based versus mode—and we call it “fun” no matter how many times Tony blew up our teeny little vector ships.

As stated earlier, The Garcade could have kept us occupied all day, but after two hours it was time for lunch, and while the door people reminded us that our wristbands were good until 8 p.m., we soldiered downtown to Ian’s Pizza (146 E. Juneau Ave.). Ian’s stocks about 18 video game consoles in its upstairs dining area, provided by Aftershocks Retrogames in Madison. As we settled in for a slice and salad, our pulses quickened as we spotted two machines we hadn’t seen in years. The first was NARC, the ultraviolent 1988 “anti”-drug game that still raises the question “How did this get made in the 1980s?” Sure, the “Just Say No” campaign was in full swing, but slogans fly out the window the moment a kid thinks “Holy shit, my character just got lanced with a giant fucking syringe!” Obviously, we played it twice. Then, the three of us teamed up for a rousing game of Gauntlet. Not Gauntlet Legends, not Gauntlet Dark Legacy, not Look Who’s Gauntleting Now…just plain old Gauntlet, and it was glorious—”Valkyrie is about to die” and all.

Any vintage arcade is going to require extensive maintenance—remember, many of these titles are fast approaching their 40th birthday—and a few of the machines at Ian’s were in need of a little TLC. Frogger and Centipede were down, the Dig Dug joystick felt a little loose (but still controlled like a dream), and the Joust player 1 stick didn’t register moving left. Still, no one’s excitement was dampened, as several kids opted for a go at Track And Field, Toobin’, or original recipe Mario Bros. instead. (Speaking of Mario Bros., the one at Ian’s has its dipswitch set on a far easier setting than The Garcade’s, where it’s seemingly been maxed out. Three fireballs 10 seconds into the first Slipice round? Really?)

When we made our way the three blocks across the river to 1983 (1110 N. Old World Third St.), we caught ourselves stupidly trying to plug a quarter into Area 51 three or four times before remembering that this place uses tokens, dumbass. Things made more sense once we got our first drinks of the day into us—while we opted for a basic High Life, Josh enjoyed the “DK Cooler” (rye whiskey, bitters, ginger ale, $7), while Tony sampled and really liked the “Sonic and Tonic” (Brokers gin, Blue curacao, triple sec, tonic, $7).

Mitchell Novelties handles the maintenance of 1983’s games, and overall they’re in great shape, cycling games in and out monthly to keep things fresh and operational. Again, we’re talking about some seriously old machines, so a pink tint to Elevator Action is nothing to sneeze at when the game otherwise handles like a joy. (Also, they had Elevator Action! Totally underrated deep cut!) 1983 also had what was surprisingly our first Burgertime sighting of the day, and it was in fantastic shape—much better shape than our actual Burgertime skills. A stray piece of molding blocked one of the ramps in the Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull pinball game, but it was still less disappointing than its namesake movie.

This was our second visit to 1983. The first was a stop after this year’s Midwest Gaming Classic, when the bar was uncomfortably Saturday-night crowded; this afternoon, the only other customer in the bar was a lone patron working through some free-play classic NES at the bar. So while we enjoyed the unfettered access to Tetris, Double Dragon, and Tron (and another round on another great Joust machine), we were itching to get over to the new hotness where Water Street meets Brady. We finished our cocktails and made our way to Up-Down Milwaukee (615 E. Brady St.). Let’s not beat around the bush: this place absolutely rules. Even with the bar slammed full of people on a sunny, humid holiday weekend, the vibe was positive and all-around electric. Loads of people took advantage of Up-Down’s Sunday “Six Pack and a Pound” special, which provides 6 domestic tallboys, 80 tokens, and an Up-Down fanny pack (which we got to fit around our expanding middle-aged torso with some finesse) for $25. The three of us split one order; whether or not it’s safe to let one person take that sixer on themselves will be a case for history to decide. (In fairness, no one in the building seemed unreasonably day-drunk, although people watching really wasn’t our number one priority.)

We spotted several familiar old games that we hadn’t encountered yet during the crawl (Hello, Popeye! What’s shaking, Punch-Out?), and a few intriguing head-scratchers (we had never seen a Dr. Mario arcade box before, but the game was basically a port from the NES). Thanks to that pound-of-tokens deal, we decided to burn about a dozen of them to capture the Tag Team Titles on WWF WrestleFest courtesy of the dynamic tag team of Mr. Perfect and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Up yours, Legion of Doom!

Several of the day’s stops prominently featured multiplayer consoles built for socializing—several X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machines were spotted all afternoon. Up-Down upped the ante with the first BattleToads machine we’d ever seen in person, and a pair of modern party game insta-classics in Killer Queen and 4-player Pac-Man Battle Royale. Holy shit, this game is a must. We made several new friends chomping down on power pellets in order to devour the opposing Pac-Men of random strangers we happened across in the bar. Who knew Pac-cannibalism could be so exhilarating?

Before any of Milwaukee’s new arcade bars unleashed their might on the populace, Hamburger Mary’s new location at 730 S. 5th St. took advantage of the old La Perla’s setup to turn one of the rooms into a gaming area, and while Up-Down and 1983 have since left them in the dust, Mary’s still has a humble and respectable collection of classics all set to free play (except for their own Pac-Man Battle Royale, which is only fair). Josh had a go on one of the only Mortal Kombat machines we saw all day (although to be fair, we weren’t looking that hard for them), and we had our second unexpectedly respectable showing on BurgerTime for the day. But really, you go to Hamburger Mary’s for the food and the sass. The cuban sandwich and Beyond Burger (a vegan burger patty) were both excellent, as was the constant snark delivered by our delightful bartender, who eventually sassed us bitches into doing a shot of Fireball with him to cap off the day.

For those of us who came of age around that magical 1983 calendar year, the arcade resurgence has provided something for everyone, all wrapped in a fuzzy warm glow of cathode-ray nostalgia. Want to take down some specialty cocktails while spraining your wrist? 1983 and Up-Down are the place. Want to share the classic arcade era with the kids? Ian’s and Garcade got you. Certainly someday this craze will fade again, consoles will fall back into disrepair, and a sick Sinistar cab will be as rare as a magical white buffalo. But until then, we’ll be hoarding quarters and tokens the way we did back when we accepted our paper route money in coins, visions of light cycles and ghosts dancing in our heads.

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Ring of Honor wrestler Silas Young brings Midwest talent to Milwaukee http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/ring-of-honor-wrestler-silas-young-midwest-talent-milwaukee/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/ring-of-honor-wrestler-silas-young-midwest-talent-milwaukee/#respond Wed, 18 Jul 2018 14:00:17 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=53022 or roughly five years now, Milwaukee wrestling fans have had a local rooting interest when dialing in to CW18 or My24 on the weekends to watch Ring of Honor‘s weekly TV program. Local wrestler Silas Young has turned 15 years of experience into a solid run with arguably the #2 promotion in the United States […]

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For roughly five years now, Milwaukee wrestling fans have had a local rooting interest when dialing in to CW18 or My24 on the weekends to watch Ring of Honor‘s weekly TV program. Local wrestler Silas Young has turned 15 years of experience into a solid run with arguably the #2 promotion in the United States behind WWE (where he also had a cup of coffee in their developmental territory about 11 years ago). Racking up wins against big names like Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens in WWE), Jay Lethal, and even Japanese legend Jushin Thunder Liger, Young is now one of only four men in history to have held the ROH World Television championship twice.

Now, with his wrestling career as hot as it’s ever been, Young is giving back to Milwaukee by starting his own local promotion, MKE Wrestling. Running monthly shows at the Knights of Columbus on 1800 S. 92nd St., Young is looking to deliver a family-friendly wrestling product in a city with a rich history of pro grappling. Milwaukee Record talked to Young about this Friday’s show, his Ring of Honor career, and the state of local Milwaukee wrestling in general.

Milwaukee Record: So, you were in India last week?

Silas Young: Yeah! That was quite the cool experience. I had been to a few other countries before, but that was something like no other place, that’s for sure. I had like a 14-hour flight to Delhi, got picked up in the afternoon and brought to a hotel…I walked around Delhi because I just wanted to check it out, and then I got picked up at like four in the morning and had to do an eight-hour road trip where about four of those hours were through the Himalayan Mountains. The two shows we did were in the Himalayan Mountains, and driving through those roads are pretty crazy.

MR: Was it a local Indian promotion, or was it an American promotion doing a tour?

SY: So, there was a huge giant from India called The Great Khali, who was in WWE for years, and he runs his own thing there, his own training school, and they do a handful of shows a year, and I just happened to be lucky enough to get booked on them, I guess!

MR: I’m assuming your visibility from being on Ring of Honor had something to do with you being booked there, right?

SY: Yeah, absolutely. The guy that’s over there doing the training right now for the Great Khali, he brings over Americans and has them do some training for him for, like, six months at a time. One of the guys that’s over there doing the training I’m kinda buddies with, so he kinda hooked it up. They were looking for guys and he said, “You know, I’ve got my buddy Silas, he works for Ring of Honor, he’s a former two-time TV Champion,” so that definitely helped out.

MR: There have only been four people who have held the TV Title twice, and you’re one of those, so that’s pretty rarified air. As a local Milwaukee guy who’s made it to the big time, tell me a little about your history and how that happened.

SY: Well, I’ve been wrestling for 15 years now. I did stuff for Ring of Honor in 2007, got offered a WWE developmental contract at the end of 2007 which ended up happening around the time [former WWE developmental territory] OVW closed, and that’s the place I was supposed to report to. So that contract ended up getting pulled. I did a couple things for Ring of Honor a little bit here and there over the next couple years, and 2013 is when I really started full-time with them. And since then, it’s just been more things happening every year, more opportunities, bigger matches. But it’s been in the last year or so where things have really come together for me. I won the ROH World Television title twice, I’ve beaten some of the top guys, like Jay Lethal…it’s been a crazy five years! I’ve gotten to travel the world a lot…it’s been pretty cool!

MR: I was personally a big fan of the feud with [former ROH World Champion] Dalton Castle [where Silas fought for ownership over Castle’s “boys,” a.k.a. his scantily clad manservants]. Did you feel like that feud really magnified your visibility in the company? It seemed like that was your first really “big” feud that got you a lot of TV time.

SY: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s something that even to this day people talk about, and me and Dalton comment to each other about how much people talk about that, and that was three years ago already. But it was definitely a thing that helped define both of us.

MR: It did a lot to solidify the “Last Real Man” gimmick, which really was similar to how I’ve seen you work over the years. Where did that gimmick come from and how did that evolve in ROH?

SY: You know, that’s something that came from my father, basically. It was about 10 years ago when I came up with the whole “Last Real Man” thing, and I just realized that I needed to do something a little bit different, so I took the inspiration from my father, and really turned it into a character. My dad was a no-nonsense type of guy. He was a fireman, he owned a side business, he was a real man’s man. So that’s where it comes from, down to the slicked-back hair and the mustache.

MR: The whole image feels like it’s very rooted in blue-collar Milwaukee. Which ties us in to calling your new promotion MKE Wrestling. Why did you start a new promotion in Milwaukee?

SY: I think when you’re in the wrestling business for a long time, promoting is something I think everyone wants to end up doing. It’s definitely something I’ve wanted to do for years now. And the opportunity arose where there was a good opportunity at a good building that has a lot of rich wrestling history. My idea is that there’s a lot of guys that have been around here for a long time that are really good at what they do, and there’s a lot of good young guys that are coming out of all these wrestling schools over the last few years. You know, Seth Rollins, who works for WWE, has a training school in Davenport, Iowa, which is no more than a few-hour ride to Milwaukee. I’ve been using a handful of his students, as well as Ken Kennedy and Shawn Daivari, who also have a training school up in Minneapolis, so I’ve been using some students from them.

My idea with this is just to get the best young talent out there working with some of these guys who have been around a little bit longer and help ’em learn, and maybe even help the older guys learn a little bit of a new style and stuff like that. And just give the wrestling fans of Milwaukee the best unknown wrestling that’s out there. We’ve got a couple guys coming in from both those schools this Friday at the Knights of Columbus, and then there’s a guy who’s coming in to do a handful of shows with us through the end of August that I’m really excited about, who does some amazing things in the ring. His name is Air Wolf. We’re just looking to supply the community with some great wrestling.

For a long time in the area…I grew up in Milwaukee, and guys like CM Punk and Colt Cabana…man, so many good guys came through here. Adam Pearce…and that’s basically what I’m trying to bring back here. Get all the best talent from around the Midwest to perform and let the fans in Milwaukee see some great wrestling.

MR: Do you feel like that’s fallen off in the last couple years?

SY: I think it’s that, you know, sometimes promotions just get in the habit of using the same guys, buddies, stuff like that, and I wanna make something that’s kind of a revolving door, something that has a little bit more people comin’ and goin’.

MR: We’ve already got Brew City Wrestling, and ICW in Milwaukee, so do you think that one of the things you’re bringing that’s kind of unique is these new guys that they’re not necessarily using?

SY: That’s absolutely my idea. I always wanna give the local guys opportunities, but I also want to give them the opportunity to work with guys they’ve never worked with before. That’s the art of wrestling—being able to get in there with anybody who’s good at what they do and tell a story. Deliver magic, so to speak.

RING OF HONOR / James Musselwhite

MR: Looking at the roster on your website, you do have a lot of the classic local guys like Angel Armoni and Dysfunction. Do you get the feeling, having been in Milwaukee for years, that with so many different promotions in town, it’s more a feeling of cooperation with everyone in town rather than competition?

SY: Yeah, absolutely. I think for the most part everybody works with each other and everybody understands that there’s enough pieces of the pie to go around. I don’t think anybody’s real hurtful with anybody. It’s a pretty good working relationship. I know some areas can be horrendous.

MR: So, your spin is that you’re trying to make MKE Wrestling more of a family-friendly promotion, right?

SY: Yeah. It doesn’t mean we don’t push the edge a little bit, but it’s not something that you have to worry about bringing your kids to and having them exposed to stuff that you may not want them exposed to, but at the same time, it’s not so PG and cheesy that no one’s enjoying it at all. I think we do a pretty good job of balancing that. For instance, on the show this Friday we have two matches advertised as a Milwaukee Street Fight and a no rules match, so it’ll be a little violent, but not anything like broken glass or people having to worry about getting bled on or anything like that. It’s a little bit of everything for everybody, I guess.

MR: I know Dys and ICW try to be a little more R-rated, so nothing like that at this show?

SY: Right, and I think that’s another thing about the products around here—everybody’s running their own different show, so depending on what you like, you can get a little bit of everything nowadays.

MR: Speaking of family-friendly stuff, you participated in Read Across America recently. Tell me a little about that.

SY: Yeah, you know what, that was pretty cool. That was a thing that a few of the guys and gals that work for Ring of Honor got asked to do, and my son goes to a school that happens to be about two blocks from our house, and I got asked to go down and do that. I was a little nervous at first, but it ended up being a really cool experience. You know, it’s a little weird for me, with the small celebrity status we get as wrestlers, to realize that we can use that for good and to help push people. It’s a pretty powerful feeling.

MR: Do you remember what you read?

SY: They made me read this book that made me look like a fool! [laughs] I can’t remember what exactly it was called, but it was really funny, and it was pretty appropriate for the situation.

MR: Anything else you want to say about the show on Friday?

SY: Like I said, we got some guys that are coming in from out of state that I no doubt think that in some years you’ll be seeing them on TV for various promotions. The show is Friday night, doors open at 6:30 p.m. I always say about wrestling that when people who don’t think they’re big wrestling fans come to a show, they’re always entertained by it. I’ve never met a person who’s come to a wrestling show who didn’t have a good time and didn’t enjoy themselves.

MKE Wrestling “Rules Are Meant To Be Broken” rings the first bell of the night at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 20. Admission is $15 general admission, $18 for front row seats.

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“Why fight for crumbs when we can all make a bigger pie?” Milwaukee’s Austin Aries comes home http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/fight-crumbs-bigger-pie-milwaukees-austin-aries-comes-home/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/fight-crumbs-bigger-pie-milwaukees-austin-aries-comes-home/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 05:05:11 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=48830 t’s been a long, winding road for Milwaukee’s own Austin Aries to get back to Turner Hall. A 17-year veteran of the pro wrestling wars, having won world titles in promotions like Ring of Honor and TNA, Aries seemingly reached the pinnacle of the industry when he signed with WWE in early 2016. However, his […]

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It’s been a long, winding road for Milwaukee’s own Austin Aries to get back to Turner Hall. A 17-year veteran of the pro wrestling wars, having won world titles in promotions like Ring of Honor and TNA, Aries seemingly reached the pinnacle of the industry when he signed with WWE in early 2016. However, his stay in the world’s biggest wrestling promotion was a short one, and he left in July of last year. Since then, though, his profile has increased, becoming a featured player in several promotions across the globe. He’s even back in TNA (now called Impact Wrestling) and ROH, where he’s once again Impact World Champion and contending for the ROH TV Title. He’s also found the time to write and release his first book, Food Fight: My Plant-Powered Journey From The Bingo Halls To The Big Time, an autobiography that doubles as a pitch for adopting the vegan lifestyle he’s slowly grown into over his wrestling career.

This Friday, Aries brings his championship hardware, as well as his book, to Turner Hall as a feature performer for Chicago-based promotion Zelo Pro, as he takes on Bryce Benjamin and Mondo Lucha favorite Isaias Velasquez in a triple threat match. The stacked card also features Colt Cabana, DJ Z, Robbie E, Arik Cannon, Chelsea Green, Delilah Doom, and a main event for the Zelo Pro Women’s Championship between Kylie Rae and Tessa Blanchard (the daughter of Four Horseman Tully Blanchard). Aries spoke to Milwaukee Record about his homecoming, his current collection of championships, and his new book.

Milwaukee Record: It seems like, based on your current “belt collector” gimmick, that you’ve been really busy since leaving WWE last July. How many different companies have you been working for?

Austin Aries: Oh, man, I don’t know if I could count, but yeah, I’d say that since the end of November last year, starting with the House of Hardcore, between doing House of Hardcore Shows, going over and doing World Series Wrestling in Australia, IPW:UK, Defiant over in the UK, obviously now with Impact, doing some joint shows with some other promotions in Canada…yeah man, it’s been keeping me pretty busy. It’s nice to be as busy as you wanna be, and it’s nice that whenever I need to take a weekend off, I can do that. But for the most part, it’s been pretty steady since the end of November. And it will continue that way for the next month or so, and then I think this summer I’m gonna dial it back just a little bit and enjoy the summer, let my body recover from this crazy travel schedule, and then we’ll see what’s in front of me.

MR: You had sent out a tweet in October that said in the next six weeks you were gonna be earning more money than you did in your last four months with WWE. It seems like that’s a big talking point in wrestling right now, that people can do as well as they want on the indies without necessarily going “big time” because there are so many opportunities. Are you seeing a big change in that since before you signed with WWE and then coming out of it?

AA: Yeah, I think right now, and this is my seventeenth year doing this, I think right now from a financial standpoint it’s as healthy as it’s ever been. There’s more money available and there’s more money in more places available. Technology’s really shrunk the globe, right? And now I’m getting an opportunity to travel all over the world because people now can watch content from all over the globe instantaneously, and it’s creating a demand for guys all over. So we’re in this really unique time in wrestling and it’s cool, where guys have their own platforms through social media. They’ve gotta build their brand, build their character, build their value, and they don’t necessarily need one single promotion to do it. When you look at it from a promotional standpoint, promotions don’t necessarily need a cable television show to get their product out there. So that’s kinda cool! It gives everybody an opportunity, and there’s this expanding fanbase that wants to see pro wrestlers pro wrestling, and there’s good money out there for guys who wanna work hard and invest in themselves.

MR: Do you ever run into any companies…I don’t know if I wanna say “fighting” over you necessarily, but growing up watching wrestling in the ’80s and then going through the era when WWE and WCW were competitive, the idea of a name showing up on multiple different shows is something that I’m still getting used to. For example, you’re the Impact World Champion right now, but you’ve been showing up on Ring of Honor shows, and they’re like #2 and #3 in the country. Are they cooler now sharing guys? Is it even considered “sharing?”

AA: I think right now, the places I’m working, I’m trying to encourage the mindset of everybody kind of working together, or at least not working against each other, right? That would be counter-productive. And with a really vibrant and healthy pro wrestling scene, why fight? Why fight over crumbs, when if we work together we can make a lot bigger pie, and we can all eat a nice slice? Why split the fanbase, and why insult their intelligence? They’re following independent wrestling outside of WWE and they’re following the wrestling scene as a whole. So with my situation, I’m trying to keep as much flexibility as I can. I’m an independent contractor; it’s a beautiful thing! And right now I’m able to go out there and do some unique things that I think that hopefully moving forward become a lot more prevalent in wrestling because it does create unique and exciting match-ups and some unpredictability that I think wrestling can use.

MR: How did the “belt collector” idea come about, that you’re just grabbing titles everywhere?

AA: It wasn’t really an idea. It just kind of happened. If I’m being honest, there wasn’t any game plan or anything. You’re always gonna go out and try to be successful, and if you’re going to wrestle for a promotion, you’d like to be in contention for the title, because it means you’re an important part of what’s going on there. Where I’m at, I’m always trying to be an important part of whatever I’m doing, so obviously, I can have a lot greater influence being “the man,” so to speak. And being the champion and representing the company, I think for a lot of these promotions, is a mutually beneficial situation where for me as the champion, as it became two, three, four, now six different championships, it has become a “thing,” where that was never the intention! But it’s also now helped some of these promotions get a little more recognition, get a little more in the spotlight, and maybe people haven’t heard of IPW:UK, or Defiant, or World Series Wrestling. If you haven’t heard of these promotions, maybe now with me being on Impact Wrestling and showing up at Ring of Honor, people might say, “Oh, let me check these guys out and see what they’re about,” and now you’ve found some more pro wrestling that you kinda like, or found some new guys you hadn’t heard of.

And that’s really what the idea is, you know? Does it help me, in a selfish manner? It’s put me in a spotlight. I can walk around with my six titles, sure! But bigger picture, this I think is something kinda cool for wrestling in general, and helps the promotions as much as it helps me.

MR: For sure, and I’m sure your presence is going to give a lot of juice to Zelo Pro this weekend as well. This is your first show with them, right?

AA: Yeah, this’ll be my first time. I’m always excited to be able to come back to the Midwest and especially Wisconsin and Milwaukee, my home territory. It always means a lot of family and friends come out, and I always feel a little extra responsibility to go out and deliver.

MR: You’re gonna be facing a guy who’s pretty familiar with Turner Hall in Isaias Velazquez, who works on the annual Mondo Lucha shows there. Have you faced him or your other opponent, Bryce Benjamin, before?

AA: I wanna say I’ve been in the ring with Bryce Benjamin before, but that goes back a decade plus, and I couldn’t remember the exact match. But I know we’ve crossed paths back in the day. But, y’know, any time you’ve got three guys in there it just changes the dynamic. You gotta keep your head on a swivel, and you can’t just prepare for one style. And coming in with my reputation, with all this hardware, these championship belts, I know that puts a huge target on my back. So these guys are definitely gonna try to defeat me, and use that as a springboard for their career, and I actually hope to use that to my advantage, and hopefully make them compete against themselves, and forget they’re competing against me!

MR: In Ring of Honor, you’ve been targeting the TV Title, and fellow Milwaukeean Silas Young is currently the champ. Has it occurred to you that Ring of Honor might be getting a Milwaukee vs. Milwaukee feud?

AA: Absolutely! You know, when I looked at the landscape of Ring of Honor, and decided where I wanted to make my Impact, bad pun intended, the Television Championship is something I’ve never held there. I’ve been the World Champion twice, I’ve been the World Tag Team Champion there, but I felt, hey, if I’m your Television Champion, it’s doing something I’ve never done there, but also now you’re forced to put me on your television. And frankly, as Impact World Champion I’d love to force them to feature me on their television. I think that would be kinda cool. I know Silas very well, we come from a similar background in Milwaukee, and have trained with and been helped along by some of the same people, so we’ll see! It’d be kinda cool if he would accept my challenge, and why not do it in the Midwest? Why not do it somewhere close to home? My schedule’s busy, but I can always make time to collect another belt.

MR: How’s the book (Food Fight: My Plant-Powered Journey From The Bingo Halls To The Big Time) doing? I assume promoting it’s still a big part of your schedule.

AA: Yeah, the book sales are going well. A lot of that is because as I’m getting to travel around the country and the globe, that’s been what’s selling the book more than anything else. People have a chance to have a little conversation with me, buy the book, maybe get an autograph. I’m starting to get a lot of good responses from people who have read it. I talked to a woman recently who, with her family, went vegan about six months ago after reading the book, and she’s lost over fifty pounds, she’s off a medication or two. I don’t need to give it a hard sell because one, that pushes people away, but two, I believe enough in the results that if you just try a little bit, and you keep an open mind, you’ll see and feel the results, and you’ll adopt it more and more on your own. I don’t need to shove people into the pool.

I’ll have some at Turner Hall on Friday, so if people wanna stop by and snap a picture with all the belts, and grab a copy of Food Fight, talk a little about health and nutrition, they can do that. The cool thing is, y’know, we’re in Milwaukee and Turner Hall, but it’s an all-ages show. You can bring your kids, it’s family-friendly, and it’s just a good night of entertainment.

MR: There seems to be more great vegan and vegetarian options in Milwaukee than ever now. It really has become quite a movement.

AA: Yeah! I’ve been taking this journey for seventeen years, the same year I started wrestling, and to see it progress, and to see how it is kind of popular now, and you’re seeing the mainstream jump on it, you’re seeing corporate America jump on it…you hope they don’t compromise it, but people are really starting to recognize the benefits. And yeah, Comet Cafe is a spot that I enjoy in Milwaukee. Riverwest Co-op has really good breakfast food. There’s a lot of really good spots. And as I travel around, big city and small city alike, you’re starting to see these cafes and little shops pop up that cater more toward just more mindful, a more plant-based lifestyle. And it’s a great thing.

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Here’s what’s happened in WWE since the last time Monday Night RAW was in Milwaukee http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/whats-happened-wwe-last-time-monday-night-raw-milwaukee/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/whats-happened-wwe-last-time-monday-night-raw-milwaukee/#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:40:17 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=46860 s the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center nears completion, the soon-to-be-Old-Yeller’d BMO Harris Bradley Center is going through a victory lap of final events, and WWE has joined the party, bringing one final Monday Night RAW to the Bucks’ old house this Monday. While WWE has been a regular visitor to the Bradley Center, it’s […]

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As the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center nears completion, the soon-to-be-Old-Yeller’d BMO Harris Bradley Center is going through a victory lap of final events, and WWE has joined the party, bringing one final Monday Night RAW to the Bucks’ old house this Monday. While WWE has been a regular visitor to the Bradley Center, it’s been stingier with its signature shows of late, often opting to run the flagship RAW in Green Bay’s more modern Resch Center, and running its pay-per-view events in Minneapolis or Chicago, skipping Wisconsin entirely. Last year’s Fastlane PPV (where your humble narrator was nearly ejected for flipping the bird at Goldberg) was the first such event in Milwaukee since 2012’s Elimination Chamber; coincidentally enough, 2012 was also the last year in which the Bradley Center hosted a Monday Night RAW.

Six years is an eternity in pro wrestling time. The main event of the 2012 Elimination Chamber saw John Cena drop Kane through the top of an ambulance to win (as one does in a legitimately contested athletic competition); the closing match of Fastlane was a 22-second squash match for a Universal title that didn’t even exist in 2012. So while the Bucks’ new home will likely bring WWE’s A-list shows to Milwaukee far more often, wouldn’t it be fun to look back at the August 27, 2012 RAW to see what’s changed since Milwaukee’s last Monday night of wrestling? (Come on, it’ll be fun! Work with me here.)

In 2012, the WWE Champion was CM Punk, a straightedge scrapper from Chicago with Pepsi and COBRA tattoos who made his entrance to “Cult Of Personality” by Living Colour. Cool! In the main event of that 2012 RAW, he faced off against then-64-year-old commentator and one-time Andy Kaufman foil Jerry “The King” Lawler in a steel cage match. Boo! Why was the world champ picking on a senior citizen? Because he was a heel with a chip on his shoulder and liked picking on people that were easy to beat up at the time, that’s why. To be fair, Lawler’s often sexist commentary toward female wrestlers probably warranted some in-ring slappin’ around, but that’s neither here nor there, as the champ beat on the former AWA World Champ (jeez, didn’t the AWA fold in like 1990? Dude is old!) long past the end of the match, forcing an intervention from the ever-heroic John Cena.

Today, the WWE Championship is exclusive to Smackdown, so the top dog on RAW is Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, a part-time employee who has spent the bulk of his title reign on his farm in Saskatchewan, ostensibly harvesting crops by pulling the combine behind him, because who needs gasoline when you’re built like Thor? His title defenses over the past year can be counted on one hand, but he’s currently prepping for his most important defense to date—against current top star Roman Reigns, the company’s anointed successor to John Cena. The Reigns/Lesnar showdown has been on WWE’s radar since last year’s Wrestlemania, much to the consternation of know-it-all “smart mark” fans that have resisted Roman’s rise because…well, because Vince McMahon wants him to be the top guy. When choosing the path of Wrestling Hipster, it’s important to knee-jerkingly reject the Company Man, because…reasons. (It’s actually a ripple effect of the rise of indie darling and WWE underdog Daniel Bryan in 2014, but that’s a whole different story.) Regardless, if you’re going to or tuning in to RAW on Monday, expect some fun segments with WWE’s new Big Dog to build this year’s Wrestlemania main event.

(CM Punk, by the way, abruptly retired in 2014, listing a litany of grievances that included the company forcing him to work while injured and sick. He now splits his time between homes in Chicago and Milwaukee while training locally to be a UFC fighter, which is pretty cool for Milwaukeeans who like to creep on celebs downtown. Side note: don’t creep on celebs while downtown.)

In 2012, the WWE women’s division was treated like a bathroom break segment and the Diva’s Championship was represented by a garish pink butterfly-shaped title belt that was probably fashioned after a tramp stamp from someone in catering. On this show, WWE Divas champ Layla defeated Natalya in about two minutes, which was the extent of the female in-ring action.

Today, fan demand and an aggressive-but-patient revamp of women’s wrestling in WWE has spearheaded a “women’s evolution” that treats the ladies as equals to the men, much to the assumed dismay of Jerry Lawler. Women’s segments often headline WWE’s shows, and that lame butterfly belt has been replaced by a legitimate WWE Women’s Championship. The titleholder currently is Alexa Bliss, a 5-foot-tall evil cheerleader that ate Harley Quinn’s soul and puked it back out over her wardrobe. It’s currently assumed that her Wrestlemania title defense will be against Asuka, a Japanese buzzsaw who hasn’t lost a match since her debut in the company in 2015. And hey! WWE is treating women like such equals that there’s even a second storyline percolating! This Monday, thrill to the continued intrigue as best friends Sasha Banks (a bling’d-out “boss” who wears ’80s-style shutter shades and happens to be one of the best woman wrestlers on the planet) and Bayley (a hugger. She hugs. That’s her thing. Trust me, it’s awesome) continue the slow implosion of their friendship and hopefully lead us to a renewal of the classic feud from their time as the top two women in WWE’s developmental brand, NXT.

In 2012, the Intercontinental Champion was The Miz, a former Real World cast member (no, seriously) who rose from barely passable segment host to beating John Cena in a title match at Wrestlemania 27. Today, the IC belt is held by—holy shit, it’s still The Miz! Now an 8-time winner of the show’s secondary belt, The Miz is one of the most valuable players on the show, cutting passionate promos week in and week out and nearly winning the fans over to his side, juuuuust before swerving back into some sick burn that triggers the boo-birds all over again. His shtick is currently one of RAW’s linchpins and the big question is who his ‘Mania IC title challenger will be: Former WWE Champion and SHIELD member Seth Rollins? Demon bodypaint cosplayer Finn Balor? Or maybe it’ll be Braun Strowman, a towering superheavyweight who engages in absurd feats of strength on a weekly basis and is one of the most popular heroes in the company right now. Tune in on Monday to watch him flip a semi truck with his bare hands, shake the gaslight building off its foundation, or punch a fucking bear, who knows? Chances are he’ll yell about someone “getting these hands,” though, and that’s always good for yuks.

Chances are the next time WWE’s in town, it’ll be at the big new house down the street, so for all those long-running Bradley Center WWE show-goers, this could be a night of reminiscing about cage matches long gone, or even of Mega-Powers exploding (that’s right—”Macho Man” Randy Savage accused Hulk Hogan of harboring lust for Miss Elizabeth in the bowels of the Bradley Center way back in 1989!). Or it’ll just be a night to get silly and yell at a bunch of highly athletic circus performers in spandex. Either way, it’ll be a night of memories, laughter, and loud, ridiculous chants that don’t mean anything. Good times.

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If you go to WWE Smackdown at the Bradley Center, don’t flip off the talent: A cautionary tale http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/wwe-smackdown-bradley-center-flip-off-talent-cautionary-tale/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/wwe-smackdown-bradley-center-flip-off-talent-cautionary-tale/#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 05:45:25 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=42081 oodness gracious, is it already time for another live WWE event at the Bradley Center? WWE’s “blue brand,” Smackdown Live, broadcasts from the soon-to-be-retired home of the Bucks this Tuesday. Why, it was just last March that the world’s top wrestling—er, “sports entertainment”—company descended on Milwaukee for the Fastlane pay-per-view. Ah, I remember March 2017 like […]

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Goodness gracious, is it already time for another live WWE event at the Bradley Center? WWE’s “blue brand,” Smackdown Live, broadcasts from the soon-to-be-retired home of the Bucks this Tuesday. Why, it was just last March that the world’s top wrestling—er, “sports entertainment”—company descended on Milwaukee for the Fastlane pay-per-view.

Ah, I remember March 2017 like it was only last spring: Charo was revealed as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars; WWE Hall of Famer and national embarrassment Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, and WWE Monday Night Raw’s Top Guy, the Universal Champion, was a doughy Canadian with a beer gut named Kevin Owens who can go a half hour in a wrestling ring despite his appearance. Owens, who famously has referred to Turner Hall—just across the street!—as one of his favorite venues to crash through a table in, was scheduled to defend his Universal Title against Goldberg, a 50-year-old relic from the 1990s WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars who gets gassed after two minutes in a wrestling ring. See, the WWE likes to do this thing around WrestleMania season where, in order to draw in lapsed fans, they push old retreads over the young workhorses that represent the future of the company. I for one was dreading the Fastlane main event, worried that Milwaukee’s favorite bad guy was being served up on the altar of nostalgia by way of a 30-second squash after a Goldberg spear and jackhammer (note: these are names of wrestling maneuvers, not physical weapons).

The rest of the card was entertaining enough. Two other Turner Hall alums, snarling badass Samoa Joe and wholesome babyface (and ska enthusiast) Sami Zayn, clashed in a hard-hitting opener. Enzo Amore, a yipping Schnauzer with a leopard-print dye job, had the crowd chanting along with all his best catchphrases before assuming his usual position on his back, getting pinned by his opponents as his tag team partner, Big Cass, tried to bail him out. The Swiss Cyborg, Cesaro, cruised to an entertaining but easy win over perennial doormat Jinder Mahal, a classic Punjabi “evil foreigner” gimmick who plays on xenophobia and sings the praises of his native India—even though he’s actually from Calgary.

As the main event approached, my wife and I got more and more nervous with each minute of show that ticked by. WWE pay-per-views generally wrap up around 10 p.m., and as the production crew prepared for the final bout, the clock creeped up on 9:55. Oh, hell, they’re really gonna let the nostalgia act with the gray goatee beat the dude 20 years his junior in 30 seconds aren’t they? God dammit.

Give our boy credit—Owens did his best to stall the inevitable, ducking out of the ring, teasing heading back in to start the match, ducking out again. But finally, just as he yelled to the ref to ring the bell, it happened: KO’s mortal enemy, the getting-up-there-but-not-embarrasingly-old-yet-even-though-he-dresses-like-your-Bon-Jovi-loving-sad-uncle Chris Jericho (who happens to be one of my all-time favorite wrestlers—oh, the irony!), appeared on the entrance ramp to distract the champion, opening him up for the inevitable spear, jackhammer, and 1-2-3 pin. Boom. Your new Universal Champion (just in time for WrestleMania!): Goldberg! Well, at least it wasn’t a 30-second match. (It was 22 seconds.)

I’d had it. This predetermined, choreographed result was a catastrophic outrage! It was paramount that I make my displeasure known, so as Goldberg celebrated on the turnbuckle facing our direction, new title belt in hand, I did what any red-blooded American wrestling fan who went to college during the Attitude Era would do: I flipped him off. I flipped him off so hard. With both fingers. I just knew I’d bum him out if he saw me. (There is zero chance he saw me.)

The people who did see me, though, happened to be Bradley Center security, and since the WWE in 2017 is a TV-PG show, and the venue is ostensibly family-friendly, they were forced to take action against the pudgy 42-year-old adult man flipping the bird at the jacked 50-year-old standing 200 feet away in his underpants. That’s right—they issued me a sternly written warning on a postcard, which I noticed after a dude behind me tapped me on the shoulder to say, “Oh, hey, one of the ushers put this on your shoulder, but it fell off.” (That’s right: they either didn’t want to deliver it to my face, or they tried and I was way too into yelling “fuck you” at someone who is likely a very nice person in real life, even if he gave Bret Hart a concussion once and forced him to retire.)

You are being issued a warning that your comments, gestures, and/or behaviors constitute excessive verbal abuse and are in violation of the Fan Code of Conduct.

This is the first and only warning that you will receive. If, after receiving this warning, you verbally abuse any spectator, performer or member of staff, you will be immediately ejected from the arena without a refund.

While cheering is heartily encouraged, and appreciated, the use or display of profane, abusive, threatening, vulgar or discriminatory language, signs, acts or behavior is strictly prohibited, as is standing for extended periods of time or other distracting actions that obstruct view or significantly impact the enjoyment of other fans.

The BMO Harris Bradley Center is committed to providing an environment where all our fans can enjoy and celebrate in the excitement of this live entertainment experience!

Please respect your fellow fans, our staff, the performers and enjoy the event!

Chastened and disciplined, I now look forward to Tuesday’s Smackdown Live (followed by an episode of WWE’s cruiserweight division showcase, 205 Live) a changed man, determined to enjoy myself in a family-friendly, wholesome manner while Jinder Mahal accuses the audience of being racist.

And what else has changed since March? Not only has Mahal (a member of Fastlane’s Monday Night Raw roster in March) moved to Smackdown, but Kevin Owens has moved to the blue brand as well, and despite his embarrassing loss to the (once again retired) Goldberg, is still one of the main attractions of the show. Sami Zayn moved from Raw to Smackdown as well, but a recent shocking heel turn has him doing less skanking and more running with the devil—his old frenemy, Owens. Enzo Amore? He’s now a main attraction on 205 Live and may be a two-time Cruiserweight Champion by the time this piece runs—and fans are starting to hate his guts almost as much as the locker room is rumored to. And that perennial also-ran Mahal—a decent character, but never someone whose in-ring work has stood out as anything above average—is now WWE World Heavyweight Champion, because the company is trying to make pandering inroads into the Indian television market.

But I make this promise to the Bradley Center—even though, once again, a local WWE live event is going to be headlined by someone the smart mark in me doesn’t want to see as champion. I’ll hold my tongue, and I certainly won’t flip anyone the bird, because I’ll be damned if I miss Shinsuke Nakamura kicking some fool’s head off. I promise to respect my fellow fans, the staff, and especially the performers. Enjoy the event, Milwaukee!

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Hey Milwaukee! Get your band out of town and check out these 5 Racine/Kenosha venues http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/milwaukee-band-out-of-town-5-racine-kenosha-venues/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/milwaukee-band-out-of-town-5-racine-kenosha-venues/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 14:10:14 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=41375 top us if this sounds familiar: you’re in a hot-shit up-and-coming Milwaukee band. You work a day job because it’s not like someone’s bankrolling you, so you don’t get to tour as much as you’d like, maybe a week or two per year. But playing Milwaukee constantly can get a little old, to say nothing […]

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Stop us if this sounds familiar: you’re in a hot-shit up-and-coming Milwaukee band. You work a day job because it’s not like someone’s bankrolling you, so you don’t get to tour as much as you’d like, maybe a week or two per year. But playing Milwaukee constantly can get a little old, to say nothing about stretching your draw a little thin. Sure, you can play once a month in Bay View and Riverwest, but not everyone refuses to leave their neighborhood for shows, so how many times can the same people come see you? If only there were some other options within an hour’s drive time that would allow you to get in front of some different crowds while still getting you back in your own bed at night and only minimally bleary-eyed at work the next day; like, maybe some smaller cities outside of Milwaukee County, but not quite as far as Chicago. But where could they be?

Racine and Kenosha are a stone’s throw south on Highway 32 and have an oddly untapped reserve of enthusiasm for new, original music. While Racine’s not necessarily known as a DIY hotbed, Kenosha has a long, rich history in hardcore punk circles, and has produced Keno-to-Milwaukee exports like Heat Death and members of Dorth Nakota while remaining home to killer, diverse acts like Fowlmouth, Donoma, and Ash Can School. Most importantly for a Milwaukee band looking for an easy trip out of town, there are a slew of bars and music venues in both cities always eager to host original bands. For Milwaukee bands, it’s really a no-brainer—who wouldn’t jump at a chance to beef up their schedule with fresh crowds while still being able to head home at the end of the night? Here’s a list of five clubs in the Racine/Kenosha area making some noise for hosting some noise.

McAuliffe’s Pub
3700 Meachem Rd., Racine
JJ McAuliffe is a rock ‘n’ roll lifer, having done a tour of duty with legendary Milwaukee space-rockers F/i. For the last 20-odd years he’s held down the fort at his two McAuliffe’s locations in Racine. The Meachem Road locale is a 125-capacity room with a black and white checkered-tile stage, full PA and monitors, and friendly regulars who have recently been graced with Milwaukee acts like Dead Is Dead, Hot Coffin, and Heavy Hand. Every December, the club holds Blankfest, a two-night party and donation drive collecting blankets for Southeast Wisconsin’s homeless. Punk, indie, metal, and sure, even cover bands fill the calendar here and are greeted with open, enthusiastic ears eager to check out anything live, even on less busy nights.

Stomatopod at McAuliffe’s. Photo: John Huston.

Hattrix
2425 60th St., Kenosha
With black textured walls framing its narrow but spacious (125 or so) performance room, the stage area of Hattrix feels like rocking out in a cave, which is appropriate because Hattrix’s crowd likes their music primitive and loud. The local flag-bearers of Kenosha’s long punk/hardcore history use this room quite a bit, and metal, thrash, and anything else with volume is welcome. The venue also until recently was one of the stops on Kenosha’s annual Ride of the Living Dead zombie pub crawl; the walls of Hattrix sweating from a throng of inebriated moshing zombies is an experience that we can accurately say sticks with you.

Evelyn’s Club Main
331 Main St, Racine
Evelyn’s may be lacking some of the amenities of McAuliffe’s and Hattrix—namely, a stage—but this humble hole in the wall on Racine’s main drag makes up for it with pure DIY gusto. Bands set up on the floor after the pool table gets moved, no cover is charged at the door, and bands get paid out of the bar—and people certainly do drink at this bar. Main booking dude Tom O’Connor is doing his damnedest to establish Evelyn’s as a destination bar for bare-bones punk rock fun, including letting Heavy Hand’s Anthony Weber organize the annual Bitterfest all-day band marathon fundraiser, which expanded to two days this past January. Sure, the sound in here is a bit bouncy, but Evelyn’s has a basement show feel, what with the fans crowding up against the band with no more than duct tape on the floor designating the “stage area.” If that’s your kind of scene, Evelyn’s will be glad to have you.

Tigernite at Evelyn’s. Photo: Dixie Jacobs.

TG’s
4120 7th Ave, Kenosha
A corner bar and grill with an expansive parking lot that buzzes with outdoor activity in the warm months, TG’s interior is a cozy, classic Wisconsin tavern, all wood grains, mirrored walls, and patterned tile. Bands generally set up behind the front window and play on the floor to crowded tables of music lovers. But while the crammed floor setup is similar in functionality to Evelyn’s, the TG’s crowd skews slightly older and generally favors more stripped-down, lower-volume fare, while still bringing the enthusiasm. The outdoor lot, of course, has more versatility and is a great place to play a midday show in front of 200 rowdy bicyclists kicking off the summer’s annual Handlebars & Bars bike crawl.

George’s Tavern
1201 N Main St, Racine
Just up the street and over the bridge from Evelyn’s is possibly the best-sounding room in town—the red-carpeted, wooden booth-trimmed dining/performance room of George’s Tavern. The egg crate foam on the stage walls combine with the carpeting to focus the on-stage sound and provide a top-notch sonic experience. The supper club décor and $6 1/3 pound burgers add to a chill, townie vibe that hosts a diverse array of tuneage, recently welcoming acts as diverse as Something To Do, WORK, and Chicago doom-shredders Jap Herron.

Jap Herron at Georges. Photo: Conan Neutron.

Don’t feel bad about choosing one venue over another to make your Racine or Kenosha debut—these clubs exist in a zone of cooperation and mutual support. You’re likely to see the Evelyn’s crew at McAuliffe’s or checking out a band at George’s if the schedule allows. Somewhere in the deep Southeast along Lake Michigan, there’s a bar for your band and a crew waiting to meet you.

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Brewcity Bruisers season opener: a first-timer’s primer http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/brewcity-bruisers-season-opener-a-first-timers-primer/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/brewcity-bruisers-season-opener-a-first-timers-primer/#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2017 06:20:41 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=30908 t’s been well over a decade since flat track roller derby began its modern revival in Austin, courtesy of the Texas Rollergirls. Since those heady days of punk rock, fishnet, and wacky names like (retired Texas skaters) Cheap Trixie and Lucille Brawl, women’s flat track roller derby has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon with 380 […]

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It’s been well over a decade since flat track roller derby began its modern revival in Austin, courtesy of the Texas Rollergirls. Since those heady days of punk rock, fishnet, and wacky names like (retired Texas skaters) Cheap Trixie and Lucille Brawl, women’s flat track roller derby has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon with 380 leagues recognized as full members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). Since 2006, Milwaukee’s own roller derby league, the Brewcity Bruisers, have evolved from a ragtag crew of novice skaters engaging in halftime pillow fights and penalty cages, to a badass crew of hard-hitting high-level athletes, albeit still with the crazy-ass names. (Our favorite new additions: Anita D’Groin and Philadelphia transfer Holden Killfield). This Saturday kicks off season 11 of Brewcity Bruiser action (seven of which have been held downtown at the UWM Panther Arena), as the defending champion Rushin’ Rollettes take on last year’s runners-up, the Crazy 8s, and the Shevil Knevils face Maiden Milwaukee.

Always been curious about catching some roller derby, but been afraid you’d have no idea what’s going on? Or maybe you’ve seen some clips and initially thought, “The hell is going on?” Hey, that’s why we’re here. Courtesy of your humble author and (full disclosure) Brewcity Bruisers announcer, Milwaukee Record is here to feed you some basics on enjoying your first night at the bouts.

1. What the hell is going on?
Basically: Roller Derby is a game where two teams, fielding five people per team, skate around a track and try to pass each other in order to score points. One person on each team is allowed to score, while the other four block, running interference on the other team while opening holes for their scorer. There are three positions:

Jammer – The jammer wears a star on her helmet and is the only skater on either team allowed to score points. A point is officially scored when the jammer’s hips pass an opposing skater’s hips.

Blocker – Blockers block, duh. Their goal is to open holes in the pack of skaters for their jammer to break through and score points, while closing ranks around the opposing jammer (the “pack” is defined as the largest group of skaters on the track with members of both teams).

Pivot – One of the four blockers on each team wears a stripe on her helmet. The stripe gives the skater the ability to accept the star covering from the jammer, should she decide to abdicate her sacred point-scoring responsibility. The pivot then becomes the jammer and takes over scoring for her team. Got it?

2. How the hell does this work?
The game is played in two 30-minute halves, divided into two-minute bursts of action called “jams.” During the jam, the jammers (who start behind the other skaters) attempt to pass the blockers and score one point per player passed. However, the jammers don’t actually score until the second pass. During the initial pass, the first jammer to break through the pack legally earns the title of “lead jammer.” Why does this matter? Because the lead jammer has the ability to stop the jam before the two-minute mark by putting her hands on her hips in a repeated motion. Why would she want to call off the jam? Well, if she manages to pass through the pack before the other jammer, she’d already have up to four points, while her counterpart may not have scored any yet. Pretty good time to stop the jam and prevent the other person from scoring, don’t you think? Once the jam is done, there’s a 30-second reset while the teams line it up and get ready to do it all again.

3. Hey, why did that skater get kicked off the track?
Probably because she committed a penalty. Like in hockey, a penalty sends a skater off the track, leaving her team to skate short-handed for the penalty’s 30-second duration. There are plenty of different infractions, but the most common ones you’ll see are illegal blocks and “cutting the track.” Illegal blocks consist of the same typical moves that are illegal in other sports: elbows, low blocks, back blocks, forearm shots to the head, use of brass knuckles, etc. Cutting the track happens when a skater is forced out of bounds, but comes back in bounds ahead of a skater that was behind them on the track when they got knocked out. Very often you’ll see a blocker knock a jammer out of bounds, then skate backwards to fall purposely behind the rest of the pack. The jammer then has to come back in bounds behind the blocker so she doesn’t draw a penalty. Strategy!

4. Which team should I root for?
Hey, we’re not your dad—pick for yourself. If you’re a fan of dominant sports dynasties, you’ll probably be a fan of the ninja-inspired Crazy 8s or the socialist sweethearts, the Rushin’ Rollettes. Out of 10 previous home seasons, these two teams have each won five titles. If your heart is typically with the underdog, check out blue-collar Maiden Milwaukee or the daredevil Shevil Knevils. That being said, all four teams have undergone some big personnel changes this offseason and all have a good amount of new blood, so it could be anyone’s year in 2017!

5. Cool, what else ya got?
Really, that’s not enough? If you wanna get even more out of your derby experience, you can check out the merch booth and get hooked up with a T-shirt, meet the skaters before, during, and after the bout, dance along with the Brewcity Beerleaders, or if you’re feeling brave, volunteer for one of the audience participation halftime games. And if you still want to learn more about the game being played on the track, you can study up at wftda.com or brewcitybruisers.com, where you can also learn the skaters’ names and decide if you’re more Sonic Ruth than Sk8ty Perry. The fishnets and cages may be a thing of the past, but the names—and the punk rock, DIY spirit of a local crew putting on the best show in town—are here to stay.

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Exclusive: Take a whiff of the latest from Lamb’s Legs, ‘A Dozen Torsos Within Spitting Distance’ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/exclusive-take-whiff-dozen-torsos-within-spitting-distance-latest-lambs-legs/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/exclusive-take-whiff-dozen-torsos-within-spitting-distance-latest-lambs-legs/#respond Tue, 10 May 2016 05:05:01 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=22859 It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from post-punk noise weirdos Lamb’s Legs. Their last release, the six-song Summer of Lamb’s Legs EP, was unleashed nearly three years ago, and in the time since, the band picked up a new bass player in Peter J. Woods, then subsequently lapsed into inactivity when Woods shipped […]

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It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from post-punk noise weirdos Lamb’s Legs. Their last release, the six-song Summer of Lamb’s Legs EP, was unleashed nearly three years ago, and in the time since, the band picked up a new bass player in Peter J. Woods, then subsequently lapsed into inactivity when Woods shipped off to Cambridge, MA for school. Somewhere in that timespan, though, the foursome managed to record their longest release to date, A Dozen Torsos Within Spitting Distance, at the dearly-departed Borg Ward with Jay Linski. Picking up where Summer of Lamb’s Legs left off, Torsos takes the bleak urban decay of their previous releases and slathers new layers of sonic experimentation and gallows humor like streaks of gravel-laden honey over Kevin DeMars’ always-punishing drums and Jeb Ebben’s sparsely fuzzed guitar.

Woods’ dexterous bass scales lend an almost jazzy sense of melody to compositions like “The Flaying Song” and the near-eight-minute “Plague Song,” providing a musical counterbalance to vocalist Bjorn Severtson’s distinctive Dave Thomas/Ian Curtis-alternating yelp/drone. The driving “I Want To Believe” is hilariously unnerving as Severtson, vocals poking in and out of the mix, speculates on which public figures may or may not be lizard people in an almost uninterested deadpan (Barack Obama: no; Rex Ryan: maybe?). But when he’s wailing “Bring out your dead!” at the end of “Plague Song,” he and the rest of the band are certainly in the moment, lurching and pulsing through sinewy guitar lines and punching as if they were sawing cadavers into teensy-weensy pieces.

Lamb’s Legs unabashedly worship at the altar of blighted art-rockers like Pere Ubu and straight-up Jandek-style oddity, churning through chilled-out sparse creepiness, twisted fall-apart sequences, and hard driving post-punk riffs with a Silly Putty pliability that’s utterly engrossing and captivating. While we have no idea when we’ll be able to experience one of Milwaukee’s most delightfully and compellingly strange bands next, at least we have new music to tide us over. Prior to the album’s May 13 digital release, tear off a warm chunk of A Dozen Torsos Within Spitting Distance, streaming in its entirely at Milwaukee Record.

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Liar’s Trial get dark on new album http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/liars-trial-get-dark-on-new-album/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/liars-trial-get-dark-on-new-album/#respond Thu, 25 Feb 2016 06:03:43 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=19841 On Friday, outlaw country combo Liar’s Trial will celebrate an album release three years in the making, as Songs About Mama, Trains, Trucks, Prison & Gettin’ Drunk finally sees the light of day after having been recorded in 2013. The band will celebrate at Linneman’s with Doghouse Flowers and The Glacial Speed, but first, frontman […]

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On Friday, outlaw country combo Liar’s Trial will celebrate an album release three years in the making, as Songs About Mama, Trains, Trucks, Prison & Gettin’ Drunk finally sees the light of day after having been recorded in 2013. The band will celebrate at Linneman’s with Doghouse Flowers and The Glacial Speed, but first, frontman Bryan Thomas, guitarist Chris Johnson, drummer Patrick Tomter, and bassist Erv Tang sat down with Milwaukee Record to discuss mama, death, drugs, and the whole point of even putting out music when you’re just going to die anyway. Uplifting stuff!

Milwaukee Record: How psyched are you guys to finally have this record out? I know it’s been a long time coming.

Bryan Thomas: Yeah, it’s gonna be one month short of three years from recording to release.

MR: Have you kind of moved away from the songs in your set already?

BT: Kinda, yeah. (laughs) We have another record we’re recording in June already with Shane (Hochstetler) again.

Erv Tang: One of the reasons why it took so long was because we had to find a new drummer to play our songs with again. And you have to get everyone acclimated, and one of the ways to do that when finding new band members is to write new songs, so yeah, we have a whole new album written now.

BT: Well, the thing is, we recorded it on a Saturday, mixed it on a Sunday, and I think (former drummer) Chuck (Engel) left that Monday for DC. And then he lived in DC for a while, moved to New Orleans, lived there for a while, came back, and the album’s still not released!

MR: It’s tough to find a drummer in Milwaukee.

ET: It’s tough to find a drummer anywhere! You gotta find a somebody that actually fits, too—it’s not just about finding somebody that’s like, “Oh yes, I’m good at keeping a tempo!” You have to find someone that meshes with the people in the band.

BT: When you’re in your mid-30s, I know a lot of people who I used to play with who just don’t. They just stopped. In our early 20s, it was so easy to find people to play with, and now it’s like, everyone’s…

Chris Johnson: Well, I go to bed early now, I can’t go to practice until 2 a.m. and get up for work in the morning and be fine. Just getting too old to pull that off. (laughs)

ET: This sounds silly and vain, but we also had a hard time with the design. This is the first actual vinyl that any of us have ever been on, and releasing something on vinyl, you wanna put a little something extra into it. I don’t wanna just slap something together.

liarstrial3MR: What made you want to do vinyl this time? The first record was digital only, right?

BT: It was digital only because we blew our budget on recording.

ET: But we don’t talk about that. (everyone laughs)

MR: I think that’s a totally valid thing to talk about, though, because a lot of bands these days are struggling with that.

ET: Exactly. In this day and age, it’s so easy to say, “Well, I just call up Spotify on my phone, and I find this band right here.” Whatever, it’s cool. They just released this record. Not actually thinking that it cost this band upwards of a thousand dollars to record. You forget sometimes how much money gets invested in this before anyone even gets to look at it.

Patrick Tomter: I have a bunch of friends in bands who’ve released an album, but didn’t do a vinyl release, and it’s sort of like there’s one night where everyone’s excited that they released an album, and then it’s almost like the album doesn’t exist anymore.

MR: So let’s talk about the subject matter of the record. It’s country music, of course, and country music often has a dark edge to it. Is that what drew you to it in the first place?

BT: My mom raised me on country when I was a kid. So it’s kind of a homecoming, almost. I can remember being on tour with a punk band I was in and making them stop in Nashville between stops so I could shop at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and they were like, “You are a fucking idiot.” (laughs)

But I’ve always been drawn to really dark shit, too. My mom died when I was really young, and that sent me into this weird depression, and alcohol abuse and shit, and a lot of that comes out in the music, even though it’s twenty-five years later. The first song on the album is called “Hard, Hard Livin,'” and it’s summed up in this one line: “It’s hard hard livin’ knowin’ everyone you love has got to die.” You build all this shit up, and regardless of what you do, everyone you love and everything you do really means nothing. It’s a very nihilistic kind of thing, because in the end, you’re worm food. That sentiment runs through every single song on the album.

My wife and I were thinking about having a kid, and we do now, we have one and one on the way, but one of our songs, “Fever Taken Hold of Me,” is about trying to reconcile the happiness of childbirth with knowing you’re imposing a death sentence on that child that you’re bringing into the world, by virtue of bringing them into the world.

MR: It’s like the sentiment of bringing a pet into the world, like, “I brought this dog into the family,” and was it Louis CK who said you’re just telling your family you’re going to be sad in fourteen years? I’ve never heard that extrapolated to a human before.

BT: It is a really hard one to reconcile! Another song, “Bad Dreams, Cocaine & Whiskey,” the punk band I was in, our singer offed himself with heroin, and it was hard to reconcile that one too, because the entire time I knew him, he wanted to die. So when he finally did it, you know, we were all sad, but it was much more of a selfish sadness because we wanted our friend there. For him though, he finally got the ultimate end that he wanted. So “Bad Dreams” is about reconciling missing your friend, but also trying to accept that he is quote-unquote “happy” and that he wanted that.

MR: So what’s the point of a creative process, of even putting anything out if the fixation is on the point where it ends and nothing matters?

PT: Well, the music’s gonna outlive you, ya know?

BT: Right. It’s catharsis. Otherwise if I don’t put it down…it’s like people writing in journals or diaries. It’s like, hey, something’s on my mind, I’ve gotta get it out, and I get can get it out in a song, and it’s a weight off my shoulders. So it’s sort of a self-medication kind of thing.

CJ: I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but maybe it’s a way of, instead of condoning nihilism, a way of fighting through it, saying, you know, this is one way of looking at it. Is it the right way, is it the way I should be looking at it? I dunno, but this is one way and maybe it’s about the struggle to get through that.

ET: Going back to even asking why put anything out physically anymore when it costs so much. I wanna make sure that something I did at some point, somebody later on that I may have no idea who they are looks at it and says, “Oh, that’s cool!” And then puts it on and maybe has some type of connection to what one of us did. And then you sort of exist through them.

MR: You’re dealing with death by…

ET: Cheating it.

MR: That’s sort of the central point of art or doing anything creative.

ET: Yeah, to make a connection that outlasts you.

Liar’s Trial will celebrate the release of Songs About Mama, Trains, Trucks, Prison & Gettin’ Drunk Friday, February 26 at 9 p.m. at Linneman’s. Doghouse Flowers and The Glacial Speed will play in support. The cover is $5, or $15 with a CD.

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The Ex and Ken Vandermark join forces at…the Sugar Maple http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/the-ex-and-ken-vandermark-join-forces-at-the-sugar-maple/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/the-ex-and-ken-vandermark-join-forces-at-the-sugar-maple/#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2015 08:00:18 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=15799 For those unfamiliar with the sort of experimental jazz and noise shows that take place in the tiny brick cube that is the Sugar Maple’s back room, the news that legendary anarcho-punks The Ex were kicking off their tour at the Bay View craft beer standby elicited equal numbers of fist pumps and head scratches. […]

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For those unfamiliar with the sort of experimental jazz and noise shows that take place in the tiny brick cube that is the Sugar Maple’s back room, the news that legendary anarcho-punks The Ex were kicking off their tour at the Bay View craft beer standby elicited equal numbers of fist pumps and head scratches. A 36-year-old, highly influential noise-rock collective that likely in some way influenced every experimental punk band that came after them is playing the Sugar Maple? What? Then again, for all of their worldwide acclaim, The Ex aren’t exactly a household name in the States, so not a lot of people were even aware the show was happening, much less confused about the locale.

When The Ex took to the stage area, set up on the floor in the back of the main room (no, they didn’t play in the back), and launched into the seven-minute-plus “Four Billion Tulip Bulbs,” the packed-in crowd of just under 100—some of whom traveled from Chicago, Marquette Michigan, and other faraway parts—had no doubts that Sugar Maple was absolutely the perfect venue for The Ex, a setting that contributed to one of the most special nights of music in Milwaukee all year.

The Ex were nothing short of a whirling, pulsing, percussive guitar-based drum circle utilizing rhythm guitars in the most literal sense; the riffs battered out of Andy Moor’s, Terrie Hessels’, and new singer Arnold de Boer’s instruments oft times resembled beats instead of chords. Songs like “Every Sixth Is Cracked” from 2013’s Enormous Door throbbed and vamped in a trance-inducing repetition unlike anything this side of The Fall until the guitars exploded in a hail of discordant, bent strings, steered into crescendos by the swirling drumming of Kat Bornefeld. A circular perpetual motion machine, Bornefeld rarely played anything resembling a standard “rock” rhythm, opting instead for her own mashup of world music patterns that would be hippie if they weren’t so punk.

Layering melody and skronk atop The Ex’s earthy clank was frequent collaborator Ken Vandermark, whose saxophone meshed flawlessly, adding sultry lead lines and chaotic squeals where appropriate. De Boer replaced band founder G. W. Sok in 2009 as lead vocalist; if there were any bumps in the road during that transition, they’ve been long since paved over. He was an impassioned force behind the microphone, bashing his guitar while delivering anthemic lines as memorable as they were subversive (“All the pilots get rich / All the passengers pay for it!” from “Maybe I Was The Pilot”).

For a bunch of crusty old anarchists who have been at this since 1979, the band was vibrant, energetic, and obviously having a killer time. Before taking a turn up front on lead vocals, Bornefeld graciously thanked the audience, remarking that it was their first time ever in Milwaukee. “It took us 36 years, but we made it!” De Boer kept the good vibes rolling, gushing about the excellent food they had earlier in the day. The vibes were returned in kind, as everyone in the Sugar Maple knew full well what a special moment this set was.

The Ex will move on from Milwaukee and play larger venues by far, and in a way, it’s too bad a groundbreaking band like this one can only fill a small bar in Wisconsin’s largest city. Then again, were they more well-known, the cool kids hip to the secret wouldn’t have been able to enjoy such a thrillingly intimate show. It’s not often bands of this caliber set up on the floor a foot from the front row, and it’s even more rare that it happens here. The Ex and Ken Vandermark at the Sugar Maple on October 20, 2015 was one of those “I was there” moments you’ll be hearing old grandpa rockers talking about in 20 years as you wonder if they’re bullshitting you. Show of the year? Show of the year.

Photo: DJ Hostettler

Photo: DJ Hostettler

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