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For this week’s Patreon-only article, I was planning to dig up a bunch of my old LiveJournal entries from 20 years ago (remember LiveJournal?) and laugh at how full of shit I was back then. Unfortunately, I could only find a few examples from those strange and distant days. Most of them went something like this:
Staring at you from 1,000 miles away, I’m only reminded of the passing of time. The way your eyes opened up and swallowed the constellations formed by the moles on your face.
I want to live in a place where no one goes to sleep, and no one knows the names of the seasons.
Yeesh. Can you imagine an entire column filled with that junk? I can’t. LET’S TALK ABOUT SHOWS INSTEAD.
I’m pretty sure the first show/concert I saw in Milwaukee was a big one: Lollapalooza ’94. This would have been Lolla’s fourth year as an alternative-celebrating alternative festival, back when it was a traveling concern filled with side stages and freak shows and Perry Farrell. The ’94 Milwaukee stop took place inside and immediately outside the Marcus Amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds on July 14. I don’t have a ticket stub from the show, but I’m guessing admission was something ridiculous like $15.
Take a gander at some of the pages from the program and FEEL the ’90s wafting over you:
I would have been 16 that summer, and I remember making the 60-minute drive from Mayville to Milwaukee with a car full of giddy and giddily stoned friends. Our friend Kim (not her real name) was not only tripping on acid during the ride, but she had BROUGHT a bunch of acid to sell at the show. God bless you, Kim. I read somewhere that acid is hard to come by these days, and that the ’90s were kind of a heyday for the drug. Can anyone confirm? The last time I dropped acid was in 2000 when I was staying at the Napa Valley cottage of some old-school ’60s San Francisco hippies. They made their own shit and every morning they would wake you up by dropping some of it on your tongue from an eyedropper. “You have to double up in the morning!” they would say. They were also full-time nudists and part-time piano teachers and they had invented a golf/croquet hybrid called “crowlf” and you bet your sweet ass I’ll be writing about this next month.
ANYWAY. The lineup for Lollapalooza ’94 was kind of ridiculous: Smashing Pumpkins topped the bill, followed by the Beastie Boys, George Clinton, The Breeders, A Tribe Called Quest, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, L7, and the Boredoms. Jesus!
This was the year that Nirvana was supposed to have headlined the festival. The band had turned down a lucrative offer back in April, and just a few days later Kurt Cobain was gone. Crazy. I remember Cobain’s memory loomed large over the festival; almost all the bands talked at length about him, and at one point between sets the sound folks played “All Apologies” over the PA. I had smuggled a micro-cassette tape recorder into the show (how very era-appropriate of me) and I recorded the “All Apologies” moment. You could hear a pin drop.
Sigh. Here’s another page from the program, along with a picture I took of The Breeders. Great shot, Matt!
The Second Stage was located outside the amphitheater, kind of where the BMO Harris Pavilion is today. That lineup was equally stacked: The Flaming Lips, The Verve, Luscious Jackson, Rollerskate Skinny, and Milwaukee’s own The Frogs. (Two other Second Stage bands that didn’t play the Milwaukee stop: Guided By Voices and Stereolab. Jesus.)
I remember being pretty blown away by The Frogs because, well, just look at ’em:
That black box, by the way, is covering up the band’s drummer, Dennis Flemion, who was wearing blackface. Yeah. The Frogs were the kind of band that absolutely could not (and probably should not) exist today: a couple of straight white guys from Wisconsin (brothers Dennis and Jimmy) who gleefully dunked on racists and homophobes by adopting racist and homophobic imagery. Hell, even the cover of one of the band’s records featured Dennis in blackface. They were kind of great and they had a ton of famous fans (Billy Corgan and Eddie Vedder among them), but, um, yeah. Kids, ask your parents. (R.I.P. Dennis Flemion, who drowned in 2012.)
Years later, in 2002, my band (Holy Mary Motor Club) opened for The Frogs at the Cactus Club. According to my preserved-via-the-Internet-Archive show notes…
The show was a bloody, sweaty, car-destroying thing of beauty. Matt wore ankle-weights and shorts, resulting in a fine workout. Monica unveiled the much-talked-about llama poster, with additional carpentry work done by Sam. Ross got in a minor traffic accident later in the evening, leading to bruised egos and broken hearts. Thanks to everyone for coming out, especially considering the $8 cover that resulted in a mere $50 for the HMMC. Oh well, we shall learn to thrive on love alone.
Huh. Before digging this up I always thought The Frogs more or less stiffed us when it came to payment—but shit, $50 for the opening band isn’t bad. Also, it’s hilarious that I was grousing about an $8 cover.
AND NOW LET’S JUMP AHEAD 18 YEARS AND TALK ABOUT MY LAST MILWAUKEE SHOW (FOR NOW).
In keeping with today’s ’90s Throwback Night, my last pre-pandemic Milwaukee show was They Might Be Giants at the Pabst Theater on March 5. Because of course it was. I love They Might Be Giants. I really, really love them. In my Q&A-style review of the show, I included this exchange:
Q: How long did this reviewer make it before he started crying?
A: Four songs! I’m not sure why, but “We Want A Rock” really got to me. Maybe it was because it reminded me of how long I’ve loved this band and how much they still mean to me. Maybe it was because it took me back to junior high, listening to my Flood tape alone in my bedroom; or to my 20s, listening to the same Flood tape alone in my car; or to my 30s, listening to Flood on my phone. Or maybe it was because it conjured up that very specific “these are my people” feeling I only get at TMBG (and Weird Al) shows, and how it reminded me that I am, in fact, not alone. Why is the world in love again, indeed.
Like I said, I love They Might Be Giants. I’m glad they were my last Milwaukee show (for now), but gee whiz, I can’t wait for them not to be. Like, I can’t wait for shows to start up again. You get the idea.
Thanks for reading and supporting us on Patreon! Stay safe! Here’s another LiveJournal entry from 2001. BARF.
We’re often alone in the dark. We talk quietly, our eyes unfocused and searching. When your voice drops down below a whisper, I tilt my head to one side, bring my face closer to yours. You talk for hours, your breath forming clouds above our heads. I close my eyes, and your voice seems like syrup. I imagine it pouring from your open mouth, covering my eyes, my ears, my entire body, pulling me down into a thick sleep. When the night finally ends and I wake up the next morning, I’m swimming in an ocean of it.
I feel good, but quiet. I feel like I need to hold on to something before I blow away.