Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Milwaukee: The Best Place? We're Vinyl Vagabonds?

Whilst visiting the fair city of Milwaukee, thou shalt imbibe large quantities of delicious local beer, huff down cheddar cheese, bike everywhere, and listen to piles of vinyl records.  Check. Check. Check. Check.  The last may be the more challenging of the activities seeing as beer and cheese are amazing, affordable, and available everywhere, and everyone bikes (this may not be the case during snowy wintertime, but that will be another trip).  Thanks to Pabst Best Place tavern, we were able to satisfy our last criteria. Miraculously, the VVers were able to enjoy an amazing all vinyl music night.

How did this amazing event happen you might ask?  While looking up things to do in Milwaukee in advance of the trip, we came across Best Place at historic Pabst brewery and just so happened to notice a "Retro Vinyl Night" the first Thursday of the month.  They had not yet scheduled the August events yet, but the spark had been lit!  Out of pure nothing-to-lose enthusiasm, VVer #2 emailed to request a vinyl night for our upcoming visit; letting them know we are in fact the Vinyl Vagabonds and we love Milwaukee.  Not only was the reply yes, but we got a choice of music that we wanted: albums from the 60's-80's or mostly 45s with a Motown vibe.  We opted to have Best Place arrange for either DJ that was available and let them know we would be sure not to miss out.  Basically, pick "the best one."  The VVers had a late arrival since we were busy catching up on free late-night art over at the incredible Milwaukee Art Museum, but we eventually made it to find quite a nice set-up.  Steve Kauth, our DJ, brought in all his handmade wooden crates of vinyl (maybe 15+) as well as two humongous movie theater-type speakers, stereo rig, lava lamps, and turntables.   He encouraged us to go up and rummage through the records and pick out some stuff that looked "interesting."  Steve was very welcoming and stated that he goes through all of this trouble (this was a huge amount of gear for one guy to lug) because "I enjoy it, sharing this with people."  After a short time he also asked "where are your people?" and seemed a little disappointed that we didn't bring in a crowd.  Apparently the Vinyl Vagabonds don't have much pull in Milwaukee just yet ... sorry Steve.

First record pulled out from the crates featured GODZILLA and KING GIDORAH on the cover!  AWESOME!

We ended up picking out a few interesting things and having a goofy/fun night. Unfortunately Steve refused to play the Godzilla record Slitherama (billed as teen trash from psychedelic Tokyo circa 1966-1969) and instead played these other vinyl guys' recent purchases.  It is worth mentioning that the other guys were well toasted and highly enthusiastic about their newly bought records so it seemed best to not interfere.  Who are we to harsh on people and their love of newly purchased vinyl?  Godzilla is the only one allowed to judge.

Oh, you want more stories about our record escapades in Milwaukee?  Ok, well we should mention that we also went and checked out No Bails and Static Eyes at Circle A.  This small, homey bar in a northern neighborhood was pretty much as close as you can get to being at a house show; literally in the living room of a house.  After the awesome show we picked up a Static Eyes/Drugs Dragons split single with a hand screened cover that also is the artwork for the 45.  Friggin a!  Haven't heard of Static Eyes?  The VVers randomly caught them at a Windian record label show in DC a while back and VVer #1 remembered they were from Milwaukee.  Garage punk sound; check them out.  Seeing them live is a psyched out experience, not for the meek.  From their Facebook description: "SNOTTY, FUZZ STOMP FROM THE MIDWEST! ROCK AND ROLL, STRAIGHT UP, NO FILLERS, NO SWEETENERS."

Too Much Mustard?!?
It's fair to say that while en route from Chicago to Milwaukee a stop in Madison (not exactly on the way) is worth your time.  The lakes, school campus, terraces, downtown, and National Mustard Museum are all amazing.  On the outskirts of the downtown is Strictly Discs.  Apart from having a stellar ground floor area well stocked with a plethora of new and used vinyl, they have a basement.  VVer #2 tried to warn VVer #1 not to go in the basement.   "You don't want to go in the basement!  Nothing to see here."  There was no way VVer #1 would heed the half kidding warnings.  Although hours could have easily been spent down there we made sure to set a reasonable time limit and then VVer #1 proceeded to ignore that.  The subterranean cellar was incredibly well organized and stocked with unusual discs.  We managed to pick up a copy of Urge Overkill Now that's the Barclords/What's this Generation Coming To? from the Sub Pop singles club circa 1991.  On transparent yellow vinyl, only 5,000 ever printed.  It's a neat-o find that happens to sound completely different than the LP release and happened to also fit easily into our luggage.  We also managed to find a cool vinyl wedding present which we cannot disclose any information about at this time, except that it also was luggage appropriate.  We'll let them post about it after our friends get hitched.

Are you catching the trend that the VVers are very conscientious about the weight of their luggage and seem to only pick up 45s while visiting other cities?  It's a great policy to follow.  They are portable, not going to set you back a whole lot, allow you to get a wide variety of music (usually local), and don't weigh as much as those damn 180-gram monstrosities.

Oh, by the way, Vinyl Vagabonds, who is us, now have issues 3 and 4 of our handcrafted zine on sale at Chicago's very own Quimby's (shout-out for them actually reading our zine and writing a mini-blurb about each issue!).  Haven't been?  It is a store.  It has books, comics, and zines.  You may like it.  Go now.   Browse books.  Crease comics.  Peruse and thumbprint zines.  Purchase the best ones.  Best!

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