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My Ten Favorite Wausau Musical Moments.

by on June 8th, 2008

Just so that we can get it out of the way, I am not going to include BB King or Aretha Franklin in this list. To say that Aretha and BB King are a tie for the best thing I have ever seen, well, that is like saying that the sky is full of clouds, and Nazis are bad. It just is true for me. The fact that the Grand Theatre was able to have something like that, then that is simply the sign that the Grand is an amazing place to be.

So, this list is not supposed to be your list. This is my list. I might have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time at a music venue, or work on a lot of shows, and maybe you have not seen some of this, or maybe I have not seen some of the things you think are better. I think that Wausau has a very significant musical history, and as a result, I wanted to share some of them with you.

  1. EC Scott. The third time she came to The Pub. The first two times I was there, the diva had been coming for years, and I was the new guy. I was too shy to really do anything other than be blown away by the legend. By the third time, we had become friends, and she was able to use me as a foil in the show, and I was able to at least know what was going on and not look like a fool. Her voice was so amazing, and the crowd at the pub was so big.
  2. The Lucky Stiffs at The Pub. I had retired from active duty, and I only went because Mohawk Matt had taken a financial risk getting this San Francisco band in while they were on tour. I stood there with my mouth open, and they rocked me so hard, I felt bad for every other band that ever played that stage. The show had no crowd, it felt like me and my friend Brady were having a private show with a great band.
  3. I Love Ghosts. Every time I have ever seen them. Very rarely did a band simply rise to everything I had hoped. But the brothers did, and they were perfect. They took the art of rock seriously, and did not step back at all. They often had a visual show, and they played amazing songs. This is probably one of the only bands that I thought would make it when they left town. They also had the prettiest girl fans ever.
  4. Rock and Roll High School. It is not fair to include this day, because I put the show on, but the lineup was unquestioned from top to bottom. STALL, SUNSPOT, Pocketbook Revolution, and Lower Class Citizens. All were amazing and on top of the world. It was a dark period in my life, and that night changed it. I had two of the best partners in the world for the show, and they are lifelong friends. STALL and SUNSPOT on the same stage — there is nothing better in Wisconsin music. True alternative rock in the traditional sense, true college rock, amazing rock.
  5. STALL #1. This was an amazing night. I did not book this show. The writer from the WDH, CE Hannifin, had seen them at the International Pop Overthrow in Chicago. She was the only person I knew in town who could quote Mark Eitzel to me, so I had no choice but to think she was onto something. They showed up and played hooky rock, and looked like rock guys, and I never wanted to not hear more, or book them more often. I think they are my favorite Wisconsin band ever.
  6. The Buggy Whip Break Up show. Tom Jordan, the guitar player in Buggy Whip, is my best friend. The whole band was unhappy, but honestly did not know how to end it. They were playing some gigs, getting a little money, and hating the way it was going. So, one night at Scott Street, we, as a therapeutic health center, got Tom plowed before the gig. The band played about 40 minutes, and then Tom pretty much went into an onstage coma. Unable to manage to tune his guitar, but also unable to move forward. He just sort of stood there on stage, not able to really do much. Like the statement goes, you’re not drunk if there is still a blade of grass to hold onto to stop from falling off the world. Well, Tom had fallen. The band just threw it in, packed it up and went home, never to be heard from again. We can all laugh about it now, but it was only hilarious to me at the time.
  7. The Violent Femmes at Marathon Park. This is probably up there with BB and Aretha for me, but rather than leave them off the list, I thought I would put them here. Every day for four years, my friend Jill and I would listen to two tapes in the car on the way to pick up Bill — either the Repo Man soundtrack or the first Femmes album. When I heard that Kirk Howard and the KinzieBenefits family were bringing them in, I was so excited. Literally the soundtrack of high school was there in my hometown. Me and Sullie and Kat and her husband, dancing like fools. Someone even got arrested at the show, to make it punk rock.
  8. Cuda at the wake. This one is a sort of blur. We had buried a friend of Chris’s. A man had passed, and we wanted to do something, or maybe we were trying to have a benefit before he passed, but I know he had passed. Cuda is arguably the most tasteful guitar player in town, and I respect him fully, but when he plays, he is often doing so with a smirk and a joke to let the audience out of the blues’ power. I never dug that part. But on this day Cuda just played and played and played and had very little to say. I stood in the back of the Pub, in the kitchen door really, and watched as he sort of played a song to his friend in a way most people missed. He never really joked; he just played the blues, and sang the songs, and maybe somewhere in that he felt a little better. I know that he looked really tired and ready to cry when it was done eight hours later. No one ever told the Brain to stop, not ever, and not to this day.
  9. Scott Holt #1. Scott would go onto become one of my best friends in the whole world, but at the time I had no idea who he was. It was a Thursday, and the Pub was packed to see Buddy Guy’s young guitar prodigy on his own. Scott had just left the band of the legend, and was on the road with Leo Lyons and Geno Haffner. I knew we would be friends when I went downstairs to get him for an encore, and he was doing jumping jacks. His was a real desire for greatness onstage, not just a check.
  10. Cheap Trick at State Park Speedway. I did not know it at the time, and I probably do not still get it, but seeing that legendary band at the height of their power, formed so much. It was my first rock concert by myself. It was awesome.

Some Honorable Mentions.

• Jim Carlson show number 13,001 — This was the first time Jim sang American Music by the Femmes. Before the Femmes show, I asked him to do it, and he did it. I stood back by the soup at the pub, and was knocked out.
• Joe Bonamassa after Big Bull. Joe showed up, got onstage with West Side Andy, and in less than 30 minutes, blew the whole band off the stage. It was awesome to watch the young guard take over.
• Jeff Gay and the Straights. Every time, but especially the naked show.
• SUNSPOT. The drunken show. I think we have an audiotape of this somewhere.
• Tony Brown and Natty Nation at The Pub, together. It was a sweat show in there.
• Led Devil at Ballyhoos. Just a few weeks ago. This band showed up to remind us all that they are better than your average local metal band.
• Little Blue Crunchy Things. Every time. Finally real rock stars showed up. And we could look like a rock town.
• The Wandering Sons. So good.
• Chico Banks surprises the town at Blues Café with Jimmy Johnson.
• Pachinko. This was just simply wrong. We all got dirty on our souls that weekend.

Especially the Naked show.

We have an amazing summer of stuff coming up. I look forward more and more each day to new bands coming out of more garages and showing us all that rock and roll never dies. It is blessing to listen to loud music live, in public. Something that never gets old.
Thanks. What about you?

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