An Open Letter to @WJJO

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Many of my posts over the last year or so have been about music. Something about setting up a playlist for a story I am working on just clicked. It kept my mind focused while writing, and gave a real cohesion to the project. At the same time I became more involved in the music scene around my home town. I went to more concerts than I had in decades. I went to a couple of Sound Lounges at WJJO, the local rock station. I petitioned the help of morning show newsperson (and fellow zombie fanatic) Dee in coordinating a rock playlist for Under the Hood. And I went to remotes the show did. Beer, swag and music? What’s not to love, right?

rockfestAt one of these (a scavenger hunt of all things) I won a pair of day passes to Rock Fest in Cadott, WI. This past weekend my wife and I took our day up there, getting a hotel room to avoid camping on site. This was an extraordinary idea, but I will get to that later. In short, we chose to go Thursday. The first two days had the bands I was most interested in, but Thursday had both Aranda and Halestorm. And while I had seen Aranda at the Acoustic New Year (I wasn’t kidding about hitting the local music scene), I had yet to see Halestorm live. And what with me using a couple of their songs on the second Hood Series project, it made sense that I should go to see them.

umbrella-rockfestI was a little concerned by the fact the weather report was showing a heat advisory, with the index pushing close to triple digits, and thunderstorms starting around the same time Halestorm was supposed to take the stage. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me there. But as I had sat in the rain during Bratfest to see Wayland, I figured I could easily do the same for Halestorm. Also, we were paying for the hotel either way. So I packed an extra full set of dry clothes (just in case) and we drove up.

The drive was fairly uneventful. We stopped for gas and sodas. As we got closer, we stopped for coffee. My wife, getting her directions mixed up, told me to turn the wrong way for McDonalds. She loves their coffee. Me, not so much. But we were “up nort” as some of the folks up that way put it. Still, as we were going the wrong way anyhow, we stopped in to the cheese, liquor and antiques shop behind the gas station with the Arby’s in it. They claimed to have espresso. Surprisingly, they did and it wasn’t that bad.

rockfest-lightsWhy do I bring this up? I discuss this as only my wife can turn me the wrong way for coffee and wind up finding a vintage blowtorch and wrench for her steampunk costume. I am not even kidding. McDonalds would have been cheaper. Though, in her defense… the pieces she picked up were really awesome looking.

Getting to the motel at around 1:00, they had told us we could get our keys early so we can get in after the concerts. Of course they just allowed us to check in early since the room was open. Which was awesome. We got to unpack the truck, rest a bit and then head out to the show. They opened the gates at 3:00, so we had some time.

aranda-pointsIt was a pretty easy process to get in, get out wristbands and park for the day. And so we stood in line to get in. It was at this point I noticed the majority of the people were either in shorts and no shirt or women wearing bikini tops. That made the notice at the gas station that women had to wear something over their bikini tops make more sense. It made things painfully evident that the crowd was looking pretty similar to the crowds we used to get at Festa Italia. Crowds that I think we have lost the ability to draw in, but are working on bringing back.

Also, it honestly made me feel even more old than the grey in my beard did. 😉

aranda-singsRobin took her camera and went into the photo line to go up and take pictures when Aranda took the stage as the opening act. I stuck behind on the lawn with the camera bag. I figured the less space we took up there, the better chance she would have to take pictures. Turns out I was probably right. It was just before this we figured out that we should have brought camper chairs. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

She came back to where I was standing on the lawn with a number of excellent shots. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that Gabe might have been hamming it up for the camera a bit. Which of course made for some of the best shots. During the rest of their set we picked up some water, grabbed drink tickets for the day and sat in the Leinies Lodge to listen to the rest of the set.

aranda-playsFast forward a couple of beers, several waters and Dickey’s BBQ later and we are spending a half hour between All That Remains (which was a pretty hard core set as well, much different than Aranda, but still good) and Halestorm sitting in the truck for the AC. No clouds on the horizon yet, so we may get lucky. Once heading back in to the festival to grab another drink before Halestorm takes the stage though we get hit by the wind. I don’t mean a breezy day wind, either. I am talking a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of wind. Nothing damaging. At least not to structures.

halestorm-hitting-itThe storms avoided us, but what it did do is kick up the pollen. And around these parts, at this time of the year, that can totally mean snake weed. Not sure the scientific name, but it is a white ditch weed that had been used back before pharma-days to treat snake bites. In my case, it kicks me on my ass. Seriously, it is like zombie-boy kryptonite. By the time we were into Seether’s set I was in the middle of my worst allergy attack in a decade.

That said, Halestorm’s set was pretty awesome. Right before playing American Boys/Rock Show, she picked out a kid (probably around 8 or so) in the front area with his parents rocking out. Seriously, the kid was throwing up the horns and everything. Arejay brought out the “big sticks” during his drum solo. I swear it was like he was kicking the shit out of his kit with a pair of escrima fighting sticks.

joe-rockingRobin hung out and took a bunch of pictures (likely for longer than she should have, but that’s the reason you bring an SLR with huge ass lenses to the show). She didn’t get a picture of the “big sticks” but plenty of shots, including a couple with Lzzy playing in front of the drums, managing to get both her and Arejay in some shots. And most importantly, I was able to sit and watch them play the two songs on my Hood Series playlist for book two. Two of the three theme songs I set for my pissed off villain in the book.

Like putting the paddles to the muse.

lzzy-hornsEven with the allergy attack kicking my ass all the way to Sunday… (hell, I’m still recovering) I had a hell of a time. The people at WJJO have reinvigorated my muse and my love of music. Live music. There is a difference between good music and a band that puts on a show. And honestly this is one of the best prizes I have won from various contests and drawings. Ranks right up there with the Kindle Fire that is an invaluable tool for doing my reviews.

If you’re in the Wisconsin area (Madison specifically) and are into rock and roll, this is the station to listen to. It is also one of the places to check out for live music in the area. They book it, promote it and keep it going. Listen to them, support them, because art isn’t just photos, paintings and storytelling. It’s cupcakes, decorated and flavored to your theme or book. It’s live music, especially if it is a show and not just a band.

And to the staff over at JJO, I can’t thank you enough. See you at Band Camp!

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