Tuesday, Jan. 12th, 2010

The Old Fashioneds: straight up and sweet

I had the privilege of attending a practice session of Eau Claire’s newest supergroup last night: The Old Fashioneds. Comprised of The Sidekicks/Electric Range’s Jeff White (vocals), Electric Range’s Tony Campbell (bass), solo folkster Greg Gilbertson (electric), Easychair’s Bronson Bergeson (pedal steel), and Excellent Adventure’s Bill Hamilton (drums/vocals), this diverse group of seasoned musicians play straight up country. And not the “pop with a twang” kind of country; this is the old, singer-songwriter kind of country. “Jeff called me up one day and said, ‘I’m putting this thing together, and we were hoping you’d come down and play drums,’ ” Bill said. “So I said ‘absolutely.’ … I can’t believe the group of guys he put together here.” With a suitcase substituted for a bass drum as the visual centerpiece, The Old Fashioneds play the likes of Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, and George Jones as well as a few of White’s originals. You’re not going to find a better “stripped down, beer drinkin” country band in the Chippewa Valley. Not a chance.

The Old Fashioneds’ first live show is Thursday, Jan. 14 at 8:30pm at Haymarket Grill and their second gig is at the same venue on Feb. 18. 

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Monday, Jan. 11th, 2010

The noble barstool race

Your challenge: find a barstool and get building, because the Brown Hut Barstool Races are set for February 20. Barstool races fall under the same category as “dunk the clunker” contests and polar plunges. A barstool race is the bastard child of soapbox derbies, bobsledding, winter boredom, and ... probably beer. Contestants attach skis (and whatever else they want) to a barstool, and one lucky competitor gets pushed by their teammates down a hill. Brown Hut bartender Chandra Steinke says she got the idea for the race from customers who went to similar events in Drummond (where they happen annually) and at The Kyote's Den in Menomonie (where the races are sadly defunct). Last year’s race saw five sleds and 100+ spectators. This year, there are prizes for fastest stool and “best in show.”

Brown Hut (2525 N 110th Ave, Chippewa Falls) will host their race on Feb. 20 at 1pm. It costs $25 to enter, and you must be 21 or older. Call Chandra at 579-1856 for more info.

P.S. There's a popular non-sled variety of barstool racing, too.

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What we do to survive

On the way to work today, I was driving behind a little station wagon and both the driver and passenger were doing that thing where you reach out your window and grab the windshield wiper as it swoops by so you can slap it onto the glass and dislodge ice from your crappy blades. After a while, you get pretty good at it. And if you can do it while zipping down I-94, driving in the unplowed passing lane, behind a semi, whilst blasting Molly Hatchet upon the stereo ... well, then you’re at the expert level.

That got me thinking about the unique skill set you develop growing up in snowy places. I know how to drive up icy hills, build your basic snow fort, navigate frozen sidewalks in dress shoes, and work a snowblower. I know people who can winterize their bicycle and other people who can waterproof formerly non-waterproof boots. And someone out there has gotta know how to remove the dreaded "ice on the inside of the windshield," right?

What else is there? What other environment-bred skills do we Midwesterners possess?

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Friday, Jan. 8th, 2010

This Weekend: It's Ragtime Time, Baby!

Get geared up for days two and three of the Eau Claire Ragtime Festival – the Valley’s premier ragtime-based event. If you like ragtime music, well, quite frankly, you’d be an insane idiot to not attend some part, if not all of the Ragtime Fest. And we mean that. We seriously mean that.

Anyhoo, RagFest started yesterday, but there’s a whole lot left. Besides the pre-concerts, afterglows, dinners, concessions, piano lounges, sing-a-longs, root beer floats, silent films, extreme open piano, and other festivities throughout the weekend, you can look forward to Saturday’s main concerts: Pianos on Fire at 2pm and A Night in the Barrelhouse at 7pm.

And, goodness, let’s not forget about Sunday’s ragtime worship. See the fest’s website for a full schedule of ragtime awesome.

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Thursday, Jan. 7th, 2010

Look at Lookbook

This video has been out for a few months but I just finally got around to posting it. Eau Claire's own Maggie Morrison, front-woman for the Mpls band Digitata (made up of other former Eau Clairians) has had a new project kicking for a while now called Lookbook. Unfortunately for whatever reason, Digitata made it to EC to play much more often than Lookbook has. Morrison, along with beat-maker Grant Cutler, have been amasing some praise and airplay from a couple of EPs and a full-length release. Below is an extremely well-done video for "Over and Over" from their album "Wild at Heart." 

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Wednesday, Jan. 6th, 2010

Menomonie Goes East

To help offset the costs of renovating and opening Menomonie's new art co-op Gallery 111, co-owner Hannah Schroeder met with local musicians to contribute songs for a CD which they could sell. The CD, East of the River, features songs donated by all-girl folk trio Feathe, former The New Science member Savannah Smith and the acoustic/electronica The New Audrey and more. See the full list here.

The CD is available for $5 and can be purchased at Gallery 111 (111 Main Street E., Menomonie) when it opens Jan. 11 or by e-mail request at gallery111.menomonie@gmail.com.

Look forward to a full article on Gallery 111 in Volume One's Jan. 28 issue.

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Winter After Hours

You know, a lot of people around here are complaining right now. About the cold. About the snow. About the way their nostril hairs freeze as soon as they step outside. It’s almost as if they’re mad at Wisconsin for ... being Wisconsin. We’re not sure why they live here if it bothers them so much. Maybe they should shut up and move to Canada Mexico.

Luckily, you are not among those people. Luckily, you embrace the cold. You don’t mind seeing your breath freeze. You don’t call a few feet of snowfall a “blizzard." You know how to drive your car up an icy hill. You own real boots. You dress in layers. You, dear friends, are true Wisconsinites. And Volume One has something for you ...

Get ready for some some wintertime snow-cializing at our newest event – Winter After Hours – on Thursdays, 6-8pm, Jan. 14 through Feb. 25 in Eau Claire’s Boyd Park. We’ve teamed up with the city’s Parks and Rec department to host these outdoor winter evenings featuring:

  • • Ice skating around Boyd's new, curvy ice loop (with on-site skate rentals)
    • A torchlit snowshoeing path (with on-site shoe rentals from Beaver Creek)
    • Snow sculptures from local, award-winning snow carvers
    • Hot wintertime drinks
    • Winter Kubb play
    • Wintery music
    • A fire pit
    • Boyd Park’s convenient warming house/bathrooms

Winter After Hours is sponsored by Volume One, Eau Claire Parks and Rec, Beaver Creek Reserve, Hillside Dental, Metropolis Resort, Play It Again Sports, Quality Management Services, and That's Adorable. Lots more details here.

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Tuesday, Jan. 5th, 2010

Dreaming Brett Favre

Here’s a little teaser for an essay from the next issue – a piece about a dream writer Nickolas Butler had about Mr. Brett Favre ...

  •     By all rights, I still ought to hate Brett Favre. I live in Wisconsin in a blue-collar cheesehead neighborhood where people still wince at the mention of his name. I even once worshipped the man in that uncomfortable way adult males idealize other adult male athletes. And, a few weeks ago, Favre torched my Packers and looked like the Favre of old, a betrayal of epic proportions. But something odd happened a few nights ago that cleansed me of my ephemeral hatred of the man.
  •     Dreams are an easy conceit for writers, but I must confess that this dream is authentic, no doubt a product of afternoons of NFL football on the television and years of commercials layered over my psyche like paint. I had fallen into a deep sleep and at some point, late in the evening, I began dreaming. The dream was cinematically vivid. In my dream, I was in a Wranglers commercial with Brett Favre. That Wranglers commercial. Surrounded by the guys I once played high school football with, we populated a moist, verdant football field somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Our coach was even there, pot-bellied and hoarse of voice. And I was the star of this Wranglers commercial. The soundtrack was loud Credence Clearwater Revival, and on the field, all of us laughed and grab-assed in a carefree way, but no two men more intimately or happily than Brett and I. He even leaned on me and talked trash into my ear. At one point, he might have lifted me off the earth, a la Donald Driver, my legs kicking fruitlessly in the autumn air.
  •     I am aware that here the dream takes on a benign but decidedly PG “Brokeback” quality ...

Read the rest in the Jan. 14 issue.

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Local curlers crawl from the frosty woodwork

You may have heard about Volume One’s initiative with the EC Curling Club to launch a new starter league on Monday nights this winter. Well, last night’s curling lesson (the first of three freebies) was a huge success as roughly 120+ people showed up to try out the game and grab a free beer from that night’s sponsor – Fat Tire Beer (New Belgium Brewing). The night started with a huge line of people out the door waiting to sign a waiver and play, and it was everything the curling expert volunteers could do to keep up.

We immediately had to expand the new league from 8 to 16 teams (which we hoped for) and there’s already have a waiting list of 3-4 more teams wanting to play as well (so like 20 total). In fact, the club is now looking to give us another partial night for the league, Sunday or Tuesday, so we can accommodate all the new interest.

So! If you were still thinking of coming to one of the free curling lesson nights on (Sunday Jan. 10 or Monday Jan. 11) you totally still should because there may end up being a whole additional night of curling! Check out the curling club's thoughts over on their blog, including a whole bunch of great pictures (like the one above).

We couldn't be happier about all this. Go winter 2010, yo.

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