Join Waukesha resident Brien Lee and his blog, Sir Fido, as they explore the city and report on the interesting things they find.
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Several news items caught my eye last week. The series is over now, but I thoroughly enjoyed John Schoenknecht's Freeman columns on the County Fair. I especially enjoyed reading about ballooning at the fair and had no idea it went as far back as 1880!
Last Tuesday I could smell burning wood outside work. Some coworkers were talking about the smell coming from Minnesota. No way! It was verified to be coming from northern MN and I could hardly believe it. No idea you could smell something from 400 miles away.
I noticed something besides the thin crowds for last Friday's Freeman Friday Night Live. When I glanced at the night's lineup in the Freeman it struck me as heavier than normal on the country, folk and bluegrass end. The Smith Brothers, Apple Jam, Spring City Grass and The Cathouse Drifters all were playing that night. As expected, the crowds were down, but not because of the music. A few drops of rain earlier and cooler temperatures brought most, but not all, of the bands inside.
I noticed something else downtown Friday. There were almost as many upright basses downtown as audience at some of the stages. Lynda and Cheryl of Spring City Grass took turns playing Emily's upright bass while she performed in the opening night of Waukesha Civic Theater's musical Smoke on the Mountain. The upright bass in the musical is also played by more than one person. The Cathouse Drifters and Apple Jam also play an upright bass. A minimum of six people were playing an upright bass in Waukesha Friday night. Kind of unusual.
I went back Saturday to see the musical at the Civic Theater. I wasn't the only one enjoying the bluegrass gospel music in the packed theater, but I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone. I've followed bluegrass since my teens and especially like the old time stuff. The setting for the play is a revival meeting in 1938. There's some testifyin', but mainly it's one old time gospel song after another accompanied by mandolin, banjo, guitar, upright bass, fiddle, autoharp, spoons, tambourine, voice and washboard. There's about 25 songs in the two hours of the musical. The actors are nothing if not versatile. If you go, notice how many different people play each instrument.
This photo borrowed from Carroll Studios of Photography.
Accoustic, old time, bluegrass, gospel . . . probably not a lot of followers in the Waukesha area, but it was very enjoyable for me and well done, even though many of the tunes were unfamiliar. Thank you to sponsors The Freeman and Wisconsin Arts Board. Funds were also provided by the State of WI and the National Endowment for the Arts.