Recent Updates Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Brümeister 9:10 pm on February 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , The Greatest War   

    About Last Year And What Comes Next: Looking back on 2018 and ahead to 2019: Part 3: The Greatest War and the Last First Friday. 

    How about this new wordpress format hey? Readers may not know but bloggers you know what I mean….

    So if you read part one and two you know the Milwaukee Polka Riot was every bit as epic as anything we’d done up to that point and then we followed it up by opening for Brave Combo, who are as epic a band as any we’ve encountered. We managed to release our EP The Black Hand.
    We achieved more things in the 2018 than we had imagined when we first formed and started writing music. Then we took part in something that much like our participation in Dontre Day in 2017 allows us to add our unique sound to a moment of historical significance and collective remembrance. It was a moment where many of our personal beliefs about things like violence and war along with goals for what our music can add to the cultural conversation.

    NTSC Take the Wheel!

    But first we had to get there.

    Now I am not going to say much because I love my brother NTSC to death. Seriously, anybody rushes the stage to touch him I will stop them and ask if they are nice touches first.  

    Spade ONE can’t stop giggling for some reason…

    However, given that we have access to a van the choice to drive compact an hour and half to Madison was an

    Best Hip Hop producer nominee Kevin Christensen cheesing in the back seat as Brümeister shrugs off the pain

    interesting one. Sure gas is a thing but so is comfort and I arrived grumpier than I needed to be for the Greatest Show of 2019.

    Now, I don’t know how much

    ARRIVAL @ The Barrymore Theater.

    as actually been written about this event. I know it is likely not enough. Let me tell you about an event that was very close to our hearts and very much in the vain of what we as a band are about. 

    Pulling up to the Barrymore Theater

    we saw the name of the show in the marquee. Being a keg of Milwaukeeans we don’t often get to explore every portion of Madison but we could tell this had potential.

    The excitement in the car however, had more to do with being able to get out and stretch our legs. Admittedly, it was short journey but it had left its mark.

    We found our way inside and caught our first glimpses of the big screen that would be behind us showing photos and film footage from the War to End All Wars.

    The poster in the lobby (I still want one!) and the soon to be merch area.

     

    Somehow we managed to keep our composure as we were informed during the practice run through that 500 tickets had already been sold. The production was halfway to selling out. Obviously we were not alone in this venture. In fact! It wasn’t even our idea… though we may have inspired it.

    We first met, and played a show with, John from The Periodicals back in 2017. That we were a Polka Hip Hop band was already novelty enough but that our lyrics contained a histrionic awareness that stretched into metaphor and back again inspired a conversation. The Armistice 100 was coming up. This we were all aware of. My hope was to be a part of something. A show. A memorial service. Something. You can’t just name your project November Criminals without being aware of where that name comes from…unless you’re a crappy teen thriller.

    Though the name wouldn’t be popularized in Germany until the mid to late 1920s the origin of November Criminals starts with the end of World War One. It’s the deragotory name for the politicians and Generals that signed the Treaty of Versailles but it also became the name used for anyone that was seen to have pacifist leanings or be generally non-nationalist. The joke is (if you don’t know by now) that “Music Nazis” hate November Criminals. But if we’re doing our job right hopefully not as much as actual Nazis.

    Of course the end of World War One paves the way for an enormous cultural shift all over the globe. But the price paid was in blood. Marking the armistice however is difficult to do. History moves seemingly so much faster now with every day a renewed struggle against white nationalism taking place in real time on cable news. And now with the last members of the so-called Greatest Generation of Americans passing on our history seems to be muddled beyond what was captured on film in the 1940s.

    The program we were part of hit it out of the park. When we next met John in person we were performing at the WORT block party. He had some exciting news and new friends to introduce us to. Ken Fitzsimmons from The Kissers had an idea that he wanted to share with us. He and John along with some other friends were planning a show to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice. I think we all knew that we needed to be a part of something as historically relevant as this.

    There was a time when I myself would have tried to organized something like this but I knew my resources were limited in Milwaukee and I had no way of knowing what the support for something like this would be. And as I would find out on the day of show my vision was not as grand as Ken’s.

    Myself, John Wedge, and Spade ONE in one of the dressing rooms at the Barrymore Theater.

    https://us.napster.com/artist/november-criminals/album/the-black-hand

    In addition The Periodicals and The Kissers, the program also enlisted the talents of Sean Michael Dargan, Hanah Jon Taylor, The Viper & His Famous Orchestraand others, along with readings of poetry, journal entries, newspaper articles and speeches from the era

    Still photos were on display throughout the show that helped the audience immerse themselves in the time period. It wasn’t a stand up and rock out show (though at time it could have been) it was a history lesson and a rock opera all at once. I don’t know how many times in my life I will be a part of something as important and as relevant as this show but if it happens again you know I will still be sneaking into the audience in between our songs. 

     

    NTSC, Spade ONE, and yours Bru-ly in the audience.

    Kevin KC Christensen visits with his Grandmother. He’s wearing a doughboy helmet passed down from a family member that served during WW1.

     

    SOLD OUT CROWD!

     

     

    (More …)

     
  • Brümeister 5:58 pm on January 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Atheists & Airplanes, Black Husky Brewery, Bolzen Beer Band, , CheddaRevolution, , P'Derree Gerre'd, Party on the Pavement, Polkatoberfest, , Riverwest, ,   

    About Last Year And What Comes Next: Looking back on 2018 and ahead to 2019: Part 2: The Black Hand of Oktoberfest Season 

    The Black Hand EP
    Available damn near everywhere online!

    Click Here for Part 1

    As previously alluded to the process of writing and recording The Black Hand at time resembled that of our first album. Lots of attics and spare room hangs. And while it seems like with just three new songs released it should not have been difficult there were times where, speaking for myself, the creative faucet was not on. And so I had to look to my brothers in PolkaHopHop for inspiration and motivation.

    Even as we hacked away on our EP and celebrated the triumph of a successful 2nd annual Milwaukee Polka Riot we were also looking forward to upcoming shows including our first out-of-state gig with polka legends: Brave Combo! While it was not even 2 hours away and therefore not the farthest we have traveled for a show, the fact is we had yet to get a booking outside of Wisconsin. There’s a million reasons why we hadn’t been able to leave the confines of our fair state and the hope is we will be able to repeat that endeavor. The idea that we would play a show with Brave Combo was actually something on the wish list of NTSC  albeit the idea was that they would join us at the Milwaukee Polka Riot eventually. As fate would have it Polkatoberfest was scheduled to take place over two nights in Lombard, Illinois with headliners Brave Combo and Bolzen Beer Band with local support from our friends Sgt. Sauerkraut’s Polka Band. Bolzen however, had another booking that Saturday and SSPB dropped our name as a replacement!

    Brave Combo is an absolute party!

    In true November Criminals fashion we rocked the set but also in true November Criminals we had audio issues! For seemingly no reason whatsoever NTSC’s digital melodeon ceased to make noise. Super producer and drummer Kevin Christensen was on hand to make a killer beat and Spade ONE and myself freestyled to end the set. Thankfully, the melodeon ended up being fine but the gremlin that silenced NTSC remains a mystery.

    We love playing in Racine!

    September just kept rolling! We’ve been lucky to have our name get around more and more we found ourselves playing a show every weekend that month! To be sure we were meeting new friends and making new fans every time we played but we were also getting closer and closer to being able to release the Black Hand!  We had fun in Racine at Party on the Pavement and then we closed out September with a special duo performance of DJ Brumeister and solo melodeon by NTSC at the Riverwest Oktoberfest! I got to break out my box of 78s and discovered that those things are heavy but they are a joy to play to a new audience.

    NTSC makes some really killer posters does he not?

    To help celebrate the release of the Black Hand EP we did two things.  First we released a pre-mastered version of the song The Black Hand via the CheddaREvoluion compilation and Secondly we decided to coincide the release with a booking at the Pabst Tap Room. While the Tap Room was kind to us, sadly, the audience was primarily there for the fish fry. We are learning as much as some of the venues about what works when booking a show. Note: people go to restaurants to eat. While the eatery/bar/venue thing may work occasionally I have seen it fall flat more often than not. One of the three aspects always seems to suffer. Next time we play a restaurant we will figure out a food special. Thankfully, we closed out our October shows with a rollicking gig at Bremen Cafe… a place that no longer serves food but still has a bar and a room for bands! (see what I’m sayin?) Atheists and Airplanes are awesome and you should see them!

    2018 wasn’t done yet however and though we didn’t realize it at the time we were slated to take part in the biggest show of our band’s history!

     
  • Brümeister 8:15 pm on January 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Apolkalypse Wow, Forro Fo Show, , , Sgt Sauerkraut Polka Band, , The Polkaholics, Yid Vicious   

    About Last Year And What Comes Next: Looking back on 2018 and ahead to 2019: Part 1: The Polka Riot 

    It was not for lack of booking that we neglected our blog! IN FACT we participated in two of our biggest shows to date AND we released a new EP!

    The Black Hand EP is
    AVAILABLE NOW!

    The Ups and Downs of any year are just as easily documented in the music and in the performance of any band but in addition we like to use this arena for reflection. What was difficult about The Black Hand was having to revert to some of our old school methods of recording, mixing, and mastering… i.e. somebody’s attic (in this case the incomparable John Gleisner’s ), somebody’s spare room (the indispensable Kevin Christensen), and somebody not in the band (the incredible TJ Wallace). All this for just three new songs BUT the new songs helped us to bookend with thematic resolve, both some histrionic and sonic, allegiances we created for ourselves.

    On the live side of things however, the 2nd half of 2018 really starts with the 2nd annual Milwaukee Polka Riot! Our good friend, Jim Rice, along with NTSC, Laura Schaub, Spade ONE and myself organized and/or participated in the build up to the event. Much like last year this labor of love bore fruit as were able to deliver the goods on stage along with bands from around the country!

     

    The event kicked off with Sgt. Sauerkraut’s Polka Band overcoming a glitch in the matrix early on and bringing the fun into the crowd during a brief power outage. They also demonstrated marketing savvy in customizing their attire for the festival which is something we’ll have to steal at some point!

    Sgt Sauerkraut’s Polka Band at the Milwaukee Polka Riot

     

     I should mention that in between sets I was doing my utmost as DJ Brumeister to keep the old fashioned polka records spinning. One of these years I’ll invest in a 2nd turntable and mic stand! However I am still grateful to WXRW for the use of their equipment. Also, the food trucks were in effect this year as was the Tullamore Dew tent along with some very good beer from War Pigs Brewery. I know I saw NTSC go back for a 2nd and possibly 3rd soda from the good folks at Sprecher Brewery. He needed it though as Preomnor was set to steal the show by throwing down heavy with their set which included a Led Zeppelin cover that would be enough to make Greta Van Fleet think twice about following them!

     

    Forró Fo Sho at Milwaukee Polka Riot 2018

    Not to worry though because Riot veterans Forró Fo Sho came up and gave the crowd an update on their sound that was as infectious as anything heard on the street that day or at any festival that summer!

     Then it was our turn to close down the outdoor stage. Next year we may yield our outdoor closer status to another act, depends what sort of permits we get and how inflated our egos are, but even with an abbreviated set we were thrilled to power through our first EDM style set with Mike Ritter putting down the bass and managing the samples and making us sound way cooler than we thought possible! It proved yet again that keeping an open mind to new sounds creates new possibilities and frankly I would not be surprised to see more of this in the future.

    Acclaimed Polka/HipHop/EDM act November Criminals

     

    I also did my best to look like Cousin It at the start of things.

    you can’t see me

    Shutting down a street in Walker’s Point to present a Polka-fusion fest is not something I would have imagined doing 10 years ago. I don’t know if that was something we thought we’d do when we started this band. I don’t know if we thought we’d end up last this long either but we have. The Riot went indoors with heavy hitters out of Madison Yid Vicious , Chicago legends The Polkaholics and Kansas City road warriors Apolkalypse WOW!

     

    With acts coming from far and wide and an audience that stayed late into the night we drank in the wonder of it all along with some well earned libations. This night was a success and we had to believe we were on the way up. But 2018 was not done and neither is this post! We still have to talk about the EP release, meeting Polka legends Brave Combo, The Greatest War, and the last First Friday! AND OF COURSE Kevin Christensen’s nomination for Best Hip Hop Producer in the Shepherd Express Best Of Milwaukee 2018 poll!  Part two will be up soon! Stick around!

     
  • Brümeister 5:29 pm on July 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    Tales of Conquest and Humility 

    The 2018: Summer of Criminals tour has wound down and now we look ahead to the Riot!

    Starting in Sheboygan at the Craft30 Summer Solstice festival and ending in Milwaukee at Summerfest on the Rebel Stage we played at least two shows every weekend for 3 weeks in a row. Big time, nationally touring acts might chuckle at my calling this rigorous. However, I think working class bands that still have to function at their “real jobs”  and make rent should appreciate the juggling of schedules and the careful planning (“what time are we meeting up again?”)

    Sound check in Sheboygan with John Gleisner on drums

    We met a lot of great people, drank a lot of great beer (and Mead!), and we learned a lot. First of all much love to John Gleisner for helping record parts of The Black Hand EP AND for coming along with us to Sheboygan and Racine to fill in for Kevin KC Christensen. You may have noticed we altered the crew  section of our website to include KC as well as (bass face!) Mike Ritter. We’ve been fortunate to have them along on so many gigs over the years and then to collaborate with them on The Great War. We’ve sort of held the belief that if you’ve ever rocked a whole set with us you are an official band member (looking at you Nick Lang, Killa Kutz and Ryan Claxton) but when it came down to who has helped us craft our sound and create pathways of polka hip hop as well offering really good advice on gigs etc… well these two guys have been indispensable.

    We were in full strength at five for a number of shows but we actually (believe it or not) had to do a set without one of our MCs! We got a last minute confirmation of a booking for McCarty Park but our own Spade ONE had a big booking in Detroit!

     

    McCarty Park in West Allis featured DJ Brumeister

    With little time to prepare we took a look at our options. We didn’t want to lose the chance to play in front of  a new crowd in West Allis. And the other great part of the Traveling Beer Garden was that it was a chance to play outdoors in front of an all ages crowd. This did however mean we had to clean up the act a little… or a lot. So with a third less verses in our songs and 33% of NTSC’s vocabulary censored we had to put together a THREE HOUR SET!!! Could we do it? Of course we could! By combining two abridged versions of  a Criminals set sandwiched with a NTSC solo polka set AND a set DJ set of polka records we showed our versatility and ability to cover for each other in order to ensure the success of the group. Kevin and Mike did their thing and smoothed us out and soon we had over a dozen picnic table raising beers and singing alongwith the Beer Barrel Polka!

     

    Summerfest 2018 AS TOLD TO Bru by everyone else…

    Our gigs Westallion, McAuliffe’s and Bos Meadery in Madison was like visiting old friends even if the Meadery was a first time gig we had plenty of familiar faces with Forro Fo Sho and Swill opening the show!

    I was reminded how my appearance and demeanor are judged on stage by everyone at all times following the Summerfest gig at the Rebel Stage. The video I saw sounded good and I was told we sounded great. On stage however I could not hear anything except NTSC’s melodeon and the high hat from the drums. I had finished a bottle of mead before going on and now all I could hear was the top range at the loudest volumes and I was not a happy Bru! Sadly, I didn’t handle this well and flipped NTSC off a couple times and as we were unable to get the stage monitors turned down (a gremlin in a cable most likely) I shouted a verse out at the top of my lungs. Professionalism is not my forte at all times but I was clearly too abrasive to many onlookers. While it was not my finest hour and I have apologized to my band mates for having emotions – I mean- expressing myself- I mean… shit this is tough…. for being rude and unprofessional (there) I still felt like anyone that cares enough to read this blog and was also there at Summerfest might deserve at least an explanation for what went down.  So to sum it up: I was mean because I couldn’t tell what was going on. (Old age will be fun!)

    With a three week break from three weeks of gigs we were able to put some of the last touches on three songs for the upcoming EP The Black Hand. We were also very well versed in how we wanted to attack the stage at Brady Street Fest.

    Being in front of a home crowd of hundreds with people dancing every kind of dance from booty shaking to polka, was one of the most rewarding things we as a band have ever been a part of.  We were even able to deal with a last moment change to the set list and make it feel like part of the show. But really rolling with the punches and taking what comes is part of who we are. You don’t have a band like this without being flexible and you can’t be in a band like this without occasionally having to check your ego. It’s not always easy and it isn’t always pretty (I’ve never been called pretty…well maybe my hair) but it always going to be necessary in order for the group to be at its best even when one of us may not be.

    One last thing… during the world cup we played a show at Nomad Nacional. Summerfest was already in full swing AND we were in the middle of a heat wave where we averaged 105 degrees on the heat index… I never felt like we were NOT going to play to our absolute best ability and true indeed the two dozen or so people that came were more than appreciative. To those folks I want to say thanks for crossing the street to see us before you got on the bus! I hope you all make it out to the MILWAUKEE POLKA RIOT!

    The November Criminals following the hottest gig in town!

     
  • Brümeister 11:43 pm on June 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , 89.9 WORT FM, 96.9 FOX, Andrew David Weber, Big Lo, Brady Street Fest, Craft 30 Sheboygan, Craft30, Fox Homegrown, Madison, McAuliffe's Pub, , Mitch Shiner, Newaukee Night Market, Nomad Fanzone, Nomad Nacional, , , Rebel Stage, Red Dot Tosa, Sabbatic, Sheboygan Solstice, Summer Fest, , Taiyamo Denku, , The Periodicals, Tommy Antonic, Traveling Beer Garden, West Allis, Westallion Brewery, Whiskey of the Damned, WORT FM   

    2018: Summer of Criminals 

    WORT FM Block Party on May 20th 2018 photo courtesy of WORT FM.

    SO I realized we’ve been so busy with EVERYTHING that none of us have had time to jot anything down in the old blog section.

    Quickly I will try to recap some of what has been going on and enlighten you further on coming events as relates to your favorite #PolkaHipHop band!
    We played our first ever West Allis show back in February at Westallion Brewery where the Peanut Butter Porter is lights out! And I’m not a guy that often goes in for sweet craft beers. They also had a fine Scottish Ale and whole bunch more great things to try, they change up their brews on a seasonal basis so it is with a good deal of delight that we are returning there at the end of June!

    We had a great time playing out in April at The Red Dot opening for our friends Denku and Big Lo! These guys are touring artists and established in every sense of the word. And it was awesome to see an audience full of friends there on a Tuesday night even! Then we broke ground playing the Light Lounge in South Milwaukee and debuted our newest song The Black Hand! That’s right, we haven’t been taking it easy we have been toiling over an EP that, fingers crossed, will also include radio edits of songs from The Great War!

    COMING SOON!

    The Black Hand even made its way onto the FM dial in Madison at WORT FM where in the lead up to one of our biggest shows yet WORT gave some spins to a few of our songs, published a flattering article about us, and our good friend Helena White used a couple of our tunes off The Great War as jumping off points for a couple history lessons about The Rattlers and Jim Europe! She also has a really wonderful series called My Grandfather’s War Diary about her grandfather’s service during the Great War.
    The Madison connection went next level for us as first our friends The Periodicals came by on a Thursday night for a memorable Milwaukee debut that we were honored to share the bill with at Sabbatic. Tommy Antonic and Mitch Shiner came through in a big way with a week’s notice to open with all the skill and showmanship of two of the best young jazz musicians in the city!

     

    Tremendous line up for the Craft 30 Summer Solstice festival!

    BUT IT IS ONLY GETTING STARTED!

    Friday June 22nd it will officially be summer. Craft30 in Sheboygan has organized a party that promises be a highlight of anyone’s summer!

    They are doing it big with two stages and free admission and some of the finest craft brews in Wisconsin (and therefore the world!) And during the lead up we’ve been getting spins on 96.9 Fox courtesy of Fox Homegrown!

    Getting there isn’t a problem for Milwaukee folks as it just a short jaunt up I-43 and there are plenty of hotels and campgrounds in case you haven’t selected a Designated Driver!

    We however won’t be able to hang out too long as we are immediately in Racine the next night at McAuliffe’s Pub with the insanely talented Andrew David Weber (of Whiskey of The Damned)!

    That could be considered a tour…

     

    BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE!

    The following weekend we will be part of the Nomad Nacional’s World Cup Fanzone on the 29th of June followed by a return to Westallion Brewery on June 3oth.

    The show at Nomad is particularly exciting as the fan zone activities the night we play also include the Newaukee Night Market and rumor has it we will have some new shirts along with us by then!

    If we can take a moment to look at that line up…!

    What an honor to be listed on a showcase with so many great Milwaukee talents and we are blessed to call many of them friends!

    There’s no matches on the day we play so we aren’t sure what countries to represent. But we will do our best to bring them all together that night!

    Hopefully we even get a few folks to follow us to West Allis the next night!

     

    THE NEXT WEEKEND!!!

    Is a 3 day weekend! Friday we are back in West Allis at McCarty Park for the Traveling Beer Garden on July 6th, then on the 7th we are Madison with our friends from the Milwaukee Polka Riot Forro Fo Sho along with Swill at Bos Meadery! Then on the 8th we closed down the Rebel Stage at Summerfest at 8pm!

    We’ll take a breather and be back in full force in late July for Brady Street Fest!

    Look for us to be handing out flyers for this year’s Polka Riot!  Hope to see you!

    The November Criminals take Madison
    WORT FM sound check
    Photo by Kevin Christensen

     
  • Brümeister 11:12 pm on December 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Criminally Under-Reported: Top 5 

    In case you missed it here’s a Top 5 THINGS WE DID IN 2017  

    The nomination for best of 2017 as it appeared in print.

    Honorable mentions include, being guests on Sessions With Sandy, Submitting to NPR’s Tiny Desk contest, playing Bonk! again (Hot Shop Glass is awesome BTW and so is Olde Madrid!), being nominated for best Hip Hop/Rap group in the Shepherd Express Best of Milwaukee, playing Circle A for the first time, getting rained out but still playing Summerfest‘s 50th anniversary AND the Rebel Stage’s 10th anniversary, and getting a nice write up by Milwaukee Record!

    5) First time in Madison and first time on WORT

    The front of WORT in Madison

    While we’ve played on WXRW Riverwest Radio during two of their fundraisers and even had interview time on WMSE, along with our music getting what some would say is overdue airtime, this is the first time we’ve been on the radio as a live featured performance to help highlight our show that night. NOT ONLY THAT but we did a call in interview leading up to the show which was edited down and used in the news leading up to the show! No really! You can listen to that here. We made a bunch of new friends (like The Periodicals ) and discovered that we really need to be playing in Madison more!

     

    4) Our first official video! 

    Have you seen it? NO!?! Well let’s fix that.

    Filmed in one day and edited in a couple weeks we felt the need to have something out there for people to point to and say “that, that is what they look like.” Seriously it was fun to do and we hope to do more of them in 2018 as we get ready to put out The Black Hand EP and The Wild Wild Weimar!

    3) The Milwaukee Polka Riot! 

    This was huge.

    The riot crowd prior to our sound check!

    The work, the hype (like this article from the Milwaukee Record), the investments, and all of the sacrifices one makes to put together a festival paid off in a big way. The vision was to have as many polka-fusion bands and alternative polka bands in one place for a night to show that these groups not only have a fan base but also can put on a hell of a show, like the Polkaholics, and are not just niche musical sideshow acts. The high turn out breathed life into a scene that nobody knew existed. If you were there you saw people head banging to Cheese of the Goat, & waltzing, drinking & smiling, and enjoying music they never heard or some cases never thought possible!

     

     

    2) The Great War is released 

    When we began recording in fall of 2016 the presidential election hadn’t happened yet but the year had already been such an emotional one for music lovers. It was a cold and difficult winter as Trump was inaugurated and protested. We kept our minds on our work but kept our ears open and channeled our energy into an album we can really be proud of. While it may not be the most reviewed album of the year… it is the only #PolkaHipHop album of the year! And it available on a ton of platforms! NapsteriTunesSpotify Etc… it’s out there… Tell people and spread the word so we can come play by you and not have to run another indiegogo type thing!

     

    1) Dontre Day

    When a call was put out for artists, musicians, and poets to participate in Dontre Day I immediately thought it was a good fit and fortunately so did the organizers. When the event was moved from the site of the tragedy to All People’s Church it took on a more intimate vibe. To adjust for the setting we avoided cussing when possible. While we did not know Dontre or the Hamilton family personally we were all pleased that our participation was received in the spirit in which it was intended as one of unity, awareness, and dialogue. It will hold a special place for us as a band and for me personally.

     

    Thanks for reading this whole thing! And thanks for supporting us! Help us make 2018 even better!

    Photo by Steve Greentree

     

     
  • Brümeister 10:28 pm on August 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Fest or Famine?!?! 

    So a lot of things happened this summer so far, but twice as many things didn’t happen. I’d hoped to take #PolkaHipHop act on the road and play a handful of shows out of state but as that plan fell apart for a variety of reasons (AND BELIEVE ME if there is a shortage of SALT this winter in Wisconsin it is because the state didn’t sweat me hard enough). I was crushed.

    But as if to make up for that my dad was driving out to Summerfest to see my band play. I had not seen my dad in nearly 15 years. This broke our previous records of 9 years apart and 3 years of not seeing each other…  you start to get the picture. I have some accountability for setting that record. I also don’t send out a lot Christmas Cards or remember to tell people when I change my phone number.

     

    As the time drew near we had some amount of scrambling to do. While we were able to secure the services of our resident Bass Face Mike Ritter, our usual drummer, the guy that pounded out The Great War, Kevin KC Christensen was booked to play the same day as us. Happily, we found an eager first time criminal in the hyper talented Mitch Shiner. As we were playing a little earlier in this year’s lineup we at least didn’t have to worry about losing people to big time headliners… or so we hoped. The first year we occupied The Rebel Stage we got rubber neckers on their way to gauk at DJ Paris Hilton. Last year we lost half our audience to Milwaukee’s own personal Jesus: Johnny Depp. This year we were going head to head with Aesop Rock and Rhyme Sayers. Who were just on the other side of a few concessions buildings on the Harley Stage.

    This is where people sit. There would be a few eventually, but for a while it looked like this from the stage.

    But mother nature would not be out done! ON the way in I heard over the truck radio that a “light shower (was) expected that may or may not last 10 minutes”. Instead of a light shower we got a cats & dogs down pour that lasted nearer 30 minutes. Washed the grounds clean of curious onlookers, it did!

    To add to the odd mix of desperation and apathy during the down pour we brought in the diehards to wait out the storm as we finished setting up gear. This included my mother and my father who I don’t think had seen each other in nearly 20 years. To combat my own swirling of emotions I helped myself to the cooler we as performers are allowed to bring. With time running short our set was being cut down little by little. Looking like a band of rain soaked Richard Dreyfus’.  we took the stage with some drizzle that shorted out equipment and created one of the best sound check videos ever filmed!

    We did what we set out to do though. We slogged through an abbreviated set and retired early to make way for one of the best Motley Crue cover bands I’ve ever seen… and I’ve seen… well none really but they were very good.  My mother had left so I was hanging with my dad that I had really been around in years. At one time he turned and said “this stuff got me through my 20s” During a break between songs I heard a familiar bass line from over the concessions building. “Let’s go check out my 20s.” And we hurried over in time to hear CatsVanBag by Atmosphere featuring Brother Ali. It wasn’t the best Summerfest experience but it certainly wasn’t the worst. We got to play in front of a solid contingent of friends and family. We also introduced Agent Green to the stage and invited SuperEgo of the Boombox Saintz to join us for a freestyle.  Seeing all our contemporaries in the music scene headline on big stages I’m glad I was there at that point in time.  The next morning I took my dad to my new job at WRRD‘s temporary studio on 3rd and Wisconsin. I produced the Earl Ingram show as he interviewed Mayor Tom Barrett in the field. I also gave my dad a new shirt.

    At the WRRD/ESPN studio with my dad.

    Looking back on it I am still fortunate to have been able to take part in the 10th anniversary of the Rebel Stage and the 50th anniversary of Summerfest! AND I’m it experiences like this, along with the friends made along the way, that have helped temper our already unique band to have reasonable expectations despite our outlandish aspirations. Still I can’t help feel that with our being rained out of Summerfest, then bumped from the line up of Center Street Daze, in addition to having a festival we were booked for completely cancelled in late August we are about due to have something really good happen for us this year. Maybe it is time we started a RIOT!

     

     

     

     

     

     
  • NTSC 3:45 pm on May 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Thoughts on Appropriation and Polka Hip Hop 

    April 6th, Bremen Café

    April 6th, Bremen Café

    NTSC here, melodeon player for your November Criminals. What follows will probably be rambling and incoherent. I’ll do my best to structure it as best I can.

    Sometimes I need to take stock in how lucky I am. I play the melodeon—a diatonic button accordion—for a Polka Hip Hop band. For the only Polka Hip Hop band in the world.

    I get to mix two of my favorite genres and perform them at the same time. Besides feeling lucky about getting this opportunity to express myself musically, I also need to zoom my focus out of my own life and recognize where I fit into a larger history of music, the people who make it and the performers who benefit from it.

    I’m a white guy who grew up in an upper-middle-class family. I listened to a lot of rap growing up because that’s what the kids in my grade school listened to. I was fortunate that my parents raised me and my two sisters in one of the few truly diverse neighborhoods of Milwaukee, a city that is famously and depressingly segregated. The late eighties and early nineties were a boom for the popularity of hip hop groups, so that’s what I was exposed to.

    On the flip side of that, I’ve always been a huge nerd. I would listen to the polka and folk programs on the radio in my room and play along on my harmonica. Being of Polish and German descent, I feel the music of those cultures very closely in my heart. They resonate somehow and I couldn’t even explain why. I don’t speak Polish any more than I speak German, which is not at all.

    In high school I was introduced to Cajun and Zydeco music, which changed my life forever. I learned to play the Cajun style accordion (which is itself based on a traditional German style instrument) and I consumed a lot of Cajun and Zydeco music. A list of my biggest influences from those genres will reveal a trend, and point to the larger topic of this essay:

    Left to right – Boozoo Chavis, Dwayne Dopsie, Andrus Espre, J. Paul Jr. Step Rideau, Steve Riley

    Because the genre of Zydeco spoke so much to my musical tastes, I ended up emulating and worshiping primarily black musicians. The separations between traditional Acadian-influenced Cajun music and Creole/Black Creole Zydeco music run very deep in Louisiana, and have only recently begun to wear down a bit. The barriers still very much exist to this day. It’s a highly nuanced and complicated relationship, but a lot of it boils down to systemic racial bias and segregation, aka America’s entire history.

    That’s how I picked up the accordion and made it my primary intrument. I played along with every Cajun and Zydeco CD I could get my hands on. I practiced endlessly until I’m sure my parents regretted ever encouraging me to pick the instrument up in the first place. Hell, they even bought me a second one! Gluttons for punishment, my parents.

    Polish Immigrant with Concertina

    Eventually I acquired a three-row melodeon and began to learn some traditional Slavic and Baltic music, in keeping with my ancestry. It was strange, but I began to develop a sense of comfort with polkas and waltzes from Eastern and Central Europe. It felt like the music belonged to me. I knew unconsciously that I had no place performing Zydeco and Cajun music. I’m not French, I’m not Acadian, I’m not Spanish and I’m especially not Creole or Black Creole. I’m a Polack—a uniquely Americanized version of a Pole. That is my heritage.

    Cultural appropriation has run rampant in American society forever. I tried to do some research into when it began and was unable to find any high water mark. It’s been ever present. So long as there have been disenfranchised populations in this country, the privileged classes have taken every opportunity to steal their music, dress and language for entertainment. It can be argued that the most popular white bands in the nation’s history have all climbed to their positions of wealth and fame on the backs of black pioneers.

    Jump to 2011 and the forming of the November Criminals. We had no idea what we were doing. It started as a single song for a single album and nothing more—until it became something more. All three of us, Brümeister, Spade One and myself, really loved the sound we had discovered. We loved the energy, the melody, the rhythm. We loved the freedom it afforded us. We had literally created a genre of music and could do with it whatever we pleased. There were no guidelines, no tropes, no boundaries. There was no road map or definition for what we were doing.

    A few shows in, I began to struggle with the whole concept of us as a band. Spade One booked us on a series of hip hop shows at hip hop venues across the city. We were playing to audiences that expected an evening of pure hip hop, crafted and honed for their tastes. I can only imagine what they thought when I got on stage and plugged in my accordion. Needless to say, a lot of our audience took their smoke break while we performed. We played to a lot of empty rooms in those early days, and I felt it in my gut.

    Art Bar 2012 - I am clearly lost

    Art Bar 2012 – I am clearly lost

    I knew inherently that I didn’t belong. I felt terrible, not from a self-pitying standpoint, but because the audiences continued to be so nice to me. After every show I got handshakes and words of generous praise. “That was awesome, man.”, “You guys rocked it.”, “You really play that thing!” and so on and so forth. It might have been my own self-doubt preying on my mind, but I don’t think it was. I would have felt better if we had been booed off the stage, or hissed at, or blacklisted. That would have felt more appropriate. It never happened.

    We were nothing but accepted and thanked for our efforts. The hip hop community of this city gave us a stage and myriad opportunities, and never once told us to stop what we were doing. If anything, everyone emboldened us further! We would get pats on the back and offers of collaboration. It all made me feel even worse! I thanked my lucky stars that at least we were a Polka Hip Hop band. I’ll explain…

    Syncretism is the merging of two or more systems of belief and/or culture into one amalgamated blending. It happened a lot in colonized areas where the invading empires needed to instill their own religion onto the native population. Aboriginal deities and ceremonies got merged with Christian saints and traditions, creating something altogether different and unique in the process. I feel like our band follows that strange, organic trend. The thought keeps me going.

    Polka Hip Hop band with Concertina

    So long as we are a blend of traditional Slavic/Baltic/European music and Hip Hop, I feel a little less like I’m just one of many thieves who have taken what isn’t theirs and appropriated it for their own ends. It’s crucial that I always remember where Hip Hop came from, and who it truly represents. Yes, Hip Hop has opened its arms to artists of literally every race, sex, gender, creed and culture. That doesn’t mean I can interpret it in any way I want and ignore the ramifications of that action.

    Hip Hop is bigger than me. Its history is the history of jazz, and blues, and slavery and class struggle. I’m doing my best to make peace with my place in it now, and do right by every artist who made it what it is today. I know it will be an ongoing process. I’ll never be “done.”

    Recently we were invited to perform at Dontre Day, a commemoration of the life of Dontre Hamilton who was slain by Milwaukee police officers on April 30, 2014. Due to weather, it was held in the beautiful congregation hall of the All Peoples Church. I don’t know that we’ve ever been invited into a more open, welcoming environment of love and worship. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more out of place.

    A beautiful mural in the All Peoples Church

    A small group representing the Nation of Islam left just before our set, and I felt cowardly and grateful at the same time. We played our hearts out. I managed to successfully omit all the cussing in my verses (there is a lot) and we packed up quickly to make way for heartfelt and powerful words from the Hamilton family.

    As always, without exception, we were thanked and welcomed and appreciated after the show. Whether or not people were just being polite is beside the point. The fact that the community, every community we’ve ever performed for has always treated us with respect and care is simultaneously gratifying and crushing in just about equal measure.

    I’ll reiterate, I am incredibly lucky. I am privileged for so many reasons, one of which is that I benefit from this amazing opportunity. Yeah, we’re a weird band from a small city in a flyover state. We’ve got no audience to speak of and we toe the line of appropriate and ill-conceived every time we set foot on a stage. Still, I am ever grateful for what I have, for my brothers-in-arms and for the community that has nurtured us.

    I am going to do my best to find my place in it while honoring and amplifying the history behind the genres I love. I know I’ll mess up bad, and probably already have a hundred times. Hopefully I can proceed with the right amount of awareness and respect to make this whole endeavor worthwhile, because I truly love what we do.

    I’m a lucky guy.

     
  • Brümeister 8:47 pm on March 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: #2ndAlbum, #BremenCafe, #FranksPowerPlant, , #SpadeOne, #Studio200Milwaukee, #TheGreatWar, , #Wisconsin,   

    THE MARCH TO WAR: Brümeister Reflects and Genuflects 

    Blank walls are like  blank pages. #TheGreatWarIsComing

    Blank walls are like blank pages. #TheGreatWarIsComing

    I just got done listening to The Great War final mixes and I wanted to take a moment before all the…. whatever….to let you know that this is something I’m really proud of. Pride may be a sin that ages us silently or that reverberates as shame when we are self critical of another time in our lives but it is important to document our creative life or else blogs like this serve no purpose. I know what we had on our first album. It was good. It did not echo but it was a good try. This album could be just as poorly received/promoted/monetized or whatever as the first but I can say with honesty that this is, so far, the best thing I’ve done creatively. It gives me hope that I can still do something collaborative on this scale and deliver something that is also genuinely of myself.

    Solidarity with Standing Rock Rally from last Fall...pre-election I think.

    Solidarity with Standing Rock Rally from last Fall…pre-election I think.

    At this moment I am blessed. I hope we can all continue to say that even as we continue the fight towards a better future. I’m working on music. Not exactly leading the front lines. But if art and music serve any real purpose it can be to say to those in charge what it is we want changed in society. But sometimes it can just be about butts and stuff. So if anything maybe that’s why we still make music in Albums and not one track at a time. It all has to hit at once to some degree and if you hear one of our songs the hope is you’ll want to hear more and that you will hear something different.

     

    April 6th will mark the 100th anniversary of the US entering World War One. On that day we are honoring the sacrifices of those killed in that war and commemorating the ushering in of a new age in the Global politic…. by releasing a Polka Hip Hop album. Yes, I know.

     

    Actually this album took a lot more effort to get right than I expected. We were lucky to have Kevin Christenen and Michael Ritter join us on this project to help give it a sound that is closer to what we desire in a recording and we are grateful to Bill Stace for giving us space and helping navigate the mix. Bill’s first question was “what do you want it to sound like; a Polka record or a Hip Hop record?” My answer was both at the same time if possible. And then we went to work.

     

    2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. August 1914

    2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
    August 1914

    Anyone in a band knows how hard organizing studio time is and understands the challenges of getting everything as close to perfect as possible. During the recording and mixing of this album we lost friends to violence and we experienced the 2016 presidential election. We worked on this album through the fall and the winter.

     

    We have a number of shows coming up and I hope you can attend as many as possible to see us in as many different settings and company as Milwaukee can offer.

     

     

     

     

    March 24, 2017 we are at Studio 200

    Art and layout by NTSC

    Art and layout by NTSC

     

     

    March 30th help us celebrate Spade One’s Birthday!

     

    April 6th at Bremen the CD release for The Great War with AGNI and Ghost Mirror!

     

    April 8th at Frank’s Power Plant

     
  • Brümeister 12:42 am on November 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Troutski In Requiem 

    Saturday I was attending a wedding for a long-time friend and musical collaborator in West Allis. I had my phone off for the ceremony. As is the custom there was a few hours between the ceremony and the reception and so it was I found myself at a Taco Bell staring at a message from a friend telling me Troutski was gone which I confirmed the way one does on social media. Colin-Michel Demgé was shot in front of his own house at around one in the morning. It was a gut punch to me and I know it had to be to many people in the Milwaukee music scene.

    Guest DJ at the November Criminals CD release

    Guest DJ at the November Criminals CD release

    Troutski in his lab: Mastermind at Work

    Mastermind at work

    Somebody else will tell you all the wonderful things he’s done from Universal Minds to Kilgore Trout to Brew City Bandits AKA Bandidos to Fishpause he displayed his passions and knowledge of music in a way that made people want to participate as much as he did. He collaborated with people you would not expect and was always looking to hear something new as much as he was looking to make something new for you to hear.
    I was fortunate to work with him on a couple of tracks for the first November Criminals album. In fact a good portion of that album’s vocals were recorded at his house! He even threw us a bonus track with a crazy time signature and dropped a hilarious closing verse. We called it Sausage Fest.

    During the sessions I struck up a friendship with him as we discovered a mutual love of jazz. I played one of my favorite songs for him Red Clay by Freddie Hubbard and Colin’s enthusiasm for the song was hilarious “How have I not heard this?” It was what he was trying to do for so many others: make music that they’d never heard but needed to hear.

    Troutski busts on the mic  @ 2013 CD release

    Troutski busts on the mic @ 2013 CD release

     

    He also had a mind to help with his talents volunteering to spin during a Hip Hop fundraiser for WXRW. Of course my personal favorite memory of him will be performing with him at our album release. It gave us a chance to step back and allow Bandidos (Spade One & Troutski) to spit their song B-Boy Stance while NTSC and I stood behind in proper B-Boy stances.

     

    It will be a different music scene without him. So many DJs and MCs worked with him in Milwaukee you can bet the tributes like this one will be well attended and hopefully help us all heal from this loss. Milwaukee has a lot to overcome when it comes to gun violence. I earnestly hope this is a turning point in the awareness of those that worked with Colin and that from this we can have a discussion about where we as musicians fit in and what sort of stances we should be taking. I know where mine is. Let’s move forward together.

    Rest In Power, Colin.

    Better times with DJ Troutski

    Better times with DJ Troutski

     

     

     

     

     
    • Liz 4:01 am on November 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for writing this beautiful piece on my Colin. I’m filled with such happiness and peace knowing how many people’s lives he touched. He is irreplaceable, so it’s a damn good thing he is still with us. He is just in a new form now.

c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
shift + esc
cancel