Hudson Wisconsin Nightlife

What Goes Up, Must Come Down, and then take in tunes at Hot Air Affair

February 2nd, 2016

You can paint a picture of, or while, ballooning, or as Carole King would sing, you can have the tapestry woven through music.
There is plenty of both in the 27th annual Hudson Hot Air Affair, which has as its theme Paint the Sky — to the point where that is even one of the prize categories in its annual torchlight parade.
There is much more to this affair than balloon launching, as music is offered early and often each night.
The longtime ballooning extravaganza running from Feb. 5-7 also is sponsoring the Taste of Hot Air Affair as a fundraiser. It features sampling of spirits, wine and beer, along with appetizers, decadent chocolates and artisan cheeses from providers from all over the St. Croix and Missisippi River valleys. The charitable event will feature the music of Boondoggle, members of which come from the Roberts area.
The five-member country, rock and blues band covers songs from more than 50 years, going beyond the usual ’70s, ’80′s and ’90s that are the staples for many groups. Members are Brent Ackley, Dawn Budrow, Jim Ehlers, John Wolf and Nate Dahl. “We play music by Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, and anything and everything around and in-between,” according to their online bio.
The tasting event is set for Saturday from 7:30-10 p.m. in the Chateau Room of the Hudson House Grand Hotel, 1616 Crestview Drive. Proceeds from the Taste, in its fourth year, will go to the Hudson High School Mental Health Program.
Pre-sale tickets for The Taste can be purchased for $20 (or $25 at the door) at event sponsors Hudson WESTconsin Credit Union, the Hudson House, or Linda White Family Hair Care. All other festival activities are free for spectators.
Urban Olive and Vine will again feature a pair of very different bands. Jazz Savvy takes the stage on Friday and the duo of Kiersty and Nathan Santos on Saturday. Both start at 7 p.m.
– You’ll want to tap your toes and snap your fingers to start the weekend, but it’s still savvy, not your usual jazz band. With what’s called a fresh and innovative sound, Jazz Savvy is a unique trio with songs you might not expect to hear locally, even though they have built a following at a number of Twin Cities area venues. There’s no pabulum radio sound, no smooth jazz, or “canned” standard tunes, and every time Jazz Savvy gives a performance, they give the audience a new jazz experience, they say.
Drums, percussion, and other erstwhile rhythmic offerings are provided by Joe Steinger. From Kansas City, Joe migrated to the Twin Cites, and soon hooked up with a number of groups including his current mainstay, Café Accordion Orchestra, but others too. Joe provides a solid and liquid rhythmic addition that his peers say you will want to hear again.
Rounding out the trio is bassist Terry Bailey, probably best described as a serous journeyman. Terry has played the Twin City area with a number of groups and at numerous venues.
– Nathan and Kiersty Santos are an acoustic duet who have been heard and seen a lot around the Twin Cities, doing a variety of original and cover tunes, in what Urban Olive and Vine call a perfect pairing with the dinner and wine hours.
Nathan Santos is the lead singer, writer and producer from the American rock band, “The Hard Luck.” Nathan’s intimate acoustic performances blend his form of rhythmic guitar with swooning vocals. The group’s most noted accomplishments include winning the Cities 97 Battle of the Bands competition and making live feature television appearances.
As far as Kiersty, she has a powerful voice with a style all her own, as shown in her online rendition of Journey.
– The Negret Wine company’s downtown south store, renovation for which allowed it to begin business a few months ago just to the north of Pudge’s Bar as a part of that building complex, are new to the music scene for the Hot Air Affair, having a duo of brothers, Matt and Max, playing on Friday and Saturday nights.
In sessions at Negret, Matt plays a toned down style that allows people to converse or even read a book, and not be hampered by a loud guitar. When pinned down after a recent performance there, he cited as influences the Beatles and thus the music of two Johns, that being Lennon and Denver, the latter of whom you don’t often hear referenced.
Both Matt and his brother go to college in the Twin Cities, studying music, and also have day jobs, but plan to squeeze in as many gigs as possible, including Thursdays at Negret and over the summer. They start earlier than is typical, around 7 p.m., as they will during the Friday and Saturday of the Hot Air Affair.
“I play a lot of acoustic indie singer-songwriter music and mix in some 60′s oldies,” Matt said, adding that his style incorporates soft rock and folk, and a mix of the old and new. Some of the tunes are just offbeat enough to blaze a trail away from the overplayed classics.
“That’s a decently broad category to pull from: Stu Larsen, Passenger, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Jack Johnson, Nick Mulvey, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Bob Dylan, the Oh Hellos, Good Old War, George Ezra, Joshua Radin, Cage The Elephant, Coldplay, Harry Connick Jr. and Johnny Cash are all prominent influences,” Matt said.
These days, he has short and carefully coffed hair, while in photos from his not-too-long-ago playing days, he looks just a bit edgier, so you know you’ll be getting a variety when listening to him.
Matt’s format stays the same when he plays with his brother, who he says does accompaniment much in the style of the Lumineers or the Oh Hellos.
– Rounding out the music options connected with the Hot Air Affair are these acts at two of the other participating sponsors, both featuring relatively new band leaders. There is deejay dance music downtown at Dick’s Bar and Grill on Friday and Saturday starting at about 10 p.m., which gives a chance to mingle with the pilots, especially after the adjacent Torchlight Parade and following fireworks starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Also, there is karaoke in an intimate setting at the bar at the Plaza Lounge/Hudson Bowling Center on both nights, a venue not far from the Moonglow or Field of Fire that is set for Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Other noteworthy Hot Air Affair events are balloon launches at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, all weather permitting, and smoosh boarding at 1 p.m. Saturday. All are at the Rock Elementary School grounds.
The Hot Air Affair has as its corporate sponsor the WESTconsin Credit Union.
Visit for more information.

Busy actress and model now a director; as awarded military drama makes its mark

January 19th, 2016

Like the differences in population, what Jahnna Randall has accomplished in Los Angeles has been magnified many times, and taken many different forms, from what her already stellar fetes were when living back in northwest St. Croix County.
The model and actress had gotten started here several years ago when working mostly in the Twin Cities and gaining a prime role in a MTV reality series, where she traded places with a model from New York for a week — all in front of the cameras.
Since then she has gotten behind the camera as well to be a prolific filmmaker, all in a few short years.
“We are now doing the festival run for my military short film Lost in Time. We have been accepted into three film festivals so far,” she said recently, adding that she won the best acting award at Hollywood & Vine film festival and was ready to go to the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, for which Lost in Time is nominated for six awards: Best Actress, Indie Spirit Award, Mary Austin Excellence in Directing, Mary Austin Excellence in Producing, Mary Austin Excellence in Screenwriting and The Marshall Hawkins Awards for Best Musical Score.
“Fingers crossed we win a couple of those. The Mary Austin awards are only for women, which is really cool!” said the energetic Jahnna, who frequently punctuates her email messages with exclamation points. The film can be viewed at https://youtube/G4as8sWSuUE.
Her role on the military drama was workmanlike, as she wrote and directed it, and did the filming and editing last fall. “My inspiration for the film came from my two older brothers who served in the Iraq war. I wanted to create a story that showcased the other side when soldiers went off to war,” Jahnna said.
She also has released a new YouTube web series called Girl Problems. See There are five episodes already online and more are being filmed.
Of all her varied work, which includes filming puppies in tiaras, her favorite likely is an award-winning web series created two years ago called 2Fur1. But Lost in Time brought her into new territory. “I am actually working on writing the feature script right now,” she said of this added dimension to the series, adding the first draft should be finished right about now. “I’m hoping to be able to pitch that later this year.”
Among adorable animals, demystified soldiers and people with dating difficulties on a reality show of her making, what topics motivate her to the greatest degree?
“Ooh that’s a tough question, which have I enjoyed the most. I love acting and that was the reason I moved to LA, but then I fell in love with writing,” Jahnna said. “Then directing came shortly after when I got to bring the story from paper to screen. I have always been writing, since I was a kid, but never realized I could actually do it as a career. I did it more for fun when I was younger, not really thinking about it.”
But after living two years in LA, she was getting bored with auditioning for films where the scripts were really bad. “So I decided to write my own characters and then realized I actually wanted to write scripts, so I created my film company Why Wait Productions.”
And wait, she did not, as soon to follow were three short films, two music videos, four web series, four commercials and multiple comedy sketches, all within four years. “The project I enjoyed the most doing would be Lost in Time, because the story is so close to my heart, and the fact of how much I have learned from all the previous projects,” Jahnna said. “That’s the thing I love about filmmaking: Each project you will evolve over time, because with practice you just keep getting better and better.”

(For the initial story on Jahnna’s work, written at the midway part of her time in LA, see this web site’s Blast From the Past department).

Blair’s boot? Barely there, and bereavement it beckoned was still bemoaned midweek

January 15th, 2016

The vanquished Vikings show up (or don’t) to be even as much of a vice as Powerball, but the Packers are nice and some people even cancel their theater plans because of them. Rather go to the sports bar instead, and spend your cash there, not on those $2 tickets, as that isn’t enough to get you inside to to see the musical revue anyway.
– Between taking care of a fairly busy bar for a Monday in late afternoon, (and it turns out for good reason), the bartender at Woody’s in Bayport said there were still people bemoaning the last-minute Viking loss in a less than PC way. Again, it seemed like the Minnesota football find-a-way-to-lose debacle had staying power beyond Sunday. Some Hudson patrons said it was just more of the same, and they saw it coming even partway through the game, and others added that it would have been even more upsetting if occurring later in the playoffs, after a win or two were under their belts, giving hope.
– There also may have been other ways to know what was coming as far as that loss — and the need to deal with it any which way you can. Lots of people were striving to win enough Powerball money so they could, if wanted, buy their own NFL team. To the point that people in a cashier line were talking about one local person who allegedly took out a loan so he could play more Powerball, but he’ll still have to worry when it comes time for any balloon payment, because the eventual winner was from LA, where they don’t even have a football team. So what’s the solution for More Powerball? “More cowbell,” an audience participation staple with the Jeff Loven one-man-band show, might have been a better weekend answer to get over the defeat dished out by Seattle.
– The sign outside of Kozy Korner in North Hudson said it all: “K-Fan is going to be great in the morning.” The message was still up as of Wednesday night. Again, the Viking stunning-style defeats having their staying power. The sentiment on the Agave Kitchen sign didn’t stay up as long, but was just as poignant, referencing as many have the football laces pointing toward kicker Blair Walsh to give the final blow. It makes the Agave message sound simply “blaring.”
– The above-mentioned Minnesota musician Loven, who was seen on the air with his kids while taking in a Minnesota Twins game last year, now will not have the chance for a repeat with a Minnesota Vikings game. Jeff is noteworthy enough for his guitar, but that clip gave him another 15 minutes or so of fame, which could have doubled to 30 when considering that its been that many years since he won his first really prominent guitar competition. The anniversary of that winning solo is noted by the Kahler instrument company, and also has him paired with the musicians from Ratt on a national music magazine cover, in what’s shown on Jeff’s most recent and glitzy gig-announcing placard. Ah, in all those cases, the company you keep. Jeff used some Kahler equipment to claim victory and the firm cited his versatility, range and originality.
– Apparently the Packers, at least in some people’s minds, trump the Phipps Center, as there were still a small number of tickets left as of Thursday for the special White Sidewalls revue on Saturday night. The reason? Some people had thought better of the live show in Hudson and opted to return those tickets so they could watch Green Bay play on TV instead. There was even a guy who had been on the waiting list for the White Sidewalls for quite some time, who when contacted recently passed on it because of the Green and Gold, the receptionist said. It would be better to get all your heads together and plan these things in advance, but that’s hard to do because it involves that pesky Washington team that chimed in by losing to the Pack in the first round.
– I poked a little fun at the end of the Picks of the Week department about Miller Beer, on a Wisconsin product that still could be a bit big and corporate, but maybe hold your horses. (OK that would be Budweiser). While at Buffalo Wild Wings, a man a few empty seats down offered to buy for me the beer I had just ordered, but there was somewhat of a condition: He was a Miller sales rep and had noted the variety that just moments ago had verbally flowed from my lips toward the bartender and now would be replaced by liquid going the other direction. Yes I had ordered a Miller Lite.

Whether sauntering in, turning away or just smoking, here is the best of the rest of 2015

January 6th, 2016

The holiday season brought out both the multitudes of the beautiful and the ugly, and the biggest (and the smallest) and brightest.

– The entire downtown Hudson area was hopping on New Year’s Eve, a bit more so than at times in North Hudson, and the Smilin’ Moose reportedly for more than an hour had to turn away patrons because it was at capacity, to the extent that a line formed outside. The exception might have been their specially erected smoking tent on the back patio, which drew only a few people at a time.
– I don’t know if this tie was ugly, as in holiday sweater contests, or just bright. Shane wore one that was positively glowing, with dozens of little lights, and at the bottom an icon that resembled either an upside-down Pac Man or a turned on its ear Packer helmet. Of similar brightness were the ruby-red sparkling pants worn by a female patron, which would have been glowing even for a rock star.
– There were tiaras to be seen all over that proclaimed the new year, and they were of various heights on heads. A woman at Ellie’s took it to another level and had a feather on top that reached another several inches high. Similar headgear was sported at Pudge’s, but in this case it was setting alone on a table, along with a couple of mostly empty glasses and another couple of popcorn containers, with kernels scattered about.
– Also at Ellie’s was the shortest and tiniest skirt I’ve ever seen, enabled to be so by the woman’s very slim hips. It was the size of a dinner napkin, (as in unfolded halfway, not to its full fourfold extent).
– Ellie’s also gets the nod for the coolest holiday hairdo, sported not by a patron, but someone who was cleaning up in the kitchen that was open late enough that revelers might see double and take-in two of this guy. He had bright green hair that in some places was well down his back, but on the sides a toned-down color complete with crewcut.
– One local bartender with strong Minneapolis ties had to work quite late in North Hudson, not knowing when she would be cut. Still, she made plans for after-hours to trek to The Cities to get with some friends, who have a music studio in their abode. So no problem here with having to conform to a closing time. This would seem to be role reversal, as it has the ones from The Cities rather than Wisconsin going the latest.
– Bartender Matt had a new gig (said tongue-in-cheek). He was standing outside a shop just up the street from Agave Kitchen having a smoke, and right in back of him was a sign in a store window for a sofa — 20 percent off. We joked that he was guarding it from the wandering New Year’s Eve people that might have had a few too many and do something dumb. Did that discount mean his bantered-about “commission” was reduced by one-fifth?
– The longest party bus I’ve ever seen was outside the Smilin’ Moose around 2 a.m., being about the length of a typical front-end more than the next biggest to visit.
– At Pudge’s, the renovation had progressed to the point that the entire north wall was now showcasing its original stone. In what was fast becoming a tradition, there wasn’t a New Year’s Eve ball-drop at Pudge’s, at least this time around, because of the placement of some windows as part of their on-going refurbishing, according to owner Michael.
– The north side of North Hudson Party Triangle of bars lived up to its name, as rows of footprints could be seen all through the new snow connecting the three places. Late in the evening, there also was the distinct, burning smell of fireworks throughout that area, as people toasted the new year with something other than champagne.
– Speaking of one of those three bars, the Village Inn, a new friend I encountered there in the wee hours of The Eve, and it was noted that she was wearing very comfortable boots rather than the high heels that were chosen by many others wearing that Little Black Dress. Screw that idea, she said. If going to be up until near dawn, she wanted to put a premium on comfort.
– Some of the latest action was on the gridiron. Woody’s in Bayport had what had to be the most over-the-top, hearty football fare to chow down on during the big Packer-Viking game: Three pounds of buffalo wings for the price of 1.5 pounds. Being a Viking bar, they must have known what was coming as far as an outcome to put out such an offer, and make it stick (to your ribs).
– Dick’s Bar and Grill offered yet another new event, this time a New Year’s Day pajama party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those who weren’t so sleepy from the night before that they couldn’t make it in. Two costumes stood out because they were full-body length and could still be seen later in the day. Alice wore what was “supposed to be an owl,” and a cohort sported Superman PJs, complete with a Superman T-shirt underneath. Alice also was in costume, at least as far as headgear, the night before at the Village Inn in North Hudson with a pope-like hat made out of a newspaper. She also helped a friend deck out in a similar way, although he had a Minnesota Wild cap underneath.
– Over the Christmas weekend, dancers at Dick’s were tossing around a big wrapped package as they strutted their stuff. When opened, it was revealed that the box was for a whiskey brand. Might want to save the contents for New Year’s Eve.

Simply said, if you seek ‘sinfully smooth’ rum, or all other sorts of fun, here’s to you!

December 30th, 2015

Whether you want to have a taste or two or maybe more, sample an entree or two, and a listen to a band or deejay or two, Hudson and the surrounding area has you covered. (Below is a primer for what’s happening locally on New Year’s Eve, and for a further rundown on other area events, see this web page’s Picks of the Week department).

– At venues all over the immediate area on New Year’s Eve, there will be samplings of the latest Hudson-based distilled spirit brand, known as Demon Rum.
The crew giving out a taste will spend a whirlwind five hours hitting at least seven different area bar and grill establishments, one of them more then once, to let you know why you should say the devil may care and occasionally indulge in this newest “sinfully smooth” local rum, (which also is expected to go national not long after the New Year’s celebration). Other variations will likely follow this initial version of premium spiced rum, a creation of local residents Wayne and Barb Karls, Jeff Warren and Tami Sherman that was several years in the development and is already available at most area liquor stores and taverns.
The sampling crew will start at about 8:30 p.m. at the Smilin’ Moose Lodge Bar and Grill, (which by the way will offer several deejays throughout the night), then move to Stone Tap. They might split into groups and hit other places downtown as well, such as Dick’s Bar and Grill, which also will offer multiple music acts, and spend a total of about an hour in that area of Hudson.
Then from around 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the crew will head north to the Village Inn and Kozy Korner and then Guv’s Place. After North Hudson, they will hit Big Guys BBQ for about two hours until 12:30 or 1 a.m., then be back at the Smilin’ Moose until wrapping up around 1:30 a.m.
Other venues also can join in on the New Year’s Eve sampling fun. Call the Karls at (715) 531-1456.
– At Season’s Tavern in North Hudson, it’s come for the food and stay for the music, although both are good reasons to celebrate on Dec. 31. And into Jan. 1.
The sign outside says it on both sides: New Year’s Eve dinner for two. And live music.
This establishment, which has now been in existance for several years, offers dinner for two people for $70. Entree choices this New Year’s at Seasons are very similar to what they have been during, well, other such seasons, and the tried and true include choice of a filet with either lobster or their signature walleye (of course), with baked potato, and house vegetable and salad. For the appetizer, as the theme recurs, share two walleye cakes with bernaise or two teriyaki chicken skewers over citrus cole slaw. And then for dessert, share four-layer chocolate cake or New York-style cheesecake.
All this since after all, people will be going late and may need something extra hearty to sustain themselves and continue into the wee hours.
Then, starting about 9 p.m., is one of the longest running house bands in the area, and at Seasons we are of course talking about tunes from the likes of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd by Thirsty Camel, which has been playing around the Twin Cities area for years.
In their most recent North Hudson performance, with the dance floor filled for a Halloween show, the largely barefooted band was heavy on playing The Stones, and the prominence of the rhythm section showed through, led by the thumping of the bassist who looked a lot like comic Mike Myers. (Thirsty Camel is only a trio — they have only so many humps — and although vocals may be shared and this is the perfect time for a holiday choir approach, they aren’t likely to have enough singers for the opera-style Bohemian Rhapsody). They did however, pull off an impressively well-done vocal arrangement to, you guessed it, the difficult Stones song Miss You, complete with the whooping in the chorus by all band members. Parts of the song, also, were made vocally their own, especially by the lead guitarist.
Call for reservations at (715) 386-8488.
– One of the longest established places in downtown Hudson to dance to hip-hop, rap and other urban music, along with some pop, country and rock on New Year’s Eve, is Ellie’s on Main sports bar. It will continue to spin the tunes as long into the morning as the audience participation warrants it, managers say. There will be ongoing prize giveaways throughout that time, and a champagne toast at midnight.

The ‘flakes inside are frightful, and so ‘badass’ they’re so delightful … so let it snow!

December 17th, 2015

It’s that time of year, and like many things, snowflake prominence might depend on how well they are hung:

– Bartender Beth at the Village Inn in North Hudson was making snowflake decorations on kind of slow consecutive weeknights. She was incorporating the eager help of some of her patrons, one of whom said about his intricate creation, “You’ve got to admit, this is totally badass.” Considering the holiday that’s at hand, I don’t know if that last word is one I would choose, but hey … She then dangled her handiwork above a table by the front window and added, “I just wish the sparkly things were (facing) both sides.”
– The Smilin’ Moose has its own snowflake saga. While there are the standard paper creations outside, at some spots indoors are big snowflakes carved out of wood and dangling from the ceiling. That might be what you’d expect from a “lodge” bar and grill that’s heavy on wooden decor.
– A sign you might want to keep in mind while holiday shopping, and knowing this is a season of celebrating and possibly indulging a bit. Outside the Village Liquor store in North Hudson: “No one regifts the gifts from us.”
– Kudos for grill and bar establishments on The Hill, among others, for closing on Thanksgiving, for the benefit of employees. At one of those, Buffalo Wild Wings, a conversation with workers was held where they noted the company would probably have found it lucrative to be open, because of three high-profile pro football games that included Brett Favre’s number being retired by the Packers. However, the high road was taken, in part since a precedent for hours had already been set and consistency was valued.
– With temps dipping below freezing, some late-night shoppers in early December were dressed like it was still early fall when traversing the parking lot. One wore a tight, light-weight T-shirt, then walking the other direction was a woman sporting a lot of bare midrift and a short leather miniskirt. No bah humbug here!
– Speaking of that kind of attire, seen downtown were patrons with dress, hair and overall similar looks to singers Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Pitbull and yes, that guy from the “twenty dollars in my pocket” video. And, a while back at the Green Mill, a bartender said that at the seat I’d taken, just moments ago, was someone who looked just like the songstress Pink. On the other end of the spectrum, longtime Dibbo’s bartender Forrest, when he has a bellhop at a prominent Twin Cities hotel earlier in his career, recalls running into Mick Jagger on an elevator, and rather than strut his stuff, Jagger instructed the local man to turn his head because he had a cold — not something you’d want to catch if you have to take the stage and sing in the evening.
– Lastly, guest singer Jesse got on stage with the one-man band in an infrequent duet and sang a Stone Temple Pilots song in honor of the late Scott Weiland, who was found dead in the tour bus outside such a motel as in the Jagger sighting, this time in Bloomington.

Six fixtures at the bar find their focus, from separate travel forays, is on Phoenix

November 30th, 2015

Three patrons and a bartender met down in Phoenix … and several days later there were two more patrons in a redux.
Turns out this is no joke, and a couple of them found they also are originally from the Manitowoc area, but had to get down to Arizona, or at least talk at length about it, in order to discover that.
One of the Green Mill stalwarts said she was escaping from behind the bar to go on a balls-to-the-wall vacation to Phoenix with her girlfriends. That caused a traveler on the other side of the bar to say he’s also very familiar with that area down south. Which caused the guy sitting next to him to say he once lived in Phoenix-Scottsdale. Which led to the revelation by a third patron that he also knows well of that part of Arizona and like the first guy grew up in the Manitowoc area.
Whew! Got that?
There’s more. The first guy, who loves his golf and was on the famous links down there with some buddies, was approached by a local man about his Badger insignia. “Are you from Wisconsin?”
Turns out that several people in the vicinity at the golf club were from Manitowoc, and the first guy had gone to high school with a couple of them.
A Phoenix-Scottsdale travelogue followed about not only its golf courses, but pro sports stadiums, success rate among the local women with breast enhancement, night clubs — and even the provincialism that exists between different parts of town. It also came to light that much of that area is a lot like downtown Hudson, with relatively small shops that aren’t real corporate, and the quaintness and appeal it brings.
Then days afterward another two men, different people from the first crew, shared stories about how they too loved (for the most part) Scottsdale and Phoenix. Let’s see, that’s six in all with connections to Arizona.

(Or should I say eight. At the Smilin’ Moose the other night, a patron said he’d be spending, essentially, the 12 days of Christmas all in Phoenix, to which the bartender added that he loves that area too, specifically, Scottsdale).

The DJ went back to Jersey, he was looking for a soul song to deal

November 15th, 2015

The comings and going continue, of some stalwarts in the local entertainment industry who are anything but greenhorns.
Specifically, they made their mark at Dick’s Bar and Grill and the Green Mill.
There was a lot of buzz just over a year ago when DJ Strong arrived from New Jersey, where he’d successfully honed his skills, and quickly developed a following at Dick’s when he was on each weekend.
Both onlookers and dancers realized right away that this was a guy that despite his Jersey roots really knew country music, despite his strong urban accent. He mixed in, of course, a lot of current stuff that caters to a young crowd, along with some ’70s tunes, and became known for his “all request” nights on many of those Friday and Saturday nights.
Alas, DJ Strong has now packed up and gone back to New Jersey to deal with some medical issues. His replacement is Darren Caster, a longtime local musician who is perhaps best known as the lead singer for the hard rock band Deviant Distraction, going back about a decade. The Double Ds played most often at the former Dibbo’s, where Darren later hosted an open mic night to bring in some additional business on Thursdays. (I remember doing a duet with him to Rebel Yell by Billy Idol that their bassist Tall Paul said was killer). Darren, it seems, will continue the all-request tradition, at least at certain junctures, and his sets also bring in old music such as that from the ’80s.
Also going strong as a deejay at Dick’s is Brando, who as a drummer also was a former rock band member. He is an occasional fill-in on weekends inside the booth.
Meanwhile, bartender Jenn who has worked at Green Mill for over a decade had an informal party as a send-off for her leaving to take a manager job at another bar and grill, just a ways east of here.
One of her regulars said that with the earlier departure of Kylee, just over a year ago, and Bobbie, this was the last remnant of the Old Guard of longtime bartenders taking their leave.
It’s become a tradition when you are a longtime worker at the Green Mill to get a cream pie in the face on your last night. Some strings were pulled and the pie was set in front of a regular patron, and Jenn, with her usual hustle-and-bustle ability, got to it first and after a bit of teasing threw it in his face rather than taking it herself. She then rubbed it on his glasses and around the outside of his cheeks — which did not prevent the guy from taking the cream that was on his glasses and joyfully ingesting it.
Who knows, maybe that regular of Jenn’s was among the couple dozen to whom she’d on an earlier night referenced with a quip, as some of them sat around the horseshoe, who was really into watching the Golf Channel and also hitting the links — maybe too much. “I have 25 regular customers who are like that,” she said to the main target of her barb. He replied that he doesn’t even like golf, much less be able to put a shot on the green; rather, he goes to the Green Mill.
So, I guess that gaff was the bartender’s equivalent of a three-putt. But considering that it recently was Jenn’s last night, we’ll give her a mulligan.

Many hundred answered Halloween call, and raked in thousands, as props persevered

November 3rd, 2015

As far as the difference between Friday and Saturday costumed revelry, Halloween was a question of quantity vs. quality at nightspots, and also in this case. timing of night proved to be everything. Specifically concerning Friday, it’s apparent that the undead who decked themselves out the best just couldn’t wait until the middle of the weekend, when the costumed ghouls were far greater in number — hundreds not just dozens — but weren’t as consistently ghastly.
Still, most venues were packed to the gills on Halloween Saturday, when the vast majority of parties were held. The crowd came and went depending on the time of night, and the fact that most costume contests were held at about the same time, midnight, but in some cases ranged up to 1 a.m. Some of the almost dozen area venues that featured such contests had first-place prizes under the $100 mark, although most were in the $150 to $200 range, coming in the form of either cold cash or gift cards and certificates, but even the places with lesser amounts drew dressed-up people who sometimes numbered in the hundreds. However, the King of the Hill was the Smilin’ Moose, which offered a first-place payout of $500 on both Friday and Saturday nights, and when it got a bit later on in what actually morphed into early Sunday morning, it was standing room only, with certain of those tight, squeeze-by areas that every bar has, being simply clogged to the point that patrons with bulky costumes had trouble moving around.

All in all, though, the majority of eye-catching costumes were not as captivating as the ones the night before, when attendance was obviously less, but again they made up for that in sheer numbers that largely held firm — although there were notable exceptions — through the extra hour offered by the Daylight Savings Time change. (The way that alteration in hours played out just across the river in Minnesota, with their own notable contests being just a few-minute-drive away in places like Lakeland and Bayport, was more iffy).

With that said, here is my pick of six for Saturday, with the props they used to prop up their foreheads pushing them to the forefront, in some cases:
– One man, the most notably duded up at Seasons Tavern in North Hudson, wore what was a combination of a robot, such as Bender on Adult Swim, and beer keg. What made his costume so intriguing was that on top of the metal spigot that spiked upward from his headgear, were stacked several plastic beer glasses.
– Another was gaudily costumed and wore make-up to the hilt, but this Liberace was also carrying in front of him, not just setting on a piano, a realistic looking big candelabra.
– A French-looking painter was wearing the trademark beret, but that’s not where the act stopped. He actually was carrying a pallet of several colors, and using it to do portraits of patrons he met — or should I say brashly approached — at Dick’s Bar and Grill.
– Speaking of which, (or should I say witch), a woman nearby had her face stuck in the middle of a large picture frame containing a pastoral scene, which was enhanced by flowers on either side.
– This was quite the brat special. A man standing almost eight feet tall was dressed as the sausage that circles the field in races at Milwaukee Brewer games. No mention on the possibility of him having the famed Special Sauce as part of his get-up.
– A contestant who from the stage was called “Blue Balls” was anything but singing the blues, as he won a major prize at the Smilin’ Moose.
– Favorite picks by my friend Tom were Cheech and Chong, Sonny and Cher and The World’s Most Interesting Man. One prominent promised act we could not find at the costume contests was Eggs and Ham. Maybe that late closing ended up being too close to breakfast time.

‘Frankie’ stands tall in Friday eve’s Halloween contests by dressing-up to the nines

November 1st, 2015

Picking one winner among the scores of costumed creatures who were out partying on Friday, the night before Halloween, could be a tall order.
Actually, its a lot easier when the top banana is pushing nine feet tall.
That was the case with the victor in the Smilin’ Moose contest, Frankenstein, who took home a cool $500 in cash for his efforts in walking in a stilted way, just like the movie monster, and clinking glasses with anyone who was average height or above. When asked how he got around without falling on those stilt-like legs, he just shrugged. Some patrons wondered aloud how he could negotiate the much shorter bathroom door, should he feel nature’s call, or should I say that of his otherworldly creator.
As one of only a handful of nightspots having a Friday contest, the Moose had the most costumes, and other venues also had some fairly busy streaks, although they were not steady and tended to be early. People later had to make their way around the downtown without the benefit of the many street lights that were out. So early was good, as it put them where they needed to be when the Moose judging was held, (while the first-place prize was almost CEO style as far as moola, the awards dwindled to much lesser amounts after that, more along the comparative lines of a rank and file worker).
Here are some other examples of interesting garb:
– A storm trooper boasted plenty of hard white plastic, and also had a gun and big backpack that reminded me of Ghost Busters (appropriate for Halloween).
– A bunny-costumed staffer moved over a gate at the Moose to go downstairs, in what I would say was “going down the rabbit hole.”
– A couple came as characters from A League of Their Own, and guy did a good Tom Hanks impersonation.
– A man was dressed in all hot pink, unusual because the outfit even included a great big Texas-size hat.
– One of several sailors in suits, a young man went old school and had a handkerchief tucked in the large pocket-protector-type opening of his lapel.
– Devil-themed hats included both horns that were flaps and built into a red hoodie, and an antelope-style, single-pair-of-tines twisted rack. Some servers sported reindeer horns, but in at least one case these fell off while she was hustling around.
– A woman in uniform wore insignias that said “Sheriff’s Department.” I had to crane my neck to see what other writings were on that badge. Where did she hail from? It said on the bottom, “Reno, Nevada.” Considering that this is Halloween, that seemed appropriate.
– Lastly, a “priest” said that earlier in the day, people kept asking him for religious advice, thinking he was an actual man of the cloth. This took place when he was looking to buy a monkey with whom he could do a parody, ala Jethro Tull, and “bungle in the jungle,” if you know what I mean. His props included a real Bible, between the pages of which he stuck his money and other items such as a cigarette lighter, (which at first to me looked like a severed finger). He also had dangling from his neck one of the biggest crosses you’ll ever see, rivaled only by a guy from the Twin Cities who a while back was at Dick’s Bar and Grill dressed like a gangsta wannabe. The faux father had as his counterpoint a St. Patrick, who tweaked other patrons with his staff, like they were snakes or something.
There were a couple of prominent annual costumes whose owners said they would be no-shows because of other commitments. A techno music fan said that she and her boyfriend would usually dress up in “death punk” helmets, and that winning a prize would almost be a no-brainer, except they felt it would be something like insider training should they take the cake at the place she worked. Another guy who, guess what, is in such a band added he’d normally go as a punker musician, complete with mohawk.