Hudson Wisconsin Nightlife

Bluegrass fest, to also bring things from tastings to antiquing, is finally here

April 9th, 2015

It’s all about the music, of course, at the fifth annual Roots and Bluegrass Music Festival in River Falls that swings into action on Thursday night, then really gets rockin’ on the weekend, but there are lots of other related activities as well.
The following is a blow by blow description of what you can find happening downtown now through Sunday.
This is the second year of a local craft beer and wine tasting event, running from 5-8 p.m. Friday at Juniors Bar and Restaurant. There have been many scheduled openings of new wineries and craft-style breweries in the immediate area, and this is your chance to see and taste in person what they have to offer. This is the only event of the entire festival where you have to pay to participate, but you get a lot of bang for your buck, as dozens of the drinks can be sampled for only a $20 fee (or $30 at the door). And there will be music, of course; Pushing Chain will provide it.
Craft beer makers at the tasting include those from the immediate area and locales just to the north, southeast and west, and they are 4 Brothers Beer, American Sky Brewing Co., Milwaukee Brewing Co., Rush River Brewing Company, Summit Brewing Company, Fulton Brewing Co., Gray’s Brewing and Lucette Brewing. Wines available, from both local and regional companies, are from 65 Wines, Door County Wine, M’Shiraz, Spurgeon Vineyards, River Bend Vineyard and Winery, Wollershein Winery and, for a bit of a different twist, Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery.
Specific brands include Hop Silo Double IPA, Saga IPA, Frost Line Rye, Farmers Daughter, Ride Again and Slow Hand, and also Honey Crisp Hard Cider, Crabby Cider and Apfelweiss Wine.
Advance tickets can be gained at the River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce office, DeVine Liquor, Dick’s Hometown Liquor and Juniors.
But back to the music, the festival committee carefully selects regional acts that are musically innovative, but capture the tradition of bluegrass and Americana at the same time, says one of the organizers, Chris Silver of the band Good Intentions, which plays Sunday.
“Some of the bluegrass bands play tunes that were written by iconic players like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley while others play a more regional repetoire. All of the bands in our lineup have years of experience performing around the region,” he says.
Bluegrass has a strong hold on the Upper Midwest these days, in large part due to the success of bands like Trampled by Turtles and Pert Near Sandstone, he adds. “The energy that these bands and the bands that will perform at the festival have is infectious and our festival audience has shown huge amounts of enthusiasm at each show.
“One thing is for certain: people return (to our fest) year after year.”
Jeff Wesley of Juniors Bar chimed in with this, as why people keep coming back. “The common theme with all of the bands is that they fit into some aspect of roots and Americana music, although we tend to focus predominantly on bluegrass acts. Over the five years of the festival we have had dozens of bluegrass, folk, Cajun, jazz, blues, gospel and alt-country acts.” Each year the festival books a handful of returning acts, but tries hard to find new bands to generate a new buzz and new energy towards the endeavor.
“The biggest difference between acts would be variations in styles … and to the more trained ear, variations of style within a genre. For example, the Fish Heads play more of an Americana style while incorporating aspects of bluegrass, whereas Art Stevenson and Highwater are going to offer a much more traditional bluegrass style,” Wesley said. “As far as differences within a genre, both Sans Souci Quartet and the Good Intentions play bluegrass, but the bluegrass aficionado would be able to tell a major difference between the two groups, whereas a novice listener would feel that the two groups were pretty similar.” He said the Barley Jacks are a unique blend of bluegrass and traditional Celtic styles, creating their own sound and establishing themselves as one of the Midwest’s best live bands.”
“While you can see many of the festival acts playing throughout the area, and many have played at Juniors over the past few years, what makes our festival so unique is that you can see a dozen great regional and local bands within the course of one weekend,” he said, adding that the fest has stages all over town, not just one stage cycling bands through one at a time.”This gets the attendee up and moving and patronizing multiple businesses throughout downtown River Falls,” Wesley said. It creates a whole weekend of great vibes.
Getting back to the Barley Jacks, for example, they play a lot of originals, and also incorporate blues, classical and bebop styles into their songs, which can be heard on Friday night. Their 2010 devue recording, Either Side of Night, received critical acclaim and they garnered an Artist Initiative Award from the Minnesota Arts Board in 2011.
Another act that could be considered a headliner and that performs Saturday night, Art Stevenson and his band, have been playing since 1993, and the husband-and-wife-led group that includes a dobro player have put out seven albums and have gained praise from industry magazines.
Kind Country is noted for their cover of Friend of the Devil by the Grateful Dead, and concerning the Dead Horses, bandmate Sarah won the festival’s singer/songwriter competition in 2012. (For a complete list of bands playing, and times and venues, visit this web site’s Picks of the Week category).
– To see how all types of players stack up against the best in the business, eight to 12 contestants compete in a contest showcasing a bluegrass technique called, of course, flatpicking, which can be described as playing notes on the springs with an up and down motion, giving the melody of percussive feel, Chris Silver says. The prized Upper Midwest championship play-off for the flatpicking is at Juniors on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. “The tunes usually come form the fiddle tune and swing repertoires. It takes a tremendous amount of ability, dexterity, fine motor and music vocabulary to win a flatpicking contest.” Songs can range from fiddle tunes to more jazz influenced bluegrass instrumentals, he said. “The tunes that are typically chosen are labeled as flatpicking standards.”
– The Attic Treasures Appraisal, at Riverwalk Art and Antiques, will likely appeal to you if you can answer this question: “Do you have a treasured heirloom or awesome find you have been wondering about? Meet with our experienced antique dealers on Saturday to learn about it and it’s possible value,” say the store owners of the activity, from 2-4 p.m. “Walk-ins are welcome to bring an item or just enjoy watching.”
However, because this has been a popular event and seating is limited, to ensure your item is seen, the owners recommend contacting them in advance at riverwalkartandantiques@gmail.com. to send a description of the item and photos, if possible. Any markings, dates or patent numbers are helpful in determining value, and they will start doing research when hearing from you. “Stories associated with what you have are always interesting, too,” they say.
– “Paint the town” is a free family activity held in conjunction with Hudson’s Cheers Pablo painting experience shop, which will provide mini-canvasses and of course, the paint. It is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Funktion Junktion. There will also be contests to buy two paintings. These are “Guitar” at Juniors at 3 p.m. Saturday, and “Peaceful Trees” at Funktion Junktion at 2 p.m. Sunday. Each are $35 per person.
The festival is presented by the River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, in conjunction with Family Fresh Market, River Falls Journal, the Pioneer Press, Brickhouse Music and Rush River Brewing Co. Harmonica Sponsors are Ameripride, Sysco, Pairfection/Juniors and Upper Lakes Foods, and Friends of Bluegrass named are Ace Hardware, Belle Vinez Winery, Dynamic Bookkeeping, Edward Jones, Green Oasis, Hub 70 Design & Print, Jazz 88 PM – KBEM – FM, MN Bluegrass Association, Thunder Country Radio 95.7 and WESTconsin Credit Union.
For more information, contact the Chamber at (715) 425-2533 or www.riverfallsbluegrass.com.

So much bluegrass, roots music and other activities, no one’s singing the blues

March 31st, 2015

What with all the music acts, beer and wine tasting, flatpicking and other contests, antiques appraisal and various workshops, the fifth annual Roots and Bluegrass Music Festival in River Falls is sure to be finger pickin’ good.
Bands playing at the prominent spring fest — at least 12 of them performing more than 50 total hours of free foot stompin’ music at 13 different venues — will take the various stages, all indoors, between April 9-12.
A key part of the festival is the second year of a local craft beer and wine tasting event, which can attract many visitors to River Falls, and also even more attendance among the locals, as it starts early, running from 5-8 p.m. Friday at Juniors Bar and Restaurant. There have been many scheduled openings of new wineries and craft-style breweries in the immediate area, and six of them each will display their liquid wares, with their creative names showing the diversity. The tasting event is a high-profile but still down-to-earth activity to accompany the music weekend. This is the only event of the entire festival where you have to pay to participate, but you get a lot of bang for your buck, as well over a dozen of the drinks can be sampled for only a $20 fee (or $30 at the door). Pushing Chain will provide music.
The Wisconsin State Flatpicking Championship for bluegrass-style instruments such as guitar is billed as among the only ones of its kind, where people who include accomplished musicians can compete and see how they measure up against the best. It will be held on Saturday at Juniors from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the winner gets an authentic handcrafted guitar.
Another novel event that is special to the festival is at RiverWalk Art and Antiques on the north end of the downtown on Saturday from 2-4 p.m., where artists can have their musical instruments and other “treasures” appraised for value. You can see how much that antique instrument you’ve had around for years is worth, or just watch the fun. In the spirit of the festival, Riverwalk also will host a clogging demonstration.
There is also a new singer-songwriter competition on Saturday at Juniors from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and open mic and open jams at various times during the weekend, at the Dish ‘N the Spoon Cafe, Family Fresh Market and Funktion Junktion. At these, individual instrumentalists and singers mix and match with members of the house band. The first three places each in the flatpicking championship and singer-songwriter competition get prizes.
As part of the four days of music, the headliners on the weekend in the late night slots include the Barley Jacks from 8-11 p.m. on Friday at Juniors as well as Dead Horses, a Stillwater, Minn. band that gives a regional presence from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on that same night at Shooters, and Art Sevenson and High Water from 8-11 p.m. on Saturday at Juniors.
The main stage at Juniors opens an hour before each of the music acts get going. Sorry, there are no pets allowed at any of the events.
The festival’s bands incorporate at least seven different genres, but all have a tie-in with roots music, bluegrass and Americana, also showing variances of style within a genre, said Jeff Wesley of Juniors.
Chris Silver, another one of the organizers, and his band Good Intentions, will headline the festival on Sunday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the West Wind Supper Club, and Silver said the festival’s shows tend to be a mix of bluegrass diehards and younger people first becoming acquainted with the music.
The fact that they are playing at what is predominantly a supper club underscores what’s special about this festival. “You can see a dozen great regional and local bands within the course of one weekend. While most festivals have one stage that the bands cycle through, our festival has stages all around town,” said Wesley.
In recent editions of the festival, attendance has been up sharply. The fest has been billed as an event where patrons can make an entire day of it, going to breakfast as a start, and then continuing on into the afternoon and evening by taking in plenty of music and other activities. They are even invited to parttake in the various “Bluegrass brunches” put on by local eateries.
Patrons have said they like the experience of being at someplace like a local grocery store, as one of the venues with music is the Family Fresh Market, then rounding a corner and finding that hey, there’s a band playing there, said Judy Berg of the River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. Other stores where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find bands, but they’ll be playing there anyway, are local cafes and antique-based shops.
“With this, you’ll never know what is going to happen,” Berg said about the surprises that can unfold at the festival. But one thing is for certain; this is April and in Wisconsin that can still mean rough weather, but it doesn’t matter, since the bands are all indoors and the only time people have to be outside is the short walk from venue to venue. All of them are in a few block section of historic Main Street, with its tree lined median, and even this short jaunt allows people to enjoy its unique character, with specialty shops, restaurants and the historic Falls Theater. Along with this ambiance is the hustle and bustle of a vibrant college campus, Chamber officials note. They also point out the stay and play aspect of River Falls, as there are three extensive attractions, such as walking tours, within blocks of the downtown, as well as five motels and other hospitality-based businesses nearby.
The festival is presented by the River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. For more information, contact them at (715) 425-2533 or www.riverfallsbluegrass.com.

Wearin’ the green: Awash with more than a wee bit of checks and stripes, solids too

March 22nd, 2015

To my friend who is a bouncer at Dick’s Bar and Grill, what happened?
You thought that with St. Patrick’s Day being on a weekday, there would be “wee” little customer traffic. But the place was as hoppin’ as a green toad, while serving the green bunny Hopster brew by New Glarus, and the whole front room was full and aflutter. (I especially liked the green facial hair, as in a mustache that was being passed around to patrons at more than one table, and sideburns that were showing on some of these new Irish, in a flash of flair that continued to show until the weekend). And the pair of bartenders sported fully-solid green and a red shirts, respectively, as to the Irish, one was a Grinch. The same two colors were sported by an off-duty server in his shorts and top; did they coordinate before coming to work? And did they include the Mennonite I saw who was virtually part-Irish in a long, bright green coat?
There were St. Paddy’s people aplenty at the Village Inn in North Hudson, as well, in part to raise some green of their own for the well deserved Randi Deal medical benefit. The inn over the holiday welcomed village vagabonds on one of the first stops in what this year was a more informally organized pub crawl, although all the places were still hit. What is becoming basically the house band closed their final set with an Irish-themed ditty on Tuesday, which was followed with more Shamrock-style music played on the jukebox.
The busyness trend was not the same everywhere, but at the Smilin’ Moose, someone was part Irish with a plaid shirt that had green stripes, (or were they grayish)? Ditto with two people who had green shirt only and were celebrating one’s birthday with the infamous more-than-one-liquor oversize ladle drink, just perfect for an Irish B-Day. To which the bartender said, “birthday, Christmas, whatever, you’ve been good right?” Now that’s the luck of the Irish!
– A server at Dick’s who has blazing red, curly hair said that despite that, she is only one-eighth Irish. A close relative, who is similarly Irish but also part Mexican, has very dark complexion and hair, she said. Put that in the “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” file.
– If St. Patrick’s Day is a travel holiday, St. Paul is not the only likely destination. Server Brooke at the Green Mill said she would not be at the Saturday party her employer was throwing, because she was flying to Chicago to take in the Irish things there, such as a parade that will rival anything you’d find. One of her co-workers, Shavon, took the occasion to go into Minneapolis and go a “wee” bit crazy, or maybe more. And then there’s consummate downtown server Sofie, who a bit later was en route to the Windy City for her own birthday festivities.
– Although on the Saturday that was a pre-party for St. Patrick’s Day, there wasn’t a lot of green being worn, this says it all about the sheer number of people basically being Irish: There was a guy trying to negotiate the length of the Smilin’ Moose, which boasted the “pre-party” moniker, on crutches (you simply don’t do that).
– And the Saturday following the holiday saw a guy in a get-up as The Riddler, complete with green checks as part of his plaid shirt and pants. That fit at many levels, as TVs were showing a Batman marathon on TNT. And to complete the green theme, as part of March Madness, the college basketball team with that color uniforms, Oregon, was getting ready to play the Badger mens basketball team in the next step of the NCAA tournament, on Sunday at 6:45 p.m. You can view that contest at some of the aforementioned places, and another choice is Kozy Korner in North Hudson, which specializes in airing these kind of often-decided-by-last-shot telecasts on what is not a day of rest.

– Then on Sunday night, bartender Matt was (finally) wearing a green T-shirt, which he said is one of two such shirts he has available for work, (laundry nightmare)? The other — refer to earlier in the story — is bright red. He said the method to his madness is to wear the green shirt two days a week, so that on those peak nights there is no misunderstanding about his role as a bartender, not a bouncer, as they wear red tops.

They swing and sway, and again on Sunday, Badger music they will play

March 8th, 2015

The sign said they are “the greatest band ever,” and the team for whom they play isn’t bad either.
The No. 3-ranked women’s hockey team of the Wisconsin Badgers beat North Dakota 4-1 in Fargo to advance to the 1 p.m. Sunday title game in the WCHA Final Faceoff. The ease of the Saturday win may be seen as a pleasant surprise, as when asked earlier in the week about a favorite, owner Ryan of Kozy Korner, which put up that sign, said that it was 50-50, since North Dakota was at home and has become a pesky rival.
That means the team advances to the finals against either Bemidji State or the Minnesota Gophers — making for a border battle — and perhaps more importantly to local people that the Badger marching band will play again at Kozy in North Hudson, at around 8 p.m. Sunday. Bemidji won that semi-final game 1-0.
This is the second chance in three days to see the Badger band there, as they and their pumping horns swung through on the way up to the Fargo area on Friday.
And boy do those horns swing. They once again were the definition of demonstrative early Friday evening, swaying sideways or up and down with every passing second. Despite that speed, there was still time for them to flash a waving hand or thumbs up sign between notes. It was right around 5 p.m. that the two dozen or so members marched into Kozy, and quickly rounded a couple of corners in the establishment, with some of them flipping on through to the back area without missing a beat.
After a quick first number, instructions made their way to the end of the band’s line via both words and non-verbal cues. Soon they would be circling up and around past the kitchen area — or have one of their members with the biggest instrument stand up high inside a booth to toot his horn — taking time on occasion for chant lines such as “when you say Wisconsin …”
The patrons loved it, as a woman just an arm’s length away from one of the players led them in swaying with the band. A pair of young girls stood on their chairs to applaud, and closer-by, two young boys next to the tuba player covered their ears. Between the reactions of the four of them, it appeared the volume was at just the right level.
One of the patrons, a recent transplant from Ohio, said she was heartened by the family friendly atmosphere, and the politeness and attentiveness to the children’s needs even as the music poured out — something you wouldn’t necessarily find in her home state. When she had come in with a relative, they were asking the best place to see the soon-coming show, and the locals said, again politely, that any of the booths were fine, as the band by the nature of their performance would be cycling through the entire area.
The newfound fan from Ohio had even gone out to buy a black Badger sweater, with slightly edgy lettering that was partially in a neon green, for the occasion. She thought this more appropriate than her Buckeye shirt.
To wrap up your weekend, you might want to come early to Kozy and check out Badger men’s basketball against Ohio State, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, then stay for hockey that night. You just might see someone in Buckeye garb.

The walleye and making music mark Season’s Tavern fifth year in business

February 27th, 2015

In a celebration to mark the fifth anniversary of the current Seasons Tavern, it will be all about the music, but also about a whole lotta walleye and burgers with three kinds of cheese.
The music part of the show starts around 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, and that should tell you something about Seasons, located in the heart of North Hudson.
While the show must go on, their attraction is more about the dining than its other attributes, and having the band begin at that time means people can enjoy their dinner and converse before they rock out along the main drag.
What on the menu keeps bringing people back? “Anything walleye,” two servers agreed, citing a variety of treatments given to their fish dinners. And The Slugger, a big trifecta burger topped with cheese curds, pepperjack cheese and jalopena-spiced cheese.
Many of the regulars say they like the consistency on the menu, knowing they can get a favorite dish time and again, but that’s not to say things aren’t occasionally changed up. There is a summer menu that leans more toward salads and pastas, and a chef’s special of the day that also often features pastas, as well as other items.
When my parents visit twice a year, Seasons has always been the place they want to take us for dinner, with the favorite entree and side dish choices evolving as the years went by.
Brad, the owner of Seasons, has also been the longtime drummer of the group Thirsty Camel, which has become the house band for occasions such as this at Seasons, performing four or five times a year. He keeps it low-key but still up-tempo. They feature light rock from a host of classic rock groups, and have been covering such songs almost since the time those bands got going in the ’70s and ’80s.
The trio sets up in the northeast corner of the lower level of the establishment, with several tables closeby that make for an intimate setting for listeners. It was at a spot just a few steps away that in the earlier part of the decade, karaoke and open mic sessions were held. They might at some point be brought back, but at this point Seasons strives to focus on being a restaurant, although there are other local music groups brought in on occasion.
The establishment is constructed out of plenty of thick wood hewn logs, bringing the lodge concept to town long before it was popularized by some other eating places. A relatively new touch is having the ceiling above the round downstairs bar opened up, except for some of the aforementioned beams, and a Christmas tree planted in the middle of the upper level.
The detail given to the ambiance is shown in the fact that many of the lighting fixtures are either new or have been moved around, so there is consistency in the decor.
Are there some regulars who come in like clockwork? “Oh yeah,” said a couple of the servers. These patrons often arrive at the same times on any given night, and regularly order the same drink or meal. The servers say they’ve grown accustomed to these preferences, and look forward to asking them about their families or how their day was.

Build the offerings and they will come, with accolades, to Dick’s and Bo’s

February 23rd, 2015

There are major accolades to be given to the management of a pair of bar and grill establishments that are much alike in that they offer plenty of community-based activities, and serve a wide variety of clientele as each day cycles through.
At Dick’s in Hudson, Carol Raley and Rochelle LaBlanc are the principal new owners, having bought the business from the longtime proprietors in the Kremer family, and at Bo’s ‘N Mine in River Falls, longtime owner Cedric Ellingson has been named 2014 person of the year by the local Chamber of Commerce.
The two women at Dick’s have been fixtures there for years, starting as servers at this, the oldest continuously running tavern in the state. They say they won’t change much, maybe a dab of paint here and there, and Dick’s will continue to be a prime place for breakfast since the cooks also have been a long-running team, for lunch and later happy hour for local business-people, and then for dancing to a variety of music, whether it be from a deejay on weekends or a core group of ever-expanding favorite bands, even in the middle of the week.
One of the managers asked me, back in the day when I worked for the Hudson Star-Observer, why don’t you do a story on all the community events associated with Dick’s, rather than just the nightlife? Good question, I thought, even if no one is necessarily reinventing the wheel.
Besides holding benefits, some of the longtime annual events that have attracted a regular following to the bar and grill are the blackout parties held in the dark except for glow sticks, spring break parties complete with sand, British car club shows, the One Block Fun Run, Easter bunny and pumpkin carving seasonal events, cribbage tourneys and Hot Air Affair pre-party. Often a few Lucky Dog mascots, who aren’t dogs at all, participate as well as humans.
Just of late, events have been a sweetheart dart tournament for Valentine’s Day, a chili cookoff and Euchre tourney. And as always, hung from the ceiling have been lots of holiday-themed decorations. And of course, the amazing Jeff Loven has completed his 13th year of being the infamous one-man-band on Sunday nights, and Wednesdays in the summer have often featured bands — to the degree that my friend Tom figures it into his schedule if they are on or off, then decides whether to make the trip from the Cities midweek. For years, also, there has been breakfast for the boating crowd and accompanying Bloody Mary’s. All this to the point that bartenders in the area consider Dick’s the place where you most want to work. But as far as the extra-curricular end, I still would like to someday hit the YMCA basketball court with Carol, in what’s been a longtime consideration, as in her native Luck the tall blonde was a quite prolific basketball scorer and rebounder.
But sometimes, what is old does indeed become new.
When I first moved to Hudson, the far northwest corner featured a pay telephone on which you could call out — before the phone company started taking those out of service. It had, very humorously, a painting of Superman placing the call.
After a while, that gave way to space for a popcorn machine, but I still always thought that the presence of Superman was a nice touch.
So, a couple of weeks ago, the whole thing was dismantled again, this time with the eventual placement of decorative paneling that cordoned off a back room. Suddenly one night, there was all this remodeling going on, and you could see for the first time a temporarily revealed back-room area that on one end had small drawers of nuts and bolts that reminded me of my garage. Later, for a short period of time, there was the whirring of a drill, which temporarily made it hard to converse about how nice the new area was shaping up.
But still later, the new arrangement was complete, with the popcorn machine moved closer to the rest of the room and an office area finalized with dedicated space for various business affairs. But still, no sign of a resurrected Superman.
Perhaps the best, closest thing to Superman at Bo’s has been Joe Montana, the famous quarterback who when with the Kansas City Chiefs and their summer practices in River Falls was known to stop by and tip a couple. And, it’s reported, he would even talk to the average Joe’s at the bar, as long as it was everyday guy stuff and not football. Much like Lynyrd Skynyrd used to sing, “don’t ask me about my business, and I won’t send you away. If you want to talk about fishing, I guess that would be OK.”
But the owner of Bo’s can’t quite escape the local notoriety — as not only Montana comes in, but everyone from business and local political leaders to college students — even if Ellingson’s not quite hall of fame bound.
This is a short list of what Ellingson’s done in and for the community of River Falls:
– He’s on the regional board for Big Brothers/Big Sisters;
– Is involved in the River Falls Baseball Council with building the First National Bank of River Falls Field;
– Has worked with Our Neighbors Place that benefits homeless people;
– Is involved with many chamber events, including those on St. Patrick’s Day, and with RiverDazzle and the Bacon Bash;
– Works with many UW-River Falls events, including athletics and Bowls of Hope;
– Through his business, hosts a dinner for an area suicide awareness group.
Ellingson will point out that like Dick’s, having such ties brings people into his establishment, making it a win-win situation.

Roots music to take root at Tasting event for farm-friendly Hot Air Affair

February 2nd, 2015

The Hudson Hot Air Affair has a farm theme this year, and the fact that there will be a variety of rootin’ tootin’ music as well as tasting of many local products is no bull.
The longtime ballooning extravaganza running from Feb. 6-8 is sponsoring the Taste of Hot Air Affair, Field to Flight edition, as a fundraiser. It features sampling of spirits, wine and beer, along with decadent chocolates and cheeses, and is set for Saturday from 7:30-10 p.m. in the Chateau Room of the Hudson House Grand Hotel, 1616 Crestview Drive. Sponsors of this signature activity for the 26th annual launching event called Field to Flight, E-I-E-I-O, are 45th Parallel Spirits and the Villa Bellezza Winery, both local companies.
Music in this, the Taste’s third year will be provided by the Hunyuks, a River Falls area duo of Bill Gnatzig and Denny Thorsen. They cover diverse genres, from “rootsy fine old-time picking with vocals,” to country, classic country and down home music, and have been together for about seven years.
“We do a fair amount of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, with some of that old fun Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, and occasionally throw in some ’50s and ’60s rock,” Gnatzig said.
The style of their show will be catered to the nature of the event. “We will tone down the volume so that people can visit and just let them enjoy themselves,” he said, adding that their guideline is creating “songs and smiles.”
The music for the Taste is compliments of the River Falls Roots and Bluegrass Festival, another large-scale event that has many bands and related attractions at numerous venues and hits their stages in April. That festival and an accompanying event in River Falls, the Bacon Bash, plan to march in the Torchlight Parade that will be held in downtown Hudson at 7 p.m. Friday. The parade will also feature music of another type, that of kazoo marching bands.
Proceeds from the Taste will go to the Hudson Area Backpack Program, a non-profit organization that distributes backpacks filled with groceries to families with elementary-age children in need.
Pre-sale tickets are $15 per person and those at the door are $20. They can be purchased at Hudson WESTconsin Credit Union, American Sky Brewery, Linda White Family Hair Care, or by calling (612) 360-3821, or emailing tamigirl1297@yahoo.com.
Also on the Hot Air Affair agenda is music at four participating sponsor locations, American Sky Brewing Co. and the Plaza Lounge/Hudson Bowling Center on the Hill, and Urban Olive and Vine and Dick’s Bar and Grill downtown.
Music acts at the Hangar Taproom of American Sky, at 1510 Swasey St. behind Fleet Farm, are Sasha Mercedes and DJ Rickert from 6-9 p.m. on Friday and Jambo Joe Bones at 5-8 p.m. Saturday.
In her online biography, Mercedes says her music “will make you think, break your heart and kick you in the gut all at once.” She has released more than six albums and the cover art on the latest, which was produced in its entirety in just three days, was created by Rickert, the drummer. She has shared the stage with the likes of songstress Tracy Bonham and folk musician Pete Seeger. Mercedes says her songs can be “cross-platformed to fit into just about any genre.”
Rickert has produced mixes based on the music of several artists, the most recognizable being Fatboy Slim. Both musicians have had plenty of exposure on You Tube.
Local favorite Jambo Joe Bones for years has hit many venues around the area with his laid-back, lets-have-a-party trop-rock that owes to Jimmy Buffett.
Urban Olive and Vine will feature a pair of very different performers. Jazz Savvy takes the stage on Friday and Mark Keating on Saturday. Both start at 7 p.m. Keating is a fingerstyle guitarist and singer inspired by players such as Leo Kottke, and has a background in playing many differing styles.
Rounding out the music options connected with the Hot Air Affair are deejay music at Dick’s Bar and Grill on Friday and Saturday starting at 10 p.m., which gives a chance to mingle with the pilots, and karaoke in an intimate setting at the bar at the 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.
Visit www.hudsonhotairaffair.com for more information.

If you’re going shirtless in this weather to party, at least put on a Packer playoff jersey

January 18th, 2015

It doesn’t take a Lambeau Leap to see that the main topics this time around are the cold (still) and Packer football (now that its fully back in gear), as well as the bar signs that tell about these and other things. (And, if you’re reading this post after the Packers’ debacle on Sunday, take note of the sarcastic sign on the Agave Kitchen marquee that quotes Aaron Rodgers and says simply “Relax.” Then, in what’s becoming a trend, that message was reiterated on the marquee of Season’s Tavern a day later, when it read “Relaxed too much.”)
– Even in the coldest of the weather we’ve had, people have been out at night in shirtsleeves — or less. The worst-case scenario was seen when two young dudes were shirtless and in sweat pants at bar time, and when a man had some major bling going on, but again no shirt, while sitting in a small sports car. Since he had to take a ride back to Minnesota, I hope he rectified that clothing glitch. There also was a sweatshirt that someone had taken off and plopped in a snowbank, and it was still there the next night, this time draped over a “sidewalk closed” placard near the patio construction at the Smilin’ Moose. Down the block on a parking meter, there was a similar positioning of a big chunk of carpet; what’s up with that? I think the meter was the same one that was literally late-night hurdled by a very tall blonde earlier in the construction, or should I say football, season.
– With temperatures as they have been, you knew you would see this miscue eventually — a bank sign that said, “-0 degrees.” Math majors they are not, as you don’t really need the “minus” part. And certainly not Saved By Zero. That’s also because I don’t think they have to worry about these things in relatively warm and rainy Seattle, the Packers Sunday afternoon NFC Championship opponent.
– The other night at Dick’s Bar and Grill, there was a man nattily clad in an ill-fitting stocking cap, so much so that when you factor in his facial appearance, he looked just like Bill Belichick, the New England coach whom the Packers just might end up facing this postseason. As a counterpoint, when I was in there after that, the many TV screens showed his quarterback Tom Brady also wearing such a hat, (just looking much better in it, maybe taking tips from his supermodel wife). Truth be told, there has been a man in Dick’s many times who greatly resembles Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, (who does not look nearly as good in State Farm commercials). As a last note on the subject, did anyone see yet another QB, Jay Cutler, while viewing him at a sports bar, sitting on the bench for a powwow with the Chicago Bears other critical thinkers, and holding a pen that because of the camera angle looked like a cigarette hanging out of his mouth?
– Now that the season has (mercifully) come to an end, a post mortem would be to revisit the incident where a Viking lineman was one of nine people shot near a bar in downtown Minneapolis. This raises a good question (and maybe answers it, too): Why do so many people from the metro forsake the Warehouse District entirely and come to downtown Hudson to party?
What follows is some sage wisdom from some people who do just that. Hudson is less pretentious (most would say) and often more friendly, not to mention safer, drinks are much cheaper, bars are closer together, people who include celebrities can party while under the radar, and of course, we are the first place over the border in a new state where some of the laws are different.
– The deejay at Dick’s yelled to dancers for an applause shoutout, individually, for both the Packers and the Vikings, and the reply actually seemed to favor The Other Side. That’s like because a party bus had just pulled in From Foreign Soil.
– A friend from Hudson I’ve known since back when the Vikings sometimes had winning records is also their official tailgate deejay for home games, and said that during the Packer postseason he will be “downtown” at local sports bars in his Viking gear to rub that fact in, or at least to remember when it was the case.
– A man at Dick’s mentioned that the bar at which he works had two deejays for New Year’s. I asked him where that bar is. He replied River Falls, adding that they have specially customized beer pong tables. “Do they have the logo on them?” He replied again, “the whole nine yards.”
– The latest marquee signs of interest in North Hudson are led by one outside Kozy Korner that read as such, but you had to read both sides to get the gist: On one side was, “Why did the hipster burn his lip?” Then on the other side: “He ate the pizza before it was cool.” Just a block down was this from Village Liquor, with apologies to ZZ Top: “5% off. Wear a pearl necklace.” And then at Agave Kitchen, there was an accurate prediction of a Packer win that read across the bottom as a hashtag “ISEETHINGS.” It was followed the next day by “Nomo Romo.” That same message appeared a bit later outside the Village Inn in North Hudson. (Apparently imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially if you’ve been tipping a couple).

January 2nd, 2015

What happened on New Year’s? Who wore what? And who got married? Read all about it under “Notes from the beat” and “Picks of the week.”

From Garth’s 11 gigs to Gwar, they go the Cities to gawk (but don’t Blink)

December 29th, 2014

Every year or so there is a concert in the Cities that attracts attention from numerous local bar patrons, as they share stories over a beer from such past concerts and look forward to adding more. But few artists have induced the sheer number of comments that lingered on for more than a week, from those looking forward to his show(s), while socializing at many different venues in and around Hudson, as the recent Garth Brooks foray. Many of those people couldn’t wait to again see his groundbreaking form of country music and showmanship, and the fact that he slated 11 different shows likely fueled the fire. These local fans were of all ages and genders, despite the fact that this was called an “unretirement” party for Brooks, age 52, by the AARP magazine. (Yes I receive it, hence my taste for classic rock).
– Also recently, a Dick’s Bar and Grill employee said he and some of his co-workers scored tickets for a luxury suite at the much-anticipated Black Keys show in the Cities. They were only one such box away from being right next to the stage.
– This whole occasional mega-concert theme had first played out, as my memory serves me, when an old friend Danyiel had dressed up as the actress on a Blink 182 album cover at Halloween, which was followed up by going to a concert of the same ilk as Blink with a whole crew of co-workers from Dick’s.
– Bartender Matt at Dick’s told me his parents didn’t care for the fact that he listened to the likes of Slayer, in concert and out, while growing up. But then he found, as Cheap Trick would sing about, his parents’ old records and put them on. In the stash was an original Black Sabbath vinyl, and added that the album cover was so vintage that Ozzy had his name signed as he was previously known, Ossie.
– Matt and others also have invoked the band Gwar as the best they’ve seen in the Cities, in some cases gaining that status than one time. Even in the upper balcony, they were reached out and touched by the fake (I think) blood that was spewed by the band, to the point that plastic sheets were needed to deflect it by those closer to the stage. And here I thought I was being hip, knowing all about metal music and even the dinosaur-like costumes worn by Gwar, but I really wasn’t sure if their blood was as real as that broadcast by, say, Gene Simmons of KISS. The guy who enlightened me most about Gwar, which was back in the Twin Cities late last fall, looked like another of their contemporaries, Scotty Ian of Anthrax, but with a better beard. A close second as far as information, was the aformentioned Matt, who said Gwar can play their loud guitar while in those bulky costumes because they are constructed largely of glorified, football-like shoulder pads. He and some of his family know this much because, for example, Matt’s sister once dressed up for a costume party as a Gwar-woman.
– And lastly on this theme, a friend said he’d seen Twisted Sister perform in a show along the riverfront in St. Paul, where frontman Dee Snyder chastized those watching for free from a nearby bluffline while not buying a ticket. That from Dee, imagine! You’d not get a similar beef from the late Ronnie James Dio, the friend said about a different metal concert, which also differed in that he was in the front row, close enough to see that Dio’s feet were as small as his stature.