Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blueheels; July 6, 2008; Summerfest, Milwaukee

I hope the Blueheels enjoyed their time at Summerfest, because I’m guessing it is unlikely they will get invited back. The “few surprises” that Robbie had promised turned into something so ridiculously over the top that I had to wonder what those unsuspecting folks who wandered in out of the sun for the band’s two hour set on the Potawatomi stage thought. The last time they played the House of Righteous Music they came with a gigantic bag of bubble gum that they scattered into the audience. For New Years Eve there were glowing rubber skulls. So why was I so surprised when halfway through the show a cardboard box full of mini-Bratz dolls, followed by a case of rubber chickens, were emptied into the audience by keyboard player Teddy Pedriana?

The audience responded by promptly tearing the dolls into pieces with gleeful abandon and volleying them back to the stage, where a Union-suited, cone-head wearing, pitchfork wielding Chris Billingsley tossed them right back. Well, when he wasn’t too busy dancing like a man possessed or playing air guitar next to lead guitarist Justin Bricco. The first several rows in front of the respectably large stage were populated by Blueheel loyalists, most giddily drunk, all happy as hell to see their favorite band playing their biggest gig yet. Yeah, I was right up there of course, but I have to confess, as fun as it was, it was hard to concentrate on the show with all the arms and heads and rubber chickens flying around.

But there was no doubt it was a rocker. It’s one thing to play three sets in four hours at Cranky Pat’s, but quite another to play one marathon set. When Bricco handed the guitar over to his dad, who was also serving as guitar tech, it may have been as much for a break as it was to give Dad Bricco a chance to show what he can do. The new record Lessons in Sunday Driving was well represented of course, title track “Lion and the Lamb” as fiery as I’ve heard it, while a few oldies like “Tennessee” and “Red Pajamas” also snuck in. The latter had been mostly absent from their sets lately and I couldn’t be happier to see it back. Also suspiciously absent on that song was Billingsley. With its chorus of “the Devil’s in red pajamas,” I can’t imagine a better song for a guy with a pitchfork wearing all red to be dancing on stage to.

For the end of the set the band invited everyone up, filling the stage with their fans who screamed the chorus of “Twist and Toil” in unison. Its mantra of “get up, go to work, go home, go to bed” seemed an unknown routine for them. As they filed back to their places on the other side of the barricade for one last song from the band, I was asked why the hell I wasn’t up there. I responded that someone had to be taking pictures, and I wouldn’t have missed that spectacle for anything. And as it turns out I can see it again next year, the Summerfest folks have already invited them back. Well, how about that, I was wrong. I guess they are cooler than I thought.

No comments: