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Frogwater @ The Mitchell Park Domes

Jan. 13, 2011

Jan. 18, 2011
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A lot of music venues have had cleaner air since the smoking ban, but with their “Music Under Glass” series every Thursday, the Mitchell Park Domes is the only Milwaukee venue that actually produces its own oxygen.

On a small, patio-like stage with the branches of a weeping fig tree looming above them in the Floral Show Dome last Thursday, Frogwater played to a crowded horticultural center. The audience was made up of suburbanites, young couples with kids running wild, and octogenarians, all oddly arranged in the dome. Folding chairs were set up in rows uphill along the paths around the center area, which was under construction for a miniature train display. People crowded on the paths underneath Buddhist pines, standing toe to toe with button ferns, carefully tapping their feet and dancing to themselves.

Frogwater has played a mix of covers and originals that include songs done in traditional Celtic, bluegrass, blues and country styles since 1997. The band’s founders and driving force are John and Susan Nicholson, who play guitar and fiddle, respectively. They include guest musicians frequently and had a guest playing rhythm on a traditional Irish drum, the bodhrán, for their Domes show. The Nicholsons played their instruments effortlessly, slightly smiling at each other as their fingers worked through the complex jigs and reels.

The sound was pretty decent for a giant dome made of glass and metal, although it was hard to hear the song introductions and Irish jokes the Nicholsons made—the speaking echoed heavily, although the singing did not. The sound was actually clearer in the speakers set up in the lobby between the Tropical Dome and Arid Dome. There was also a system set up that blinked a neon globe of lights around the dome. This was utilized for a synchronized light show to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” during an intermission; another one at the end of the show was set to classical strains.

Some of Frogwater’s memorable covers included the blues standard “Stump Blues” by Big Bill Broonzy and an energetic, fiddle-powered rendition of Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl,” in which they proved their mastery of Celtic sounds.

The “Music Under Glass” series continues every Thursday through March 31.


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