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Out of the Past

Bands and a Book Remember the Dawn of Punk

Nov. 27, 2012
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Reliving memories of punk rock in the days when it was new has been key in igniting such recent events as the Lest We Forget concert, headlined by Die Kreuzen, and The Prosecutors’ reunion show. Steve Nodine is giving members of Milwaukee’s late ’70s and early ’80s punk scene another opportunity to remember the past in his oral history, The Cease Is Increase: An Oral History Of The Milwaukee Punk & Alternative Scene. Planning to publish it next spring in hardcover and as an e-book, Nodine has been recording interviews and raising money, first through a Kickstarter campaign and now with a benefit concert drawing from Milwaukee musicians of the era.

Nodine originally planned the event around Dark Façade, his ’80s techno-Goth band. The remnants of Dark Façade regrouped for the first time in a quarter century for The Prosecutors’ show but, as he admits, “no one else in the band wanted to play a second time. I couldn’t get everybody in the same room again to save my life.”

So instead of Dark Façade, Nodine will appear with his new band, Magic Bullets, created in collaboration with Michael Ciaccio of Tense Experts. Magic Bullets will perform garagey favorites by The Seeds, The Velvet Underground and others (but are working on originals for future gigs). Joining them are The Cream City Gypsys, a rock ‘n’ roll quartet featuring David Thomas, Jeff Lauwasser, Mike Farrow, and Laurie Kern, as well as Johnny On Washday with past and present members of the hardcore bands Sacred Order and The Crusties.

The granddaddy on the night’s lineup, Trance & Dance Band, was founded in Amsterdam in 1973 by American expatriate Jerry Fortier, who returned home to Milwaukee in 1975 and continued the band over the years with a morphing cast of players. Before forming The Violent Femmes, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo were Trance & Dance’s rhythm section, and during that time, DeLorenzo developed his signature percussion instrument, the tranceaphone. DeLorenzo will return to Trance & Dance for the next several gigs.

Fortier, who has helped with The Cease is Increase by videotaping Nodine’s interviews, has a background in Milwaukee music going back 50 years. In the mid-’60s he played harmonica with Steve Miller and by decade’s end, became one of the area’s original psychedelic light artists, enveloping everyone from Pink Floyd to Black Sabbath in liquid pools of undulating color. Also active in theater, Fortier lit the Organic Theater’s influential Broadway sci-fi production of Warp (1973) and John Schneider’s Obie-winning A Fierce Longing (1979).

Fortier’s vision for Trance & Dance has remained remarkably consistent.

“I always wanted a Sun Ra kind of thing—with lots of multi-instrumentalists contributing to a trance sound with no planned beginnings or endings,” he explains. “No song ever comes out the same way twice.”

Like many of today’s indie musicians, Fortier pursues music as a creative and social outlet with scant expectations of money or fame. Nodine agrees. “A lot of people put so much of their being into being rock stars and when it doesn’t happen, they lament not making that goal,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter to me now. I’m never going to stop playing.”

The Cease is Increase benefit concert takes place Dec. 1 at Shank Hall. Admission is $10. Tickets are available online at http://www.showclix.com/event/3721530.

Trance & Dance Band will also play a free show at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on Dec. 15.


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