“Rocking out” took center stage as area bands flocked to downtown Appleton for the 22nd annual Octoberfest. With venues scattered along College Avenue and the Lawrence University campus, throngs of attendees were treated to earth-shaking bass lines and glass-shattering falsettos, all starting at 11 a.m. last Saturday.The festival kicked off with Pumpin’ Ethyl on the WIXX 101.1 stage (west of the Memorial Chapel). The band, which featured five delightful Pete Rose clones, treated listeners to classic covers such as “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Southern Cross” and “Free Born Man.” The most impressive band member was the drummer, a sultry lass who manipulated the drumsticks in a way that reminded me of this girl I met freshman year.
For those who preferred the gentler side of rock, the Steve Young Band was waiting near Starbucks. Consisting of a delightful mix of elder-statesman, sporting vintage Pendletons, immaculate flat-tops, and matching saddle shoes, the band ripped through a variety of polka inspired accordion pieces, much to the horror of the hippies sitting on the curb holding their cups of coffee and fingering their dreads. In an interesting form of social commentary, a solitary band member sat facing Starbucks cradling a massive tuba, to sound off each time an individual exited the establishment or shouted a request for “Freebird.”
Just a block away, Al Jahnke and Steel Dreams fed and nursed a small crowd of chain-smoking, heavy-set drinkers. Fresh off their recent success at the WDEZ Fishing Jamboree at Meyers Landing, the band exuded a fiery country aura, from their twangy electric guitars to their Wrangler jeans to their red sequined cowboy boots. Al, who appeared to be the portly drummer, revved up the crowd with classic lines such as “Yee-haw!” (roughly translated to mean “how the [edited] are you doin’!”) and “Where’s mah beer” before launching into a number of songs which, interestingly enough, featured themes centered around smoking and drinking.
One only had to saunter another block down College Ave to find another band ready to rock your [edited] socks off. Breakaway, an eclectic group of talented individuals tore through solid oldies-but-goodies such as “Hotel California” and “Summer of ’69” in-between beer and brat breaks. The lead singer, a squat man with a delicate fade, had a truly magnificent voice, so pure that it prompted several women to dance the “Half Nekkid.” (Write me if you have any clue where I can take lessons.)
The best band to hit the streets might have been the raucous Johnny Wad. With the catchy slogan “Got Wad?” hanging from the rafters of their “Budweiser Authority” stage, each band member could have easily filled the spot of that drunk uncle at your family reunion. The lead singer, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Ron Jeremy, was an energetic little guy who howled anything from old AC/DC to Celine Dion, and entertained the crowd in between songs with amazing feats of agility, more commonly known as “balancing on drum set while holding full cup of beer.” In a strange coincidence, Judy Dench appeared to be on keyboards and Tommy Lee on lead guitar. Pamela Anderson was nowhere to be seen.
Finally, a lone female singer-songwriter by the name of Cinnamon rounded out the afternoon with her impromptu set outside of Flanagan’s liquor store. Strumming on a guitar that she very possibly made herself, she made Ani Difranco come alive and Mick Jagger sound like Vanessa Williams. Midway through the set I decided I was in love with “Cinnamon.” I’m a dimple connoisseur and she had a set on her you wouldn’t believe.
These dimples were so impressive I was able to look past the Iroquois warrior haircut, the bull ring through her nose and the tattoos that ran from her calves upward. But alas, as is often the case with young love, we had too much in common: we love music, we naively expected her guitar to stay in tune for more than one song, we feel bras are unnecessary, and neither of us shave our legs.