Entering The Thirsty Beaver—Again!

Taken from our first Thirsty Beaver show November 16, 2019.
How We Got There

Fate is a funny thing.

What’s a small band from Madison doing all the way up in Beaver Dam on a Saturday night?

It came from a chance meeting at a Madison concert last summer.

Sue and I have been trying to get to a Dale Watson show at the High Noon Saloon for years. This traditional country music legend has played occasional shows in the Madison area for over 25 years and has been coming to the High Noon regularly in recent years.

Sadly, he plays weeknights when it’s tough to stay out late at concerts in Downtown Madison. But last September the stars aligned and we made the trek to see the show. Our guitar man Steve Oasen joined us and we stood down front waiting for Watson to take the stage.

Steve drifted away from us and struck up a conversation with someone we didn’t know. We figured it was someone who wanted to talk about guitars, which is a fairly common occurrence when you go anywhere with Steve.

It turned out that he was talking with Steven Hubbard, a fellow musician and acquaintance from ‘way back. The same Steven Hubbard who hires the bands for The Thirsty Beaver.

This chance encounter led to our first appearance at the Beaver.

What We Found

We played our first show there last November. None of us had been there before so we didn’t know quite what to expect. Boy, did we get an education!

The Thirsty Beaver is a cozy neighborhood bar at the corner of Madison and Wall Streets. The bar itself is good sized with as much seating on the floor as the space allows. We set up in the corner as the crowd arrived.

Sue went up to the bar and got a round of beers for us. She got change back from a $10 bill! Drink prices are amazing here! Whatever you spend in gas to make the trip you’ll easily make up on your bar tab!

When we started the show the crowd reaction was amazing! Everyone knew the songs and were not shy about making requests and dancing in the limited space on the floor in front of the band.

The Thirsty Beaver patrons have high expectations for the bands which appear before them. They engage in a high level of interaction with the band (which we are especially geared to provide,) and they are generous in making “green” requests, which is the process of making requests of the band accompanied with $$$ headed for the tip jar!

Again, we are happy to oblige!

One of the other things we really like about this place is the show time. Instead of starting late and playing until bar time they start us at 7:00 and finish at 11:00. It’s a reasonable time spread for everyone involved: the band, the bar, and the bar patron who may not want to stay out until 2:00 AM just to hear music.

We’re Just Warming Up

This Saturday and April 18 we will be playing inside. But the Thirsty Beaver has an outdoor stage and we’re booked to play outside on July 17 and August 28th!

The Thirsty Beaver has also become known for their outdoor shows during the summer. The setting is gorgeous on the shore of Beaver Dam Lake. The outdoor bar and the extended seating makes it a great place to enjoy summer in full!

So, we encourage you to make the trek up Hwy 151 and experience the magic of The Thirsty Beaver for yourself. Grab a drink and be reminded of their motto, “A Wet Beaver…Is A Happy Beaver!”

Brix Cider—An Original Idea

Mount Horeb has some unique attractions which make it a special and memorable place to visit. The antique stores. The trolls. Duluth Trading headquarters.

Add another one to the list: Brix Cider.

In an age where almost every community now has its own brewery, Brix Cider goes its own way and makes hard cider.

And it’s good!

what we learned

Sue and I stopped by to drop off some posters for our upcoming show and stayed to get acquainted with the venue, its owners, and the product. We are not cider experts so we got a flight of four varieties and chatted with co-owner Matt Raboin.

Hard ciders (as they are done here,) are semi sweet to fairly dry. It’s a really nice change up from what you’ll get in a micro brewery or winery. We liked all four of our samples, but the most memorable was the Old Fashioned. It was a great mimicry of an actual Old Fashioned.

true farm to table

Brix Cider boasts local apples and other ingredients locally sourced wherever possible. No concentrates, no artificial flavors, no water! Matt and his wife Marie have been experimenting with cider fermentation for much of the past decade and that experience shows in the final product.

Local sourcing extends to their menu, which features in house sausages, pulled pork, soups, hummus, and locally grown popcorn. The Raboins work closely with local farmers and orchards to keep the menu fresh and the fermenters full.

Their spacious new building in downtown Mount Horeb is filled with local art, board games, and plenty of seating to enjoy cider, food, and great friends!

bringing people together

We asked Matt if he had been getting business from the nearby Duluth Trading Headquarters. He said yes, but what was probably more impressive to him was how Brix Cider has become a place where the entire neighborhood gathers and bonds. People stop by for a drink and snack, and realize they are sitting next to neighbors they didn’t know who live just doors away.

For all of these reasons we feel this will be the most unique venue we have played to date. The product is great, the people are exceptional, and the physical space is warm and inviting.

Raise a glass of hard cider with us this Friday at Brix Cider! The fun kicks off at 6:30.

 

Fisher King Winery—The Tradition Grows

Fisher King Winery is one of the area’s shining gems.

The history

It was founded in 2006 on the same block as the since departed Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb. Founder Alwyn “Fitz” Fitzgerald took his winemaking hobby to the public and immediately became a central focus of the “Trollway.” It was a great fit with the museum, antique shops and small bakeries and diners which line the main drag.

Eventually Fitz outgrew the space and was compelled to move. He found a spot in Verona’s Liberty Park business development, which features such icons as Sugar River Pizza and Wisconsin Brewing Company. In 2016 Fisher King moved into its current location.

the layout

There are three distinct areas inside the tasting room. The center area is where the bar is. To the right is the lounge, with comfy leather seats and board games.

On the left is the area where the band plays. Several tables are grouped so the band is the focus of attention. Although you can’t avoid the music throughout the place once the band kicks in, the other areas allow for it to be more background in nature.

We try to achieve a balance where people in the bar and lounge can carry on a conversation, yet they feel free to jump in and sing along when we hit on one of their favorite songs.

The main feature

The wine is top notch. Fitz focuses on making complex wines out of grapes which can be grown locally. Their Blue Rapture is the award winning best seller. Promising newcomers include Verona Red and Amber Dreams.

None of us in the band are experienced wine authorities. We wouldn’t know a tannin from a tent stake. But when the product is good we come back for more. And by gosh, we keep coming back!

There is a pleasing variety of wines across the whole menu. Sweet whites, dry reds and a lot in between. You will find your own favorite, but even the styles you may not be accustomed to will be tasty!

Their food menu is a locally sourced spread of appetizers. Some of the favorites are the cheese and sausage trays, charcuterie, and hummus antipasto spread. 

other options

If you’re hungry for more you can call over to Sugar River Pizza and bring a carryout over. And waiting for your pizza at a winery beats the hell out of sitting on a wooden bench waiting for your number to be called.

our take

One of the great things about this place is it is constantly evolving. The focus is on (of course) the wine. But they’ve added craft beers on tap recently in addition to the bottled beer they’ve had for years. Wine Bingo is a regular feature and Fitz is always trying out new promotions and offers.

We’ve been to the winery several times over the past couple of years and we have a great time in the intimate space on the end. It lets us really interact with the crowd on a personal level. We can go acoustic and “folksy,” or we can open up a little more and rock things. It’s definitely a different feel than a traditional stage show where the band is up above and the crowd is down below.

If you haven’t been there yet, or if you haven’t been there in awhile, stop by on Saturday and check it out!

The Hop Garden

This little gem nestled between County PB and Highway 69 on the banks of the Sugar River has been instrumental in the revitalization of Paoli, Wisconsin.

The Hop Garden is a true American success story. A guy (Rich Joseph,) who likes to make beer, grows his own hops and shares his creations with the local folk.

If you haven’t been there, the tap room is on the back side of an old grain mill which lay dormant for decades until someone started to renovate it in the 1990s. Joseph took it to a new level by opening a small tap room and creating a friendly and intimate climate inside.

Every year he’s added something new to the mix. In addition to his own brews he’s added guest taps, including Madison based NessAlla kombucha, which can be ordered straight, or mixed with one of the beers to make a unique shandy.

The options available keep expanding. In the front of the mill there is a craft shop with a bar (The Tipsy Gypsy,) which offers tastings of local and imported spirits. The blueberry vodka Moscow Mule served in a plastic baggie is a must-do!

On the street in front of the mill is the Paoli Bread and Brat Haus. This is a full spread smoke house where you can get pork, brisket and chicken in addition to the brats. Order the meat and take it over to the Hop Garden where you can eat and listen to the…

…Music!

Local musicians have been serenading the grounds of the Hop Garden for a few years now. Single performers and duets have played inside. In warm weather they moved outside and played on the ground near the tap room door.

Two years ago they built a covered stage on the side of the building where they’ve been able to open things up. And have groups like The Dawg Bones rock the neighborhood!

When we’re not there jamming on Great American Music you can expect to hear a broad mix of folk, blues, jazz, pop, originals, and more!

Our first indoor gig at The Hop Garden is coming up right after the New Year on Sunday, January 5. Everybody is a little nervous about bringing us inside—they know how much noise we can generate. But we have a little surprise for them…

We can go pretty much acoustic and fit in just right in a small space. The upright bass makes enough noise all on its own to fill a small room. Steve has the tools and talent to fit any sized space with the right guitar and amp. And the drummer has several options, including this little box known as a cajon. It looks like a small stereo speaker and it makes very drummy-like noises.

If you haven’t been to The Hop Garden yet, make this your excuse to try it out! Once you’ve been there you’ll look for any excuse you can think of to come back!

Rex’s Innkeeper: A Real Wisconsin Tradition

You’ll find The Dawg Bones on the other side of that wall with the sign! This Friday and Saturday!

Rex’s Innkeeper has simply been doing it right since the Reagan Administration.

Waunakee has been so lucky to have a place like this so close to their front doors. And it has stood the test of time.

A Bit of History

When the doors opened in 1988 the Village of Waunakee was still very much a small community. Rex’s was one of a few local dining/drinking options available.

They’ve sure grown with the times! Today Waunakee boasts a much larger population, and with it a lot more chain restaurants and other forms of competition. Still, Rex’s Innkeeper towers over them all and continues to be the top choice for dining and entertainment in the area.

what you can expect

Rex’s would qualify as almost everyone’s definition of a classic Wisconsin supper club. The menu is loaded with traditional favorites like prime rib, a fish fry, and broasted chicken. The soup and salad bar is unequaled by anyplace we know of in this area. And the bar is ready to set you up with anything you want including brandy old fashioneds, popular area tap beers, and other standards.

If you plan to grab dinner before the show, allow enough time. It’s likely you’ll be on a waiting list during peak hours. But there’s always plenty of drinking room in the stage area while you wait!

In addition to the restaurant, Rex’s has a banquet area you can use for private parties, weddings, and group fundraisers. Owner Rex Endres stays close with the community and it shows in everything he and the staff do year round.

In fact, our first appearance at Rex’s was to play for a silent auction for the Mad City Ski Team a couple of years ago. Rex agreed our music would fit with his regular music listening crowd so we have been back several times since.

What the band likes about rex’s

We really like the stage area. The whole restaurant is huge, with large seating areas on both sides of the bar. But even in the room where we play can be segmented into multiple rooms for parties and such. You can sit in the back and let the music be in the background. Or you can sit close to the stage—one favorite table in the winter is right next to the fireplace—and be up close and personal with the band.

There is a regular crowd who comes to Rex’s to dance. The wooden floor can fill up fast with couples who know what they’re doing out there. But there’s plenty of space for everyone who wants to get out there and shake a body part or two.

Rex likes to book the band for an entire weekend. So if you have other plans on one night you can still catch us while we’re there there other night. And it’s nice for the band so there is only one setup and tear down for two shows!

join us!

We are scheduled to play from 8:00 to 11:00 Friday and Saturday night, but the start time will vary a bit. If they still need to use to house PA to announce ready tables for their waiting list we’ll be delayed a bit.

After cooking for everyone else for the Holiday, why don’t you let Rex’s take care of you while we play music free of snow, mistletoe, sleigh rides and figgy pudding.

The Hop Haus

It sure seems like the Hop Haus has been around for a lot longer than the four-plus years they claim.

In that short amount of time owners Phil and Sara Hoechst have gone from brewing beer in their basement, to establishing a mainstay business in the heart of downtown Verona, to construction of a new complex in the ever expanding Fitchburg industrial area off Seminole Highway.

Word of mouth endorsements—and great beer—have helped to build an impressive following in an area full of breweries and microbrew-based taprooms. You have to have something special to set you apart from that kind of competition and the Hoechsts seem to have done that.

We were first drawn to their tap room by the food trucks which parked out in their lot on Friday evenings in the summer. We came for the food and ended up staying for the beer. 

One sign of a great beer joint is that everybody can find a brew they really like. This is particularly true if the people in your party have divergent (and opposite) ideas of what a beer should be. The Hop Haus delivers! Hoppy and cloudy or clear and crisp—you will find something you like.

Our first time playing at the Hop Haus was in August of this year. We found it to be a “cozy” space.

Now, we’re used to playing in small spaces. We often rehearse in my kitchen, we have serenaded my mother-in-law in her living room. At the Hop Haus we play in a rather confined space where we are surrounded by four wooden barrels filled with real, brewing beer! It takes a little effort to shoehorn everybody into place, but once we’ve settled in we are ready to rumble!

The fun part of playing here is achieving the proper balance. No, I’m not talking about striking the right mix of country versus rock-n-roll. It’s respecting the balance between the people who are there to enjoy the live music and those who are there to have background music to compliment their conversation. Or to watch the big game on the big screen.

Favorite Moment: Word association can be an entertaining game. Sometimes you just never know what phrases or words will be used to communicate an idea.

Our drummer had an empty glass so my wife offered to get him a refill. She asked. “What’re you drinking, Zach?”

“Um, I’ll take some more of that Lawnmower stuff.”

Fortunately, she knew the beer he wanted is called Yard Work. Close, Zach. Very very close. At least we know what part of lawn maintenance he’s responsible for!

We play at the Hop Haus this Saturday from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. If you have seen us there before you know this will be a great time. If you haven’t seen us there (or have yet to check out this venue,) give ‘er a shot! You’ll be glad you did!

On Our Way

The boys in action at The Hop Garden in beautiful Paoli, Wisconsin.

By Carl Gitchel, September 1, 2019

It’s weird how a blog post can now seem kind of old fashioned. But in this day of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al., it sure does seem to be a dated form of Internet interaction.

I’m cool with that. The depth of a longer letter sure beats the snippet driven world we now live in. Thanks for reading along!

I wanted to take a few minutes and update the status of The Dawg Bones. We’ve been humming along for two years now and recently we’ve been getting noticed by a number of additional venues. I think we’re about to “break out” and start finding an expanded rotation of places to play.

Steve, Todd and I have had a ball playing together on this project. For Steve it’s a return to his roots—he’s been performing this style of music for most of his life. Todd is learning a lot about music he didn’t have a lot of previous exposure to, especially the classic country we play. He’s enjoying the discovery process.

(And I should give a shout out to our frequent sub on drums, Zach Brassington. Todd’s busy schedule means we would have to turn down a lot of work if we didn’t have Zach available. Although his primary form of music is a lot more “intense” than what The Dawg Bones play, he grew up on our repertoire and does it well.}

I’m kind of in the middle. On a new instrument I get to bring to life music I’ve been listening to for over fifteen years. The great thing about this music is the wealth of material at our disposal. There is no way we’ll ever get to it all!

For “old” music we find a lot of new stuff

Hardly a show goes by where we don’t try something we’ve never played before. And a lot of those “experiments” end up in our subsequent set lists! Mountain Dew, Suspicious Minds, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Battle of New Orleans, Ring of Fire (with that damned kazoo!)…all came from the crowd (or spontaneously from the mind of Steve Oasen!)

From trial and error and audience feedback I think we’ve found our “sound.” People really seem to respond to the mix. The appeal of the early rock-n-roll, classic country and rockabilly is unmistakable.

I know we’re hitting a stride when I look out and see lots of folks singing along. That’s a great sign. But it’s also encouraging when we get a good reaction to the abstract things we try.

Me and Opie (by Nashville’s BR5-49,) PBR (Hillbilly Casino,) and our Balls Medley are as close to “originals” as we’re likely to get. But everywhere we’ve played things like these we’ve gotten a good response. Or as I say to the guys, those songs get us a lot of “eyes,” meaning much of the crowd turns to look up at us and pay closer attention.

Yeah, we’re attention whores…

Some groups are designed to be in the background. A string quartet at a cocktail party. A guitar/harmonica player at the family reunion. An accordion band under the park shelter.

That’s not us.

From my days of leading small run-out groups of UW Band members to my years of fronting The Red Hot Horn Dawgs, I have been happier being the center of attention than sitting in the background. We like to just let ‘er rip—warts and all!

Not everything works perfectly, and that’s okay. That’s one of the charms of a live performance. Like Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” We prefer that to a group that plays the same show, every time, everywhere. It keeps our shows more fresh for us, and more entertaining for the audience.

Oh, yeah, it’s about entertainment

You can play all the music you want but it’s hard to engage with an audience if all you do is play song after song after song. I have learned from some of the best that you gotta talk about what you’re playing. Or you’re just going to be an expensive beer drinking jukebox.

Whether it’s Mike Leckrone in front of the UW Band, Sinatra at the Sands in Las Vegas, or a band playing for tips in the honkytonks of Nashville, you have to talk a little about what you’re doing up there on stage. Or people will treat you as a back drop and not the entertainment.

What we’re up to

In addition to some of our regular haunts like Marcine’s and Fisher King Winery, we have been to the Hop Garden, the Hop Haus, Rex’s Innkeeper, and Boomer’s 5th Quarter! We have return engagements already on the books for most of these places and are working on more.

But new places are asking for us as well. In the coming weeks we’re going north to the Necedah area to play a car show at The Old Finley Tavern (9/21.) In November we will be one of many bands to play a fundraiser at the VFW on Cottage Grove Road (11/2.) On November 16 we make our debut at The Thirsty Beaver in Beaver Dam! and next summer we will play one of the prestigious weekly car cruises at the All Stop in Lodi (7/30.)

So as you can see, this Great American Music thing is working well for us and we’ll keep busy at it for the foreseeable future. For those of you who have come out to see us: Thanks so much for your support! It warms the cockles of our hearts (which I think is immediately behind the left ventricle,) to see you out at our events. If you have yet to catch a show: check out our schedule—it’s usually free to get in, what do you have to lose?

Music: Pick A Direction…and GO!

We tried that, and still ended up spiraling out to all points of the music compass!

Let me try and explain…

I’m Carl Gitchel, the ringleader of The Dawg Bones. It was a little over a year ago when I approached Todd Thompson and Steve Oasen to form this group with the purpose of playing a mix of early rock-n-roll, classic country, and rockabilly music.

This was, we thought, a pretty basic way to start a new band, while at the same time playing a broad variety of music. Early Elvis, Merle Haggard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, George Jones, Chuck Berry—lots of great classic music to choose from!

We started calling this mix “Great American Music,” because it was great, it just so happened to be by American artists, and (obviously,) it’s all music!

We decided to “restrict” ourselves to American music not to follow any subversive jingoistic dogma, but rather for these reasons: there was so much in the American songbook to choose from without crossing the border. And the British Invasion signaled the end of the upright bass as a common band instrument. I suppose I took that personally.

(I have not done any research to suggest the Beatles, et al., were directly responsible for the demise of my new “favorite” instrument. I’m sure it was a pure coincidence. There were technological challenges to amplifying an upright bass. Meanwhile, the electric bass was introduced as a cheaper and more portable alternative. These were legitimate reasons for the demise of the upright in the 60s—but I don’t have to like it!)

It takes a little time and effort to put together enough music to cover a four hour performance. We scrambled a bit early on but the set lists came together nicely.

And then we started looking for more tunes to add to our library! And that’s when the “trouble” started.

One of the things we wanted to avoid as a band was the death trap of playing the same music at every show. We started out by playing a lot of gigs at Marcine’s so we had to push hard to add music for the next show we hadn’t done before.

It was a good thing for us. But it opened the flood gates as well.

You see, Steve Oasen’s knowledge of these genres of music is vast. every time we got together to rehearse he’d come up with another ten, twelve, fifteen songs he’d think we’d “kill,” as he said it. I assume he meant that in a good way…

Pretty soon—in addition to the classics I mentioned above—we were looking at George Strait, John Fogerty, Johnny Rivers, Bruce Springsteen, Kentucky Headhunters, Ozark Mountain Daredevils…you get the idea.

And the list keeps growing.

Here’s the thing: we are either building ourselves up to be a very diverse and prolific outfit, or we are in danger of losing any kind of consistency as we try to tackle too many styles and sounds.

Which is it? I honestly don’t know.

Perhaps you can help us figure it out. Take a look at our upcoming schedule and stop by for awhile. We always love feedback from the crowd!