Wise Jennings billed themselves as being Americana/Rock Roots music, heavy on the rock. It was a perfect description. Melissa played drums and harmonica (at the same time) and was on vocals with Jeff who played guitar and bass pedals and vocals, as well. These two belonged together.
After the concert, I got to briefly meet Melissa while Nicole was taking photographs. Later, I got to chat with Jeff about the gear he was using and discovered that he was creating that thunderous bass line by playing bass pedals with his feet. They had decided to have a music festival at their place near Lake Geneva, WI, and they invited Nicole and me to attend.
That event, which they named Wise Fest, would showcase five bands in a show that started at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Nicole and I arrived around 3:45 and the yard was filling up with cars. Three Vintage VW buses were parked and several tents were set up for those who planned on making it an all-night excursion. There were people with frisbees and hula-hoops and bean-bag tosses, blankets all over the lawn (it was a huge green space) and lawn chair set up for the concert.
The remaining groups were those whom Jeff and Melissa had met along the way in their own musical travels—groups with whom they had played on the same billing and groups that they had heard and liked.
The people were wonderful. Not just Jeff and Melissa but the groups and the concert-goers, also. There were people our age (and older!) and people much younger than us. At one point, I said to Nicole, “In 1979, I was at a Grateful Dead concert. This reminds me of that!”
The sense of community was established by the shared love of the music. My kind of place.
They were literally within four feet of their audience and the listeners ate it up. Grace under fire.
Following Pretty Beggar came Pidgin, a band described by Melissa as “Swamp Rock.” I braced for impact as that description did not sound like anything I would want to hear. It was just one more time that I found myself wrong about music.
I am a bit of a Jazz snob, as I have confessed before. Sure, I listened to other forms but I was pretty well locked into my chosen category. Nicole and Wise Jennings got me to listen to other forms and I’m glad they did.
So, along comes Pidgin, the swamp-rockers. It was two guys who looked like 2/3 of ZZ Top. One played an acoustic guitar with effects pedals and the other played electric bass with a kick-bass drum which he played while standing. After a couple of songs by these guys, I turned to Nicole and said, “I have never heard anything like this.” I meant that in a good way.
The guitarist was so imaginative in his effects and in his skill. I never expected to hear such a crafty bit of guitar work from a swamp-rocker. The bassist was right on target, as well. I should have picked up their CD.
Something to Do was all of that. In addition, it was a band of comedians with each one of them making jokes with the audience and between each other. You were defied not to have fun.
All this in the face of the reality that the lead vocalist and bassist was running late because he had been caught in North Carolina and was trying to make it back from the storm to get to Wise Fest.
Dedicated musicians. I love ‘em.
The audience and the bands were such wonderful people and they were there because of their love for Jeff and Melissa Weishaar. So were we. We enjoyed everyone we met because they were all so much like the Weishaars. I guess it’s true that you draw people who are like you.
We can't wait for Wise Fest 2019.