Make It Localpalooza This Year

Lead signer of Eric Lives Here, Mike Thiel

Lead signer of Eric Lives Here, Mike Thiel

BY George Halas

In last December’s column, The Inquisition theorized that, in keeping with the sound economic policy of “buy local,” an Inquisitor could go out to a local venue, dine on local fare and buy a CD from a local musician or band, thereby fueling the local economy while having a good time. This year, a quick recap of Neenahpalooza (Thursday, November 13) serves as an excellent illustration of how to move from theory to practice.

The event took place at six Wisconsin Avenue-venues simultaneously: Cannova’s hosted Patrick Beckaman and Adria Ramos; The Paper City Pub featured ON2 and Miss Molly; Greene’s Pour House had Kyle Megna and The Monsoons, Shane Dar and Blues Talk; Uncorked was filled with the beautiful piano stylings of Noah Harmon and Joe Slyzelia; The Copperstill Bourbon Bar rocked with Tin Sandwich; and the jazz at the Holiday Inn River Walk included many of the best players in the area: Steve March-Torme, Mike Kubicki, Danny Lueck, John Gibson, Ken Skitch, Kurt Ship, John Toussaint, Brad Curran, Mick Maloney and Randi Fay. Torme, Ric Reynolds and Jonathan Leahy performed a poignant and uplifting Beatles’ medley.

Instead of “competing,” the venues worked together and everybody won. Every venue had a great night business-wise. The synergy spread to Wisconsin Avenue shops like Studio Pink, Elements Unleashed, The Fine Fox, Holt’s Jewelry and Vintique who took advantage of the promotional opportunities by donating silent auction items.

Many of these shops as well as many others in the greater Fox Cities area offer unique items that simply cannot be found anywhere else. When their wares may be available at big-box retailers, they offset a slightly higher price with the value of personalized customer service and in-depth knowledge of everything they sell. Not only do the owners and employees spend their money right here in the Fox Cities, they contribute “sweat equity” and a lot of their own time into making their communities better.

Remember, the bigger the store, the more goes offshore.

The Inquisition now offers the following holiday gift suggestions (often available with food, drink and great live music): Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators’ Miles and Miles to Go should be a lock for five Grammies in the Earthy Soul With A Funky Stroll category, and if it’s not a category, then N.A.R.A.S should create one. As previously reviewed in SCENE, this is one of the best new recordings to emerge from the Fox Cities.

Adria Ramos, Mercury, showcases the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter with intelligent yet accessible lyrics and inspiring melodies. When required, she adds some of the best players in the area to round out the sound.

Randi Fay’s Falling features all originals by Fay, Mick Maloney and Bob Balsey as well as their collaborations. Her That Old Black Magic is a collection of jazz standards that features Lueck, Gibson, Woody Mankowski, Chris Salerno and Hans Christian.

Kyle Megna and The Monsoons, Cat Fish Joe. One of the tightest outfits in the area, Megna and The ‘Soons lit it up at Mile of Music. If you can’t rock to this all-original album, please seek counseling. Megna and keyboardist Dave LeBlanc have a duo CD, Lifted Weight of Worries.

Great musicians are always getting better. Janet Planet and Gene Bertoncini make each other and the music better on Janet Planet: Live at The Metropolitan Club. She is very good in the studio but better live, and her set list on this album is one of her very best. You could also by this CD solely for the tastefully added guitar contributions of Tom Theabo.

If you have not heard Eric Lives Here, add them to the holiday gift list. After performing across the state at major festivals and prestigious venues, the Appleton-based band hit the studio and released their first full-length album, The Night is Young, in 2011. The effort, written and recorded in Los Angeles, is a mix of pop rock/alternative rock tracks that reestablished the band for mainstream radio. In fact, Eric Lives Here became the first indie band in Wisconsin to receive airplay on numerous radio stations in the Fox Valley including KISS FM, WIXX, B104 and K107.1.

“Our song ‘Love Is’ will also be getting added to 91.1 The Avenue beginning in December––no one has reported that yet,” said lead singer/songwriter Mike Thiel to The Inquisition exclusively––at the time.

Behind the strength of the album’s lead single, “Night is Young,” the band secured a cameo from comedian/actor T.J. Miller (“Get Him to the Greek,” “Our Idiot Brother,” HBO’s Silicon Valley) in their “Night is Young” music video, launched in summer 2012. “Night is Young” went on to become a favorite on Fox Valley radio, especially K107.1 where the song hit No. 1 seven times on the station’s “Top 7 at 7” show. It was also the first song ever inducted into the K107 Hall of Fame.

In summer 2013, Eric Lives Here returned to the airwaves with radio-friendly hit, “Cool Girls in Hot Pants.” Backed by another strong music video, the song was featured on numerous radio stations and was the most requested song on K107.1 over a 12-day span and, like “Night is Young,” reached No. 1 seven times on the “Top 7 at 7” show.

Radio would be no different for the indie band in 2014 as Eric Lives Here’s new summer single, “Rock River,” debuted on KISS FM less than 24 hours after it was recorded. “Rock River” proceeded to become the first song out of the Fox Valley to ever chart on KISS FM’s “Out of Order at 8” show in the station’s 15-plus year history.

Both “Rock River” and “Cool Girls in Hot Pants” appear on Eric Lives Here’s latest EP, High on Life, which was recorded in Nashville alongside producers Rick Brothers (Thompson Square, Gretchen Wilson, Colt Ford) and Dan Tracey (Alan Parsons Project, Bret Michaels, Bad Company).

The new EP blasts rock anthems such as “Rock River,” “Man Cave” and “Nonstop to Mexico,” while ballads such as “Love Is,” which debuted at Sundance Film Festival, reveals the band has another dimension beyond its flashy choruses and shout backs.

“Our music videos for ‘Rock River,’ ‘Cool Girls in Hot Pants,’ ‘Night is Young,’ and ‘Love Is’ have combined for over 45,000 views on YouTube.” Thiel noted, adding, “We also just released a version of ‘Love Is’ in Chinese: Our goal is to record it in over a dozen different languages,” he said. “We think the message of the song is positive and has a universal vibe, so why limit it to the English language?”

Eric Lives Here will play: Monday, December 1, performing their song “Man Cave” on “Clubhouse Live with John Kuhn” with special guest, Aaron Rodgers; on Friday, December 12, as part of the KISS FM Jingle Ball with MKTO, Jake Miller, Bebe Rexha & Eden XO at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, Green Bay; and Wednesday, December 31, at First Eve (New Year’s Eve Celebration) in Curtis Reed Square, Menasha an outdoor event starting at 10:00 PM and will be televised on Channel 5.

“Last year, we became the first live band to ever perform at First Eve.” Thiel said. “The temperature was below zero, but we still had hundreds of people come out and support the event. That says a lot about the local community. It was unbelievable. When (First Eve) founder James Taylor asked us to perform again this year, I had to accept.”

Eric Lives Here CDs and EPs are available at the band’s live performances, can be purchased on iTunes, or physical copies can be purchased on and locally at The Exclusive Company, which has physical CDs in Green Bay and Appleton; if you call, go online and/or go into any of the other Exclusive stores, they can get anything they have in stock at any store the next day.

Recording in Chinese…This is leadership by example, “thought leadership” and exactly what we should be exporting to China to further benefit the local economy. The Inquisition kids not, as we have been successfully exporting the best in N.E.W. music to distant markets such as Chicago and Cousin Tony in Arizona. Janet Planet has performed – and was loved – in South Africa, Japan and Kurgan, Russia with John Harmon. Steve March-Torme had recent gigs in London. We’re already freaking global….

So let’s get the international party started right here. Let’s export!

Have great holidays.

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