Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Hometown: Guitar Town

Last night, I had the immense pleasure of attending the dedication ceremony and festivities that marked my hometown, Waukesha, Wisconsin, as a Gibson Guitar Town.  This is due to the fact that Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, was born there.  I didn't know that there were other U.S. cities with this disctinction, including Cleveland, Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Miami (London, England, is one as well).  But, Waukesha is the only city of its size to receive this honor, and there was so much to see and hear last night to celebrate.

The highlight of this honor was that 10 local artists were handpicked by Gibson to create 10-foot guitars that were positioned on each corner of the "five points" area of downtown.  I knew a few of these artists including my friend, Jeff, but many were unknown to me.  What an honor for these artists to be able to display their work on such an amazing scale. One is above, and you can see the others below:

Chuck Weber, a well-known Waukesha artist, created this guitar, and his friend, who was on hand to answer questions, said there was a Les Paul recording that you could listen to inside.

The artist who created this guitar created some really cool paintings of famous rock legends that used to hang in Neighbor's Social Club before it changed owners.

And my friend, Jeff, a local artist (and land developer) created this guitar.  That's him standing next to it.

Also downtown, there were some local arists creating music-themed art right on the street.  It's rare that Main Street and its surrounding streets are closed down completely (they also did so for the Harley Davidson 100-year anniversary), but this created a street fair atmosphere allowing these artists space to make their creations.

Last night was also the kickoff of Friday Night Live, a weekly summer music series, where local musicians play on various downtown Waukesha street corners.  Since Main and Broadway were closed, these bands were able to play to larger audiences.  The main stage, where The Les Paul Trio opened the festivities, was located in the middle of the five points.

My favorite of these bands is, hands down, The Lonely Hearts (pictured below).  They are a quartet of teenage boys who are, no joke, the BEST Beatles cover band I have ever seen.  They also played songs by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and The Doors.

The night ended by running into a few friends I used to hang out with when I lived in downtown Waukesha, and going over to the Main Stage with them to watch the headliners, The BoDeans.  The BoDeans are best known for playing the theme song to "Party of Five", but they are originally from Waukesha (in fact, the original members went to my high school, although long before I did).  I managed to get this shot of Sammy BoDean from the audience:

I had a great time celebrating the fact that my hometown has been named a Guitar Town, especially being a die-hard rock-and-roll fan.  I'm so please Gibson chose Waukesha to add to their impressive roster of Guitar Towns, and I hope this helps to promote the city as the vibrant, eclectic, fun place that it is.

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