There are some regional differences that simply can't be denied, especially when it comes to how we deal with life's ups and downs. Californians have exercise, New Yorkers have therapy, and here in Wisconsin, we've got booze.
If you're part of a group like Milwaukee's .357 String Band, this isn't just a funny overgeneralization; it's the bread and butter of what you do. The band lists "poverty, depression, addiction and affliction" -- not Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs -- as its main influences. And lucky for them, a lot of locals share their plight -- and their affection for punked-out, whiskey-soaked bluegrass.
Lately, the four-piece has been spinning its tales of Midwestern misery -- and our culture's boozin' ways -- for the bargoers of Eastern Europe. Thanks to the drink, they've been getting into a bit of trouble as well -- the kind you really shouldn't try at home, or anywhere else for that matter.
"Apparently, when you order a Jägermeister in Serbia, you get a double on the rocks with a wedge of lemon," says Derek Dunn, who plays guitar and sings for the group. "I became so enamored with this that I somehow lost my shirt."
But that was only the beginning. The next thing Dunn knew, he and the band were piled into a van bound for Belgrade, Hunter S. Thompson-style.
"I'm shirtless and drinking Jägermeister riding shotgun, our tour manager is passing in and out of consciousness in the back seat, and our van has Netherlands plates on it, which pretty much translates as 'Pull me over, I've got lots of weed' in almost every European country. So, big surprise, we get pulled over," he says.
To make a long story short, no one in the van spoke much Serbian, but the group managed to communicate to the cop that they were a touring bluegrass band, so the scene he was witnessing comes with the territory.
Back home, the band's song "Down On A Bender" from its 2008 album Fire & Hail makes the perfect soundtrack for this tale -- and many other barroom misadventures -- with lyrics such as "I'm breakin' hearts while breakin' my home" and banjo licks that'll get even the most temperate of listeners dancing like drunken fools.
An MP3 of "Down On A Bender" is available in the related downloads at right. More songs by the group can be listened to on its MySpace page. The .357 String Band will probably have some new drinking stories to tell when they celebrate Furthermore Beer's new release at the High Noon Saloon at its annual Brew Ha Ha party on Saturday, January 3. Fans can also find Dunn and his bandmates collaborating with local goth-country band Those Poor Bastards, playing afterparties for the Mad Rollin' Dolls and drinking at our city's finest watering holes.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.