Chris Porterfield will review the career of turn-of-the-century Milwaukeean songwriter Charles K. Harris, author of "How To Write a Popular Song," at Alverno Presents this weekend. Plus: Lex Allen with the Video of the Week, Max Devereaux with the Stream of the Week, and our weekly preview of live music.
In 1892, songwriter Charles K. Harris achieved mainstream success for penning the tune, “After the Ball,” a lover’s lament about never again speaking to his girlfriend after she kissed another man at a dance, who actually turned out to be her brother. While this low-brow music was considered beneath the highfalutin contemporary composers, Harris saw an emerging accessibility for this type of music for lower class households, as the price of musical instruments, especially pianos, dwindled and sales of record players soared. He jumped into music commercialism at the exact right time. Before moving out to the East Coast, Harris spent much of his early life in Milwaukee, founding his own publishing company at 207 Grand Avenue. He would end up selling 5 million copies of the sheet music for just this one hit and become one of the pioneers of the influential Tin Pan Alley movement in New York City.
In 1906 as pop songwriting was still in its nascent stages, he published what could be considered a Songwriting for Dummies book. It had a much snappier title, of course—How to Write a Popular Song: A Practical Tutorial on Song Writing. Harris made no promises that this handy guide would mold a reader into a big money songwriter. It essentially was offered as an accompaniment for amateur writers and composers to learn the ropes.
This Saturday night at the Pitman Theatre, Field Report’s Chris Porterfield will review the former Milwaukeeans career and attempt to craft a popular song with the assistance of Harris’ book for the Alverno Presents’ show How To Write a Popular Song. He’ll utilize the do’s and don’ts of Harris’ songwriting guide with tips like “Note public demand,” “Don’t be in a hurry,” “Avoid slang and vulgarism; they never succeed,” and perhaps the most important lesson of all, “Don’t try to write your music with a fine pointed pen. Use either a stub or three pointed pen.”
Seriously, though, enjoy these intriguing Alverno Presents showcases while they’re still around. It was just announced that this current season, its 56th, will be the production’s last.
Alverno Presents’ Chris Porterfield: How To Write a Popular Song on Saturday, January 30 at the Pitman Theatre, 3431 S 39th St, 8 p.m. ($25).
Video of the Week
After last year’s Social Me Duh EP and standout track “Tap For Likes,” New Age Narcissism member Lex Allen is showing no signs of a hangover. The R&B singer recently premiered the Cody LaPlant-directed music video for a brand new song, “Cream and Sugar (ft. WebsterX).” The sweet and savory video follows Allen the morning after a hedonistic high-rise party, where the fun starts up again once everyone has had a bite to eat. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as there’s something sordid lying underneath the bright sheen. Watch the video to find out.
Stream of the Week
There’s prolific and there’s Max Devereaux prolific. The avant garde, genre-spanning singer-songwriter released a whopping six albums last year, including two in September called How to Show Love and Love in the Moonlight. This week he released the first album of probably many in 2016, How To Show Love In The Moonlight, a title that combines his two previous works. At 18 tracks, the album is the longest and most ambitious of his 18 releases.
This Week in Live Music
Tuesday, January 26: Super Thief with Gauss at High Dive, 10 p.m. (FREE) – (701 E. Center St., HighDiveMKE.com)
Thursday, January 28: Kip Moore with Chase Bryant at The Rave, 8 p.m. ($29.50-$34.50) – (2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., TheRave.com)
Also: Whitey Morgan with Cody Jinks at Shank Hall, 8 p.m. ($25-$125) – (1434 N. Farwell Ave., ShankHall.com)
And: Blue Öyster Cult with Jefferson Starship at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater, 8 p.m. ($55-$64) – (1721 W. Canal St., PaysBig.com)
Friday, January 29: The Tritonics (Album Release) with John Sieger, Paul Setzer and DJs Ric Vespa and John Komp at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m. ($5) – (1001 E. Locust St., Linnemans.com)
Also: Calliope with Fire Retarded,The Rashita Joneses and Slow Walker at Riverwest Public House, 9 p.m. ($5) – (815 E. Locust St., RiverwestPublicHouse.WordPress.com)
And: Local H at Shank Hall, 8 p.m. ($15) – (1434 N. Farwell Ave., ShankHall.com)
And: Zach Pietrini Band with Jodee Lewis at Walker’s Point Anodyne, 8 p.m. ($10) (224 W. Bruce St., AnodyneCoffee.com)
Saturday, January 30: Queensryche with Meytal and Halcyon Way at The Rave, 7:30 p.m. ($24-$119) (2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., TheRave.com)
Also: Volcanos with Lotus Ash at Walker’s Point Anodyne, 9 p.m. ($8) – (224 W. Bruce St., AnodyneCoffee.com)
And: The Grovelers with Ramma Lamma at Circle-A Cafe, 8 p.m. – (932 E. Chambers St., Circle-A-Café.org)