Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kael

Back in the early days of IfIHadAHiFi, we very often found ourselves in the deceptively sleepy burg of Manitowoc, a town full of kids that were suddenly without a Concert Cafe in Green Bay at which to see punk rock shows. Some kids in town were booking shows at an all-ages venue called The Attic, and for some reason we were in demand. The shows we played in Manitowoc still rank as some of the zaniest, craziest times we ever spent on stage, and a big source of that wackiness was a local band of high school kids called The Basics and their friends.

One of those Basics kids was a dude named Kael Klassen. Not once did we ever see this guy raging at anything less than 150%, dancing and thrashing around like a fiend for any band he loved, which was usually every band. He'd greet the end of a song with a loud "MEATWAAAAAD!" which made absolutely no sense, which was why it was hilarious. And Kael was always hilarious, all of the time. And he loved our band, which meant we heard "MEATWAAAAAD!" a lot.

Here's my favorite Kael Klassen story:

In 2006, The HiFi were on a tour of the South and East Coast, and it was going, to be generous, poorly. No one was coming out to see us, and many of the venues we were playing hadn't made much of an effort to promote. To compound things, my girlfriend had moved to Florida to go to school the year before and we had since broken up, and i spent the entire tour questioning that decision. What the hell was i doing driving around in a van with three other guys, playing to three apathetic people a night, when i could have moved to Florida and kept my relationship going? I was having some miserable nights on tour and was not enjoying myself.

Eventually, we ended up in Long Island, playing an all-ages show at a VFW hall. I had gotten an email from an old pal saying he was going to make it to the show, which surprised me because i had no idea he was in New York to begin with. I assumed his intentions were pure, but like so many shows where out of town friends promise to represent, i expected disappointment and a "oh, something came up" excuse. But sure enough, after we loaded in to the hall and were aimlessly standing around, we suddenly heard a familiar cry behind us. "MEATWAAAAAD!" We turned around, and there was Kael, in possession of a bottle of whiskey and his familiar ear-to-ear smile. "Where are we drinking this?"

When a nobody rock band goes out on tour, familiar faces mean the world, because the DIY touring circuit is a harsh, cruel place filled with bar patrons that are too cool for the room, and so-called "music fans" that leave the room and head back to the bar as soon as their friends in the local band leave the stage. We found out that Kael was attending culinary school in upstate New York, and had taken four hours' worth of various trains, buses, and cabs to get to the Eastern tip of Long Island to see us play. He almost singlehandedly made the entire tour worth it. I know he saved the tour for me.

That was the last time i hung out with him in person. About once a year i'd get an email from him at about three in the morning that said something like "DUUUUUUDE! I miss HiFi so bad! Come play my birthday party in South Carolina! I'll pay you $300!" Assuming he was drunk and hyper, I'd always email him back and remind him that we loved him, but rockers with day jobs can't exactly go out on two-day tours that span 1000 miles.

As soon as i heard that he passed away last Friday, at the obscene and unfair age of 29, i immediately wished that we had gotten swept up in Kael's devil-may-care spirit a little more often and gone on one of those spontaneous road trips he wanted us to take. While i hadn't seen him in years, it always set my mind at ease knowing he was out there somewhere, making the world a little bit weirder, a lot crazier, and hopefully still screaming "MEATWAAAAAD!" at bands. If i could talk to him now, i'd tell him that making friends like him is the reason why people start rock bands. And i'd tell him "thank you" for absolutely everything that made him the unforgettable soul he was. Wherever you are, Kael, i hope you're tearing it up with the same passion i saw in you as you tore through life. You burned bright and fast here on Earth, but now you're somewhere you can burn as bright as you want until you're the last star in the sky. Thanks for the memories, pal--and all the whiskey, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania IV

If you want to see how radically storytelling in professional wrestling has evolved in the Internet age, compare WrestleMania XXX and its "Daniel Bryan and the Internet Smart Fans vs. Triple H and the Glass Ceiling" meta-storyline with 1988's WrestleMania IV. Back in '88, there was no widespread Internet filled with rumor mills, dirt sheets and message boards full of "insiders" with backstage storyline gossip. The WWF was still maintaining kayfabe in public appearances, and all the dirt sheets were underground newsletters that you had to subscribe to in order to hear the latest gossip. As a soon-to-be 14-year-old fully willing to suspend his disbelief, i had no idea who would win the main event at WrestleMania IV, and hell--i had no idea who would be in the final.

See, WrestleMania IV is the year of the tournament--a one-night single-elimination 14-person tournament to fill the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Championship. On February 5, 1988, NBC aired The Main Event on prime time TV, featuring a title rematch of the WrestleMania III clash between Hogan and Andre. This time, the match ended in controversial fashion when Andre covered Hogan for what should have been a one-count, but was counted three by referee Earl Hebner, evil twin of the scheduled official Dave Hebner, trapped in a locker somewhere backstage after "The Million Dollar Man," Ted DiBiase (Andre's new manager, having bought his contract from Bobby Heenan), bribed Earl to count a bogus three and award the title to Andre, who would then surrender the belt to DiBiase. (Follow all that?) However! President Jack Tunney invalidated the transaction, claiming "no sale" as the title can only change hands by pinfall or submission (someone tell that to Vince McMahon in 2007 when he awards the title to Randy Orton before he even wrestles a match that night). Thus, we have the first-ever WWF championship vacancy, and the aforementioned tourney.

In 1988, there was no Internet speculating about which hot babyface would be given a chance to run with the gold. Not many people knew that Ricky Steamboat was slowly being jobbed out of the company by bitter management, nor did anyone know that Hogan was about to take a sabbatical to film a movie (the classic No Holds Barred, featuring Tiny Lister as Zeus, an unstoppable monster heel nowhere near as lazy as his eye!). All we had at Hilbert Junior High was speculation, and most of us thought that the winner of the tournament would emerge from the Hogan/Andre second-round bout. So obviously we had no idea what was going to happen.

If only the actual wrestling were as dramatic as the storyline...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania III

OK, y'all. Shit's about to get real. With WrestleMania III, we officially enter the era of the World Wrestling Federation where i started following the goings-on. It was a few months before WMIII that my little brother Kris, all of 3 years old at the time, started expressing a desire to watch the work of one Hulk Hogan. Probably caught an episode of Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling or something, i dunno. At first, the idea of watching grown men beat each other into a pulp was repellant to this good young 13-year-old Catholic boy. But when my dad told me it was all "fake," that made it acceptable (not realizing that they still beat each other into a pulp--it's just in service of a narrative), and one night my brother and i, along with our babysitter (look, they weren't trusting a 13-year-old kid to handle three other rugrats, and i'm grateful they didn't), stayed up late for the Saturday Night's Main Event episode where Hulk Hogan defeated Paul Orndorff in a steel cage match that was restarted after both men hit the floor outside the cage at the exact same time. My brother was hooked, but i still wasn't paying a ton of attention until that November, when "Macho Man" Randy Savage, fresh off a babyface turn that was building his character into a red-hot commodity, beat Bret "Hitman" Hart on another SNME, a win that exacted revenge for the Hart Foundation and Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man's attempted assault on Miss Elizabeth one month prior. Man, that was it. 13-year-old me was marking out for the good guys like a 13-year-old John Cena mark does now.

WrestleMania III was the centerpiece of this period in the WWF/E's growth, as it attracted a ton of new fans like myself and set the benchmark for how a 'Mania should be executed for several years to come. The myth-makers spun some great yarns at the Pontiac Silverdome, then-home of the once-hated, then pitied, now hated again Detroit Lions. The indoor attendance record! A superstar's revenge on the man who sidelined him for months! The World Champ vs. his former friend and (literally) larger-than-life special attraction who was "undefeated for 15 years (*cough*bullshit*cough*)!" To this day, the phrase "irresistible force meets immovable object" brings memories of the main event of WrestleMania III into my brain. And then of course, there's the David vs. Goliath drama...

...Of King Kong Bundy elbowdropping a midget wrestler named Little Beaver. Ok, now you're interested, aren't you? Oh yeah you are. Let's do this.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania 2

What needs to be understood about Vince McMahon is that he's one of the great risk-takers in all of show business. While a lot of people, including me, thought of the WWE Network as a slam-dunk no-brainer, there were a lot of questions surrounding it. How would cable companies react to PPVs included at $9.99/month? How would the Network affect the roster's PPV bonuses? Would wrestling fans be able to grasp the concept of a network not available on traditional cable?

It's not the first insane risk McMahon has taken, and it's not the first that he's struck gold on (at least, based on the WWE's stock hitting an all-time high not long after the Network's debut). The first WrestleMania, at the time, was a tremendous risk, as was his decision to up the production stakes the following year, holding WrestleMania 2 in three different cities: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sure, the lack of subsequent WrestleManias being held in multiple locations is evidence that this gamble went the way of the World Bodybuilding Federation and the XFL, but no one can ever say Vince McMahon's scared to roll the dice. Now, maybe the main issue with this show wasn't the ridiculous production, but the near-complete lack of quality wrestling. Who knows? But here's what happened in 1986, regardless.

Friday, February 28, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania I

So recently, in an effort to diversify my online wrestling reading from the jaded axe-grinders at Pro Wrestling Torch, i started checking out Cageside Seats, which has been very hit-or-miss so far--typical of a content farm blog, i suppose. Right now they have some chud recapping every WrestleMania leading up to number 30, and he's pretty atrocious. As my man Joey Pink pointed out, "This was a very entertaining and technical match, with lots of holds" = primo analysis.

With the WWE Network now online, i've been looking for an excuse to dig deep through the archives and get back into a regular writing mode, and realizing that i can write circles around some of the guys on this blog is motivation enough. So dig: i will attempt to also use the WWE Network to recap all 30 WrestleManias. I'm not saying i'll get through the previous 29 before April, but i'll do what i can. I do have a life, after all; i mean, there are so many non-WM things i need to watch on the Network, too, you guys.

Now, i'm by no means an expert on everything that goes into a wrestling match. While i've been watching pro wrestling since Randy Savage took on Bret Hart on Saturday Night's Main Event, i have probably a dozen friends who can break down a wrestling match with far more detail than i can. That said, i'm damn witty, so here i go. I've got my WWE Network on my Roku (network timeouts and all, damn you, Network), i've got my New Glarus Cabin Fever honey bock, and the fiancee is working at the bar tonight, so it's time. WrestleMania I, from what i remember from renting it from the local gas station along with a portable VCR(!! the 80s!!), was by and large dogshit, so this will be interesting. I told the dude at the corner store tonight that i probably wasn't going to drink all these beers tonight, but David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake is on the card, so this could get ugly. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2013 Put to Music

Well, i can't say that 2013 was uneventful. A lot of killer records, and a lot of...stuff. Family, work, band...it pretty much lead to me not even being able to type this until now, on New Year's Day when i am fighting off a cold and have nowhere to be but my couch. So since i wasn't able to put together a top 10 records list until now OR recap my 2013 in writing, here's a little of both--a 2013 review peppered with my favorite records and songs of the year. Strap in, if you're so inclined.

January was possibly the most eventful month in my recent life, period. May as well start with the big one: On January 23rd, i lost my father to a decade-plus-long battle with throat and mouth cancer. I've written thousands of words over the years about how much of my personality i attribute to my dad; it's because of him i grew up a huge sci-fi nerd, discovered a love for the stars, and felt empowered to blaze my own path in life--one that ended up immersed in music rather than any of the subjects in school i was actually good at. His absence was felt for the rest of the year, and will be felt forever. I've had few legit heroes in my life, but he was the biggest. And now i get to be my own.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pete's Eulogy


My uncle (and confirmation sponsor) Pete wrote and delivered this beautiful eulogy at Grandpa's funeral. I just wanted to post it here for posterity.

* * *

Good morning. Welcome to the celebration of the life of Raymond P. Mueller Sr. For those of you that don’t know me, I am Peter, the youngest of the Mueller children. Dad was born on September 1st,
1917. He was born again to eternal life on April 16th, 2012.

Dad was born and raised on a dairy farm near Sherwood, which is a small town not far from here. He wasn’t able to attend school as long as he allowed his children to, due to other obligations, but you wouldn’t know it by his ability to be successful during his lifetime. When Dad was in his early twenties, he began to court a young lady from nearby St. John, Rita Mary Kees. Dad would drive his car a couple
of miles to visit Mom. Mom’s younger siblings would see him coming up the driveway and sing a song to Mom that started with, Ray-Ray come, Ray-Ray come. The courtship lasted until May 3rd, 1944 when Mom and Dad were married at St. John the Baptist church in St. John. That is when the fun started.

Mom and Dad bought a dairy farm about 5 miles out of Chilton, where they farmed for 52 years. They have 11 children. Raymond Jr., Richard, Ann Marie, Ronald, Theresa, Glenn, Gail, Carl, Karen, Connie
and me. From those 11 children, we have 30 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and still counting. Dad was busy.

We lived on a small farm, so Dad had to work outside jobs along with farming. Dad was a hard worker.

It was during one of these jobs, driving a milk truck, when Dad came across a tractor rolling in a field with nobody in the seat. He jumped out of his truck and stopped the tractor shortly before it was about to run over the driver that had been thrown from the seat. Dad was a hero.

It wasn’t all work for Dad. He enjoyed Sheepshead, dancing, putting puzzles together and bean bagging. They played in a number of card clubs over the years and we as children, would watch and learn. I apologize in advance if some of you don’t understand the sheepshead terms I am about to use. It was just a few short weeks ago, when his grand-daughter Christine was having her baby shower that Mom attended, some of the brothers and I joined Dad for some sheepshead. Though he couldn’t see or hear that well, his mind was still as sharp as ever. He was sitting to my left, which means he was behind me when playing, and he would get a little grin on his face as he kept trumping me and taking tricks. Don’t know who won or lost money that day, don’t care. It was a great day playing cards with him. Dad was a card shark.

The other game Dad enjoyed was bean bags. He played for a number of years for Brant Inn in a local league. Growing up, we would go along and pick up the bags for the players to earn some spending money. A few years ago, some of my brothers and I thought of playing in a bean bag tournament that the Stockbridge Lions club sponsors every year. We thought it would be great if Dad would play with us and he agreed. The team name we thought of was “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Now some of you might think we used the name because of a popular TV show. However, it was more because everybody loved Dad. I mean, what’s not to love? We had some success in the tournament, but I won’t rub it in. For today, we will consider bean bag a sport. If NASCAR is a sport, we can call bean bag a sport. Dad was an athlete.

The Mueller family isn’t big on public showing of emotion. When we gather, we aren’t big on hugs like some families. But in no way does that mean the love isn’t there. I think we learned this quiet respect
and assumed love from Dad. Dad was a man of few words, but when he spoke, people generally listened. Dad was very busy when we were growing up, but he would still take the time occasionally to take a couple of swings at the softball at night after milking. But for me, the love Dad had, really came out toward the grandchildren. After he was retired, he was able to spend time with them playing games and doing whatever they wanted. He would also give them hugs and kisses when it was time for them to go home. As far as respect, Dad was well respected in the community. I was often asked by people around Chilton who my parents were. After I would tell them, they would comment what nice people they are. My brother in law summed up community respect in this way, “respect for a man in the community is sometimes based on how he treats his wife.” Dad cherished the life he had with Mom, as evidenced by the many years they spent together. On May 3rd, they will be married 68 years. What great role models they both are for us. It was also a short time ago when Mom attended a funeral for a sibling, Sr. Anacile. She returned home after their normal bed time. Dad was still waiting in his chair until Mom returned home safely. Dad was a gentleman.

So as you can see, Dad was many things during his 94 years on earth. Among those was a great husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He often stated how he would live to be 100, close
enough Dad, we’ll round up on this one.

We have a distinct advantage with our faith. That is we believe in everlasting life. We can all rest assured that Dad is up in heaven, sitting in a chair, Ronny on one side and Timmy on the other. Dad, have fun
reuniting with them and the rest of your family. Save us a spot up there so that we may be with you again some day. We will miss you and we love you.

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