Local Shows: Professor Pinkerton's Irrelevant Orchestra

Cream City Hostel

Milwaukee Events,
Local Shows

January 24, 2020

For the Cream City Hostel's "Local Shows" feature today, we caught up with Professor Pinkerton, musician and circus performer of the Dead Man's Carnival. We talked about his Irrelevant Orchestra, which plays a monthly gig the first Thursday of the month at Shaker's Cigar Bar.

Tell us more about this unique orchestra.

Prof Pinkerton’s Irrelevant Orchestra (previously “The Magnificents”) is a rotating collective of local and national touring musicians assembled by myself. We perform stand alone as a band in addition to our role as house band for the larger Dead Man’s Carnival live music circus variety show. Over 12 plus years we’ve written, arranged, improvised and interpreted thousands of songs for about 500 different variety performances.  Stylistically we draw heavily from the tonal palette of early American roots genres such as hot jazz, Piedmont blues, western swing, gospel, calypso, and hokum jug bands.

The band plays a gig at Shaker's Cigar Bar on the first Thursday of the month. Can you tell us more about the show and describe the ambiance of Shaker's for people who haven't been there?

For those who have never been Shaker's, it might be the closest thing we have to a time machine. Aside from being the city’s only bar that permits smoking, it's one of the few without televisions. The food and drink selection is wide and refined, but the crown jewel that separates them from the myriad of other taverns is their offering of cultural experiences. What other bar offers tarot card readings and historic ghost tours? We play there so often it’s almost like a second home for us. Besides our monthly American roots music showcases on the first Thursday of each month, we also do a number of special themed engagements throughout the year. Caribbean Christmas, Pre-Thanksgiving Industry Night, Rooftop July 3rd fireworks viewing, Valentine's Couples Dinner and the Pridefest Afterparty to name a few.

The First Thursday shows run from 8 pm - 11 pm.with no cover charge, and the best way to stay up-to-date with our special themed shows is to follow Prof. Pinkerton’s Irrelevant Orchestra on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Prof-Pinkertons-Irrelevant-Orchestra-623503441070236/

Does the band perform cover songs, and if so, favorite songs to cover?

Our repertoire is expansive & stacked with mostly artists who have been dead longer than I’ve been living. When able I like to turn people on to contemporaries we are friends and fans of. Pokey LaFarge, C.W. Stoneking, J.D. McPherson, Tuba Skinny, and James Hunter come to mind.

It’s worth mentioning that In the sub-cultural communities that most American roots music emerged from, music is treated more like a continuing conversation. The contemporary interpretation of intellectual property associated with “covering a song” doesn’t really apply. The cliche of a Dylan-esque singer-songwriter sharing a deeply personal autobiographical narrative is a fairly new phenomenon. When you consider the legacy of tin pan alley, orchestras, Elvis or even modern pop stars it’s amazing how many culturally significant works are the result of collaboration versus solitary genius. With the Irrelevant Orchestra, we just do our best to have historically rich, ever-evolving and eclectic sources of inspiration with both our original compositions as well as our variations on other's tunes.

What is the most unusual or frightening moment you've had on stage with Dead Man's Carnival?

When you establish a reputation performing seemingly dangerous stunts you’d expect some pretty crazy war stories. However, there have been significantly less dramatic mishaps than one might anticipate. We’ve definitely had our fair share of story-worthy close calls but surprisingly the most emotionally challenging nail-biting moments have been in the organizational phases. It’s in the process of questioning fundamental assumptions of how we interact with art in a real-time environment that you unearth terrifying doubts of “who we are” and “why does this matter?”

Other than first Thursday, any other upcoming gigs? Where can people find your music online? 

We can always be found at our annual private hire engagements like Summerfest, Bay View Bash, etc. Besides that, we've slimmed back the number of shows we produce in favor of quality over quantity. Last year we discontinued the monthly Dead Man's Carnival shows in favor of touring regionally with conceptual circus plays. Our most recent circus play, "Yesterday Is Here", is an original Tom Waits tribute show inspired by the anniversary of his Frank's Wild Years album.

We haven't finalized dates for our spring or fall show but will be announcing something for late March or mid-April. Our quest to revive the small town traveling vaudeville show has been very well received so far. Suggestions of off the beaten path historic theaters or private hire inquiries can be sent to pinkertonx@gmail.com.

Our versions of 11 timeless tracks entitled Antiquated, at best can be purchased or sampled for free here: https://prof-pinkerton.bandcamp.com/album/antiquated-at-best

Professor Pinkerton and the Irrelevant Orchestra play the first Thursday at Shaker's Cigar Bar (422 S. 2nd St.) on February 6, starting at 8pm. Shaker's is a 10-minute drive from the hostel. The number 19 and 15 buses will take you there. 

GET 15% OFF your stay at Cream City Hostel in January and February when you book at our site and use discount code winterlove2020.

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