ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Tlalok, Cream City Players, Strup & Friends, Old Prospectors

MKE Music Night XXXII occurred at Linneman’s in Riverwest on Saturday night featuring performances from Tlalok, Cream City Players, Strup & Friends, and Old Prospectors.

Tlalok is a singer-songwriter known for his eclectic stylistic fusion and fun stage antics as well as being the longtime host of MKE Music Night. He sings in both English and Spanish. He’s got an album coming out soon titled “Paradise Valley.” Describing it, Tlalok shared, “It started off as a lot of poetry that ended up morphing into songs. Some of them are like montages of several poems that I’ll mash together.”

Cream City Players comprises of guitarist Tlalok, bassist Ousmon, and drummer Peter Behlmer. They are a primarily instrumental group but occasionally incorporate vocals, playing an eclectic mix of neo soul, jazz and funk with elements of blues, reggae and hip hop. They formed during quarantine originally with a fourth member, Elon Eckart.

“I met Ousmon at a Jazz Gallery open jam,” Tlalok explained. “Then later that night we ran into each other at Thurmans where they were doing the open jam. We switched off on guitar and bass, and the rest is history.”

“I remember I was playing Center Street Days with another band, and as we were tearing down, Tlalok was setting up,” Behlmer recalled. “I heard them playing “Them Changes” by Thundercat and really loved how he played the bass line. He was playing the Eau Claire Jazz Fest and ended up asking me if I’d come play because their drummer had cancelled, so I drove four hours there and four hours back, never having officially met him before (laughs).”

The trio play a mix of covers and originals. “I have a project called the Kush trio that I’ve had for like ten years and I’ll bring songs from there,” Ousmon said. “Collectively we enjoy getting together and creating our own as a group; it ends up being a lot of improvising.”

“We plan to get into the studio soon,” Tlalok added. “Peter and I recently did a thing at Silver Studios with Cullah. They only charge $40 an hour, and for the level of quality that the place provides with topline gear and attentive techs, it really checks off all the boxes where we could get a lot done in three hours. We have a bunch of songs we’ve been perfecting so it’s just a matter of getting in there. We took a bit of a blow when our fourth member Elon moved away; he was definitely a big part of the songwriting process.”

Cream City Players play Angelo’s Piano Lounge on September 30th and Bremen Cafe on October 6th. Tlalok is also putting together a Latin Night complete with a seven-piece ensemble that will be at Linneman’s in the coming weeks.

Strup & Friends are an Americana-country rock band fronted by vocalist/guitarist Carl Erikstrup with Christian Porter on bass and Jackson Payne on drums. Started as a side project from Erikstrup and Payne’s band Modern Joey, Strup & Friends would evolve into a project of its own in the last year. Erikstrup explained, “Modern Joey is still a band; we’re trying to put together another show in the fall. Strup & Friends is a by-product of sitting around coming out of COVID, and I had all these songs that I’ve had forever and would just play on acoustic guitar. I’d occasionally do solo acoustic gigs and have been doing more of those now, but I just never played these songs for anybody, so I wanted to experiment and play them with my friends. April of 2021, we did a show here that was just going to be a one-time thing, and the rest became history.”

Some of his biggest influences are Merle Haggard, The Rolling Stones, Dawes, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, The Band, Neil Young and Phish. On what he’s working on now, Erikstrup shared, “We’ve recorded a couple of the songs we played tonight plus there’s a couple we didn’t do. I’ve picked just five of my favorites that have held up over time and recorded them in my room; Christian sings harmony on one of them but otherwise they’re very stripped-down. One of the songs I wrote back in high school. Once I’m done with that, I’ll put it out in the next few months; I’m really proud of these songs.”

Carl Erikstrup plays Angelo’s Piano Lounge every Wednesday night plus Strup & Friends play High Dive on September 24th.

Old Prospectors consist of guitarist/keyboardist Frank Bufe, bassist Bob Daly and drummer Dan Dahl. Formed in 2015, their style encompasses psychedelic-progressive rock with elements of jam and funk mixed in. Their name is inspired by the Sumerian clay tablets, which state that humans were originally created to mine gold. On how they formed, Daly explained, “Our old band Blind Tarzan was playing a show at Bremen, which was me, Dan and Srijan Sen. We were a little darker than how we sound now; I’m grateful for Dan because he pushes us to play weird shit, which is awesome. Frank walked in when we were playing and he was loving it, so we got his number and invited him to play with us.”

Their debut album “Eureka!” was released in 2019. Dahl said, “By then we had amassed a pretty decent amount of ideas that had evolved to the point that we wanted to capture what we were doing. By the time we were recording, I was lucky enough to have my aunt and uncle’s lake house in Oconomowoc to escape to, so we just planned a weekend where whatever came out of it was going to be the album. We sat on the recordings for like three more months until we figured out how we wanted it to sound, and it happened. The song “Eureka” is its early stages was called “The Getaway” because the middle part sounds like someone’s slinking in the darkness and being a creeper, and while we were making the music video, we felt the whole thing had a storyboard to it and settled on naming the song – and the record – “Eureka” because we felt it fit the lore of Old Prospectors.”

“It never feels complete,” Daly said about putting music out. “You grow as a person and always think about what you can do better.”

“We have four or five new songs that we’ll probably record sometime in the near future,” Bufe shared about what the band’s working on now.

Old Prospectors will be on the canoes with The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken on September 14th.

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