Little Blue Crunchy Things
Little Blue Crunchy Things was an American rock/jazz group from the Milwaukee, WI area. During their decade-long performance career (from the late 1980s to about 2000), LBCT were a hit among audiences and the local press due to their unique mix of jazz, rock, blues, funk, and hip hop music.
LBCT formed in the late 1980s, but began gaining popularity with the arrival of vocalist Noah Tabakin in 1991. Tabakin, who quickly became a fan favorite and the de facto band leader, demonstrated even in the band's earliest work the breadth of his performance ability, as the vocalist singing, but in addition playing the saxophone and increasingly in later work, DJing. Featured prominently in shows was Tabakin's freestyling, often drawing lyrical content from audience participation and other events of the concert.
The band's first album, Rhetoric, was released in 1994. The lineup at this time was Bill Backes on drums, Cara Davis on percussion/vocals, Rick Eells on bass, Douglas Haynes on saxophone, Brandon Mason on trumpet/trombone, Noah Tabakin on lead vocals/saxophone, and Michael Wengler on guitar. Independently produced, this first album's recording quality was mediocre, and the band would release new recorded versions of a few of these songs on later albums.
Between the first and second albums, Eels, Mason, and Haynes left the band. Eels was replaced by Ken Fitzsimmons, and Haynes by Bryan Elliot, but LBCT was left without a trumpet/trombone player. The second album, Owner's Manual, is a recording of a live show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee in 1996, and features some audience favorites. Davis, who was featured as a vocalist on only one song ("Brown Bear"), left the band shortly after Owner's Manual. Percussionist Jamie Ryan, and childhood friend of Ken Fitzsimmons, joined the group around this time.
The blues influence would return in full force on the band's third album, Swarm. Compared to their first studio album, the recording and production of Swarm were of higher quality, and sales catapulted forward. The band gained national recognition. In 1999, they released their fourth album, Babies.
In early 2000, the band announced that they would be breaking up, and performed what was reportedly their last show that spring. However, the band got together for what was billed as a reunion tour a few months later. This tour included Shank Hall and a performance at Summerfest. A show at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, WI (April 15, 2000) was recorded and released as their final album.
Since the breakup, the members have gone on to work on their own projects. Noah Tabakin's first group after LBCT was the short lived All Fours. He previously fronted TABAKIN, a funk, soul, hip-hop conglomeration and played Bari sax in the 23 piece marching band Mucca Pazza. After leaving Wisconsin in 2000, Noah initially relocated in Chicago, Il. Mr. Tabakin is involved in a number of projects, making his excellent contributions to the musical world. Noah is currently the man behind ssssnake, and is currently living in Los Angeles, California. He's out there working for Tour de Fat, & is in Fire Leopard with his pal Jon Steinmeier as the house band at The Booby Trap Variety Show every Wednesday in LA. Ken Fitzimmons currently fronts the Irish Rock band The Kissers (of which Jamie Ryan & Bill Backes have been a part of), and he's the Education Director with the Madison Music Foundry, in Madison, Wisconsin. Bryan Elliot lives in Madison and previously played in the Latin band Prole, has also played in The Bradachs and Smokin' With Superman (again on sax), and is also a part of The Kissers with Ken Fitzsimmons. Bill Backes currently lives in Milwaukee and plays with the Milwaukee groups The Lovelies & Testa Rosa. Michael Wengler is living on the opposite coast from Noah, working his magic in the New York area. Jamie Ryan currently lives in Illinois, and is an Associate Professor at EIU. He continues to better the musical world with Africa -> West.
Still beloved by their local fanbase, and now across the world through social media, LBCT continues to perform reunion shows in Madison, WI, and Milwaukee, WI, when they can get schedules to work. The Little Blue Crunchy Things are going to be performing their 25th Anniversary Reunion Show on April 30, 2016, at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- Bill Backes - Drums
- Bryan Elliott - Saxophone
- Ken Fitzsimmons - Bass guitar
- Jamie Ryan - percussion
- Noah Tabakin - vocals/saxophone
- Michael Wengler - Guitar
- Cara Davis - percussion/vocals
- Paul Jonas - Bass guitar (1999/2000, after the temporary departure of Fitzsimmons following the 'Babies' sessions; performs on 2000s 'In Loving Memory Of...'
- Stephen Howard - Guitar (filled in for some reunion appearances)
- Rhetoric (1994)
- Owner's Manual (1996)
- Swarm (1997)
- Babies (1999)
- In Loving Memory Of... (album) (2000)