Press | Former Milwaukee favorites Yipes! reuniting for WAMI awards (April 12, 2013)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel April 12, 2013

Former Milwaukee favorites Yipes! reuniting for WAMI awards

by Piet Levy

Yipes, it's been a long time since we've heard from Yipes!

In 1979, the power-pop quintet was one of the bigger success stories in Milwaukee music, with two albums distributed by Millennium Records via RCA, and opening slots around the country with Cheap Trick, Kansas, Jefferson Starship and other acts, before the dream died two years later.

Dead, but not forgotten. From Yipes! emerged a couple key Milwaukee music figures: Mike Hoffmann, a local producer and guitarist with Semi-Twang, and singer-songwriter and road warrior Pat McCurdy. Because of their continued influence and the band's influence during its prime, Yipes! will be inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry association's Hall of Fame during the 33rd Annual WAMI Awards on Sunday at Turner Hall Ballroom.

In addition, all five original members - including Peter Strand, Andy Bartel and Teddy Freese - will perform together for the first time in 32 years.

It's the highlight in a weekend that includes a free, WAMI-sponsored showcase of 20 Wisconsin acts Saturday at four downtown venues. There'll also be short sets during Sunday's WAMI show from nine other Wisconsin acts, including Hall of Fame inductees pat mAcdonald from Timbuk3 and Genesis guitarist Daryl Stuermer, plus the awards themselves.

Around 1971, high school friends McCurdy, Hoffmann and Strand "wanted a band so bad we just sat and learned (how to play music) together," Yipes! frontman McCurdy said.

In 1977, they formed Yipes! with Freese on drums and Bartel on guitar, playing 300 shows in their first year, said Hoffmann, the band's guitarist and backing vocalist.

The band won a recording session at a battle of the bands at late venue the Palms (the site of its last show in 1981), and its manager at the time was able to get the demo to Millennium.

"We were playing in Wausau and in New York in a limousine a week later," McCurdy said.

After inking a two-album deal, Millennium sent John Jansen, a recording engineer who worked on Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell," to Lake Geneva to produce Yipes! self-titled debut album in 1979. The intense gigging continued, but for larger audiences, including an arena set in Cleveland opening for Foreigner, and an outdoor concert in Indiana in front of 30,000 people, where bassist Strand remembers seeing a fan-made Yipes! sign in the crowd for the first time.

Their sophomore album, "A Bit Irrational," came out in 1980, and a cover of the Beach Boys' "Darlin' " peaked around No. 60 on the Billboard singles charts, Hoffmann said, "but it wasn't enough." Due to lackluster sales, the band was dropped in 1981.

"It was a very deflating thing to go through," Hoffmann said. "We figured we had to break up."

Flash forward to 2012, when the WAMIs reached out about the Hall of Fame honor, and asked about a reunion set.

"Trillions of memories will start coming back," McCurdy said. "Part of me is going to be a little embarrassed. It was written by guys in their early 20s, and its Grandpa Power Poppers now. But I just know after the first couple of notes it will be a lot of fun."

Is there a chance the fun could continue?

McCurdy doesn't think so, saying his packed touring schedule doesn't give him much time to fit in the rehearsal time he'd need.

But Hoffmann seemed open to more Yipes! shows.

"We're always looking for promoters with deep pockets, if you know what I mean," he said.