2014: Milwaukee’s Music Scene In Review

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It’s the time of year where everybody gets all sentimental about the past twelve months, and I figured I would throw in my two cents, as well. And I’ll say something that’s going to seem bold to some and will cause others to groan, but it’s truly how I feel about the Milwaukee music scene right now…

Something is really happening here.

There’s the feeling of a swell, like something is going to explode. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Well duh, something is happening in every city musically.” And I know that similar claims have been made in previous years, but it’s never really been more apparent than now that there is a lot of great music being made here, and there’s some traction forming from that. There’s a bevy of young, talented acts in all genres that are working towards something to take pride in, and truly call their own. It’s not so much about “win the city” anymore, rather than being part of something that will help everyone thrive. While Milwaukee is still not a major destination for music from a national perspective, I think that the artists and bands here are beyond caring about that. It’s finally become more about the music itself. Just make quality music, and the rest will follow.

And the great, quality music is abundant. While in the past, there were claims that Milwaukee was building a music scene, in actuality, it felt disjointed, with pockets of brilliance here and there. Now, it seems like the quality is shining so bright that it overshadows the less than ambitious music being made here, which definitely wasn’t always the case. And while Milwaukee still has it’s share of things that could be done better in terms of a music scene, progress is being made. That’s something to take pride in.

On the indie/alternative/rock side of things, great bands and great releases are popping up out of virtually nowhere. There’s a Bay View scene, and a Riverwest scene, and the standouts are bands that are connecting both of them. Bands like The Fatty Acids, Soul Low, Vic and Gab, and hosts of others are taking the city by storm, contributing to the history of eclectic, experimental indie music that has been made here for decades, and it seems like someone new pops up all the time. I was just blown away by Canopies. Last week I was blown away by Migo. In the past it’s been bands like Paper Holland, GGOOLLDD, and Vinyl Theatre. The good stuff just keeps coming out, and it’s garnering attention.

The hip hop scene that was once lauded by members of the city’s musical community is also making such quality music that it can’t be ignored, as well. There’s incredible potential in artists like Pizzle, Klassik, Webster X, and countless others leading the charge. Younger artists like Bliss and Alice, Vonny Del Fresco, and Genesis Renji are ridiculously impressive, and national outlets are giving these artists their moment in the spotlight. There’s so many new artists coming out that it’s hard to acknowledge all of the great hip hop I’ve heard in 2014, but believe me when I say that there is great potential that needs to get noticed. The quality is finally rising to the top and creating a buzz here.

There’s real development adjacent to the music community, as well. Not only does the music have to be quality, but the support systems for said music have to be legitimate, too. The media coverage, video quality, and radio play for local music has all gone up lately. The combined outlets of Shepherd Express, WMSE, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, and finally JSOnline have an increased voice to the rest of the city for exposing local talent. We’re seeing videos worthy of making MTV and other national outlets, and (surprise, surprise) those videos are subsequently being placed on those national platforms. The quality is here. We can all embrace it now.

With that said, there’s still plenty of work to be done. We still need more venues embracing local music. We still need a stronger sense of unity between artists. We still need to ultimately convince more people to come to shows and buy records and support their local acts. But damn, has Milwaukee busted through the glass ceiling this year (We had a stage at South by Southwest, for crying out loud!).

So now it’s time to keep going, and do your part. Get your friend to come out to a show from some band they haven’t seen before. Hell, go see a band that you’ve never heard before. See what the other scenes are like here. Experience it all, and take pride in it. Something really is going on, here.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. But thank you for a great 2014, Milwaukee. Let’s do some more cool stuff next year.


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