Making The Case for Live Music in Milwaukee

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By Allen Halas and Catherine Barchus

If you’re a frequent reader of this website, this post may not be for you. It is, however, for someone you know, and I’d encourage you to share it with them.

Over the weekend, I managed to see a total of 20 acts, including bands from Iowa and Green Bay, as well as Milwaukee, thanks to the Arte Para Todos festival and an additional stop at Cactus Club to see Marielle Allschwang and Queen Hilma. One thing that stuck with me, though, was the number of familiar faces I saw in the crowd. Many of them were fellow artists, which is great, because that’s the sort of camaraderie that I’ve wanted to see amongst a notoriously divided music scene for years. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about the monthly “An Evening With” shows that we’ve done at The Tonic Tavern; seeing the other artists mingle with one another, and supporting their peers.

Then I thought further about it, and examined the metaphorical bubble that’s been created. It’s no secret that something great is happening in Milwaukee, musically, and the artists themselves see that. However, other than a few anomalies, there aren’t many acts that the common Milwaukeean might know. Yes, your friend might know who GGOOLLDD, Reyna, or WebsterX are. But how far do they go beyond that?

On Friday and Saturday of Arte Para Todos, my friend (and the person who actually named Breaking And Entering) Katie came out to check out the shows in Bay View and Riverwest. Katie recently moved back to Milwaukee, and was eager to check out the local music scene. Her thoughts on the weekend really hit home with me:

Arte Para Todos, a local music event benefiting local school art programs, can only be described as one thing…an experience. After living out of state for years I came back to Milwaukee unable to connect to a city I once found so familiar. The city culture that was once so ingrained in me became a stranger. So, when invited out for a weekend of charitable giving in the form of boozing it up and checking out bands, my only answer could be “egh, why not?”.

The electricity of the weekend could be felt wherever there was music, and there was plenty. Ninety bands across twenty different venues in four different Milwaukee neighborhoods made for some difficult choices. I found myself being captivated by Rose of the West’s aura, shaking the walls with D’Amato, and yelling “Fuck Trump” with Vincent VanGREAT and Ninja Sauce. These artists animated my Milwaukee, through their performances I felt a barrage of emotions; love, loss, anger, euphoria. Even more than this I felt a sense of community, my Milwaukee.

In an America that is promoting segregation and rejection more than ever, music is prevailing, just like music has always prevailed. The music community stood together to benefit continuing art education in true Milwaukeean fashion… music and booze, and what’s greater, or more Milwaukee than that? So next time you are home watching Netflix on a Friday night, and your friend tells you to come out, go out. Experience your Milwaukee. Become a part of the community; it could just make a difference.

So this is where that “someone you know” comes in. I’m willing to bet that you have at least one friend that doesn’t do the whole local music thing, and probably has never tried to in the first place. While I’m not normally one to get on the soapbox about things, I do believe in giving people a shot. Moreso, I definitely believe in giving artists a shot. Hell, that’s why this website exists; we have people making great music in Milwaukee, and it’s going to go largely unnoticed if that music doesn’t circulate outside of the artists’ inner circle of friends. With that, I’ll elaborate on the argument that I, like most completely illogical people, posted on Facebook the other night:

Most local shows are around a $5-$10 cover for more than one act. That’s the price you would pay for one month of Netflix. It’s probably the price of your normal fast food order. Broken down, It’s likely that you’re spending less than $3 per act to see the average Milwaukee concert. I would encourage everyone to take that small gamble on a local band some night. It is definitely worth your investment. In a world where people will spend more to buy local on food and homemade goods, the logic is commonly reversed on entertainment. People think that they’re getting the best show for unbelievable amounts of money, when they could be getting a more authentic experience paying a small fraction of the normal concert ticket price.

Also, if you really need to hear the bands before you go, I know of a nifty little website where you can hear them, plus an app that features a map of nearly every live music bar/venue in the city.

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