MILWAUKEE FILM FEST GUIDE
Returning for its 8th installment, the Milwaukee Film Festival is simply one of Wisconsin’s finest cultural institutions. This year 282 films will be screened between September 22 and October 6, plus a number of panels, speakers, guest appearances, post-film conversations, education screenings, and happy hours. In the spirit of this column I’ve compiled a guide for the best of the festival’s music-related films.
I must admit that my adoration for the Film Fest is colored by the fact that I met my girlfriend on the red carpet walking out of the Opening Night party two years ago. As such, the Opening Night party is a can’t miss event. This year Milwaukee’s premier music collective—New Age Narcissism (NAN)—will perform at the party on September 22 in the Kenilworth Building.
The next night—September 23—you can catch three videos from NAN members at the Milwaukee Music Video Show (9:45 p.m., Oriental). There will be 16 entries in total, from the likes of Canopies, Busdriver, Group of the Altos, WC Tank, Devil Met Contention, Fox Face, Rio Turbo, and more, plus a video premier from Maritime.
The centerpiece of the fest’s music movies is the much beloved Sound Vision program, which features eight films his year. They include subjects such as the blues (I Am The Blues), a legendary writer and producer (Bang! The Bert Berns Story), a soul singer’s triumph over cancer (Miss Sharon Jones!), a viral sensation (Presenting Princess Shaw), PBS’ long-running concert program (A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story), an Afghan girl rapper (Sonita), a notorious Madison alternative recording house (The Smart Studios Story), plus the dance party tradition that is Jonathan Demme’s seminal Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.
Speaking of film fest traditions, the Alloy Orchestra will accompany the classic 1927 sci-fi silent film Metropolis. Alloy Orchestra’s performance will be inspired by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s upcoming “Haunted Screens” exhibit.
Two Trains Runnin’ is not the first documentary about the summer of 1964 to play at the Film Fest. Rather than focus on the Freedom Riders who bused into the segregated south to register voters, Two Trains Runnin’ tells the story of a group of young blues fans who also head into unfriendly territory in search of mysterious blues musicians, with hopes of bringing their music out of obscurity.
An aspiring classical musician blows his audition for the Sao Paulo Orchestra and finds his calling teaching the youth of Brazil’s largest favela in The Violin Teacher. This film is part of one of the fest’s newest programs, Cine Sin Fronteras, which showcases the rich and vibrant Latinx diaspora.
Christopher Darling is a Milwaukee-made dark comedy tracking the escapades of a self-destructive leader of a modestly popular rock band. Local actor John Glowacki takes on one of his most interesting roles in Scott Cary and Martin Kaszubowski’s feature debut.
Afghanistan’s first rock band are scheduled to play with Metallica on a San Francisco-based Iranian radio station in Radio Dreams. Things don’t go as planned in this droll comedy as the staff waits for a jam session that may never happen.
Carmin Tropical is an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery noir centering on a Mexican transgender nightclub singer investigating her best friend’s death.
Closing Night film, Morris from America, centers on an American boy living with his dad in Germany who relies on his love of hip-hop to cope with his outsider status.
Apart from the music-minded films, there are many excellent features and shorts to see. For theater locations and showtimes pick up a Film Fest program or visit their website. The box office is now open and located inside the Oriental Theatre.
Think of the MKE Film Fest as the first part of a double feature, considering the (31st) Milwaukee LGBT Film Fest follows right after from October 12 to the 23. In the next issue of WiG I’ll have a guide for its music-related films and events.
And though it’s not officially part of the Film Fest, members of the Ruby Yacht label will be performing in the Moon Room at nearby Landmark Lanes on September 22.
SUPPER CLUB JAZZ AT COMPANY BREWING
During my first visit to our nation’s capital my friend took me to the Bohemian Caverns, a renowned jazz club. We arrived in time for the late set by a trio from Paris. The plates had long been cleared, but the (now-closed) Bohemian Caverns featured dinner as part of their entertainment experience.
Company Brewing in Milwaukee has brought this time-honored tradition to the Riverwest neighborhood. Their Supper Club Jazz series features a free performance and an exclusive menu on Wednesday nights. They also have special editions of Supper Club Jazz every so often on the weekend.
While jazz has been relegated to background music in hotel lobbies and restaurants around the country, Company’s series is reminiscent of jazz’s heyday. The performance is the main attraction, along with an artful meal prepared by head Chef Rosy Rodriguez.
“We wanted to have live jazz be a part of what we do at Company Brewing, but we wanted to do it the right way,” owner George Bregar tells me.
“We reached out to Jamie Breiwick to pick his brain. He was very helpful in that he knows the jazz scene really well and knows what it needs. Then we brought in Jay Anderson for some extra positive energy. Personally, I like it so much that we schedule our brew nights around it,” adds Bregar.
The first Supper Club Jazz special edition took place in April. It was a tribute to Miles Davis featuring the illustrious Russ Johnson on trumpet, easily one of my favorite concerts of the year.
“The Miles Davis show was the archetype of what the series can be,” says Bregar. “We had a full dining room of people eating, but there was also this jazz show happening that definitely delivered.”
The second special edition performance took place on September 10. It was a tribute to saxophonist Ornette Coleman, an innovator of the free jazz movement of the 1960s. Lenard Simpson played saxophone along with Jamie Breiwick on trumpet, Tim Ibsen on bass, and Devin Drobka on drums.
For the Ornette Coleman show my girlfriend and I made dinner reservations. The entree for the Supper Club menu was lake trout. Since we had gone to Seven Seas on Nagawicka Lake for fish fry the night before, we ordered off Company’s standard dinner menu. The roasted pork shoulder with Puerto Rican rice and plantains was incredible.
Our delicious meal was matched with a fantastic live performance. As the band took the stage host Jay Anderson brought a painting of Coleman and hung it onstage. The painting was done by an Iowa artist named Wayne Deutsch and brought by Kevin Lynch, former jazz writer for the Journal Sentinel. The band, dubbed The Century Quartet, performed Coleman tunes including “Dee Dee,” “The Blessing,” “Broadway Blues,” and an original arrangement by Breiwick dedicated to trumpeter Don Cherry.
This Friday—September 23—will be the third Supper Club Jazz special edition. Though it is being presented on the day of John Coltrane’s birth, rather than pay tribute to the jazz icon, 88Nine’s Tarik Moody (producer of the Unlooped series) presents “Jazzmatazz 414 – Hip Hop to Bebop,” a tribute to hip-hop classics performed by Milwaukee jazz musicians.
Other upcoming Supper Club Jazz performances at Company Brewing will feature MRS. FUN, Rick Aaron, Caroline Davis (NYC), Eric Jacobson, Neil Davis, Stomata, and Mitch Shiner. Special editions will be led by Cecilio Negron Jr., Reel Feels (NYC), and Andrew Neesly. Plus, Jamie Breiwick’s Lesser Lakes Trio will do two live recordings, the first of which is tonight—September 21.
AM/FM POP-UP NIGHT AT FORMER HOTEL FOSTER SPACE
Two issues back I wrote about the closing of the Hotel Foster (or “HoFo” as it is lovingly referred to). For five years HoFo was one of the best bars and occasional music venues on Milwaukee’s East Side. It hosted many unforgettable performances, especially during the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival.
John Revord, owner of Boone & Crockett and one of the original owners of HoFo, will reopen 2o28 East North Avenue for one night on September 24. It turns out HoFo’s liquor license doesn’t expire until the end of the month. Revord reached out to his old business partner Doug Williams and they came to an agreement that will bring one night of live music, specialty cocktails, tap beers, DJs, and projected art to the space.
The night is being called “AM/FM.” When I first saw the event I was suspicious about its resemblance to the online magazine “amfm” produced by Milwaukee-native Ciera McKissick, to which I have contributed. I wondered if it might be one of McKissick’s events. When McKissick stumbled upon a Milwaukee Record article about the event she actually thought they were writing about her project.
Initially McKissick was perturbed and started a Facebook conversation about it on a friend’s wall. As the feed grew Revord became aware of it and reached out to McKissick. Revord says he felt bad and was unaware of McKissick’s project, which has been based in Chicago for about two years. They talked and decided to work together.
“The event aligns with the things I do, so it was no question to collaborate,” McKissick wrote me in an email. “It actually turned into a dope opportunity. And I have been saying for quite some time that I wanted to do an event back home since it had been so long. I think this was the universe’s way of making that a reality.”
The bar is currently empty, stripped of the decor that defined the Hotel Foster. McKissick will be curating a pop-up art gallery in the downstairs space, with a live painting element on large canvas upstairs. She has reached out to some of her former Milwaukee artist friends including Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, CK Ledesma, and the From Here to Her collective.
The music lineup for the event includes DJs Asher Gray, Why-B, and Slim Brit, with performances by Whips, Rusty Pelicans, and a secret band. Video Villains will project visuals. Revord and Chef Mitch Ciohon’s Gypsy Taco truck will become Weezy Burger for the night and will be parked out front. All told, it will be another eclectic and electric night at 2028 East North Avenue.
FREESPACE RETURNS FOR A SECOND YEAR
All-ages venues are a key component to a healthy music scene. While Milwaukee’s music scene is the most vibrant it has been in decades, a dearth of all-ages venues limits its potential. Much of this is due to our antiquated, restrictive liquor laws, which could be changed. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)
Last year saw the demise of three important all-ages DIY spaces: the Cocoon Room, Lucky Cat and Borg Ward. However, 2015 also saw the rise of FREESPACE, a monthly (mostly) hip-hop showcase and interview series featuring up-and-coming youth musicians and established artists. It was recently featured on FOX6 and WUWM’s Lake Effect.
FREESPACE is the brainchild of high school English teacher Vincent Gaa and hip-hop artist WebsterX (Sam Ahmed). It provides an opportunity for youth to learn from and interact with professional musicians, as well as their peers. In its first year FREESPACE brought in renowned artists like IshDARR, Wave Chappelle, and Lili K., plus youth artists like Vital E$$ence, Riqo, and LeanBeatz.
The FREESPACE team also includes KaneTheRapper (Darius Briggs) and artist Janice Vogt. I emailed Vogt about what stood out for her from the first year of FREESPACE and what she is looking forward to in year two.
“What amazes me the most about FREESPACE is the community. We’re all a huge team – Kane has referred to it as family, which I like – and we support each other, appreciate each other and hold one another accountable. I never thought FREESPACE would become so tight knit. It’s a blessing!”
“We are looking forward to pushing more limits and breaking more barriers! There is so much to tackle. At the same time, we’ve been taking opportunities and learning lessons as they come, so while we have visions for the coming months, I think we will leave more than enough room for surprises,” wrote Vogt.
FREESPACE returns tonight—September 21—with Von Alexander, Ar Wesley, and Wayward. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. inside the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.
VINCENT VANGREAT APPEARS AT GOLDA MEIR SCHOOL AND ERIC ANDRE LIVE!
Back in April the second annual Arte Para Todos festival took over four Milwaukee neighborhoods over a four-day weekend, bringing almost 100 music acts and artists to 24 venues. The festival began in 2015 as a way to raise awareness and resources for struggling art and music programs in Milwaukee schools.
As one of the organizers of Arte Para Todos 2016 my primary responsibility was coordinating our in-school performance series—six concerts and Q&As with local musicians just for students. We originally had an in-school lined up at Golda Meir but it fell through. Administration asked if we could reschedule for the beginning of this school year. Assistant Principal Deb Causey even put in an artist request—her former 6th grade math student Vincent Wallace-Haygood, better known as hip-hop producer/rapper Vincent VanGREAT.
In my first feature for WiG I wrote about Queen Tut and six of the best Wisconsin hip-hop releases of 2016 so far. VanGREAT’s long-awaited album UnGREATful sits squarely among the six. The SAFS Crew member’s joyful spirit and hunger for success can be heard throughout the 15-track project, which includes well-crafted live instrumentation. For his performance at Golda Meir on September 16 VanGREAT brought his drummer and keyboard player.
Before he addressed the middle and high school students VanGREAT was greeted by his former teacher backstage. It was beautiful to see a teacher embrace her former student and hear VanGREAT share his journey with the students at Golda. They responded with tons of enthusiasm. One aspiring rapper was even invited onstage to freestyle.
“That was awesome. The kids had a lot of energy. Honestly, we never had musicians come to our school and perform for us. I’m very grateful that they had me here and this auditorium is beautiful,” said VanGREAT after the performance.
A few days before the Golda Meir in-school performance VanGREAT was invited to appear on Eric Andre Live! Originally tapped to be a guest on the Milwaukee stop of Adult Swim’s wildly subversive and hilarious anti-talk show The Eric Andre Show, VanGREAT had a scheduling conflict and was instead added to their show in Pontiac, Michigan.
“I had a ten minute segment up there with him. He was asking all types of crazy ass questions and doing a bunch of crazy stuff. Then he started crowd surfing and I just used that time to steal the show and get the crowd turned up. It was an epic experience,” said VanGREAT.
VanGREAT will perform at Cactus Club on September 29 as part of their hip-hop showcase series “MKE Live,” and again at Cactus Club on November 11 in support of AUTOMatic’s album release show.
NEW MUSIC FROM LEX ALLEN, AUTOMATIC, AND SYLVAN ESSO
WiG favorite Lex Allen released a new song entitled “Keep It Movin” last week. The track is produced by Q the Sun and engineered by Daniel Holter from Wire & Vice. It has more of a deep, dance club feel than previous soul-pop offerings from Allen. The song was written as Allen was coming out of the depression he fell into following his mother’s passing. Allen says about the song, “The message is to tell people to push through any situation and see the brighter things to come, while shaking their ass happily.” Listen to it here.
Milwaukee hip-hop duo AUTOMatic recently announced they will be putting out their first full-length album in four years. Marathon will be out November 11, with a release show at Cactus Club featuring Vincent VanGREAT, El Shareef, and DJ Optimist. The first single, “Talkin Bout Love,” is out now. The track “identifies the need for more love in this world and takes time to express love for people of all walks of life.” Listen to it here.
Okay, electro-pop luminaries Sylvan Esso are not technically a Wisconsin band. The duo is based in North Carolina. However, producer Nick Sanborn is a Middleton-native who cut his teeth in beloved Milwaukee band Decibully. Not to mention, Sanborn first met singer Amelia Meath when they were sharing a bill at Cactus Club. For those reasons we will continue to hold Sylvan Esso as one of our own. Their incredible debut album remains one of the best records of the last decade. During their live performances last summer they introduced a badass new song entitled “Radio.” A year later a recorded version is out and it is fan-fucking-tastic. Listen below.
NEW VIDEOS FROM RUSTY PELICANS, DAD, AND LORN
September 15 saw the release of two Milwaukee hip-hop music videos. One is for the song “We Like” from local hip-hop legends the Rusty Pelicans, off their recently released album Apartment 7, which is another one of the six best Wisconsin hip-hop projects of the year so far. The video is directed by Kelly Anderson.
The other hip-hop video released on September 15 is the first visual offering from one of Milwaukee’s most intriguing new characters, Dad. The lovable father figure crashes a Civil War reenacted for his Mammyth produced track “17th Century.” The video is directed by Dad and edited by Cellar Dweller.
Underground electronic mastermind Lorn—who relocated from Milwaukee to the woods somewhere outside Eau Claire a few years ago—released a new video for his song “Anvil,” off his 2015 album Vessel. The animated video is set in the year 2100 and fuses Japanese and Belgian comic influences, providing haunting visuals for Lorn’s visceral sound.
The video is directed by Hélène Jeudy and Antoine Caëcke (aka Geriko), with design and animation by Antoine Caëcke and Hélène Jeudy, plus character animation by Anthony Lejeune and Manddy Wyckens.
BON IVER PERFORMS ON THE TONIGHT SHOW
The pride of Eau Claire, Bon Iver, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on September 14 to perform the song “8 (Circle).” Watch the performance here. The song is off Bon Iver’s forthcoming third album 22, A Million, which was debuted in its entirety last month at the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival.
WiG RECOMMENDED EVENTS — [click hyperlinks for more info]
SEPT 21: Freespace (all ages) with Von Alexander, Ar Wesley, and Wayward at Jazz Gallery Center of the Arts.
SEPT 21: Supper Club Jazz at Company Brewing with Lesser Lakes Trio (live recording).
SEPT 21: NO/NO + Fire Retarded + The Rashida Joneses at Bremen Cafe.
SEPT 22: Milwaukee Film Festival Opening Night party featuring New Age Narcissism and Rio Turbo at the Kenilworth Building.
SEPT 22: Ruby Yacht label night featuring Scallops Hotel, Antilia Raid and s.al in the Moon Room at Landmark Lanes.
SEPT 23: Jazzmatazz 414 – Hip Hop to Bebop featuring Klassik, Mike Regal, Ar Wesley, Olen Franklin, Afton Johnson, Quinten Farr, B-Free, and Jay Anderson at Company Brewing.
SEPT 24: AM/FM pop-up night at former Hotel Foster site with amfm Magazine, Video Villains, Whips, Rusty Pelicans, a secret band, plus DJs Asher Gray, Why-B, Slim Brit.
SEPT 24: WebsterX’s Golden Gala birthday bash at secret all-ages location.
SEPT 24: Tacocat w/ Dude York + The Pukes at Cactus Club.
SEPT 25: CHVRCHES at The Riverside Theater.
SEPT 25: Count Bass D // Q the Sun // Jay Anderson at Bremen Cafe.
SEPT 29: MKE Live ft. Mike Regal, Vincent VanGREAT, 3rd Dimension, Camb Music, Cleo Fox II, Sam Rothstein, DJ Markus X.
SEPT 30: Sat. Nite Duets record release at Villa Terrace with Negative/Positive.
SEPT 30: New Boyz Club EP release at Company Brewing with Hello Death, Fox Face, and Sista Strings. (More on New Boyz Club in my upcoming feature in this issue of WiG.)
SEPT 30: Bremenhain: DEEP DARK DANCE at Bremen Cafe.
OCT 1: B-Free album release at Company Brewing with Abby Jeanne, D’Amato, Kyndal J., Klassik, and DJ Moses.
As summer winds down Wisconsin music fans soak in the last sun-drenched and moonlit hours of outdoor music. The threat of rain held at for the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Festival, where Tigernite and Milo turned in powerful headlining sets. The Underwear Bike Ride in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood threw another epic after party. Hear Here Presents, an independent video performance series, moved into a new studio space. Christopher Porterfield (Field Report) tells me about Argopelter, his improvisational rock trio. Plus, a new video from Milwaukee rapper AR Wesley featuring Von Alexander, and WiG recommended events.
HEAR HERE PRESENTS MOVES INTO NEW SPACE
Back when I was a college radio DJ and video student in Minneapolis I occasionally helped shoot the “Live on Radio K” in-studio performances. These are intimate recordings with up-and-coming bands, similar to the “Live on KEXP” series. While both 91.7 WMSE and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee host in-studio sessions with local and national bands, these performances are not video recorded for the public.
Hear Here Presents, an independent series produced by local comedian and music lover Ryan Holman, is filling that void in Milwaukee. The series is inspired by Audiotree Live, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, La Blogothèque, Live & Breathing, and Live on KEXP. In their first year Hear Here Presents has captured over 20 performances with local and national bands including Soul Low, Foreign Goods, and BUHU. This summer they moved from a loft on South Second Street across from Purple Door Ice Cream to the Lincoln Warehouse on South First Street.
Hear Here’s new home is shared with eleven other tenants, one of them being Milwaukee band The Cavewives. Their audio engineers use it to record music, while Holman’s girlfriend Jenny Vanderheiden uses it as a studio for her painting, making it a multi-purpose space.
I visited Hear Here’s studio on a recent Sunday for a shoot with local dream pop darlings GGOOLLDD. A crowd of about forty people were mingling and snacking. The space is filled with vintage furniture, band tour posters, plants and framed landscape paintings behind the performance area. Vanderheiden has added bright, colorful rivers to the paintings.
Hear Hear Presents uses high-end equipment to record both audio and video. It is currently a self-funded and volunteer-run endeavor, but Holman’s goal is to eventually be in partnership with a larger media outlet that can provide funding and distribution, though he’d like to maintain a curatorial role.
I spoke with Holman before the GGOOLLDD shoot.
RH: The new space is more professional, it feels more sharp. The last place was great but the building was kind of falling apart. This feels more like an actual recording studio than a loft. It’s a little bit bigger than the last space and the layout is different. The audience had to be off to the side in the last space, whereas now they can kind of wrap around.
GGOOLLDD began their performance with a stripped down version of “Younger Days.” Keyboardist and guitarist Thomas Gilbert played an acoustic guitar. After a change over the band returned fully electric, and Holman’s team fired up a smoke machine. He announced it was the first time they’ve used one, which elicited cheers from the crowd. The band then played “City Lights,” followed by their signature single “Gold.” After the cameras stopped rolling they played a few more songs for fun.
Because of their move Hear Here’s backlog has grown. It will take a few months before the GGOOLLDD video is out. In the meantime click here to check out their video library and music recommendations.
ARGOPELTER AT BOONE & CROCKETT
Field Report is one of the most successful Wisconsin bands of the last decade. The folk rock outfit has garnered praise from Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. In celebration of their sophomore release, Marigolden, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proclaimed October 22, 2014, to be “Field Report Day.”
As part of Arte Para Todos 2016, a festival that raises awareness and resources for struggling arts and music programs in Milwaukee Public Schools, I brought Field Report frontman Christopher Porterfield and bassist Barry Paul Clark to Escuela Vieau School.
Porterfield regaled the Vieau middle schoolers with road stories and told them how a failed commercial jingle turned into one of his biggest singles. For the actual festival Porterfield performed a daytime solo set at Lux Bar and Lounge, a small black owned establishment that doesn’t typically host singer-songwriters.
No stranger to non-traditional venues and arrangements, Porterfield and Clark, along with prolific jazz drummer Devin Drobka, began playing improvisational rock sets at a small bar in the Bay View neighborhood under the moniker Argopelter. The sets take place once or twice a month on Mondays at Boone & Crockett. The trio first met playing at the “Alverno Presents: Unlooped vs. Marvin Gaye” concert.
On a recent Monday I went to see Argopelter. Porterfield told me that he’s happy with the progress of the new Field Report album and that it’s being recorded locally at Wire & Vice with engineer Daniel Holter. Porterfield actually had to leave the previous Argopelter performance early because his wife went into labor with their first child.
Argopelter tunes feel like extended, epic introductions to a Field Report song. Towards the end of the second set Porterfield heavily employed pedal effects to the point where one song sounded like the soundtrack to a superhero movie trailer. Their last song brought to mind Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” with Porterfield throwing in some faint vocals at the end. Overall, Argopelter is heavier and headier than what Field Report fans might be used to.
I emailed Porterfield and asked him what he likes about Argopelter.
CP: Argopelter really stretches me out. Most of what I do in other groups is composed and considered beforehand. Argopelter forces me to listen and trust. I love playing with Barry and Devin, and I’ve grown to trust myself as a player more from playing with and trusting them.
What we do is improvised, but it’s very different from jamming. It’s more meditative. It’s more moment-sensitive. It reacts and supports, and only injects point of view when one of us has something to say. We’re ok with a piece stalling out. There’s a lot of trust between us, the wonderful people at Boone & Crocket, and the audience we’ve developed. We’d all love to transcend, but we all know you can’t get there every time.
Some of the audience we’ve carved out is from the jazz community, and sometimes we invite someone to sit in on our second set. That’s always interesting. The three of us have become pretty sensitive to one another, and are hyper-aware of different energy. Sometimes it’s an exciting fit, and we all hear each other and blast off in new directions. Other times the vibe isn’t right. But every exploration yields some moment of discovery.
The next Argopelter performance at Boone & Crockett will be Monday September 12.
UNDERWEAR BIKE RIDE AFTER PARTY
Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood has a number of uncanny traditions. A few of those include bike riding. The annual “Riverwest 24” attracts riders from all over the city to compete in a 24-hour bike relay and communal hang. A smaller, but no less enthusiastic crowd gathers once a month in the summer for the Underwear Bike Ride (UBR). This celebration of positive body image, originally founded by Steve Roche in 2011, has grown organically over the years and regularly turns out over a hundred riders, especially when the weather cooperates.
The Underwear Bike Ride is followed by an after party concert. There have been some wild after parties, including Foreign Goods debut last summer at Bremen Cafe. Lorde Fredd33 opened the show, which took place shortly after the racially-charged South Carolina shooting. Fredd33 walked out in a ripped Confederate Flag tank top, which was eventually thrown into the crowd and lit on fire. (And then safely stomped out by Roche.) This June the Nashville-based, perpetually touring, immersive DIY dance party Terror Pigeon headlined the UBR after party at Company Brewing.
Last week Gloss Records label heads Harrison Colby and Joey Peterson got to play together at the UBR after party at Mad Planet. Their respective bands, NO/NO and Platinum Boys, opened for Baltimore’s Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. The show was originally scheduled for Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace, but Roche reached out to Peterson about making it the official UBR after party and moving it to the larger Mad Planet.
I wasn’t able to make it to the Underwear Bike Ride, so last Friday I went to High Dive to talk to Peterson about the show. When I arrived bartender Connor LaMue told me Peterson had just taken off for an early show at Bremen Cafe. Before leaving I chatted with LaMue, a member of the band Bad Wig, and he told me about a new noise band he’s in with Colby from NO/NO and two other people. They haven’t played out yet but they have three songs, they’re called Sex Scenes, and LaMue feels good about it. He was just getting over his hangover from the after party at Mad Planet and managed to take a tequila shot with me before I left to talk to Peterson.
JP: I was extremely pleased with the participation of the riders. It was cool to expose them to Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. There was probably 200 more people. It was a nice mix of people who were going to the show and the underwear riders. The riders bought merch and were into the bands. They had all that adrenaline after going on a cruise like that, plus they’re in their undies. That’s like taking care of three steps of the party. Ideally that’s where it gets by three in the morning, but if you’re starting that way at 9:30 p.m. you’re in good shape.
Peterson, better known as Joey Turbo, is also the singer/leader of trash dance pop outfit Rio Turbo, who will be playing the Mondo Lucha! “When Worlds Collide” event at Turner Hall Ballroom on September 9. Mondo Lucha! is an annual wrestling event inspired by the “Lucha Libre” form of professional Mexican wrestling. The event was founded by Andy Gorzalski in 2008. This year’s Mondo Lucha! will also feature burlesque dancers and a performance by Rio Turbo.
JP: I’m fucking stoked. That’s what kicked off the whole Rio Turbo thing. Not to play a wrestling event, but that idea of obsessing over professional wrestling as a child.
WiG: So you’re hitting a Rio Turbo benchmark?
JP: Yeah. I’d say all that’s left is a bowling alley and a strip club.
The final Underwear Bike Ride of 2016 will be on September 16, with an after party featuring Juiceboxxx (MKE/NYC) and Show Me The Body (NYC).
Mondo Lucha! “When Worlds Collide” is September 9, at Turner Hall Ballroom.
MILWAUKEE FRINGE FEST MUSIC HEADLINERS
In addition to producing Hear Here Presents, Ryan Holman helped out with the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Festival’s outdoor music stage. Early morning showers on Saturday August 27, were concerning, but the rain cleared up and stayed away for the entirety of the Fringe Fest’s outdoor music series.
Held at the Pere Marquette Park gazebo, the lineup included Milwaukee stalwarts Platinum Boys, ZED KENZO, Mark Waldoch, Abby Jeanne (Rebel Love), Piles, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Ugly Brothers, and Light Music. It also featured out-of-towners Oh My Love (Madison), Seasaw (Madison), plus lesser known Milwaukee acts like LUXI, Zhivago, and Lady Cannon.
I visited the park, where the Wednesday night summer music series River Rhythms usually takes place, to catch the each headliner: Tigernite on Saturday and Milo on Sunday.
Tigernite is one of those bands that you couldn’t not hear about if you’ve been paying attention to Milwaukee music these last couple of years. They were the feature band at the 2015 Milwaukee Film Fest opening night party. This year they played just about every street festival and were one of the standout acts at Arte Para Todos. Fringe Fest would be my first time seeing a full set from the energetic glam rock band.
The most prominent aspect of Tigernite’s music is lead singer Molly Roberts voice. Love it or hate it, Roberts voice is a little Pat Benatar, a little Lita Ford, turned up a few notches. Their music sounds like something from the late ‘90s/early 2000s alternative rock scene. Guitarist Maxwell Emmet has long flowing rock star hair, and he plays the part well. At one point he hopped off-stage and ran through the crowd. Roberts one-upped him and poured a jar of glitter on her head, which stuck to some of the paint she smeared on her face and arms beforehand. She was a spark throughout the set, bouncing up and down, whipping her bi-colored (one half white, one half black) hair around, and even donned shiny black wings at one point. Between the band’s showmanship and Roberts powerful pipes, Tigernite delivered a hard-hitting, entertaining performance.
There has been much talk of the bubbling Milwaukee hip-hop scene in the last few years. In my first feature for WiG I wrote about the best rap albums (so far) of 2016. When it comes to artistry, Milo is on a level all to himself. This surely has something to do with the formative year he spent in Los Angeles with the Hellfyre Club collective. Not to mention, Milo has logged more tour miles than any other rapper in Wisconsin under 30. His stage presence has elevated considerably since I first saw him at Arte Para Todos 2015.
When I arrived at 8:55 p.m. on Sunday August 28, Milo’s signature sparse production could be heard echoing through the park. I worried that he had started early and I missed most of his set. But he was merely sound checking. Turns out, a Milo sound check is better than most rappers singles. Once he felt good about the levels he invited the modest crowd to come closer to the stage.
“It takes a lot of precious energy to rap in the park. It’s been a minute since a brother rapped in the park,” Milo told the crowd.
Throughout his set Milo repeated the refrain, “Thanks for coming to my job,” and “Glad you could make it to my place of work.” His white painter outfit emphasized this “blue collar rap” theme. Whereas some rappers see their music as a hobby, a get-rich-quick scheme, a way to get laid, etc., for Milo rap is simply his profession. When you see him live you can tell he puts in the hours, carefully crafting his art.
When I spoke with Milo earlier this year he told me he had been thinking about how to add theatrical elements to his live performance. At his Fringe Fest set there weren’t overt “bits,” but his movements were far more expressive. His interaction and appreciation for the audience was incredibly genuine. Where most musicians connect with the audience during eruptions of noise, Milo and his audience commune in those quiet moments between songs.
Early in his set Milo showed love to the festival and the audience for embracing the fringe spirit, of which is music squarely fits into. With that spirit in mind, he debuted a new song that he created the day before. Later in the set he brought intense ferocity to an unreleased BLM-themed song with lyrics about how “David Clarke hates himself” that was so powerful it gave me goosebumps. Considering the intimacy of the park setting and the free admission, it was a very special evening. Milo’s next performance will be this Friday at the sprawling, expensive, weekend-long Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina.
WiG RECOMMENDED EVENTS
SEPT 8: Athletic Supply with Iron Pizza, Apollo Vermouth, and Proud Parents (Madison) at High Dive in Milwaukee. For more on Athletic Supply see my upcoming feature on Close Up of the Serene in this issue of WiG.
SEPT 10: The Movement V2: I Am Milwaukee – This unique, family-friendly, outdoor/indoor event will take place at the Beerline Trail in Milwaukee from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. From their Facebook event: “Using a series of compilation albums and events, “The Movement” demonstrates the power of musical talent at work in our city. Volume 2 highlights a pool of extremely talented Milwaukee producers. The release event brings together a diverse selection of our skilled hip hop, house and techno producers/djs, pushing against genre division, segregation, and building community.” For more information click here.
SEPT 10: 91.7 WMSE Backyard BBQ – In its 7th year, but first under the Humboldt Park Bandshell, Milwaukee’s favorite college radio station throws their free end of summer barbeque bash. Featuring performances by national acts Balkun Brothers, Sonny Knight and The Lakers, plus local bands Trapper Schoepp, Midwest Death Rattle and Doghouse Flowers.
SEPT 17: Rock the Green – After taking three years off, Southeastern Wisconsin’s premier sustainability-themed music festival is back. This year it will be held at the Reed Street Yards along the Menomonee River in Milwaukee. The mainstage lineup features international indie heavyweights Lord Huron, Best Coast, Robert DeLong, The Heavy, and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Local favorites New Age Narcissism, NO/NO, Eagle Trace, Foreign Goods, Evan Christian, and Great Lake Drifters will be play a pedal-powered side stage. Each ticket comes with a reusable water bottle. For more information and tickets click here.
SEPT 17: Rusty Pelicans album release – Of my picks for the six best Wisconsin hip-hop albums (so far) of 2016 only one was forthcoming, Apartment 7 by the Rusty Pelicans. With two decades in the game, the Pelicans reunited their original lineup and brought in some of the best local talent to assist them on the new album, a return to form for Milwaukee’s longest-running hip-hop group. Sharing the bill at Company Brewing will be Mammyth, AR Wesley, Bo & Airo, and DJ MadHatter.
SEPT 17: Foreign Goods EP release – Gloss Records celebrates their first live recording cassette/digital release at Mad Planet in Milwaukee. Taken from their headlining set at Summer Soulstice in June, this live recording captures the dynamic performance of jazz/soul/funk/hip-hop supergroup Foreign Goods. Sharing the bill will be Lorde Fredd33.
SEPT 17: Jazz at the Jazz Gallery – Between 1978 and 1984 the Jazz Gallery on Center Street in Milwaukee was one of the premier jazz clubs in the country. Owner Chuck LaPaglia brought in the likes of Chet Baker, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, and Wynton Marsalis. Today the Jazz Gallery Center of the Arts hosts a variety of events, but are keeping their jazz legacy alive. Next Saturday features the Ryan Measel Quartet at 5 p.m., followed by the Billy Johnson Trio at 7 p.m., which features Milwaukee jazz legends Manty Ellis and Victor Campbell.
NEW AR WESLEY VIDEO
Directed by Rob Randolph and Raphael Roby, one of the best tracks off AR Wesley’s 2015 EP Time is Millmatic, “Here iGO ft. Von Alexander,” gets the slick visual treatment. The track is produced by Mike Regal, who appears in the video alongside another Milwaukee heavyweight, Reggie Bonds, and probably a few more rappers.
A cruel stroke of irony hit the second night of the Strange Fruit music festival in Milwaukee, which was created “to explore the thoughts and emotions of local musicians, regarding the current climate of racial relations both in Milwaukee and the country as a whole.”
That day Syville K. Smith was gunned down by a police officer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Hours later frustrated residents lit portions of their neighborhood ablaze, thrusting Milwaukee into the international spotlight.
A renewed sense of determination ran through the final night of Strange Fruit, while Milwaukee musicians across genres responded to the civil unrest.
The next weekend a beloved East Side venue closed its doors and a Riverwest band hung up their instruments. On the plus side, a new band debuted at Cactus Club’s 20th Anniversary, Lorde Fredd33 and Q the Sun dropped a new track, and the Ruby Yacht camp blessed us with a new video. Also, I had an okay time at a “Quiet Clubbing” event.
Klassik in NYC and Strange Fruit
Local hip-hop heavyweight Klassik has evolved over the course of his career. In the beginning he was a promising producer. The single “Boogie” cemented his status as a hitmaker, garnering him a 2012 Radio Milwaukee Award for Artist of the Year and 2013 WAMI for Hip-Hop Artist of the Year. Over the last few years he has emerged as both a powerful solo performer and a strong collaborator (Foreign Goods, Group of the Altos). Klassik’s music has moved into more experimental territory, adding modulation to his voice and using various effects.
On Friday August 12, Klassik played his first show in New York City. It was in support of Minus Pedro’s EP release, a group fronted by Milwaukee-native Bassey Etim. I spoke with Kellen “Klassik” Abston about his experience in NYC and playing the Strange Fruit festival later that weekend amid the unrest that exploded in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
K: The energy was crazy in New York. It was nice to have some Milwaukee homies there, people who had either just recently moved or had been there for a while. It’s cool to have that kind of support system already in place and that spilled over into the rest of the crowd. Everyone was hyper engaged, I wowed some of the right people and made some good connections. So I feel really good about it.
WiG: Did being in NYC amp you up in any way?
K: Oh yeah. The pace of the city is just so vibrant. Everybody is on a mission. Everybody’s doing something. There are millions and millions and millions of people there and they’re all super focused and determined. There’s something going on always. So it’s hard not to be inspired and motivated by that.
WiG: You and I had a similar experience in terms of being out of town when the news broke of the unrest in Sherman Park. I was up at Eaux Claires. What was it like when you started getting word on Saturday night?
K: It was an immediate sadness and a feeling of disconnect. I don’t know why, but the feeling of not being in Milwaukee, it was almost like I got homesick. Which is ironic because it was something terrible that made me want to be home. But I just wanted to be home.
I found out after watching Shakespeare in the Park. This star-studded classic play, sitting in 95 degree heat in Central Park. Then I get out and I’m on the train watching these things unfold back home on my phone.
There was a sense of urgency coupled with the motivation that I already had from being in the city. That could have been a total buzz kill, but no, I’m going to go back and play Strange Fruit. We didn’t know at that point for sure if I was going to be back in time to play with Foreign Goods, but then more than ever I was determined to be at that show on Sunday night at Cactus.
WiG: What was the vibe at Strange Fruit?
K: Everybody just really came with their A-game. The performances were top-notch. I gotta give it up to Chauntee and Jay as far as putting that together. It was such an amazing event. And to see David Ravel there and him being the curator that he is and hearing him say, “Wow, this went really well. It could have went a number of ways. I didn’t know what to expect.” But he was floored. Milo killed it. He headlined that (Sunday) night and had a phenomenal set. You could tell that everybody was there for the betterment of this community in whatever small or large way that they could.
WiG: Would you say there was a prevailing sadness or more of a resurgence of spirit?
K: Definitely the latter. It was just a new resolve, more impassioned. It’s not just our talent and our creative outlet. It goes back to that initial conversation we had at Sista Strings’ house after the shooting in St. Paul. Everybody knows their responsibility and everybody is holding each other accountable and we’re holding ourselves accountable. Everybody was determined not to let their platform go to waste.
Granted, this isn’t the end-all-be-all by any means. But as far as actually taking a step and organizing and coming together and utilizing our talents and putting them toward something that might uplift people and bring people together, that happened. Even in the midst of what was going on in the city. So it was just crazy timing that we had this festival amid the madness that ensued.
WiG: How did the Foreign Goods set go?
K: Excellent. I had a little extra spirit in me.
Foreign Goods (featuring Abby Jeanne) play the Milwaukee Fringe Festival Gazebo Stage this Saturday at 8 p.m. at Pere Marquette Park.
Devil Met Contention and the “Fire”
The first time I saw Devil Met Contention was at an art gallery opening at Hot Pop in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. They are an unmistakeable band to see live, as they perform in matching suits straight from the set of Mad Men.
“I think it helps everyone in the group feel like it’s showtime. I like the idea of showmanship and doing it for the audience,” frontman Ehson Rad said during the band’s “414 Live” performance at the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee studios.
Devil Met Contention released their first full-length in June, Fuel the Lights, a wonderful 9-track record that delves deep into the dust-laden realm of alt-country, fusing elements of folk and blues.
The band’s name comes from a three-word summary of the book Paradise Lost. Their penchant for literature comes across in the lyrics on the new record, which have an emphasis on storytelling.
The material on Fuel the Lights is darker than previous releases, including a song about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the murder of a young black man at the hands of the police in the summer of 2014.
Tragically, at this point Devil Met Contention could record multiple albums worth of songs about slain black Americans. But when civil discontent over another police shooting exploded in their hometown they were compelled to revisit this subject matter.
The day after the Sherman Park turmoil they recorded a song called “Fire,” what they describe as “a reflection on the American struggle for peace and equality in Milwaukee, WI.”
Devil Met Contention will hit the road for their first tour starting August 24 at the Elbow Room in Chicago.
Reggie Bonds, Queen Tut respond to Sherman Park unrest
As Wisconsin hip-hop fans patiently wait for the release of Reggie Bond’s debut album From the Norf$ide w/ Love, the ferocious emcee has dropped a few singles and a new video. Recently, Bonds recorded the track “#PrayForMilwaukee” following the unrest in Sherman Park. The song features the voice of an affected youth at the beginning and end of the song, while in between Bonds paints a grim but honest picture of the inner-city.
Recent WiG feature artist Queen Tut recorded her own meditation on the turmoil in Milwaukee and across the nation, entitled “To: Black Man From: Moon.” Listen to the song here.
MAM After Dark’s Quiet Clubbing 2.0
Quiet clubbing (or “silent disco”) is an idea I’ve been intrigued by for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity to experience until last Friday at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “MAM After Dark” series. It involves wearing wireless headphones that have dance music piped into them. This way, if someone were to stumble upon the scene they would see a bunch of people dancing in silence.
When I went to Montreal’s Osheaga Arts and Music Festival in 2014 there was a quiet clubbing tent, but by the time I went inside they had ditched the headphones. At the Eaux Claires festival in The Banks tent we were given headphones, but you could still hear the music without them.
MAM After Dark Quiet Clubbing 2.0 was a sold-out affair and we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before receiving our headphones. There were two DJs spinning in the dance area, Bizzon and WhyB. We had the option to toggle between them, which had the effect of a DJ battle.
Bizzon is the co-host of 91.7 WMSE’s long-running Tuesday night hip-hop show “Those Hip-Hop Guys.” He stayed in his lane for the most part, playing old and new hip-hop tracks. WhyB was all over the board, relying on Top 40 songs and tapping into my generation’s nostalgia for pop hits of the early 2000s like Chumbawamba “Tubthumping.”
My girlfriend wasn’t a fan of the two DJ quiet clubbing format, or the headphones in general. She considered it to be isolating rather than unifying. I would have to agree. I’m not sure if I would attend another quiet clubbing event, but it was interesting to be sure. We actually had more fun going outside on the patio where 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s Marcus Doucette was spinning ‘80s hits and world music.
Lex Allen and the closing of Hotel Foster
Back in late May it was announced that Yield Bar on Milwaukee’s East Side would abruptly close. The owner cited a rise in rent and rumors started circulating that he was looking to move into the Hotel Foster’s space nearby, which was still open for business at the time. Hotel Foster denied the claims, but trouble seemed afoot, as their business had slowed down over the past six months or so, while rent seems to be rising on the East Side.
On August 10, the Hotel Foster announced that it would be closing and Saturday August 13 would be their last day. However, owner Doug Williams reopened last on Thursday for a previously scheduled event, Lex Allen’s “The Beaut Ball: Prom Edition.” The event featured performances from Chakara Blu, Sista Strings, and Allen’s New Age Narcissism collective. Attendees were encouraged to wear prom attire. I spotted an assortment of gorgeous dresses and at least one tuxedo t-shirt.
With the closing of Yield Bar and the Hotel Foster the East Side has lost two of its most vital live music venues. In its five year run, the Hotel Foster, lovingly referred to as “HoFo,” played an important role in Milwaukee’s musical renaissance.
The music series during the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival at HoFo featured a stellar array of the city’s best acts. Personally, HoFo holds a special place in my heart, as my girlfriend and I had our first conversation there after meeting on the red carpet walking out of the 2014 MKE Film Festival opening night party.
HoFo occasionally booked touring bands like Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band (“Pizza Underground”) and Milwaukee-native turned cult rapper Juiceboxxx. It was also one of the venues that New Age Narcissism regularly played during their rise to prominence.
“Hotel Foster was one of the first venues I played that I felt was a good fit for me as an artist,” says Allen. “It has a persona and an intimate vibe. It is always fun and a little classy. Plus it is four blocks from my house.”
“But this is not the first or last event of its kind. Tonight was about people being themselves and shedding whatever script was put on them when they were born. Most of the artists tonight were from the LGBT community and I always want to put an emphasize on that in Milwaukee. There’s so much positivity going on in our city, despite what’s been in the news lately.”
Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes release/farewell show
Another bittersweet event took place last Saturday night at Company Brewing as Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes played an album release/farewell show. It’s a shame the breakup comes on the heels of their best work yet, a heartfelt, funny, touching 10-track bluegrass/folk record called Silk for Life.
We arrived at Company just in time to catch the beginning of Conway’s set. Despite an overly chatty crowd and some sound troubles, Conway and the band delivered a wonderful performance. Conway was actually one of the first people I met in the Milwaukee music scene, when I bought soup from her at the Milwaukee Public Market back in early 2014. She has one of the most heavenly voices in town and though she may be done with the Lucy Cukes, I’m sure we’ll hear more from Conway in the future.
New band debuts at Cactus Club’s 20th Anniversary
Amid the news of a beloved venue closing and a band breaking up, last Saturday night also saw the debut of a new group, Bad Grades, at Cactus Club’s 20th Anniversary party. Bad Grades is a side project led by Shane Hochstetler (Howl Street Recordings, Call Me Lightning) and Nathan Lilley (Call Me Lightning), which also includes Mike Gamm (Population Control), Nick Elert (Northless), and Chris Ortiz (Speed Freaks, Volcanos).
The band is rooted in hard punk, with elements of metal mixed in. The crowd anxiously anticipated their set and it didn’t take long for a mosh pit to form, albeit a three-person mosh. A perfectly good beer was sprayed on people nearby as the trio whipped around the room.
Though they weren’t throwing their bodies around, the rest of the crowd responded enthusiastically to Bad Grades. There was little evidence that it was the band’s first show. Given the success of this inaugural outing I suspect they’ll be booked on more upcoming shows, but so far their next gig will be the Rushmor Records Stage at Bay View Bash on September 17.
New track from Lorde Fredd33 + Q the Sun
Milwaukee’s Lorde Fredd33 and Q the Sun of the New Age Narcissism collective are responsible for my top Wisconsin album of the year, Dead Man’s View. Four months after releasing their debut full-length, the rapper/producer duo is back to bless us with a new track, “Danica Patrick.” In the opening of the song Fredd33 mocks the sing-song rapping dominating the airwaves and SoundCloud pages of today before launching into a banger, which they describe as “An Ode to strong women who do what they want. An ode to the guys that support it.”
Listen to the song here.
New video from Scallops Hotel
Speaking of top records, Rory Ferreira found himself on many national year-end best of 2015 lists for his stellar effort so the flies don’t come. That record was released under the Milo moniker, but he also put out the excellent Scallops Hotel record Plain Speaking earlier in 2015.
The Milwaukee-based rapsmith, beat maker, and Ruby Yacht label head has kept himself busy in 2016; touring the continent, supporting LA rapper and Hellfyre Club affiliate Busdriver in Europe, getting married, headlining the aforementioned Strange Fruit festival, supporting Soul Low at their record release show, and putting out last month’s too much of life is mood.
This non-traditional Scallops Hotel project was meant to be a cassette only release. It plays digitally as one 41-minute track of beautiful beats, samples, voice clips, modulated Henry Dumas poetry, and a healthy sprinkling of rap. Last week Ruby Yacht released a video from the project, which features Ferreira, his wife, and RY artists S.al and Randal Bravery.
Milo headlines the Milwaukee Fringe Festival Gazebo Stage this Sunday at 9 p.m. at Pere Marquette Park.