Camping with Ryan Schleicher and WMSE
One organization coordinating a series of shows at the best clubs in one city? That sounds like the sort of thing limited to big “hip” towns where things like SXSW and CMJ happen, not li’l ol’ Milwaukee. But heck, even Madison has stepped into the game in the last few years with its Forward Music Festival. So three cheers to WMSE (and their funding partners, the Milwaukee and Wisconsin Arts Boards) for bringing us a second year of Radio Summer Camp, the station’s stab at turning the city into a weekend-long party with a lineup of bands that, quite honestly, can give that other festival that just wrapped up a run for its money in terms of relevant acts (sure, RSC doesn’t have the Moody Blues, but Southern Culture on the Skids is pretty damn good!). Personally, Fan-Belt’s freaking out about finally getting to see Liars at Turner Hall on Thursday, fricking Lightning Bolt on Friday, and that much-hyped Goodnight Loving CD release show at Linneman’s on Saturday. (There’s also that buzz band Neon Indian at Turner on Saturday, if you’re into music that’s been saddled with a genre name [“chillwave”] that begs the general public to cock-punch whoever came up with it.)
Fan-Belt talked to WMSE’s Promotions Director, Ryan Schleicher, about this year’s event, the changes from last year, and where WMSE hopes to take this sucker in the future.
Ryan Schleicher: There were a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons was that Irish Fest is celebrating 30 years at the time of last year’s dates. Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) heavily supports the educational aspects of Irish Fest on Campus, so we didn’t want to interfere with the support they give to Irish Fest.
How would you rate the lineup of bands overall compared to last year, both national and local?
Obviously we want to make Radio Summer Camp better every year, and we think we accomplished that. On a national level we have a few more heavy hitters. I won’t say the local acts are better this year than last, though. We tried not to duplicate any locals, which just goes to show how many good locals there are. Last year Decibully, Paul Cebar and Call Me Lightning were some of the bigger local names. This year we have Collections of Colonies of Bees, .357 String Band and Codebreaker. We have a TON of talent in this city and I hope the festival shows that.
What bands are you and the rest of the WMSE staff most looking forward to?
Every member of our staff will give you a different answer. A ton of our DJs are really pumped for Jack Oblivian. Dori’s ready to dance at Neon Indian and Codebreaker/You, You’re Awesome. I’m a folk-rock nerd so really want to see Samantha Crain and The Loom. Tom will be seeing the Floyd Lee movie and show, then Spires That in the Sunset Rise at Sugar Maple on Saturday. Kid Cut Up is hosting the Def Harmonic show. Chris is geeked for John Doe. Jason for the Wildbirds.
You worked closely with a lot of local promoters this year in order to secure the touring acts, right? (Kevin Meyer, Kelsey from Cougar Den, etc.) How did this approach benefit the festival?
Kevin has a great relationship with a lot of booking agents, so rather than compete with him or the other folks in town for a show, we decided it’s better to work with them to make the festival what it could be. From experience, guys like Kevin know his crowd better than we do. It would have been silly not to work with him and some of the other promoters. Plus, it saved me a ton of time and effort. I really really appreciate that extra help. I have no problem admitting the festival would probably not have been as good without their help. Kevin, Battlecry, the guys at Turner, Shank Hall, Kelsey–all of them helped book some of these shows, even taking on some of the financial burden. We can’t thank everyone enough.
Based on what you saw at RSC last year, do you feel the fest is likely to raise awareness of local music to the degree you hope for?
I sure hope so. That “degree” is pretty tough to pin down, but it can’t hurt for .357 String Band to play in between Carolina Chocolate Drops and Southern Culture. Heidi Spencer is sharing a bill with Samantha Crain, who is represented by the same team as the Avett Brothers. Then there’s the local promotion – on-air, in the weeklies, blogs, websites. It’s also a pretty good notch on band resumes to be able to tell a talent buyer, for example, “we recently played with Scott Lucas from Local H”.
On a macro level, the more specific attention we can provide the local music community, the better off that community will be with one caveat: the local music has to be good. It is, and it deserves the attention and awareness.
Radio Summer Camp kicks off on Thursday night with Liars at Turner Hall at 8 PM. Click here for a full schedule courtesy WMSE. Holy shit! Liars! Awesome!