The Milwaukee Music Scene (TM)
By Matt Wild
For those wayward souls either out of the loop or too tired to care, let’s review some of our humble scene’s defining characteristics: permanent inferiority complex, constant denial and counterproductive discussion of said complex; also small but thriving, erratic yet vital, too few clubs and too many people (or vice versa), ambivalent feelings for Chicago, ambivalent feelings for self, wearisome sighs when touring bands play a few bars from the Laverne & Shirley theme song, etc. etc.
Yes, you’ve heard it all before, and no, you don’t need a sniveling putz like me to lecture you on it. After all, as a likely member of and/or contributor to the Milwaukee Music Scene (TM), you’re intrinsically part of the problem/solution, and therefore don’t need a “state of the scene” rehash. With that being said (and due to the fact that my past month has been filled with 16-hour work days and out of town DUI’s), I present to you a short, easy to read, easy to write, wholly random and non-exhaustive list of the good and the bad, the amicable and the peevish, the life-affirming and the just plain annoying aspects of the Milwaukee Music Scene (TM). (If it really needs to be noted: When I use the term “music scene” I unfortunately refer solely to the white, bespectacled, indie/punk/spaz-rock scene that betrays my sensibilities. If your tastes hew closer to Milwaukee’s thriving hip-hop scene, for example, my sincerest apologies for not accommodating you. If you happen to musically align yourself with groups like The Love Monkeys, U2 Zoo or Pat McCurdy, well, that’s between you and your God, isn’t it?)
Let’s start with a few personal Pet Peeves. While certainly not unique to our fair city, these gaffes should nonetheless be both disparaged and avoided at all costs by each and every member of the MMS.
Dear God, this is a sad one. Nothing says “deep-seated desperation” quite like asking the audience to a) Come away from the bar and watch your band, b) Cross the invisible band/crowd barrier and come to the front of the stage, or c) Dance to your un-danceable music. It’s amateurish in the worst sense of the word. Face it, kids: sometimes the audience is on and sometimes they’re not. The wisdom to know this and play on regardless is what separates the men from the man-boys.
2. Goofy Band Bios
No, your band wasn’t created by a whiskey-drinking mad scientist from the Netherlands during the second week of Lent, and no, your band members aren’t really retro-cyborgs programmed to bring a heartwarming yet dangerous message of hope and rock to the denizens of Earth. We all know you’re just a bunch of schmucks from Brookfield that slapped together a few songs about girls and got an opening slot on a Thursday night at the Riverwest Commons. Seriously, this shit is about as funny and novel as a typical episode of Family Feud (the one with the guy from Home Improvement). Cut it out.
(Unknowable negative bonus points if the bio section of your MySpace page includes the words “ninjas” or “pirates.” )
3. Taking Your Band Seriously
Many members of the MMS may find it surprising that taking your band seriously is, in fact, incredibly annoying. It is. Please stop.
Other Pet Peeves:
Guest list drama, overlong opening bands, anything or anyone involved with Shank Hall.
And now, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, a few MMS “Thank Yous.” For those of you keeping score at home, each is referenced with the VITAL issue in which the corresponding story originally appeared:
Thank you to Jim Linneman, for not only having the best-sounding room in town, but for being generous and accommodating almost to the point of absurdity. Before a recent Linneman’s show with the Trusty Knife (VITAL, August ‘06) it was discovered that I had “misplaced” my keyboard stand (fine, I never really had one in the first place). Like a half-crazed, musician-friendly MacGyver, Jim quickly retreated to his basement, and in less than 15 minutes, produced a fully functional keyboard stand made out of scrap plywood. Simply outstanding.
Thank you to the Cactus Club, for years of unwavering, unflinching service, and for having the finest bartending staff this side of the Rock River. A hearty “Steve Sanders” salute for the soon-to-be-defunct 90210 Monday nights (Vital, November 05, June 06) which have sustained me over the past few years.
Honorable Mentions: Bremen Café for making my band their de facto special occasion house band, Mad Planet, the Miramar dressing rooms, Rocker Pat.
The moral of this column? Maybe it’s that the MMS is like a cruel mistress, or maybe more like a jilted lover, or maybe more like a wacky TV next-door neighbor you just can’t get rid of. Any way you dice it, this is the time, city and scene we’ve all been given, so let’s focus on the good and avoid the bad. And knock off the whole self-esteem issue, OK? Oh, dear members of the Milwaukee Music Scene (TM), don’t let us down. VS