Juan Miguel Martinez

Cactus Club Offers a Digital Dream

Virtual programming every Saturday night among the offerings.

By - Sep 21st, 2020 02:04 pm
Digital Dream.

Digital Dream.

Cactus Club is an artist-run music venue and community space with over 25 years of hosting forward-facing artists. After nine years of working at the club and 4 years of directing programming, Kelsey Kaufmann purchased the club in February of 2020 from longtime owner Eric Uecke. Since closing in March due to the pandemic, community support has enabled them to stay afloat and move to offering virtual programming.

Clayton “Max” Segovia is the cultural curator and the head of the Saturday night programming for the new series that has been giving a platform to artists around Milwaukee during the times of COVID-19. The Cactus Club had to close its doors for shows and bar service in March, with limited openings starting again in the summer, but that hasn’t slowed the rate at which shows are put on at the club. What is happening is a long-term experiment of sorts, shifting its focus to virtual programming. “It wasn’t a deliberate decision to go digital, this was an option of ours, a way we chose to respond to the crisis,” Segovia tells Urban Milwaukee.

“’Digital Dream’ is the umbrella title for all of the digital programming here at the club. We are simply shifting from in-person to a digital platform to give regular, reliable high quality multimedia programming. That can range from film oriented shows (to) discussions, DJ sets, live musical performances, skill set workshops. The goal is to keep people connected in a period of extreme uncertainty and isolation,” Kaufmann explains. What is offered is a “Pay what you can” type of system where the artists receive 100 percent of donations. Their paypal or venmo is displayed and viewers can donate what they wish.

“Music will always be at the core of what we carry and stand for, but it’s obviously connected to everything else that is going on,” Kaufmann  says. The club offers shows that have come from podcast roots, since before Digital Dream was an idea. And progressive causes are always championed and stand at the forefront of the club’s philosophy. “There is a lot going on right now, there’s a lot more causes that people are putting energy into and are passionate about. Community oriented and accessible knowledge are something we are passionate about,” Max tells me.

Keeping the shows going and adapting to the digital platform has been a challenge at times, but worth it, says Max. “It has presented opportunities to highlight different ways to present artists’ performances,” he says. There is also the “REACHout radio” series offered by Cactus Club with the goal of curating a variety of  programming, a diverse wavelength of moods, music and information.

Cactus Club is a new legal entity, under new ownership and thus has not been eligible for federal and state assistance. Carryout beverages and merchandise sales help cover foundational operating expenses, and donations received through Patreon will provide support for staffing and artists.

Programming lists and shows can be accessed at www.vimeo.com/cactusclubmke, where they will be available for viewing for ten days before being archived, and they can be retrieved at www.patreon.com/cactusclubmke

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