Wisconsin music venues prepare for a very slow return to the status quo

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Last year we received some welcome news for venues that are suffering because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress approved a relief package that included millions of dollars for live entertainment venues. Large and small venues across the state will be receiving relief.

It also looks like some of the venues and promoters that were initially denied grants will also see some relief. Cactus Club was initially left out of the relief announced in December, as was Peter Jest’s promotion company Alternative Concert Group. But the grant program has since grown, and all the venues that appealed their denials, including Alternative Concert Group, have since been approved for grants, Piet says.

New language in the national grant program says that any venue that was open in February is eligible for these grants, so Cactus Club should now be eligible, too, according to Piet. This is very welcome news for venues that were suffering.

Unfortunately, Milwaukee has permanently lost six venues that won’t be coming back, including Fire on Water, Underground Collaborative, Up and Under, Riverwest Public House and Walker’s Point Music Hall. And the bigger venues have lost literally millions of dollars since the pandemic began — Fiserv Forum had been on track to have its biggest year ever last year before the pandemic shut that all down.

Hear us talk about the situation, and some predictions from us about what concertgoing might look like once this is all over. We don’t know much, but we do know that the return to normal will be slow.

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The Milwaukee music stories we were thankful for in 2020

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

We’ve been ending the year on a positive note, talking about our favorite Milwaukee albums and songs of the year. And in keeping with that theme, for this week’s episode we’re going to talk about some cool success stories for the music scene this year. It was a difficult year, but 2020 wasn’t all bad.

Wes Tank | Photo credit: Pat McDonnell

Wes Tank became a national superstar by rapping Dr. Seuss rhymes over Dr. Dre beats. It was a passion project he pursued once the pandemic hit, and they quickly went viral, leading to his own YouTube series called “StoryRaps.”

Another happy story for me was the Space Raft NES game. Being able to play in the Cactus Club and listen to Space Raft songs in ChipTune was an absolute delight. We’re still in awe of the creativity. And it was wonderful seeing the band get so much support on their Kickstarter as well.

We lost some beloved venues in 2020. But the vast majority of them are still here, and were supported by the community and the state. We’re thankful that so many of our iconic venues are still standing.

We’re also thankful for Imagine MKE, which put together a really great grant program that kept a lot of artists afloat. They were able to raise $195,000, which was distributed to artists through grants. It was a crucial lifeline for artists that were really struggling this year.

Hear us recall those highlights and more on this week’s episode below.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Tap’d In’s favorite Milwaukee albums of 2020

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Last week we talked about our favorite Milwaukee songs of the year, and this week we’re talking about our favorite Milwaukee albums of the year. Despite the pandemic, there was no shortage to pick from.

Fuzzysurf – “Sweet Tooth”

This was my favorite Milwaukee album of the year. I got to interview the group for Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020, and I’ve got to say, their creativity compares to bands like The Flaming Lips and The Beatles. From top to bottom, this album is stacked with perfect pop songs.

Field Report – “Brake Light Red Tide”

This was Piet’s personal favorite Milwaukee album of the year. Of Field Report songwriter Chris Porterfield, Piet says “He’s always been a very poetic songwriter, coming up with lines and phrases are feel intimate and personal but mysterious as well.” Piet says the addition of Caley Conway to the group and jazzier textures of these arrangements lend something special to this short but wonderful record.

Reggie Bonds – “The Black Tape (A Black Ass Rap Album)”

Reggie Bonds only released this record on vinyl and cassette, charging $111.11 for it. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it’s a lasting album — a record that will hold up for many years to come. Bonds captured the aesthetic of classic Public Enemy records, with the updated sensibility of Run The Jewels. And Bonds is a very agile rapper and very plugged into what’s going on in the world. He has a lot to say.

Wave Chapelle – “Waves Don’t Die”

Wave Chapelle has found a way to take the sonic trappings of top 40 rap and throw some surprises on it. He’s a strong rapper who always brings something unexpected to the table.

Tae – “What Love Is”

Of the former Milwaukee residents’ new album, Piet writes, “It’s a stunner of a debut, with Tae’s towering voice — reminiscent of the grit and grandeur of P!nk — matched by moving, strings-and-keys-seasoned R&B that make the heartbreakers burst and the anthems soar.”

Sleepy Gaucho – “Morning Light”

This album is absolutely gorgeous. Not only does it capture a somber, melancholy sound that I think speaks to 2020, but it has a warm, analog aesthetic that truly hit the spot.

L’Resorts – “Bad Happens”/”Sad Happens”

That’s right, this band has two albums on the list. One was the tropical pop duo’s summery album “Bad Love,” and the other is their new children’s record “Sad Happens,” which is the rare kids album adults can enjoy, too. This band is just so much fun, and they sound like nobody else in the city.

Space Raft – “Positively Space Raft”

Here’s another one that was just fun. “‘Positively Space Raft’ is a pop-rock blast, with sweet singalong vocals and an abundance of guitar-and-keyboards-riding earworms,” Piet writes of Space Raft’s latest. And best of all, the band even released a Nintendo game to accompany it. Talk about going above and beyond.

Hear us talk about all these albums below on this week’s episode, and find Piet’s complete list at JSonline. And, of course, every day through Dec. 20 Radio Milwaukee is spotlighting one of our favorite Milwaukee albums online and on the air as part of Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020. You can catch up on our picks so far here.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Tap’d In’s top 10 Milwaukee songs of 2020

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

This month we’re going to be sharing our annual favorite songs and albums from Milwaukee, and despite the pandemic, there were no shortage of great ones to pick from.

We kick things off this week by talking about our favorite songs. Hear the episode below, where you can also stream all of the songs.

REYNA – “Coachella”

The timing couldn’t have been better for this perky single. At a time when we could no longer go to music festivals, REYNA took us to one.

Ms. Lotus Fankh – “No Funeral”

It’s simply done, but few songs deployed a voice and handclaps more effectively this year. Ms. Lotus Fankh provided one of the year’s most moving musical responses to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fuzzy Surf – “Surfana”

It took me away to a place of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, and it has a very Weezer vibe, which is exactly where I wanted to go this year.

You Win!!! – “Shrap.nel”

We loved this brooding, trip-hop track from the new collaboration Amanda Huff and producer This Random Machine. It’s dark, but in the most enticing way possible.

L’Resorts – “Squeeze You”

This coy song is like a music box, and every time I hear it I get a smile on my face. It’s just delightful from start to finish.

LO/ST – “Couch”

This young indie band has only released a few songs, but this one really blew Piet away. It’s a song about therapy and how painful the process can be, but how the end result is worth it. The subject matter is beautifully matched by the music.

Cam Will – “Enough”

This year Cam Will really came through with some great music, and this song is the perfect way to combine smart songwriting with pop-rap, a form that I usually find a little hollow. Cam Will really has something special going on.

REYNA – “Lonely Girl”

That’s right, there are two REYNA songs on this list. This is a song about loneliness, but in true REYNA style, it’s incredibly infectious. This song speaks to sadness but also provides comfort, which we very much needed this year.

“Milwaukee Strong”

This benefit song, released amid the pandemic, became a rally for unity. We can’t even list all the dozens of artists that contributed to this song — there are too many — but it’s a song that we’ll remember decades from now. It offered hope at a period that could feel hopeless.

Kyle John Kenowski – “TRUSTYWORMY”

Piet says that Kyle John Kenowski’s new album of dense, electronic folk is unlike anything else he’s ever heard — it can be beautiful one moment and terrifying the next. He likens it to the Beach Boys doing the score for a David Lynch movie. And don’t miss the music video for this one: Kenowski animated it himself.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Goodbye Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, hello Generac Power Stage

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Summerfest is still eight months away, or possibly longer depending on how the pandemic plays out, but news keeps coming out of the festival. This month Harley-Davison has announced the end of its 23-year-old Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage at Summerfest. The company’s sponsorship has ended, and now Summerfest has signed a new sponsor, Generac.

We’d never heard of the company before, but it’s one of Fortune’s fastest growing companies, and this is its first sponsorship. The company has been growing rapidly over the last five years, and the company tells Piet this was its way of increasing name recognition.

Harley-Davidson Roadhouse | Photo courtesy Summerfest

The stage will be called the Generac Power Stage, and the sponsorship deal is for at least five years. There will be some improvements coming to the stage, too, including enhanced lights.

Hear us talk about it all on this week’s episode.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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There are two different Wisconsin Flannel Fests this month, both worth supporting

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Today we’re talking about a new virtual festival: Flannel Fest, featuring Milwaukee musicians, on Nov. 7. And we’re also talking about a different virtual festival: Flannel Fest, featuring Milwaukee musicians, on Nov. 21.

That’s right, we have two different Flannel Fests, but they’re both for good causes.

The first one is being hosted Saturday, Nov. 7, by The Cooperage. It’s part of an effort to support local musicians and the Save Our Stages initiative. Chris Rosenau kicks things off at 5 p.m., followed by SistaStrings, BLOOD, Mark Waldoch and Hallelujah Ward, Zed Kenzo and WebsterX, among others.

There’s also an unrelated separate Flannel Fest on Nov. 21, which will also be a streaming event on Facebook, and this one features a mix of local and national Americana acts. It’s a benefit for Keep Wisconsin Warm, which tries to keep the power on from disable, elderly and needy people across the state. Wisconsin acts on that bill include Trapper Schoepp, Brett Newski and The Record Company’s Chris Vos, who will play alongside national acts like American Aquarium and Towne.

Hear us talk about both shows below.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Wisconsin musicians use music to get out the vote

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

By now you’ve almost certainly heard how important Wisconsin will be to the 2020 election. The state’s 10 electoral votes could be key in deciding who becomes our next president, and there are a lot of Wisconsin artists doing their part and using music to get out of the vote.

Among the major online efforts we’ve seen this month is a huge virtual concert called iVoted. It’ll be free to attend for anybody who shares an “I Voted” sticker or a selfie outside a voting box or early voting location). You can register for the concert here: https://ivotedfestival.com

It was started by a Wisconsin native, Emily White, and she actually dedicated one of its 17 stages to artists from Wisconsin. Performers including WebsterX, Munch Lauren, Dead Horses, Field Report, Telethon, GGOOLLDD, Direct Hit, Klassik and B-Free. National acts include Drive-By Truckers and Billie Eilish. This year they used chart metrics to decide which artists are most popular in key swing states to decide who would play.

iVoted’s Wisconsin Stage lineup | ivotedconcerts.com/stages

That’s not the only instance of Wisconsin artists trying to get out the vote. Justin Vernon has his initiative, and Wisconsin Conservation Voices teamed up with four emerging artists to create minute long songs expressing why voting is so important for its Voice the Vote campaign.

And of course if you need any information about how to vote this year, you can find so at a resource Radio Milwaukee has created: radiomilwaukee.wpengine.com/vote.

Stream this week’s episode below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Which Wisconsin artists got snubbed by Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list?

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

On this week’s episode, we’re discussing Rolling Stone’s new, updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. There are albums that are so fresh and so new on the list that it makes me wonder how they can be compared to classics by Prince or The Beatles of the Talking Heads. Bad Bunny and Harry Styles made the list, but will those albums really stand the test of time?

There are some albums on the list that have Wisconsin ties, too. Butch Vig produced Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream,” both of which placed, and Jerry Harrison is on the list with albums from Talking Heads and Modern Lovers.

Garbage

But as far as albums from Wisconsin artists go, there’s only one: “For Emma, Forever Ago,” which is at #461. That album had a tremendous impact on music, influencing artists from Kanye West to Taylor Swift. That’s an album that has only grown richer with time.

On this week’s Tap’d In, we talk about Wisconsin albums that we feel should be on the list, including Garbage’s self-titled album, an alt-rock classic that helped define the sound of modern-rock in the ’90s.

And Piet is blown away by the exclusion of the first Violent Femmes album, one of the all-time classic debuts. “Song after song after song is so anthemic,” Piet says. This is an album where you can play the songs in a baseball stadium and people will sing along with the lyrics. Now that’s the sign of an album that’s made a mark.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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The Milwaukee connection to David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

I’m Justin Barney and I’m filling in for Jordan today as Piet and I talk about three things we love: David Byrne of Talking Heads, Spike Lee and also Milwaukee. What do they have in common? They’re all part of the film adaptation of David Byrne’s stage show “American Utopia.”

“American Utopia”

It’s really a one of a kind show. The band performs without any sort of electrical cords, almost like a hybrid of a dance troupe and marching band. And it translates really well to the screen. Piet says it’s one of the most exciting concert films since “Stop Making Sense.”

The Milwaukee connection is Angie Swan, who is the guitarist and vocalist with the group. The Milwaukee native often steals the show, especially during a cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

We talk about Angie’s friendship with Byrne and what a big fan of Milwaukee Byrne is — when I interviewed him years ago, he was schooling me with his knowledge of the city.

The film is showing this Saturday on HBO. Stream our episode below.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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Some help is on the way for Wisconsin music venues

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Gov. Tony Evers is allocating $100 million for independent businesses in Wisconsin, including $15 million for music venues, which have really been suffering since the pandemic hit.

These music venues were among the first businesses to close in the wake of Covid-19, and they will not be reopening any time soon. As Gary Witt from the Pabst Theater Group told Piet, it’s been a long time since venues have had a victory, so they really needed this. In Milwaukee alone three music venues have already closed permanently.

We break down how this works. Piet explains that eligible venues will be able to apply for grants if they can demonstrate that 50% of their revenue from 2019 came from ticket sales. Witt likened this to a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches: It won’t solve the problem, but it will help in the short term.

Hear us explain it all on this week’s episode below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

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