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From The Stage To The Booth
A new weekly series lets Milwaukee bands play DJ

Over the course of its five-year existence, Blackbird Bar has honored our state by stocking more than 90 Wisconsin beers, offering deals on local spirits, stocking Milwaukee-made bar snacks, and allowing a forum for beer tastings from lesser-known in-state breweries – all within four walls covered in Wisconsin flag murals and vintage beer signage from the breweries that helped make Milwaukee famous. That unabashed Milwaukee pride is part of why Blackbird is among my favorite local establishments and, in the interest of full disclosure, why I occasionally jump at the chance to fill in as barback.

Now, with its all new “From The Stage To The Booth” DJ series, the Bay View tavern is expanding its local love to the realm of music by allowing area bands to take over the turntables every Friday night. Before Vic and Gab kick off the series – that will also feature us Music Notes writers on Dec, 13 – this weekend, we spoke with From The Stage To The Booth creator and Blackbird bartender Erin Terbeek about what listeners can expect and why the bar prefers the personal touch of a real life disc jockey to an iTunes shuffle.

What is “From The Stage To The Booth” all about?
Basically, we’re inviting local bands in the Milwaukee area to, instead of perform on the stage, perform in our DJ booth by playing their favorite records. They can play their own record if they have a new album coming out, sell merchandise and talk about their upcoming shows.

What is Blackbird Bar’s affiliation with the local music scene?
We’re a big supporter of the local music scene. We try to support local radio stations and events where bands play music. We don’t actually have live music at our establishment, so we try to do other things to help bands by promoting their shows and playing their records at the bar. We thought this would be a nice way to get people to learn more about local bands and also get to hear your favorite local bands play their favorite songs.

You’ve kind of addressed this already, but what are you hoping this will develop into?
Mostly, we would like exposure for these local bands. You can come in and hear bands you haven’t heard of from different parts of town. You can find out more about them because they’ll be there. You can talk to them, ask them questions and find out when they’re playing. And a lot of the time, I think hearing a band’s favorite songs [from other artists] says a lot about the band itself.

The last I checked, you were booked all the way to our date in mid-December. How far are you hoping this will go?
So far we’re booked to the end of 2013. We’re already starting a calendar for January and February. We would ideally like to do it until summer, take a break, and then start it up again in fall.

Of all the guest DJs scheduled, what date are you most excited for?
Well, there’s a few of them. The Midnight Reruns are playing on Nov. 15. That’s exciting because their new record comes out a few days before that, and they’re going to be playing a few songs off their new album. It will kind of be like a first listen. Then after that, they’re going to play some of their favorite songs. I think it’s interesting to hear their music, followed directly after by music that they love.

Hugh Bob [and the Hustle] is playing Dec. 20, and they’re having a big show at Turner Hall right after that. So you can hear them, hear their favorite songs, then see them the next week – all in Milwaukee.

A lot of other bars will just run an iPod, have a jukebox or play the radio for its music. Why is the DJ format something Blackbird strives to offer?
We really think having DJs is important. We try to have DJs a lot. With [“From The Stage To The Booth”], it’s a big variety with bands from all genres coming from all parts of town. That’s what I like about DJs in general. They play things you know and they play things you’ve never heard. It’s just way more personal. It’s more of an interaction… like a show, instead of a computer playing music on a shuffle.

What would you like this to develop into?
We’d like to do more local record premieres. There are so many awesome local bands that it will be no problem to fill us up through spring. After that, I’d like to even go a little further outside Milwaukee to bring in other bands from all around Wisconsin. It ties in with our mission: We buy local products, local beer, and we want to support local music.

“From The Stage To The Booth” takes place every Friday from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and is free. Bands scheduled to participate so far include: Vic and Gab (10/11), Spaceraft (10/18), Fable & The World Flat (10/25), Midwest Death Rattle (11/1), Hot Coffin (11/8), Midnight Reruns (11/15), Heavy Hand (11/22), The Championship (11/29), Sugar Stems (12/6), Milwaukee Magazine Music Notes Local Music Night (12/13), and Hugh Bob And The Hustle (12/20). For more info, visit the series’ event page.

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