Though the low temperatures and early afternoon snow flurries proved that old “in like a lion” adage correct, March 1 found hundreds of music lovers flocking to 30 makeshift concert venues on (or in the vicinity of) Brady Street playing host to 80-some acts as part of NEWaukee’s second annual Eastside Music Tour. I was among the throngs of people crammed into coffee shops, wedged into taverns and huddled for warmth in a tent. With the variety of quality performers on the lineup – many of which with overlapping time slots – throughout the day, it’s unlikely any two Eastside Music Tour experiences were exactly the same. Here was mine.
4:25 p.m. – After finally finding a spot to park (an issue not exclusive to Eastside Music Tour days) and getting checked in at Hi-Hat, I bypassed the end of Altos’ 4 p.m. set and start of Myles Coyne’s 4:30 p.m. Wolski’s performance to trudge to Up & Under Pub in hopes of getting a prime spot for Midnight Reruns’ 5 p.m. set – advertised as a 5 o’clock set, at least. My promptness proved costly, as The Jetty Boys (scheduled to play there at 7 p.m.) canceled and the Reruns graciously waited until 5:45 p.m. to start to somewhat address the sudden scheduling gap. Along the way, I took advantage of Up & Under’s ludicrous $3 special on hilariously huge 32-ounce cans of Pabst. The Reruns proved worth the wait (save for vocals way too low in the mix), as they ran through almost all of the songs from its great self-titled album, including my favorites “Summer Smoker”, “King of Pop” and “T.V.Z.” before I had to leave prematurely to catch a timely Maritime set (of which I’d missed 15 minutes by that point) back at the Hi-Hat-adjacent tent.
6:20 p.m. – After a brisk walk – both in terms of pace and temperature – back to Brady and Arlington, I could recognize the end of Maritime’s “Air Arizona” reverberating from the entrance of the massive white tent, which served at the site for the Milwaukee music staple. I was shocked at the lack of people on hand to see a relatively rare show by a great band with direct ties to The Promise Ring and The Benjamins. I was happy for the elbowroom, though, as I easily secured a spot up front and center. Well, almost up front – as singer Davey Von Bohlen coaxed his son into dancing (a welcomed and not at all rare sight at Maritime/Promise Ring shows of late) which dad’s band played “Annihilation Eyes” and a pair of delightful new songs. I was also glad to hear deep cut, “Tearing Up The Oxygen” from We, The Vehicles before Maritime concluded the upbeat family-friendly affair.
7:05 p.m. – I arrived at Brewed Café just in time procure a mug of black coffee (in effort to negate my comically large beverage I had at Up & Under) and get a cooler-adjacent perch to see Old Earth captivate the diminutive coffee shop. The 25-or-so onlookers hung on Todd Umhoefer’s every hushed word and looped guitar pluck as he started things off with unreleased material before launching into his days-old release (and best, if you ask me), All Kill. Having heard my favorite Old Earth cut, I finished my coffee and crossed the street to get to my next destination on time.
7:30 p.m. – I passed the fire station en route to underrated fireman-themed tavern, Hosed On Brady. Fortunately, Temple was running a few minutes late, which gave me just enough time to snag a bowl of popcorn and a stage-side (or, more accurately, portion of ground-level tile floor) spot before they played. After Old Earth lulled me into a zen-like state, a combination of the caffeine and – more so – a raucous set by the young post-punk quartet perked me up again. Between four-part screamed harmonies and members spending ample time rocking out on the floor or atop the bass drum, Temple seemed to win over an unsuspecting crowd in one of its first post-tour outings with crazy renditions of “Warm Chamber”, “Football On Stage” and Conscience Of The King’s title track. They even threw in a Tupac cover for good measure.
8:20 p.m. – Hoping to chase one great young Riverwest-based band with another, I attempted to catch Soul Low’s 8:30 p.m. set at Roman Coin. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea. The already-quaint and pool table-equipped dive (meant in the best way!) was jam-packed with no visibility. Sorry, Soul bros, maybe next time. Instead, I got a sub and plotted my next move.
9:10 p.m. – My next move was seeing awesome Chicago-Milwaukee punk outfit Direct Hit! at Up & Under. Another late start and lingering sound issues through three songs (c’mon, Up & Under!), I vowed to give Direct Hit! another try elsewhere and head back to the 88Nine Outdoor Stage early to get a good spot for my final show, P.O.S.
10:15 p.m. – Following some Jameson pulls with his DJ, Stefon Alexander (best known as P.O.S) and his hand-warmers plowed through an energetic performance, rife with cuts from Never Better and We Don’t Even Live Here. Though people’s breath was hanging in the air, the three-quarters-full tent was feeling it… some more than others. After an Amish bearded, cowboy boot-wearing guy attempted his seventh round of crowdsurfing in as many minutes, the headliner won even more fans with a between song request. “Hey crowdsurfing guy,” Alexander said. “Don’t crowdsurf anymore.” He also won local points by donning an Anodyne Coffee stocking cap someone tossed on stage for him. It was the first P.O.S show in Milwaukee since he owned a rain-soaked Friday afternoon slot at Summerfest, and will be the last before he gets a kidney transplant (later this week). However, he vowed to be back in town within six months.
With dozens of bands occupying all nooks of a nine-block radius on a snowy day, the second Eastside Music Tour was bound to have its problems. However, between the caliber of booking and the organization on the whole, it was much more enjoyable than the inaugural EMT. Hopefully the late-winter festival comes back next year. If it does, I’ll be there.