A fanny pack? Yes, a fanny pack. That almost deterred me from checking out the inaugural Eastside Music Tour this weekend, but when I saw the line up I knew I couldn’t miss all those great bands for just $15. And each ticket came with the obligatory fanny pack. (The $25 tee-shirt tickets sold out almost immediately.)
“Why the fanny pack?” I asked Jeremy Fojut, event organizer. “Because they are rad and they carry all your stuff,” he said. And just like that, the fanny pack made a comeback this weekend.
Fojut is the president of Art Milwaukee and the event was meant to showcase Milwaukee's music scene and raise money to repaint the Cass Street School playground creatures. “We really wanted to showcase how arts drive business,” said Fojut. “And we support local artists – every band got paid!” he added.
They pre-sold 1,000 tickets, but Fojut estimates there were more like 2,000 people in attendance throughout the day. They actually sold 100 tickets from outside Wisconsin, with people coming from as far as New York and Seattle.
Organizers put the event together in about a month. Within 12 days of announcing the tour, they had 275 submissions from interested bands, which they whittled down to 50. Partially because of time constraints and because they wanted to focus on local and regional bands, the organizers chose bands they’ve worked with before, and factored in how they matched up with the vibe at each venue.
Like a typical Saturday night of Brady Street debauchery, it felt like salmon swimming upstream to get into a few of the bars. After seeing Kyle Feerick at BVEN and Joe Wray at Cempazuchi, I headed to Casablanca expecting to see Evan Christian at 5 p.m. For some reason he didn’t go on until 6 p.m. so I begrudgingly had to sit through an hour of the too-loud disco covers from Valerie Benton and the Boys. Evan Christian was worth the wait though, and he'd is still one of my favorite local performers. He’s a beat-boxing flamenco virtuoso that can go from a flamenco riff, to Stone Temple Pilots, to Bob Marley without missing a beat.
At my first few stops, no one was checking for fanny packs or wristbands. So, I thought, why did I buy a ticket to get into a public place? Fojut clarified, “The whole idea is not to take business away from places, so the tickets are really for the larger shows later in the evening that do normally charge a cover.”
Small acoustic acts seemed to work well, but many of the bars weren’t well equipped to cater to larger bands with bigger sounds. Perhaps that’s just a risk you run putting musicians in nontraditional venues, or if you don’t have a professional on the soundboard.
Fojut was most excited to see Kane Place Record Club. “They have such great energy, they are like a 2013 version of Jerry Lee Lewis,” he says.
I wish I had followed him. Instead, I went to Club Brady to see Jaill.
Suffocating and sopping with beer, I pushed my way to the front only to wait another 45 minutes for Jaill to take the stage. I only made it though two songs before I could no longer handle the kids pushing in front of me and the low ceilings encumbering my view. So I capped off the night at Balzac, with a nice relaxing cocktail and plenty of room to move around and converse.
Fojut already has ideas in mind for next year, like adding trolley service to run up and down the street, putting bands in nearly every storefront and expanding the venues to private homes. One thing is non-negotiable despite my begging – the event will stay during this time of year to drive business when the cold weather normally keeps patrons away.
To see the full lineup of bands and venues that participated, click here.
Follow me on Twitter as @jkashou to stay on top of what’s happening by searching #GirlAboutTown.