Queen of Downtown

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris From removing gum and graffiti to planning Downtown Dining Week and overseeing large-scale economic development plans, Beth Weirick, formerly Nicols (as she’s billed everywhere these days), describes herself as a juggler. Her professional title, however, is executive director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21. For 14 years, she’s held the post, becoming an encyclopedia of Downtown history with an unparalleled passion for the city. But don’t just talk ideas with this 49-year-old. Get to implementing or get out. She’s here to get things done. Queen of Downtown Photo Gallery How did you get here? When I…

Grizzly Bear at Pabst Theater

Photo by Barbara Anastacio With each album, Brooklyn-based four-piece Grizzly Bear pushes musical palettes and inspires imitators. Mention its name, after all, and imaginations travel straight to Williamsburg, flannel and PBR. Still, it transcends the stereotypes. Grizzly Bear’s latest work, 2012’s Shields, might be its best yet – intricate, emotional and layered. “Yet Again” starts with a kind of restrained power. But as it builds past the final “Take it all in stride/Speak don’t confide,” the tone changes, ending with an unexpected bout of delightfully dizzying instrumentation. Let’s hope they bring the same level of surprise to the stage. Grizzly…

Free Agent

Photos by Adam Ryan Morris The parking lot is empty. “You’ll see my car,” she said prior to the meeting. A couple minutes late, I roll into the lot, thinking I’ve missed her. She’ll have been early, I know. She always is. Then I see it: A sporty white Kia moving in from a side street, following me to a spot. Of course she’s here, lurking off to the side, and of course she’s on her phone, immersed in conversation. Despite her recent unemployment, she’s working longer hours and more intently than many folks with full-time jobs. As our cars…

Behind the Spectacle

“Hello.” “Hi. Is Kevin available?” “This is Kevin.” It’s Kevin Barnes, answering on ring two, speaking in a soft, reserved voice a day before starting Of Montreal’s current U.S. tour. In stark contrast to his on-stage persona, the mastermind behind Of Montreal, one of those ever-changing, slightly psychedelic, persona-driven indie rock bands, is polite and calm and well-spoken. He’s nothing like the costume-changing, over-the-top character on stage. But his actions are driven by the song and the moment, he says. And, in fact, he’s been calmer these days. Paralytic Stalks (2012) was more personal and introspective, not boding well for…

Spectacle Sound

Photo by Patrick Heagney Speechless. That’s how you leave an Of Montreal show. From psychedelic lights to costume changes and odd on-stage “actors,” the concerts have taken on a life of their own. Kevin Barnes, the force behind the Georgia- based indie outfit, approaches each album as a transformation, experimenting with new personas, genres or pits of unresolved feelings. Each jaunt on the road tends to bend that direction as well, typically turning into an all-out spectacle. Most recently promoting 2012’s Paralytic Stalks, however, Barnes was uncharacteristically mellow. But October’s Daughter of Cloud, a compilation of 17 tracks – 10…

Great Expectations

Photo by Liz Flyntz When a band births a fantastic album, a sense of dread often accompanies the excitement surrounding its next release. In the case of Beach House, 2010’s Teen Dream was as close to flawless as an album gets. Beautiful, ethereal, with a charming sense of simplicity. But could these Baltimore indie darlings do it again? Yes, yes they can. 2012’s Bloom is haunting and perfectly polished, with a delicate layering of tiptoe-esque instrumentation that leads to a powerful conclusion within each track. Take “Lazuli,” with its chill-inducing first notes, steadily building toward the ending: “Like no other/You…

Under the Radar

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris Have you had an experience where you’re watching TV and your music comes on unexpectedly? It’s quite literally at the point now where, if I turn on the television, it’s rare that I don’t hear our work. I’ve been involved in about 6,000 pieces of music over the last 16 years. Our clients are virtually every television network, movie studio, production facility, a lot of post houses, a lot of multimedia producers. There are a few of our competitors that have been around for 20 to 25 years whose music is literally everywhere. And I’m…

Indie Ingenuity

Photo by Ted Bois The casual indie rock listener might recognize the voice of this occasional New Pornographer, but the indie-devoted have maintained an emotional 16-year relationship with Dan Bejar’s musical stylings. The Canadian behind critically acclaimed Destroyer, Bejar visits Milwaukee’s Turner Hall fresh off 2011’s well-received Kaputt. On his ninth full-length album, Bejar exercises poetic lyrical depth alongside instrumental interludes and meandering paths into rock, pop and jazz. There’s quirk, variety and a tinge of musical genius lingering beneath every note. Chances are the June gig will follow the same pattern. Sandro Perri opens. Destroyer June 13. Turner Hall…

Behind the Music

Photo by Kat Schleicher Vice president of entertainment. It’s one of those titles that seems fictional, too desirable to actually exist. But it does. And 61-year-old Bob Babisch has it. Over 35 years, he’s seen Summerfest transform from grass and mud (and outlawing rock music!) to a town of permanent stages, including this year’s addition of a mini amphitheater, which boasts 5,000 seats and room for 10,000 more to stand. Babisch is the jolly, fast-talking fellow behind the 11-day lineup, scheduling everything from classic rock in the Marcus to indie pop at 3 p.m. But don’t let the friendly demeanor…

Sonic Youth

Photo by Kat Schleicher NEWaukee President Ian Abston, 28, is young, ambitious and every ounce an idealist. From the small town of Elkhart Lake to UW-Oshkosh and now Milwaukee, Abston has left a mark in his wake. There was the landscaping business in high school, the social group in college and now NEWaukee in Milwaukee, a 3-year-old organization holed up in the basement of the Grand Avenue Mall intent on getting young professionals to explore the city and work toward improving the place they call home. But events large and small aside (something he’s seemingly mastered), can this charismatic entrepreneur…