Milwaukee Record's innovative music showcase, Local Coverage, is making the jump to Turner Hall this year and proceeds will go to multiple nonprofits. We talked to the concept’s founder, Tyler Maas, about Friday's event.
Last year I compared the inaugural and innovative music showcase Local Coverage with stepping into a movie theater without any awareness of a film’s content. It’s a thrilling and unpredictable experience that really doesn’t happen that often—as we’ve usually seen the trailer, skimmed a synopsis or are familiar with the director’s oeuvre. If you show up during the right week, blindly walking into a movie can feel enlightening, but on the wrong night, it can be an utter train wreck.
Similarly, Local Coverage, an event where bands were pre-selected to cover another band’s material, gave me this same sense of uncertainty. I got behind the concept immediately. Local shows tend to grow stale after a while, and this event seemed to breathe new life into the typical local show—it didn’t hurt that the proceeds went to nonprofit organization Girls Rock Milwaukee, either. It turned everything on its head in promising and interesting ways.
What I was skeptical about was the execution. Would the bands commit to crafting another’s work to their own style? And would this actually sound good? My skepticism ultimately was proven unwarranted immediately when Bright Kind took the stage to artfully repurpose some Ugly Brothers songs and the show never strayed from the dedicated and cunning tone the band set. The night was an overwhelming success. The inaugural show was a financial achievement, as well, selling out Club Garibaldi and netting Girls Rock Milwaukee a crisp $1,200 donation check.
The encouraging response led to grander aspirations. This year the event, curated again by arts and culture website Milwaukee Record, takes place in the larger confines of Turner Hall Ballroom. The line-up has expanded from 8 bands to ten. While the show still supports Girls Rock Milwaukee, the organization will split the proceeds with another nonprofit, The Guest House of Milwaukee. The raffle remains the same ($2 each or $5 for three tickets), but the prizes have grown—$500 Cascio gift card, four lower level Bucks tickets, your height in Ale Asylum beer and more.
The show kicks off promptly at 7 p.m. and features Decibully covering Soul Low, GGOOLLDD covering Maritime, Klassik covering Decibully, Tigernite covering GGOOLLDD, Soul Low covering Tigernite, Maritime covering Sat. Nite Duets, Twin Brother covering Klassik, Sat. Nite Duets covering Whiskeybelles, Whiskeybelles covering Fox Face, and Fox Face covering Twin Brother.
Before the ultimate Milwaukee tribute show, I talked with the concept’s founder Tyler Maas about the inaugural showcase, the difficulties of trying to make the leap to a bigger venue, and his hopes of the eclecticism that an event like this can spark.
I was skeptical at how the first Local Coverage show would turn out. I thought the bands might end up sounding sloppy and uninspired, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bands came through on their covers and how enthusiastic everyone seemed. What were your takeaways from the first one?
It went better than I expected. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never really enjoy a thing. I’m always overanalyzing and wondering what will go wrong.
It seemed like everyone was excited to both be doing another persons’ music and also to watch their music being done. It was just an overwhelmingly positive night all around in terms of the audience and in terms of all the musicians involved. If memory serves, it was a pretty cold night in January and the fact that so many people made it out to this unproven thing, like you said, you could be doubtful about. I thought that was a really solid start.
What did you learn about the process last time that helped you with booking it this time?
I learned that there’s a lot of different moving parts and you have to have everyone’s thoughts in mind. You can’t just say, “Hey bands, show up and do this.” It’s not lost on me that the bands are making the largest overall sacrifice. They’re essentially taking extra time out of their lives that they could be using to write new songs or play other shows that actually pay them — or just be (taking time) off, like other bands are this month. As you know, January is not the most bustling month for shows. They undertook this really difficult task and they have 100 days essentially from when they drafted their band. And they’re doing it for free, so I wanted to make sure they’re comfortable.
Did you face any obstacles now that the show is at the much larger Turner Hall Ballroom?
We are facing one right now. With it being at Club Garibaldi last year, they donated the space and donated the sound guy and everything like that. If we had 50 people in there then it would be a disappointing thing and we wouldn’t do it again.
This year we have to get over 200 people through the door just to break even because of the rental fee—even though Pabst [Theater Group who operates Turner Hall] waved everything they possibly could, with their nonprofit status they have to bring in some money.
That obstacle and just the fact that there are more bands than last year—we have to cram an extra two acts into only four hours. And the arrangements that a lot of the artists are using are a lot more extensive. I know that Klassik is having string arrangements. Maritime is adding an extra member for the show. Decibully has four guitarists including a lap steel. It’s not the run-and-gun sort of thing we did last year. We do have a shared backline but every set will be drastically different and it seems like it will be more elaborate.
Last year you told me you wanted a metal band into the fold at the next Local Coverage event. What happened?
I approached two metal bands this year. Thankfully, one said no right away rather than waste my time. I verbally asked them on the spot and they said no we’re not doing that. For an event like that, the longer you’re waiting for one band of one sort of genre to say yes or no, you’re not asking another one.
It’s better to have a band or artist that’s fully committed to the concept anyway.
It seems like all the people are really enthusiastic. Just the bands that are sharing as the show is approaching, the video clips and the tweets of them learning a song. Also having Decibully back is a huge thing for me at least. When I was 18 or 19 that was (my) favorite band. I didn’t know anyone in the band and I didn’t live here. To have one of your favorite bands involved in a show that you organized for a good cause, I think that’s the coolest thing ever.
Last year the proceeds went to Girls Rock Milwaukee, but this year the show also supports Guest House Milwaukee. What was the thinking behind adding them?
I realized after the benefit last year that everyone gives money to Girls Rock Milwaukee — with good reason. It’s a really good organization and it’s in line with what we write about. With their being more money that we can share, I wanted to add something more immediately beneficial. We can be instilling empowerment in women but you don’t know what the effect will be. Down the road maybe they’ll open a business or they’ll be in the next big local band. In the immediate future, it would be nice to know that the money donated to Guest House Milwaukee will be going directly to making sure that homeless men have a place they can stay.
Other than supporting those noble causes, what do you hope is gained from this event?
The initial outset was that I wanted to nudge unfamiliar partners into working with each other. At the draft event there were people that were from bands that were at one end of the music scene and they were talking with others and people meeting each other.
I want to increase the bands’ or artist’s exposure to one another in hopes that it will foster a future of eclectic bills where there are all kinds of genres.
In terms of the listeners—other than me, who assembled local bands I think are good and add something different to the lineup—a local listener maybe knows a few of the bands but I don’t think that many people know all of them. Even if it’s with another bands’ voice or a different sort of overall sound, you may enjoy the melody or the riff of a song. And you may explore a new act. Or you’ll be there to see GGOOLLDD or something and then you’ll notice you like that one Maritime song and you may look into Maritime.
Local Coverage features Decibully GGOOLLDD, Klassik, Tigernite, Soul Low, Maritime, Twin Brother, Sat. Nite Duets, Whiskeybelles and Fox Face at Turner Hall Ballroom on Friday, January 15 at 7 p.m. The cover is $10 and the proceeds benefit Girls Rock Milwaukee and The Guest House of Milwaukee.