Milwaukee may have its fair share of summer festivals, including the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest, but this weekend it will try to draw festival crowds out into the cold Wisconsin winter.
Local arts advocacy organization ART Milwaukee will host the first Eastside Music Tour this Saturday on Brady Street. Starting at 4 p.m., more than 50 local bands will perform in various shops and restaurants along the route as spectators take in the sounds of original Milwaukee music. The $15 admission comes with access to every venue, a fanny pack and discounts on food, drinks and shopping.
“The goal of the music tour is to showcase Milwaukee’s emerging music scene,” ART Milwaukee president Jeremy Fojut said, “along with driving attention, awareness, and also traffic into the businesses of Brady Street, the boutiques, the coffee shops, the retail stores and the taverns. They see a lot of traffic in the summer, and there’s an opportunity to drive traffic there in the non-summer months.”
ART Milwaukee sponsors roughly 150 events every year with the purpose of promoting the arts as an economic and social influence and encouraging young people to be active in artistic events in Milwaukee. With Eastside Music Tour, the organization hopes to advocate its mission with a new means.
“It’s a buy local, live local campaign to spotlight Milwaukee’s vibrant, emerging music scene,” Fojut said. “A lot of great bands are starting to come out of the city. A lot of great things are happening, so (its purpose is) to spotlight it and make sure that people know that Milwaukee is really getting serious about its music.”
The idea for the tour first emerged four years ago, but this year, ART Milwaukee took concrete strides to make it a reality. Once Milwaukee businesses like Pabst and the Brady Street Business Improvement District agreed to sponsor the event, Fojut began finalizing the details.
“The steps are really making sure the event is approved, all the businesses are on board and then making sure that all the bands can attend the event,” Fojut said. “It’s actually a pretty daunting task to coordinate 50-plus bands and make sure that everybody is taken care of and scheduled.”
Since the performances are all taking place inside Brady Street stores, spectators will be free to walk between venues to see different attractions, much like the multiple stages at Summerfest.
“You’ll have a band in the futon store,” Fojut said. “You’ll have something in the doggy social club. You’ll see bands in the coffee shop. You’ll have bands in taverns and restaurants. DJs, singer-songwriters, individual musicians (will play) all day long.”
But ART Milwaukee hopes to do more than just promote local musicians and businesses. The organization will donate its earnings from the tour, which are estimated to be around $5,000, to a local elementary school.
“(For) every ticket purchased, there will be a donation made to the Cass Street School sculptures to repaint them,” Fojut said. “They haven’t been painted in 15 years or something like that, so the goal is to raise money for the school and make sure they can repaint those sculptures.”
For Josh Evert, keyboardist and singer for local band The Fatty Acids, the tour is not only a way to share his music with new fans but also a unique opportunity for his band.
“You really don’t see a lot of stuff going on in the winter, as far as a bunch of artists getting together and doing a festival, so it’s cool to see this happening in March,” Evert said. “It’s also kind of unique because it’s happening at 20 or so different venues all along Brady Street, so it’s gonna be kind of a big event. We’re excited to be a part of it.”
Eastside Music Tour can only help Milwaukee’s growing music scene. Lately, more Milwaukee musicians than ever have been recognized nationally, including Field Report and Sat. Nite Duets.
“We have some really excellent bands that are going to be recognized on more of a national scale in the next few years, and some already are, which is awesome,” Evert said. “(On) a couple of national outlets I have seen, Wisconsin in general is getting some recognition for its music. I think people are catching on.”
If supporting Milwaukee musicians isn’t enough to draw crowds, Evert has a few other reasons why locals, including Marquette students, might want to head over to Brady Street this weekend.
“Getting into the late winter times here, everyone could use a walk,” Evert said. “A lot of people might feel like they’ve been in their stuffy dorm rooms or stuffy apartments a little bit too long. It’s a great excuse to walk up and down Brady Street and maybe see some businesses that you didn’t know about, maybe see some artists that you didn’t know about, maybe shed a couple of those ounces from the winter hibernation.”
Although the temperature will be much colder than Milwaukee festival-goers might be used to, Evert said he doesn’t think weather will be a factor in the turnout.
“It’s hard to say, but you know, Milwaukeeans, they’re tough, and they can handle it,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll get a couple Sprecher ciders in them and brave the weather no matter what happens.”