Live concerts dead at the Annex

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Nobody ever goes in and nobody ever comes out. But this isn’t Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory we’re talking about. It’s Marquette’s very own Union Sports Annex.

People may visit the Annex for bowling, bingo and game-watching, but when it comes to live music events, the venue appears vacant. Yet almost every weekend, the talents of campus, local and regional bands are featured right in the center of Marquette’s community.

The Annex’s concert series is held regularly during the school year, but that seems to be a little-known fact around campus. Carolyn Fitzgerald, a junior in the College of Education, said she’d never heard of the series in her three years at Marquette.

“I don’t think that anyone really knows that it exists,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said she attends concerts at other Milwaukee locations such as the Rave or the Bradley Center, but has never thought of the Annex as a place to see live music.

Chris Porterfield, program coordinator at the Annex and the Alumni Memorial Union, handles booking and selection for the shows. He said the concert series is nothing new.

“It’s a tradition that has been going on for as long as I am aware of,” said Porterfield. “As long as the Annex has been open they have always been trying to do things with music.”

He also said it is one of the only venues in Milwaukee that presents live music without restricting the audience to those 21 and older.

Isaac Neher, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, is an audio-visual technician at the AMU. Part of his job is to work the sound system for the concerts held at the Annex.

“Attendance varies by show, but most of the time it is pretty low. On average there are probably about 15 people,” said Neher. “Then again, I have also seen shows with about 40 or 50 people in the audience.”

According to Porterfield, the number of audience members has gone up a bit from last year, now averaging about 40 individuals at each show.

So why is it that on a campus with just over 8,000 undergraduate students, only 40 people show up each weekend to enjoy a little live music? Oh, and did we mention the concerts are free with a Marquette ID?

“That is kind of the million dollar question,” said Porterfield. “We do everything that we can think of to promote these things.”

Both Porterfield and Neher said advertising is not the problem. The Annex puts up posters, promotes events through its Facebook page, Twitter account and Web site, and utilizes the rolling marquee outside its building.

“I think it is kind of a weird time for live music right now in general,” said Porterfield. “How we consume music in general has changed, and people aren’t really willing to take a chance on something they don’t know already.”

He said the Annex wants to establish a connection with individuals as an outlet where students can both express their own musical talents and enjoy the talents of others.

“I have this goal that the Annex will be able to build a relationship with the students and that they can trust that we will be good arbiters of good new music,” said Porterfield.

Bridget Norris, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, attended a concert at the Annex as part of a Late Night program last weekend.

“The Late Night poster was the first I had ever heard of concerts at the Annex,” said Norris. “I have seen band posters around, but that was the first time I had put two and two together.”

The next show at the Annex is this Friday, Jan. 29. Chicago-based band Breakers Broken will be performing from 9 to 11:45 p.m. Admission is free for Marquette students and $5 for the public.

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