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A history of Milwaukee music venues: The Rave

Photo via therave.com

Photo via therave.com

Phillip Ghuneim

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The Rave, or The Eagles Club as it was formerly known, officially opened on Sept. 13, 1927. While the club is currently recognized as a landmark concert venue for Milwaukee residents, it wasn’t always a sanctuary for live music.

Built in 1926, the club originally housed the Fraternal Order of the Eagles which is a social justice organization that was a consequential force in establishing Mother’s Day in America. In addition, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles proved to be a significant activist group in establishing a social security program in the United States. If that isn’t enough, working students in particular owe a lot to this group as they worked to eliminate job discrimination on the basis of age. Such illustrious members of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles at one point or another included former United States presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. On July 29, 1986 the Eagles Club was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Before functioning as a concert venue and aside from housing such a momentous and historic social activist group, The Rave also acted as an athletics club equipped with such facilities as a bowling alley, swimming pool and even a boxing ring.

Although these amenities no longer exist within the club, a variety of interesting rumors and stories about these old facilities have been derived since their demolition. One of the more interesting myths that has sprouted since the club first switched from an athletics club to a concert venue, is that the pool, which is now drained and behind heavily locked doors, is actually haunted. The grim fable was started by an alleged incident that occurred in 1927 in which a young man died while swimming. Since then, there have supposedly been several reports of the potent aroma of chlorine which seems to seep from the basement (where the pool used to be) and extremely cold areas in and around the building. Naturally, these alleged occurrences have been observed only when the building was either closed or vacant. Nevertheless, whether you buy into these supposed supernatural occurrences, don’t be hindered from visiting such a historical venue.

While The Rave is widely recognized as a historic concert venue today, it has only been host to musical acts for about 20 years. Nonetheless, as a concert site The Rave’s main room, or The Eagles Ballroom Club Stage, which is the club’s most predominant room, has featured some of the biggest bands and artists in all of music. Such stars include Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails, Robert Plant, The White Stripes, Matchbox Twenty, Smashing Pumpkins, Kings of Leon, My Chemical Romance and Green Day. The main room of the building like the entire club itself, wasn’t always meant to house bands and musicians exclusively. The room was originally a ballroom which hosted a variety of events from Boxing Matches to culturally themed dances.

The Eagles Ballroom Club Stage isn’t the only room who hosted famous bands and artists. The Rave Hall, which is the second largest room in the building, has also featured some very prevalent names of national touring musicians including John Mayer, Sevendust and Bob Weir. The Eagles Hall, which was previously known as “The Basement,” is no less noteworthy in terms of presenting famous musicians, as it has accommodated such well-known bands as 3 Doors Down, Nickelback and Muse. Moreover, many big named artists have made their Wisconsin debut in The Rave Bar, which is a much smaller and much more informal club compared to The Eagles Ballroom Club Stage. Such artists include Nirvana, Third Eye Blind, Blink-182, Dave Mathews Band, Pearl Jam, Creed and Smash Mouth.

In addition, because of the beautiful and telegenic architecture of the building, many artists have used the venue as a setting for various video productions including Jason Mraz who filmed an entire live DVD concert at the club, entitled Tonight, Not Again: Jason Mraz Live at the Eagles Ballroom. Some less extensive footage taken at the club includes a Jonas Brothers music video of their first major concert as a headlining act, the music video for CKY’s song called “Close Yet Far” and certain clips of an interview done with members of All Time Low that was filmed on the club’s rooftop.

Considering the Club’s impressive history, today it stands as one of the premiere concert venues in Milwaukee.

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