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Marquette Wire

MKE Podcast Festival comes to Marcus Center
Andrew Schulz (left) and Charlamagne Tha God (right) host “The Brilliant Idiots” and will perform at the podcast festival. Photo via

Milwaukee’s art scene seems to constantly be thriving. But two Milwaukee natives felt something was missing, so they decided to bring podcasts to their hometown.

Neither Jazmine Henley-Brown nor JeDon Weaver, co-founders of the Milwaukee Podcast Festival, had ever met before. And Henley-Brown said she felt there was something lacking in the city of Milwaukee.

“Chicago, New York and Atlanta and all of those cities had a place where they would do some type of showcase or festival specifically for podcasting,” Henley-Brown said. “I thought that would be a great idea for Milwaukee to have one place where the local podcasts could come as kind of a showcase.”

So Henley-Brown, who hosts the podcast “#20somethingseries,” called up Weaver, the host of the podcast “Egos and Opinions,” with a proposal to create an event in Milwaukee celebrating and encouraging local podcasts and podcasters. Thus, the Milwaukee Podcast Festival was born.

Henley-Brown said that she saw a large number of podcasts originating from Milwaukee and the surrounding area and felt that there was a need for a space where “people can just come together and create an independent audio movement.”

Weaver, who lived away from Milwaukee for the last seven years, said that it was initially difficult to get significant interest and attention for the festival.

“No one knew exactly what it was,” Weaver said. “When you first bring something to the city that surrounds something that you love doing, a lot of people (are) curious.”

Once Henley-Brown and Weaver began spreading the word and information about the festival, momentum started to pick up. Local podcasts signed up to perform live on stage.  Eventually, interest grew large enough that Henley-Brown and Weaver had to start turning away potential podcasts.

“We found ourselves turning podcasters away, like, ‘No, we have enough people, please consider us for next year’s event.'”

The festival, which will feature eight podcasts ranging from a mental health podcast called, “The Evolving Chair” to a sports podcast, “TECKnical Foul,” will have a different vibe than the podcasters are accustomed to. While most podcasts are recorded in a studio without an audience, the festival puts those podcasts on the stage in front of hundreds of watching eyes and listening ears.

“I know the type of content that we’re going to get, but how it’s delivered, that’s what I’m excited to see,” Weaver said.

What separates the Milwaukee Podcast Festival from other festivals of this nature is the independent nature of the whole event. The festival is not sponsored by any big corporations. Instead, it is entirely funded by donations and ticket sales.

“Typically (with these events), you have so much backing behind you,” Weaver said. “This one was just Jaz and I.”

The founders have said they are planning on the festival expanding in the future, adding workshops and an educational side to the event in addition to the local podcasts.

“We have a celebrity podcast this year,” Henley-Brown said. “But we would like the local podcasts to grow to a level where we can all just be able to headline a festival.”

The celebrity podcast is “The Brilliant Idiots,” a comedy and social commentary-focused podcast hosted by comedian Andrew Schulz and radio host Charlamagne Tha God. Weaver said that this podcast, while not from Milwaukee, exemplifies the type of shows that will be at the festival.

“Expect a lot of authenticity,” Weaver said. “The beauty about these podcasts is that they are very real and personal.”

Katie Uttal, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and self-acclaimed, avid podcast listener, said she is a big fan of Milwaukee having a podcast festival.

“Podcasting is such an underrated art form,” Uttal said. “The voice can communicate ideas in a simpler and more powerful way than writing can because through audio, you’re incorporating things like tone, cadence and pauses.”

Uttal also said that she thinks it’s important to support local artists, and this is an opportunity for the community to get to know some of those podcasters.

Henley-Brown and Weaver said they poured blood, sweat and tears into the Milwaukee Podcast Festival and are excited for not only this year’s event, but also for future festivals.

“Not to discredit anyone else who has been involved in the process, but there’s been a lot of work to not only plan, but to organize and recruit,” Weaver said. “We did everything between ourselves, and I think that’s the greater accomplishment: to be able to sit back and look what a phone call blossomed in to.”

The Milwaukee Podcast Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 28, in the Wilson Theater at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts.

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