Beet Street Brings the Heat


Photo by Emily Bittman

Singer-rapper Ric Wilson performs on stage at the 5th annual Beet Street Fall Festival hosted by the Cactus Club.

Dissonant punk chords and spirited chatter grew louder as we shuffled through fallen leaves to Cactus Club’s 5th Annual Beet Street Fall Festival. The crowd was filled with mostly millennials and Generation Xers jovially dancing and downing beers. A hybrid semi-truck stage was parked diagonally in the intersection of Potter and Wentworth Avenues and surrounded by festival-goers. One thing was evident: Milwaukee’s festival season is back after its year-long COVID-19 hiatus.

Oct. 9th, 2021, marked the 5th annual Beet Street Fall Festival hosted by Bay View Cactus Club. The club is an entertainment venue that hosts smaller artists, comedians and special events. The festival was free for attendees and featured performances from Chicago’s Ric Wilson, L.A.’s Frankie and the Witch Fingers, and Milwaukee’s own CREDENTIALS and Clayton. Beet Street attendees ranged in age from young teens to seniors. Local Milwaukee alternative rock artists, Fellow Kinsman and Shamewave, were also spotted in attendance. Beet Street was hopping from noon to 6 p.m. and the club invited many local vendors and artists to partake.

Vendors including Always Be a Buddy and Not Just Snakes set up tents to sell goods and interact with festival-goers. Always Be a Buddy is a Latinx-owned clothing brand and Not Just Snakes creates handmade tufted goods and rugs. Dozens of additional small businesses and food trucks lined both sides of Wentworth Avenue to sell plants, vinyl records, handmade jewelry and more. Moody, a monthly magazine, stood out from the crowd by highlighting their BIPOC and queer creators’ contributions from around the world. I had the chance to purchase a used book from La Revo Books, a vendor selling books written by people of color as well as books in Spanish.

As soon as Frankie and the Witch Fingers took the stage a little after 4 p.m., the crowd flocked to the music source. The group is composed of Josh Menashe, Dylan Sizemore, Jon Modaff and new addition Nicki Pickle. Playing electrifying tunes off their latest album “Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters” the band riled the crowd up. The group mimicked bands like The Murlocs or Thee Oh Sees with their echoing vocals and their recurrent riffs. After the band finished, a man in leather and cheetah-print coat tried to hand a pumpkin to lead guitarist Menashe.

Twenty-five-year-old Ric Wilson immediately lit up the stage as soon as he appeared accompanied by a trumpet and guitar player. The young singer/rapper was adorned in space buns, yellow plaid pants and an earring of a mini-apple with a bite taken out of it. Wilson introduced himself by inviting the crowd of mostly Generation Zers to raise their fists in the air and repeat “no racists, no sexists, no homophobia, no transphobia, no bull—-.” Beet Street was invigorated by the funk and disco beats emanating from the ensemble. Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Wilson told stories through his lyrics of oppression he experienced as a young Black man. The crowd echoed Wilson the remainder of the night as he encouraged them to snap, shuffle left to right and hop. However, the highlight of the night was when Wilson split the crowd in two to form a soul train dance that he eventually joined in on.

Cactus Club hosts concerts most weekends throughout the year to spotlight indie talent. This year’s Beet Street Fall Festival celebrated fall by bringing together music, food, and art-lovers alike.

This article was written by Emily Bittman. She can be reached at [email protected]