If the emergence over the past few years of the Pabst Theater/Turner Hall/Riverside Theater group of venues as a music powerhouse in Milwaukee has been good for only one thing (and hey, it's been good for several), it's the number of bands it has pulled away from The Rave/Eagles Ballroom. A dire cavern with the atmosphere of your car's used air filter, most Milwaukeeans view The Rave as a cesspool of horrible sound, overpriced drinks and security guards that apparently didn't get their fill of beating up the weird kids during high school. Thankfully, since the Pabst group's rise to prominence, most of the national indie touring acts worth a damn have abandoned The Rave and left it to the metal, hip-hop, and juggalo scenes (which means that, unfortunately, one still has to endure watered-down $7 MGDs in order to see Anthrax or Mastodon).
So of course, much of Milwaukee had a good laugh when we found out that The Rave was awarded Alternative Press' reader's poll "Best Venue for a Show" honors. Sure, there was some gnashing of teeth as well, but that was from people who have forgotten Alternative Press' primary demographic: under-21 mallpunks with swoopy hair who apparently want Fall Out Boy to reunite.
Alternative Press stirs conflicting emotions in me: their editor-in-chief, Jason Pettigrew, is unquestionably the man. He's nutty, he's funny, and he has generally great taste in music. He's one of the guys who started AP when it covered bands like The Jesus Lizard and Killdozer and Dinosaur Jr., and--trump card--he's been a vocal supporter of my band in their pages. We were one of their 2005 "Bands you need to hear" (along with fellow Milwaukeeans Since By Man, if i recall correctly), and Jason said nice things about our first record in their pages in 2001. That being said, a glance at the readers' poll results for Live Band of the Year is enough to see that the magazine's target demo doesn't exactly intersect with ours.
Black Veil Brides, aka Five Nikki Sixxes
So with this in mind, it's not surprising that The Rave garnered so much support from Milwaukee mallpunx. Where else in town is Paramore gonna play? For these kids, The Rave is the only game in town. If anything, today's Rave-award-winning news reminded me that Milwaukee is still sorely in need of a viable all-ages venue.
Once upon a dream, Milwaukee had The Globe, a bar that altruistically disconnected its taps during late afternoons and put on all-ages shows featuring the same bands that would play for the over-21 set later in the evening. I doubt they made any money from this, since everyone knows that bars book bands to sell booze, but the desire to expose the kids to cool bands like Jawbreaker and The Dismemberment Plan was still a priority. Since the Globe closed down, there's been the occasional attempt to mimic its setup elsewhere--Cactus Club tried a couple all-ages shows (but if memory serves, got hassled by the man for its trouble and said the hell with it), and Mad Planet kept it going for a couple years before the attendance stopped justifying the effort. Milwaukee still has the all-ages Borg Ward DIY space, which is a treasure, but doesn't really pull the folks in unless they're booking hardcore or metal. We've also got the Miramar Theatre, but unless you know you can pull 200 kids, the cost to rent the space is prohibitive (which, what can you do? You can't sell beer to kids).
So there's really no viable space for small-scale indie bands to get in front of the under-21 crew in Milwaukee, and not being a businessman, i'm not sure what the solution is. Then again, i'm not sure if anyone wants a solution. While "researching" this blog post (read: chatting on Facebook), it was revealed that the Miramar's hosting a "F#@! Snow, Party! Show" in January with a bunch of local/regional bands that, judging from their haircuts, are right in the AltPress wheelhouse--including readers' poll winners for "My Hometown Hero (a.k.a. best unsigned band from my hometown)," Milwaukee's own Take the Day. Wait, who the hell are Take the Day and why haven't I heard of them?
Ooooh, that's why.
So, i dunno. Milwaukee, what do you think? Is the fact that kids in Milwaukee apparently consider The Rave a "fucking huge, beautiful, and haunted" place to see bands evidence that kids in Milwaukee are in desperate need of more options? I tend to think that most people longing for a return to the days of The Globe want kids to have a chance to see killer, smaller-scale indie rock bands in a cool setting; would kids even come out for music that doesn't sound like this?
I don't know. I'm old and out of touch (if Take the Day's 3,131 Facebook fans are any indication). Help me understand the children.