Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace Will Save Us!
Whenever i get a message from an out-of-town musician friend looking for help getting a Milwaukee show on a Monday or Tuesday, i break out into hives, my teeth itch and i feel a dull ache and nausea not unlike 30 seconds after a solid punch in the nuts. I've spent enough Monday and Tuesday nights apologizing for our town's generally weak showings on those nights (not that it's anyone's fault, as day jobs are, in the common parlance, a bitch) to finally be fed up with the whole endeavor. It's the same on the other side of the fence as well; if i'm booking a tour and we're not heading somewhere with solid Monday night potential (see: the old Uncle Festers' Punk Rock Nights in Bloomington, IN; New Brunswick, NJ basement shows), my instinct now is to say "screw it" and schedule a day off of chilling out in a hotel watching wrestling.
I hoped that when my friend James' band Male Bondage stopped by Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace on Tuesday night while on tour from Indianapolis, there would at least be fifteen or twenty stragglers wandering in to see them sandwiched between Absolutely and Lord Brain. Instead, Male Bondage completely threw down their top-volume combination of overpowering post-hardcore Jehu drive and pseudo-psych Meat Puppets licks in front of a jazzed and packed room...on a Tuesday night. What in the samhell?
Dear Milwaukee: something is brewing at Quarters, and it is exciting. Aaron Skufca's busted his damn fool hump making the humble dive on the corner of Center and Bremen a nearly sure bet for a night of drinking and punk rock, and if stuffing 40-50 people into the Rock 'n' Roll Palace's itty bitty bar on a Tuesday night is any indication, it's working. (Sure, it doesn't hurt that Absolutely is a killer band and can probably draw 50 people by themselves on a good night, but since when does heady Unwound-inspired noise consider a Tuesday a good night?)
So what's working in Quarters' favor? This is all speculation, but it feels like a perfect storm of positives:
1) It's small, but not Circle A small. Get 20 people through the door at Quarters, and it feels like a party inside already, unlike larger mid-sized venues like Stonefly and Mad Planet, where 20 people feels like a bummer. Combine this with the large bay windows in the front of the bar, and the odd stray is likely to glance in through the window, see something interesting's happening, and wander in. And that's likely to happen a lot, because of
2) Location, Location, Location. The second most important group of three words in Real Estate (behind "Indian Burial Ground"), Quarters is smack dab in the middle of Riverwest foot traffic, surrounded on all sides by Foundations and Fuels and That Hookah Bar I Still Have Never Wandered Into. Ever since Quarters re-opened after that whole unfortunate "dude getting shot outside" thing, it's seemed to evolve into a place where everyone within a four-block radius between the ages of 21 and let'ssay40becausei'mold is likely to gravitate if they want a beer after work. And if there happens to be a band playing, what the hell? May as well check it out, because
3) The shows are cheap. Because Quarters doesn't take anything out of the door for sound (which, by the way, is pretty darn good for a tiny room), it's easy to get touring bands good money while keeping the door low, which encourages people to wander in and give new bands a try. Heck, just last night my friend Zach wandering in to the Absolutely/Male Bondage/Lord Brain show because he had nothing else going on and what's five bucks for some live tunes? IfIHadAHiFi played there on Friday with Police Teeth, Strange Matter and Like Like The The The Death, and thanks to the karmic "local bands don't take any money when touring bands are playing" rule, Police Teeth managed to pocket $244 from a door that got sassy and bumped it up to $6 since it was a Friday. Are you as old as i am, and remember when $6 was seen as outrageous for a punk show? Yeah, that was 1990 dollars, gang. A movie is ten bucks these days! Seeing a show at Quarters is cheaper than going to see Wrath of the Titans, and the loud noises are less obnoxious!
Sometimes a venue manages to exist in a perfect storm of circumstance and smart planning. Sure, none of it's rocket science, but not every bar can pull it off. Quarters, having re-opened in a neighborhood that has some musical open-mindedness with a plan that focuses on cheap fun while keeping the needs of touring bands in the forefront, seems to be onto something. It's a little early to proclaim it the Savior of the Scene or anything like that, but man, am i jazzed it exists right now.
By the way, i'm totally not kidding about Male Bondage. Get on this. (Upon listening to the recordings, they have way more of a Double Dagger thing going than what i picked out live. Volume!)