matty day | march 2015
Thirty-five months ago I wrote my first article for Scene Newspaper: a 1,500-word opus called “In Defense of the Green Bay Music Scene.” It had too many big words, too many words period, lacked specific examples, and its overall vibe was, in a word, defensive. Here’s an updated version that does all those things and more!
Who’s your favorite local band, sweet reader? Got one? Several, you say? Likely enough; there are many more original musicians in Green Bay than there were three years ago. To wit: Harvey Brown, Beach Patrol, Sweetalk, Dead Modern Villains, The Chocolateers, The Liver Killers, Holly and the Nice Lions, Paul Hanna and Annex, Kurt Gunn, Perfume, Daphni, Rev. Norb, Space Magic, Muddy Udders, The Foamers?, Sons of Kong, Lion Slicer, Corey Wayne So-Lo-Fi, Fun w/ Atoms, Bill Schulz, Jeff Hinnendael, Motra, Accuser, Of the (freaking!) Moon! (Yes, I forgot your band, or didn’t know about it, or didn’t realize that you played original music; e-mail me!) To understate, these bands cover a whole lot of musical ground.
Another improvement: there are more/better open mic nights in town, the result of a surplus of both burgeoning and established area musicians. In some circles open mics/jams are considered the most honest avenue available for live music, but at the very least these events give people of all levels a chance to show up, mix it up, (load up?) or test out new material. For the listeners, the results are ephemeral at worst, special and spontaneous at best, and Green Bay’s got several options: Augie Barnhart hosts Wednesdays at Frets & Friends, Jack Besaw hosts Thursdays at Lyric Room (all-ages from 7 to 9 p.m., 21+ after 9), and Pat Schorr hosts Tuesdays at Sympatico as well as Sundays at Gasoline.
Which brings us to the clubs that graciously host all the madness. Sympatico, Frets & Friends, Lyric Room and Gasoline were but twinkles in their owners’ eyes three years ago. Now they’re some of the best places to see music in town. Established venues like the Crunchy Frog and Phat Headz continue to bring it. There are also all-ages and 21+ shows at the Eagles Club, the Ten O One Club features live blues every week, and the White Dog/Black Cat, Adams Street Pub, and relative newcomer The Roundup all do their thing as well.
In the last few years Tom Smith has been booking outstanding rock ‘n’ roll shows at the Frog, Phat Headz and the Eagles Club, while Tom Johnson has consistently sought and brought interesting punk and indie bands to the Lyric Room and the Green Bay Distillery. Troy Heinz and Trevor Commons have been booking some of the most talented jam, bluegrass and rock bands to Frets & Friends. Rock N’ Roll Land co-owners Phil Doran and Todd Magnuson continue to apply their wealth of knowledge and contacts to book bands at their store and beyond. (Including an upcoming extravaganza in Milwaukee: fans cannot miss “Slim Jim’s Rockabilly Circus” March 27 at the Northern Lights Theater, with stars Wanda Jackson, Sonny Burgess, Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, Deke Dickerson and Kim Lenz.)
Smith, manager at the Exclusive Company, sees to it that his record store stocks some of the best new music out there, while Doran and Magnuson’s shelves at Rock N’ Roll Land boast some of the most raw pre-owned records in town, as well as some choice new ones. Both stores make for an awesome hang, and both stock and support local music as well, hosting free all-ages shows throughout the year. (For more vinyl options follow the Green Bay Record Convention page on Facebook; the next convention is March 28 at the Ramada Hotel.)
Speaking of records, the Crunchy Frog is once again hosting Record Night, now on Thursdays and hosted by Jeremy “Woz” Wozniak. Bring in your best wax and Woz will graciously spin it, or don’t; he’s got plenty to go ‘round. So much, in fact, that he also jockeys discs Monday nights at Jekyll and Hyde.
Warm weather or not, Ronny “DJ Klappeschlange” Kispert is back on Trail Mixers’ patio for wax-y Wednesdays. And, thanks to my finally beneficial procrastination, a new entrant’s emerged in time to be included here: Michael “DJ Vinyl Resting Place” Lindsley, the friendliest funeral director you’ll ever meet (hopefully pre-departure), is now hosting Vinyl Night at Vintage Liquid Emporium. These three gents have some of the best record collections in town; pop in and groove to their crates’ latest additions.
I won’t attempt to feign expertise here, but Green Bay does indeed have an electronic music scene. Hinterland occasionally hosts In/Flux AV Night and the Roundup hosts monthly events as well. If you’re interested, start with these sites: Facebook.com/ssshheeemusic and Facebook.com/AfterMathProd. You may not have heard about much more – good electronic music is all but inherently underground – but it is out there.
Call to Action!
If you already know about all of these musicians, venues and whatnot, you know you’re better off for it. Your next step, musically liberated person of GB, is to bring more people into the fold. This ain’t no exclusive hipster town; include a chick or dude! There is a crazy amount of people in Green Bay who consider themselves music fans, yet don’t often look beyond the Resch, Weidner, or Meyer for happenings. It’s unfortunate; while this city is incredibly lucky to have those three venues, overall there is way, way more going on in smaller clubs.
Perhaps the proclivity to attend big shows is based on people’s desire to blend in, another face in the crowd. I get that, but I still challenge such fans to stray from their comfort zone, to enjoy live music more wholly. Too many large-venue concerts are merely observed, TV-style, by a way-too-sedate audience. I’ll put it unfairly: would you rather be a creepy, unmoving, unsmiling, picture-taking voyeur who’s glued to their phone, or an active participant? If you are the type that likes or even needs to holler, shake, or just be part of the action, be the shaman that brings your introvert-by-default friends to more shows. You’ll add years to their life!
This year’s set to be a good one for Green Bay music. Both Sweetalk and the Chocolateers recently dropped debut albums, and new releases are on the way from Dead Modern Villains, Muddy Udders, Holly and the Nice Lions, Harvey Brown and hopefully Beach Patrol. Ryan Vandevelde’s cooking up a compilation from his ZANG! Studios featuring multiple local bands, and Paul Hanna’s doing more record engineering, both for his own projects and for others at his home studio as well. Meanwhile Gasoline has picked up steam as a cool new venue and hangout.
And finally, shoot, how ‘bout this new Frankly Green Bay rag! It can be claimed officially and with some confidence that it is no longer excruciating to live here, at least for now. (Feel free to use that one, mayoral candidates.)
Matty Day’s written about music in GB for 35 months. Please direct all pleasantries to Events@FranklyGreenBay.com, and kindly follow his sass at Twitter.com/PollutedMindset.