Two Night Affair with Turner Hall: Mason Jennings

My favorite Milwaukee music venue was erected in 1882 by Henry Koch, the same talented guy that whipped City Hall together just a couple of years later.  The Milwaukee Turners, a society of German immigrants originally formed to create a resistance against the French conquest of Europe during the time of Napoleon, commissioned the building of the facility for the use of its members and other immigrants. The Turners got their name from the German word turnen, which describes the calisthenics and gymnastic exercises members of the resistance practiced.  The building includes a restaurant/ beer hall, ballroom with wrap around balcony, large meeting rooms and a gymnasium.

In my opinion, the best music venue in Brew City.

In my opinion, the best music venue in Brew City.

My friend and I arrived early to Turner in order to make sure we grabbed some seats for the opener; Nathaniel Ratcliffe and The Wheel.  The Denver based troupe, all adorned in flannel (except for the lonely female stand up bassist), provided soothing tunes for the crowd as they settled in. The sound they created, reminding me at times of Cash mixed with Wisconsin’s own Bon Iver, was folksy with a seasoning of country and was greatly enriched by the frequent addition of soothing vocal harmonies.  About halfway through their third song, my friend and I quickly tugged on each others shoulders and pointed to the curly haired shadow looking down on the audience from the balcony above. Grinning like school girls, we gazed up at Mason and sipped our $3 PBR silos while he watched his opener for a few songs.

Bad picture, but AWESOME music.

After a great set by The Wheel, Mason took the stage and we joined the sea of fans gathered at his feet. While I have seen Jennings more than half a dozen times, last night was a treat for me; rarely have I watched him perform with a full band.  With six albums under his belt and a large catalog of music to choose from, Mason included a wide array of songs in his set list playing everything from “Nothing” (the first song on his first album and my FAVORITE) to “The Field” (a Springsteen-esque song on his not yet released album about the Iraq war).  After major support from the crowd, Mason came out to do an acoustic encore. But the folks at Turner Hall (myself included) were not satisfied and the full band returned to serenade us one more time. I really can’t articulate the energy in the room as the band slid into a cover of “The Weight” (take a load off fanny); the band members took turns singing the verses over the unified voice of he audience.  With everyone dancing, and the decades old floor of the ballroom bouncing with the rhythm, I wondered if we would soon all find ourselves free falling to the gymnasium below. But the floor held, and the band played on.

Round one of my two night affair with Turner Hall was a GREAT success. Thanks Mason, you never disappoint me!


Only on FOX 6: Real Life Superheroes – WITI

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The Watchman: Milwaukee’s own Superhero

Gotham City has Batman, Metropolis has Superman and now Milwaukee has the Watchman. Patrolling the streets of Downtown Brew City, The Watchman is there for your protection. The Watchman is a member of the Great Lakes Hero’s Guild, a group of 9 real life superheroes who protect the fine citizens of the cities in which they reside. “Unfortunately there is only one of me, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover,” The Watchman told a channel 6 reporter. Not only is protecting the Downtown area a lot for one superhero to handle, The Watchman also has a family, full time job, and attends school while he’s not out saving lives. And maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll see this masked man at a local charity function; a portion of The Watchman’s time is spent attending local events to help raise money for worthy causes.

So the next time you’re walking home after a night of drinking on Water Street, and see someone creeping through the shadows of the night, It might be a robber, or it might just The Watchman making sure you get home safely.

Here’s the Answer…

Did you figure it out??

The World’s Tallest Building

After years of laboring, Milwaukee’s City Hall was finished in 1885. Modeled in the German Renaissance Revival style (like the Pabst Mansion), Henry Koch’s masterpiece was the tallest building in the world for four years but lost its reign in 1889 when the Washington Monument was built.

Until the Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum was finished, Milwaukee’s City Hall stood as a unifying symbol for our city. While the bell tower still adorns many municipal signs, the famous wings are now used as our cities marketing logo. City Hall also used to have a Welcome Milwaukee Visitors message on its tower that can be seen in the opening credits of the Milwaukee based tv show Laverne and Shirley.

After being declared a National Historic Landmark in 2005, City Hall got a major makeover that lasted 2 years. Not only is the Hall looking better than ever, but the bell can actually be rung now without major concerns that the vibrations will send the whole building tumbling to the ground.

The Stone: Match Tricks and Magic Hat

After downing a delicious dinner made by my friend Megan at her Bay View abode, some friends and I wandered down the street to The Stone bar, just off of KK on Howell Ave. This great, discreet neighborhood joint has everything a Milwaukee drinker could ask for. The jukebox hosts an eclectic selection of tunes to listen too, while you throw a few darts on the cork boards in the back. The beer selection is varied with classic and not so classic brews on tap and in bottles. They also offer trivia, wii bowling, big slices of beef jerky and as many shell on peanuts as you could ever want.

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An over sized coaster I snagged off a table that now adorns my kitchen wall.

While we were there, the bar was running a promo on Magic Hat Brews, with their intoxicating, apricot laced # 9 not so pale ale on special for 4 dollars a pint.  Some Magic Hat promoters were sitting at the table next to us and we started to chat. We definitely choose our seats well that night; each of us got a t shirt and awesome bottle opener along with some mind exercise. One of the guys also showed us this really great brain teaser that I will now share with you…

Take 12 matches (or toothpicks) and set them up like so.

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Now, while only moving ONE match on only the left side of the equation, (leaving the solution/right side alone) make the equation true. You cannot introduce a variable (such as x) and you cannot add or remove matches.

Did you figure it out?  Don’t worry, I’ll post the answer in a few days!

The Ghosts of Concerts Past

On January 23rd, 1959 Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper and Dion and the Belmonts started their 24 date “Winter Dance Party” Tour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at The Eagles Ballroom.  The show “was crazy, daddy,” proclaimed the Sentinel in a review of the show.  “Nearly 6,000 young people turned out to” rock, and “If you haven’t heard them, you haven’t lived, man.”  A few weeks later, all of the headlining acts for the “Winter Dance Party” died in a plain crash in a snowy Iowa cornfield.  A memorial to Mr. Holly and the other musicians that toured with him is now placed in the upper level of The Rave and includes photos, concert fliers and the original review from the Milwaukee Sentinel.

These were some cool cats!

Around the time of Holly’s death strange sightings started to be reported at the Eagles Ballroom. Musicians that played shows there said they would see what looked like a man watching their sound checks, and creeping in and out of the shadows of the maze like venue. Musicians say another ghost seems to reside in the buildings old basement pool and boiler room, which remains locked at all times.  Outside the door to the pool room are messages warning about the paranormal resident that lives inside. “All the rock stars that have performed here have seen a ghost” said the Raves ex art director Rob Miller. A lot of musicians and curious ghost hunters like to document their exploration of The Rave.

Whether or not the place is really haunted is up for debate, but I like to think that Holly choose to chill right here in Wisconsin, checking out fresh music acts that roll through town. Oh, and Jeffery Dahmer killed some folks in The Ambassador Hotel right across the street from The Rave, if Buddy Holly’s ghost isn’t intriguing enough.