Tag Archives: Downtown

Rock Bottom Brewery before Rockin Out

Before the Peaches show, I grabbed dinner and drinks with friends at Rock Bottom Brewery on Wells and Plankinton. Two of my friends, who had tickets to the Widespread Panic show later that evening, were excited to see that the beer special for the night was “Love Tractor” IPA (named for a song by Panic). Rock Bottom, with over 35 restaurants nationally, takes pride in its beer and it’s rare that you will find any two locations with the same brew menu; they tailor the beers they make and their names to the region the restaurant is located in.

The brewery is big, with brew kettles in the center of the restaurant, surrounded by glass, so patrons can peer in and see where the magic happens. The ceilings are high and décor simple, with lots of wood and an open floor plan. The Grateful Dead, Zeppelin and Phish played over the speakers; I’m not sure if they normally play this type of music or if it was just for the Widespread show, but we sure enjoyed it! I ordered a bourbon veggie burger and a side salad. The burger was topped fried onions and a sweet and tangy bourbon sauce.The salad was huge and had one of my favorite additions, dried cranberries.

Megan likes fish. I really wish I liked fish... :(

Megan likes fish. I really wish I liked fish... 😦

My friend Megan ordered the smoked salmon fish and chips.It was recommended by he waiter and while I’m not a fan of fish, Megan said it was a really tasty twist on a classic. My other friend Devin ordered the chimichurri turkey burger and a Caesar salad. The burger was way bigger than the bun (which is always a good thing) and was topped with a heap of fresh pico…mmmm…. tasty.

Turkey Burger; Thanksgiving birds wish they could be this cool.

We would have hung out longer in our high sided, intimate booth but we had to make sure we got to our respective music venues on time. While I am generally anti-chain, I was pleasantly surprised by Rock Bottom; I am definitely going to have to go back sometime when the weather’s a little warmer and I can enjoy the outdoor seating they have right on the river.

This is my friend Devin. She likes salad and I heart her!

Two Night Affair with Turner Hall: PEACHES

Imagine a forty something ex elementary school music teacher, crossed with Freddy Mercury, Ziggy Stardust, and Marilyn Manson and you get Merrill Beth Nisker, the Canadian also known as PEACHES. After seeing Peaches perform at The Majestic in Madison last May, I was hooked. Not only is her music like a drug, her live shows will melt your face off.

Lady Gaga (left) and Amanda Blank (right); musically related.

My friend Kevin and I arrived at Turner Hall just in time to grab a beer and claim a nice spot close to the action before the opener Amanda Blank took the stage. This Philly based rapper/singer had great energy and sick beats; she reminded me of a hip hop version of Lady Gaga (before she went all “poker face”).

Blank’s band consisted of a roots inspired drummer and two DJs mixing the tunes. After (w)rapping up a forceful set, Blank prepared the crowd for her mentor, Peaches.

Peaches, on her Harley made out of ballons that rode around the stage.

Peaches’ band, The Sweet Machine, includes a creepily awesome Gwyneth Paltrow look alike on guitar, a hot young shirtless guy on keyboards and a grizzly looking, long haired drummer. They made their entrance wearing suits of black hair, with Peaches close behind looking something like a cross between a Muppet and Elvira. Opening with her song “mud,” Peaches immediately had the audience entranced. It wasn’t long before things started to get crazy.

Looks like shes standing on solid ground....

Peaches asked “Milwaukee, want to be part of something that’s never been done before?”  Of course we said yes. “Ok, well Jesus walked on water, and I’m gonna walk on you.”  What? We all thought..

...But know, we are holding her up with our mighty muscles.

...But no, we are holding her up with our mighty muscles.

But she was serious and began taking steps onto peoples raised hands as she continued to sing in perfect pitch. “If you let me fall, the shows over,” she declared as we all gathered in tight to ensure our idol’s safety.

 

 

As the show continued, Peaches shed costume after costume ending up in a flesh colored leotard and a blinged out “peaches” necklace that would make any rapper jealous. Right after she performed her hit “F&*% the Pain away” and before she began the encore, Peaches serenaded us with her own acapella version of the theme song from Laverne and Shirley. Despite being sprayed with champagne and spit on (with fake blood), the crowd’s energy never faltered and neither did Peaches’ amazing stage presence.  With her raunchy lyrics,  crazy costumes, dance beats,  and raw style Peaches puts on a show you should NEVER pass up!

Thanks for the wonderful weekend Turner Hall… I am sure we will see each other again soon…

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.

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 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.