Tag Archives: Music

What is your favorite live music venue in Milwaukee?


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!

A Short rave about THE RAVE

In 1926 an athletic club/ recreation center was built in downtown Milwaukee sponsored by the Eagles Organization. The Eagles Ballroom and Athletic Club was a pretty hip place to see and be seen in the 20’s thru 50’s and provided patrons not only with a wonderful venue for dancing, but offered them the uses of a pool, boxing ring, bowling alley and much more. The athletic club closed in the 60’s and the space became a men’s shelter until 1980 when it began its reign as one of Milwaukee’s premier music venues.


The Rave (as it is now called) has evolved from the athletic club it once was, to a multi floor, multi venue, music menagerie. The outside of building has remained relatively unchanged with the original intricate stone carvings running along the top of the building and around all the tall recessed windows.  A covered rooftop seating area and balcony provide music lovers (usually smokers and sweaty dancers) a place to escape and revel in the crisp night air.


The biggest venue within the rave is the Eagles Ballroom. The 25,000 square foot dance hall is the one venue that remains closest to its original state. The domed ceiling is gorgeous with intricate gold leaf edging and a mural in the center.  Headliners sell out the ballroom on a regular basis and everyone from the Jonas Brothers to Bob Dylan have played here.  While I have seen a lot of great shows at the Eagles Ballroom, I am no a fan of the acoustic, as they can be a bit echo-ey at times. The room can also be rented for special events and seats around 1,500 people.

The second largest venue (where I have spent many a night) is The Rave Hall. This smaller more modern hall has a more intimate feel and a VIP second floor wrap around balcony complete with its own bar.  The Rave has 3 other venues… the Rave Bar, the Eagles Hall and the Rave Vibe Room. Don’t underestimate these smaller venues; the Rave Bar has GREAT acoustics and acts like Nirvana and Dave Matthews Band have played here.

I like the rave a lot and with a packed schedule of acts almost all the time, your sure to find something for your tastes at the rave.