Milwaukee Record launched way, way back in April of 2014. That’s notable for two reasons: 1. Holy shit, we’ve made it 20 months! and 2. Twenty-fifteen was our first full calendar year of being a living, breathing website. Neat!

And what a year it was. From seeing 2 Live Crew at a strip club to crashing Scott Walker’s ill-fated presidential announcement, from dropping by The Morning Blend to eating at every Milwaukee Taco Bell in eight hours, and from hanging out with the mayor of West Allis to, yes, waiting five hours to get our picture taken with 50 Cent, 2015 was filled with laughs, tears, and enough “adventure journalism” to last a lifetime. Not to toot our own official Milwaukee Record horn (available soon from our merch store), but whittling down the number of our favorite stories to 25 proved surprisingly difficult. But whittle we did. So, without further ado, here are the 25 best Milwaukee Record stories of 2015.

(Oh, one further ado: None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of our many, many incredible ad partners and sponsors, both the ones that have been with us since the beginning and the ones that lent their support this year. And, of course, a huge thanks to you, our readers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

“The longest brunch: Bottoming out on bottomless mimosas” (January 13)
“If we didn’t already feel bad about pushing a very, very good restaurant’s deal too far (even if it was a freezing Tuesday during an otherwise dead day shift), I would’ve questioned Ashley’s use of the word ‘bottomless,’ or simply ponied up $6 to get to number 10. But, really, I was relieved for it to be over. Leanner told us nobody had ever stayed this long before…and that Ashley’s all-you-can-drink policy was going to be changed.” [Tyler Maas]

“Messed up: The short, troubled history of Space Heater” (February 10)
“‘I had a plan to go home after the show and just end it…it’s terrible,’ Tony later says. ‘That day I bought two bottles of alcohol, because fuck it, right? So we’re making our set list, and I started crying. I thought, I’ll make this show a good one, but during the show I couldn’t think about the songs or anything and I ended up not really playing the show and just standing there in self-loathing because I forgot the bass lines to songs that I wrote. It made me feel awful.’ That awful feeling turns to drunken rage and Tony takes his $300 bass guitar and smashes it repeatedly against the basement wall of Scarn Manor, destroying it.” [Tea Krulos]

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“I saw 2 Live Crew at a strip club in 2015” (March 3)
“During verses belonging to the long-since-departed Luther Campbell, Marquis just let the CD play and either wandered aimlessly around the stage or drank water. Las Vegas style showmanship, it was not. However, the 50-something rapper pulled out the big guns during 2 Live Crew’s biggest song, repeatedly screaming ‘Me So Horny’ off-key and a fraction of a second too late. Having worked himself into a lather with that inexplicable hit and the six songs he’d done prior, Brother Marquis showed a more sensitive side of 2 Live Crew. Kidding again, the deaf-guy yelled portions of ‘We Want Some Pussy’ and abruptly walked off the stage he’d taken less than 20 minutes prior.” [TM]

“I was a guest on The Morning Blend and I feel pretty good about that” (April 24)
“But never mind that, because moments later, in walked Ogle (shorter than I expected) and Fay (taller than I expected). Actually, ‘walked’ wouldn’t be the right word—‘exploded’ would be more like it. Laughing, hooting, and hollering, like they had just downed three Bloody Marys each and stepped off a cruise ship, they instantly lit up the already lit-up studio. ‘Hi, Matt!’ exclaimed Fay as she walked by. I was beside myself.” [Matt Wild]

“Taco Tuesday of Reckoning: I ate at every Milwaukee Taco Bell in 8 hours” (May 14)
“With every arduous and grease-coated bite, I said a silent goodbye to a milestone from my (potential) child’s life that I’d surely miss. ‘Happy, graduation, little guy or girl,’ I lamented internally with every bubbling, viscous morsel I reluctantly placed in my maw. I broke my months-long soda fast in attempt to dull the taste with a small Baja Blast…which I soon found had a black speck in it. Duffy’s ‘Mercy’ blared in the background. I echoed her cry with each bite. This had finally become difficult.” [TM]

“I hung out with the mayor of West Allis” (June 2)
“Having just decided my tour would have a nightlife focus, we ambled on to Walleye’s Saloon a few blocks away. Our entrance was welcomed by a wave of awful nu metal (the first of many, many encounters we’d face on this excursion) and what looked to be a bar fight percolating between two hammered 20-somethings (that ultimately wouldn’t occur). The combination of the two and the nice weather drove us and our $3 pints out to the rear patio, where we met a nice woman named Jody and played two games of horseshoes. Mayor Devine (right) and I won both games. One of Bart’s (left) horseshoes took a crazy bounce and nailed me in the kneecap as Keith Sweat’s ‘Twisted’ played on the patio speakers. Upon learning more about her opponents, Jody said, ‘I didn’t even know West Allis had a mayor.’ Beyond the horseshoe hobbling, this was probably the highlight of the night.” [TM]

“I finally saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live cast at the Oriental Theater” (June 11)
“So, on a fateful Saturday night, following a few beers at the aforementioned Landmark, we found ourselves standing in line outside the Oriental with a bunch of theater kids dressed in fishnets. Go figure. It wasn’t long before a cast member approached us. Was this our first time? Yes, yes it was. ‘VIRGINS!’ he cried, whipping out a marker and branding our faces with red ‘V’s. For the rest of the night, we were marked, our scarlet letters acting in the exact way Hester Prynne’s didn’t. ‘Look for me before the movie,’ our new friend said. ‘You’ll be on my team for the virgin games!’ Erin and I exchanged a glance. We stepped inside. [MW]

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“In search of Milwaukee’s most authentic Mexican restaurants” (June 16)
“Still there is valor in the hunt, the one for the genuine article. So why simply settle for Bel Air and their two-hour waits over and over? How could a recent Shepherd Express Readers Poll show Qdoba and Chipotle as runners-up for Milwaukee’s ‘best’? Sure, Café Corazon is fresh and fine, and yes, we too love Guanajuato more than our cholesterol test says is healthy. But why be placated when there’s such a wealth of tacos, tortas, tripas, tamales, empanadas, sincronizadas, sopas, and sesos well beyond the usual Milwaukee run of familiar joints? So we set out to create a culinary roadmap, pointing west and south, and as far away as possible from the processed cheddar, the salted glasses, the lettuce and tomato taco fillings, and the over-publicized parrillada of gringo-land Mexican.” [Todd Lazarski]

“Review: Taped Music at JoJo’s Martini Lounge (Summerfest)” (June 25)
“I eased into the idea that people might not show up. After all, it was opening day and, like, actual live music would be starting elsewhere very soon. Suddenly, a guy wearing all orange stepped out on stage and played a modern cover of the unmistakable Michael Jackson tune. He introduced himself to the audience (me) as Flux and said, ‘It’s all about having a good time. I do music videos! It’s all a big party.’ I’ll be the judge of that. I’ve attended upwards of five parties in my life, so I’d like to think I know a rager when I see one.” [TM]

“Hating Summerfest, loving Summerfest” (June 29)
“Sometimes you hate Summerfest. Sometimes you get to the grounds on a late Sunday afternoon and note that there are more people waiting to see Paris Hilton in four hours than there were to see Public Enemy all of Thursday night. You make the requisite Summerfest lap and see nothing but doofuses smoking cigars and wearing PornHub T-shirts. You’re not in the mood for a beer, so you walk to JoJo’s Martini Lounge and get a fruity cocktail, which is $11. A cover band at JoJo’s is doing Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space.’ Somewhere in the distance, another cover band is limping through a tepid Queen medley. You want to go home.” [MW]

“We went to Scott Walker’s presidential announcement and this is what we saw” (July 14)
“The Waukesha County Fair opens its gates tomorrow, and similar to how the Stones warmed up the Summerfest grounds, Scott Walker—now an official 2016 presidential candidate—drew the masses to the fairground’s Waukesha County Expo Center Monday night. Described by CNN as a ‘Republican enclave just outside of Milwaukee,’ Waukesha hosted thousands of Walker supporters who waited for hours in the hot, humid weather for a seat. ‘Enjoy this momentous occasion,’ an elderly volunteer told us as she fastened our entry wristbands.” [Tea Krulos, Wendy Schreier]

“I tented out inside Miller Park and it was fun and weird” (July 28)
“Oh, and the tour also included a trip to the holiest of holy Miller Park locations: Uecker’s booth. Yes, we were allowed inside Mr. Baseball’s (and Joe Block’s) inner sanctum, which was smaller and less covered in Mr. Belvedere paraphernalia than I expected. Nevertheless, I tried in vain to contain myself as Wayne talked about Ueck’s broadcasting career (Nearly at the same level as Vin Scully and Mel Allen? Surely you jest, Wayne.) and tried to not get weirded out by the middle-aged woman standing next to me, who looked suspiciously like the middle-aged woman who stalked Bob Uecker a few years back. Now, I’m not saying it was her (her name tag didn’t match up, for one), but she did look like a slightly older version of that woman’s mug shot.” [MW]

“The 15 best things my 14-year-old cousin said at Vans Warped Tour yesterday” (July 29)
6. On how every booth is made to appeal to teens, and meant to sell things to teens: ‘I don’t think about how they’re marketing to me directly. Because those people need to make money, too. Who cares how they get their money? Exploit teens!’” [Andrew Winistorfer]

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“50 Cent vodka signing at Oak Creek Woodman’s: A minute-by-minute recap” (July 30)
7:40 p.m. – It all comes down to this. I’m next in line. Suddenly, I’m hustled in front of the backdrop. There he is. 50 Cent. At the Oak Creek Woodman’s. He looks tired and bored. He looks like 50 Cent. I stand next to him with my bottle. I struggle for something to say. ‘Thanks for coming to Oak Creek!’ is all I can muster. He says something—well, ‘mutters something’ might be more accurate. ‘Hey.’ A woman takes a picture. A man leads me away. My encounter with 50 Cent—an encounter I’ve been waiting almost five hours for—is over in no more than three seconds.” [MW]

“I floated in a sensory deprivation tank at Float Milwaukee and, well, it was something” (September 1)
“That’s when it hits me: This tank is quiet. Really quiet. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, you just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly quiet it is. There’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, when I occasionally glance to the left and right I can hear the sound of my eyes moving in my skull. This experience is almost worth the price of admission alone. Imagine your eyes as heavy wooden marbles slowly rolling around in a heavy wooden box and you’ll get the general idea of what it sounds like. It’s wonderfully weird and vaguely unsettling.” [MW]

“Opening AND closing Wolski’s: A supposedly fun thing we’ll never do again” (September 15)
“This is the worst that I feel all day. Waist deep in High Life, I am left to contemplate the meaning of this, and the meaning of life as we know it. Why am I doing this? Why did I think this was a good idea? Anyone willing to spend 14.5 hours in the beautiful cave that is Wolski’s Tavern with me on one of the last days of summer is worth having in my life. Friendships like this are hard to come by. I’ll cheers to that. But hey, at this point I’ll cheers to most anything.” [Rachel Olson, Mark Flehmer, Danielle Dahl]

“I climbed to the top of City Hall and it was awesome and kind of terrifying” (September 17)
“I’m climbing to the top of Milwaukee City Hall and there’s only one thing on my mind: death. Death, death, death. Not ‘lose-my-balance-and-plummet-to-Earth’ death, though there’s that, too. Measuring 353 feet tall (393 if you count the flagpole on top), the downtown beacon may not look like much from the street, but try winding your way up it via a sparse spiral staircase on a hot summer day. My palms are sweating. One hand is white-knuckling the staircase while the other is death-gripping the iPhone I’m using to record the running commentary between my tour guide, Roger Davidson, and Doors Open Milwaukee program manager Amy Grau, who has arranged today’s excursion. My knees are somewhere between ‘shaky’ and ‘buckling.’ I’m thinking about calling it quits.” [MW]

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“Return to Haunchyville” (September 22)
“Five years ago this past June, I made a trek to Haunchyville and wrote about it for the now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. I found…well, something. Not a bustling burg of pissed-off circus folk hell bent on keeping outsiders away, and not a crumbling community of gone-to-pot loners and their grizzled caretaker. Instead, I found a woodsy and secluded section of suburban acreage littered with countless NO TRESPASSING and KEEP OUT signs. Oh, and some creepy-ass stone huts.” [MW]

“I went to Chicago to (try to) get drunk at Taco Bell” (September 29)
“Though I made a treacherous, Andy DuFresne-like crawl through a figurative sewer of refried beans, Fire Sauce, and inorganic beef substitute only a few months ago, the recent announcement that a Taco Bell in Chicago was the first in the world to offer alcohol was a signal from above…or below (?) that my work was not done. I had to temporarily return to the prison of my worst self. Like a bank robber throwing caution to the wind for one last score or the grizzled veteran police detective—clearly too old for this shit—postponing his retirement to put away one more perp, I had no choice but to do this. I had to get drunk at a Taco Bell.” [TM]

“A Friday on the ‘Fruit Loop’: A straight man’s gay bar crawl” (October 1)
“As Hot Tyler, Jacob, and I looked at the screen (and Jak looked away), DJ scrolled through a photo album that showed him being tortured, having a rope tied around his balls yanked, being suffocated by…other guys in pretty graphic ways, and enough dick pics to make Brett Favre blush. As DJ scrolled on, Jacob rattled off different kinks and asked whether Mister Harbor Room was into them. Eventually, Jacob asked about piss play. ‘I love water sports,’ DJ said. ‘If any of you have to go, just let me know.’ Now on my sixth drink in three hours, I never had to pee less in my life. ‘Is there anything you say “no” to?’ Jacob asked, as the list grew exceedingly more intense. ‘Women,’ DJ quipped. Around then, Jak handed me my half-full pint and told me to chug because we were leaving immediately. As I was finishing, Jacob was yanking a leather strap attached to DJ’s testicles, hard.” [TM]

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“Video: We conduct a blind taste test to find the least terrible Wisconsin-made pumpkin beer” (October 20)
“All beers were ranked on a scale of 1-5 on four criteria: pumpkin-ness, level of spice, drinkability, and overall taste. The results were highly unscientific and highly unexpected (math started to go out the window around beer number five), but amusing nonetheless. At one point, Tyler creeps everyone out by talking about a beer’s ‘mouth feel.’ Oh, and there are plenty of awful/wonderful puns.” [Matt Wild, Tyler Maas, Maggie Iken, Cal Roach, Rachel Seis]

“I tried (and utterly failed) Zaffiro’s first ‘Big Z Challenge’” (November 3)
“By the 30-minute mark, I had 28 slices down. By this point, I came to terms with the fact I wouldn’t be finishing, but I wanted to make my performance in this absolutely shameful endeavor the least embarrassing I possibly could. But first I needed a break, or a ‘Za-bbatical’ if you will. I sipped my third pint of water and strolled around the restaurant (that was now thankfully devoid of Mequon milfs) in a futile effort to collect myself and find a second wind that would not blow my way. After a few minutes, I returned to the booth, but remained standing as I meekly ate laughably small bites of jalapeno and mushroom pizza. Pepperoni was dead to me now. The last two-plus pieces were incredibly difficult. My mouth watered—in the puke preparation way, not out of hunger—as I nibbled my way towards a goal that, at 63 minutes, was decidedly out of reach.” [TM]

“Are there really anti-Semitic messages hidden in a Shorewood sculpture?” (November 13)
“To my eyes, there are plenty of problems with the ‘hidden messages.’ For one, seeing ‘Bad’ requires you to lose the ‘Z’ between the ‘B’ and the ‘A.’ And the ‘P’ in ‘Cheap’ isn’t a ‘P’ at all, but a connected ‘N’ and ‘D.’ And you need to do some serious spacial gymnastics if you want to see ‘Dead.’ With that logic, you can see ‘Fry Bad Jew’ if you want, or, you know, ‘Frqb Zeanp.’” [MW]

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“Better vape than never: One man’s epic pre-ban e-cig smoke sesh” (November 19)
“I meekly approached the counter where an incredibly friendly middle-aged guy named Bill helped me navigate the intimidating abundance of e-cig implements and the dozens of flavors, including everything from fruit flavors to a bunch of animals with the ‘Blood’ suffix, traditional tobacco scents, and more. The guidance from Bill—who told me he was a massive smoker for more than 30 years before weening himself off completely thanks to e-cigs in the last four years—helped me settle on the cheapest cig they had ($24) and a vial of Banana Nut Bread vaping juice ($12) that purportedly yields the same amount of puffs as two cartons of traditional grandpa cigarettes.” [TM]

“Malled by bears: A review of the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra at the Shops of Grand Avenue” (December 8)
“In all, the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra plays the Christmas songs you know. For any performer, this is no great surprise, with the average age of the most frequently played holiday songs hovering around 61 years, according to the December issue of Harper’s. Compared with the brand new, slick, and highly processed Homo Sapien Christmas songs pumping through the TJ Maxx on the other end of the mall, who can blame Leonard and his fellow Ursus for sticking with the classics? As the plugged-in maestro put it in a transcendent bit of banter: ‘Who knows where music really comes from?’” [Justin Kern]

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