For every Milwaukee project that has a well-publicized last show, knowingly puts out what’s to be its final album, or crafts a long and respectful farewell to those who have supported them throughout the years, many more local bands silently call it quits. With little-to-no public acknowledgement, zero fanfare, and no true goodbye concert to speak of, many projects end in ways that leave people uncertain if it’s done or if its merely on an indefinite hiatus.
With Milwaukee Record‘s “Broken Up Band Bazaar” benefit for Arte Para Todos coming to Black Husky Brewing on Saturday (we still need vendors!), we thought it would be fitting to give a bunch of bands that quietly came to an end a proper sendoff. From accomplished acts that slowly ground to a halt to short-lived projects that called it quits before reaching their full potential, here are 16 Milwaukee bands you maybe didn’t know broke up.
We start our eulogy with 1956. Not the year, rather, the rock band with the numeric name. In about a decade, the trio managed five pummeling shoegaze-tinged records—most notably 2004’s Tonite We Kiss. By 2010, 1956’s pace slowed, but they picked the production up a bit with scattered local shows in time for the 2012 digital record, The Cut-Up.
2. Animals In Human Attire
In early April 2014, one of the first articles Milwaukee Record ever published was a somewhat favorable review of Ourmegadawn, a full-length from Breadking Collective offshoot Animals In Human Attire. Roughly a year later, the spastic indie-rock sextuplet was playing a show billed as “Animals in human attire go on hiatus for awhile” at Yield. That pre-“hiatus” show turned out to be AIHA’s swan song, as Jack Tell is focusing on music education and his solo material, Myles Coyne is keeping busy with his own project and Ladders, and Charlie Celenza is drumming with Soul Low and Conundrum. Meanwhile, Yield is becoming a ramen place.
In May 2015, Appleseeds singer Fly Steffens embarked on a journey that found her hiking part of the Appalachian Trail and spending time in New York and Massachusetts before regrouping in Stevens Point, then biking to Washington D.C.—where she staged a play she wrote. Prior to that six-month sojourn, Steffens and the rest of Appleseeds recorded Lungfish in a Bay View warehouse. Last November, the punk quartet’s record finally saw the light of day with nary a release show and barely even an announcement to mark its arrival. Sadly, Lungfish (which we called the seventh best Milwaukee album of 2016) will be Appleseeds’ last effort, as Steffens is now living in Arizona for grad school and another member is living in Chicago. The two remaining Seeds can be heard in Iron Pizza and Mercy Brown.
When The Response decided to have its last show back in 2012, the opener for that Cactus Club show was an obvious choice. Both The Response and Bosio were active and energetic standouts in the pop-punk populated and screamo-strewn Milwaukee music landscape in the early aughts. As it turns out, those who came to see The Response off also witnessed Bosio’s final show, too. Five years later, the band hasn’t returned to the stage. Guitarist Andy Silverman is currently playing with Sic Glitz and singer Jeff Meilander owns Redwall, a massive screen printing business in Oak Creek that’s capable of churning out up to 100,000 shirts daily…some of which are for local bands.
5. Calamity Janes And The Fratney Street Band
Six-piece Milwaukee bluegrass project Calamity Janes And The Fratney Street Band truly announced its presence in 2014 with its astounding and timeless debut, Easier, Better. Not long after that release, though, the Janes had member shake ups through relocation and other projects taking precedence. Predominate bandleader Krystal Kuehl kept new iterations of the band playing through early 2015, but her upcoming relocation to New Mexico officially spells an end to the act’s short-but-sweet stint in Milwaukee music.
After bursting onto the scene with the group’s outstanding and ahead-of-its-years debut EP in 2011, Canopies took its time meticulously crafting a follow-up and expanding its lineup into something that was capable of pulling off its futuristic synth-pop in a live setting. Finally, in late 2014, Maximize Your Faith came out, earning Canopies some favorable national attention, loads of local love, and a major uptick in shows (at least by Canopies’ standards). However, member relocation and other life changes that often come in one’s late 20s or early 30s halted the project once again, this time for good. We’ll always have those two glorious releases to remember them by.
7. The Championship
The Championship roared into existence in 2005 with Dance Casador!, a record former Milwaukeean and nationally-respected music writer Steven Hyden called one of the best to ever come out of the city. A couple more (nearly as good) efforts followed, until the indie-leaning folk project fronted by the golden-voiced Joe Crockett ventured into new territory in 2012 with the dour, downright sad High Feather. That record proved to be the line in the sand for The Championship, and Crockett stepped over it with a new batch of bleary songs the singer released last year under the name Rx Drugs. The project features other Championship ex-pats in its ranks as well, so it’s safe to say the break was clean and without drama. Though Crockett says a reunion show isn’t out of the question, he says The Championship won’t release any more material.
8. City Of Ghosts
After announcing its presence with The Calm In The Current at the tail end of 2013, local post-hardcore outfit City Of Ghosts took some time away from shows to break in new members, have existing members shift instruments, and to write/record its follow-up EP, PRISMS, which came out last March. However, last December, City Of Ghosts officially announced it was ending after five years together. Though the end was clearly indicated, a “possible farewell show” has been teased.
Technically, Highlonesome isn’t broken up, but the roots trio is breaking up. The band’s 10-plus-year run will end at Bremen Cafe on June 17 with Indonesian Junk and Jayke Orvis playing in support.
10. Juniper Tar
On Milwaukee Day in 2014, Decibully headlined a reunion show and Whips played one of its first true live outings in the city. In between those acts was Juniper Tar, which was making a rare return to the stage after singer-songwriter Jason Mohr moved out of state. Though it wasn’t billed as a final show at the time, it turned out to be, as the band hasn’t played together since that night. Local listeners may fondly recall the band’s Hotel Foster residency, the exceptional quasi-conceptual Since Before, and the band’s penchant for luring bands to town to play with them. Now Hotel Foster is gone, Milwaukee Day no longer has an official show, Juniper Tar is broken up, and we’re all getting older.
11. Kane Place Record Club
In the bands heyday, Kane Place Record Club was among the funkiest, most fun, and more popular young projects in Milwaukee. The group of youngsters who cut their teeth on the eponymous lower East Side street were known for energetic shows, crazy Bo Triplex-crafted bass lines, and the impressive “Sunshine” music video that informally upped the ante for Milwaukee-made visuals. The boisterous band quietly bowed out in 2015, with a concert that took place after an underwear bike ride. Triplex is now fronting his own Beautiful Band and playing with the likes of New Age Narcissism and Bo & Airo. Meanwhile, Nick Tovarek is making great electronic tunes with Dream Attics.
12. New Boyz Club
Last September, Johanna Rose (ex-Calamity Janes) and company’s New Boyz Club released a promising and rousing three-song EP called G l O r Y g L o R y. It was to be the first in a trilogy of EPs, but Rose’s extended trip to Europe as part of Nickel&Rose halted the project’s progress and, once back, realigned her focus to her newest endeavor. Fret not, Milwaukee! Though this project played its final show on April 13, Rose’s new project lives on, as does the work of members who play in Abby Jeanne, D’Amato, Gauss, Bo & Airo, The Grasping At Straws, the 500 projects Jay Anderson is involved with, and more.
13. No Future
Born in 2010, No Future boasted former members of Poison The Well, Since By Man, Decibully, Red Knife Lottery, Bosio, and Managra. Its pedigree came through in a big way on the local super group’s 2013 debut album, MMXXIII, which will go down as the only living proof this short-lived band ever existed to those who didn’t attend (or who don’t remember) the band’s maybe 10 shows. Unfortunately, No Future is a thing of the past.
14. Seven Costanza
For being a band named after a Seinfeld reference, Seven Costanza had a surprising amount of substance. The trio showed itself to be an ally of the city’s still budding comedy community by often sharing bills with comedians, and they recorded splits with occasionally goofy projects like Scrimshaw and Brat Sounds. Still, (most of) the bleary garage rock band’s material was earnest and well-thought. The release of Majority Pork in February also came with the unexpected announcement the album was put out posthumously. Here’s to hoping the members have serenity now.
15. The Sleepwalkers
After relocating from the Fox Cities in 2013, The Sleepwalkers made their mark in their adopted new home with 2014’s great Lost My Mind In Stereo. As that was happening, two Walkers were also playing with The Midwestern Charm, which wound up changing its name to Bad Wig and eventually taking top priority. Sleepwalkers released two digital songs in 2015, but an amicable split was nigh. Bad Wig is still doing its thing and Sleepwalkers frontman Ian Olvera plays solo throughout the state.
16. Ugly Brothers
Finally, our run of eulogies ends with one of the most surprising and easily the most recent end to a project. Ugly Brothers came into consciousness in 2013 after brothers Alex and Palmer Shah recruited a full band to fill out its songs. With a blend of classical training, raw talent, and youthful exuberance, Ugly Brothers were a festival fixture in 2014 and 2015, and they released a self-titled debut EP.
While the band took its time to finish up its first full-fledged album, member interest started to venture to other projects Brothers were involved in, including Abby Jeanne, D’Amato, Migo, Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. By the time the long-awaited 16 Tiny Mountains was ready to be released last August, the writing seemed to be on the wall for the Riverwest folkers. The release show was virtually its last show as well. Though the band came and ended quickly, they left behind some pretty songs.