Last year’s inaugural Arte Para Todos—or “art for everyone”—set loose approximately 80 Milwaukee bands and artists in 15 venues across three neighborhoods over the course of three nights, ultimately raising $21,165 for three local schools’ art programs. This year was even more ambitious—100-some bands, 25 venues, five neighborhoods, and four days. Covering such a massive event with only three writers might seem crazy, but we gave it a go anyway, taking in as much as we could from one of Milwaukee’s best new festivals.


• For the second year in a row, Arte Para Todos is all about Milwaukee music, Milwaukee art, and giving back to Milwaukee schools. But news of Prince’s death Thursday afternoon hangs over opening night—and hell, the entire weekend—like a purple veil. Happily, it makes for some memorable performances. Marielle Allschwang and company open their set at Brenner Brewing with their forlorn “Prince Uncovered” version of “7.” From there, Allschwang’s all-encompassing voice fills Brenner’s echo-y loading dock/tasting room like an otherworldly sigh moving through a haunted house. [Matt Wild]

• While the city waits for Mark Waldoch to put together another band or album, his sporadic live appearances are still consistently memorable. To close out his brief set at Var Gallery on Thursday, he first brings the ladies of Ruth B8r Ginsburg (who have performed just prior) back onstage to sing an old Staple Singers nugget, “Low Is The Way,” while he plays guitar, and it is almost eerily evocative of the original version. Then, Waldoch reprises his “Prince Uncovered” performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” alone on harmonium for a riveting, dare-we-say Waldochian tribute to the fallen icon. [Cal Roach]

• Following Allschwang’s hushed and emotional set—drawing from last year’s gorgeous Dead Not DoneFox Face proceeds to blow the roof off the joint. Actually, there’s considerable hubbub surrounding the closing of the garage door as Fox Face blasts into its stomping, buzz-saw punk rock. What we assume is a peeved neighbor is politely arguing with Brenner’s staff, trying to get someone to close that damn door, and showing anyone who cares to look a decibel app he has on his phone. By the time he gets his way, Fox Face is done anyway. [MW]


• The cavernous Anodyne roastery on Bruce St. is the final destination for the night, and a sizable crowd gradually trickles in while Def Harmonic performs. The beats are appropriately warehouse-worthy and somewhat more modern in style than the duo’s old-school melody/rap/spoken-word hybrid, making for an engaging party/coffee-shop vibe. [CR]

• While Lex Allen would be the most natural choice to cover a Prince song, his particular tribute is his wardrobe, a similarly skimpy, virtually legless ensemble to the one Prince wore for his first television appearance back in 1980. Allen gets through one song before the P.A. fails, which barely fazes backing band No Name Noise; the group soldiers on with an impromptu jam sans keyboards while staff quickly works out the technical issues. Allen’s magnetism is equal parts showbiz star power and aw-shucks humility, and the lively crowd eats up his every word. Lorde Fredd33 makes a guest appearance (and ad hoc coffee endorsement) for Allen’s latest track, the infectious “Cream And Sugar,” and after a couple more songs, Allen leaves the stage for the band to complete the set with an intense, post-rock cacophony. [CR]


• It’s hard to overstate just how good Soul Low is, and just how lively and charmingly unhinged the band is live. Opening with “Always Watchin’ Out,” the Thursday night headliner gives the crowd exactly what it wants, and more. Saxophone player Sean Hirthe is indispensable as always, and drummer Charlie Celenza finds himself on the receiving end of a crack about being the one member of the band who didn’t attend Milwaukee Public Schools. Sorry, Mukwonago. [MW]


• After Cat Ries (performing as Pleasure Thief) overcomes some early technical issues to turn in a short-but-sweet set at Boone & Crockett, Adebisi Agoro (a.k.a. BLAX) takes the presently patio-less cocktail lounge’s quaint indoor stage and implores the crowd to clap along as he starts things off with an a capalla version of a Fresh Cut Collective song (the project he used to front) before freestyling and sending his set home with tracks off two volumes of his Headphone Experiment project. Devil Met Contention chases BLAX will some haunting folk ditties to put the first of many shows on Arte’s Bay View leg into the books. [Tyler Maas]


• Is it possible that the weirdo-funk of Scrimshaw has gotten even weirder (and funkier) in recent months? Yep! Altos member Jen Schattschneider-Roach gives the band’s whacked-out songs about butter, lotion, and the end of the world a low-end, baritone sax workout as they delight a beaming crowd at Frank’s Power Plant. Prior to Scrimshaw, Abby Jeanne Rebel Love closes her set with a haunted and paranoid song about the C.I.A. and nefarious government plans. We sense a strange theme here. [MW]

Meanwhile, the utterly stacked Club Garibaldi bill starts with Old Earth, one of the few non-Milwaukee acts on the bill and a last-minute addition to the lineup. Unfortunately, a family funeral brought the moving experimental project’s mastermind Todd Umhoefer back from California. A respectably sized crowd turns out early to see the unannounced opener unveil new material and close out his performance with “a low place at The Old Place,” which he dedicates to his recently departed uncle. SIN BAD chases the heaviness with “Anxiety” and other fun, sloppy ’90s-era pop-punk standards before giving way to the dyspeptic circus that is New Boyz Club, who play a rousing set (Johanna Rose’s second of what, by our count, would be 5,000 shows over the weekend). From there, all 16 Group Of The Altos members test the sturdiness of Club G’s stage as the small army bestows true-to-album renditions of “News From Wino” and “Forgiveness Rules” on a crowd that is quickly growing in both size and intensity. [TM]


• Holy shit, Bo Triplex And His Beautiful Band are bringing their gonzo-funk A-game to the Cactus Club. “I’m gonna make sure EVERYBODY gets down!” Triplex calls to a crowd that is indeed getting down. This is the most unhinged dancing we’ve seen at Arte Para Todos yet, and with everyone from WebsterX and Jay Anderson to Klassik and Lex Allen milling through the room, it feels like the beginning of the fest’s biggest parties. [MW]

• Representatives of New Age Narcissism have landed showcase slots every night of the festival, and with good reason: the genre-defying collective brings music fans out and keeps them dancing until bar time. Friday’s headlining slot at Club Garibaldi is no exception. The show features a revolving door of vocalists: Lex Allen reprises a couple of tunes from his set the previous night, while Lorde Fredd33 has his first opportunity to take the reins for a couple tracks off his excellent new release Dead Man’s View. Siren, one of the city’s most buzzed-about singers of the past year despite only having released a handful of tracks on Soundcloud, performs the as-yet unreleased “Priestess,” and half the crowd seems to know the words anyway. [CR]


• Outside Cactus Club, Arte Para Todos co-organizer Johanna Rose regales us with a story of squirrels in her attic. As if on cue, D’Amato shows up out of nowhere and does the best squirrel impression we’ve ever heard. [MW]

• Inside Cactus Club, Tigernite is awesome as always. We’re puzzled to see bassist Eric Arsnow looking on excitedly and snapping photos as the band’s (apparent) new bass player joins the incomparable Molly Roberts and company through an energetic performance largely populated with material from the band’s great 2015 debut album. By show’s end Roberts’ face is splattered with blue paint and everyone within Cactus’ confines is happy. [TM]

• Though the NAN clan has put out some notable recordings, they’re staking their reputation largely on their live performances, and it’s paying off so far. WebsterX has released two of the best singles the city has produced over the past couple of years, and his reputation extends well beyond the confines of the Brew City. Yet to witness the rapid evolution of his style you’ve got to get out to the shows. Projecting from a mostly darkened stage, Webster and the band channel the edgy darkness of dälek but with a heightened, over-the-top physical energy. Siren returns for a triumphant “Doomsday” collaboration, capping a full night of straight-through powerhouse performances. [CR]


• After a tardy start caused by the two wild nights that preceded, we arrive late to Best Friendz (missing The Rashita Jonses and Queen Tut in the process), but manage to weave our way through the massive 5 p.m. crowd to catch the majority of The Fatty Acids‘ set. With festival founder and co-organizer Josh Evert at the helm, The Fatties’ first show of the year is rife with new material and includes now-classics like “Airsick” and set closer “Flamingo Graveyward.” [TM]

• Just a few miles away, less than an hour after The Fatty Acids played it, Jack Tell is playing his cover of “Flamingo Graveyard” before a tiny dinner-hour turnout at Linneman’s. The set also includes his finger-tapping introduction “My Name Is Jack,” and a song, evidently, about watching Space Jam with his brother. We stay for the start of Rhythm Changes, but a Riverwest Burger at Tracks is calling. After all, we have a lot of shows ahead of us. [TM]

• Things get rolling late at Jazz Gallery, where we find de facto festival mascot Dad (clad in a gorilla suit) waiting impatiently outside for Von Alexander‘s set to start. The proceedings actually begin with a couple of unannounced performers: Renz Young, followed by D. Bridge, both very much on the Milwaukee-centric tip and showing promise in terms of MC skills. Alexander takes the stage next, slowly luring the crowd out of its shell over the course of 15 minutes or so as best he can given the rudimentary setup. The charismatic rapper works over some glitchy, minimal beats and manages to bring the energy level up considerably. [CR]

• Closing things out at the Jazz Gallery is Gauss, a band that has morphed into something slightly different and more interesting with each performance. The post-rock atmospherics of the group’s early stuff have all but vanished as it has added keyboards, violin, and trumpet to the mix, but the core energy of the music remains rooted in the rapid-fire drumming of Andy Grygiel and singer/guitarist Eddie Chapman’s math-y, emotive songs. Call it prog-post-punk, perhaps; whatever it is, Gauss plays it with life-affirming intensity and amazing precision given the sometimes dizzying dynamic shifts and blistering tempos. [CR]

• Over at Riverwest Public House, Gallery Night unleashes its brash and blistering rock and roll construct before a crowd that’s half into it and, just as the band wanted, half confused that there’s no art gallery event happening. Kelsey Kaufmann bludgeons her drums and Jim McCann punctuates the energetic outing by throwing his guitar down on the stage as the last note rings out. Rapper/drummer (sometimes at the same time) Airo Kwil has a tough act to follow, but does so marvelously with backing band in tow. During “Tangerine Tint,” two people dressed in ape costumes dance around erratically, literally going ape shit. Zed Kenzo follows, somehow winning even more Milwaukeeans over with her next-level sound nobody in town can quite replicate (though many would like to). As Zed’s set draws to a close, Jaill begins loading in. God, we want to stay, but the crescendo of shows happening on this, Arte’s biggest and craziest night, make us ultimately head to Center Street, where shows are closer together. [TM]


Mortgage Freeman has kept a somewhat low profile lately, but the band’s opening set at Mad Planet suggests it hasn’t been dormant by any means. The unabashed prog-rockers defy the typical image of humorless wankery associated with the genre, exuding more of a theatric, rollicking style that incorporates a ton of danceable grooves. The band is in top form for a set highlighted by a new song penned by vocalist Treccy Marquardt-Thomas that incorporates some funk/R&B elements into the band’s already expansive musical palette. [CR]

Company Brewing is Saturday’s top destination, as it has quickly become Riverwest’s premier venue since supplanting the less enticing Stonefly a little over a year ago. Painted Caves have grown into a louder, more brazen act over time while still maintaining a distinctly Middle Eastern sound, but there is an unusual belligerence to this performance, if flute-heavy music can possibly be belligerent. While Arte Para Todos isn’t an overtly political festival, Caves frontman Ali Lubbad doesn’t hold back his disdain for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, though his offer to “touch his bald spot and suck his dick” goes unheeded despite its…healing potential? Banter aside, this is a typically powerful, benevolent set of music. [CR]


• Back at Mad Planet, Klassik, a man with bona fide hits, doesn’t play up his FM success for the packed house, going instead with a more experimental, drone-y approach. Fans expecting an upbeat dance party may be slightly disappointed, but it doesn’t show; the crowd receives everything with rapturous applause and grooves along with the moody, minimalist side of Klassik. Another “Prince Uncovered” alumnus, he ends his set with a superb rendition of “The Beautiful Ones,” making one wonder, as usual, whether rapping or singing is his stronger suit. [CR]

Club Timbuktu seems to be the neighborhood’s unsung bright spot; the sound is usually great, the atmosphere is terrific, and while it may not have the best beer selection, the service is always top-notch. The one-two punch of Midnight Reruns and Lorde Fredd33 to close out Saturday night here is easily one of the best parts of the whole weekend. What hasn’t already been said about the Reruns? They’re simply one of the great straight-up American rock bands in operation today, and they’re already cranking out terrific new tunes, hot on the heels of last year’s celebrated Force Of Nurture album. [CR]


• The third performance of the weekend for No Name Noise may be the most powerful one, as the band achieves an almost metallic dark energy to jive with the aggressive but also meditative energy of Fredd33. This is not good-time hip-hop; it’s gritty, but also spiritual and communal, and the crowd is consumed in the ritualistic chants and movements of one of the city’s truly unique MCs. He sticks mainly to newer material, but the closing cautionary dirge “MWME” (from last year’s 33: The Education) is a mind-blowing combination of hypnotic vocals and instrumental prowess. It’s nearly impossible to single out any one member of this collective as the standout musician, or to pin down their style, and with Fredd33 at the helm, they are an unstoppable force. [CR]

• Swayed by easily 10 people over the course of the day telling us his full-band show can’t be missed, we decide we, well, can’t miss D’Amato at Company Brewing. Complete with background singers, a horn section, and (get this!) Johanna Rose playing upright bass, D’Amato blends rap, pop, rock and roll, spoken word, and sheer spectacle into one undeniable package. Despite veering all over the place, nothing seems out of place. At one point, the bandleader climbs on a Company Brewing booth (with people seated) and finishes off a bar with “Get your hand off my dick, I’m gonna fuck you with my poetry” that prompts an audience eruption that is topped minutes later when he ends his set by busting out a wicked guitar solo while wearing only his underwear. With the wealth of other great shows happening at the same time, it’s safe to say D’Amato’s set could be missed, but we’re happy with didn’t skip it. [TM]


• Befitting the final day of a four-day fest, things are getting off to a slow start. The show at Yield doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to begin, and AR Wesley ends up not playing his opening slot at BBC due to some missing tracks. No matter: The Hotel Foster is packing up nicely by the time Ugly Brothers take the stage. Like many bands on tonight’s East Side ticket, Ugly Brothers is a well-liked and ever-busy band that’s still somehow underrated. Playful songwriting, a knack for melody, and terrific vocals from Alex Shah are just some of the pleasures of this Riverwest mainstay. [MW]

• Over at BBC, Grasping At Straws open with a few new songs that could almost pass for Scarring Party material. Both bands share a penchant for twilight folk and bluegrass, though the Straws are of course the more naturalistic of the two. Later, after the set, we play an increasingly ridiculous game of “Would you rather?” with bassist (and Milwaukee Record contributor) Maggie Iken and friends. Would you rather reference “cream city brick” every time you talk about Milwaukee, OR pretend that you invented the color copier? A question for our times. [MW]

• Back at Foster and goddamn it, Piles are great. The band plays “Blue Glue,” a.k.a. the unofficial theme song to our weekly podcast, early in the set, and drummer Drew Gricar isn’t wearing a shirt. This is noisy-but-melodic, sticky-but-sweet rock and roll at its finest. [MW]

• “Give it up for Arte Para Todos!” says the incomparable Jay Anderson, who has played approximately 8,000 shows this weekend and hasn’t removed his Game Of Thrones-style fur coat and antlers ensemble the entire time. He’s now playing with the fest’s closing act, Foreign Goods, and the positive vibe at Foster couldn’t be any more positive. Have we mentioned how gloriously overpacked and how incredibly well-run Arte Para Todos has been? We have now. Give it up, indeed. [MW]