In its first three years, Arte Para Todos raised approximately $60,000 for Milwaukee school art programs through the selfless efforts of musicians and visual artists bringing their talents to dozens of local bars, venues, and galleries. Thankfully, the city’s most eclectic and ambitious benefit returned April 26-29 for a fourth year with oodles of entertainment scattered throughout Walker’s Point, Bay View, Riverwest, Harambee, and the East Side. As always, all proceeds were donated to Milwaukee school art programs. Also following the pattern of the first three installments, it was awesome.

Though it was impossible to catch it all, we gave it a shot. There was no shortage memorable moments, but here are some of our favorites from Arte Para Todos 2018.

THURSDAY: WALKER’S POINT

• No two adoptahighway shows are ever remotely the same. Barry Clark prefaces his Thursday evening set at Var Gallery by encouraging people to check out the venue’s yearly 30×30 exhibit while he plays, also noting that the proceeds from this festival are “a drop in the bucket of what’s really needed.” His bass-heavy set ranges from thick, multi-layered melodic soups reminiscent of Black Eagle Child, to goth-y, driving electronica in a somewhat John Carpenter-ish vein, each improvised movement flowing naturally into the next. [Cal Roach]

• Arte’s opening night also functions as the opening night for The Cooperage. The highly anticipated performance space affiliated with the newly relocated Boone & Crockett is christened by owner John Revord, who welcomes Match Stick to the stage for the first performance at “The Coop.” The experimental jazz combo live up to the special moment with Nick Lang’s airtight percussion and Mitch Shiner’s vibraphone prowess. We’re excited to see many, many more bands here. [Tyler Maas]

• Var proves to be the perfect atmosphere for Hello Death; the brightly-lit, art-laden walls temper the darkness of the group’s songs, highlighting the empathy and soul underlying their sometimes morbid imagery. While the quartet is preparing to release a long-awaited new album in June, they play a crowd-pleasing mixture of old and new songs, and we’re struck by the timeless quality of songs like “Settlers” and “Good Luck,” particularly without percussion in this intimate setting. [CR]

• “Where the Bucks at?” asks Sex Scenes bassist Connor LaMue, moments after the group finishes up a blistering, abbreviated set at The Local (a.k.a. Club Anything). All five of the club’s TVs are tuned to the game, which makes for an interesting counterpoint to the venue’s usual goth-industrial vibe. Oh, and the Bucks win! [Matt Wild]

• Has it really been nearly two years since the last Crappy Dracula—er, we’re sorry, Crappy Dracula 2 performance? It has, though the eternal joke-rock trio is the same as it ever was. Per usual, improvised banter and “crowd work” dominate the performance, with frontman Justin Kern pondering the smell of boogers, bassist Dug Belan doing extended imitations of a “scene guy,” and everyone lashing out at the “local music press.” “You guys have been on our ass for two years!” Kern yells. “Enough’s enough!” A new song, “Cool At Sex,” is followed up 20 minutes later with another new song, “Intro To ‘Cool At Sex.'” [MW]

• After taking in the end of the Bucks win at nearby Fuel Cafe, we venture over to Gibraltar in time to catch most of ¡paLABra!‘s set. The Latin-influenced quartet featuring the likes of Quinten Farr and Allen Coté breathes new life into traditional material and gets a respectable weeknight crowd in the new venue moving with “Mombo #8.” Showcasing the festival’s sonic diversity, Cairns follows and turns in an impressive outing with instrumental loops and flute combining with John Larkin’s restrained vocals and delicate strumming on songs that remind us how good the band’s new Cluttered Sky is. Fresh off their trip to SXSW, Dramatic Lovers close out the show with one of their final performances before focusing on recording. We enjoy the livelier direction new material is taking and can’t wait for the full-length. [TM]

• The tiny Anodyne crowd is a gentle reminder of how much talent the festival packs into countless Milwaukee venues. Though the audience is small, they come ready to experience two of Milwaukee’s fiercest female performers. Siren sings her heart out while wearing a vintage The Rock shirt (and jokes how she only wears two shirts to her shows). Midway through her set, she brings out an acoustic guitar and performs a heart-wrenching, stripped-down version of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” She follows up the cover with her signature “Priestess,” and we feel very fortunate to be catching her unplugged. Her vocal chops need no assistance, and the opportunity to catch the songstress in such a minimal setting is rare these days. She manages to slip a wonderful pun into her set: “Let me tell you about geology. It rocks!” [Lauren Keene]

• Back at The Local, Ravi/Lola serves up a surprisingly muscular set—a more ragged, harder take on Casey Seymour’s usual wide-eyed psychedelia. In a nice aw-shucks moment, Seymour dedicates a song about tireless Milwaukee historian John Gurda to none other than us. [MW]

• If anybody can keep a Thursday night Anodyne crowd on its feet to the very end of the night, it’s Zed Kenzo. The enigmatic rapper eschews fancy costumes and props for a tight, energetic set, highlighting her own homemade beats (served up by Q The Sun) and leaves us all hungering for that promised debut album that’s sure to arrive any minute now. There’s no better MC operating in Milwaukee right now [CR]

FRIDAY: BAY VIEW

• Despite the rainy conditions, Bay View is alive with activity on Friday night. Urban is packed to the gills with folks eager for the mishmash of musicians on the docket at the neighborhood bar. Even down its drummer, Paladino keeps the hoard of show-goers in high spirits with affable and upbeat material that offsets the unsavory conditions outside. They’re followed by Hello, Face, a new project featuring former members of Carolina and The Championship. It’s only their second show, but they seem far more experienced as they plow through an energetic batch of indie rock offerings and leave much of Urban smiling as they leave the early show on their way to the next stop. [TM]

• As folks start to trickle into Frank’s Power Plant, local rapper J-Lamo starts the evening’s festivities, assisted by Bo Triplex, both sporting Lincoln Center of the Arts sweatshirts. A guest appearance by Smokey Jonez takes the set to a—ahem—higher level, the two MCs playing off each other in impressive fashion. There’s nothing groundbreaking going on here, but this is a perfect start to the Friday night party. [CR]

• There’s plenty of Brewers hats and fun to go around when Future Plans take the stage at Frank’s. The growing crowd is already pretty well-warmed from J-Lamo’s opening set, and Future Plans keep things moving nicely with a great set of pop-punk fun. Dwellephant’s live art show for the evening is cancelled due to illness, and we hope he gets well soon. [Josh Hoppert]

• A stacked Cactus Club lineup kicks off with Immortal Girlfriend, whose deep, retro synth-pop sound never seems to go out of style for long. Singer William Bush taps into the lingering tension of a particularly hectic week of social media drama: “It’s Friday, you’re alive…It’s America, it’s kind of fucked up, but…we got dragon energy, you got dragon energy…” The crowd erupts in a weird acknowledgement of the absurdity of it all, and the ice is officially broken. Now it’s time to dance. [CR]

• Following up on his solid support of J-Lamo’s opening set, Bo Triplex returns to the stage for the 10 p.m. Bo & Airo set at Frank’s. The reaction from the transfixed crowd reminds us of the crowd at last year’s Zed Kenzo set. Everyone in the room is dancing (or at least nodding real hard) along to the duo’s rhymes and stellar bass-drum combo. A seriously funky and fun set—complete with a quick jaunt into Lil Wayne’s catalog—turns more than a couple Frank’s patrons into full-blown Bo & Airo fans. Following the set, we overhear one fellow say to his crew, “I did not expect to see anything like that here tonight.” [JH]

Tonic Tavern tends to be a tough stage to command, but former unofficial Arte Para Todos mascot Dad has no trouble drawing the crowd into his set. Recently returned from an epic cross-country road trip, Dad blesses the crowd with his latest joint, “Treehuggin,” displaying his celebrated gift for double-entendre. We also relish a rare opportunity to catch a guest appearance by Chakara Blu, who lights up the stage as always. [CR]

• Best-dressed award of the night goes to Mortgage Freeman, who dazzle the Tonic crowd with a bunch of new tunes from a someday-soon-to-be-forthcoming album. They also treat us to a slowed-down version of their 2012 breakout track, “San Antoine”—dubbed “Slow Antoine”—which serves to showcase how much the band’s sound has evolved in six years, from quirky indie-pop to full-blown Jim Steinman-inspired theatric rock. As usual, their performance makes most rock bands look lazy by comparison. [CR]

Marielle Allschwang‘s set at Club Garibaldi is canceled due to illness (get well soon!), but we do catch a few minutes from rapper Taiyamo Denku. “Stand back motherfuckers, Taiyamo is here!” bellows Denku. “Back the fuck up! Back the fuck up!” bellows the crowd. Also: Reggie Baylor sighting! [MW]

• As expected, the room is packed for Space Raft‘s headlining set at Frank’s. The crowd is borderline rowdy at this point, but frontman Jordan Davis requests everyone step up to the stage anyway. A solid no-nonsense rock-and-roll set thrills the crowded room, but some chatter about pot bagels keeps things light and fun. [JH]

• Lots of bands have two guitarists. Rarely do they each have their own distinctive styles and tones that also blend perfectly together. More rarely still do their songwriting styles mesh as well as Alisa Rodriguez’s and Graham Hunt’s. These observations culminate in the instrumental bridge of “Service Industry” during Sundial Mottos‘ headlining slot at Puddler’s Hall, a musical passage that feels less like a composition than a state of mind. We can only hope that we’re still witnessing the early stages of this (dare we say it) Milwaukee supergroup. [CR]

Klassik introduces the world to his new band, The Student Body, which includes SistaStrings, to close out the night at Club Garibaldi. Having participated in groups like Foreign Goods and Group Of The Altos, Klassik clearly knows his way around a first-class ensemble; the group plays like a veteran combo despite only a handful of previous rehearsals. The set climaxes with a majestic new song called “Basilica Sunset” and a wide-ranging jam within its loose confines. If this is the type of thing we can anticipate from Klassik’s long-awaited follow-up to Seasons, it will definitely be worth the wait. [CR]

• We go into For The Culture‘s set at Cactus Club with little knowledge of the band outside of the fact that it’s led by Quinten Farr—and that’s good enough for us. What is this show going to be? Pretty incredible, as it turns out. FTC’s blend of rock and soul makes for a striking but very danceable set. Yasmeena‘s vocals on the group’s debut single, “Cycles,” leave us damn near speechless. A front-row heckler by the name of B-Free (aka Britney Freeman-Farr) keeps Farr on his toes late in the set. [JH]

SATURDAY: RIVERWEST/HARAMBEE

• Relative unknown singer/songwriter Kyle John Kenowski takes the stage at Lux on Saturday afternoon and ensures he won’t be unknown for long. Imagine, if you can, Tiny Tim, only really good; lyrics and singing that are both childlike and astute, raw and delicate, and inventive guitar playing to go along with them. He has the assembled crowd hanging on his every turn of phrase and melody—and the same could be said of Amanda Huff, who follows Kenowski with her own stripped-down, breathtaking performance. Her voice is like six separate instruments; one can imagine musicians and producers from across pop, jazz, rock, R&B, Broadway, and virtually any other genre hearing an aspect of her singing as ripe for their own style, but it would be criminal to put stylistic limitations on a singer with such a diverse and dynamic range of expression. [CR]

• By the time Yum Yum Cult takes the stage at Lux, there’s a healthy haze of hookah smoke permeating the room, and some modest day-drinking results in at least one couple getting up to dance to the trio’s ramshackle rock. For anyone who has been missing frontman Palmer Shah’s Ugly Brothers songwriting style, this set offers a very welcome dose, only without all the pesky acoustic instruments and harmony vocals. It’s far from polished, being only the band’s second gig, but the songs and energy are incredibly promising. [CR]

• As the festivities move from Harambee to Riverwest, yours truly help pass the time between shows with our second annual Broken Up Band Bazaar. Dozens of people and a handful of vendors congregate at Black Husky Brewery to browse and buy records, shirts, and other goodies from Milwaukee music’s not-so-distant past. Thanks to the generosity of those who came out, as well as defunct bands, the Bazaar raises $150 for the cause! [TM]

• The scene at 4th Quarter on Saturday afternoon is an interesting one: Harleys line the street out front as dozens of riders fill the Harambee bar and grill, most likely not expecting their meals to be soundtracked by the noisy, feedback-drenched sonics of Nastos. Still, the atmosphere is relaxed; not even patrons packed into the back room near the band seemed perturbed, and reports from later on in the day suggest that the psych grooves of Slow Walker end up winning over some of the unsuspecting diners. [CR]

Caley Conway had been operating primarily on her own since the 2016 dissolution of her backing group The Lucy Cukes, but she brings a full band for her performance at Jazz Gallery, and the electric ensemble proves to be a powerful conveyance for her new material. Fellow scene veteran Mark Waldoch similarly refuses to rely on his storied back catalog, performing solo with a range of gadgetry and his trademark clanging guitars, including a brand new song to end his set. He also passes out French gum that tastes like strawberries and potpourri, and insists that he’s only there because his sister is a teacher—but we know better. [CR]

 

• We scarf down a burrito from that taco truck outside High Dive and get to Linneman’s just in time to hear Sat. Nite Duets‘ perform “All Night Long 2,” a sequel to, well, “All Night Long.” Paper Holland takes the stage next—and it’s apparently a little warm up there. “Is it possible to get these lights down?” asks frontman Joe Tomcheck, who’s decked out in a red, Michael Jackson-esque jacket. “It’s very hot and I’m committed to this jacket.” As always, the band—and Linneman’s—sounds great. [MW]

Shle Berry has come a long way in a year. Her intimate Var Gallery set at last year’s festival certainly turned some heads; this year, she has a packed dance floor at Mad Planet bouncing and chanting along to her infectious tunes, and her set ends up being one of the most buzzed-about performances of the weekend. Her song “Blueberries” seemed like a bubblegum trifle a year ago, but it has obviously become a bona fide anthem, and her performance projects genuine Milwaukee pride and a defiant goodwill all her own. [CR]

• It’s impossible to keep track of all of Jay Anderson‘s many musical projects, but rarely has he ventured to let his singing voice loose like he does during the debut performance of The Voodoohoney Horns. Anderson’s charisma as a performer has always been just as key to his success as his sax playing, and he’s letting it all hang out tonight, personally luring Company Brewing patrons off their stools and onto the dance floor while the band plays loose, New Orleans-style bawdy jazz onstage. Anderson’s winter-long Louisiana sojourn has injected a woozy new direction into his multifaceted musical empire. [CR]

• WebsterX, Queen Tut, Zed Kenzo, Abby Jeanne, Siren, and more are hanging out outside Riverwest Public House. ‘Nuff said. [MW]

• “It’s been a long time since we played rock and roll together,” says Jaill frontman Vincent Kircher. No kidding. The Public House is packed for the group’s ultra-rare set, and it feels so good to hear a full-band Jaill again. We love Arte’s 20-minutes-or-so set times, but we wish an exception could be made here. [MW]

• Headlining the Riverwest Public House lineup on Saturday night, Queen Tut reminds the room that she’s still the Queen of Milwaukee. Supported by Q The Sun, she attacks the mic and gets everyone moving. She delves into everything from socioeconomic issues to her thoughts on Kanye. She badly wants to discuss the new Avengers flick, but holds back so as not to drop spoilers. Much appreciated, QT. [JH]

• Back at Linneman’s, Wavy V charms the crowd with its sunny, breezy, Beach Boys-esque pop. This is the kind of band that has not one, but two flute players. Singer Riles Walsh gives a shout-out to a grade school music teacher, reminding everyone of what this weekend is all about. [MW]

• The always-groovy Club Timbuktu is especially grooving on Saturday night. The four-band bill includes some of Milwaukee’s finest, including headliner Fox Face. The witchy four-piece recently returned from a European tour, and the band performs an energetic set that makes us feel glad they’re home safe. Timbuktu is Cover City on Saturday: Iron Pizza performs a synth-driven rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and Fox Face performs a rock ‘n’ roll cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” The rock shows are quickly transformed into sing-along dance parties as the bands show their versatility. [LK]

• Mad Planet continues to be the feelgood party of the weekend as Abby Jeanne takes the stage. We can’t help remembering her subdued, minimalist performance, acting as her own DJ at Company Brewing just two years ago; there was no hint of this boisterous, larger-than-life persona back then, and no other local singer/songwriter has evolved more strikingly in such a short span of time. Her voice, her songcraft, and her stage presence have all made her a star around these parts, and as she’s belting out “Be In The Sun,” it seems improbable that Milwaukee will be able to contain her for long. [CR]

SUNDAY: EAST SIDE

• The East Side day of Arte Para Todos is always a nice “comedown” day, but let’s take a minute to celebrate the sometimes-picked-on neighborhood, and recognize one of its many gems: The Jazz EstateDerek Pritzl and his band, The Gamble, win over the packed room with smooth, harmony-laden country (Pritzl: “Whaddya call it? Milwaukeetonk?”), while Pay The Devil serves up hootin’, hollerin’, and stompin’ songs about biking down North Avenue, among other things. [MW]

Devil Met Contention headlines the Jazz Estate show, and if you think you’ve seen Devil Met Contention before, think again. The band kills it with new songs that hew closer to David Bowie than the gothic southern rock of old. Out are the group’s matching suits; in is a new sound that suits them well. [MW]

• There’s an instrument-swap towards the end of Colors Of The Alphabet‘s funky set at Good City Brewing, prompting an interlude of knock-knock jokes. “You start,” drummer/keyboardist Preston Carr goads the audience. As we’d just heard this one yesterday from Palmer Shah at Lux, we’re proclaiming it the official knock-knock joke of Arte Para Todos. Sunday night’s crowd was significantly more appreciative, too. [CR]

• Does everyone remember D’Amato‘s climactic, nearly-naked headlining slot at Company Brewing the first year of this festival? Rather than attempt to outdo himself with spectacle, he takes the stage at Good City with only guitarist Rob Weiss backing him, for a set of soulful falsetto. His finale is Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” and as a rapt audience hangs on the song’s penultimate note, a flushing toilet breaks the dead silence. A slight, self-effacing flinch from the singer is all it takes and the crowd roars with laughter. When D’Amato composes himself a minute later to deliver that final note, he has given us yet another unforgettable Arte performance. [CR]

• Fresh off her triumphant MJ Uncovered extravaganza a couple weeks ago, B~Free plays it cool at Good City, performing with just husband Quinten Farr backing her on the keyboard. She does treat the audience to her cover of Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time,” a more traditional take than her recorded version, but just as compelling. [CR]

• A fitting finale, New Age Narcissm is one of the closers on Sunday night. Per usual, the massive collective brings only their A-game. The Back Room @ Colectivo is packed with kids, many of whom performed on the venue’s stage earlier in the evening. The NAN members are quick to acknowledge the young talent’s infectious energy, and they admit Milwaukee’s older generations will need to step up their game. “We can’t swear in front of all these kids!” yells Lord Fredd33 during his first performance. The track is an emotional tribute to his aunt, and we certainly feel the love. Speaking of love, we think Q The Sun may be the unspoken hero of NAN. He brings unconditional love to each set, hyping up the crowd before any of the musicians even step foot on the stage. WebsterX and Siren perform “Doomsday” and get the entire crowd dancing and singing along. NAN’s star power is undeniable; there’s a reason their sets consistently pack venues all across the city. We’re thankful Arte Para Todos exists; the festival serves as a reminder of the entire Milwaukee music scene’s star power. [LK]

• The festival ends with a rousing set by jazz fusion combo No Seatbelts. Singer Kyndal J. leads the band through the least conventional cover version of the night, a soulful “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that showcases the incredible talents of drummer Dee Cee; he takes the jam through dizzying twists and turns, almost daring the rest of the band to keep up. The group wasn’t scheduled to be the closing act of the festival, but it’s a properly celebratory end to an exhausting and exhilarating fourth year. [CR]

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