In A-side/B-side, two Milwaukee Record writers tackle various city issues in an informal, crosstalk style. Insults are hurled, feelings are hurt, and everyone learns something in the end. Maybe.
Matt Wild: Winter is due to stick around for approximately 8,000 years, but that hasn’t stopped a few summertime announcements from sneaking out into the world over the last few weeks. Following news that Florida Georgia Line and Linkin Park would be among the 2015 Summerfest headliners (a Summerfest-y double-header if there ever was one), came yesterday’s announcement that Miller Park’s upcoming Postgame Concert Series—in which bands perform 30 minutes after a Brewers game, free of charge with the purchase of game-day ticket—will feature the likes of O.A.R., Joe Nichols, and Goo Goo Dolls. Which sounds about right.
I’m not going to bother asking you what you think of those particular acts, Tyler, because unless you’ve been keeping some deep, dark secrets from me, I’m guessing you’re not a huge Goo Goo Dolls fan. (Also: I have no idea who Joe Nichols is.) So my question is this: Is this Postgame Concert Series a missed opportunity on the Brewers part? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see some—gulp—local bands get a crack at performing at Miller Park? And more importantly, why is local music so underrepresented in local sports? Other than The Promise Ring’s “Emergency! Emergency!” popping up now and again during Brewers games, and Trapper Schoepp And The Shades singing the national anthem a few years ago, local music is virtually ignored in favor of that Gary Glitter song or whatever. Or am I wrong?
Tyler Maas: Uh, have you forgotten about the masterpiece “Sugar We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy, which boasts a staggering one-quarter Milwaukee affiliation? Just kidding. I absolutely agree with you. Beyond those two instances you referenced and the clap-inspiring acoustic guitar lick in Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun” (which is nowhere close to being Miller Park exclusive), the ballpark’s entertainment isn’t exactly home brewed. I actually wrote about this for Milwaukee Magazine way back in 2011. Though some of the player references and bands suggested in the post are a tad dated, the message holds up: there’s ample opportunity to subtly inject some in-state musical accompaniment into the stadium experience and, frankly, it seems like there’s a concerted effort to avoid doing so.
Beyond the occasional Pat McCurdy post-game Milwaukee Admirals concert—which, thankfully, is not being done this year for the first time in seemingly forever—and Warren Wiegratz’s Streetlife holding down that cushy Milwaukee Bucks “official band” position forever, the regional tone-deafness seems to extend to every other Wisconsin sports franchise as well. I mean, unless Todd “Bang The Drum All Day” Rundgren is from Wisconsin. (A small town in Pennsylvania, you say? What the fuck?) Hell, even the fictional Milwaukee Beers organization in BASEketball outsourced house band duties to Reel Big Fish! Meanwhile, the Twins play a team-specific “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies” by (arguably too) proud Minnesota ex-pat Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and The Baseball Project, the Boston Red Sox inject Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” into any crevice of between-innings airspace, and Drake was appointed the goddamn “Global Ambassador” by his hometown Toronto Raptors.
I’m not saying Christopher Porterfield should be given a front office position (yet), but as the leader of a project who just had an official Milwaukee proclamation declaring a day in his band’s honor, maybe he could be approached about singing the anthem for one of the 81 days the Brewers play at home. The love Volcano Choir and Phox are enjoying throughout the world these days should extend back home as well…or near the pitcher’s mound, whatever. Perhaps after 19-plus years in Milwaukee’s scene, Rusty P’s would be a better (and less expensive) fit for Bucks halftime entertainment than the ghosts of Vanilla Ice and Coolio. If Yo-Dot and Klassik could handle setting the stage for Ludacris this summer, maybe one could be trusted with 20 minutes in the middle of a Bucks-Kings game. Would the stage outside Miller Park crumble if a band played an original composition while standing atop it? Shit, if the Brewers are content rolling out two way past-prime bands coming off recent Summerfest appearances for these post-game shows, BoDeans would’ve been an obvious (and shockingly still relevant) choice.
Matt, why do you think professional sports organizations that are usually so willing to infuse other Wisconsin-specific amenities into the game experience with local beer and food, regional promotions, and donations to area charities are fine snubbing Milwaukee (or Wisconsin) music with “Everybody Clap Your Hands” and laughably outdated concerts? Do you think the powers at be just oblivious? Or does novelty trump quality and local relevance when it comes to getting/keeping butts in the seats? How can it be changed?
Matt: When it comes to contentious sports/music issues, I turn to the lone voice of reason in a world gone insane: Huey Lewis. In a story republished by Deadspin last year, the “Power Of Love” crooner lays out five surprisingly compelling reasons why pre-recorded music should be banned from all sporting events. Number three is especially relevant to our discussion:
Furthermore, live acoustic music isn’t just authentic entertainment, it’s a boon to the local culture. The San Francisco 49ers used to have an 18-piece jazz band on the sidelines, complete with a cable car bell ringer, to perform between plays. The 49ers, and their San Francisco baseball counterparts the Giants, used to hire a local Dixieland combo to roam the stands and play. […] Think of all the people employed by a sporting event on game day (dancers, parking attendants, jugglers, vendors, Frisbee dog trainers, food service people, acrobats)… why not hire a few musicians? […]
Why not indeed, Huey. (Happily, he doesn’t call for banning Pre-Recorded Music from Summerfest.) I of course understand they reasons why the Brewers, the Admirals, or the Bucks choose safe, State Fair-level acts for their post- or halftime entertainment (they’re the same reasons why the State Fair chooses safe, State Fair-level acts), though I can’t understand why they don’t involve more local acts in their pregame stuff. There are exceptions, of course—Vic And Gab played before last season’s fan appreciation night for the Bucks—but those seem to be more cases of band management pulling strings than team management reaching out.
How to fix this? If this is truly a case of obliviousness, why not contact a local musician—or a local music-focused website—for suggestions on worthwhile and appropriate local music that could be incorporated into the fan experience? Seems simple to me? Any ideas from you, Tyler?
Tyler: Beyond my previous suggestions and your thoughts about seeking input from others in the know, all I can suggest is for those who have a role in booking pre-, post-, and in-game entertainment and selecting songs for the stadium/arena’s mix is to at least keep an eye on what’s going on in Wisconsin music. In the same way scouts saw value in athletes with in-state ties such as Jim Gantner, Bill Schroeder, Jared Abbrederis, Vinny Rottino, Jon Leuer, and various others along the way, scouting Wisconsin artists can be a great way to find value in unexpected places that. Yeah, not all those worked out, but in the case of local music, everybody wins, there’s only upside and the possibility of coming together to set the stage for great things for years to come, opposed to overpaying to bring in washed up veterans whose best days are behind them just for the sake of selling a few extra tickets.