It’s now been just shy of 10 months since I last attended a live performance. Though there seems to be some encouraging vaccine-related developments, I know it’s still going to be quite a while before I can safely and responsibly go to a show again. While I’m staying hopeful and keeping as positive as I can, I have to admit that I sorely miss concerts, comedy shows, live podcasts, interactive movie screenings, and pretty much all other means of in-person entertainment.
Hey, livestreams are fun in their own way and are a worthwhile/necessary substitute during these [somber piano music intensifies] strange and uncertain times, but they simply cannot replicate the communal experience of witnessing a musician, humorist, speaker, or any other entertainer doing their thing in a venue in front of a group of people.
I miss the cheer that erupts when a headlining band or comic first steps on stage. I miss the opening acts busting their ass to make you remember their name after you leave the show, and maybe sell some merch in the process. I miss chatting with friends or nearby strangers between bands. I miss holding a plastic cup of beer between my teeth or in the crook of my elbow while I applaud after songs. I miss the excitement of show announcements, people’s armchair evaluations of festival lineups, and commenters begrudgingly deciding to see a performer they love at a place they don’t. I miss the close community of local shows, the sheer spectacle of arena concerts, and everything in between.
Lately, I’ve even realized that I miss the things I thought I hated about concerts. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to spend a night manually entering show details into our Calendar section! The present version of me would kick past me in the nuts for whining about four-band bills and “having” to cover two or three shows some weekends. As much as I don’t want to admit it, yes, I even miss…Milwaukee-specific stage banter.
Who knew that approximately 300 days after hearing a member of Minnesota-based math rock outfit Tiny Moving Parts talk shit about the Packers at a mid-March show at X-Ray Arcade, I would actually long for time-killing conversation that’s specifically tailored to Wisconsin audiences? Not me! Still, after a largely show-less year and in the first few days of what looks to be a concert-free 2021, I must acknowledge that I have honestly grown to miss local pandering, regional references, and other Milwaukee-specific banter. Here are some examples of the sort of stuff I’d gladly to hear again if it meant I could safely and responsibly be at a live event again.
The Bronze Fonz
Between Milwaukee’s indelible connection to Happy Days and the monument’s proximity to a few Downtown venues, The Bronze Fonz came up often during Milwaukee shows. Maybe it was a landmark a performer only heard about. Perhaps they managed to stop by before soundcheck. Either way, it was referenced a lot. But if I could see, like, Kathleen Madigan or Interpol do a tight three minutes on Milwaukee’s metallic Fonzie sometime soon, I’d say “AYYYY! Bring it on.”
Laverne & Shirley
The same goes for Milwaukee’s other famous sitcom. Laverne & Shirley often came up between songs or before a comic’s actually-prepared hour of material. Give me more of that in 2022 or whatever and I’ll be fine.
Mars Cheese Castle
As many of you know, sometimes Milwaukee comes directly after Chicago on an artist’s show itinerary. As such, bored bands in buses or comedians in rental cars driven by their feature act oftentimes travel past none other than the Mars Cheese Castle on their way to town. Sometimes they stop and experience its wonder. Most times, they see a big-ass castle and the word “cheese” together, then probably think “I’ll be the first person to tell this joke in Milwaukee. They’ll love it!” Of course, it rarely (if ever) works out. But bless folks like Charly Bliss, Demetri Martin, and 500 others for trying!
Cheese, Cheese Curds, Brats
Speaking of cheese…it’s pretty much the first and, in some cases, the only thing people know about Wisconsin (and, by extension, Milwaukee). Back in the “before times,” dairy was a safe and ironically unsavory reference for touring talent to make. Sometimes, people would try cheese curds before they took the stage, finding them to be either delicious or too decadent. Also, brats would be touched on far too often.
Green Bay Packers
If there’s somehow even lower hanging fruit than the state’s dietary staples, it might be its favorite football team. You’d be hard-pressed to see a musical act, comic, or podcaster in Milwaukee and NOT have them talk about the Green & Gold. Whether name-checking Aaron Rodgers or going as far to wear Packers apparel on stage, the team came up often. You can only imagine how bad this will be in late 2021 when large-scale shows return AND the Packers are a few months removed from winning the Super Bowl.
Making A Murderer
Remember Making A Murderer? If you recall, this Netflix series was about a terrible murder that happened in Wisconsin, which apparently was enough to encourage people to talk about it into a microphone while they were on stage in Milwaukee. To be clear, this was the most hack-y of hack bullshit people would do at live shows.
Just kidding! THIS is the most hack-y bullshit that people did in Milwaukee, and it happened quite often. Note to performers: Let’s make a pact not to do this anymore once shows resume. Cool?
IT’S COLD HERE SOMETIMES! It’s something we’re all aware of and something we’ve all learned to deal with. Do we really need Jackson Galaxy from My Cat From Hell to remind us our city can be unpleasant in wintertime?
Wayne’s World And/Or Alice Cooper
Watch this entire video and you still won’t hear “Mill-e-wah-que” as many times audiences have heard it at live events in Milwaukee through the years.
We Love To Drink
It’s sad, but true. And when a show is happening at a place called Pabst Theater, it’s bound to come up. Admittedly, drunken audience members wouldn’t do this oft-referenced Milwaukee trope any favors when screaming things at performers.
Isn’t this just the best thing to hear from people you’re paying $30 + ticket fees to watch? Between the cheese, brat, and drinking stereotypes, did we ever even stand a chance?
It’s Actually A Great Place
It’s always nice to hear a performer be earnestly won over by the underappreciated gem that is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Just before the pandemic hit, artists seemed to sing our city’s praises more often than ever. It became more common for people to talk about the great people, food, attractions, and venue staff that took them by surprise. I don’t know when it will get to happen in any sort of “real” way again, but I really look forward to more events, more good impressions and—why the hell not?—even more dumb Milwaukee-centric stage banter in the future.