During its first five-plus years of existence, Get Rad was indisputably among the loudest, craziest, most intense, and least constrained bands in Milwaukee. Not long after the release of the great 2010 record I Can Always Live, though, a cocktail of factors such as distance, responsibility, shifted priorities, and a grab bag of other intangibles that can be succinctly filed under “life” rendered one of the city’s most brash and unapologetically abrasive acts suddenly silent. After a comparably quiet five years that found the hardcore quartet releasing just seven songs—compared to 66 songs between the years of 2005 and 2010—and playing but a few shows, Get Rad’s members will ask off work, find a babysitter, and fly back to Wisconsin, respectively, to play an all-too-rare outing at Dummerfest on Saturday. And, no, it’s not a reunion show.
The project that singer Kevin Herwig now calls “not a functioning band in all reality,” was a side band featuring Herwig, Brad Dunn (guitar), best friend Dave Rudnik (bass), and Brad’s best friend Ben Davidson (drums) that played its first show at 8th Note Coffeehouse in the UW-Milwaukee campus in the spring of 2005.
The formative years of Get Rad—whose name is a not-so-subtle nod to the 1986 cult classic BMX flick Rad—found the band spreading its love of pizza, an affinity for waterslides, and its “Say Fuck No To Rules” mantra with blistering, brief fastcore backing as well as an utterly energetic live show throughout basements and clubs from coast to coast. Meanwhile, Get Rad earned ample hometown attention from Milwaukee music fans, as well as plum opportunities to support noted national acts like Dillinger Four, Baroness, Converge, Strike Anywhere (twice), and Propagandhi (twice, once at the band’s request).
“For a band that we didn’t have any expectation for, to be able to do everything that we did was pretty amazing,” Rudnik says.
While the band was enjoying more opportunities and saw its notoriety swell in Midwestern hardcore circles, commitments and interests of individual members were growing and shifting. Rudnik became a father, Davidson accepted a job on an alternate shift than the rest of the band, and Dunn moved to New Orleans. The string of life-changing events left nine completed songs on the shelf (never to be recorded nor remembered again) and set Get Rad squarely on the back-burner of each member’s life.
“We talked about doing a last show or a send off show, but by the time we all realized what was going on, there was no time,” Rudnik says. “I don’t want to be in a band that keeps doing reunion shows. I’d rather stay in a band that’s still a band that just doesn’t do anything.”
Though shows are now few and far between and it’s safe to say there will never be another Get Rad record, the long-tenured band is able to look back fondly on the good, the bad, and the crazy experiences they shared. They almost died in a snowstorm while driving their $400 van from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play 45 minutes in Spokane, Washington. They went swimming anywhere they were allowed (and some places they weren’t, leading to run-ins with the cops). They harassed Toby Keith fans from the stage during their one (and almost certainly only) Summerfest appearance. And they loved every minute of the fun side project started by friends and brothers that became something serious and lasting.
“Somebody once referred to us as a joke band. I don’t think we’re a joke band,” Rudnik says. “I don’t think anything that you put that much time into could be a joke.”
Though members are left to mostly look back on the band’s past these days, Get Rad’s story is far from over. With a decade behind them, there are still more memories to be made, even if they happen with less frequency than they used to.
“At the end of the day you still know who your friends are,” Herwig says. “Whether you talk to them every day or once every five years, you still know who the good ones are.”