Even if you’ve only been to a few local concerts, you’ve surely seen her. Whether she was watching intently near the front of the stage, perched behind a table to sell a band’s merchandise or doling out compliments to musicians for a show well-played, Shea Frevele has been a quiet-but-welcome presence at countless local concerts through the years. While she (among others) holds an understated place in Milwaukee music, the importance of the role Frevele plays in the local scene was never more apparent than when she was gone.
Through much of the winter, she was in the hospital. There, she underwent various surgeries and was unable to partake in her passion of going to see local bands. As much as she missed seeing area musicians, those musicians missed her overwhelmingly positive presence and steadfast support even more. Sunday, a total of 15 (primarily) Milwaukee acts will donate their time and talent in effort to return at least a fraction of the support Frevele has given them by playing the second annual Biju’s Block Party, which doubles as a benefit for the local music super fan.
“Shea is one of the biggest music lovers in the world, not just our city,” organizer Biju Zimmerman says. “Any time I asked her what she’s doing Friday or Saturday, she’s going to a show at least one of those days. She likes almost any kind of Milwaukee music and she likes it 110 percent. She sees the joy in music and wants to promote it in any way she can.”
Zimmerman decided to make his second-year event—which he’s dubbed “The Shea-Nanigans Edition”—a benefit for his friend because some of the medical procedures Frevele underwent were not covered by her insurance. Before she could decline, he’d already rounded up a varied group of performers who were eager to play half-hour sets at Sabbatic and Tin Widow, including some of her favorite local acts like WORK, Bobby Flowers, Faux Fiction, Mark Waldoch, and Whiskey Of The Damned.
While he’s not playing this weekend’s event, Brett Newski is just one of the many Milwaukee musicians who recognizes Frevele’s place in helping local music. She regularly offers to help him sell merch at his shows, including out of town gigs when her work schedule permits.
“Shea is a power legend in the Milwaukee music scene,” Newski says. “Shea is actually the best merch person in the game today. She also deserves a monument built for her at [Sabbatic].”
88Nine Radio Milwaukee on-air personality Ken Sumka first met Frevele when she was selling Newski’s merchandise. Since then, he’s seen her become a regular fixture at the station’s 414 Music Live sessions, which he hosts every week.
“She’s just an unequivocal supporter of the music scene here,” Sumka says. “At the root of it, Shea is selling merch, but she’s a supporter of bands, a booster of bands. Without being in the media, I think she’s doing what a lot of us can’t even do with the media.”
Sumka says Frevele is so positive that he didn’t even know she was ill.
“One thing that speaks to her being an upbeat person is that I didn’t even know she was sick. It wasn’t until she was gone and not at shows that I learned she was battling these health issues,” Sumka says
Libby Merline has experienced Frevele’s upbeat personality and positive demeanor more than almost anyone else. Merline credits her longtime friend for first exposing her to many of the Milwaukee bands she knows and loves, and convincing her to get out and experience live music more often than she would otherwise.
“She’s this crazy, bubbly ball of energy that you immediately fall in love with,” Merline says. “She supports so much. We really wanted to support her in something. It’s really cool that so many different people came together to make this happen.”
Though the event is free, bartenders will donate a portion of their tips to help offset Frevele’s medical costs. All proceeds from T-shirt sales will go to her, as well as money raised though a pull tab raffle in which everyone will win a prize, ranging in value from a free Pabst to tattoo shop and restaurant gift cards, with a grand prize of a flight lesson.
Anyone who goes to Sunday’s show will see the all-too familiar sight of Shea Frevele smiling, buying friends bottles of High Life, watching bands, and probably even selling shirts and records to support Milwaukee musicians she appreciates. This time, though, local bands will be returning the favor.
“She just loves music so much,” Zimmerman says. “Man, if there were more people like that, bands wouldn’t be struggling.”
Biju’s Block Party: Shea-Nanigans Edition will take place at Sabbatic and Tin Widow on Sunday, June 19 from 3 p.m to 2 a.m. See the full lineup here.