Neko Case has been kind to Milwaukee, always paying us a visit while touring with one of her many musical outlets. This Friday, she returns to The Pabst Theater, with up-and-coming Madison indie outfit Disq supporting. After speaking with Sahan Jayasuriya via Zoom for his forthcoming Die Kreuzen book (she’s a self proclaimed superfan), Case was kind enough to answer a few Milwaukee-centric questions for us.
Milwaukee Record: Do you remember the first time you ever played here?
Neko Case: First time I ever played Milwaukee was on Lilith Fair. That was a long time ago. Ninety-seven? Ninety-eight? I remember being on the phone trying to figure out how to get to the venue because it was at a race track. It sticks out because it was my first time ever having trouble getting somewhere because of accents. I called someone and they just said, [faux Midwest accent] “Oh yah, you gotta take County Road” or whatever, and I was like, “Counny Road?” because Northwest people tend to enunciate every syllable.
MR: Were you playing solo?
NC: I was playing with this amazing band from Montreal called the Local Rabbits. They were my backing band. We had a really good time. It was the weirdest time but it was really fun. We spent all of our time watching other bands and eating good catering. It was really great.
MR: What about the first show at an indoor venue here?
NC: I can’t really place the first time I played here solo or with The New Pornographers, but it was probably at The Pabst Theater. It’s pretty much the best place you can play, so it wipes everything else out. When people make you a cake with your name on it and make you coffee and let you play records in the dressing room and bring you dogs, everything else pretty much goes away, you know? The hospitality is the greatest and I think some other places around the country are slowly starting to get that good, because of musicians working there who have toured and played at places like the Pabst.
MR: Do you have a favorite memory from playing here?
NC: It’s hard because I’ve not spent time here besides in a touring capacity, so all of my memories of Milwaukee revolve around playing music. Something that stands out that isn’t necessarily about Milwaukee, but it happened when I was at Lilith Fair. There were these trailers that all the bands had as dressing rooms. We split one with India Arie and her band who were really slick amazing guys and great players. I remember we were sitting in our dressing room and all of a sudden I just hear all this screaming, and I’m just like, “What the hell?” So we go outside our trailer and all of the guys in her band are just yelling, “Oh my god! Oh my god!” I asked them what was going on and they just said, “There’s a fuckin’ bat in there man!” So I had to go in there and get out the tiniest, fuzziest, cutest bat there ever was, so that all these dudes could go back into the dressing room.
That’s probably my favorite memory of anything that’s happened to me in Milwaukee from a hilarious standpoint. But just playing the Pabst and just feeling so welcome is my overall favorite memory of Milwaukee. I grew up with Laverne & Shirley! Milwaukee is just so real to me. Milwaukee is a star.
MR: Would you say there’s anything distinct about Milwaukee?
NC: There’s a friendliness there for sure. It’s almost like a thermometer. You go from Chicago to Madison to Milwaukee and it just goes friendly, friendlier, friendliest.
MR: Who’s your favorite band from Milwaukee?
NC: Die Kreuzen, obvs! [laughs] They’ve retained my attention for years. They’re a seminal band for me. They’re on the list of things that make me excited about music.
MR: Is there something you want to do in Milwaukee that you haven’t done before?
NC: There’s obviously a lot of eating to be done there, for sure. I’d really just like to drive around and see neighborhoods. I don’t really get to see where people live there, just downtown. Milwaukee is the kind of place that I’d love to just have the day off and go to a restaurant in a smaller neighborhood. To me, Milwaukee seems like the kind of city where if I could pick anywhere to go for a three-day weekend just to hang out and work on writing, that would be it. No matter how hot or cold.
MR: You’ve been playing here for over 20 years now. Why is it that you consistently play here? Artists sometimes have the tendency to skip Milwaukee.
NC: What? They skip you? Really?
MR: Yeah, it’s definitely something that tends to happen. They’ll book a Midwest tour and just hit Chicago and Minneapolis.
NC: If you don’t do all four [Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis] you’re a fool, straight up and down. Why would somebody not? And while you’re at it, hit Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
But yeah, I do have a choice, I don’t have to play anywhere. That whole area of the Midwest, all those places are really great and people are so kind and grateful. Especially in winter. Not everyone is willing to tour in the deadly cold. I learned that coming up in Canada. Tour the prairies during the winter because people will pack the place, and they’ll remember you because you were willing to go despite the weather.
MR: Finally, for those attending the show, what can they expect? Super cool of you to be taking Disq from Madison out with you.
NC: Disq is so good, right? I’m so proud to be taking them on tour. I always pick who I’m touring with, I never just tell someone to pick whoever. I’m excited to see the show, I just wish it was longer than five dates.
As for our set, expect awkward jokes. A lot of harmony singing because everyone in the band can sing, so that’s gonna be really fun. It’s an awesome hybridization of all the bands I’ve been in.
Neko Case plays The Pabst Theater Friday, September 2 with Disq. Her latest release, the digital-only career retrospective Wild Creatures, was released in April via Anti- Records.
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