It’s a gripe as old as time: local shows—specifically club shows—start too late. Posted show times can sometimes be as late as 10 p.m., and it’s all too common for the first band to hold off until 10:30 or later. Even on a lean three-act bill, this means the headlining act likely won’t take the stage until well after midnight. Four acts? Even later. For musicians and show goers alike, getting home at 2 a.m. is the norm—sometimes on a weeknight.
But does it have to be this way? Or is it a non-issue only of interest to folks over 30? Those are the questions at the heart of “Let’s start Milwaukee shows earlier please,” a Facebook group making a blip on the local music scene radar. Created by John Dykstra of Milwaukee doom-pop outfit Midwest Death Rattle, the group may be minuscule (120 people as of this writing), but the issues it addresses have been around for years (and have made international news in recent months).
“I started the group because more and more people I talk to have all agreed that they would like to see this happen,” Dykstra says. “I think there is a missed demographic of potential show goers that don’t want to see their favorite band start at midnight. I think neighbors would appreciate the loudness to end sooner. I think you have more potential for sobriety in performance. I think if after-set music is properly facilitated you won’t stand to lose the ‘party’ and give more opportunity for local DJs to turn show goers on to new music that is similar to the show they just saw.”
For Milwaukee club owners and bookers, the question of show times seems to be best tackled by someone else—namely, by those playing the shows. “I think it’s important to be adaptable and understand each show can cater to different audiences with different expectations,” says Cactus Club booker Kelsey Kaufmann. “Should venues or lineups dictate the standard? Venues serve different functions in our community. I think it’s awesome and very important that Anodyne is doing all-ages shows that start in the early evening. I don’t have a hardline position about a new socialized norm. Anything is possible if shows are promoted properly. At Cactus we’re a musicians and artists-run venue for musicians and artists. We generally trust those performing and their preferences for how shows are structured.”
Jim Linneman, owner and booker of his eponymous Riverwest venue (R.I.P. old Linneman’s website), feels start times should be up to the artists, too. “The bottom line is it depends heavily on the bands playing on the bill. At Linneman’s, unlike some clubs, we span the gamut, having young bands up to the very old. Older bands starting earlier is a no-brainer. Younger bands usually like to start later, like 9 to 10 p.m., depending on the night of the week.
“We’ve recently had a few younger bands that wanted to start earlier,” Linneman continues, “maybe because of this early craze, and people started showing up later. It all really depends on the band or bands, which is why we let them decide when to start. They know their audience, or should, better than anyone.”