Milwaukee music is incredibly lucky to have Kelsey Kaufmann. The owner of the Cactus Club has booked literally hundreds of shows, helped produce large-scale festivals, and was at the forefront of changing laws that prohibited all-ages shows at certain venues in Milwaukee. After managing the iconic Bay View club for a few years, further bolstering its already-sterling reputation, and bringing some impressive acts to town, Kaufmann bought the bar this February. Just over a month after officially taking over, the world turned on its head. Though times are unexpectedly tough for Cactus Club, Kaufmann and her staff are committed to keeping the business running and continuing to offer a sense of community while giving artists a platform.

Earlier this week, My First Band host Tyler Maas caught up with Kaufmann to ask her about some of the struggles venues around the country are facing in the midst of a pandemic, some of the interesting things she’s doing to bring in revenue and keep Cactus Club active during this unprecedented time, and some of the positive and affirming things that have happened during her time as the bar’s owner.

Of course, the conversation eventually shifted to her experiences as the drummer for past and current projects like Cougar Den, Centipedes, Gallery Night, and Body Work. Along the way, Kaufmann also discussed booking tours for her bands as a teenager, falling in love with D.I.Y. culture, being stranded in rural Utah for a week when Cougar Den’s van broke down, and some of the favorite concerts she’s ever brought to Milwaukee.

My First Band is sponsored by Mystery Room Mastering and Lakefront Brewery. The show is edited by Jared Blohm. You can listen to My First Band on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you get podcasts. Music used in this show comes courtesy of Devils Teeth (“The Junction Street Eight Tigers”) and Body Work (“Now Forget”).

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