words by Erin Wolf
Get your sneakers on, because if you plan on heading to one (or both) dates of Milwaukee’s second annual Riverwest Fest, you’ll be doing a little bit of venue-hopping. Two days (Friday, December 16th and Saturday, December 17th) will see the Riverwest neighborhood’s bars, venues and otherwise, playing host to 49 bands, across eight venues. Why see one show, when you can see four? The Uptowner, Club Timbuktu, Stonefly and the Riverwest Public House are just half of those venues and many of the bands are only into their second (or even first!) show. Expect lots of new and exciting sounds from Milwaukee’s collective guitar and drum corps. Dreamed up by local musicians Kelsey Kaufmann and Sean Heiser, the two test-drove the fest last summer, but this time around things seem more cohesive even with an especially jam-packed schedule. We talked to Kaufmann and Heiser about the lineup, bringing local rockers together and the magic behind it all.
Why Riverwest? Give us your reason.
Kelsey Kaufmann: I guess, put simply, its’ our community. Our neighbors, businesses or individuals, are very supportive. The neighborhood is very walkable and has a diverse range of venues interested in hosting art and music events.
Compare pre-Riverwest Fest last year to this year’s — do you feel more prepared?
KK: Absolutely. Last year, we were re-printing posters a couple of days, beforehand, changing venues and running mic stands and cables up and down Center Street.
Sean Heiser: I definitely agree. I’m guessing that we will still be running around with mic stands, etc., but this year the lineups and venues came together much more smoothly. We’re learning as we go along.
Forty-nine bands is a lot — what number were you roughly shooting for when you began planning for this year?
KK: We didn’t really go into it with a number in mind. Rather, we made a list of a lot of bands in town that we like and gradually added to it as people approached us with ideas.
SH: We did take on a lot more bands than last year. Like Kelsey said, we initially started working from a list in our heads. We ended up making adjustments as more people expressed interest and added acts as they came along. I’m excited the fest has grown this much in its second year.
All-ages versus 21+. Who gets the better end of the deal?
KK: I suppose it depends on your tastes. I think some of the best shows of the weekend are all-ages. Get Rad, Burning Sons, Midnight Reruns at the Cream City Collectives on Friday at 6 p.m. The Fatty Acids, John the Savage, Catacombz at Club Timbuktu on Friday at 8 p.m. and Fresh Cut Collective, B*Right, Rio Turbo and Cyborg Fortress at Club Timbuktu on Friday at 8 p.m.
That said, it is a bummer that the all-ages shows are over by 10 p.m. 19 year-olds certainly do not want to go home at 10 p.m. We are not oblivious to this and hope to change that in the future, for Riverwest Fest and in a more permanent sense. To answer your question, I think attendees over 21 get the better end of the deal by having access to all of the shows. Our support for all-ages shows is definitely an important component of the festival, though.
SH: Hard to say! Of course, people 21+ will have access to all the shows and staying up late is fun, but some of the shows I’m most excited for this year are the all-ages ones. I think it’s important the fest keeps a good balance between the 21+ and all-ages shows.
What shows are you most proud of setting up?
SH: One particular show doesn’t stand out. I think I’m more excited than anything. It’s fun to pack a weekend with a ton of shows, make an event out of it and work with new people. Riverwest Fest is a community effort and I’m just proud that it’s happening again.
KK: I like Sean’s response. Shout-out to all the volunteers, venues, sponsors and bands for making Riverwest Fest possible. Is that a cop-out answer?
What band are you most excited to introduce people to?
KK: Adam Helwin, Bedouins, Moon Curse, Slow Walker
SH: Slow Walker, Cassidy DW, Iron Cages, B*Right, Joz Z
Complete details on Riverwest Fest can be found at the event’s web page. The fest runs both Friday, December 16th and Saturday, December 17th.