City Scenes: 5 Live Performances From Studio Milwaukee
A little more than a decade ago, Milwaukee's music scene was rife with cover bands. The workaday groups far outnumbered those writing original music, and most weren't sustaining a career on their music alone. Those who were finding success often left Milwaukee quickly in order to reach levels previously impossible in the 414.
Thankfully, a lot has changed in the last decade.
Today, you'll find diversity in almost every genre, and music fans have begun to expect more than the cover acts of the early 2000s. Plus, present-day Milwaukee artists are actively collaborating, helping each other create art beyond the sum of their parts. Coupled with expert producers and support from non-commercial radio, Milwaukee is finally working with all the tools it needs to sustain a top-notch music culture. Today's musical tapestry is a true reflection of Milwaukee itself — especially its DIY spirit — now much richer and more accessible than ever.
Every week, we at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee celebrate our scene with a weekly program called 414 Live. In each episode, we invite a different band into our studios for a full performance and interview, free and open to the public. And we broadcast it all, without interruption.
Here are five of our favorite recent performances from Studio Milwaukee.
There's no one else quite like Klassik in the city. An expert live looper, he mixes elements of jazz, rap and R&B, making every performance feel adventurous and unpredictable. The last few years of his career have been dotted with singles and mixtapes, all building to a professional peak on his latest full-length release, QUIET. The new album, his best work yet, showcases giant leaps of personal growth. Enjoy a few highlights from QUIET, turned up loud, in this timely 414 Live performance.
The Majestics have been playing together in Milwaukee since the 1960s. Yes, the sixties. They've had a few lineup and name changes over that time, but core members Tony Washington and Donny Cooper have remained close friends and musical partners for nearly 60 years. And, as you'll see, they don't skimp on showmanship in their live act. Washington, the frontman, did the splits and two-stepped throughout, while his bandmates backed him up with an energetic performance while clad in sparkling outfits. The Majestics usually include nods to greats like James Brown and Kool & The Gang in their performances, but they brought an entirely original set for this 414 Live session. We were especially thrilled to hear The Majestics perform "The Key to Love" and "Class-A," both songs featured heavily in our podcast Backspin: The Search for Milwaukee's First Hip-Hop Song. Did they create Milwaukee's first hip-hop song? If you ask them, it's a definitive "yes." Check out the podcast and their performance.
Awash in charisma and stage presence, Shle Berry just has that "thing." Her quick-moving and deeply personal album Tampons dropped back in May, with the help of top Milwaukee producers including Mike Regal and Renz Young. It offers a joyous celebration of womanhood while documenting her personal growth as an artist. Berry — who identifies as a gay, biracial woman — leans into her identity as a source of strength, delivering a sound that's both confrontational and approachable.
Brothers William and Kevin Bush make up the electronic duo Immortal Girlfriend. They're also recipients of 88Nine's music accelerator and grant-making program, Backline. They released their debut EP Daybreak in 2017 and have been gigging ever since, becoming one of Milwaukee's busiest bands. In their Studio Milwaukee performance, they channel a bit of TV On The Radio and Prince (William sports a shirt bearing the artist's name), offering a moody and rhythmic performance unlike anything else on our list.
When Joe Quinto, whom we knew best as a rapper, took the stage with a pair of acoustic guitars and a cajon, we weren't sure what to expect. But Quinto made it all work, seemingly effortlessly, blending a new-to-him folksy vibe with rapping. He kicked off his performance with a bayou-style reworking of his 2017 single "Black Magic" and kept that 5-string energy flowing throughout his set. Oscillating between tight raps and melodic, sung choruses, Quinto makes it all work in his own way.
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