Conversations about neighborhoods will inevitably take verbal exchanges past the landmarks of Riverwest, the neighborhood no one can agree upon. Known traditionally as Milwaukee’s melting pot, Riverwest’s legacy of community engagement, activism and acceptance of anti-mainstream lifestyles faces escalating jeers complaining of endemic crime and infestation of suburban social apathy. Saturday night at the Polish Falcon, the 6th annual Riverwest Follies put much of that controversy to rest. A loosely assembled group occupied the Polish Falcon gathering hall for Riverwest Follies, a variety show benefit for Riverwest Currents.
Clad in a tuxedo and rabbit fur hat one performer, a local music engineer Pauly S (“The only Pauly you need to know”), enacted a futuristic rendition of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer while modulating his voice with a midi device. Unfortunately, the preceding description does not do the performance justice, as some experiences one must witness first hand.
The Riverwest Ninja made a stealth appearance dressed in a snug all black clothy “ninja suit” to lead chants of the protest mantra “Tell me what democracy looks like!” Not quite a crowd at the State Capitol, those in attendance obliged replying “This is what democracy looks like!” Shamelessly making her point visually, the Riverwest Ninja’s medium was the message. She proposed using force of will to overcome inhibitions, while making your voice heard; a needed departure from the affective domain of social interaction. Among other performers Astral/Subastral provided upbeat melodies for reveling frolickers. To their credit there is little doubt the coming of the spring is at hand, but enough about the performers. The people supplied the real grist of the Riverwest Follies.
Parents with their kids, romantic items clutching hands, costumed characters, modest bakers and craftspeople alike tossed aside being hip, image-conscious, oblivious, paranoid and/or cynical and embraced having a good time. The kids helped clarify the people part of the neighborhood equation, by collectively declaring “to hell with being entertained!”, freely running around during a skit promoting Riverwest Currents. The kids get it right most of the time: the running never ceased. The next time Riverwest comes up, know that the modest and socially conscious working-class roots of the neighborhood still thrive without pretense.
Riverwest Currents is a monthly print and online news publication focusing on issues affecting Riverwest and its neighbors.
CD Release Performance, Manual Controller