An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for March, 2016

Brooklyn Baby, Brooklyn Sun, Polly A

I looked back at what I wrote after hearing Meleni Smith’s first full length album My Heart in Focus. It started like I almost started this post, with a metaphor about a road, her road. If it’s a road she on, her personal mix tape must play over and over, a day dream come true.

Meleni Smith n.k.a Polly A, has roots in the Good Land, raised during the old guard era of culture and consciousness few know, fewer remember. She’s written for J. Cole and Alicia Keys. Her destiny now plays on an Okay Player web exclusive, her new single Brookyn Sun released on 222 Records/Interscope Records, says it all between the lines. Seeing is Seeing, check the Brooklyn Sun video on Vevo.

Her composition m.o. makes the original fun, fun again; dramatic and expressed in an extremely varied manner, always poignant.


Polly A’s full length album Golden Ghetto Dream is due out later this year, check Brooklyn Sun on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Your Next Brewery Tour, Best Place, Pabst Brewery

If it’s not already, add Pabst to the list of brewery tours you are planning to do in Milwaukee this spring. It starts in the Best Place gift shop, which shows off more drinking culture kitsch than you can shake a can full of beer tabs at. 

The tour’s home base is the Best Place Rathskeller, the oldest in Wisconsin, held up with heavy wood beams cut from ancient forests. The place even has a fresco celebrating brewing heritage wrapped around the upper quarter of the wall.

For the past 10 years, the Pabst Brewery complex has been part of a major urban revitalization push in East Town that finally got its anchor to east solidified with announcement of the Milwaukee Bucks arena. It’s amazing that these old buildings were left shuttered for over a decade after Pabst closed its doors in 1996, and were still salvageable; so much so that it basically spawned a new neighborhood.  

Hip, Ex-Post

In the post-hipster era the world will look back and say ‘wow how many uncool things could become cool in 15 years’. Of all the accomplishments this era can boast, none may go down as emblematic as the meaning that 21st century youth brought fiery red neon sign that burns P-A-B-S-T that defines the western view from Juneau Avenue and Cass Street; forever stamping Milwaukee hipster Mecca.

Pabst, while maintaining it’s shitiness, comes out as the only year-round swill, imbibed with a deeper meaning. It defined an entire scene for over a decade, cooler than thou, indifferently; it mashed up Eastside tattoo parlors’ brand identities, f-it get it tattooed on a sweaty neck. In Milwaukee in particular, it allowed you to know who you’re dealing with. 

There was a time when you heard, “Tall Boy”, it and it meant unambiguously, me and my friends hate everything including people who order brew by its given name (no offense New Glarus you have a lovely brewery, and a rocking woman brew meister).

A Salubrious Tale

The story of Pabst, makes Pabst’s “cool” make common sense. Jacob Best founded Best Brewery before nearly the same year Milwaukee was incorporated. When he died his son Phillip took over. Phillip Best was the original ‘people’s champ’ of Milwaukee a good german social democrat, believe in making money, sharing with his employees, and giving back to the community, but he didn’t have a male heir, but he did have a attractive and capable daughter.

Best was a business man and road steam ships. One day he boarded a ship with his daughter along. This steam ship happened to be navigated by a young man named Captain Pabst. When he laid eyes on Best’s daughter, Captian Pabst set his mind to marrying her. 

A hard worker and a loyal man Joseph Pabst, eventually earned Best’s trust and his daughter’s hand, they had a son Frederick and the rest is history. Frederick Pabst was so beloved by Milwaukee that it was said his funeral was larger than President Lincoln’s. 

Back to the Tap

The Pabst Brewery tour guide will hit you with a bunch of folksy jokes and more brew innuendo that you can resist, especially since Pabst unearthed some of its old experimental brews. Old Tankard Ale proves that the original big guy of brewing still has taste. 

You’ll also get a ton of tidbits and factoids about the brewery’s history and pop culture significance, like a nice list of other good shitty beers like Hamm’s that were adopted by Pabst and one point in its history or another; or that Pabst, believe it or not, is the unassuming biological father of Miller Brewing. 

You’ll see the ultimate basement drinking hole, modest, a little creepy, but functional. The kind of place where you could get tipsy undetected by the vice squad in the 1920’s or settle a debt with fisticuffs with out the worry of muffled screams or loud mouths extolling instigating superlatives alerting the neighbors.


You’ll hear about how the Feds got pissed when during the lean prohibition years Pabst went into bread yeast business. The box didn’t have some old settlers bread recipe though. Instead it carried a warning that if you boiled hot water together and malt syrup and added the Pabst yeast it would make an intoxicating elixir; what a pivot! 

The refurbished beer hall has a spectacular wood inlay of the Best Place emblem set in the floor. The hall has a restaged office that takes you to gaze a upon the desk that Fredrick Pabst actually sat his hard working ass. The hall is a lovely rentable space event space.
To top it all off you’ll get to pose with a life size statue of King Gabrinus, the patron saint of beer. Why? Because he helped his entire kingdom stay loose, even the old abbey monks, by making sure there was enough beer around. 

The King consolidated his thrown by beating a whole town of men in a test of strength, one that challenged the men to carry a giant barrel of beer the furthest. With a feat of good spirited humor, he beat all the strongest men town. A statue of King Gabrinus has been a part of Pabst’s tribute to beer since the 1850’s.

Why would anyone not snap at a chance to rivive the Brewery? Especially one with such an enduring marketing ploy: the blue ribbon. Pabst Brewery tours take place Monday, Wednesday and Thurs at 1:00 and 3:00p and Friday, Saturday and Sunday hourly between 11:00a and 1:00p.

Oh wow, Alchemist, Theatre RED, Bachelorette

So you try to include your truest friend on the biggest night of your life. You hook up said last-friend-standing, your honored bridesmaid Regan (Tess Cipinski), with the spoils of youre femine conquest: a swank hotel suite in downtown NYC. You bagged a rich groom who buys the crap out of your love already, better take advantage while you can. You only have one request, keep those evil chicks Gena (Liz Faraglia) and Katie (Shannon Nettersheim) away. They used to be your best party friends but they were nothing but trouble. Major trouble. They aren’t even invited to your wedding anyway.

At twenty, 27 you give yourself a lot of credit for having a half-a-head a sense, and something to show for it. You have no bad feelings about cashing out of that life.  


photos courtesy of Traveling Lemur Productions

After a nice evening with her fiancé, Becky (Kelly Doherty) figures she’ll drop in on Regan to wind down, reminisce a bit and get a good nights rest. She gets to the suite and its pretty much trashed. Figures… Where’s Regan? Why is Katie here? Who are these guys? Why the hell is Gena at the door with a plastic garbage bag? 

Let me count the ways

Mark Boergers’ version of Bachelorette takes us to those places we’d rather turn our head away from or forget about. Places from our past. Places from our now. Between these sites harboring uncleared social train wreck debris Bachelorette takes us to gawk at, there is enough substance buried in this subterranean drama to redeem the audience’s sensibilities.


photos courtesy of Traveling Lemur Productions

Bachelorette raises questions of friendship, substance abuse, mysogyny, self-esteem and self-worth, societal expectations and love. Leslye Headland’s script stuffs laughs between these moments, some split the tattered seams holding Becky’s clique together.

Evan Koepnec (Joe) and Nick Narcisi (Jeff) round out Bachelorette’s cast, toppping it off with equal doses of oblivious and creepily deliberate male modus operandi. Katie Gray fashioned the costume design, Keri Ryan handled the the production and stage management, and the Alchemist’s own Aaron Kopec busied his hands skillfully again with the Technical Design.

Bachelorette is Theater RED’s second play of their 2015-2016 season and runs long weekends through March 19th, with a pay-what-you-can run on March 14th. All showtimes at 8p at the Alchemist Theatre in Bay View.