The Cream City Music Festival Takes to Catalano Square for its Inaugural Year

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Words by Erin Wolf

In yet another attempt to underline the fact that Milwaukee is indeed rightly monikered as ‘City of Festivals’, Cream City Music Festival steps forward to breathe a little musical life into the Third Ward, with its stage set for Catalano Square Park. Locals Invade Rome  and The Championship will play side-by-side with nationals Gringo Star and the Sam Roberts Band, forming a community festival atmosphere for one of the last, sweet weekend days of summer in Brewtown. Fan-belt talks to Cream City Music Festival organizer, Keegan Pavlik about this Saturday’s event.

Milwaukee is the ‘City of Festivals’ — what gave you the idea to throw one more into the mix in an already-packed city events calendar?

The idea to have one more festival in Milwaukee came from a casual conversation amongst friends in the music business. It began with the idea to ask bands performing at Lollapalooza to come to Milwaukee and play while they are only 90 miles away. We felt it was a great resource that was not being used at the current time.

At first, we wanted to place bands in different venues in Milwaukee and make it a weekend packed with music throughout the city, however, we thought of an outdoor event because of that very fact. Milwaukee and the people of Milwaukee embrace the summer months with passion. We thought that we should embrace the summer as well and try and make it a day of music somewhere in a park. There is a different energy that is established with music being played outside in a public area. We wanted to keep it free to the public (we did not want to have tickets or door fees). I believe the Cream City Music Festival is the only free indie music festival in Milwaukee with larger national headliners, and that became our focal point to develop this festival as an annual indie rock music festival.

How did you go about choosing the bands to play?

The bands we initially contacted to see if we could actually make this a reality were bands on the Lollapalooza bill in Chicago. To our surprise, the bands we asked to play were excited and on board, so we went forward selecting the bands. The selection of indie bands performing have a great individual sound each band is energetic and will get people to rock. We wanted to invite bands that can have a good time. We also wanted to invite bands that are growing and gaining momentum in the national spot light that have not been to Milwaukee as of yet.

We then paired them with local Milwaukee bands that fit into [their] genre.  Sam Roberts is the headliner for the event and they are a great band from Canada — they were recommended, and I had heard they were on World Cafe with David Dye. That was enough for me to ask them to come to Milwaukee. Gringo Star was asked because all the organizers had heard there jams on the radio and  loved it. They come to the table with some great rock and we wanted that. The Championship’s new album is one of Milwaukee’s best albums of the year and they dig Sam Roberts, so we thought it would be a great combo. Invade Rome,  like Gringo Star,  has a great rock sound that is energetic and it’s quintessential American rock — they offered to play and we couldn’t pass that up. We thought they would [all] get along great on a bill together. To be honest, we contacted bands expecting to get turned down. It was more like, ‘yeah, this would be cool but whatever’. The ‘whatever’ became real and now we are like kids going to their first rock concert.

There are four bands playing, which seems more like a ‘show’ than a ‘festival’: what gives this event a ‘festival’ aspect?

Yeah I agree with you — it is a small show that runs for six hours and can be seen as an outdoor show. It is intended for the community of Milwaukee and as a community event. We have awesome bands playing a show in a park, but the reason for a free show was to build a new event where the community comes together and embraces the summer, a day off of work, each other and the music. In that sense, it is a community festival — like the church festivals or block parties. It was intended to bring people together and relax.

There will be local vendors on site all Milwaukee merchants and businesses coming down for the day and hopefully a lot of people will come down bringing their blankets and chairs to hang out for the day,  listen to the bands and meet their neighbors. We are all interconnected.  And the icing on the cake is that the bands are of the highest caliber performing for the people of Milwaukee for free.

Are you planning to build on this event for next year?

Yes!!!!!! We sure do want to make this an annual event — we preemptively called it an annual event. Technically, we cannot call it annual festival until the second year but we want to start the planning for the second Cream City Music Festival asap.  Each year, we would like the festival to grow a little with a  larger and more diverse lineup and maybe more stages. We needed to keep it practical and small for the first year because we had no idea what we were doing. We had two and a half months to learn on the job how to event coordinate, get sponsors, bands, vendors and staff synchronized . Anything bigger would have driven us into a state mental overload and smoke would have poured out from our ears as we short-circuited. We gained a wealth of wisdom and friendships from this and hopefully that will allow us to expand the festival each year.

Catch the Cream City Music Festival this Saturday at Catalano Square Park in the Historic Third Ward: the event runs from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.

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