All posts in Shows/Festivals

  • Chapter 148- Milwaukee Music

    Need one more reason to love this city?  Look no farther than the music scene!  I’ve found a ton of opportunities to take my kids to see some live and GOOD music here in town, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

    Let me first say why I think music is important to kids and families.  We have a vibrant scene here in Milwaukee, and by taking your kids to attend events/listen to their neighbors making music, you’re supporting your community.  And making it stronger.  The other reason I value music so much is because like all art, it’s a form of self expression.  We all (kids included!) have emotions and ideas inside, and music is just one way to get those feelings out.  When your kids see adults, teenagers, and even kids performing, it can be an encouraging way to tell your kids “Hey you’re important!” and that by expressing yourself you might even help other people get their feelings out.

    We spend quite a few nights over the summer at our amazing Milwaukee County Parks for Concerts in the Parks.  Almost every day of the week, you can find some free and family-friendly music around town.  Most parks are busy with families and picnic dinners, kids running around, dancing, and adults sharing a drink.  Check out MKE County Parks’ website for schedules (though I’m sure next summer’s lineups aren’t out quite yet).

    88Nine Radio Milwaukee is constantly offering ways to see music, with kids and without.  This summer they held a block party to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, and we were able to attend this fun free event!  My kids had been hearing the band Reyna on the radio, so I did some Instagram stalking to introduce myself.  After we saw this sister duo perform, we then got to say hi in person and snag a photo!

    88Nine also offers 414 Music Live, one of my favorite perks of the radio station.  At these sessions, you can watch musicians perform and chat with radio hosts.  We’ve been lucky enough to see and meet Sonny Knight & The Lakers, Siren, Lex Allen, WebsterX, Grace Weber, Kaleo, The Bahamas, Sister Strings and Jack Garrett.  Most of those performers are local…what a great way to support your community!  Check their schedule here.

    I don’t have any photos, but check out Free Space at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest, and DJ Bizzon’s Scratch Sessions.  Free Space is a community event held the third Wednesday of every month, and opens up its doors to youth who want to explore music.  The Scratch Sessions offer free lessons on turntables for youth ages 12-19.

    Anodyne Coffee Roasters has some interesting and free and family-friendly events as well!  Last year I took the kids to see a jazz bass player and it was a really new and unique experience for them.  They were a little out of their element, looking around with wide eyes as if to ask “is this music, Mom?”  But I feel very strongly that exposure to new and different things creates appreciation for the arts.  As much as I hated being dragged to classical music performances as a kid, I’m so happy to have that as a foundation in my life.  Thanks Mom!


    Colectivo hosts Gospel Sundays, MSO Mondays and more chances to see some great music.  Check out the schedules and get yourself to one of the events, if just to say you tried it once.

    And then there’s the Festival city Symphony’s Pajama Jamborees.  If your kids can hang a little later in the evening, get them in their pjs and head to see some lovely music.  It’s a free event held a few times a year, and the concerts typically surround a theme like holidays or classic stories.

    Fox and Branch know how to bring down the house.   They’re a local duo who play bluegrass when they’re not entertaining kids.  Check out their schedule for chances to see them (like at Anodyne Coffee and this event at the Washington Park Library).

    I commend the Milwaukee Public Library for offering such a fun and out-of-the-ordinary event…Library Out Loud Days!  It’s a fun way to explore our libraries, by being loud.  They’ve hosted shows (we saw New Age Narcissism this past summer, where adults got to drink a beer while kids danced and played and explored), and this month they have what looks like a really fun event.  Haunted Central will be alive with “haunted-themed” events and activities for two days this weekend.  Check it out!

    The Milwaukee Art Museum has free days (first Thursday of every month) and great weekend events, many of which offer music.  Kids under age 12 are always free at the museum, so if you get a chance to attend one of the special events, please take advantage of it!

    And my last tip for introducing your kids to music is to have some instruments lying around your house.  Ours are all second hand from rummage sales, and the microphone we have doesn’t even work.  But kids get curious and want to explore things hands-on, so when they have the chance to pick/pluck/strike/sing, I say let them.  I’ve also enjoyed seeing my kids be able to play some music, whether on our Fisher Price cassette player from the 80’s, or putting on their favorite album on the record player.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading!  If you have suggestions for other ways to get your family involved in live and or local music, please drop a line!

  • Chapter 147- First Stage Theater (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

    While growing up in my family, Thanksgiving meant a 3-5 day celebration with aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends.  Wednesday was an all-night pizza party that ran right into Thursday morning turkey baking.  After our meal on Thursday, we’d play and nap and the kids would invariably get into some sort of trouble before movie time began.

    We’d watch classics like Swiss Family Robinson, E.T., Mary Poppins, and one of my favorites, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It’s a tale of imagination and perseverance, and has a flying car in it so OF COURSE kids like it.  And I got the opportunity to see this magical movie come to life in a First Stage performance!

    If you’re not familiar with First Stage, it’s an incredible children’s theater here in Milwaukee that began in 1987.  First Stage offers professional theater productions like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an academy for theater training and classes, and educational programs in schools and our communities.

    And on this past Sunday, I took my oldest and youngest daughters on a special date to see the play, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  My two kindergarteners actually get to see it with school later this month, so it was a really nice treat for the other two to get to see the production!

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Jackson Evans, Malkia Stampley, Jack Trettin and Paige Landrum in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    And I have to tell you, it was nothing short of an incredible experience.  My 8 year old and almost 4 year old both loved the performance equally.  The theater is set up so there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the stage is recessed so everyone has a great view of the people and props on stage.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    When the opening number began, I noticed the wide age range of actors.  We got to see some very young kids (the youngest appeared to be about 5 years old), adolescents, adults and even a “grandpa-aged” adult as my daughter said.  Some of these actors were entering and exiting through the audience, a great way for kids to see people and costumes up close!   I was also impressed with the use of stage…actors were standing on boxes and tables, getting close to the audience.  The pianist was pretty much in the audience which contributed to the almost hands-on feel of the show.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Rick Pendzich, Jackson Evans and young performer cast in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    As for the actual story and performance, it was so creative!  The props were used in such a way that I think encourages ingenuity and creativeness.  For example, when the car was to be floating on water, stagehands crawled under the car and “inflated” some floatation devices, waving them gently.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    At one point in the movie, a blimp is flying through the air with a small hut hanging below.  The actors carried a miniature blimp and hut in the air, with their voices sounding far off, and gave the clear impression that they were in the air.  Even if some dialogue was lost for younger audience members, the action/set/singing/dancing carried them through without confusion.

    This interpretation of the movie really emphasized the message of adventure and persistence.  The family didn’t give up on rescuing their grandfather AND helping the children of Vulgaria (you’ll just have to see the play to know what I’m talking about).  I was moved by the song “The Roses of Success”, where Grandpa Potts was given the impossible talk of making the Baron’s car fly.  We’re told “…up from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success…”.  In the next number, the rest of the Potts family is trying to save the children of the city and they sing “…we’re all together, a team can weather any storm they may go through, cause teamwork can make a dream work, if you’re not afraid to fight!”

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    Now perhaps I was inspired by these messages of hope, unity, grit and determination because of current affairs in our county (and ahem, worldwide).  I’m uneasy about our volatile political climate and worried about the future.  But spending a Sunday afternoon listening to reminders that we can work together for justice and a better life eased my mind.  And it offered the same lessons to my kids.

    We loved the Q&A (or talkback) session after the last scene.  The cast stayed on stage and took questions from the audience.  The actors took turns answering the questions, which was a neat way for my kids to see that the people on stage were regular people, too!

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing through November 5th, and I really hope you get a chance to see it.  Thank you First Stage for the wonderful experience!

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 127- 414 Music Live at Radio Milwaukee with New Age Narcissism


    Another reason I love this city?  Music.

    I’ve heard New Age Narcissism (a group of local musicians including Lex Allen, Siren, Webster X, Lorde Freddee, Bo Triples, Chris G., Jay Anderson and Q the Sun) on the radio for the past year or so, and been meaning to get to see them.

    So when I heard that they’d be on 414 Music Live at Radio Milwaukee, AND THAT IT WAS EARLY IN THE EVENING AND I COULD BRING MY KIDS, I jumped on it!  We’ve had plenty of dance parties to “This Is Our Year” at home, and the kids were stoked to have a public dance party.


    I knew it was going to be a great night when while we were parking, I saw Lex Allen frolicking across Pittsburg Ave while The Weekend’s “Can’t Feel My Face” on the radio.  I got there with enough time to purchase a dinner of champions from Stone Creek: cashews, almonds, a cookie and hot chocolate.


    First up was Siren, who serenaded us to no other song than the one we had just heard on the radio!  She slayed “Can’t Feel My Face” and my kids were enthralled.  At one point, when she was belting it out, I looked over at Little T who was plastered to her chair with the widest eyes I’ve ever seen, just taking it in.  I don’t know that she had ever experienced live music so deeply (being in the front row helped heighten the intensity too!).  Her parents were there, and even said hi to us after the show…it was heartwarming to see such support.

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    Next up was the fabulous Lex Allen who sang “Earned It”, also by The Weekend.  It was steamy and sultry and marvelous.  You know, as I’m writing this, I’m remembering that the first time I heard Lex was on 414 Music Live a while ago.  His mom was in the studio audience, and he was real and authentic and charming.  How cool to see him still going strong (ahem, stronger even) on the same stage.


    And then Webster X took the stage with Bo Triples and performed “Kid X” off of his new EP for us.  It was one hell of a song…included dancing and audience participation.  Can’t really go wrong with that.  In the interview with Ken Sumka afterwards, Webster X mentioned that his father recently said how proud of his son he is, and that was the highest approval Web could ever ask for.  It was really heartwarming to see the family ties among the artists!

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    Lex came back on stage to perform his new single “Cream and Sugar” and DAMN it was good!  Be on the lookout for it, and get yourself ready.

    After the radio program ended, we were treated to a bonus performance of “This Is Our Year”, to which my kids jammed out hard.

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    Thanks to the NAN crew, Radio Milwaukee, and Stone Creek Coffee for a really fun evening.  In particular, thanks for letting my kids experience live and local music in such a great setting!  And if you have 26 minutes, check out the session for yourself, and get a more accurate recap.

    Happy Thanksgiving, All!

    -A. Storm

  • Chapter 119- Tosa Tonight at Hart Park


    I’d like to dedicate this post to the big blanket I carry in my trunk, thanks to my Grandpa Cy!.  Because a few weeks ago, I did NOT feel like making dinner (which is pretty much every night this summer) and decided to take the kids to Gilles to get burgers to take to a park.  And on the way to Gilles, I drove past Hart Park and read the sign that said “Music Tonight“.   And since I had a blanket in my trunk for such spontaneous picnics, we got our burgers and custard and brought them back to the park.


    We dined on some fine hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, got more custard on our clothes than in our mouths, and it was perfect.  Things were just getting set up (the first performer started at 6pm) so we had some time to play with some bug finger puppets that the folks of Firefly Real Estate gave us, then headed to the playground.

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    And I’m usually really good at keeping track of my four kids on a playground, but when 50 other kids are on it for a special occasion, it’s MUCH harder.


    My youngest wandered off in the crowd at one point and it was the first time I’ve been a little nervous about not finding a kid.  Usually, I know generally where they are, and I find them 5 seconds later.  I’m constantly doing a headcount (so if you see me out someday, and wonder why I’m distracted, it’s because I’m counting to four).  But the little miss took off while I was talking to the big kids, and I had no idea where she went.  Luckily, some nice older folks behind me gave me clear directions as to where she went, and I found her wandering among blankets and families not far from me.  Whew!


    Immediately after deciding she didn’t need to stay near us in a crowd of people, she climbed up this ladder all by herself.  Then continued to climb it for like 20 minutes straight.  Let me remind you here that she’s a year and a half.  Someone guessed her age this past weekend, and thought she was THREE.  Nope.  Just tall and independent.


    And then Macyn Taylor took the stage.  And we danced.  Macyn is an incredible musician, and I loved her slide guitar and folk music and heart felt lyrics.  The kids liked it too!


    And now I’ll tell the rest of the story in photos.

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    We weren’t able to stay for the main act, but it was such a fun and spontaneous evening.  Hope you’re taking advantage of all the free music around the city this summer.  Here’s a link to Milwaukee County Parks’ schedule, as a place to start.

    Happy summer, all!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 118- Ingebrigt Håker Flaten at Anodyne Coffee


    A few weeks ago, I saw a notification on my Facebook page that Anodyne Coffee was hosting a free performance by Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, a jazz bassist from Norway who was in town for the OKKA Fest.  Since I knew nothing about Ingebrigt or the jazz fest, I thought it would be a perfect event for my four kids!


    We got to Anodyne a few minutes later than I hoped (for some reason Bay View is the Bermuda Triangle for me.  I can NEVER find a decent route there, and since I’m a “just wing it” kind of gal, I don’t bother looking at a map or getting GPS).

    But when we arrived, we had to share a table with four other people.  One of my kids was feeling particularly shy and obstinate that day, so we almost had to call it off due to table sharing.  Luckily, two super nice folks saw what was about to happen and offered up their table, saving the day.


    We sat down to munch on our cookies and juice (soda? whatever you want to call San Pellegrino) and it was awesome.


    Awesome because the music was nothing like my kids had ever heard.  It was also out of my typical listening genres.  It was disjointed, confusing, interesting, and involved lots of plucking/striking/squealing.  Of course, because I’m out of my element, I’m using non technical terms.  But it was SO interesting to hear and see.


    It was a quiet crowd, as you had to be in order to hear some of the music.  Not something many (ahem, any) people would take their kids to.  The twins and Little T did a good job of listening and letting other people enjoy the performance, but my 1.5 year old didn’t really understand why she had to eat a cookie in silence for 20 minutes.  There were a few “MAMA!” shouts, but other than that, they were all pretty good.  Actually, three people came up to me afterwards and complimented the kids.  High five, team!


    We played on the sidewalk for a few minutes, before deciding we need to run off some sugar.


    So we headed to Humboldt Park!  It was a busy and beautiful day, and I spent most of the time pushing kids on the swings.  Any other parents out there avoid parks with swings?  I do.  It’s nearly impossible to find four swings in a row (at least two have to be big kids swings, at least one has to be a little kid swing).  So I spend my time trying to keep an eye on many people in many different parts of a playground.  But it works out.

    ingebrigt9 ingebrigt10 ingebrigt8

    It was really fun to do something out of our element, followed up by running around outside at a beautiful park.

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 115- Milwaukee Ballet’s Cinderella


    My mom treated me, Little T and Little A to the ballet!  And because it was Cinderella, the girls took another opportunity to wear some sweet dress up dresses I found at Goodwill last year (because the attire is pretty standard on regular days at home, too).


    And Little T was extremely lucky…as one of the cellists was walking into the building, she spotted Little T and gave her the super fancy crown pictured above.  Thank you MSO!

    ballet7 ballet4 ballet1

    And thankfully, Little T is great at sharing and let her little sister have a turn with the crown.


    It was a beautiful performance.  I’ve been to a handful or two of Milwaukee Ballet’s performances, and I’m never let down.  The company does amazing work, and I feel honored any time I get to attend.  This show had three acts, which was a little long for my kids (granted, I took a 3 and a 5 year old to the ballet).  They were a little less antsy watching the Nutcracker because it was shorter and had lots of action.  Cinderella was a beautiful show, though.  It was interesting to see how they adapted the story to the stage, and made some slight changes to the more well-known versions.


    During the second intermission, Little A and I bolted up to the snack bar because the kids were getting really tired.  We stood in line (or twirled next to it) for about 10 minutes and got some snacks to mow down in the hallway before the third act began.  It was just perfect to perk up the kids!


    Special shout out to my Mom for taking us on such a fun adventure!  And thanks to the Milwaukee Ballet for providing our city with some beautiful and meaningful art.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 114- Kaleo at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

    Alright, this is going to be a pretty quick post for a few reasons.  One is that I didn’t take many photos (I took some videos but cannot for the life of me format them correctly so you can view them…boo!) and the other is that I have a  queue of posts just waiting to be published.  So watch out, I might do something crazy and post more than once today!


    But a few weeks ago, I took the girls down to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee to see the band Kaleo.  Which happened to coincide with DJ Kallao’s last day at the radio station.  Crazy, right?

    I’d only heard the band’s one song, All The Pretty Girls, and liked it.  That’s enough to get me down to the studio!


    J was on a special date with his cousin, so it was just me and the girls.  We got some water and cookies from Stone Creek and found seats.  And snuggled while waiting for the band.


    And I have to say, I’m a fan of the band now.  It was a great show…I was surprised that the music had a definite blues and good ol’ rock and roll feel.  We heard “I Can’t Go On Without You” and “Broken Bones” which I loved.


    I thought this was a cool guitar.  (Hey Dad, can the next one you build look like this?)


    The kids danced, clapped along, and we all left feeling like we got a super special treat.  A chance to see a band from Iceland perform in our city.  They stuck around to talk to the audience after, but nap time called so we departed before saying thanks.


    So thanks Kaleo and 88Nine for the entertainment!  I wish I should share with you the videos from the performance, just to give you a more accurate feel for the music, and the vibe of 88Nine’s studio performances.  They’re a really fun and free (and quite family friendly for being live on the radio!) way to get involved.

    Till next time,

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 105- Fox & Branch at Anodyne Coffee


    Last Sunday, Little T had a special at home date with Theo, and I took the other three kids to see Fox & Branch at Anodyne Coffee in Walker’s Point.  The band plays a free show at 11am about once a month, and I’d been meaning to get to one for a while.  And it was really fun!  If you like a million kids, good coffee, and good music.


    The music is sort of a bluegrass version of kid-friendly favorites.  There’s a lot of silliness and banjo and washboard sounds, audience participation, and dancing of course.  At one point, Little A couldn’t figure out why Mr. Fox was so silly and kept singing the wrong words to the ABCs, which was ridiculously cute.


    J got my camera and wanted to take a picture of me, Little A, Baby S dancing.  If you look closely, you can see our feet on the left side of the pic above.


    Kids needed fuel at some point in the morning, so we munched on Rocket Baby Bakery danishes and fizzy water.  Yum!


    Oh, and Baby S showed me that she can drink out of a regular cup.  Who knew!?


    We danced some more and if I could figure out how to edit the video, I’d show you the partner dancing above that ended in a pile of kids on top of the adults sitting next to us.  Luckily everyone was totally cool with things getting a little crazy.


    The guys of Fox & Branch gave us cool stickers, and we can’t wait to go again.  Thanks for a great show Anodyne and Fox & Branch!

    -A. Storm

  • Chapter 104- Studio Session at Radio Milwaukee with Bahamas


    So you all know my trusty go-to radio station, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, right?  Well because I’m a member, I got invited to their Frostbite Series (a bunch of bands played studio sessions for the station).  I RSVP’d to go see Bahamas.  Not that I knew much about them besides this song, which you have definitely heard and loved I’m sure.


    Anyway, I showed up, got myself a Louie’s Demise over at Stone Creek Coffee (because it was too late in the day for coffee, but not too early for a beer), and sat down in the front row.  While I looked around at the entire audience who was on their phones, I sipped my beer and wondered how awkward I’d look taking photos for the blog.  Lucikly, DJ Kallao was sneaking around taking shots so I wasn’t alone.

    And here’s the thing about live music…it’s the best.  Every time I see a show, I wonder why I don’t make it out to see more music (but then I remember how many young children I have).  After this studio session, and only four songs, I’m officially a Bahamas fan.  If you’re curious, Afie is the dude on guitar, and he is Bahamas.

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    After the show, I asked for a photo and said something really awkward as per usual.  I also tried to buy an LP but they only took cash and I was out of luck.  So AFIE, IF YOU’RE READING THIS, feel free to contact me for my home address where you can send a signed album.


    After the show, I got a tour from the lovely Becca, Development & Market Coordinator, and a bunch of us listeners walked around admiring the building.

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    We even got a chance to step inside the recording booth where Marcus Doucette and Kallao were doing their thing.  I had to introduce myself to Marcus because I’ve won tickets from him twice in the past few years, which is pretty awesome.  Because, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Turner Hall in like 2011.  Anyone else witness that musical orgy?


    Back to the tour.  It’s a pretty interesting building, with lots to admire.  Like records for days.


    And bottle caps for backsplashes.


    And old wood pallets for CD shelves.


    And a rooftop for viewing the city and having parties and checking out the green space.


    And having a nice gentleman take a new profile pic for me.  While on the tour, Producer Nate Imig walked past us and I missed an opportunity to give him some feedback and praise.  Because the community stories that he puts together at 88Nine are the reason I started listening to the station, and I get so many ideas for adventures from there.  I really appreciate the work 88Nine is doing, and the efforts to get people involved in their community.  So here’s my virtual handshake, Nate.  Thanks for passing on the stories of our city!

    Thanks Bahamas and Radio Milwaukee for a great afternoon!

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 99- Colectivo’s Gospel Brunch (Plus a totally unrelated giveaway!)


    Last month, I finally made it to the Colectivo on Farwell for their Gospel Brunch, which supports Progressive Community Health Centers.   I packed up my kids and met a friend, and the dancing immediately commenced.  It was a great way to spend our morning!

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    My kids made a new friend, ate some delicious baked goods, listened to gospel, and had a blast.

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    And we danced our way out of the building.  A pretty straight-forward “listen to beautiful music and move around” morning.  One I’m hoping to recreate at the next opportunity!

    Remember the totally unrelated giveaway I mentioned?  Well here it is.  I have a copy of A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee by Calie Herbst of MiltownMoms.  It’s my Christmas present to you!  If you’re looking for a current list of things to do and places to go in Milwaukee, leave a comment below.  I’ll pick a winner at random on Tuesday December 16th.  To get another entry, make sure you subscribe (just enter your email address to the right in the “subscribe” box).

    Have a great weekend, all!

    A. Storm