For listeners and artists alike, breaking into the music scene isn’t an easy task. Many bands often struggle to get the recognition they deserve, and for listeners, finding great local music can be overwhelming.
Tomorrow night, Spotlight MKE will make discovering local music a bit easier. The Marquette Radio-sponsored show will bring great Milwaukee and Marquette talent together in one concert.
Chelsie Layman, a junior in the College of Communication and Marquette Radio’s music director, is one of the organizers of Spotlight MKE, which will take place at the Union Sports Annex tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“I think (Milwaukee’s music scene) is actually growing a lot more, especially compared to my freshman year,” Layman said. “There’s been a big boom in Milwaukee music, which is awesome.”
Layman said she took a hands-on approach to the task of choosing the bands performing at the event. She scouted local music venues and clubs and noticed bands that had played recently. She listened to their music and contacted the bands that caught her attention and that she thought listeners and students would enjoy.
“It was a long process of getting a lot of ‘nos’ but also eventually getting ‘yeses,’” Layman said.
In the past, Spotlight MKE went under a different name with a battle of the bands-like scenario, but over the past two years, the event has taken a different direction.
“Last year, I was the music director’s assistant, and I looked at it like the battle of the bands wasn’t getting a good quality of bands, and people just weren’t coming,” Layman said. “So we changed it into Spotlight MKE and decided to expand the bands to include bands from all the Milwaukee area, and we had a great showing last year.”
The acts performing at the event, which include Claire and Ben, The Bastard Malloy, Scott Palahniuk, Eagle Trace and Alchemy, will be competing for a chance to open for twenty one pilots, which will headline the Student Media Concert in April.
A panel of judges composed of two Marquette Radio staffers and two DJs from Milwaukee radio stations will judge the bands.
While the show may have removed the battle from its name, there is still a sense of competition.
Keegan Calmes, the lead singer for Alchemy, said he is looking forward to playing at Spotlight MKE and hopes his band will get the chance to play at Marquette again in April.
“The opportunity to open for twenty one pilots is huge,” Calmes said. “I can’t believe it. They’re one of the hottest bands right now.”
Calmes is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and his band members go to different schools in the UW system. Calmes said though Alchemy formed recently, it has enjoyed success and positive reactions from local crowds, including a sold-out show.
The members of Alchemy are all classically trained musicians, and when they compose, they try to blend the foundations of classical with a contemporary sound. Calmes said they’d describe their sound as “post-indie rock” and mentioned The Killers and Two Door Cinema Club as influences.
Calmes said the band really enjoys live performances and that the best part of performing is “when you feed off the energy and the happiness of the crowd and you smile and the crowd is just singing along.”
For Scott Palahniuk, a solo singer-songwriter and a graduate student in the College of Health Sciences, Spotlight MKE gives the busy student who spends days working and studying in Cramer Hall the opportunity to perform live.
“I don’t get to play that many shows because of my time schedule, or play some of my own songs, because at bars I play a lot of covers, because that’s what people want to hear,” Palahniuk said. “I’m excited for my friends and family to come out and see the other bands. I think this is pretty awesome, that we can all get together and play a show across campus.”
For Palahniuk, performing live means combining classic singer-songwriter elements and using live-looping and vocal harmonizers.
“I try to make it sound like more than one person when I play,” he said.
Palahniuk said he first got into music when he started playing saxophone in middle school and eventually taught himself to play guitar and bass. He played in some other bands and during his time as an undergrad at Marquette has played open mic nights, including shows at the Brew and Mashuda Hall.
Layman said Spotlight MKE is much more organized that it has been in past years and that the energy level is very high, with both staff and bands looking forward to featuring all of what Milwaukee has to offer. Calmes agreed.
“This is what we want to do for a living, so we have a good set prepared,” Calmes said. “And even though the band itself is new, we’ve been doing this for a really long time. As musicians, we’re excited. I feel like Marquette’s going to be a really good show.”