“White Mystery, a brother and sister rock ‘n’ roll duo,” Shepherd Express

“It’s become a celebration of the neighborhood that everybody seems to look forward to,” Steph Salvia said about the upcoming Brady Street Festival as we talked over coffee at Brewed on Brady. Salvia is the executive director of the Brady Street BID#11 and the woman in charge of all the festivals in the neighborhood. This is the big one, of course. As a longtime neighborhood resident, I think she’s right. We daren’t move our cars that day, but we all take pride in the party. The Brady Street Festival will take place on Saturday, July 27 and run from 11 a.m. to midnight.

The street has little of a “business district” attitude about it. It’s narrow and short with a village feel. I walk it almost every day and almost always see someone I know. Buildings are by and large charming; they look handcrafted because they are. Clearly, it’s an historic district; old but always new, too; constantly changing. It holds the oldest of Milwaukee’s street festivals in its multi-ethnic arms.

The festival has blossomed under Salvia’s leadership. Judging from the size of the crowds in recent years, its popularity has skyrocketed. The diversity in race, ethnicity, age, wealth and fashion is remarkable, even for our diverse neighborhood. It feels like a city; like this city. “I think that happened somewhat organically,” Salvia continued, “but it also evolved with the music. Music for us here is so important. We book music across all genres, there’s something for everybody. Whole families come down for the day. And we have an equal mix of male and female performers.”

We have the Cream City Queens; the Casablanca belly dancers; men’s and women’s pro-wrestling; Zumba and salsa lessons in the street; the Division BMX Stunt Team bikers and the Milwaukee Flyers tumbling team; kids’ activities, a funny cheese curd eating contest and an artisan cheese tasting tent that’s to die for. We’re still hip, obviously.

Salvia is most proud of the music. When she joined the BID#11 years ago as a “communications person,” an outside agency produced the festival. “I wasn’t impressed with the music,” she said. “I thought we could step that up.” The BID never had a director. “So I said, you guys make me the director and I’ll take over all the event production.” She’s made this an important local music festival with a few out-of-town bands for added interest.

She booked the bands herself until recently. She’s still deeply involved, but now she’s helped by agents Haley Reeves and Danielle Cohen. “Quite honestly,” she said, “I would get super into it to the point where all I wanted to do every night was go out and listen to local music, so I could pick. So I hired two young women who are more able to do that. They have the relationships and know who to reach out to.”

There are four stages along the street’s nine blocks. “We don’t repeat our musical acts here,” Salvia noted. “It’s amazing how many people reach out to us to play here because of the crowds we have, and because we really do celebrate the music. In the afternoon, we’ll have newer bands that want to try out Brady Street. They’re something of a build-up to the nighttime headliners but equally as important.” Her excitement about all the scheduled artists radiated. Here are some names, with some Salvia comments in parentheses:

The experimental band OQ at 5:30 p.m. on the east end stage (“I love this city, so much talent!”) will be followed at 7 by White Mystery, a brother and sister rock ‘n’ roll duo from Chicago reminiscent of the B-52s (“So much fun!”). Milwaukee’s Amanda Huff takes that stage at 8:30 p.m. (“She just really sings from her heart!”) followed by Klassik at 10 p.m. (“Everybody knows Klassik!”). Salvia raved at length about Shaddye (“a 17-year-old Milwaukee rapper and COA kid”) who’ll perform at 2:30 p.m. on the center stage, and followed by SistaStrings at 5:30 p.m. (“They’re wow, right?”). Hot by Ziggy begins at 8:30 p.m.; the drummer Andrew Klain is president of the neighborhood association (“Talk about getting involved!”). Rose of the West plays at 10 p.m. (“rocky, bluesy fun”).

Salvia shared a video by Xposed 4Heads that’s as charming as this “retro-art-new-wave” Milwaukee band’s name. They’re on at 7:30 p.m. on the Glorioso’s stage. Singer B~Free is at 9 p.m. (“I just know I love her. She’s soulful R&B. She’s grown up here in her career.”) She named another Chicago group, Antony and the Tramps, who’ll play the west end stage at 7 p.m.. She’d wanted them last year, but they couldn’t come. (“It’s a roots-rock kind of vibe and a really good fit for the festival.”) Then come the belly dancers and the always awesome Cream City Queens drag show with Dita Von as this year’s M.C. (“It’s important for the community, I think, that we keep that going.”) 

Click here to read the full article on the Shepherd Express website.

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