Mobile Music Series showcases local bands


courtesy Patrick Manning

Mixtape MKE performs as part of the Mobile Music Series on the back of the RAD Wagon. This series has allowed for live music to continue during COVID times.

Taking off in June, Shorewood’s Business Improvement District (BID) introduced the Mobile Music Series, an event that brings live bands around the community with the help of a wagon. 

“Back in June, we had several of our events get cancelled because of COVID, and I had seen a vehicle called the Funk Club Wagon driving around in Riverwest playing music,” said Steph Salvia, BID executive director. “Some of our other BID board members had seen it as well and [were] like ‘We should get it to drive through Shorewood.’”

The Funk Club Wagon is a band that formed as a result of the pandemic. 

“Everybody’s gigs were cancelled basically because of COVID, and musicians still wanted to be able to perform,” Salvia said. “But you know, a virtual concert just isn’t the same vibe, so they went ahead and kind of rigged this trailer and figured out a way to get other musicians on so that they could enjoy live music.”

The Funk Club Wagon was the first band to play as a part of the Mobile Music Series.

“We decided the business district would have the mobile music going up and down the district area for a while, but we just also wanted to bring it out into the surrounding neighborhood,” Salvia said. “The first hour they spend in the district and then the other two hours they are able to actually drive into the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The BID also live streamed the event, so that people who could not make it were able to join in as well.

“That first livestream reached about 7,000 people,” Salvia said. “So that’s how we knew it was something we wanted to continue to do.”

Old Sam & the Teardrops played the event soon after in July. But this time, the experience was a little different. Instead of a trailer, the band played on the back of an old fire truck.

“The drummer from the Violent Femmes lives in Shorewood and… literally just formed this band because the Violent Femmes couldn’t go on tour because all of their gigs were cancelled,” Salvia said. “So he formed a band, and we booked them.”

In mid August De La Buena, a band with a mix of Afro Cuban and Latin Jazz, played on the Funk Club Wagon.

“They’ve actually been around Milwaukee a really long time,” Salvia said. “There’s actually close to ten members, but ten people don’t fit on the trailer so they did a smaller, mini version of De La Buena [that] played.”

Most recently, Mixtape MKE, an 80s cover band, played on the back of an entirely new vehicle called the RAD Wagon. Suzanne Singh, lead singer and manager of Mixtape MKE, was excited to be a part of it.

“It sounded like fun for one thing. Two of the people in the band live in the area, so we knew our friends would enjoy having something to do,” Singh said. “We decided pretty early on in the pandemic that we were not going to play inside… So we’ve been kind of looking for alternative options.”

We decided pretty early on in the pandemic that we were not going to play inside… So we’ve been kind of looking for alternative options.

— Suzanne Singh, lead singer and manager of Mixtape MKE

Elizabeth Muslin, resident, found out about the series through Facebook. The wagon came by her residence for one of the shows and attended the gathering in the business district for another.

“Two friends and I went for a little picnic on Oakland and we got wine and cheese and we just sat out there and waited for the band to go by,” Muslin said.

Muslin thought the series had a positive impact on the community.

“I think it’s been a really great program. It’s added excitement on a Friday night when there’s really nothing else to do,” Muslin said. “It’s been really community building. Like that day when we were out on Oakland there were lots of other people there sitting outside. It was a really nice community event. So I hope they keep on doing it.”

Singh agrees.

“I think people are craving music right now,” Singh said. “So I think in one way there are people who are just missing the music scene and they want to hear live music and this is a great way to do it. The other thing is this is just so unexpected and unusual to have a band riding on a truck down your street. I think it’s one of those fun, pleasant, unexpected, joyful sort of moments that mean so much more now than maybe they would have before COVID.”