ParenThesis: Keeping the door open

August 31, 2013

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Jill Maher color head shot Feb 2010Our daughter, who is five years old*, is a capable user of our home computer. Recently, while she surfed the PBS Kids site, she asked to keep the home office door closed to insulate herself from cooking noises in the kitchen. Her innocent question really surprised me because it seemed like something a teenager would argue for. Because we want to keep an eye on her online activities, my husband and I explained that the door stays open. We need to occasionally glance over her shoulder at the computer screen.

On busy days, it is very tempting to let her computer time be a mental checkout period for myself, when I don’t monitor her activities. Like many parents, I overcome that temptation and force myself to check in every few minutes. Years ago, I wasn’t watching closely and she pried one of the keys off my keyboard. Luckily, it was the letter “X,” which I don’t need to use often.

In the portable device realm, many parents are purchasing wraparounds that ruggedize their system. Every child is eventually going to drop the device or toss it aside. The protectors can help minimize the drop damage, but they only go so far because the screen is usually left unprotected.

The physical destruction of expensive equipment is one concern, but children’s exposure to content is an even greater one. The inability to spell and type are no longer big impediments to interaction. Now that we can search on Google using our voice, what might unrestricted access deliver to an inquisitive child?

In our family, each person has their own PC login, and our daughter’s restricts her web use to the PBS Kids site. I don’t usually give her my iPhone, but have occasionally handed it over to allow her to take pictures and videos. I know that I should put the device in airplane mode or use the lockdowns available at Settings > General > Restrictions but I get lazy. I certainly don’t want her accidentally dialing emergency services by randomly tapping 911.

Thus far, her “connected” experience has been fun and positive. I know that she will eventually participate independently in a global media system, and that’s a little freaky. What’s one missing letter “X” compared to exposure to x-rated content?

*She would want you to know that she is “five and three quarters.”

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at


Angelic Bakehouse relocating to Cudahy from Waukesha

August 31, 2013

The Layton Avenue property where Angelic Bakery is constructing their new home was once home of the George Meyer Bottling Company until the early 1980s.

The Layton Avenue property where Angelic Bakery is constructing their new home was once home of the George Meyer Bottling Company until the early 1980s. —photo Katherine Keller

By Sheila Julson

Waukesha-based Angelic Bakehouse (formerly known as Cybros), makers of sprouted grain bread and rolls, is relocating to a new 22,000-square-foot facility at 3275 E. Layton Ave. in Cudahy. The new building, expected to open November 2013, will include a retail counter. Their products are currently sold at various retail outlets, including Outpost Natural Foods.

One of the company’s hallmarks is its line of sprouted-grain products. Their proprietary process soaks unprocessed whole grains that are used with various flours in their dough formulas. The sprouted grains retain their key nutrients and vitamins that would be lost through traditional milling and refining, according to their website. The bakery makes loaf bread, rolls, buns, and baguettes.

James Marino, who owns the business with his wife Jenny, expressed enthusiasm about the move to Cudahy and the support they have received from the community. He said the move will accommodate growth, including a broader product line. Their newest offering is par-baked pizza crust and pizza dough that Marino said he plans to roll out nationally at a September 2013 trade show.

The business was started in 1969 by the Cyrus family, who developed the sprouted grain process. The Marinos purchased the company in 2009. They changed the name to Angelic Bakehouse to reflect the purity of the ingredients. Both James and Jenny left professional careers in finance and marketing to leap into the baking business. Neither had commercial baking experience, but they became enthralled with the concept and taste of sprouted grain products.

“The difference is the real grains,” Marino said, and explained the sprouted grain concept. “We take the bulk grains and soak them in a time- and temperature-controlled environment. This helps retain nutritional value and results in a better product with a more soft and chewy texture.” Angelic does not use genetically modified grains.

Angelic currently employs 29 people, which Marino expects will gradually increase to 100.

Other sites were considered prior to selecting Cudahy, including Menomonee Falls. “But we really wanted an older, artisan/craftsman part of town,” he said. They searched for available parcels or buildings in areas like the Third Ward and Bay View but didn’t find venues with adequate space, or that could accommodate large trailers.

“We’re excited about Angelic Bakehouse,” said Brian Biernat, Director of Economic Development, Inspections and Zoning for the city of Cudahy. He said he had followed the news of Angelic’s plan to relocate, and when it came to his attention that the Menomonee Falls deal fell through, he reached out to the Marinos, inviting them to consider Cudahy. He said the city was able to accommodate the Marinos’ aggressive timeline to build and open a new facility in 2013.

Biernat said Angelic purchased four of the 26 available acres of the vacant site and that Angelic ties in with the city’s plans to attract more niche “foodie” businesses to Cudahy. Biernat noted that the Milwaukee area has a booming artisan specialty-food and beverage scene.  Cudahy’s specific advantages include its close proximity to downtown Milwaukee, General Mitchell International Airport, its own water supply system, and the water’s reasonable rates. “We’re on the cusp of something very interesting in this district,” Biernat said.

The Layton Avenue property was once home of the George Meyer Bottling Company until the early 1980s. The shuttered complex remained neglected until the city of Cudahy began a blight elimination project and remediated the site. In recent years, an Ice Port project that would have included indoor skating rinks and sports activities was proposed. Construction began on the steel building frame for the Ice Port, but the project was abandoned because the developer could not secure funding to finish the project.


Bubbler Studios promotes Milwaukee art

August 31, 2013

By Sheila Julson

Bubbler Studios is a new Hide House tenant. ­   —photo Katherine Keller

Bubbler Studios is a new Hide House tenant. ­ —photo Katherine Keller

Milwaukee artists Ryan Laessig, Amanda Iglinski, Carlos Herrada, and Taylor Loy have joined creative forces to form Bubbler Studios, located in the east building of the Hide House, 2612 S. Greeley St.

Laessig said that members of their group — photographers, painters, graphic designers, and mixed media artists — are motivated by a strong desire to promote Milwaukee and its art scene. They opened Bubbler Studios June 1 and staged a “soft” grand opening July 20 with a “Fresh-Ass Mustache Party” that provided a sneak peek of the studio, and the opportunity to view and purchase work from the artists. They also served up live painting, drinks, and a photo booth.   

“Milwaukee needs to be recognized,” Laessig said of the city’s art scene. He added that there is much artistic talent in Milwaukee and noted that the city’s national reputation for arts has grown. He believes Milwaukee may even surpass Chicago in the future as an arts hub.

The four artists create individual work, and have also collaborated with one another. Laessig is the founder of Milwaukee Alt, the photography business he started six years ago. He specializes in alternative model/boudoir and fashion photography, as well as mixed media. He has been published in Costa Rica and Sweden for his local alternative model and fashion photography. He has also collaborated with local tattoo artist William Arthur to create Art Fusion, making urban stencil work.

In early 2013, Laessig partnered with Iglinski to form Milrawkee Alt, building off of Iglinski’s “Milrawkee,” a series of Milwaukee-themed paintings. They print Laessig’s photos of downtown Milwaukee street scenes on vinyl. Iglinski embellished the photos with paint, and then they frame them.

Iglinski has been an artist for over a decade. She started curating shows for the Hide House summer art and music festival, Art Beat In The Heat, in 2009. She specializes in pop-surrealist paintings using acrylics and airbrush.

Herrada is also a painter and graphic designer whose art is inspired by pop, modern, and urban art, and whose subject matter reflects his interest in the human body expressed via different styles and media. He recently formed Miltography with his colleague Taylor Loy. Miltography is a graphic design and photography project based on “all things Milwaukee,” for which Loy designs Milwaukee-themed T-shirts and postcards.

Herrada has also painted murals, and his most recent is still up at 5 POINTZ in Queens, N.Y.

Loy is a photographer and designer specializing in portrait, wedding, and infant photography on location or in studio.

Bubbler Studios presented an exhibit and sold their work at the Hide House Art Beat in the Heat  in August and will be at Arts VS Crafts Saturday, Nov. 30. Their work is also on display at Tonic Tavern, Roast Coffee Company on the East Side, and The Waxwing in Shorewood.

“All four us blend,” Laessig said of the chemistry between himself and his fellow artists. Their mutual goal is to increase Milwaukee’s presence as an arts hub.

In the past, Bubbler artists participated in Gallery Night events in the main building at the Hide House, so Laessig believed it would be ideal to have studio space in the building. Laessig lives in Bay View, and he said that Iglinski, Herrada, and Loy live nearby. He said, “The Hide House is a recognizable spot. Most people know where it is.”

Bubbler Studios
2612 S. Greeley St., Suite 400


Neutral Ground martial arts studio

August 31, 2013

By Sheila Julson

Being bullied and picked on can often result in behavior that goes one of two ways: become another bully — or do something positive to defend oneself, build confidence, and teach others the same. Jon Friedland chose the latter.

Friedland is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament fighter, instructor, and founder of Neutral Ground Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness, 2633 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., located in the former Jerry’s Hobby Shop. Friedland said he has practiced Brazilian jiu jitsu since March 1997, while in the U.S. Army. Brazilian jiu jitsu is a form of groundwork martial arts focused on grappling, holds, and joint-locks. It is used in self-defense and combat sports.

The studio offers Brazilian jiu jitsu and beginner kickboxing, with kid’s jiu jitsu classes coming soon.

After the army, Friedland earned a degree in Civil Engineering from UW-Milwaukee in 2003. While living in Tokyo, he knew he wanted to share his enthusiasm of jiu jitsu and came up with the concept for a martial arts studio where there was neutral ground, where everyone could feel welcome and not intimidated by those with greater skills or experience.

In 2005, he made Neutral Ground a reality with an East Side location at 932 Pleasant Ave. He observed that Bay View was an untapped area since the Henry Matamoros Brazilian Jiu Jitsu studio closed.

Neutral Ground’s Bay View location opened July 2013.

On a steamy August evening, 15 students began a beginner’s Brazilian jiu jitsu class by randomly forming a circle on the mat and respectfully bowing to each other. The circle greeting is unique to Neutral Ground. “I’ve been to other studios as a guest, and students are lined up according to experience and skill,” Friedland said. He believes clustering the weaker students with one another and clustering the stronger students with other strong participants encourages exclusion and cliques.

Shane Olivo agrees. He teaches tai chi at the East Side location. Like some of Neutral Ground’s instructors, he is a student as well as a teacher. “A lot of studios play punk or hard-core metal, which can encourage aggression. Jon plays dance or hip-hop. He encourages the mindset of working with someone versus against someone,” Olivo said.

Friedland began the class by demonstrating the Pendulum Sweep with Neutral Ground judo instructor, Mike Coy. The technique was the focus of the evening’s class. Then, against a background of pop music, men and women, ages teen to 40-somethings, paired up to try out the move. Friedland roved about the mat, offering praise and advice.

Bay View resident husband and wife Jodee and Maggie Benavides and their sons, Leonides, 17; Raul, 13; and Jacquot, 9, participate in jiu jitsu at Neutral Ground. Maggie stressed the fitness benefits and the advantages for women, citing the recent assaults in Bay View as even more incentive. “It’s great self-defense,” she said.

Benavides and his family used to be involved with Matamoros. He praised the open, family-friendly culture of Neutral Ground. “I’m glad jiu jitsu is back in the neighborhood,” he said. “Some people think this is just for meatheads or jocks, but that’s not the case. It’s a safe environment, both physically and emotionally.”

Kickboxing instructor and jiu jitsu student Jason Sundberg, noting that some of their students are teens, said kickboxing teaches respect, the discipline required of training, and a sense of belonging. “Some people think it teaches kids how to fight and makes them want to get into fights, but it really keeps them involved in an activity, and it gives them something to do,” he said.

The casual ambiance of the studio was evident as participants who needed a break stepped aside for a sip of water or to the door to catch a breeze drifting inside. People passing by on Kinnickinnic Avenue paused to glance through the windows as students grappled with one another and with Friedland.

“It’s mental as well as physical,” said Tyler Lindstad. “You use your strongest part against their weakest part.” He noted that everybody could do it, regardless of size or strength. He admitted being defeated by a petite female in the class, who smiled slyly as she was walking past and heard him say this.

A beginner’s jiu jitsu geared for women began in late August. “It’s so they can feel comfortable and not be intimidated by walking in and seeing all men,” Friedland said, adding that males will gradually join so women can hone self-defense skills, as a threatening real-life situation would likely involve women defending against men and not other women.

The class ended at 7:30pm with the group again forming a circle and bowing respectfully to one another, and with high-fives of encouragement.

Friedland has a tattoo of a quote from the late Hélio Gracie, a martial arts master who is regarded as one of the fathers of Brazilian jiu jitsu. The quote has become his personal motto: “Teach those who do not know, remind those who do know, and correct those who think they know.”

Neutral Ground also has locations in Grafton and Stevens Point, where they are operated by Luke Summerfield and Perry Wirth.

Summer’s over? Not to bicyclists

August 31, 2013

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

School is back in session and the sun is rising later, but area bicyclists are riding as if summer was in full swing. Each Tuesday, one to two dozen riders gather at The Beulah Brinton Center for a 9am ride. They ride together for 20 to 25 miles, an activity offered by the Bay View Bicycle Club.

Almost all of the club’s members live in surrounding areas, trekking to Bay View not for an appointment at a salon or to dine in a restaurant but to spin their spoked wheels.

Local Dick Knepper founded the club in 1989 and added the Tuesday ride in 2011 to attract new members. It hasn’t panned out as a recruitment incentive, which was Knepper’s goal, because most participants are already club members.

The club consists of a volunteer board and about 140 members who pay $25 per person or $40 per household annually. About two-thirds accrue participation points during the April through October riding season.

They gain points by participating in some of the roughly 70 organized rides per year, either the Tuesday ride or a weekend ride. On the weekend, the group meets at a prearranged location in the metro area to start the ride. At the end of the riding season, six club members – three men and three women – receive prizes for earning the most points for the year.

The group has fun elements like picnics and kayaking outings. They organize the Lake Country Classic, a charity recreational ride, which raises thousands of dollars for organizations like Hunger Task Force and Hank Aaron State Trail.

One Tuesday rider is Suzanne Ziegler, who sometimes wears a light blue club jersey and straddles a Specialized (brand name) road bike. She comes from the Third Ward and counts her miles with the club among her “few hundred” miles on the odometer per week. She rides with the club and on her own, and took a break from her cross-country ride in August to ride with her club.

“We’ve got some good riders out here but the goal isn’t to get from Point A to Point B as fast as you can. The goal is to have fun along the way,” said Ziegler. She characterizes the other riders as talented people who love to ride but are casual and supportive of one another.

Dean Mowery of Greenfield is another rider who finds it worthwhile to come to Bay View to bike to another part of town such as north to Estabrook Park. He has ridden a bike for 30 years but started putting on more miles in 2012.

“It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about the city that you’ll never notice in a car,” said Mowery. For example, he noticed a walkway to Lake Michigan in Atwater Park.

The Tuesday riders maintain a relaxed pace and average about 12 mph despite stops for traffic lights. The weekend rides offer a variety of distances and speeds. Though they do not have an official “sweeper” who checks the route for riders who fall behind, club members look out for one another’s safety. The volunteer ride chair collects insurance waivers, provides a map with cues for which roads to turn on, carries a first aid kit, and helps make sure each rider finishes.

“I enjoy the friendship, I love the biking, and I love being outside. It is the trifecta of happiness,” said Mowery.

South Shore Cyclery Rides

To the south, another group continues to ride despite waning sunlight. Each Wednesday evening, 15 to 20 bicyclists gather in front of Cudahy’s South Shore Cyclery.

This group is not part of a club – no fees or waivers required. They are bound together simply by their joy of riding. Many work during the day and fit the ride in after their job and before darkness impedes safe riding.

They set out at different paces for a 26-mile trip that heads east on Layton Avenue, goes south along Lake Drive, crosses Oak Creek Parkway, continues along Fifth Avenue, west on Ryan Road, and south on Nicholson Road to 7 Mile Road. They race the setting sun back to the shop and are watched over by sweeper and bike shop mechanic Roy Laird.

“My job as the sweeper is to be the last person so I make sure everybody gets in. There are people that are really fast and they finish first. There are three of four different groups (who ride) at different paces but nobody slower than me,” said Laird.

The self-described “strange old funny guy” explained, “Besides the fact that I’m old and slow, I hang back to make sure everybody gets in.” Laird is 65 and began working at the bike shop to keep himself busy during retirement.

One of the most common troubles afflicting road bikes is a leaky inner tube that causes a flat tire. Laird carries replacement inner tubes and a small tool kit, particularly for less-experienced riders who aren’t able to change their own tires.

The ride provides an opportunity for people who don’t have bicycling friends to meet other riders. Some people have become acquainted during the group ride and then have made plans to ride together again. Group members often relax at a bar after their outing.

The group will gather until at least Sept. 11 and begin again in April or May, depending on the spring weather.

A faster group gathers at the shop on Saturdays and rides about 40 miles at 18 mph. That outing is led by a store customer and is “drop style, ” which means that people do not wait for slower riders.

Ride details are available on the South Shore Cyclery website or via their email list. An email signup is available on the site. + Facebook Facebook
(414) 831-0211


Doggie Dip September 2

August 31, 2013

Milwaukee County Parks’ ever-so-popular annual Doggie Dip event is Sept. 2, 6:30-8pm at Cool Waters in Greenfield Park, 2028 S. 124th St. Admission the day of the event is $5 per dog. Because of the popularity of the event, admission wristbands may be purchased Sept. 1 from 10am-6pm. The wristband provides entry to the pool on the day of the event avoiding the necessity of waiting in long lines.

Discounted 2013 Dog Exercise Area permits will be available for sale for $10, a 67% discount from the full price. Take the license number and rabies tag for each dog, which are required in order to purchase the permit.

In the event of inclement weather, call the Cool Waters Hotline at (414) 257-8089.

Bay View homicide

August 31, 2013

Javier Bautista, 38, was stabbed to death about 2:30am Aug. 18 on the north side of the 1500 block of East Oklahoma Avenue. Suspect Charles R. Smith, 30, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide by the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office Aug. 21.

District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski said that residents should be reassured that the murder was not a random act “by someone lurking in the neighborhood.” He said the incident occurred as a consequence of an argument between the two men who knew each other.

Post-Frolic meeting Sept. 25

August 31, 2013

CORRECTION: Meeting is Wednesday, September 25.

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski will host a community meeting to take comments and suggestions from residents about the 2013 South Shore Frolic festival.

This year, the Bay View Lions, who sponsor and stage the festival, began to address some of the complaints and concerns of Bay View residents who live near South Shore Park where the festival is staged. Two significant changes this year were prohibiting the carrying of alcoholic beverages into the festival area and moving the grand fireworks display from the closing ceremony on Sunday evening, to Friday evening, the first day of the festival that ran from July 12-14.

“Anyone with ideas, complaints or suggestions is invited to attend and participate,” Zielinski said in a online post about the meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30pm, , Sept. 25, in the South Shore Park Pavilion. More info: or (414) 286-3769.

New school name, new principals

August 31, 2013

The former Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities and Dover Street School, both housed in the former Fritsche Middle School building, 2969 S. Howell Ave., combined programs and beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year will be known as Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts. Jeffrey Krupar, who was principal of both schools and who retired at completion of the last school year, will be succeeded by Lila Hillman, who held the assistant principal position at Wedgewood Park International School prior to her promotion.

Aaron Shapiro, formerly an assistant principal at South Division High School, takes over the reins at Bay View Middle and High School, where he succeeds Jonathan Leinfelder.

Public invited to MCFI grand opening, Sept. 26

August 31, 2013

MCFI grand opening invitation

The Milwaukee Center For Independence invites Bay View residents to an open house and 75th anniversary celebration from 3:30 to 7pm, Thurs., Sept. 26 at its newly renovated campus, 3333 S. Howell Ave. Tours of the facility, including the new Nexday program for people recovering from brain injury, stroke and other neurological conditions, will be available throughout the event, with a program scheduled for presentation at 5pm.

Admission is free and light refreshments will be served. The MCFI 75th Anniversary book, Reaching Forward, will be premiered at this event. More info: or call (414) 937-2042.


August 31, 2013

By Gian Pogliano

Though not typically accorded high visibility in sandwich fare, the Italian beef sandwich is a creation that is American and a surprisingly difficult thing to do well. It requires a perfect balance of heat and piquancy in the toppings, mouthwatering flavors in the meat, and savory herbs in a dip.

Since Beef-E’s, a new food cart debuted July 8, it has been steadily gaining momentum. Owners Eric Manke and Dave McGuinness have created sandwiches of distinctly high quality.

Unlike many of the city’s brick-and-mortar options that offer the sandwich, Beef-E’s meats are prepped from scratch on the same day they’re in the cart. Both meats and vegetables are undeniably fresh, as opposed to the reheated food service products that most greasy spoon diners rely on.

Pals Manke and McGuinness found themselves traveling to Chicago regularly for authentic Italian beef sandwiches from legendary restaurants like Al’s in the city’s Little Italy.

They resolved to learn how to make their own, and eventually felt they wanted to share the real thing with Milwaukeeans. But to create the menu for their future food cart, they went through a long trial-and-error process to invent unique new twists on the sandwich.

They have created seven sandwiches and offer four per day, rotating the mix daily.

Beef-e’s Classic ($6), the standard Italian beef sandwich, comes with sweet peppers and hot or mild giardiniera. It is available every day.

A true Italian beef sandwich experience is fast and intense, as your mouth is pummeled by spicy bites and your hand drips with dip and giardiniera bits. It is not for the faint of heart.

The Italian Stallion ($6) delivers this in spades. A variation on a Philly cheesesteak, it includes mozzarella, pan-fried mushrooms, fried onions, and green peppers, along with the obligatory hot giardiniera. The roast beef was bold, seeming to leap straight from the slicer. The mushrooms were big, flavorful, and clearly fresh, with just a slight veneer of char. The onions were soft and caramelized and the mozzarella was subtle but an incredibly important element of the whole package. (Mozzarella is a free add-on for their sandwiches that don’t include it.)

The Stallis ($6) conferred multiple types of spiciness that collided with each other and jockeying for supremacy. The creamy yet peppery Southwest sauce blended nicely with the gravy-like savoriness of the dip before its hot chipotle aftertaste sets it back at the top of the hill. I tried it with green peppers and mild giardiniera. Even with the mild giardiniera, the sandwich packed a pronounced kick.

The Brew City Beef ($7) is Beef-E’s spin on hometown pride with its white cheddar cheese curds and bacon. The plump curds are surprisingly mild but flavorful, with a pleasing, lightly-fried outer texture in contrast to an almost fluffy interior. The bacon is smoky and crunchy, and the sandwich works well with a dip as the curds give its flavor more subtlety while still preserving some of its light heat. The dip also highlighted the bun, the unsung hero of a good Italian beef. Made at Canfora Bakery, the bun held together without fail, even after a 20-minute walk home.

Beef-E’s cart is at The Bubbler in Bay View most Monday nights.

Consult or for up-to-date location announcements.

Market music sweetens Saturday mornings

August 31, 2013

By Jay Bullock

Chill on the Hill is done for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get free live music in a Bay View park. The South Shore Farmers Market is still happening every Saturday through October 12 at South Shore Park, with live music every week.

This summer, Bay View resident Brad Hoernke has been helping out on the sound for other bands at the market, but on September 14, he and his band the Minor Five will be on the other side of the microphones.

Hoernke said, “I saw they were looking for volunteers, and since they were so nice to hire our band, I thought I’d help out.”

Fair Webber— from left:  Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

Fair Webber— from left: Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

The Minor Five has its roots in the Milwaukee Guitar Club, a loosely-bound group of guitarists (and others) who meet every Tuesday evening at Bay View’s Puddler’s Hall. In the fall of 2011, member Ken Baron, a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher and prolific songwriter, asked club co-founder Hoernke if he knew of a female vocalist who might sing some of Baron’s songs. Hoernke recommended Jamie Dixon, another Guitar Club member.

Baron brought in Ector Rogriguez, another MPS teacher, and invited Hoernke to play bass.

“It was like magic the first time we played,” Hoernke said of their early rehearsals.

They played their first shows in December that year, including a show at The Hamilton on Milwaukee’s East Side and at the Bay View Brew Haus (now the Down and Over Pub), the former home of the Guitar Club.

“We needed a name, because The Hamilton wanted to advertise our show,” Hoernke said. “We chose ‘The Minor Five’ under pressure, and though nobody seemed to like it, we went with it.”

But Hoernke also noted the name was interesting. “There is no minor fifth in music, so it’s kind of ironic,” he said.

Dixon left Milwaukee the summer of 2012, and the group asked Jalena Hegemann, who occasionally attended Guitar Club, to replace her. Hegemann’s fiancé, Dennis Jernberg, a longtime Milwaukee musician, joined the group on keyboards and accordion. James Gnas plays drums at most of their shows, and the group recently added Victor Buell to play additional percussion.

The Minor Five’s sound is hard to pin down. “We play an eclectic bunch of music,” Hoernke said, “ranging from polka to jazz to blues.” However, “everything we do tends to end up with a Latin twist on it.”

That’s because of lead guitarist Ector Rogriguez, a music teacher who is well versed in classical and Latin American guitar styles. He plays his leads on a nylon-string classical guitar, and adds a distinct Latin jazz feel to Ken Baron’s original songs.

Jalena Hegemann, meanwhile, sings with a powerful, sultry, bluesy voice, occasionally adding notes of country or Americana to the music.

Hoernke said the band’s personal diversity — the different walks of life the members have come from, adds to the group’s distinctive sound. “When we all get together, it’s like a gumbo,” he said.

Most of what listeners will hear is Baron’s original, by Baron. “We pretty much can do anything,” Hoernke said, “but we choose to play originals. That way we get to use our creativity, and we’re not being compared to anyone else. We don’t want to try to sound like some other band.”

Hoernke said Baron has written over 500 songs, giving the band plenty of material to work with as they continue to play together. They have not yet recorded their first album, but they plan to do so sometime soon after their September 14 show at the farmers market.

Longtime Milwaukee favorites, and Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award winners, Barb and Tom Webber bring their Fair Webber Band to the market on September 21. Barb sings and Tom both sings and plays guitar, with Andy Waldoch on bass and Lon Coulliard on percussion.

Fair Webber— from left:  Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

The Minor Five — from left: Bradley Hoernke, Ken Baron, Jalena Hegemann, James Gnas, Ector Rogriguez, Dennis Jernberg. Photo by Jen Roberts, courtesy the Minor Five.

The Webbers have been playing together for 25 years, have been married for almost as long. Tom, who started playing guitar as a kid in his native Texas, taught Barb to sing harmony. “Then I wrote my first two songs on guitar,” Barb said, “and Tom said they were good.”

“We fell in love, and Tom kept encouraging my writing,” Barb added, though she gave up the guitar. “I found that I could write better a cappella,” she said, “and Tom kept pushing and growing, too, to keep up with where I wanted to go vocally.”

Where Barb has gone is pretty much everywhere; her vocals range from angelic highs to bluesy bends and fun country riffs, depending on what the song calls for. She calls her writing “oral storytelling,” with characters front and center in her songs.

“My writing is really based in valuing the stories people go through on their journey of life,” she said, though she also recognizes her audience’s ability to value the stories too. “I work hard to present the story so people can get their own interpretation,” she said. “When you tell a story about someone’s life, people take what they want, and I’m good to let it go.”

Tom arranges the songs Barb writes a cappella, and sings many of them himself in his gruff Texas growl, sensitive to the needs of the song. When they take the songs to the band, the song stays central.

Barb said, “Lon reads the words carefully, telling a story with his percussion. Andy also gets the song and what it’s trying to say, and honors it.”

Since 2000, Barb and Tom have released three CDs of original music that they recorded with their friend Greg Lindsey on guitar, and a CD of covers recorded live with the Fair Webber band.

In August 2012, Barb and Tom entered the Great River Folk Festival songwriting and performance contest in La Crosse, Wis., and won. As part of the first-place prize, they were awarded recording time at a studio in La Crosse, and in July of this year, the two recorded music for their fifth CD.

“We had an idea for a CD, but including the band,” Barb said, but Milwaukee folk icon Larry Penn suggested that they should record just the two of them. “We recorded 10 songs in eight hours,” she said. They hope to release that CD this fall.

At the farmers market, listeners can expect to hear many of Barb’s originals, some choice cover songs, and the famous Tom and Barb banter. The two have become known for good-natured sniping and ribbing between songs.

Tom said, “We’re two creative spirits, and that means two egos, and that comes out on stage.” Barb added that it’s real, that their banter “resonates with people in a relationship, where there’s give and take.”

“And we enjoy it,” she said.

They also enjoy the South Shore Farmers Market, having played there a number of times. “When we’re singing there, looking out over the lake, we see these layers of beauty,” Barb said. “There’s the awesome lake, the big, old trees casting shade, and neighbors being together. The people there appreciate the art, listen to the words.”

Tom agreed. “Out of all the farmers markets we perform at,” he said, “this one has people most attuned to the music.”

“It’s just a joy to be there,” Barb said.

The Minor Five play the South Shore Farmers Market September 14 and Fair Webber plays September 21. The starting time is 10:15am. Follow Jay Bullock on Twitter @folkbum.


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