Sari’s Travel Blog: To Milwaukee and Back, Oh boy!

Sorry for the slowness here friends! The last month has been a true whirlwind. Early September I headed down to Milwaukee for a little gathering called Yellow Phone Music Conference. When I got back I was thrown right into Manifesto madness and now all of a sudden, I’m on a plane to Berlin. More on that in the next travel blog!

Now that I’ve taken some time to reflect on my trip to Milwaukee, here’s the key take aways.

Before we go any further there is some things you may or may not already (but need to) know about Milwaukee. It is not a happy city. Nor is it full of life. It is like most small American cities (and oh is it very American)…it is a bit sad. I couldn’t help but get the feeling at every corner that the recession had really hit it hard. A number of vacant buildings, lots, offices, and everything for sale, and lots of homeless/poor people traipsing the downtown core. There were some oddities – like the airport having a communal ping pong table and even a suspended boat hung over the river… as if they could not afford to park it somewhere (we reasoned that it must be an art installation).

What I learned pretty quickly after arriving is that festivals are a big deal in Milwaukee.They have the Henry Maier Festival Park grounds at their disposal and that helps to keep the city busy. Every other person I met was involved in production at these bigger summer festivals. They have a 19 stage Irish Festival (the biggest in the world), the infamous Summerfest, and just the week before I arrived the 50th Harley Davidson anniversary had taken over the city.

Due to this constant festival after festival (sounds much like my life), it seemed like everyone has forgotten to make any long term plans for themselves. They are just going weekend by weekend and quite content at that. It was a very different culture then I’d had the chance to see up close but refreshing in some ways. In other ways, it was a bit of a lost culture.

There are some really kind people in Milwaukee. Conference organizers Doug and David are two of them. Despite running the aforementioned Harley Davidson festival the week before and then this conference, David picked me up at the airport AND took me for a drink at a local haunt, The Palomino when I first arrived in to town. I met David at ECMA’s a few years back and his story is really quite loveable. He’s stayed in and around the mid-West most of his life working as a promoter and production manager. Both of them work their asses off and with real care for the local community. This special care shown through, almost like they were the grandfathers of the scene. One of the main goals of Yellow Phone to help educate and elevate the mid-West artists and they did so proudly.

Most of the panels were busy and the artists were inquisitive. It was nice to see they really appreciated the delegates thoughts and took them to heart. I even have since received a postcard from one of the artists who saw me speak thanking me for the insights. How sweet is that!?

On Saturday I spoke on two panels and at the start of my third we realized that our moderator was missing. A fellow panelist posed the question, “who wants to moderate!?” and after a long pause of silence some words came out of my mouth… “Oh hell, I’ll do it!” WHAT!? Lucky for me, my years of watching panels and interviewing on the fly paid off. I found myself right in the zone, calling out members of the audience for case studies and picking apart artist development from the inside out. My new calling? perhaps. There was an awkward moment where I wasn’t quite on top of the world, but I found my groove shortly after again! All in all, I was glad I pushed myself to do it. My inner butterflies subsided 2 mins after I started chatting. Moderating is definitely something I’d like to do more of!

My nights were filled with eating delicious things, bar hopping with buds new and old, and watching some GREAT bands. Mise en Scene from Winnipeg dazzled new ears with their sexy but sweet rock and roll ala Best Coast. The Noble Theifs showed everyone how flexible they are and put on a killer set. Gab and Vic, two local sisters gave Tegan and Sara a run for their melodies. Tononto faves Poor Young Things were incredibly tight. It’s no wonder they had such a big festival summer. And of course, I loved getting to spend some time with my lovely Balconies. Their set was fierce and the new songs are sounding slicker each day. Special shout outs also go to Tall Heights and Bennett who I was able to catch a song or two of, and greatly enjoyed.

Now this is getting lengthy but I wouldn’t be doing Milwaukee justice if I didn’t chat about the food. WOW Milwaukee – you really nailed it on the food front. Luckily on my first night in town I found a great spot White Buffalo along the river and had the most delish quinoa meat balls. The Milwaukee Public Market was perfect for healthy snacks and smoothies throughout the day. The Milwaukee Ale House also surprised me with their delicious salads. Everywhere we went in to there was clearly labelled gluten/dairy free options, quite impressive for a city seeming lost in the decades. For example, the radio stations in event store/venue were playing 90’s hits (Goo Goo Dolls, Alannis Morissette), I didn’t mind it one bit.

And that is that. My trip to Milwaukee was lovely. Still gauging if/when I will ever need to return, but glad I got that one under my belt.

A special shout out to AB Milwaukee volunteer Stefania who was absolutely amazing to work with and really came through! It means so much to us that we can find good people in new cities who are willing to invest their time and energy in our artists. We never for a second take it for granted!

Thank you friends!

Until next time,



Sari Delmar is the founder and president of Audio Blood, a full-service artist and brand development company based in Toronto, Ontario. Through unique media and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Sari has been invited to speak on panels and conduct workshops at various industry events such as Canadian Music Week, East Coast Music Week, and Nova Scotia Music Week, to name a few. @saridelmar / for more info

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