All Bands on Deck
By Rev. Norb Rozek
I lived on South Broadway in Green Bay from the mid ’80s until the bulldozers arrived in the late ‘90s.
It was everything you’ve heard: Cheap rent, drunks in the doorway, broken car windows.
Cover bands would grace the taverns there from time to time, but I generally stayed out of the bars on my street.
They tended to be the kinds of places where the patrons held their pool cues like weapons and cast highly suspicious glances at newcomers.
Between the stink eye and the pool cues, it wasn’t a particularly welcoming environment in which to take in live music.
Fast-forward thirty years or so, and South Broadway – plus its suburb of State Street – is ground zero for next weekend’s second annual All Bands On Deck festival, a sprawling marvel of an event involving twenty-five venues and nearly one hundred performances by seventy-five bands – most of them local.
Running from noon-midnight Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9th and 10th, the event is already Green Bay’s largest music festival.
The string of participating venues extends for almost a mile and a half, from Knight’s Tarlton Theatre on West Walnut Street to the Overtime Grill & Pub on South Broadway near the Georgia-Pacific mill.
Free shuttles courtesy of the Brown County Tavern League will be running all day, ensuring patrons can safely travel among venues while still enjoying themselves.
Considering I once saw a couple drive into a telephone pole while I was doing dishes at my South Broadway apartment, I’d say that’s not a terrible idea.
The mind reels
Admittedly, it might be Green Bay’s largest music festival somewhat by default, but South Broadway hosting an event even vaguely resembling a music festival (and one that leans towards original music, no less) was not an occurrence anyone could have foreseen back in the day.
The mind reels a bit.
“I wasn’t around then – so I don’t have first-hand experience – but I’ve heard the tales” sai Tarl Knight, director of The Shipyard District, Inc. which organizes the event. “Broadway is a lot cleaner and safer these days. We’re a developing part of downtown, and we want to highlight to people across the city that things are a little different now. There’s a lot of art and music coming in.”
“We initially created All Bands On Deck to reintroduce people to our part of Broadway,” said Jolinda Gorzelanczyk, board member of The Shipyard District, Inc., and co-owner of Cheesesteak Rebellion, a participating venue. “We also believe that Green Bay has some very talented artists who deserve to be showcased.”
Favorite bar, or favorite band?
While the term “music festival” is often associated with an event held at a centralized (and likely outdoor) location, All Bands On Deck is cast more in the mold of events such as the annual South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas: Dozens of bands perform simultaneously at participating venues, and patrons move from venue to venue as the mood strikes them.
There’s no main stage, no festival grounds, no Tilt-A-Whirl.
There’s also no admission charge.
“People come in and spend some money on food and drinks,” Knight said. “You come in to see your favorite band, and maybe find your new favorite bar or restaurant. Or maybe you come to your favorite bar or restaurant and find your new favorite band. The music happens inside, so the festival works despite (inclement) weather.”
A hit with visitors, businesses and bands
By all accounts, last year’s event was a rousing success, despite the organizers having to plan the event in a condensed time frame.
“The numbers and response far surpassed our expectations” said Gorzelanczyk, “and we expect a bigger turnout this year. This time we’re waiting until after Labor Day, so there isn’t so much going on… and it’s not so freakin’ hot!”
In addition to stimulating the merry jingling of South Broadway cash registers, All Bands On Deck also went over well with the performers.
Of the 50 or so acts who participated in last year’s event, almost all are returning this year.
“It was great fun,” says Domenic Marcantonio, ringleader of long-tenured Green Bay band Beach Patrol.
“Those were our first gigs post-covid lockdown, so it was a very momentous and exciting time for us.”
“Our show last year was way better than we expected,” added Chris Schoenecker of WAMI-nominated local band The Chocolateers. “We played at State Street Pub in their beer garden, and the place was packed with people really into what was going on. It was great. I hope the energy is the same this year.”
Schoenecker encouraged people to get out of their comfort zone and take in as many acts as possible.
Carving its own niche
Comparisons with Appleton’s Mile of Music festival – a roughly similar but substantially larger and higher-budgeted annual event – are inevitable.
“Hopefully this event will continue to grow and become a more homegrown version of Mile Of Music,” Marcantonio said, “because focusing on local and original music is inherently cool!”
But Schoenecker begs to differ.
“I wouldn’t want it to try to be or compete with Mile of Music. I hope this year solidifies the event, but I don’t think it needs to get too big. It would be nice to give all the little or fringe guys and girls their time to shine.”
The event’s organizers seem to share Schoenecker’s view.
While Gorzelanczyk feels it’s possible the festival could one day expand to include the On Broadway district north of West Walnut, Knight has already turned down opportunities to expand the event across the river and to bring in larger headliners.
“It’s business owners and property owners revitalizing the district on their own terms,” he said. “It’s one big celebration of local business and music. They’re moving the coal piles in the next 10 years, and hopefully at that point downtown starts expanding south. Until then we’ll be a grass roots celebration. We’re good where we’re at.”
Participating Venues (north to south)
The Tarlton Theatre
Best Budz Dispensary
Jake’s Pizza Restaurant/Bar
White Dog Cafe Restaurant/Bar
Old School Bar Bar
Blue Suede Foods Food Truck
Rockabilly’s Saloon Bar
The Public Haus Bar
Bourbon Street Pub Restaurant/Bar
Richard Craniums Bar
Boss Dogs Food Truck
Hammer Inn Restaurant/Bar
State Street Pub Bar
Taco Tone’s Food Trailer Food Truck
The Slammer Bar
Cheesesteak Rebellion Restaurant/Bar
Blue Collar Bar & Grill Restaurant/Bar
Lil Jamaica Restaurant/Bar/Food Truck
Packer Stadium Lounge Bar
Overtime Grill & Pub Restaurant/Bar