Friday, January 01, 1999

Stewsday - Book 'em

Book 'em
Author: Tom Laskin
Published: March 27, 1998
Isthmus, Music - News: page 22

Greg Stewart never figured on becoming a concert promoter. That is until the fates conspired to keep him from a gig by Jazz Mandolin Project at the Villanova Jazz Festival. "We missed them by a drumbeat," explains Stewart, whose one-man company, Stewsday Productions, concentrates on groove-oriented rock and jazz bands. "So I decided to bring them here because, you know, I wanted to see them."

That was three years ago, when Stewart was a sophomore studying anthropology and communication arts at the UW. Now he splits his time between working temp jobs and booking jam-happy cult ats like the eclectic Colorado rockers the String Cheese Incident (Friday, April 3, Barrymore Theatre) and New Orleans funksters Galactic (Friday, April 17, Barrymore Theatre, with jazz-rock guitarist Charlie Hunter). It's not much of a living at present, but that's okay with Stewart, who says that profit isn't his primary motivation. "I don't book bands off CDs," he says. "I don't just listen to what agencies tell me. I have to see them live. If I don't like 'em - if there isn't a live component - I don't book 'em."

At present, many of the acts Stewart goes after are members of the loose national circuit that runs through Boulder, Burlington and other neo-hippie hotbeds. However, he thinks the relative health of the annual H.O.R.D.E. Festival and the cahnging tastes of college audiences may help to transform today's moderately priced bookings into tomorrow's stars. "I'm pretty confident that a lot of the bands I'm doing now are going to be mainstream in a few years," he says. "Right now they have a track record and a grassroots fan base in a lot of cities. All it takes is more publicity and promotion; that's important."

Like other local promoters, Stewart laments the fact that there isn't a large club in town that offers concertgoers a chance to dance and enjoy live bands at the same time. Still, he isn't letting the lack of facilities get him down, because he feels music can serve a larger purpose than simply filling up concert halls. "The shows I'm doing have a good, family feel about them," he says. "I want to keep supporting that wherever I can - whether it's the Union, the Barrymore or Que Sera. It's really all about how you treat people. If you treat people like animals, they're going to act like that. If you treat people well, you can connect with them and gain a sense of community. I think a lot of promoters forget about that."

Caption: Promoter Greg Stewart brings us jam-happy acts like String Cheese Incident and Galactic.


Cops Won't Let Live Bands Play At Mifflin St. Bash

Cops Won't Let Live Bands Play At Mifflin St. Bash
Capital Times :: Local/State :: 2A
Tuesday, April 28, 1998
By Pat Schneider The Capital Times
The tone of the Mifflin Street block party this weekend could well be set by the music.
Police at a community meeting Monday said live bands will not be allowed because they would draw crowds too large to be safely accommodated in the two-block strip of aging housing near campus.

For 30 years, the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin have been the site of a party marking the end of the school year for University of Wisconsin students.

Several of the approximately 50 students who turned out for the meeting objected that letting bands play on their porches was their right as part of the private parties they planned to host.

``We just want to have fun,'' said one student. ``It's not much of a block party if you're in your house.''

``You're not having a private party if you have a band on the porch,'' said police Capt. George Silverwood, head of the downtown district. ``You're going to have a huge crowd and attract a lot of people to the neighborhood.

``The size of the party is the issue. There's no way you can control or we can control who shows up.''

Monday's session was planned as the only community meeting to prepare for the party to avoid a repeat of the riot that closed the 1996 event. Up to 20,000 people attended the party that year, and violence broke out Saturday night as a drunken mob set bonfires and pelted firefighters and police with bottles and rocks.

Police and students had sometimes clashed in the early days of the block party, which was born in the days of Vietnam War protests. The political tone of the party eroded over the years, but the potential for violence grew once again in recent years as the event became known throughout the Midwest as a springtime drinking festival.

Silverwood said Monday that the party had been building toward the 1996 confrontation with police for several years.

Weeks of well-publicized planning by the city preceded the 1997 party, when cold, rainy weather and a strong police presence kept partygoers inside and incidents to a minimum.

On Monday, students said they did not want to see a repeat of either 1996 or 1997, when the presence of 90 police officers cast a pall over the festivities and scared people away.

Silverwood said a smaller contingent is scheduled for this weekend, with 30 officers on duty Friday night and 60 officers on duty Saturday. Estimated cost is $10,000 to $15,000.

City officials also have asked area liquor stores not to deliver kegs to the neighborhood on Saturday and to suspend sales of beer in bottles. Police officers will enforce alcohol laws, said Silverwood, and issue tickets for drinking on the sidewalks or street and for underage consumption that comes to their attention.

Parking in the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street and the 10 and 100 blocks of Bassett also will be prohibited on Saturday. The city will begin towing cars after 9 a.m.

Silverwood said live band music in residential areas is prohibited under city zoning ordinances and likely would violate the noise ordinance as well.

He indicated that police would be much more tolerant of loud stereo music, issuing warnings before citing people for violation of the noise ordinance.

Students present Monday said they would limit admission to house parties to people they know.

``The best way to stop a riot is if the people who live here control what we can,'' said Greg Stewart. ``We have more sway with our friends than police do.''

District 4 Ald. Mike Verveer, who has been negotiating with police on their handling of the party, deplored the violence of 1996. But he said he did not want members of the community to be scared away by the presence of police, as they clearly were last year.

``I hope people are not scared to be in the neighborhood. There is no reason to be terrified,'' Verveer said.

Several students insisted that 1997's incident-free event proves that controls can be loosened.

``You're asking me to roll the dice,'' said Silverwood. ``And the community just won't accept that.''

Rob Deters said after the meeting that he was disappointed about the Police Department's hard line on live music.

``The idea that loud noise equals out-of-control is wrong,'' said Deters, who added that he was hit in the head with a bottle in 1996. ``I hope there are bands. And I hope we're noisy.''