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WiscoJazz Winds to an End

Nov. 16, 2011
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Luke Balzrina didn't know what to expect when he launched his weekly WiscoJazz night at the Highbury Pub in 2006. He'd only DJed at the Bay View soccer bar once before and he didn't have much of a read on its clientele, and for his first few Fridays behind the turntables there, it showed—at times his straight electronic sets as DJ Lukewarm proved too clubby for the bar's regulars. But as Balzrina tweaked his selection, throwing in more funk and soul and contemporary pop remixes, he began to win them over.

"It was a little tough at first, but the people in Bay View, and especially at the Highbury, are so open and nice, that they really greet you with open arms down there," Balzrina says. "It was pretty satisfying seeing some of the friends I had from the electronic-music realm become good friends with the bar regulars there."

Founded during something of a dry spell for the local electronic scene, when some of the city's most prolific promoters began slowing down or moving away, WiscoJazz Fridays went on to become the city's longest-running weekly DJ spin. Balzrina kept the event fresh with a wide assortment of guest DJs and theme nights, including recent Kraftwerk and Daft Punk tributes and a Star Wars
disco party this Halloween. After five years, though, Balzrina has decided to retire the night.

"Five years is a long time to do anything on a weekly basis, and I pretty much had done everything I wanted to do with the night," he explains. "Plus, I just had a kid, and I'm looking to spend more time at home, so I figured with the five-year anniversary coming up, that was a good time to end it on a high note."

Balzrina says he'll continue to play out occasionally, and plans to use some of his new free time to work on a podcast and focus on his production work. He credits Highbury owner Joe Katz for having the patience to support the night during its uncertain early months.

"The owner really had the foresight to understand that there would be bad nights as well as good nights, and he knew that I was in this for the long haul, so that trust was there from the beginning," Balzrina says. "I always wanted to see how long we could make this weekly last, and it just kept going well, so we kept putting it on. I feel really lucky that I get to dictate how and when it ends, as opposed to so many other weeklies that just end abruptly."

In its remaining three Fridays, WiscoJazz will feature many of its regular guest DJs, including Madison's Nick Nice on Nov. 25 and six or seven "WiscoJazz All Stars" for the event's fifth anniversary finale on Dec. 2.


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