High Dive Celebrated Its Second Anniversary with a Six-Band Blowout
The corner of Center and Pierce streets was bustling with excitement over the weekend. Not only was the Riverwest 24 Bike Race in full throttle, but the beloved bar High Dive also celebrated its second birthday with a very crowded party. The small bar is home to cheap beer, friendly bartenders and live music almost every night, making it a very popular destination for both Riverwest residents and music fans from all over Milwaukee.
Longtime Bremen Café bartender Jason McBrady opened High Dive in the summer of 2015 after the opportunity fell into his lap. His goal was to create a relaxed environment with a primary focus on live music and DJs, taking a cue from his last place of employment. Though more casual than its former tenant, Impala Lounge, the bar has a cozy, intimate interior with quirky décor and very limited seating. Most of the bar is standing area for shows, and a little arcade is located in the bar’s back room (which often doubles as a place for acts to leave their gear while watching other musicians).
To celebrate its anniversary (as well as the bike race), High Dive threw a show featuring a variety of Milwaukee rock bands. Six bands played over the course of as many hours, and countless patrons waltzed in and out of the bar to catch a glimpse of the action. Most shows at the bar generally boast a comfortable crowd size, but the anniversary party found both regular bar patrons and casual bike race onlookers packed inside and outside.
High Dive is known for employing pivotal members of Milwaukee’s music scene, and the lineup was reflective of both their tastes and talents. Sex Scenes (with High Dive bartender Connor LaMue on bass) took the tiny stage first, performing a short and sweet set of their blistering, aggressive punk. Recently formed Soda Road played their second show ever at the anniversary party. Featuring Sam Reitman and Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns and former Sat. Nite Duets member Steve Strupp, the band doesn’t stray too far from the Pavement and Weezer-esque rock Strupp’s previous band is known for.
Madison-based rock band Wood Chickens made the drive over to Milwaukee, and their commute was well appreciated. The group has acquired a following in Milwaukee, and they played one of the night’s most energetic sets to an enthusiastic crowd. Space Raft played one of their first local shows in a while to the night’s biggest crowd. Additionally, their set was by far the longest, ensuring that patrons were entertained as they squeezed in and out High Dive’s entrance.
But the evening’s highlight was easily Dogs in Ecstasy’s riveting performance. High Dive was packed corner-to-corner for the band’s set, and the fervent crowd danced and sang along to D.I.E.’s hits “Do Me Ronnie” and “Make It Right.” Beer was thrown and heads were banging as the band lived up to their Milwaukee cult-hero status, and their new tracks were embraced with adoring, open arms.
Six-piece Gauss closed the show with a set far more relaxed than the last three. The melodic pop band is undoubtedly one of the most unique rock bands Milwaukee has seen in recent years, and their shows are no exception. Along with the standard rock band instruments, the band boasts a horn and violin to make their sound even more full. They played with a smooth intensity that kept the thinning crowd engaged until the very end of the night. It won’t be long until High Dive hosts another show of such high caliber, showcasing local talent; the venue does it nearly every weekend. It’s reasonably safe to say it’ll be around for its third birthday next summer.