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Milwaukee's Attic Jams Music Series Throws Concerts for Charities

Aug. 29, 2017
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Some people believe that music can make a difference, that it can actually save the world. Milwaukee-based concert series Attic Jams is putting that theory to action. Milwaukeeans Matt Miller, Joe Albert and Miguel Diaz started Attic Jams in 2015 in an actual attic with the same focus they share today: local artists, local venues and local charities.

 “It basically just sprouted from the simple intentions of wanting to get people to jam in [Miller’s] attic,” Albert explained. He and Diaz are musicians themselves and thought it would be fun to do a concert up there. Using old doors, scavenged milk crates and lots of screws (not to mention ingenuity), they built their own stage, designed their own backdrop and invited friends over for a show.

When a good hundred people showed up, they decided it would be awesome if they could use that momentum to do something good other than just throw a party. They began looking into different charities and nonprofits and by November had their first benefit concert. Soon they were working with charities like the Guest House of Milwaukee and the Hunger Task Force—for the latter of which they raised around $300 and almost 350 pounds of food in one night.

Then last summer, Attic Jams was forced to adapt their practice when Miller’s lease ended. They spent that fall and winter figuring out how they could continue Attic Jams outside of the attic. They brought on two new team members, Nathan Eggenberger and Mitchell Merz, and set out to find local venues that would share their vision and help bring it to fruition.

Cactus Club was the first venue to host an Attic Jams event last April. Since then, Attic Jams have collaborated with a variety of venues and performance spaces, including the art venue After Gallery, which hosted a particularly fun show to benefit Repairers of the Breach. Instead of a typical stage set-up, the musicians performed in a separate room that was completely blocked off except for a single small window. Attendees crowded around and watched each act through that one window, as if each artist was a painting or work of art on the gallery wall.

Because none of the guys in Attic Jams have official backgrounds in booking bands or event marketing, and, essentially, run this organization in their free time (some of the guys are in school, and all of them have other full-time jobs), sustaining Attic Jams comes with challenges. “It’s pretty much DIY; we’re learning as we go,” Albert said.

It’s been especially tricky logistically since they donate 100% of their proceeds and goods to each event’s given charity, though they’ve recently acquired official nonprofit status. “We’re almost breaking even at this point, but, yeah, it took some initial investment,” Eggenberger said. When asked what motivates them to run Attic Jams if it’s not money, he answered: “It does really tangible good.” “It comes from the love of where we’re from,” Albert added. “We love the city, and we have a nice little opportunity to help good causes raise money and get extra exposure to markets that wouldn’t normally think of them.”

Attic Jams’ next concert is at Good City Brewing on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. with Bear in the Forest, B-Free, Joe Quinto & Miguel Diaz and Olivia Gonzales. It will benefit the Urban Ecology Center.

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