Home / Music / Music Feature / Shank Hall Marks 20th Anniversary with Special Shows and Reunions

Shank Hall Marks 20th Anniversary with Special Shows and Reunions

Jul. 24, 2009
Google plus Linkedin Pinterest
Twenty years is an impressive anniversary for any local business, but its especially remarkable for a music club. Shank Hall, which marks its big 2-0 this year, has outlasted the many East Side venues which have succumbed to changing tastes, gentrification and rising rents.

“It’s a tough business, so you really have to have a long-term commitment,” says Shank Hall owner Peter Jest. “Some of these venues couldn’t whither bad stretches, but I came from being a concert promoter, so I knew what I was getting into starting a club. So I try not to get too excited when I have a good show. If a show does well, you celebrate that night, then move on, and if you have a bad night, you drink to that, too. You try to learn lessons, like, ‘gee, I’ll never book another show on a Packer Monday.'”

Jest opened the club, which had previously been another music venue, Teddy’s, in 1989, naming it after the made-up Milwaukee venue fleetingly referenced in This is Spinal Tap. He’s remodeled the club twice, first after a fire in the early ’90s, then again in 1999. Over the years, Shank Hall has hosted national musicians of all stripes, from Leo Kottke, Jefferson Starship, Yo La Tengo and Thin Lizzy to artists who would soon outgrow club venues, like The Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt and Alanis Morissette, while spotlighting Milwaukee music.

“From the Wild Kingdom days to the Little Blue Crunchy Things to the Pacers back in the ’90s, we’ve always had a little bit of everything,” Jest says. “We were one of the few clubs The Gufs used to play, and we’ve had the Violent Femmes play here.

"Musicians know that we’re a comfortable room and that we’re professional," he continues. "We’ve got a professional sound guy, a professional door guy and a real changing room backstage, not just some empty room next to the bar. We don’t have pool tables or food or TVs, and the stage is front and center, not upstairs or in some back room. Everybody who comes here is here to see the music.”

Jest says that what makes Shank Hall’s business model unique is that the club is only open for concerts.

“I did the math, and we’re probably open 75 hours a month, while a lot of places are open 75 hours a week,” Jest says. “I guess on off nights I could turn the club into a sports bar or something, but that’s not what I want to do. I only want to do live music.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Jest has lined up a spate of special shows, bringing back venue favorites like Junior Brown, Marshall Crenshaw, Leon Redbone, Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, E*I*E*I*O and UFO in advance of the venue’s November anniversary weekend, which will feature reunions from two bands with particular ties to the venue: Semi Twang, the alt-country act that was the first band that ever played a concert Shank Hall, and Blue in the Face, the first band to test Shank Hall’s new stage in 1989, days before the club’s opening. For a complete schedule, visit ShankHall.com.


Now that controversial strategist Steve Bannon has left his administration, will Donald Trump begin to pivot to the center?

Getting poll results. Please wait...