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The PRF BBQ Festival Makes Itself at Home During its First Year in Milwaukee

Jun. 13, 2017
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The second weekend of June marked a first for Milwaukee. For four days, the city hosted the annual PRF BBQ, an event that had previously called Chicago home for eight years. The festival originated from the online forum Electrical Audio, the iconic recording studio owned by Steve Albini, and takes its name from one of its discussion groups: the “Premier Rock Forum,” where rock obsessives discuss their favorite bands and gear and nerd out about Albini’s recording process.

Organized by scene veterans and PRF diehards Dixie Jacobs and DJ Hostettler, the inaugural Milwaukee installment of the festival brought together more than 30 bands. Jacobs and Hostettler handpicked the lineup after receiving a high volume of applications from acts interested in performing. Milwaukee bands like Gauss, Sin Bad and Static Eyes were on the bill, but the majority of performers were from neighboring Midwest cities. The four day festival hosted shows at three venues—Cactus Club, Club Garibaldi and Bounce Milwaukee, where bands performed in laser tag rooms.

Both Saturday and Sunday night, Club Garibaldi was packed with fans of the forum. Not only was Garibaldi’s performance space full of people, it was also full of, well, stuff. Half of the room was dedicated to merch alone. Pool tables were transformed into merch tables and given the name “Merch Mountain.” The back of the room was covered in amps, guitars and other gear to ensure that set changes went quickly and smoothly. The $20 admission cost included food, and there was a huge buffet area set up in one corner of the room.

Even though the festival is completely dedicated to loud, aggressive rock music, the lineup brought together bands from various walks of life. Minneapolis punk band Arcwelder performed Saturday night at Club Garibaldi. A fan favorite both of attendees and organizers, the band found acclaim in the 1990s on Touch and Go Records and has not put out a new album since 1999. Even though the band is past its heyday, they performed with the raucous energy that PRF readers would expect as they blistered through their 40-minute set.

Spirits were high on Sunday evening as the final night of the BBQ came to a close. Chicago trio Gay Name decorated the stage in rainbow flags for their performance, nodding to Milwaukee Pridefest happening the same weekend. The band’s pop punk sound had the crowd covered in sweat as they head banged in sweltering 90-degree weather.

South Bend rock duo The Rutabega gave one of the most emotional performances of the festival. The band only has a guitarist and a drummer, but their two instruments filled every corner of the room with sound. Multiple fans were invited onstage to sing along with the band, and crowd members hugged each other with twinkles in their eyes.

It was obvious that PRF fans were overjoyed to be together for one weekend completely dedicated to rocking out. “I don’t want to say too much because I’m going to break down,” said singer Joshua Wayne Hensley. “You guys changed my life.”


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