Over 40 local participants collaborated on the premiere episode of Binko: Unscripted. In a web-exclusive, the contributors are speaking up with a message for the Milwaukee community.
This November, fans of Steven Binko's series will be treated to a unique deviation from last season. On the surface, it might look like a fun-filled video with some cool performances, but filming was no small feat. Sharing the spotlight with other local artists and venues, this short episode required dozens of volunteers. "I wanted to do something different", Binko said. "One of the things that makes our city unique is how we pull together and support one-another. The narrative here is less competitive and more community based." Having reached out to more than one-hundred entrepreneurs in the Greater Milwaukee area, a core requirement for making the cut was a shared vision in exploring what can be accomplished artistically when people come together for a common cause. "From the start, our team recognized we all had different strengths and weaknesses, but we all shared a passion for success. Everyone left their ego's at the door and supported one-another regardless of experience or level of prestige".
Embarking on four group performances at four different venues (three in one night), the first show took place at Brookfield's iconic Saloon on Calhoun With Bacon. Since taking over in 2011, owner Dave Dayler has booked more than 640 dates and in excess of 100 different bands. Featured on national television for its unique atmosphere, this suburban saloon has won multiple awards in entertainment and live music including both a WAMI and a People's Choice Award.
With bands booked 3-4 days a week from Sept-May, Dayler says he "took over Saloon to change its reputation, and to fulfill my adult lifetime goal of having a venue where live music is presented properly". When asked why he participated in Binko's project, he explained "Providing a venue for all artists is our passion". Future events are listed in their app and on their site.
Notably, one of the first artists to sign onto this endeavor was none other than full-time musician Gabriel Sanchez. Since 2002, Sanchez has made a name for himself portraying the singer Prince in his critically acclaimed show The Prince Experience. In between tour gigs, he hosts the Open Jam sessions at Saloon on Calhoun, and more recently, the singer expanded his empire by revealing a line of fine art.
From the early stages of development, Sanchez and Binko were scheduled to perform a duet of American Woman. Three days before the premiere, this evolved when Sanchez and his band jumped to the rescue after the featured group pulled out. Covering hits like I Love Rock 'N Roll and Bad to the Bone, the show was able to resume as planned.
"I chose to get on this project because I enjoy being part of a team that brings other artists together. I think it's important to support local artists, whether it's musicians, dancers, painters, or any other kind of art", Sanchez said about the taping.
The Prince Experience is currently on tour, and returns to Milwaukee at The Pabst Theater on January 25. Tickets are available here.
Enlisted as co-collaborators, Milwaukee dance group The Space Cats are expected to be a focal point throughout the episode. Choreographed by Micah and Jinx Ogé, six of their members traveled between venues, hyped up the audiences, and danced their hearts out. Known for their diverse collection of entertainers, the group is an eclectic mix of dancers, models, singers, cosplayers, furries, and beyond.
The founders explain,"This project spoke to us because Binko's vision embraced diversity in the rock community. That felt right. And while it was a completely new direction for us, it overlapped with what's important to us".
Binko first discovered The Space Cats at Pridefest, where they have performed for more than ten years and are slated to return in 2020. Presently, the group is working to expand its team onto runway, with other projects around the corner!
Also featured in this episode is rock band Vinyl Road. In an effort to surprise family, the group was contacted shortly after Binko discovered they were performing at his dad's bar Traditions Pub.
Coincidentally, the band GM Linnea Koenigs happened to be in attendance at Saloon on Calhoun for the first show, and shot a series of amazing photos for both venues.
"This was such an incredible experience", Linnea said. "When I received the pitch, you could instantly feel the momentum behind it. There was nothing pretentious - just a bunch of creative minds looking to build something unique together. Ultimately, combining everyone's talents resulted in a high-impact show that our audience is still talking about, and sure to remember!".
You can catch Vinyl Road next at Mo's Irish Pub in Wauwatosa on November 8th (info HERE).
Jase Adams, owner of Club Icon in Kenosha, was also quick to show his support for this unique episode.
"Club Icon prides itself on being involved with the community and supporting local entertainers. It was an honor hosting such a talented group of individuals. This project was a unique opportunity for us to reach a broader audience, and to show just how welcoming our atmosphere is."
Located in-between Milwaukee and Chicago, Club Icon offers a safe and fun environment for everyone who comes through their doors. With rotating themes and shows every weekend, patrons can experience anything from drag shows, to live entertainment, local charity fundraisers and Latin Night. "As LGBT+ bars vanish across the Nation we are proud to serve our diverse community and are committed to the future", Jase says.
When asked for final thoughts on the episode, Binko reinforced how valuable this project was:
"I'm filled with immense gratitude to each of the participants. It's one thing for someone to believe in your ideas - it's a totally different game when people actually support them. If I wanted to send one message with this video, it's not only how great the artists and venues are, but what can be accomplished when people work together. Even more-so, the possibilities when you put your intentions out to the universe."
When asked if he was hoping to manifest anything specific from this experience?
"I'd be thrilled to re-unite with some of these performers for a Milwaukee Bucks halftime show, Pridefest, Summerfest, or chat with The Morning Blend. Our collective energy is so beautiful and cohesive - I'd love a chance to shine a spotlight on that and reach more people."
Other honorable mentions from this episode include (but are not limited to): Tamarind Studio, First Local Podcast, Hudson Business Lounge, and The High Note.