The Randoms: Best Riverwest Club Named After Its Owner And Celebrating Its 20th Anniversary This Month
If there’s one thing Milwaukee is good at, it’s patting itself on the back. Open a local paper or click on a local website, and you’re bound to run into dozens of “Best of” and “Best of the best” awards. The Randoms do the same thing, but without all the tedious popularity-voting and web-browser cookie-clearing. Instead, we simply create arbitrary categories and single out one noteworthy local institution every Friday afternoon. Who will win for Best Riverwest Club With 20 Letters In Its Name? Best Bay View Restaurant On The East Side Of KK? Find out as we hand out awards to every man, woman, child, bar, and farm-to-table restaurant in Milwaukee.
Best Riverwest Club Named After Its Owner And Celebrating Its 20th Anniversary This Month: Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
The fickle world of business all but guarantees that music venues, even beloved ones, come and go. Tastes change, crowds dwindle, and development rears its sometimes-ugly head. But there’s a flip-side: The clubs that do stick around tend to be managed by folks harboring a true passion for music and a true passion for community. For a prime example, look no further than Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. Throughout the month of August, Linneman’s is celebrating its 20th anniversary in much the same way it operates on a night-to-night basis: by showcasing and nurturing Milwaukee’s ever-vibrant music scene, no fuss or fanfare needed.
Linneman’s, of course, is owned and operated by Jim Linneman, along with his wife Marty. In the early ’90s, when Linneman was a DJ for WTMJ and studying broadcasting at UWM, he lived across the street from his future bar on the corner of Weil and Locust. He soon bought the nearly 100-year-old building, and quickly turned it into one of Riverwest’s best music venues. There’s been some remodeling along the way—longtime regulars may remember that the original stage and the bar were practically the same thing—but Linneman’s has always been a terrific place to see live music. It’s also a perfect example of a corner bar that effortlessly embodies all the charms of the neighborhood it calls home.
But a music club’s ambiance only goes so far—what about the sound? Talk to most any Milwaukee band or music lover, and they’ll tell you that Linneman’s is one of the best sounding small clubs in town. Unlike other venues that have all the acoustic charms of a junior-high cafeteria (we still love those places, by the way), Linneman’s sounds fantastic. The carpeted back room gives nearly every type of band—from boisterous dance-rock outfits to sit-down acoustic head-nodders—a warm, well-balanced sound that’s never harsh or overblown. Jim, perhaps not so coincidentally, mixes the sound for every show.
In another non-coincidence, Linneman’s was the first musical home for many now-nationally celebrated Milwaukee artists, like Christopher Porterfield and Heidi Spencer. (And those artists have stayed loyal to Linneman’s: A recent solo performance from Porterfield was one of the best shows of the summer.) Of course, those acts would have never gotten their start if it hadn’t been for Linneman’s long-running Acoustic Open Stage. Open mics are hardly well-attended moneymakers (see also: Linneman’s equally long-running poetry night), but it’s a testament to the club’s dedication to Milwaukee that it keeps the torch burning for future stars.
So congratulations, Linneman’s, on being named the Best Riverwest Club Named After Its Owner And Celebrating Its 20th Anniversary This Month. Celebrating a 20th anniversary by saying “Here’s to 20 more!” may be cliché, but we’ll say it anyway: Here’s to 20 more!
A personal note: One of my earliest encounters with Jim Linneman was some years back when I was the substitute keyboard player for a friend’s band. (Fun fact: I have no idea how to play the keyboard.) After loading our gear in for a show, I discovered that I had forgotten my keyboard stand. Without hesitation, Jim offered to not just lend me one, but build me one. We headed down to his basement workshop, and within 20 minutes, I had a perfectly functional keyboard stand made out of two-by-fours. I have no recollection of the show that followed, but Jim’s simple, ridiculous bit of kindness has always stuck with me. Put simply: Jim Linneman is a man deserving of his club, and his club is deserving of his name.