Facing the Music: Marquette scene a bust

Luke Londo

Does anyone know where to see a good band in Marquette?

Luke Londo
Luke Londo

I can’t pinpoint when the quality of the live music scene in Marquette dwindled to borderline insignificance. It might have been when the UpFront and Co. closed in 2012, around the same time that several venues consolidated booking responsibilities to Double Trouble DJs.

Seeing My Dear Disco (who changed their name to Ella Riot in 2011 before disbanding later that year) was the highlight of my local music experience in 2009 and 2010. Gizzae satisfied my craving for authentic Jamaican music at least twice a year until 2012. Funk Junction always brought me to the dance floor with their synthesizer-infused beats and trance-inspiring melodies. But before I realized it, the local music scene devolved into Jersey Shore-inspired fist-pumping Top-40 remixes on weekends, and folky renditions of “Wagon Wheel” on weekdays.

That is not to say there’s a lack of talent in Marquette. Michael Waite is one of the best one-man shows you’ll ever see. Even some of the college-aged acts, including my personal favorites—Funky Purple Tits, Strung Together and Not Quite Canada—provide memorable experiences. The biggest problem is, I’ve seen them too many times.

When’s the last time you were heartstoppingly excited to see a band in Marquette?

The consolidation of bookings has dampened the live music experience, if you can call playlists with five consecutive Avicii remixes a “live music experience.”

Don’t get me wrong, these DJs do their job. The Wild Rover and Vera Bar are always packed on weekends by drunk twenty-somethings. But the music is secondary to providing alcohol to spur urges more carnal than kicking off your heels and dancing.

Some weekends, I’d prefer hauling out Flanigan’s karaoke machine and a patron who’s had a few too many can do renditions of “Livin’ on a Prayer” just to ease the monotony of weekends downtown.

What I wouldn’t give to see a band from outside of Michigan, whose music I have on my iPod, not one I’m forced to watch if I’m craving a drink I can’t make at home.

Ore Dock Brewing Company has done an admirable job trying to fill the gap the UpFront’s closure left, booking bands with solid followings in a spacious venue. The Blue Lounge occasionally delves outside local bands and books quality music.

What Marquette really needs is another music venue, or at least one that values music quality over drink sales. I’m accustomed to traveling outside Marquette to see music. Even Houghton landed Greensky Bluegrass last September and Breathe Owl Breathe in November.

I understand there are a lot of external factors to bringing good bands to Marquette, including the booking budget, bands’ schedules, public reception, etc. But one doesn’t have to look far back to see that it was done successfully and consistently in Marquette, and has fallen by the wayside in only two years.

Either a local venue needs to step up, booking acts consistently with reputations beyond the Upper Peninsula, or another venue needs to open to do the same.

If you need me, I’ll be at Flanigan’s, trying to pretend these karaoke connoisseurs are the real thing.