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Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011

Annie B., Artbeat Showcase Milwaukee Talent

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"Let's do it!" the wildcat voice cries on the opening moments of the album Fancies of a Random Heart by Annie B. and the Vagabond Company. Annie B.'s unbridled exuberance marks a clarion new voice in Milwaukee rock. Cam DeWinter's incisive guitar and a kicking rhythm section seal the deal, from the caffeine jolt of "Coffee Beans" to the retro-strut of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."

The 2011 WAMI Award-nominated singer hosts an event at Shank Hall on Friday, Oct. 14. The $10 cover includes a copy of the new CD. She led a punk band in Los Angeles, but the Milwaukee native is glad she's back with a new style
. More than a rock vixen, Annie's an award-winning video producer and cultural activist. "People in Milwaukee want substance," she explains. "They're real. I went out to L.A. to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, but I found how the world worked."

So your music and your show, called Milwaukee Artbeat, give people substance?


That's a big part of it. The interview and multi-arts show debuted in the spring of 2009. In summer we do "Artbeat in the Heat," which is more of a festival. We raise money for children who don't have access to art in their schools. When you're a little kid, art and music help develop a different part of your brain that allows you to learn a whole new skill set that's critical to be successful. But Artbeat is also a way to showcase the city's amazing talent.

How did you get the inspiration for Artbeat?


I always wanted to have my own show. It's my little Conan O'Brien thing. And it's a worthy show, like the amazing power of spoken-word artists.

You think this is important to sustaining a larger culture?


This is kind of in your face. I don't care if you don't think you'll like capoeira (a Brazilian art form that blends martial arts and dance). I go and look for artists. It's a lot of work. But it's new ideas and a fun night of entertainment. This CD party is a mini-Artbeat with live painters at 7 p.m. I'm Not a Pilot, the Shepherd Express Best Milwaukee Rock Band for 2010, opens at 9 and we go on about 10:30.

Why should people care about Artbeat?


The concept came out of the word "heartbeat," because having a creative outlet is crucial to human development, to find out about themselves. Our interviews focused on how art can be healing, cathartic—a healthy, positive force in anyone's life. You've got to get it out. One screenwriter did something like "The Last Appearance of King Kong." You never know what you're going to get.
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