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Friday, Dec. 28, 2012

Rob Lewis Makes The Scene

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Music clubs and concert venues have come and gone in Milwaukee, but every now and then, one hall comes to represent an era in the memories of music fans. When the powerful Balistrieri family opened The Scene in 1965 (at 624 N. Second St.), only the most prescient could have foreseen the impending cultural shift that would bring Jimi Hendrix and Cream—and even Miles Davis, fronting a funky electric band—to the venerable old hotel ballroom within a few fast-moving years. Milwaukee music buff Rob Lewis’ fascination with the venue led him to build a website, milwaukeerockscene.com.

Are you from Milwaukee?


I’m from Des Moines, Iowa. I got married after college and moved here in 1979.

So you have no personal memory of The Scene?


No, but I grew up in the late ’60s listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, that kind of music. I’ve had a fascination for this period of rock music.

Including the local end of it?


As an outsider, I was interested in investigating the history of it here. In the mid-’90s I began researching the Wisconsin part of Ben Valkhoff’s books documenting Jimi Hendrix’s concert tours and I wrote articles for the official Jimi Hendrix fanzine and other fanzines in Europe. This was the catalyst that led to my passion for The Scene as I discovered concert ads and newspaper articles from Milwaukee in those days. It’s become a very serious hobby. The Scene is a piece of history worth being documented and not forgotten. It was a venue where many of my favorite musicians played.

And so you launched a website dedicated to The Scene?


The website allows me to continue my research and writing in a new way. My webmaster Ed Muellenbach’s father worked in the Plankinton House Hotel as a fashion designer in the ’60s. Ed remembers walking around the city block where The Scene was and feels close to the snapshot in time we’re working on together… We got the site up in September with articles I wrote. We hope readers will contribute eyewitness accounts and photos. Anything we can use, we’ll put on the site. We’re hoping people will share what they know. Putting together the chronicle of all the performers who played at The Scene was challenging. I looked through hours of microfilm and it’s still an ongoing work in progress.
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