Sleighriders 2009

by Mike Huberty
December 2009

Steve Grimm of Sleighriders

Steve Grimm of Sleighriders

Bringing together an almost ridiculously diverse collection of Milwaukee’s most popular musical talents to perform for charity under one roof for one night is difficult enough, but THE SLEIGHRIDERS have done it every Christmas season for the past twenty-seven years. Combining the expertise of forty performers rotating through the lineup throughout the night and blasting through a musical revue of seasonal Holiday music, R&B, and classic rock, over time, it’s become firmly entrenched as a tradition of the Milwaukee music scene’s Yuletide festivities.

The event is spearheaded by the two members of one of Brew City’s biggest music success stories, Bad Boy. Forming in the mid-70’s, Bad Boy, released two triumphant albums on United Artists’ label before going independent in the 80’s. A staple of the scene for decades, Midwestern rock troopers, Xeno and Steve Grimm, have been at it since the golden days of classic rock (Xeno was even the original lead singer for Rockford’s eventual power-pop superstars, Cheap Trick) and run this benefit as a way to give back to the community that’s given both of them the rock star treatment. Other notable musicians involved include Greg Koch, virtuoso guitarist and humorist, one of the area’s busiest performers, Eddie Butts (in the summertime you won’t see a festival without his band), the quirky multi-instrumentalist Sigmund Snopek, and jazz artist Warren Wiegratz.

All proceeds for the show for the past few years have gone to Milwaukee’s SafeZone Community Art Center. A place that reaches into the community to provide free music lessons and opportunities to at-risk and disadvantaged youth, SafeZone is a chance to get individualized music instruction, learn to be part of a band, and perform as well as see performances that they might not get otherwise. The group even offers a summer camp which has a nominal fee, but no one is turned away for inability to pay.

Because of the performers come from backgrounds of jazz, blues, rock, pop, R&B, and much of the lineup is rotating, every year THE SLEIGHRIDERS’ benefit is completely unique. And with dozens of musicians onstage at the same time, it’s like the Midwest’s biggest jam bands for the night. Of course, scheduling a show with some of the area’s hardest-working musicians can be nearly impossible, but this year they’ve nailed down the date to take place at Milwaukee’s famous Shank Hall (look for the tiny Stonehenge inspired by Spinal Tap if it’s your first trip to the venue!) on Monday, December 21st, tickets are $10 (all donated to the charity) and the doors will open at 6:30pm.

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