MILWAUKEE — Over the years, Peter Jest has seen a lot of musicians come through Shank Hall in Milwaukee.
“[We’ve had] Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Wallflowers,” he noted as he showed Spectrum News 1’s Andrew Havranek autographed pictures on the club’s wall.
Jest has run Shank Hall since the beginning, in November 1989, but he’s been a concert promoter, bringing talent to Milwaukee, for 39 years.
“Ever since I was 18, it’s the only job I’ve had,” he said.
Every month, Jest brings 15 to 23 shows at Shank Hall. During the pandemic shutdowns, that all changed for a while, but since reopening, he said things have been going really well.
In May, the Milwaukee Bucks announced two new concert venues to be built next to Fiserv Forum to run by Frank Productions, a subsidiary of Live Nation.
Now, Jest said he is worried about the future.
“You think everything’s good, you’re back open and here comes the other Death Star, Death Star Two at you, and it’s Live Nation trying to wipe everyone out,” he said, comparing the company to Darth Vader’s planet destroying weapon in “Star Wars.”
Jest and owners of several historic venues in Milwaukee like Turner Hall, Pabst Theater, The Rave and others, joined together to form Save Milwaukee’s Music Scene. It’s a group that wants the city to deny the zoning permit for the proposed venues on the former Bradley Center lot.
“What Live Nation [and] Ticketmaster practices is really predatory, monopolistic businesses practices,” said Craig Peterson, Save Milwaukee’s Music Scene’s executive director.
He said currently, Live Nation shows use the independent venues throughout the city. He said the proposed venues will take shows away from all of them.
“Just imagine if Live Nation [and] Ticketmaster had a venue here that holds 4,000. They’re not going to the Panther Arena; they’re not going to the Rave. Where are they going to go to? They’re going to go to the Live Nation venue,” Peterson said.
That could really hurt these Milwaukee music scene staples all across the city, and it’s something Jest and the other venue owners don’t want to see happen.
“I don’t think any of us can afford to lose any of our good shows,” Jest said. “If Live Nation builds this thing and takes away three of our best shows a month, takes away the Rave’s best shows a month, takes away Turner’s best three shows, that’s probably our profit margin, and that can really wipe everyone out.”
For a venue that brought in the likes of Alanis Morissette, No Doubt and the Goo Goo Dolls at the beginning of their careers, it’s a lot of history Jest feels is in jeopardy.
Live Nation and Frank Productions did not return request for comment.
The City of Milwaukee told Spectrum News there are restrictions as to what can be considered when denying a zoning permit.