The WhiskeyBelles to Rock the Stream with the Wisconsin Humane Society, Both Virtually & In-Person at the Harley-Davidson Museum
Rock the Stream is being hosted outdoors at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Harley-Davidson Museum’s Tim McCormick stated that the H-D Museum is proud to host this event for the Humane Society, and he’s also a big fan of the WhiskeyBelles. People who want to attend in person can do so by purchasing a table. There are 20 tables available, and each one will be socially distanced from the other tables. The H-D Museum has asked that people who are attending in person either have a table with members of their family or people with whom they have chosen to be in their quarantine group.
If you have the covid isolation blues, here’s a lighthearted Americana rock show that’s sure to chase “them blues” away, whether you choose to attend in-person or virtually. And this is a party for a great cause.
The Covid pandemic has taken Summerfest away, along with the in-person version of Rock the Green and countless other music festivals, events, and get-togethers. So it’s not every day, given the current environment, that Milwaukeeans have the opportunity to attend a truly amazing musical event: a three-piece Americana rock band with beautiful, powerful harmonies playing a gig at a socially distanced event at one of the best venues in town to support a truly worthy cause: the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Going back to the roots of Rock the Green's mission, creating a sustainable ecosystem in concert with each other, the concert will be powered by the Velo Femmes and Cadence, local female cycling clubs, who pedal to power the lights and sound system. This has been a longtime fan favorite at past Rock the Green Sustainability Festivals and Earth Day Celebrations.
The WhiskeyBelles, who in a normal year would be playing Summerfest (and about 65 to 75 other shows in biergartens, pubs and festivals around the state), are going to perform Rock the Stream’s 17th live-stream and first in person concert at the Harley-Davidson Museum, Thursday, August 27th at 7 PM.
“Covid has been hard in that way, because normally we’d be playing music all summer,” said bassist Sara Moilanen, adding brightly, “but at least it’s given us a summer in terms of having fun and camping.”
The light-hearted, find-the-bright-side attitude is like their music—which is also filled with gorgeous harmonies, fast-paced rhythms, and a nice riffing fiddle over all—and their lyrics that are filled with country wit and folk wisdom. The Belles are a three-piece female group, consisting of Chrissy Dzioba on Guitar and Vocals, Kimmy Unger on fiddle and vocals, and Sara Moilanen on bass and vocals. All three had previous successes as solo musicians and in other bands prior to forming WhiskeyBelles in 2011. They were inspired to create their group in part by the Grammy-winning, best-selling country album Trio of longtime friends and celebrated musicians Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt.
During our Zoom interview, Moilanen enthusiastically explained, “Chrissy is Dolly, I’m Linda, and Kimmy is Emmylou!” Unger added that other than Trio, their influences include Indigo Girls and Pistol Annies. She added that she also drew inspiration from great “singer songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and a touch of Joan Jet.”
She also explained the whiskey theme, “We originally went with a southern belle theme, but we are a bit less refined, not to mention Midwestern. WhiskeyBelles seemed to be a perfect fit! And yes, we love our whiskey!”
Moilanen cited three of the best Americana musicians as among her inspirations—perhaps one of the greatest folk song writers, one of the best Americana vocalists, and one of the best country performers: “As for me, major influences are John Prine, Roy Orbison and of course Dolly Parton!”
She also explained that their goal with the arrangements of bass, guitar and fiddle is to create a fast-paced combination of Americana, rock, bluegrass and country music with powerful vocals from the ‘Belles three-part harmonies.’
The inspiration, hard work on arrangements, and talented harmonies have paid off. Their debut album Whiskey Woman was listed as one of the top 10 albums of 2012 by Milwaukee Magazine, and in 2018 the ‘Belles were Best of Milwaukee Winner for the for All Country Band in the Shepherd Express. They also won the impressive WAMI award for Americana/Bluegrass Artist of the Year as well as a People’s Choice Award.
Whiskey is a theme in their songs too. “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea,” the Belles belt out in the chorus of their recently released song Shot of Whiskey from their 2017 album Dance in the Moonshine, which was written by Unger with Milwaukee’s legendary singer-songwriter-comedian Pat McCurdy. Similar witty, creative and (often) whiskey-themed lyrics can be found in other songs too, such as the title track of Whiskey Woman written by Drew Bunting.
“Mister I can see you looking at me and man I know exactly what you think. You see a sweet and pretty future darlin’. But mister you should see me when I drink,” the Belles’ Dolly (Chrissy Dzioba) challenges in the first verse, and the ‘Belles add in the three-part harmony chorus: “’Cause when the whiskey gets a flowin’, you’ll see another side of this good girl. I’ll take you out, we’ll have a ball, I’ll take your woman in a ballroom brawl! Drink the bottom out of this old world.”
For all their humor and fun, the Belles are playing Rock the Stream for an important cause: saving animals. “The Wisconsin Humane Society is a wonderful organization,” said Moilanen. She added that “saving animals is an important mission, and that how we treat animals impacts our humanity.”
On our Zoom, Anne Reed, CEO of the Wisconsin Humane Society cleared up a common misconception about the Humane Society. Animals who are healthy and safe enough for a family are never euthanized there, and this has been true for more than 20 years. Instead, the Humane Society works hard to create enough space by finding homes for animals quickly, often relying on volunteer foster families to help shelter animals before they are adopted. They are sheltering animals at a rate of 16,000 animals per year, and serving more than 40,000 animals per year with services such as food pantries, spay/neuter and vaccines, and wildlife rehabilitation.
Reed, who has been on the Rock the Green Board of Directors since 2011, and Rock the Green’s founder and executive director, Lindsay Stevens, shared that Stevens’ dog PoppyCakes, who made an appearance on our Zoom call, along with one of Reed’s cats, was actually a rescue dog that Reed called Stevens about. When Lindsay and her four kids met the dog, she and her children fell in love with PoppyCakes and knew they had to adopt her. Reed has been on the board of Rock the Green since 2011.
“We’ve been hurt though covid so donations are particularly important right now,” Reed said. She added that donations are being doubled right now in August and September with the goal of raising an additional $250,000.
Both Stevens and Reed noted that many people are interested in adopting an animal right now because of the mental health benefits of having an animal during the stresses of the covid pandemic. Reed asked people to donate if they can and look into adoption if they are able to save an animal’s life.
As with all Rock the Streams, donations are split 50/50 between the band & nonprofit, WhiskeyBelles and the Wisconsin Humane Society. The Wisconsin Humane Society will be collecting the donations. Donations for WHS are doubled through September 30. So whether you love animals, the environment, whiskey, or just need to see a fun show, be sure to check out WhiskeyBelles at the Harley-Davidson Museum, in person or virtually through Rock the Stream’s live feed of this amazing show at their Facebook, YouTube or Twitter channels.
About the Wisconsin Humane Society
The Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) is a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a community where people value animals and treat them with respect and kindness.
Founded in 1879, the Wisconsin Humane Society has been saving the lives of animals in need for more than 140 years. WHS is a 501(c)(3) organization and operates animal shelters in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Door and Brown Counties, as well as a spay/neuter clinic in West Allis. WHS annually serves 40,000 animals. We receive no general government funding and we are not part of any national umbrella organization.
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