There is something about pairing together upbeat live music from some of Milwaukee’s finest local artists, delicious craft beer from the Third Space Brewery, and a picturesque sunny afternoon with blue skies above and gentle clouds sweeping by that allow us all to take a pause, revel in the moment, and forget about the rigors of life for a while. After a year largely devoid of music and social gatherings there was a lot to be joyful about at the Third Space Brewery’s 5th Anniversary celebration on September 25th, a zero waste event produced by Rock the Green. Folks of all ages were seen with bright smiles on their faces, tapping feet to great tunes, and clinking recyclable glassware with each other, enjoying a bit of frivolity and lighthearted revelry together. Best of all, not only were people able to enjoy themselves with old friends and new, but also folks were able to learn about many ways they can be part of the solution to make our planet a better place for all by being environmentally-minded citizens.
Third Space Co-Founder and President Andy Gehl was overjoyed with how well the event ran. “It felt amazing to see so many people having such a great time in our beer garden again! It was a great christening of our new extended beer garden space too. With so much unique outdoor space it felt both Covid-safe and an intimate live music experience all at the same time. We were incredibly pleased with the event and excited to see so many people who may not have been to Third Space before.
Partnering with Rock the Green for the Third Space 5 Year Anniversary Celebration paired perfectly together, especially given Gehl and his brewery’s commitment to sustainability. “One of our goals at Third Space has always been to be good members of our community and minimizing our impact on the environment is a big part of that. Additionally, while we have a great tap room and beer garden business, we are first and foremost a production brewery and that means we can create a lot of waste, as many manufacturing businesses do. We are consistently looking for ways we can minimize that waste and ways to make positive impacts on the environment in other ways to help offset the negative impacts inherent in our business.”
Longtime volunteer extraordinaire and environmental advocate, Mike Bork shared how grateful and excited he was for simply being able to be part of the Milwaukee Riverkeeper booth and enjoying the event. “Helping connect people with rivers has been a meaningful part of my life for over 20 years,” Bork shared with a smile, “Volunteering for Milwaukee Riverkeeper allows me to help connect people and local organizations with Milwaukee’s amazing rivers. Milwaukee Riverkeeper brings together many of our community’s diverse voices to protect and advocate for the Milwaukee River Basin. Partnering with Rock the Green has been instrumental in helping Milwaukee Riverkeeper connect people with our rivers - all while having a great time.”
Musically, three great Milwaukee-based acts performed on the world-famous pedal power stage, which has become an iconic mainstay at Rock the Green events throughout the past decade. Bikers enthusiastically pedaled with wide grins, powering a wide array of great musicians who performed on stage.
Leading off the day was “V”-Funk, a high-energy funk band that engaged music-loving fans of all backgrounds and ages. Valerie Benton, the lead vocalist of V-Funk shared, “Funk is not something that you play; it is something that you feel. Funk unites us as it comes from the heart and soul.” Fellow V-Funk leader, bassist Vincent Chambers added, “You can’t fake the funk!”
As part of their performance Chambers ventured into the audience with his bass playing right next to the bikers as they powered through extended jams of classic R&B and funk tunes, including a fabulous reimagining of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” Looking out over the large audience for V Funk’s 3:00 p.m. set, one could see a sea of smiles on the faces of young children through young-at-heart adults. Valerie B., a middle school algebra teacher by day, was thrilled with the performance and the crowd and chuckled, “That’s the beauty of our music-- it unites and it brings people together; it allows everyone to let loose and share in the joy and the groove.”
The second act of the day was De La Buena, a regular fixture in the Milwaukee music scene. De La Buena is an act that truly has a rich love of Milwaukee and finds its inspiration in the diversity of cultures that make our city such a wonderful place to live. The roots of De La Buena’s unique Latin jazz groove-based sounds lie in music that comes from the African Diasporic traditions. After a long time away from live performances, De La Buena has found such pure joy in reemerging from the pandemic and performing for live audiences again. When asked how he felt about performing for live fans again, percussionist and vocalist Julio Papon shred, “It’s electric… I know I should say something more profound, but truly that’s how I feel.” Electricity was in the air for De La Buena’s set for sure, which had a strong audience moving and grooving along with the percussion-driven music provided by the octet on stage.
David Wake, who arranges music for De La Buena and plays piano and organ, shared, “A huge part of De La Buena is building community and bringing people together. Both culture and community are as important as the music.”
The final act of the evening featured the Americana roots-rock stylings of Derek Prtizl and the Gamble. Pritzl and company delivered a ruckus set that had fans hooting, hollering, and cheering for more. With a dexterous and deft backup band featuring Andrew Koening on guitar and Nick Lang on drums, Derek Pritzl & the Gamble played a powerful set of rockin’ original tunes with a tinge of country and blues flare.
“It’s great to be back playing in front of an audience,” Pritzl gleefully shared after his rocking performance, “the energy a live show has is like nothing else. It was sorely missed. That energy was twofold at the Rock the Green/Third Space event-- everyone coming together with a purpose. A truly sustainable event like this, that’s pretty neat and shows how easily it can be done. Hopefully, soon it will be just the standard of how things are run.”