Four Decadent Decades: Decadent Cabaret turns 40

Measha Vieth, photos by Lee Butterworth

AND HERE WE SEE A SPIKE IN LOCAL ROCK SHOW ATTENDANCE. This year, more than 35 performances by local artists will comprise Decadent Cabaret 40 at The Metro, Feb. 28 through March 2.
AND HERE WE SEE A SPIKE IN LOCAL ROCK SHOW ATTENDANCE. This year, more than 35 performances by local artists will comprise Decadent Cabaret 40 at The Metro, Feb. 28 through March 2.

It’s time to dig out your fishnets, because Decadent Cabaret is taking the stage for its 40th year! This is a festival unlike any other in the Chippewa Valley, as it brings together people of various ages and musical interests. Each year, talents of many genres are represented, including rock, pop, electronic, metal, rap, hip-hop, folk, and more. This year, more than 35 performances by local artists will wow the community at The Metro Feb. 28 through March 2. Attendees and performers alike are encouraged to dress in costume when they show up to enjoy music, art by Artisan Forge Studios, and performances by the Torch Sisters.

“Decadent Cabaret is probably the only event in the Chippewa Valley where you can see an entertainer with decades of stage time one minute followed by a promising young band the next.” – Duane Kebschull, co-organizer, Decadent Cabaret

“Decadent Cabaret is probably the only event in the Chippewa Valley where you can see an entertainer with decades of stage time one minute followed by a promising young band the next,” said Duane Kebschull, one of the organizers. Some of this year’s newer acts include Nick Anderson & The Skinny Lovers, Dissonant Mind, rapper Mistah and The John Buxton Experience. The ever-popular Venison will appear for a reunion performance along with many other beloved acts from over the years, such as the Drunk Drivers, FM Down, Orenda Fugue, Irie Sol, Pit Wagon, Dead Ringers, Yam Cannon, and more.

Whether or not you’re familiar with area musicians, you’re in luck. Decadent Cabaret is a festival with a twist: Most acts pay tribute to famous musicians such as Queen, Bon Jovi, Blink 182, Prince, KISS, The Beatles, and Amy Winehouse – just to name a few. Not only do these local bands learn legendary songs, but they often dress the part. The audience enjoys tunes they’re likely familiar with, all while learning about and supporting local musicians. In fact, sometimes locals cover each other. A couple years back, The Daredevil Christopher Wright was brought back to life via a tribute by Idle Empress.

“I’ve always viewed Decadent as a ‘get to know others in the scene’ kind of event. Since we’re not genre-specific like most festivals, it’s a good opportunity to meet other performers and artists that aren’t in your circle of friends and fans,” said Brent Kuchenmeister, who is also involved with planning the fest.

Many artists and art fanatics have taken on the production of this one-of-a-kind event during its 40-year history. Decadent Cabaret was founded by Steve Katrosits, Jeff Olson, Paula Gorski, and Mark Anderson. With art as the main focus, they decided to book some bands and celebrate local music for a weekend. The event continued to grow and change leadership over the years. As it was passed on to Gary Schmaltz in year seven, he invited the crowd to dress in leather and lace. Though the fun dress code is optional, people still choose to follow the tradition to this day.

Now, since 2004, the event has been continued by passionate local musicians and production aficionados Joe Gunderson, Brent Kuchenmeister, and Duane Kebschull. The group works with various local sound and light techs and other individuals with music production experience to ensure the show runs smoothly.

“Months ahead of time, Joey is coordinating the bands, scheduling them. … So much goes into the planning,” Kebschull said. “Joe makes the bands come together and works with them. I deal with all the production and behind the scenes. My specialty is empowering others and enabling them to do their best.”

The group has always been passionate about local music, and its members have put on their fair share of shows. However, since they’re not getting any younger, they hope to find others who share this passion to pass the torch to in a few years.

Just as the festival’s leadership has been passed on, so has its location. What once started at the VFW moved to The Brat Kabin, the Unitarian Church, The Golden Chair, The Stone’s Throw, and finally the House of Rock until that venue closed in the summer of 2017. Now, it resides at The Metro, a newly revived venue just down the street from Eau Claire’s YMCA.

The new space provides more opportunity for additional art and entertainment at Decadent Cabaret. In between sets, attendees can go into a room filled with paintings, sculptures, metalwork, and drawings provided by Artisan Forge Studios. A small stage will grace the space as the Torch Sisters perform on aerial silks and lyras, assemble intriguing acro-yoga poses, utilize hoola-hoops, and more. A 14-foot marionette, instruments on display by Eau Claire Guitar Works, and live glass blowing will be new additions to this year’s festival. This truly special 40-year strong festival is an art- and music-lovers dream.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at volumeonetickets.org. For the full lineup, visit decadentcabaret.com. This is an 18+ event.

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