Music in Menomonie: A Closer Look

Scott Morfitt, Ed Hudgins, photos by Titus Williamson, Andrea Paulseth

MABEL TAINTER THEATER
MABEL TAINTER THEATER

Menomonie was built in an interesting spot in western Wisconsin. It’s less than a half hour from Eau Claire and an hour from Minneapolis. Among other things, this means locals have always had the option of getting their broadcast media from the Twin Cities or from Eau Claire. For instance, they can hear sweet indie music on Converge Radio (western Wisconsin) and The Current (St. Paul) while still enjoying their own hidden gem that is Burning Dog Radio nestled in their downtown. 

Road trips to concerts east in Eau Claire and west in the Cities are not too bothersome, so First Ave. and The Pablo Center are both in reach for big shows. Throw in proximity to great artists in lovely small towns throughout the St Croix and Chippewa Valleys and you have quite the creative nexus. However, aside from all this cultural input from other cities, Menomonie itself has a flourishing music culture and some stellar opportunities to experience it in a wide variety of spaces.  

Throw in proximity to great artists in lovely small towns throughout the St. Croix and Chippewa Valleys and you have quite the creative nexus.

If a coffee shop concert suits your vibe, Menomonie has you covered. 

With its comfortable seating and top-notch sound system, The Raw Deal has a great space for music, which compliments their handcrafted raw foods, lovely coffees, and exquisite brews. They have been host to Valley artists such as Jim Pullman, Ben Shaw, Jerrika Mighelle and Menomonie’s own Whale House, and they’re a creative hub for zine-makers and visual artists. 

"The Raw deal is a beautiful classic, Wisconsin venue,” Shaw, a folk/indie/rock singer-songwriter who records in The Valley, said. “High ceilings preventing shows that are too loud, and comfortable lounge chairs for a relaxing experience for the listener."

If you like a little bakery with your coffee, head just a block down Broadway Street to the Acoustic Café. They have the familiar treats and drinks of their EC counterpart while laying down a vibe that’s uniquely comfy and completely their own. Musical heavy hitters such as Justin Jay Arnold, Them Coulee Boys, Duluth’s The Lowest Pair, and Nici Peper have graced their space.

BREWERY NøNIC
BREWERY NøNIC

Though if it’s the time of night where you’ve moved from good coffee to good beer, you are still good to go in Menomonie.

Located just east of the main drag, Brewery Nønic has a luscious new space in a converted train depot to match their wonderful brews. While they are new to the live music game, they’ve been examining their spaces inside and out and have realized some amazing visual and sonic options. They have already hosted artists such as Hemma, D. Janakey, and Greg Manning to name a few and have cool plans for many more. To top it off, they play a great indie radio station daily in their taproom.

On the south end of Lake Menomin, Zymurgy Brewing Co. is rocking out great tunes to compliment their exciting lineup of beers, sodas, and kombucha. They are housed in converted piece of transportation history; they built out a former auto garage into a taproom with a nice urban edge. In the past few months they have been host to a death metal festival, live comedy from Clear Water Comedy, and regional treasure Charlie Parr.

“Knowing we’d be a taproom focused brewery, we have the opportunity to bring a huge variety of music we love and share it with our friends as well as provide a venture for stand up comedy,” Zach Barker, who works at the brewery, said. “Music and comedy is a great environment to share a beer, and we want to help foster those artist in our community.

The Raw Deal
The Raw Deal

At this point you might be wondering if you can see music when you are also hungry. The answer is yes, you are in luck! 

Located directly on the southeast bank of the lake is the Waterfront Bar and Grill. They are a great spot for a tasty burger paired with a beverage of your choice. For as long as I can remember, they have been a consistent venue for great musicians. In just the last few months they have hosted acts like Leftwing Bourbon, Dead Horses, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, and Nick Foytik.

Music fans can also head to the UW-Stout Memorial Union for some great music from locals and national acts alike. For as long as this music fan can remember, Blue Devil Productions has been killing it with the great music they bring to campus. They have brought in acts like Cloud Cult, Beach Bunny, and Milwaukee rapper Webster X to UW-Stout among a wide variety of local and regional bands you can’t find elsewhere in the region.

And If you are craving something outdoors, they have a few great spots to lay out that beach blanket.

Every summer, the Menomonie Public Library opens the grounds to Music Over Menomin bi-weekly series, which has included artists such as QuinnElizabeth, The Weapons of Brass Destruction, and Pit Wagon.

Menomonie also has a true stalwart of the music scene in their borders – The Ludington Guard Band. With roots going back to 1877, they are a community concert band open to community members 16 years old and older. During the summer they perform a weekly concert in Wilson Park where they play standards and familiar band tunes.

Now, at this point you are probably wishing for a breathtakingly gorgeous performance space to top it all off.

That treasure is the Mabel Tainter Theater nestled in downtown. If you haven’t ever seen their space, take a tour ASAP. Words like “gorgeous,” “ornate,” and “captivating” almost capture how precious this room is. And this is a space they open up to national acts like Tonic Sol Fa, Power Balladz, and Forever Elvis while still creating space for local acts such as LASKA, Them Coulee Boys, the Sue Orfield Band, and the Daredevil Christopher Wright (R.I.P.). 

This only scratches the surface of what you can experience in the music waters of Menomonie though. To truly flow, you’ll need to dive in yourself.  


Scott Morfitt and Ed Hudgins work at Converge Radio 99.9, a community supported radio project based out of Eau Claire.  To learn more about Converge or the local music scene, tune in or visit www.convergeradio.org.