Milwaukee, WI – “Show’s Canceled” – Thai Joe’s – May 15, 1999

The show was a blast, even though it initially seemed doomed from the start. When we arrived for soundcheck, the situation looked pretty grim. Thai Joe, stood on the curb outside his shuttered establishment. He was smoking a clove fag in a splinter of sunlight that had elbowed its way between two buildings. He seemed preoccupied with more pressing issues when he casually dropped, “Show’s canceled.”

Turns out, Thai Joe’s had run into some trouble for operating under an unlicensed name, not to mention an unfortunate little date rape that had occurred at the club earlier in the year. I stood there speachless in my overalls and soft purple t-shirt waiting to hear his plan B but Thai Joe was clearly busy nursing invisible wounds and a canceled gig seemed the least of his worries.

For the next two hours, I stood like a dejected team mascot outside the club, shaking hands and turning people away as a bartender unceramoially scraped “Thai Joe’s” logo off the front door. Some people already had tickets. I felt awful, especially as Thai Joe was in no position to offer them refunds.

Suddenly Joe reappeared beside me, breathless with good news. “The chief of police just gave the thumbs up,” he announced, with one caveat—it had to be an entirely acoustic performance. Energized by the challenge, I hurried to catch up with the band. I found them in a sun drenched deli, hitched to a red and white checkered table cloth, waist deep into some impressively large sandwiches.

“Fancy an unplugged set?” I asked. They didn’t hesitate.

Back at Thai Joe’s, a skeleton crew turned some lights on us and the audience (the ones I hadn’t turned away) gathered around us closely like a corset. We rooset on some brown pleather stools atop a makeshift, wood slab stage. Soucy abandoned his electric guitar for my acoustic one and Brian slapped and banged everything within arms reach. He even turned my empty guitar case and the leg of my chair into percussion instruments. Lyrics flowed, stories unfolded, and new songs like “40 years” and “Nisa” were bravely debuted. I sang my lungs out to the intimate audience and they brought us out from cold, opening their warm hearts to us.

After the show, Joe showed his gratitude with dinner on the house. I must say, Thai Joe’s was the most open “shut” bar I’ve ever been to.
Hoping to get into a little late night Milwaukee mischief, the four of us trotted out into the night. It was raining and we repourpoused our jackets as umbrellas. Just when we thought Milwaukee had no adventure on tap and were about to abandon our mission, a bowling alley bathed in blue lights and swirling silver stars caught our eye and we thought –Why not bowl a game or five?

Goodnight Milwaukee!

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “Milwaukee, WI – “Show’s Canceled” – Thai Joe’s – May 15, 1999”

  1. Hi Sally,

    Nothing like making lemons out of lemonade! Great story. And – who doesn’t love late night bowling? 🎳. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hey Cindy,
      Right?!?! I mean lemonade AND bowling? Milwaukee’s got it all!

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