As Program Director of Black Cat Alley, I used to get a lot of calls from people asking permission to shoot senior pictures, or wedding poses, or even local music videos. I wasn’t terribly surprised, then, when I got a call asking for information on protocols from a local music producer who was working with a band on an upcoming shoot. Apparently the band had been together for quite some years, and they originally “got discovered” years ago on the street corner in front of Oriental Drug, which is now the food hall Crossroads Collective. But when I learned the band was legendary Milwaukee alt-punk band The Violent Femmes? I nearly died. I am a child of the 80s, after all.
(“Kiss Off”?? Come ON. I was dumbstruck.)
How did we ever get this cool? Actually, BCA has been home to about a dozen music videos, but we were pretty astonished to have Milwaukee’s most famous hometown band, none other than The Violent Femmes, choose our lil’ slice of heaven as a backdrop to their new song, “I’m Nothing.”
In the video, a wide variety of real-life Milwaukee characters mouth along to the lyrics as iconic lead singer Gordon Gano sings in that famous nasally voice: “I AM N-O-T-H-I-N… I AM N-O-T-H-I-N… I AM N-O-T-H— I am nothing!!” It’s an anthem crying out against the Trumpian era of divisiveness, untruths and hatred.
What got me even more excited was when the producer found out that my daughter Sophie and I were painting another Milwaukee mural on a commission for Brady Street, they asked permission to film there, too. So now, I can die happy… my daughter and I were not just in a legendary band’s music video… we weren’t just faces in a story. Our actual art was featured in such.
Violent Femmes: forever.