Plugged in and Proud: Menomonie’s Rock and Roll

Bryce Parr –

Electronic artists blast tunes weekly at The Abbey. Folk musicians find a home on the Raw Deal’s storefront stage. Rock artists don’t seem to have a place to call their own, but that doesn’t deter Menomonie rockers from blazing their own trail. Menomonie rock bands are sure to be heard whether they are travelling out of town for gigs, playing magazine release shows with multiple different genres or running the mosh pits in the basements of student homes.

University of Wisconsin—Stout student Ben Mohr has been playing music in Menomonie for around three years. He sings and plays lead guitar with Nixon’s Ghost and performs solo under the moniker My-Naah Bird. Mohr formed connections with other local musicians playing open mics on campus and at the Acoustic Café. “When I got here, there really wasn’t too much of a rock scene to speak of; Pets with People Names and the first incarnation of Bellyflop Suicide were the only bands around my Freshman year—everyone else that I knew of was either a rapper or a DJ,” Mohr said. Mohr believes the scene is a good starting point for rock musicians to hone and refine their sound, but it offers little support for musicians looking for something bigger. A majority of the rock shows are DIY house shows. “[House shows] are probably my favorite to play; the energy is intoxicating. When everything is on and the band plays loud, you can just feed off the audience. It’s really unlike anything else,” Mohr said.

The Abbey is looking to book a wider array of genres. Bellyflop Suicide, Cap’n Seabeard and My-Naah Bird played the basement stage at Abbeypalooza. My-Naah Bird, Bellyflop Suicide and Dissonant Mind are also slated to play The Abbey in April. “The Abbey is now supporting Rock musicians, [and that] is a good thing. It increases exposure, it helps existing bands, and it makes younger musicians, wanting to start something, more aware of the possibilities. We might see more bands enter the scene as a result,” Mohr said.

Anthony Clementi, UW-Stout student and front man for Bellyflop Suicide, is less hopeful for the future of the scene. “Menomonie is not going stay active. I don’t think anyone has an appetite for this scene. Unless there’s an appetite, it’s not going to happen,” Clementi said. “What it ultimately comes down to is a low-pressure environment to fuck around.” Menomonie singer-songwriter and UW-Stout student Hannah Lee thinks there’s an appetite, but it’s for the experience and not the music. “It makes the environment really fun, but it can feel demeaning to the artist that wants to be heard,” Lee said.

Regardless of the future of the scene, there is a wide array of sounds within Menomonie waiting to be heard. “I feel we are all part of a community and hang out as musician but hang onto our unique tastes in the music we listen to and create. It’s a really diverse scene,” Lee said. “It’s all different and unique to their person and band.”