Last January, Turner Hall donated its space for the first Milwaukee concert to benefit the Pablove Foundation, which raises funds to battle childhood cancer.
The foundation was set up by Milwaukee native and L.A. music industry insider Jeff Castelaz and his wife Jo Ann Thrailkill in honor of their son Pablo, who died of cancer the previous year at age 6.
That show raised around $16,000 and was the event of the year in the Milwaukee music scene. Not just because everyone who was anyone in the scene was there -- either on stage or in the crowd -- but because it showed how much the city could get behind one of its own in a time of need.
"The first Pablove benefit in Milwaukee proved one thing: we needed to make it an annual event," Jeff Castelaz tells me via e-mail from Paris, France, where he's attending a trade show.
"The support we felt from the promoters Scott Ziel and Doug Johnson and Marc Solheim, all the bands and most important, the people who bought tickets was overwhelmingly positive and personal. When 900 people are focused on the same positive thing under the same roof, there's nothing like it."
This Saturday, Jan. 29, the second annual Pablove Foundation benefit returns, kicking off at 5:30 p.m. Among the bands on stage this year are Jaill, Juniper Tar, Bascom Hill, The Rusty Ps and Prophetic with DJ Madhatter, Cory Chisel, Maritime, Fitz and the Tantrums, and acoustic performances by Goran Kralj of The Gufs and Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups.
Tickets are $25, $10 for kids 12 and under.
Castelaz expects the show is only part of what will be a long string of concerts in Milwaukee, a city which he says will continue to figure into the Pablove Foundation's plans.
"This year is very special because at the show we are announcing the details of our biggest yearly fundraiser, my cross-country bike ride Pablove Across America," says Castelaz, who has undertaken similarly challenging rides in the past to benefit the cause.
"In October, together with 10 other riders, I will make my way from my hometown, Milwaukee, to my wife Jo Ann's hometown, New Orleans. As always, we will visit cancer kids at children's hospitals along the way, starting with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin."
The Pablove Foundation will also host a blood drive at the St. Ann Center, 2801 E. Morgan Ave., from 1 until 6 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 4. Appointments can be made here.
The connection to Milwaukee goes deeper than Jeff's roots. He says his son adored his parents' hometowns, too.
"Pablo loved Milwaukee. He loved the sausage race at Miller Park. He loved custard at Kopp's. And he loved the time we played baseball in Cathedral Square with our friend Fred Gillich. And Pablo loved New Orleans -- the city he visited most often in his short life."
And Milwaukee has been ready to return the gift, via the concert and other Pablove events held here.
"I am proud to be from Milwaukee," says Castelaz. "There's no other city like it in the world. The way people support music is incredible. I've known that since I started hanging Wild Kingdom posters on telephone poles at age 19. The way Milwaukee lifted Citizen King from The Globe to the top of the pop charts. There's nothing like it.
"Saturday night, music will become a soundtrack to a good greater than mere rock and roll. It will help us come together, to open our hearts to others in need. The feeling I had when I walked onstage last year -- that's what I'm looking forward to on Saturday night. We are keeping Pablo's love and spirit alive in the world by honoring his memory, and by embracing kids who are currently living with cancer."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.