If you're a Milwaukee music fan you might know Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz's tragic story. In June, a year after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the 6-year-old son of Milwaukee music scene veteran Jeff Castelaz lost his battle against the disease.
Castelaz -- now based in Los Angeles, where he co-owns Dangerbird Records -- didn't wait to spring into action, creating the Pablove Foundation shortly after Pablo was diagnosed to raise money to fight childhood cancer. Since June, Jeff has biked across the country and staged events to raise consciousness and money and in November he was recognized by ABC News for his efforts and named "Person of the Week."
This week, the third Pablove Foundation concert takes place right here in Milwaukee at Turner Hall. The Saturday show kicks off at 7 p.m. with Willy Porter and features performances by The Gufs, The Lackloves, Old Man Malcolm, Mike Benign, Pet Engine, Truth in Fiction, Fever Marlene and others. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Turner Hall Ballroom has donated the venue, according to spokesman Ryan Matteson.
An all-acoustic pre-show party is slated for Friday night a Tonic Tavern, 2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Bay View. The 10 p.m. fundraiser features performances by Tonic owner and 5-Card Stud Paul Jonas, Lisa Gatewood, Mark Waldoch, PEKOE, Conrad Plymouth, Mark Voss and Otto Ohlsson of Into Arcadia.
Castelaz -- who made his name here first as a music writer and later as manager of bands like Citizen King and The Gufs -- will return for the performance.
"Yes, I'll be coming to Milwaukee for the show," Castelaz confirms. "(But) just me. We only own one warm coat for our entire family. (Pablo's mom) Jo Ann will be in her hometown, New Orleans, for the Saints game. she was there last weekend, too.
"I am blown away by the love and support Milwaukee is throwing our way. I mean, it truly stops me in my tracks. (Summerfest's) Scott Ziel and Doug Johnson came up with the idea for a show and have been planning it for six months. I'm not even sure how I will process all of the music -- from Maritime to Willy Porter to The Gufs and Malcolm's insane records. It's like a year of shows from the old days all in one night. I'm really excited to connect with old friends for as many hours as I can stay awake. That, and, well, Kopp's."
Castelaz has a similar reaction to the support the Pablove Foundation has garnered all across the country.
"The response to The Pablove Foundation has been stunning," he says. "Everywhere we go, people meet us with open arms, and with the message of our mission in their hearts. People understand this message that kids get cancer, too, and it's not someone else's problem. People want to help us to help kids with cancer and their families. We're lucky. We're blessed. Not every charitable organization has such support. It's all because of Pablo. His smile and grace, how he demanded to have fun -- he showed us the way."
There have also been Pablove concerts in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Castelaz says the foundation held a dinner party fundraiser in New Orleans during his Pablove Across America bike trek, but there was no live music at that event.
"Milwaukee will be the third city where we marry music and pediatric cancer advocacy," Castelaz says.
According to Matteson, about 150 tickets had been sold as of earlier this week.
"We're all pretty surprised (and) shocked," Matteson says of the advance sales. "We'd obviously love that to be higher. (But) tt's also the type of show that a lot of people will buy day-of, especially because it's a Saturday night. It's starting to move in double digits each day."
For Benign, a father himself, donating his services -- and that of his three supporting bandmates -- was a no brainer, even though he and Castelaz had no history here in Milwaukee.
"I didn't know Jeff well when he was here -- he was more of an acquaintance from the scene," says Benign. "But I always admired and appreciated the work he did to advance some of Milwaukee's best bands. My wife and I found out about Pablo's illness and the Pablog via Facebook. Like a lot of others we know in Milwaukee, we started reading the blog on a regular basis, up to the time of Pablo's passing and beyond.
"As a parent, it's a privilege to be on the bill and contribute. Same for the guys in my band -- they're all parents, too -- seven kids in all. Same for many of the other musicians playing Saturday. (There is) no shortage of compassion and empathy for what Jeff and his family have gone through. I also love the fact that the show is set up to be kid-friendly (12 and under get in for half-price). A lot of the performers are bringing their kids to the show, and we're encouraging all parents to do the same."
Benign is also eager to recognize local musician Louie Lucchesi's importance to the concert.
"This event was Louie's ideam" says Benign. "A lot of people have donated time, services, products and money to make this show happen. Scott Ziel and Doug Johnson have done an incalculable amount of legwork to bring this event together. But without Louie getting it started back in September, we wouldn't be talking about Saturday's concert!"
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.