As classic and CD jukeboxes give way to laptops and Internet jukeboxes, the soundtrack to an evening at a bar can now be as unpredictable as that phantom hangover that creeps up the next day.
Even places like the Bomb Shelter, which relies on its retro kitsch (and extensive beer selection) for distinction, has an Internet jukebox, which can almost guarantee that The Rolling Stones can and will be followed up by the latest Lady Gaga.
But on Thursday nights, the Bomb Shelter unplugs, so to speak, and kicks it old school. Thursdays are reserved for the weekly Schlitz Spin, an evening solely dedicated to the turntable. Customers are encouraged to bring in selections from their personal vinyl collection and the bartender will give them a spin.
For a bar that serves old-school Milwaukee beer in '60s- and '70s-era glassware and that, on any given day of the week, pays tribute to classic corner taverns -- the place has pickled eggs in a jar, for Pete's sake -- the format fits like a glove.
Owner Greg Landig says he knew he wanted a turntable involved even before opening the bar in early 2008. He's got a rather extensive LP collection himself -- '80s mostly, he says -- and hates to see them collect dust in the iPod era.
"There are so many people who have records, but nobody has a turntable anymore, so I thought it'd be a good idea to give those people a chance to listen to the records they haven't touched in 20 or 30 years."
Landig launched the night back in October 2009 and the crowd, he says, has been a mixed bag. One week you'll get an ear full of prime selections from the Rat Pack's heyday. The next, someone might bring in the soundtrack to "The Muppet Movie." You just never know.
It's also worked as an attractive lure for the next generation of vinyl lovers who recognize the format's value and longevity.
"It's funny. I would have thought it would have been all people my age -- late 30s, early 40s," Landig says. "We do get those, but we also get 21-year-olds that come in who think vinyl is the coolest thing."
The vinyl-only night is called the Schlitz Spin for a reason. The Bomb Shelter loves to pay tribute to all the beers that made Milwaukee famous, so Schlitz tappers are on special that night.
Plus, Landig, who has been a serious beer paraphernalia collector for years, got his hands on a series of old-fashioned Schlitz pilsner glasses. You can't buy them in stores, or even online, but you can buy one at the Bomb Shelter and get $2 refills throughout the night, take it home and build a collection of your own. He also raffles off mini Schlitz neon signs to Schlitz drinkers each Thursday.
Fittingly, the bar is hosting the Schlitz Tall Boy launch party on Thursday, March 25, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The evening features retro music, giveaways, Tall Boy samples and a special guest appearance from the Schlitz El Camino. Cheers!
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”