Bremen Cafe draws national talent to Riverwest

The Bremen Café quietly opened last June in the Clarke Street storefront that was formerly R Evolution Café. Bremen Street differs from R Evolution in many ways: New décor, an expanded food and coffee menu and a music venue showcasing both local and touring acts.

Drawing national bands to the Riverwest café was employee Corrie Minor's idea. Minor, a local musician who sings and plays guitar and clarinet, has been in bands Crime and Judy and Old Man Make Believe.

"What's going on at the Cactus Club and The Globe and Onopa is fantastic, and I want to see more all-ages shows in Milwaukee," says 20-year-old Minor, who does all of the booking for the café.

Upcoming national shows include Minneapolis's Jeff Crandle and Thinland on Sat., March 15. Milwaukee's Richard Pinney will perform with the group.

On Sat., Mar. 22, Jill Dawson, whose compassionate folk-rock has received airplay on U.S. college radio stations from Seattle to Siberia, will take the small stage.

On Fri., Mar. 28, Lancaster Pennsylvania's quirky and original "The Gunshy" will perform. "The Gunshy" is not a band, rather the alter-ego of Matt Arbogast whose style of music has been likened to Tom Waits and Jonathan Richman.

Despite the addition of national performers, Bremen Cafe is vigilant about remaining dedicated to local musicians. Singer-songwriter Richard Pinney will play solo the last three Wednesdays in March. Pinney has toured with dozens of esteemed musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and John Prine. Early in his career he made an album with World Cafe favorite, Greg Brown.

All national shows are $4 and local bands are free. The Bremen Café also features a free Open Mic night on Mondays.

Minor finds most of the out-of-state performers on Web sites like garageband.com. "I book some rock, but we try to keep it a little quieter since we're a cafe. Alt-country, folk, bluegrass -- anything surrounding that area is good," says Minor.

Café owner Mehrdad Dalamie is thrilled with Minor's efforts to bring national players to his neighborhood café. "One thing lead to another, and it's turned into a pretty successful thing," says Dalamie, who lives in Riverwest and is an aspiring guitar player.

"Give me a couple of years," he says," and maybe I'll be on that stage. But for now, I just dabble."

Dalamie plans to expand the menu to support the larger crowds and varying tastes. Currently the café offers vegetarian, vegan and meat-happy sandwiches and platters, including brushetta, pita pizzas and hummus, but Dalamie wants to create more options for his customers.

Coffee drinks, tea, Jarrito soda and homemade chai are also available. Wine may be served in the near future, too.

"It's never going to be another Crazy Water or Social," says Dalamie. "We're more of a casual café. We have good food, but we really emphasize the music."

Bremen Café, 901 E. Clarke St., is open from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call Minor at (414) 372-5351.

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