Waukesha’s ‘Carnegie Hall’ kicks off Friday
Fill-in gig for music store owners revives love of playing

By TOM BADGER - Special to TimeOut

June 1, 2017


Credit: Submitted photo
Kathy and Mike Gallenberger flank Mike Aspan, center, who will join them Friday at Friday Night Live in Waukesha.

WAUKESHA - Mike and Kathy Gallenberger will be in full casual wear this Friday night.  However, on the inside, the Merton couple will be feeling “full gown and black tie” for opening night of Friday Night Live.

“To me, Friday Night Live is the Carnegie Hall of Waukesha,” said Mike Gallenberger, who, along with his wife, will perform this Friday as Friday Night Live kicks off another season in downtown Waukesha. “The reason Friday Night Live gets some of the best local musicians is the reputation the event has received over the years. This is a gig that just about every musician wants to do because it means you’ve made it in the Waukesha music arena.”

The popular live music series, organized by the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, runs Fridays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with local talent at several stages, including Main Street and Gaspar, where the Gallenbergers will play.

In a way, Friday Night Live rejuvenated the Gallenbergers’ musical career. As owners of Gman Music at Barstow and South streets, opportunity came right through their door.

“About 15 years ago, Norm Bruce (owner of Martha Merrell’s Books) came into my music store saying he needed someone to sing that coming Friday,” Mike Gallenberger said. “I told him I would get him someone. Well, nobody could do it. Kathy and I had quit playing out about two years before. So I asked her and she said no. I told Norm that I would do it myself. At the last minute, Kathy said OK. We were rusty but we had a lot of fun. Since then, we have done about 100 Friday Night Lives.”

They’ve kicked off the annual series many times.

“Friday Night Live has had a big impact on our lives as it gave us a chance to start playing out again after calling it quits,” Mike Gallenberger said. “It allows me to play with who I want to play with and play whatever I want.”

The Gallenbergers play a variety of ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s music from the likes of John Denver, Patsy Klein, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, and  Peter, Paul and Mary.  Kathy Gallenberger’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has become a FNL favorite.

“The best part of playing there is the people,” Mike Gallenberger said. “We see great family crowds out for a night of fun and music.”

They enjoy the experience so much that they asked the organizers to book them once a month. In addition, they now bring along some of their music friends.

“Now, we only play about twice a month and we keep it to songs we really enjoy,” Mike Gallenberger said. “Playing too much can take the fun out of it.”

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