Dearly beloved, we're gathered here today in remembrance of The Back Room @ Colectivo. As of 10:40 p.m. on December 15, the East Side venue is no more. And while it may be gone, it is anything but forgotten.
On its final evening, The Back Room filled with the sounds of everything that made the venue one of the best small rooms in the city: a seemingly unending slate of incredibly talented up-and-coming artists, a spellbinding blend of genre, style and sound. The evening kicked off with the roaring sound of Chicago-based indie group Glyders, only to be punctuated by the wonderfully complex aural soundscapes by Windy City resident Bitchin Bajas.
But for many, rising above the beautiful kaleidoscope of sound, it was an evening to reflect on eight years of concerts and eight years of experiences at this intimate space on Prospect Ave. A crowd of around 125 gathered against the backdrop of the café to bid one final farewell to the venue where they saw that show.
Coffee shop by day, music venue by night, The Back Room @ Colectivo offered you a pick-me-up and a welcome escape from the outside world. It was a proving ground where up-and-coming artists showcased their music, grew their fanbase and cemented themselves as the stars of tomorrow. A concert lover’s dream, the intimate space produced some of the most memorable concert experiences. Hosting names like Hayley Hendrickx, Mt. Joy, Will Sheff (formerly Okkervil River), Black Pumas, Iron & Wine, Jade Bird, Grace Weber, Courtney Marie Andrews, Scam Likely and seemingly countless others, the venue was a springboard for artists on the rise.
Only a part of the city’s East Side neighborhood for a little under a decade, once you walked into The Back Room, you felt as though it had existed for decades. It felt like home. The evening’s entertainment proved the perfect final note in the concert hall. The sounds of Glyders' energetic indie-rock and soaring guitar solos contrasted beautifully with the majestic audio mosaic, as mesmerizing as it was intricate from the Windy City psych trio Bitchin Bajas. The headliner's lo-fi instrumental tracks allowed fans to reflect on the memories made inside the hallowed halls of The Back Room as they were entranced by the wonderfully complex soundscapes.
As the last note drew the evening to a close beneath the glowing blue and red neon lights that illuminated the words “Colectivo: The Back Room,” the house lights slowly came up. The front-of-house engineer thanked fans in attendance for their support over the past eight years and noted the “bigger and better” venue to come in 2024, The Vivarium. As the crowd thinned, the unmistakable sauntering hum of Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way,” soundtracked fans’ exit from the final show at The Back Room @ Colectivo.
The venue's closure concludes one chapter for the Pabst Theater Group but sets the stage for another to spring to life in the early months of 2024. Located just a half-mile from the former coffee house venue, The Vivarium looks to be the next step in the evolution of the theater group’s stable of independent theaters throughout the city. Located just south, on Farwell Ave., the 450-capacity Vivarium will kick off its quickly-filling schedule with Molly Grace on February 22, 2024.
As we close the curtain on the concert hall, the Prospect Ave. Colectivo remains a steadfast relic of Milwaukee music history.
Fare thee well, The Back Room @ Colectivo, you will be missed. But we can’t wait to explore the plant-inspired halls of The Vivarium in 2024.