Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: Daft Punk’s First U.S. Show Was in Wisconsin

When you think of the dance music capitols of the United States, several major Metropoli come to mind: New York; Chicago; even Detroit thanks to Carl Craig. But you don’t think of Milwaukee, do you? Don’t lie.

Yet, this is precisely the place where Daft Punk, arguably the world’s most renowned DJs/Dance Music Makers, held their first U.S. performance, on Memorial Day weekend in 1996, the year before their smash hit, “Around the World,” took the universe by storm.

Wikipedia has this little-known tidbit on record (“In 1996, the duo were featured at an Even Furthur event in Wisconsin, their first public performance in the U.S.”), but it has also been recounted by others.

Nicolauz has an incredible passage describing the essence of the Milwaukee rave scene, something that seems to inform the current tide of unrest brewing in the state:

Let me tell you about the first time I saw Daft Punk, and while it wasn’t at my house, it was pretty damn close. My first introduction to Rave culture was in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dave Prince best describes what was happening in Milwaukee in his 1994 Request article: “Milwaukee’s Rave New World.” Ask your friends about Milwaukee and instinctively they’ll offer one word: beer. And while you can often smell the hops from one of the city’s many breweries while wandering the small but clean downtown, a true underground spirit exists just below the surface of this industrial working-class town. Unbeknownst even to most people who live within the county limits, Milwaukee is home to America’s hardest and perhaps strongest rave scene. Incorporating elements from the city’s residual punk-rock scene with heavy-metal sensibilities and a comfort with house music it has absorbed from neighboring Chicago, Milwaukee’s rave community has withstood the mainstream media indifference, police harassment, and quickly changing musical tastes that have stalled the movement throughout the rest of North America. The Milwaukee scene is an amalgam of hippie sensibilities (“peace, love, unity and respect”), punk spirit (“do it yourself”), and heavy-metal attitude (“f—king hardcore”).”

Nickolauz also quotes a New York Times article about the weekend event, authored by eventual sub-culture best-seller, Neil Strauss, but the link is broken. We can only hope the excerpt is factual:

“It rained every day; nonetheless, ravers danced in muddy tents to their favorite DJs (Frankie Bones, ESP Woody McBride, Scott Hardkiss, Apollo, Mixmaster Morris), marveled at how well electronics whizzes like Daft Punk and Laura Grabb could perform the music on live instruments and discovered that rock bands like Low and Poi Dog Pondering could also fit into a rave.

Below, video of Daft Punk’s first Wisconsin (and U.S.) show…


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