Live music in Kenosha is nothing new. The city has long supported a roster of bar bands that rock out on a small stage while patrons and bartenders shout over them to converse or place orders.
What’s new — over the past year or so — is a Kenosha venue called Fusion, where a wider range of artists from near and far can perform for an audience of attentive listeners, supported by high-quality sound equipment in an atmosphere where beer and wine are available, but drinking is not the main focus. Instead, the artists are.
Fusion is a nonprofit establishment under the auspices of the Kenosha Performing Arts Association. KPAA founder Don Miller bought the former Grand Central Records & Tapes store in October of 2013 and has been restoring and outfitting it ever since. Located across from the Marina Gardens restaurant in Kenosha’s Harborside neighborhood just north of downtown, the building’s original brick has been exposed, its ceiling uncovered, and its main floor renovated to accommodate an audience of 80 or maybe 90, depending on the type of show.
An outstanding, state-of-the-art sound system has been integrated into the space — along with a live video production system which will soon be operated from a basement control room. The sound mixing, recording, and video equipment are all overseen by Steve Hawkins, who says he has spent a good portion of his life performing similar services for touring bands, and is happy to be doing less packing and unpacking these days.
On a recent Saturday, Don Miller and Steve Hawkins gave us a tour of Fusion — and we were lucky enough to catch an acoustic music performance by Zachary Scot Johnson and Macyn Taylor, two extraordinary musicians from the Racine-Kenosha area who are now gaining much wider fame. A video of our visit is posted above, and can easily be embedded or shared via YouTube.
In addition to live music, Fusion has also hosted comedy shows, movie screenings, poetry readings, puppet shows, tap dance performances, open mic nights, school recitals, and painting & wine events. The venue and its audio-visual components — including a large projection screen — can also be rented for business seminars and private gatherings.
Out back from the main floor, a new beer garden space is being created with a second stage, more seating, and more sound equipment. A small music festival is in the works for September. Upstairs, rooms have been remodeled to house potential artists’ spaces or offices.
Fusion is not-for-profit, and volunteers are welcome.