The laws of physics and the sadly finite limits of human endurance ensure that all good parties must come to an end. Time marches on, enthusiasm wanes, and the lights eventually come up. But The Get Down—Milwaukee’s premier monthly funk and soul dance party hosted by DJs Andy Noble, Brent Goodsell, and Nesh—shows no signs of stopping. Beginning this Thursday, The Get Down will celebrate its 10th anniversary by doing what it’s always done: getting people on the dance floor and spinning some of the best (and rarest) funk and soul records of the past 50 years.
“We’re doing something that’s pretty hard to do, and I’m lucky enough to say we get away with it,” Noble says. “We’re actively trying to play an entire night’s worth of shit that people don’t know. That’s really, really tough to do.”
The Get Down’s monthly blowout may be a Milwaukee mainstay now, but the night started out decidedly small in 2003, at Quarters Rock ’N’ Roll Palace. (Noble: “I really liked the idea of being low-key and sleazy.”) After moving to the former Riverhorse (now Impala Lounge) and the defunct Red Light over Trocadero, The Get Down found a permanent home at Mad Planet. Thanks to word of mouth and a live 88Nine Radio Milwaukee feed, it also found its greatest success. “After that, it was game over,” Noble says. “It went from 150 people to pretty much 400 people every time.”
As someone with extensive experience in both DJ events and live music, Noble sees a clear-cut distinction between the two disciplines—a distinction that has led to The Get Down’s longevity. “When I DJ, I approach it like a party. I don’t approach it as a spectator-based thing. When you have a DJ event, it’s really, really important that the room is right, the layout is right, that people can move around the room in the right way. It’s just like having a good party. If you have a good DJ event it’s like you’re a good party host.”
“I want people to be looking at each other. I want it to be very social,” he adds. “When people walk into Mad Planet and things are going well, they don’t look at us. They look at the dance floor.”
Keeping things fresh after a decade may seem daunting, but Noble sees it as a simple matter of energy. “The crowd can tell when you’re excited about it. If you sit there and play the same 20 records for 10 years, people would be so bored of it,” he says. “When it’s going right, it’s totally based on the music. If a DJ is excited about the music they’re playing, it sounds better. It transcends the recording itself. You can feel that someone is excited about playing something.”
“I think it’s interesting to look at it in retrospect and see which things lasted and which things didn’t,” Noble adds. “I don’t think it’s as much a comment on us as it is about the type of music. We hit a sweet spot, and Milwaukee was ready for something like that. It’s really about an audience that was ready for that kind of music at that moment in time.”
But when all is said in done, there may be a simpler, more primal reason behind the night’s success. “I think another function of The Get Down is that it’s a hook-up night,” Noble laughs. “People go there and they meet each other. If you can send them out the door on that note, they like you. They’ll return.”