© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
This filmed music series features local and nationally touring musicians performing in the Lake Effect Surf Shop in Shorewood. Live at Lake Effect is hosted by Lake Effect’s Audrey Nowakowski and Milwaukee musician Trapper Schoepp.

Chicken Wire Empire: Live at Lake Effect

"Live at Lake Effect" is a new music series featuring local and nationally touring artists performing in the Lake Effect Surf Shop in Shorewood, Wis.

We brought the Lake Effects together, along with Visionary Studios, to showcase musicians once a month through an interview with the band exclusively on Lake Effect, plus filmed performances. Today we have Milwaukee’s own Chicken Wire Empire.

Performing for the Lake Effect Surf Shop session were Carter Schilts on mandolin, Jon Peik on the banjo, Jordan Kroeger on standup double bass, Ernest Brusubardis IV on fiddle, and Kyle Schelstad on guitar.

From the outside, it may seem like the bluegrass scene has been experiencing a recent expansion not only in Wisconsin but crossing over into difference genres like pop. However, Jordan Kroeger says that its always been part of Wisconsin's music scene.

"There was a big national bluegrass festival way up north called Mole Lake, and that was back in the day and they always had major artists coming through," he notes. "A lot of people moved up here for logging from the South and brought the music with, so there’s always been a scene. But yeah, it seems like it’s blowing up more and the younger generations are getting more into it."

For more traditional bluegrass examples listeners can turn to artists like The Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe, but the genre has expanded to progressive bluegrass, punk bluegrass, and even jamgrass.

Kroger notes Chicken Wire Empire is somewhere in the middle of all of that. "I guess the best way to put it, is at a progressive festival we're the most traditional band and at a traditional festival we're probably the most progressive band," he explains.

When the band first came together a lot of the members were in a bluegrass jamband with percussion pushing outside of the genre, even playing techo with bluegrass instrumentation.

"When we started the band some of us were into that, some of us were really traditional pickers, so we did meet kind of in the middle eventually and still are," says Kroeger. "But I think also when we started the band we were a bluegrass band, so we were playing mostly covers. You start writing music and everything changes."

With more instruments to highlight and use, the large bluegrass band has always had a family element to it — something Ernest Brusubardis IV can relate to. He comes from generations of musicians in his family and grew up surrounded by and playing mostly choral and classical music since he was 4 years-old.

"I had a friend introduce me to bluegrass when I was about 12 or 13, and I went to the library and everything that had a violin on the cover I tried to grab, and any of the CDs that were adjacent to that," Brusubardis recalls. "It's kind of funny, at least for myself, that I started off with such classical roots and now here I am playing this kind of music."

Although a major part of his musical career is being a part of Chicken Wire Empire, he says he learned by his parent's example of playing "from your soul, playing with your heart."

"[I've] been really blessed to have that, and you know you can't really choose your family, but then we have this [bluegrass] family," he says. "It's a bunch of people that are from all over the place, even from within the state or where we are in our lives."

Chicken Wire Empire aims to continue to keep the Midwestern bluegrass tradition strong, embracing tradition and doing their part to push it to new modern and genre-blending sounds.


  • Still in Love with You (0:14)
  • Barge (3:04)
  • Glover (5:55)


  • Carter Schilts: mandolin
  • Jon Peik: banjo & vocals
  • Jordan Kroeger: standup double bass & vocals
  • Ernest Brusubardis IV: fiddle & vocals
  • Kyle Schelstad: guitar

Live at Lake Effect Team:

  • Executive Producers: Audrey Nowakowski & Trapper Schoepp
  • Audio Engineering: Jason Rieve
  • Location: Lake Effect Surf Shop in Milwaukee
  • Production Company: Visionary Studios
  • Camera Op: Brad Roehl, Kieran Walter Sundaram & Brandon Stearns
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Trapper Schoepp is co-executive producer of Live at Lake Effect, a filmed music series from WUWM's Lake Effect.
Related Content