50 (people) is the absolute sweet spot…if I did 53…someone would have a bad seat, I don’t sell bad seats…the artist forms a much tighter relationship with their listeners…

Greg Tooke

Podcaster/Musician , Bloody Mary Concerts

We talked with Greg Tooke of Bloody Mary Concerts, My Big Fat Bloody Mary Podcast, and member of the local band Big Liquor. We discussed how he got started opening his home to traveling musicians via house concerts and what people can expect when they attend the show. We also delve into his Bloody Mary focused podcast, band, and where people find out more.

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Frozen River Film Festival

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at PFC.coop. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. The Great River Shakespeare Festival is running now through July 31st. Featuring Twelfth Night and the African Company presents Richard the Third and more at Minnesota’s premier Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota. Buy tickets online at grsf.org. Great river, great drama. We talked with Greg Tooke of Bloody Mary Concerts, My Big Fat Bloody Mary Podcast, and member of the local band Big Liquor. We discussed how he got started opening his home to traveling musicians via house concerts and what people can expect when they attend the show. We also delve into his Bloody Mary focused podcast, band, and where people find out more. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:51
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:52
And this is La Crosse Local.

Greg Tooke 01:55
My name is Greg Tooke. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And growing up as a kid I listened to my parents music and a lot of that was Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubb and Merle Haggard and that sort of thing. That’s kind of my first exposure to music.

Brent Hanifl 02:11
Talking with you about the Bloody Mary Concerts. Also your podcast? Was the podcast, something that started at first, you know, the popularity of indie music and in some ways, bands traveling independently. Was it just a natural progression to offer concerts at your house?

Greg Tooke 02:28
Well, I think it was it first came about I was at a Bobby Bear Jr. Show down at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. And he’s a real road warrior. And he got done with the show. And he was tearing down his own equipment. And I struck up a conversation and I knew he was a guy that did house concerts. So I asked him if he’d be interested in doing one. I never had. And he agreed to it, we set it up. So he was my first one. And he really helped me kind of get it started. He walked into the room. He looked around and he said you could do 50 people here. Sure enough, 50 is the absolute sweet spot. If I did 53, somebody would have a bad seat. But I don’t sell that seats. So that’s how it started. And the term indie music kind of makes me grin a little bit, one of the guys that’s played here a couple times, Mike Ushnabell from Two Car Garage, defines indie music as any band that’s just not making much money.

Brent Hanifl 03:29
You know, I guess I wasn’t necessarily used an indie as a genre of music, but more of like, independent, it seems to be ever so more common with, you know, a lot of bands having their own audience. There’s lots of different people out there that like different venues of tunes, or arts and that sort of thing. So it seems like people can kind of go down and find their own fans with it. Especially like stuff like this where they can find 50 really sought after people looking to, you know, listen to their music in their living room or outdoors behind someone’s house.

Greg Tooke 03:58
Yeah, and I think it’s valuable to the artists too, because they form a much tighter relationship with their listeners, you know, when they’re actually in the same room, they get to meet them and talk with them. Those people come away from a show like that with I think, a little tighter bond with the artists and they’re gonna probably follow them more on social media and be more engaged. So it’s kind of a win win. It’s an intimate setting for the listener and the artist, everyone there is there to listen, you know, they’re not like at a bar where people are maybe paying attention. I mean, they get a real intent listening audience.

Brent Hanifl 04:33
You’ve touched on a few of those things, you know, sort of the intimate component, being able to talk with the musicians, to some, you know, that might just be a little bit maybe uncomfortable or I guess maybe once you get their course you know you’re watching a show just like anything else. What can people expect for those first time, sort of attendees to one of your concerts?

Greg Tooke 04:52
Well, they can expect a Bloody Mary, that’s for sure. That’s kind of you know, I have a lot of different endeavors. I have the podcast So I’ve got a blog, I do reviews and I do these concerts and the Bloody Mary is kind of at the center of a lot of that. So I always make up a big batch of bloodies, and it’s a nice icebreaker. You know, we mill around before the show people can socialize a little bit and relax. Pearl Street Brewery is a sponsor, so they supply a few cases of beer, and people are welcome to bring their own beverages too, but what they’re gonna get is a national or an international touring artists that they probably aren’t going to see in the area. Otherwise, I’ve been extremely lucky getting some really amazing artists, I started out kind of stalking them, like watch their schedules and see where they’re going to be. And if they had a little hole between Chicago and Minneapolis, I’d reach out to him. It’s gotten to a point now where they’re actually reaching out to me, largely because I provide a really good environment for them. I got a green rooms where they can get away from everybody. I cook them a meal, I let them stay here. So the words kind of gotten out and I ended up having a lot of artists reach out to me.

Brent Hanifl 06:04
I’m sure you’re kind of in planning stages for this next summer with COVID. And everything people kind of get together, but I’m sure you’re ready to kick it off in some fashion do have some shows booked for this year.

Greg Tooke 06:14
Yeah boy. COVID has been an interesting challenge. We actually built an outdoor stage here a couple of years ago, just in time, and I did do a couple of outdoor shows, you know, just for safety, you know, and health reasons and that worked out pretty well. So I have that as an option. But yes, I am in the process of booking some shows I’ve got, let’s see July 10th, Max Cabello, Jr. He’s a guy out of Healdsburg, California, just an amazing blues guitar player and a buddy of his is a trained chef, and he’s coming along. So he’s gonna do like a Big Jumbalia or some barbecue. We’ve done this before, I’ll have a food truck or something, but it’ll be like a Sunday brunch and blues and bloodies that should be really fun one. I’m also talking with Willie Wisley. Let’s see Sonny Sweeney. John Snodgrass and Drag the River. Those dates aren’t set yet, but if you go to bloodymaryconcerts.com I’ll keep that updated.

Brent Hanifl 07:13
We’ve kind of mentioned the podcast a little bit. But you know, I’ve listened to your podcast a handful of times. Basically you just discuss Bloody Marys, right? You know how to make them. You know, you have a special guests. How did that project start?

Greg Tooke 07:25
Yeah, you know, we used to do them as a video. And then it moved into like a four person kind of drive time radio format, which was a lot of fun. But boy, I’m sure you know, to edit all the four different tracks. Everybody had their own microphone, and it got just a little unwieldy. These days, I have one guest sit with me. We share a microphone, we’re kind of up close and personal. I try to yeah, we review products, a lot of times, Bloody Mary mixes, and I try to put something entertaining at the end. And it might be my friend Lynn Miller, who is a lovely 80 something year old woman who loves to sing karaoke, we might put a song of hers at the end. Or if we’re having a house concert, I’ll ask permission and record a song. Sonny War actually sat down in her own studio and recorded the song specifically for the podcast in super high quality and its amazing if people want to go back and look for that. But and then you know, I have a band Big Liquor. We play a lot of the artists I talked about earlier, you know, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and that sort of thing. And I’ve dropped in a song from one of our practices, too. So I tried to mix it up a little bit, we do the reviews, and then I throw something a little entertaining at the end, usually about 20-30 minutes long.

Brent Hanifl 08:42
I definitely recognize that band name. And I believe I’ve seen you a handful of times down at Bodega. Where did that band come from as well, I mean, it sounds like it kind of neatly all fits together?

Greg Tooke 08:51
It kind of does, things are all starting to converge. A buddy of mine and I were sitting out back on my porch, which we often do and we’re just picking out some old country songs. And he said, you know, we should maybe start a band, you know, a cover band just do an old country songs. And I had played in a band before but I’ve never started one. It’s been quite the odyssey we’ve gotten to you know, we’re a five piece band and I have a PA which is nice because I can use that for the house concert. So I can have that all set up when they get here. We play around the area. We’re going to be at Moon Tunes here in mid July. We’ll be playing there and I’ve got another gig up at the Alpine but yeah, that’s it’s really been a lot of fun.

Brent Hanifl 09:35
You got the concerts, you got the band you got the podcast, what’s the best avenue for people to go to follow along?

Greg Tooke 09:42
Honestly, if you just went onto Google and put in My Big Fat Bloody Mary, all that stuff would probably pop up. But if you’re specifically interested in the house concerts, bloodymaryconcerts.com Is that website and Big Liquor, it’s just Big Liquor Band. And the podcast is My Big Fat Bloody Mary Podcast.

Amy Gabay 10:07
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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