In the heart of campus life at an undisclosed university, two college girls, Madhavi Steinert a music industry major, and Bianca Ragusa an RTF major, have embarked on an innovative journey by establishing their very own concert venue, aptly named “The Milk Crate.” What sets this venture apart is not just the eclectic mix of music it hosts, but the unique story of its inception and the duo’s commitment to creating a safe and inclusive space for artists.
The idea for The Milk Crate was a collaborative effort from the beginning, born out of the shared passion for music and a desire to provide a physical platform for local artists. Steinert, with her eye for potential in their garage space, envisioned a milk crate stage—an idea she had harbored for a long time. Living with a fellow musician like Bianca, made it an opportune moment to bring this vision to life.
The process was meticulous, from brainstorming sessions to deciding on the milk crate theme. Even the name went through a creative evolution, solidifying the identity of the venue. The choice of using “donated” milk crates not only added a rustic charm to the stage but also gave the venue its distinctive name.
“I kind of saw the space in the garage. And for a long time, I’ve wanted to build a milk crate stage. So I just saw the opportunity. And I’m living with a musician so it’s just an incredible opportunity to do so,” said Ragusa.
One notable aspect of The Milk Crate is its location. Unlike many house venues that opt for basements, Steinert and Ragusa had to work with what they had—a garage. Despite potential sound leakage concerns, strategic speaker placement and makeshift solutions demonstrated their resourcefulness, making the venue stand out in its own way.
The journey to assemble the necessary equipment was a testament to the duo’s determination. A second-hand PA system found on Facebook Marketplace and a bit of luck made it possible to kickstart their endeavor. Resourcefulness extended to the lighting as well, with Amazon being their go-to source for all things essential. They also make sure to prioritize safety within their music venue.
“We want to help people’s safety first to like, yeah, sure, we’re selling water, but at the same time, if you need water,” said Steinert. “We want you to be safe. And you know, it’s for the girls cause there aren’t so many women in this industry.”
As college students juggling academics and their musical pursuits, Steinert and Ragusa have found a harmonious balance. The initial hard work leading up to the first show has transitioned into a smoother routine, allowing them to enjoy the process and avoid any negative impact on their student lives.
Their inaugural show, held on Oct. 27, marked a significant milestone for Steinert and Ragusa as they transformed their garage into the vibrant venue, ‘The Milk Crate.’ The night was filled with an impressive lineup, showcasing the musical process of talented artists and bands such as Surf Haven, and Scxtty, and featuring captivating performances by Steinert herself.
Themed to coincide with Halloween, the atmosphere of the concert was not only musical but also visually striking, as attendees embraced the festive spirit by donning an eclectic array of costumes. Surf Haven, Scxtty, and Steinert each brought their distinct styles to the stage, contributing to the diverse soundscape that defined the evening. The carefully curated lineup reflected the duo’s commitment to offering a platform for various genres and emerging talents within the local music scene.
The success of their inaugural show went beyond the musical performances. The Halloween-themed event attracted a substantial turnout, with the garage venue filled to the brim with music enthusiasts and partygoers. The positive reception and attendance at the first show served as validation for Steinert and Ragusa’s vision. The Milk Crate had become more than just a garage with a stage; it had evolved into a space where creativity and music converged, fostering a sense of unity among attendees.
The Halloween-themed debut not only established The Milk Crate as a noteworthy player in the campus music circuit but also set the tone for the future. Steinert and Ragusa had successfully created a space where music, community, and creativity intersected, promising an exciting journey ahead for The Milk Crate and its role in shaping the local music scene.
“We want to uplift this music scene because it’s important and it’s already doing good work. But at the same time, like on a larger scale, we want to incorporate everybody in that cause it shouldn’t be exclusive in my opinion,” said Steinert.
Reflecting on their first show, the duo expressed pride in the turnout. With 120 people filtering in and out, the success of the event highlighted the potential impact The Milk Crate could have on the local music scene. The focus on creating a safe space, particularly as a female-run venue, adds a unique dimension to their contribution.
“When we hit a certain number of people, I was impressed. I felt proud of our first show and our venue,” said Ragusa.
Their most recent show, marking the latest chapter in The Milk Crate’s growing legacy, lived up to the high standards set by its predecessor. Securing the opportunity to host the touring band Troubled Minds, alongside the already selected guest bands Cheem and Clay Kickers. Steinert and Ragusa curated yet another diverse and captivating lineup.
“It’s a little more intimidating because I don’t know any of the bands. And this was super special because we didn’t book it,” said Steinert, “It was a three-band bill. We got asked to host it then we found the fourth band, Luna. And yeah, we’re kind of just moving forward with it. But for our next show on December 8, we’ve booked the vans in advance already.”
Building on the momentum from their previous event, the second show drew an impressive turnout. The venue pulsated with energy as the crowd enthusiastically engaged in moshing and dancing, creating an electric atmosphere. The seamless fusion of music, camaraderie, and creative expression once again underscored the success of The Milk Crate as a dynamic and thriving concert venue.
Hosting a touring band like Troubled Minds added a new dimension to the experience, expanding the reach of The Milk Crate beyond the confines of the local scene. It was Troubled Minds’ first time being in New Jersey and the Milk Crate was the venue blessed to host them. The carefully chosen guest bands further demonstrated the duo’s commitment to offering a stage to a variety of musical genres and talents.
The success of their second show further solidifies The Milk Crate’s position as a dynamic force in the campus music scene. Steinert and Ragusa, fueled by the triumphs of their past events, are undoubtedly poised to continue their journey of elevating local music and fostering a sense of community through their unique and vibrant concert experiences.
Looking ahead, Steinert and Ragusa envision The Milk Crate as a platform that uplifts the local music scene. Collaborations with both touring and local bands are already in the works, showcasing their commitment to inclusivity. Future expansion plans are a topic for future discussion, emphasizing their current focus on making the most of the opportunities at hand.
As The Milk Crate continues to evolve, Steinert and Ragusa maintain an open-minded approach to the variety of music they host. Rejecting any notion of exclusivity, they welcome artists from all genres, echoing the diversity that the music industry represents.
With an Instagram presence and efforts to spread the word through flyers, The Milk Crate aims to be more than just a venue—it strives to be a community. Steinert and Ragusa’s dedication to their craft and their unwavering support for fellow musicians position The Milk Crate as a rising star in the campus music scene, promising a future filled with diverse sounds and inclusive experiences.