Tag Archives: mile of music

Wisconsin Sound #2

Wisconsin music makers have been busy these last few weeks. Appleton’s Mile of Music pulled off their fourth festival. One of the most anticipated Wisconsin albums of the yearNosebleeds by Soul Lowwas released on August 5. For more on Soul Low see my upcoming feature in WiG.

The attention of the international media will be on Eau Claire this weekend, as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and friends host the second Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. I will bring you my report in the next issue of WiG. Now I offer my rundown of Mile of Music, the Milwaukee Public Library’s inaugural “Library Loud Days,” a couple Company Brewing shows, and the latest addition to Milwaukee’s impressive roster of festivals.

Synth Fest MKE

A new Milwaukee festival debuted last month in the Bay View neighborhood. Produced by the people at Acme Recordsa music store on S. Kinnickinnic Avethe inaugural Synth Fest MKE put the spotlight on electronic music. Barry Paul Clark, bassist in several Wisconsin bands including Field Report and the mind behind adoptahighway, told me that what made the festival unique is it provided an outlet to artists who don’t often perform live.

Synth Fest MKE

The experimental, electronic music scene in Milwaukee can be very introverted. It is usually one person spending a lot of time working with different recording technologies and machines in isolation. The festival was really special because it showed us that we’re all kind of speaking the same language and living in the same universe, so there can be a community around it.”

One of those people who rarely plays out is John Goezler, who performed as BTS.WRKNG on the second night of the festival. Clark was happy to see Goezler, as he was one of the first people Clark met in the electronic scene after moving back to Milwaukee from New York City. Synth Fest MKE comprised two nights of music at Cactus Club and two days at Acme Records on July 23 and July 24.

I caught Clark as adoptahighway on the first night and he delivered a powerfully haunting set. On my way out of Cactus Club I ran into a guy who looked like but was not Nick Schubert of GGOOLLDD, which made me sad he wasn’t playing the festival as his Holy Visions side project. Maybe next year.

“Library Loud Days” inaugural event

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In an attempt to redefine Milwaukee’s concept of their library, the Central Branch became a lively, interactive destination on July 28. Out front on Wisconsin Avenue there was a block party with V100 DJs, food and beer vendors. Inside there was an instrument station, a music video display, free popcorn, a photo booth, spoken word, and a headlining performance from New Age Narcissism (NAN), Milwaukee’s premier hip-hop collective. The stage was set up inside the Schoenleber Reading Room. The packed audience, from toddlers to senior citizens, gave NAN a warm reception, feeding off their infectious energy. It was a beautiful night of music in a place where I never thought I’d get the chance to chant, dance, sing and stomp.

The Lion’s Ball and Strange Fruit

Company Brewing in Milwaukee is usually closed on Monday, but when Milwaukee saxophonist Jay Anderson requested that his birthday party fall on his actual birthdayMonday July 25owner George Bregar gladly complied. After all, Anderson helps book Company’s Wednesday night jazz supper club series. “The Lion’s Ball” also honored Tarik Moody of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. It was quite the social affair, with some good music thrown in.

The Lion's Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.
The Lion’s Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.

D’Amato turned in an inspired set with a smaller backing band than usual and dedicated a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “I Heard Love Is Blind” to Anderson, who is a huge fan of Winehouse. The headlining band featured Fred Boswell Jr., arguably the best drummer in town, and Angie Swan, an accomplished guitarist from Milwaukee who is spending some time back home before another high profile gig elsewhere. They jammed along with Quentin Farr, Alan Harris, Terry Harris, and B-Free.

This weekend (August 12 – 14) Anderson has co-curated the Strange Fruit music festival, which seeks to “explore the thoughts and emotions of local musicians, regarding the current climate of racial relations both in Milwaukee and the country as a whole.” It was inspired by a community dinner that included Anderson, Chauntee Ross (SistaStrings) and others. It is co-produced by Tarik Moody and David Ravel (former director of Alverno Presents), will be held at the Hotel Foster, Company Brewing, and Cactus Club, and features a very strong lineup of hip-hop, jazz, folk, rock and poetry performances.

Siamese and the new Nightgown lineup

Company Brewing hosted another special event on Tuesday August 2, as Dallas, TX glam rock band Siamese visited Milwaukee. This weeknight show also saw the debut of Nightgown’s new lineup, Milwaukee singer Gina Barrington’s latest project. She was joined by Amelinda Burich, Thomas Gilbert (GGOOLLDD) and Erin Wolf (Hello Death, WMSE). Local artist Kristina Rolander created her fourth custom, hand painted backdrop for the Company stage. (Full disclosure, Rolander is my girlfriend.)

Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)
Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)

The glittery, neon, geological rock inspired backdrop flowed seamlessly with Siamese’s outfits and face paint, elevating the young band’s gorgeous, groovy sound. Milwaukee’s Marielle Allschwang, who made one of the best Wisconsin records of 2015Dead Not Donefinished the night with a spirited set. At one point she improvised a song with fellow Hello Death member Nathaniel Heuer in which she sang, “I want to be the dirt.” The sentiment seemed morbid until she followed it up with, “I want to help it grow.” It was a magical midsummer evening with an excellently curated lineup.

Cory Chisel and Mile Of Music 4

Appleton-native Cory Chisel has carved himself a nice place in the music industry, splitting time between his hometown and Nashville, TN. On July 29, his “World Tour of Wisconsin” stopped at the newly-opened MobCraft Brewery in Milwaukee. The sound wasn’t great as it reverberated between the brewing tanks, but Chisel and his band had an enthusiastic crowd. The vocal talents of J-Council were a highlight of the performance, part of a nine-city tour sponsored by USA Today that takes Chisel and his band to non-traditional venues representing what they love most about our state: breweries, barns, bookstores, supper clubs and riverboats.

Four years ago Chisel founded Mile of Music, an Americana/roots festival that has attracted thousands of visitors to downtown Appleton. The 2016 installment featured over 800 performances by more than 200 acts at 70 venues over four days on one mile. I visited “Mile 4” on Saturday August 6, staying at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel right in the heart of the action on College Avenue.

The festival can be overwhelming, with so many performances in bars, storefronts, alleys and outdoor stages. During my time I discovered the sweet, nervy indie-folk rock of Idle Empress (Eau Claire), the saintly-voiced Paul Otteson (Madison), and the derivative electro-hop of Oh My Love (Madison). It was no magic trick when Milwaukee favorites GGOOLLDD got Houdini Plaza dancing and debuted an uncharacteristically dark new song (working title “Undercovers.”)

The highlight of “Mile 4” for me was the festival’s first hip-hop showcase, curated by Milwaukee’s Lex Allen of New Age Narcissism. His collective headlined the five-hour block, which also included Milwaukeeans Fivy, Queen Tut, Mic Kellogg, AUTOmatic, Chakara Blu, Zed Kenzo, Rahn Harper, Cree Myles, Bo and Airo, and Chicago’s Ric Wilson.

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The showcase was held at Lawrence University’s Stansbury Theatre, which was somewhat hard to find on the east end of the mile and had no beverage service. Even so, it was a success in that it exposed interested festival-goers to an underrepresented and often misunderstood genre of music, and some of its most talented local creators. After his show at MobCraft Brewery I spoke with Chisel about the hip-hop showcase.

“I’ve loved Lex for about two years. We played Summerfest and he was on the stage across from me. When I saw him I was like, “Who the hell is that?” So I tracked him down and we’ve become really good friends. He comes up to Appleton and visits. When I had the opportunity to expand the mind of our town with some new programming I immediately thought of Lex. The singer-songwriters are great but I think the festival needs what he brings.”

New videos by NO/NO, The Fatty Acids, and Airo Kwil

The last couple of weeks saw the debut of videos from one of the best Wisconsin albums of the year (NO/NO’s “Television” off Sound and Light), one of the best Wisconsin albums of the last 20 years (The Fatty Acids’ “Little Brother Syndrome” off Boléro), and the first single, “Run Away Now,” from Airo Kwil‘s upcoming album Best Served Cold.

 

Mile of Music

Americana comes to Appleton for the Mile of Music Festival, the city’s second annual celebration of folk, country and blues-influenced music. Mile of Music brings more than 200 performing artists to over 60 venues in the Appleton area. Performers include former R.E.M. members Peter Buck and Mike Mills, producer Butch Vig with his new band Emperors of Wyoming, and co-founder Cory Chisel.

Admission to most performances is free, but $150 priority-access passes are available. To order, visit mileofmusic.com.

Aug. 7 to 10

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Mile of Music brings Americana artists back to Appleton

Appleton becomes Americana Central during the weekend of Aug. 7–10, when the Wisconsin city hosts the second Mile of Music Festival.

More than 200 performing artists will take the stage in more than 60 venues in and around downtown for a grand celebration of the Americana genre of music in all of its forms.

Included on the schedule are big names, such as Peter Buck and Mike Mills, both formerly of R.E.M., now playing in the Baseball Project; and Butch Vig, the legendary producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’Siamese Dream albums, playing with Emperors of Wyoming.

In addition to the name acts, top local musicians from throughout Wisconsin will perform.

The Mile of Music Festival launched last year, co-founded by Appleton natives Cory Chisel and Dave Willems. The first year was a great success, with more than 100 artists appearing at more than 40 venues, ranging from local bars to the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel. The festival was advertised as a cover-free zone designed to celebrate original music and outstanding songwriting.

A highlight of Mile Of Music 2013 was the surprise appearance of Norah Jones with Chisel and his band The Wandering Sons.

Most of the events at Mile of Music 2014 are free, but $150 priority access passes are available. They will get you priority access to the top 11 music venues and the Lawrence University Chapel showcases.

But most performances are open to all, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The genre of music known as Americana is a loose combination of sounds from folk, country, blues and rock. The Americana Music Association was founded in 1999 to create a networking infrastructure to support recognition of the genre.

The association has sponsored the Americana Music Honors and Awards each year since 2002 to recognize outstanding achievements. Past recipients of album of the year awards have included Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss and Loretta Lynn.

In 2009, the Grammy Awards added the category “best Americana album.”

Americana also has emerged as a unique radio format dedicated to sounds connected with American roots music.

Chisel grew up in Babbitt, Minnesota, and Appleton. Key musical influences came from his uncle, who introduced him to blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson. His father, a Baptist pastor, exposed Chisel to the spiritual power of church music.

After touring extensively, Chisel and The Wandering Sons grew a core fan base that resulted in a major label deal with RCA subsidiary Black Seal Music in 2007. In 2012, they toured with Norah Jones.

Chisel was recognized by his Wisconsin peers in 2010, when he was named artist of the year by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. 

At this year’s Mile of Music, be sure to catch Milwaukee pop-rock duo Vic + Gab. The sisters Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos have received strong support from 88NINE Radio Milwaukee. They were named one of the must-hear Wisconsin bands by Paste magazine late last year.

Vic + Gab have placed a song on the MTV show Skins and are looking prime for an upward trajectory.

Also, look for the Oshkosh-based indie rockers The Traveling Suitcase, who delivered one of the most talked-about performances at last year’s festival. The trio’s Nicole Rae and Brandon Domer began making music together in high school but then drifted apart for a number of years before reuniting in 2010 to form a band that at one point counted seven members. It’s since been pared down into a trio with guitarist Bill Grasley. Rae is both lead vocalist and drummer, which gives the band a unique focal point onstage.

The definitively Americana Milwaukee-based band Hugh Bob and the Hustle also are worth catching in their return engagement at Mile of Music. Hugh Robert Masterson, aka Hugh Bob, refers to the band’s music as “north country.” It has roots in traditional country and folk music but its subject matter focuses on the lives of people who live up north. The band has received strong support from both Country Music Television and Paste magazine.

In just two years, Appleton’s Mile of Music has grown into one of Wisconsin’s top music events of the year. Artists from both coasts, Canada and places in between will present songs that celebrate roots music in all of its vast variety.

Whether you travel to Appleton for one night or the entire weekend, you can expect to be moved by the experience. For the schedule and other information, visit www.mileofmusic.com.

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