Saturday, June 22nd
11:00 Kari Arnett
12:45 Evan Murdock and The Imperfect Strangers
2:15 Darren Sterud Jazz Orchestra
4:15 Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound
6:15 Lilly Hiatt (Nashville)
8:15 The JC Brooks Band (Chicago)
Kanopy Dancers on dance floor between sets
12:30 Paul Cebar
2:00 The Kissers
3:30 Lilly Hiatt
5:00 Deborah Patek and Melissa Carper (Nashville)
8:00 Buffalo Gospel
9:30 Madison Comedy Week with Kyle Kinane
Sunday, June 23rd
12:45 Les Poules á Colin
2:30 The Cash Box Kings
4:30 Orquesta Mas
6:15 Making Movies
8:30 Tribu Baharú (Colombia)
Kanopy Dancers dance floor between sets
11:00 Michael Brenneis Plutonium Players
12:30 Anders Svanoe Double Trios
2:30 Making Movies
4:00 Cris Plata and Extra Hot
5:30 Mal -o- Dua
7:00 Les Poules á Colin(Montreal)
8:30 Madison Comedy Marina Franklin
August 7,8,9 AND 14,15
August 7th – The Old 97s Select Sessions
5:15 The Driveway Thriftdwellers
7:30 Old 97s
9:00 Old 97s (Set two)
August 8th -- Kiki‘s Second Righteous Session
5:00 Bing Bong
6:30 The Figgs (co-star)
8:40 The Bottle Rockets (co-star)
August 9th- The Stars Aligned Session
5:00 Panchromatic Steel
6:30 The Iguanas (New Orleans)
8:30 Lyrics Born
August 14th – The Travelin’ McCourys Select Session
5:15 Beth Kille
7:30 The Travelin' McCourys
9:00 The Travelin' McCourys (Set two)
August 15th--The Dobet Gnahoré Select Session
5:15 Natty Nation
7:30 Dobet Gnahoré (Cote D’Ivoire/ Ivory Coast)
8:45 Sessions Raffle Drawing
9:00 Dobet Gnahoré (Set two)
Local singer-songwriter and guitarist Kari Arnett has been generating a lot of buzz recently. Drawing from country and folk roots, she has carved out her own niche in the Americana scene with lyrical storytelling and musicianship that have scored praise from Rolling Stone. Arnett is currently touring behind her 2018 debut album, When The Dust Settles, which features songs that balance the personal with the universally resonant. Formed by her rural Wisconsin childhood of writing, playing, and singing music, Arnett cites influences from Neko Case and Tom Petty to Alison Kraus. Her hauntingly powerful vocals, which can equally belt out country anthems or turn sweetly aching for an intimate ballad, have drawn comparisons to Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton. Whether accompanied only by her own acoustic guitar or backed by her talented band of pedal steel, keyboard, and fiddle players Arnett impresses with her confident stage presence—she is clearly a rising star to catch!
Michael Brenneis Plutonium Players
Drummer Michael Brenneis formed the eight-piece jazz ensemble the Plutonium Players to feature some of the best of Madison’s jazz community for his unique 2018 concept album “Plutonium,” which explored the effects of industrialization. Designed around driving, strange, and memorable rhythms, dissonant arrangements and sophisticated melodies, the music is, in the words of one reviewer, “gorgeous, thrilling and just a little bit terrifying.”
The JC Brooks Band
Hailing from Chicago, the JC Brooks Band is an unforgettable live act playing their own unique brew of what they call “post-punk soul.” A master showman, praised by Rolling Stone for his “enveloping stage presence and palpable charisma,” Brooks theatrically commands the stage in perpetual motion while his expressive vocals range from raspy growl to lovely falsetto. Equally explosive is the tight sound of the brilliant musicians; combining elements of funk, soul, indie rock, R&B, and punk, they have been described as “Otis Redding fronting the Stooges.” Equal parts James Brown and the Clash, the JC Brooks Band is a guaranteed crowd-pleasing blast.
Milwaukee-based Buffalo Gospel creates their own blend of country western and Americana in a sound that manages to sound both traditional and fresh. Known for their “wildcat live performances,” they count among their influences Hank Williams Sr,, Bonnie Raitt, and Townes Van Zandt. The band’s name signifies the strength of the buffalo in conjunction with “gospel” in the sense of “truth,” and their shows balance sorrowful ballads with buoyant two-steps in what the band’s founder Ryan Necci acknowledges is a highly personal mix. Writes one critic, “the band will get you dancing before breaking your heart with soulful, gritty ballads.”
Melissa Carper and
Melissa Carper and Rebecca Patek play what they call “Brand New Old-Time Songs” (which is also the name of their recent album). Their plaintive vocal style and spare accompaniment evoke old-timey mountain music, reaching back decades to channel the sounds of the early twentieth century. Hailing from Nashville and Austin via Arkansas, where they also play with bluegrass stalwart Sad Daddy, Carper and Patek are virtuoso singers and musicians. Memorably moving acapella harmonies alternate with Carper’s claw-hammer banjo, guitar and upright bass, and Patek’s fiddle and guitar. In her Sessions debut, Patek is in fact revisiting her own roots, as she is a former member of the Madison Symphony and three-time Wisconsin State fair fiddle champion!
The Cash Box Kings
Energized by a brand-new album that just dropped in May, the Cash Box Kings bring their original “bluesabilly” back to the festival stage. Formed originally in Madison WI as an homage to post-war Chicago blues, the Delta blues of the 1920s and 30s, and rockabilly, the band keeps roots tradition alive while infusing it with a fresh energy. Oscar Wilson’s confident stage presence and commanding vocal style are the result of decades of experience in the Chicago blues scene. Wilson’s classic singing pairs perfectly with the soaring harmonica of band co-leader and founder Joe Nosek, creating a memorable sound MOJO magazine labelled, simply, “flawless.”
Paul Cebar and
the Tomorrow Sound
Milwaukee musical icon Paul Cebar and his band create a funky polyglot sound from a phenomenal range of musical rhythms, including African, Latin and Caribbean, rhythm and blues, and zydeco. Inspired originally by the dance bands of western Louisiana and his native Midwest as well as his early years of playing folk coffee houses, Cebar winds his deft guitar playing around unique grooves backed by the percussion, keyboards, saxophone and bass of the Tomorrow Sound.
Award-winning instrumental band Graminy fuses classical and roots music into distinctive “class-grass.” Lively and improvisational, their instrumentation blends a classical string trio (violins, viola and cello) with elements of a bluegrass rhythm section (mandolin, guitar and banjo) in original compositions. Named after the botanical term for the grass family, Graminy writes music inspired by ecological and biological processes, such as germination, which they see as a metaphor for their compositional process. “Our number-one goal is to play great music, the kind that taps your toes and also taps your mind,” says founder Michael Bell.
Based in Nashville, Lilly Hiatt has followed her own path of what she calls “punktry”-- blues, country and folk mixed with garage and alt-rock. The daughter of singer-songwriter John Hiatt, Hiatt openly admires her father but has gone in a more rock-oriented direction, drawing as much from grunge as from the classic Nashville sound. Touring behind the acclaimed Trinity Lane (2017), which critics hailed as “one for the books” and Rolling Stone tapped as one of the best Americana albums of the year, Hiatt brings her distinctive blend of raw honesty and closely observed story-telling to the festival stage. Alternately melancholy, whimsical, or resilient, her songs trace her own past struggles with relationships and sobriety.
The Kissers have been Madison favorites since they began over twenty years ago as a group of rock musicians inspired (by the Pogues, natch) to learn Celtic music. That rock background may still echo through their revved-up arrangements, but the changing lineup has mastered the traditional Celtic instrumentation of whistle, fiddle, uilleann pipes, banjo, guitar, accordion, and mandolin, winning acclaim and awards for their musicianship. Billed as “Irish-Country-Punkadelic music wizards,” the Kissers stir up their audiences with furious, skillful playing combined with the rollicking energy of their unique on-stage chemistry.
Kansas City indie-rock band Making Movies breaks genre boundaries with its combination of Afro-Latino rhythms and psychedelic rock and roll. Touring in the wake of their much-anticipated album, ameri'kana (released May 2019), Making Movies worked with salsa icon Rubén Blades and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos to create what they call “both a music and a movement,” “No Te Calles” (“Don’t Be Silenced”). Simultaneously sincere and theatrical, the Chi brothers from Santiago, Panama and the Chaurand brothers from Mexico connect directly with their audience, issuing impassioned pleas to rescue democracy through participation. Singing in Spanish and English, Making Movies combines fuzzy rock-and-roll guitar hearkening back to the Beatles, U2, and Peter Gabriel, with traditional salsa, merengue and cumbia rhythms.
Mal o Dua
Cedric Baetche and Chris Ruppenthal are Mal-O-Dua, a Madison duo combining French swing, gypsy jazz, and Hawaiian slack key guitar music with a touch of Kentucky finger-picking to create a uniquely eclectic sound. Strings played with unusual, virtuoso techniques are the hallmark here, with the band’s name coming from the French “Mal aux doigts” (“my fingers hurt”). Introducing songs with entertaining stories about their genre and origin, Mal-O-Dua is a reliable festival fave.
Evan Murdock and
The Imperfect Strangers
One of Madison’s favorite folk bands, Evan Murdock and The Imperfect Strangers create the perfect festival sound, blending practiced musicianship with audience-engaging humor in songs about “love, loss and dinosaurs.” Upright base, guitar, drums, and accordion back Murdock’s comfortable deep twang in an easy irresistible mix that hints at Murdock’s bluegrass roots (his mandolin was legendary) and nods toward country, blues, and rock with a hint of cajun. Famous for their fun-loving live shows, Evan Murdock and the Imperfect Strangers will also tug on your heartstrings with laments of loss and longing sung in beautiful harmony.
Orquesta MAS (Madison All Stars), is a salsa band made up of a diverse group of 12 of Madison’s finest musicians. Hailing from Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States, the band showcases local talent Madison talent to get you dancing to its hot Latin rhythms.
Cris Plata and Extra Hot
Tex-Mex singer-songwriter Cris Plata and his band Extra Hot meld the musical styles of his native border country--norteño (Northern Mexican border), conjunto (European-influenced) and ranchera (Mexican country)--into their own distinctive form. Accompanying himself on guitar, the Madison-based Plata performs with gentle charm, interspersing his country-folk songs and ballads with stories from his childhood in a music-making family. Band members provide harmonies with pedal steel, dobro, and other strings in music that mingles lilting swing with melodic hooks.
Les Poules à Colin
Based in Montréal, the young but seasoned performers of Les Poules à Colin (“Colin’s Hens”) have crafted a distinctive Francophone mix of traditional Québécois, Breton, and Louisiana folk with old-time jazz, pop, and original pieces. Taken from a familiar Québécois song, the band’s name humorously draws attention to the lone male in the band (whose name is actually Colin!). As the sons and daughters of folk musicians in the same community, the members of the band were practically born with instruments in their hands, demonstrating effortless mastery of fiddle, guitar, lapsteel, banjo, mandolin, piano, bass and foot percussion. Over this they layer ethereal singing in French and English. While they can turn in an upbeat Celtic reel with the best of them, their pop edge also leads them to explore moody reboots of old ballads to create an entirely original take on their musical roots. Developing an enthusiastic following and racking up prizes for both their instrumental prowess and their infectious joy in performing, Les Poules à Colin absolutely must be seen live.
Darren Sterud Jazz Orchestra
The Darren Sterud Orchestra features an ever-changing lineup of Madison’s finest established jazz musicians along with new talent, with trombonist Sterud himself familiar from myriad local groups including Mama Digdown's Brass Band. Committed to bringing “a little bit of the Village Vanguard right to downtown Madison,” Sterud mingles improvisation with old-style favorites in his commitment to both entertain and to educate audiences about the important American art form of jazz.
Anders Svanoe Double Trios
Jazz saxophonist and composer Anders Svanoe originally put together his “double trio” for his 2018 album, “747: Queen of the Skies.” An esteemed veteran of Madison’s jazz community, Svanoe showcases the versatility of the sax on original pieces, setting off its ability to “float like a butterfly and roar like a buffalo stampede” against trumpet, stand-up bass, and drums.
From Bogotá, Colombia, Tribu Baharú plays a style of Afro-Caribbean folk music known as champeta, a supremely danceable and high-energy style with a rhythmic base. Inspired by the celebrated pulsing sound-systems of Columbian coastal cities such as Cartagena, champeta centers on high-speed bass and drums laced with bright soukous-style guitar. Tribu Baharú’s live shows feature acrobatic dancers and positive messages about keeping the memory of the ancestors alive, sung in sung in street dialects. Be prepared to dance and sweat! As NPR declares: “There are very few guarantees in life. But one of them must- must! 0 be that as soon as you hear the music of Tribu Baharú you'll start moving (I promise).”
Hardworking local darling WheelHouse is a nationally touring Americana and bluegrass band with a large fanbase and an energy to match. Their musicianship honed by over 220 shows year, the four-piece features fiddle and guitar leads over the driving rhythm of the upright bass and winning three- and four-part harmonies. From covers to originals (such as the locally popular “Come Back In--Dive Bar Anthem”), the group brings an upbeat vitality and new momentum to the folk bluegrass sound. A self-described “all-in band,”-- as in “all business, and all fun”--WheelHouse consistently turns in sensational live shows.
Wisconsin country rockers Wrenclaw bring their lively mix of gospel, delta, and back-country roots, along with their reputation as Madison’s “most reliable and rowdy bar band,” to liven up the festival stage. Harmonizing in classic whine and twang style, Wrenclaw backs its vocals with harmonica and slide guitar.