Sneak Preview: Mid West Music Fest 2017
2 Cities, 4 Days, 52 Performances
Following a year in which it sold a record number of tickets, the highly anticipated Mid West Music Fest will return to La Crosse April 14-15 for its annual celebration of more than 100 of the best established and up-and-coming artists from the greater Midwest area. The fest will then head upriver to Winona for part two on April 28-29.
For first-time concertgoers, the number of visiting musicians can be overwhelming. I’d suggest frantically scrambling to as many venues as possible, but if you’re looking for a more conservative plan of attack, a plan that leaves you less winded, here’s the skinny on some performers on my must-see list.
Performing in La Crosse:
Frankie Lee: The bearded singer-songwriter’s American Dreamer is the definition of easy listening. “High and Dry” and “Where Do We Belong” are my personal favorites off the album and will have you wishing you could listen to Lee’s folksy voice and acoustic guitar pickings all day.
Mike Munson: A Winona legend, this blues musician has been very influential in the community. Winona’s Noisy Neighbor, a prominent media outlet for all things arts-related, has this to say about Munson: “Munson’s ubiquity, skill and good character has helped make his music a part of the quintessential Winona experience.”
GGOOLLDD: These Milwaukee natives label their sound as electronic and dream pop and played a well-rehearsed set at Ed’s No Name Bar this past fall with Sleeping Jesus and Good Night Gold Dust. Their feel-good vibes and high-energy stage presence are worth witnessing, as are lead vocalist Margaret Butler’s funky outfits.
In addition to these talented artists, 52 other musicians will be roaming the downtown area of La Crosse. Yes, that’s right: 5-2—52, all are worthy and deserving of mention.
Performing in Winona:
Sleeping Jesus: True love exists, and Nick Elstad and his girlfriend, Leah, are proof. Elstad’s vintage-sounding “California At Dawn” won last year’s Local Music Exchange—you can read all about it and more on Elstad in “Sleeping Jesus: ‘Perennial’” here. Elstad and his friends have a very chill, dreamy sound. Jay Gabler, a digital producer at The Current, describes the group and as “a slightly more psychedelic Hippo Campus.”
Sonny Knight and The Lakers: A soul man, Sonny Knight will bring his 7-piece powerhouse band, The Lakers. Collaborating with James Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Jab’o Starks, the group played at the Fitzgerald Theater last year in St. Paul and was featured in a PBS special.
Jay Smart: Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, this singer/songwriter moved to the Twin Cities several years ago. Recently, he has been getting a lot of attention, especially on The Current, where I listened to his “Without My Baby” live-recordings over and over again. Smart’s voice is smooth and crisp, matching his style and appearance as a prominent up-and-coming artist to watch; he’ll play for The Current’s 12th birthday at Minneapolis’s First Avenue with Haley Bonar, ZULULZULUU and company.
Other artists performing on my must-see list include Charlie Parr, Reina del Cid, Farewell Milwaukee, The Weathered Heads, Porcupine, Gaelynn Lea, The Ultrasounds, Tabah, Frogleg, Night Moves, and Beet Root Stew.
Again, every confirmed act performing at the fest is worth seeing, but these are just some of my personal favorites.
The MWMF is able to host these phenomenal musicians thanks to the contributions of many generous donors. The Current, Hal Leonard, KQUAL, Metre, HBC, KFAI, KUMD, The River, WDRT, Southern MN Scene, and SEVEN donated over $50,000 last year. The support from a development committee—a group made up of key business leaders and arts supporters—led to the success of last year, the first year La Crosse hosted several artists; Dahl Automotive, La Crosse Visitors Bureau, Weber Family Foundation, Downtown Mainstreet, WDRT and SEVEN helped spread the word in the community.
The Mid West Music Fest promotes music and art activism in the region, creating opportunities for artists, stimulating downtown economic development, and providing diverse educational resources for artists, community members and children.