Sunday, Nov. 26th, 2017

Driftless Music Festival Announces Christina Dollhausen Joins Board of Directors

Christina Dollhausen
Christina Dollhausen

The Driftless Music Festival announced the addition of Christina Dollhausen to its board of directors.

For the past decade, Dollhausen worked as the events coordinator at the Stoughton Opera House where she was instrumental in transforming the historic venue from a little-used performance space to one of the state’s busiest and most popular concert halls, an endeavor that spurred significant economic development in the community.

A native of McGregor, Iowa, Dollhausen recently returned to the Driftless area with her husband Ben and three young boys to raise their family, and to set down roots on a fixer-upper farm just outside of Viroqua. She has nurtured a lifelong interest in music and the arts and is herself a gifted musician.

“With the addition of Christina to the Music Festival Board, we have set our sights clearly on the future of the event to insure that it will continue to be a rich and important asset to Viroqua and the Driftless area,” said Joel Johnson, the festival’s board president.

Dollhausen indicated she is honored to be asked to serve on the board and looks forward to working with such a fine group of community visionaries. Christina sees great potential for many good things to happen in the region, “I want to support and encourage people to continue to coordinate their efforts and implement amazing ideas that benefit and elevate the quality of life in the community.”

The Driftless Music Festival, a free family-friendly event featuring outstanding music from the region and beyond, is held annually on the second Saturday of July in Viroqua’s Eckhart Park.

Saturday, Nov. 11th, 2017

Society of Broken Souls Performing in Viroqua on National Tour

Lauryn Shapter and Dennis James. Photo: Liz Brown, Estorie Photography
Lauryn Shapter and Dennis James. Photo: Liz Brown, Estorie Photography

Society of Broken Souls, the husband-wife songwriting duo of multi-instrumentalists Dennis James and Lauryn Shapter, will be bringing their unique Folk Noir sound to Viroqua at Driftless Books and Music. The performance is part of the Midwest leg of a national tour.  

Based in rural Iowa, James and Shapter set out with a goal of performing 100 shows in 2017. While not unheard of for independent musicians, the tour marks a turning point for this couple with considerably more years behind them than ahead. In 2016, they walked away from multiple attempts at a “straight” life to do the only thing that made any sense anymore: write, record, and perform unflinching songs for fearless hearts, songs that take the broken bits and shine a little musical light on their redemptive beauty.  

Their 2016 release, appropriately titled Things Still Left Unsaid, was produced and engineered entirely in their attic recording studio, with James and Shapter playing nearly every last part, from fiddle and guitars, to drums, piano, organ, auxiliary percussion and keys, viola, bass, and lead and harmony vocals. Iowa Public Radio’s Ben Kieffer called Society of Broken Souls “a songwriting powerhouse.” Of the collection of 10 songs, Andrew Bargerstock (The Iowa Source) wrote “Things Still Left Unsaid glows with mature, lyrical songwriting, nuanced vocals, and wonderfully subtle instrumentals.” Chris Johnson, founder of FAIRFest Roots Music Festival, called the album “a work of art” and “a masterpiece.”  

While they perform as a duo, Society of Broken Souls uses their multi-faceted instrumental talents to create a varied and dynamic live show. Sweet harmonies

Dennis James and Lauryn Shapter. Photo: Liz Brown, Estorie Photography
Dennis James and Lauryn Shapter. Photo: Liz Brown, Estorie Photography

share the stage with dirty guitars, while a dusted-off old snare drum, partnered with a stomp box, drives a heavy, raucous beat or backs up a sultry, jazzy piano. The myriad combinations of instruments, however, don’t mean they have forgotten their acoustic roots: their quintessential pairing of soulful fiddle and guitar always finds a place in their sets, creating a truly dynamic terrain upon which to explore their songs. Seattle, WA filmmaker John Helde (Try This Films) called their live show, “tight, rocking, and heartfelt…they reverberate with a raw authenticity that settles in your soul.”

Society of Broken Souls Website

Event Information

Thursday, Oct. 26th, 2017

Bestselling Author to Keynote Launch of Writing Programs

Nickolas Butler
Nickolas Butler

Nickolas Butler is an award winning and internationally best-selling author living in Wisconsin, writing about the state with a kind of detailed admiration that feels like a love letter to the land. In his newest release, The Hearts of Men, Butler writes about multiple generations and sets much of the story at Camp Chippewa, a boy scout camp in Northern Wisconsin. At times, you can hear the campfire crackle and the sound of screen doors slamming. His use of metaphor and keen imagery captures the reader, drawing them into the world, and hearts, of the imperfect men and women in the story.

Making his first appearance in La Crosse, Butler is the keynote kickoff for a series of writing events called Great River Writes. The programs launched in partnership with the La Crosse Public Library and two local writing communities, Women Writers Ink and La Crosse Area Writers Group. To expand the programming, they also brought in Winona Public Library and the River Arts Alliance.

Together, the organizations are hosting six major writing events and over a dozen write-ins, all free to the public, and running from the end of October through November to coincide with National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. Their goal is to encourage writers of all levels and interests to tell their story.

Butler kicks off the event series, with a keynote speech and book signing. Locals may recognize the cover image of his internationally bestselling novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, as it portrays downtown’s 4th Street with Leithold’s Music and Bodega (renamed St. Elmo’s Fire), though the novel is set in a smaller, fictional Wisconsin town.

Joining Butler for Great River Writes are fellow authors Laura Purdie Salas on November 3rd, discussing writing for children, and memoirist Blair Braverman on November 5th, teaching a workshop on setting as character.

Anyone with an interest in the written word is encouraged to attend, get inspired, and start writing the story inside of them.

Monday, Oct. 23rd, 2017

Los Colognes - Interview with Jay Rutherford

Jay Rutherford, Photo: Aaron Mortenson
Jay Rutherford, Photo: Aaron Mortenson

Tell me again how you guys originally got together. In Chicago right?

Mort (drummer) and Gordo (bass player) went to high school together and they had their first band early on in high school and I had a high school band as well – we were all from the northwest Chicago suburbs. We went to different schools, but heard about each other when both of our current bands were broken up. This was in the early 2000s. We started playing together, end of high school, right at the beginning of college, but started the band that became Los Colognes in 2010. So, this core has been playing together for 15 years or so. In 2010, Mort and I headed to Nashville and Gordo followed.

Where would you say your sound comes from?

I would say we are like a lot of musicians, through admiration for the great rhythm sections, songwriters, and guitar players. By having a healthy respect for the classic players in rock we have tried to find our own voice.

Tell me about the new record, ‘The Wave’, which has a really different feel – kind of late 80s, near the beach somewhere, late-night kind of chilled-out feel. Less burning Jay guitar lines.

The songs were all actually written in the winter in Nashville. The metaphor behind those songs was not actually a tropical beach kind of vibe. ‘The Wave’ is actually more of philosophical metaphor. I think one of the main reasons the album sounds different is because for the first time all the songs were written in conjunction with one another and intentionally made to have a similar sonic flow. On ‘Dos’ we were toying with different grooves and different styles. We built ‘The Wave’ from the ground up and used some 80s drum machines and 80s sounding keyboards. But when we perform the new songs live we still break those songs apart live and open them up like maybe the [Grateful] Dead would. One of the things the Dead has really taught us is that there are ways to take apart and open up songs that make it really interesting to keep playing them over time.

Seems like it has been a good year. You guys are playing coast to coast, from big festivals to choice mid-size rooms with some really great drawing bands.

Yeah it has definitely been a good year – we have some shows coming up with Hard Working Americans and then a tour with Blues Traveler. But it still comes down to putting on good shows and establishing a connection with local audiences wherever we go – hopefully we come back and can grow that audience. I mean some people have a big PR campaign backed by a credible label or get great press breaks or opening slots – and we are definitely grateful for the opportunities we have had, but it still comes down to performing and connecting with people, I think that is going to go a lot further. I think that is the real currency – someone putting on a set of headphones and really getting into the record or stumbling upon us playing live who just really likes it. I have a lot of admiration for the jam band community. There are a lot of players and bands out there that might not be recognized nationally, but have maintained a devoted fan base over long periods of time. There is a strong sense of community there, almost a religious component. They aren’t caught up by the current trend, they know what they like – good is good, it can stand the test of time.

Jay Rutherford is lead guitar player and singer for the band Los Colognes. They will be playing The Court Above Main in La Crosse November 2 with special guest The Smokin’ Bandits.

Event Details: Click Here

Sunday, Oct. 22nd, 2017

The Road to the Isles; Storytelling & Songs from Scotland’s Western Isles

Tracy Chipman
Tracy Chipman

Driftless Books in Viroqua is pleased to present, Wisconsin storyteller, Tracy Chipman and The Road to the Isles; Stories & Songs from Scotland’s Western Isles on Thursday, November 9th at 7pm. Donations are welcome and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Road to the Isles celebrates the connection between evocative landscape of Scotland’s Outer Hebridean Islands, off Scotland’s west coast, and the oral culture of the people dwelling there. The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles as they are also known are a place, rich with Gaelic. Joining Tracy for the evening are Newton Valley (Viroqua) residents; Angela Rennison and Peter Hutter.

Tracy stepped onto the path of storyteller 22 years ago under an Oregon hazelnut tree and has never looked back. She believes the connection between storytelling and the land is a powerful teacher and ally -if you are listening. From 1996 – 2004 Tracy’s love of storytelling and her deep longing for Scotland took her to the Outer Hebrides with the Hebridean Folklore Project where she visited with and recorded over 40 Gaelic speaking elders from the islands. A Wisconsin native who has moved 22 times in the past 25 years and presently resides under mostly one roof in Menomonie. More information about her and the Hebridean Folklore Project can be found at

Angela is sustained by a deep love of spinning and weaving story through music and song in the ancient tradition of her Scottish ancestors. She is a multi-instrumentalist and has recorded a CD of original and traditional songs In English, Gaelic and Spanish that celebrates the rich heritage of longing and home that lives in the diaspora of those cultures. When she first climbed around the hills of Scotland and the Hebrides 30 years ago, she felt a sense of being called to that land as if she were a salmon returning home after a long journey away.

Peter grew up on a farm in the Driftless area, he just didn't grow up until he was about 45. He is an eclectic musician and songwriter in love with the sounds of the world and the riddles that lead to their origins, caught between the Tradition Bearer, and the Wild Creative. He formed the Firefly Brass Band back in March of 2016, and has many projects brewing for the coming Winter.

Driftless Books and Music is a Bookstore located in a 110-year-old, 20,000 sq. ft., 3 floor tobacco warehouse. It houses between 250,000 and 500,000 used books, sheet music and records. Over the years, the Bookstore has become a space where the full spectrum of activities associated with live music enjoyment, performance, and community involvement can take place. Books, beverages and snacks are available during shows. Events are family-friendly, all-ages and alcohol free.


Thursday, Apr. 27th, 2017

Behind The Scenes: Listen To Your Mother, La Crosse’s Finale Season

Listen To Your Mother 2017 Cast. Photo: Diane Knothe of Apropos Photography
Listen To Your Mother 2017 Cast. Photo: Diane Knothe of Apropos Photography

Listen To Your Mother is a national series that features local stories about mothers and motherhood. In our second year hosting a show in La Crosse, my production team of Beth Erickson (Jobe Communications and Trust Point Inc.), Molly Hilligoss (YWCA La Crosse), and I wish that everyone could be a fly on the wall during auditions. We hear incredible stories of love, loss, laughter, and life journeys. It is a privilege to listen to each story, and we want to thank everyone who has trusted us with their truths over the past two years. There is something so touching about listening to a person’s truth it can only be described as magical.

The 2017 show promises to take our audience on a well-crafted exploration of “the good, the bad, and the barely-rested” that is motherhood. Though, we should say, you don’t have to be a mother to enjoy our show. We are excited to introduce our cast of 13 women and men to you. Our cast is diverse, and so are our stories, with tales coming from all over the globe this year.  

We’ve got stories about mothers, of course, but we also have stories about mother figures, the often unrecognized individuals who play just as important a role in our support system – grandmothers, aunts, sisters, even stay-at-home dads. We’ve got stories to make you laugh, and definitely some that will make you cry. All of our stories are full of heart.

Behind the scenes, our cast and production team are getting to know one another. We’re sharing more stories. We’re talking about our families, our jobs, our hobbies, our passions. We’re workshopping the show order and fine tuning our pieces, so when show night comes you can sit back and enjoy this production of live readings that is truly unlike any other.

We’re thrilled to welcome back our emcee for the evening, WKBT News 8’s Lisa Klein. So many of our local sponsors, such as Women Writers Ink and News 8, returned to support us this year, and we are ever grateful for their partnership. The many local sponsors we have help provide us with rehearsal space, they feed our cast, they promote the show, and they all support women and families.

All of the Listen To Your Mother productions across the country – there are 30 cities this year – take place within a few weeks of Mother’s Day, and each performance supports a nonprofit partner as well. Locally, ten percent of every ticket sold will benefit YWCA La Crosse whose mission is to end racism and empower women and girls. Our local YWCA has been established for over 100 years and offers many programs for teens and adults that support mentoring, counseling, rehabilitation, social justice, and diversity.

We can’t wait to see you in the crowd on show night! It is an honor to share these stories with each of you. In the meantime, don’t forget to LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER!

2017 Cast  

  • Joanne Adragna Shird
  • Beth Erickson
  • Maureen Freedland
  • Nancy Heerens-Knudson
  • Sylvia Jimison
  • Livia Johnson
  • Jonathan Lamb
  • Amy Sanwick
  • Susan C. Schuyler
  • Michael Scott
  • Sheida Teimouri
  • Clare Wight
  • Christy Wopat
2016 Cast. Photos: Bruce Defries
2016 Cast. Photos: Bruce Defries
YWCA Development Director, Rose Reinert. Photo: Bruce Defries
YWCA Development Director, Rose Reinert. Photo: Bruce Defries
Photo: Bruce Defries
Photo: Bruce Defries
Photo: Bruce Defries
Photo: Bruce Defries

Friday, Mar. 3rd, 2017

Stanton West, formerly Eddie Danger, to Release Folk Album

Eddie Danger is about to release a debut folk album under his grandfather's name, Stanton West, to be produced by David Grisman and Jerry Garcia's percussionist, Joe Craven at Foxtail Studios in California.

Eddie Danger has been part of the Wisconsin music scene for almost 20 years.  He was the creator behind the Feel Good Music & Arts Festival, Renewsical: A Musical About Renewable Energy, The Seafaring Musical Marionette Puppet Show, bluegrass band Dangergrass, and the Wisconsin Roots Music Cooperative.  There isn’t a venue or stage in Wisconsin he hasn’t played.  If you haven’t heard of him perhaps you were wandering a music festival and he randomly stopped you to give you a magic acorn (a real acorn top with a glass marble for the nut).  There is even a chance you were at a wedding he officiated, or you sang along with him at a kids’ show or a farmers’ market.  He is a spreader of fun and music.  And now he has a new project.  

After making a name for himself in the folk scene appearing in a film with A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor, being a regular on WPR’s Simply Folk, and winning multiple songwriters’ contests throughout the state, Danger decided to go folk’in all the way.  Danger is releasing a new folk album under his grandfather’s name, Stanton West, that will be released this summer.  The album is being recorded at Foxtail Studios in California and produced by his musical hero, Joe Craven.  Craven is most known for his work as the percussion player for David Grisman and Jerry Garcia’s five acoustic albums released under Grisman’s record label Acoustic Disc.  

Stanton/Danger has spent the last 10 years balancing his music career with being a home-schooling stay-at-home dad and a part-time organic farmer.  Now that both of his kids are ready to attend school, he is presented with the opportunity to focus on his music career entirely.  He refers to the whole idea as, “Being Who I Am, Going Pro, & Providing for my Family.  I Love being a creative person and I Love my family.  This is an effort to do them both a service.”  It’s a big step, and he is taking it enthusiastically.  

Danger is taking action by exemplifying his sentiments of, "To thrive in this world you must decide what you Love to do and figure out a way to make it happen." He sees this as his time to step it up and record in professional studio with one of his musical heroes producing the project.  His first eleven albums were self-funded and recorded in home-studios.  Stanton has also been working with an artist manager out of Nashville. She has been helping him with the preproduction of the album.  She feels confident that she can get the songs on to national folk radio charts.   

The new songs are groove-driven, folk tunes about feeling good, being who you are, and staying present in the moment.  Like all of his past projects, it promotes family fun, environmental stewardship, building community, healthy local food, live & local music, creative expression, and being a positive (yet practical) force in the world. 

Danger is doing a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the month of March and is offering some very unique acorn themed rewards to backers including an acorn tattoo!

Learn more about Stanton West on Facebook or his website.

Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, 2017

You're Invited! MOSES Offers Locals Discount Night & Downtown Gets Ready to Party


Photo: Dahli Durley
Photo: Dahli Durley

The MOSES Organic Farming Conference is coming! What does this mean? Not only does it mean the La Crosse Center is completely taken over, right down to each storage room, but it also means Downtown La Crosse becomes “the Oktoberfest of organic farmers”. In lieu of lederhosen, you’ll see plaid flannel and overalls; instead of dirndls, you’ll see… well, plaid flannel and overalls. You may notice the beauty of more folks in town with dreadlocks, hipster glasses, and a few extra beards. German beers may get opted out for an organic cider and polka is replaced with some of the best bluegrass and Americana in the Midwest.

With several music venues poised to open their doors to the overflow of the best attended event at La Crosse Center, locals can kick up their heels with some visiting folks that know how to work hard and play hard. These farmers may even share a thing or two about healthy soil composition.

What’s the MOSES Organic Farming Conference about? It’s the world’s largest gathering of organic farmers and the conference opens Thursday night at the La Crosse Center, and runs through Saturday. Locals can get a special ticket for $20 on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. to see the trade show with over 170 vendors, supplying everything from organic seeds to hand tools and small-scale tractors—many items perfect for gardeners, too. The event also features a bookstore with farming, homesteading, and gardening books hand-selected for great content.

The Thursday evening locals ticket includes admission to the bookstore and the one-woman performance of “Turn Here Sweet Corn,” which starts at 7:40 p.m. In addition, tickets are available to the entire conference as well.

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

What’s going on Downtown? Horseshoes & Hand Grenades play two nights at The Cavalier, Mid West Music Fest kicks off a dance party with PHO at the Root Note, Pigtown Fling strings it up at The Bodega, The Shufflin’ Duprees switch it up with Blues at The Brickhouse, and more!

Check out additional links to articles and events at the end of this article for more info about each event. Throw on your plaid, check out the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, and get downtown this weekend!  

Monday, Feb. 20th, 2017

Call to Artists: The People's Flag

La Crosse Group Seeks New Flag Design

Will Kratt presents The People's Flag project
Will Kratt presents The People's Flag project

 La Crosse Group Seeks New City Flag Design

From the peak of Grandad Bluff to the ripples of the Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wisconsin is a welcoming community with a wealth of culture to offer. A collaboration of local groups have come together on a project to create a symbol to represent the affection that citizens share for this city which they are calling “People’s Flag of La Crosse”.

The collaboration of Artspire, Pump House Regional Arts Center, School District of La Crosse, FUN Group, and Downtown Mainstreet, Inc. has initiated a “Call to Artists” to design a flag which the group hopes will be displayed around the city. “It’s something that’s meant to represent the community,” stated Brian Fukuda, group member. Citizens of all ages and professions are encouraged to design a flag that expresses the values that the city holds.

Current City of La Crosse Flag
Current City of La Crosse Flag

Though this is not meant to replace the current City of La Crosse flag, it will be an additional symbol that members of the community will be able to rally around and take pride in its symbolism.

Mayor Tim Kabat of La Crosse is on board as well stating, “I’m looking forward to the project. I’m hoping there’s a lot of community engagement.” And so far, there has been.

The group has connected with the School District of La Crosse on this project as a follow up to last year’s successful Compassion Project (in partnership with Artspire). Some students in art classes will have the opportunity to learn about the symbolism that goes into creating flags and may design 6” x 10” flags of their own to represent their family, school, neighborhood, or city. “We felt this was a great connection with the schools… we’ve received a request for 500 mini flags for the schools already,” added Eva Marie Restel, Chairperson of Artspire. This summer during the Artspire event, these designs will line the sidewalk and river view near the Weber Center for the Performing Arts to illustrate the different ways people envision their city.

Members of the community will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite design through online polling to be considered during the ultimate vote by members of the committee.

Entries may be submitted in a digital file format or may be a photo of a flag they created as long as the entry meets the submission requirements. The winning flag designer will be awarded a sponsored cash prize as well as recognition at the Artspire event on June 10. Visit the program website by clicking here to learn more about the project and how to submit a design of your own.

Online voting begins April 10. Visit Artspire this summer when the final design will be revealed and the citizens of La Crosse will be able to admire this collective symbol of a place that they all call home.

Not feeling confident in your artistic abilities? Watch the Ted Talk the group is directing people to watch, focusing on the simplicity of flag design. Maybe you could be the one to leave a lasting mark on the city of La Crosse. 

Thursday, Feb. 9th, 2017

Composer and Pianist Luke Thering Releases Ballads for Buddha Album

La Crosse, Wis.-based UW-La Crosse alum, composer, teacher, and pianist Luke Thering recently released the album, Ballads for Buddha. SEVEN covered the Wonderstruck Theatre Co. production, “Mop Dog”, a children’s puppet show April, 2016 of which Thering composed and recorded the full soundtrack.  

Ballads for Buddha delivers serene piano compositions through contemplative pieces such as “Things as they are, here and now”, “Truth One: Dukka (suffering)”, “Brahma-vihara (loving, kindness, compassion, joy equanimity)”, and others.  

According to Thering’s website, he shares, “this album is comprised of entirely improvised pieces, recorded on one day. At the piano, I let Buddhist ideas inform my musical decisions – namely the Four Noble Truths, and concepts like impermanence, acceptance, attention, and intention. Periods of silence were intentionally added at the end of some tracks to allow for time to take a breath, both literally and aurally-speaking.”  

Purchase Ballads for Buddha: Here

Learn more about the work of Luke Thering: Here

See Thering play at an upcoming show with 3rd Relation Jazz Quartet: Info Here