The Oshkosh Main Street Music Festival kicks off tomorrow, celebrating its fifth year. Nearly 100 shows mostly featuring original music will take place downtown Oshkosh July 26 through July 30, 2017.
We connected with lead organizer Ben Vosters to gain some insight into this year’s fest:
Oshkosh Independent (OI): Congrats on assembling the most ambitious OMSMF yet! Give us an overview of what folks can expect:
Ben Vosters (BV): The best thing to expect is high quality music that we bring in every year. The Peabody’s main stage will echo down Main Street as usual. But this year you may see us from space. We have upgraded the lighting production considerably to increase the intensity for performers and crowd.
Moving down to the other end we have the 600 block which is turning into a major party. Newcomers Twisted Roots are putting up a tent stage which pairs incredibly well with the activities at Barley & Hops and their Beer Garden.
Finding what has worked the best over the last four years has helped us build the festival stronger. Five years is a milestone and this year features more acts with jaw dropping talent than ever before.
(OI): There is quite a bit of excellent music that will be happening during OMSMF – tell us about 2-3 bands from outside of Oshkosh that will be playing:
(BV): Wild Adriatic (Albany, NY) have established themselves around the country and are starting to frequent the Fox Valley more often. Their gritty guitars and soulful vocals fit the rock dynamics of the Friday main stage perfectly. They are hot off the road and ready to give Oshkosh something they have never heard before. Prepare for something amazing as the day drifts into twilight.
Me Like Bees (Joplin, MO) are another group who are firing on all cylinders. Smooth group vocals and steady driving beats guide their indie rock anthems. The early afternoon will sway between sweet sing a longs and catchy songs with a bite.
One Strong Army (Wausau, WI) start the festival with high energy reggae-ska and funk. Bringing in groups like this on the Thursday is the reason we recommend to skip work on Friday. You can catch them at Barley& Hops on Thursday July 27 at 9pm.
(OI): Give us 2-3 bands that everyone needs to see:
(BV): Cool Waters Band – Greg Waters has played every year so far and this makes the fourth year for Cool Waters Band. This year the group is performing in the Barley & Hops Beer Garden at 4:30 pm. Putting a major act into the heart of the afternoon is always a good time.
The Traveling Suitcase – It has been a few years since the group has played at the festival and we are happy to have them back. The Peabody’s main stage has improved considerably making this show one you’ll need to check out.
Armchair Boogie – An up and coming newgrass group out of Stevens Point. The group takes traditional bluegrass and adds a drum-kit into the mix. Expect a party at Fletch’s as this group loves to make people dance.
(OI): Where can we hear all hear music at?
(BV): The music starts on the 600 block of Main Street and stretches down and around the corner to the Reptile Palace on High Ave. You can even crush your late night hunger with a bacon dog at Hot Dog Charlie’s and a side of live music. Two tent stages, beer gardens and many indoor venues feature the wide variety of music that make up the festival. Make a custom schedule online and set your battle plan.
(OI): We understand there is a limited edition exclusive beer available for this – tell us about it:
(BV): Who hasn’t wanted their own custom beer? RJ, the brew master at Bare Bones Brewery, approached us early in the year with this incredible idea and it was impossible to say no. Creating a tasty pairing to mix with the music is quite refreshing. I am beyond excited to try my first pint. Four venues will feature the brew: Peabody’s, Barley’s, Fletch’s and Twisted Roots.
(OI): Anything else new this year?
(BV): The music festival continues to push forward with new ideas based on the feedback of attendees. There are a few more full artist tributes this year. Original music mixes well with classic artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, and Neil Young.
There is a sad bit of news that one of our earliest supporters, Folklore, is moving out of their building after the festival. This is one of the festival venues that helped pave the way for music in non-traditional locations such as a rooftop or in the front window of a store.
(OI): Organizing a single show takes time, and you have over 100 shows! That is impressive. Why do you do it?
(BV): Starting the festival five years ago seemed natural. The level of talent in the Fox Valley is incredible and there are dozens of venues on Main Street. I have been a musician for several years and wanted to create an event everyone can come out to enjoy in the heart of the city. It was very simple math and things added up. Rotating the performers and changing the featured genres keeps things fresh and interesting every year. This can be a stressful project at times but I enjoy the fun of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
(OI): Who else helps make this possible?
(BV): Sierra Ehlert has been the main visual design director for the festival in recent years. Her work behind the scenes produces several recap and promotional videos featured online. She directs our social media imagery in addition to coordinating performers at several venues. Sierra hosts the 96.9 Fox Homegrown show and has been working directly with many local musicians.
Mike Lokken has been involved since the start of the festival. Mike coordinates performers at a variety of venues and works with local businesses to add new special events yearly. His level of knowledge in sound production and stage performance help logistics flow smoothly during the event.
The festival is produced by UW-Oshkosh alumni and this has given the team a great chance to put something positive together for the community. The next step in growing the festival will certainly involve future generations of students who are looking for real world experience.
More information is available at:
(photos courtesy of OMSMF; banner image by Jaik Willis)