Rock On: Your source for live music listings in the Fox Cities.
Eric Church at Country USA. (photo by Mike Thiel)
The chief, Eric Church, was a highlight at this year’s Country USA in Oshkosh as music festivals continued to dominate the Fox Valley entertainment scene in 2013.
Oshkosh’s Country USA and Rock USA compiled the hottest names for their near-week long festivals (Eric Church, Toby Keith, Van Halen, more), while Appleton’s inaugural Mile of Music, held in August, hosted over 100 bands in downtown Appleton over a four-day span. Radio station 95.9 KISS FM even brought pop stars to the Fox Valley with its annual Summer Slam event at Darboy’s Chickenfest (Jake Miller, Jessica Sanchez) and December’s Jingle Ball (The Wanted) in Green Bay. However, these high-profile events weren’t the only venues bringing noteworthy acts in 2013.
Last January started hot with renowned DJ Bad Boy Bill at OB’s Brau Haus in downtown Appleton, Rascal Flatts at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon and Grace Potter at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre. The Resch Center led all non-festival venues with the strongest acts of 2013 including Shinedown, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Gary Allan, the Avett Brothers, Martina McBride and sold-out shows for Bob Seger, Bon Jovi and Luke Bryan.
Being such a big year, PMI President Ken Wachter knows it will be difficult to repeat the Resch’s success from 2013.
“2013 was a very strong year and I don’t know if we can duplicate the quality of those acts,” Wachter said. “Getting Seger and Bon Jovi in one year was quite a coupe for us. We are certainly trying to do so but a lot depends on who is on the road, what size buildings they will play and who does the routing work.”
Zac Brown performed at the Resch in early 2014.
The Resch Center already hosted Zac Brown Band, The Band Perry and WWE Raw in February and has Motley Crue’s farewell tour with special guest Alice Cooper booked for November 11. Though it may be difficult, Wachter is hoping to land a few more major acts in the fourth quarter.
“We envision a slow summer and a very busy fall,” Wachter said. “There will be a lot of country acts touring in the fall and we anticipate getting our fair share of them. We have made offers for some other big tours that would play in the fourth quarter of 2014. We hope acts like Cher, Katy Perry and Aerosmith will extend their current tours into that time frame. If they do, we will have a good shot at landing some of them.”
Besides the Resch Center, independent promoters have also become more active in the Fox Valley including National Event Promotions founder Ryan Vander Sanden of Greenville. Vander Sanden, who also works with Fox Valley booking agency Bananas Entertainment, brought acts such as Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Vanilla Ice and Nonpoint to the Fox Valley in past years and thrives on bringing a national flavor to the local nightlife.
“Adding the opportunity to see national acts in your own backyard is something I always thought was a special experience for fans and musicians,” Vander Sanden said. “As a huge fan of live music, there is nothing like getting to see your favorite bands in small venues, up close, versus 1,000 feet back at a festival. I get so much positive feedback from fans.”
Vander Sanden booked acts such as Trixter, Taproot, Kip Winger, Faster Pussycat, The Reverend Horton Heat, Jesse James Dupree and Pop Evil at various Fox Valley locations in 2013. His next shows include rock acts Fuel on March 27 and Throw the Fight on March 28, both at Luna Lounge in downtown Appleton.
Fuel rocks Luna Lounge on Thursday, March 27.
“The Fox Valley music scene is so strong,” Vander Sanden said. “The support from the venues and fans in the area is incredible and make it possible for us to do what we do, whether it’s a national act or our amazing local talent.”
The rest of 2014 reopens itself to popular festivals such as Country USA (June 24-28) and Rock USA (July 16-19), at Ford Festival Park in Oshkosh, Lifest (July 10-13) at Sunnyview Expo Center in Oshkosh, Mile of Music (dubbed Mile 2) in downtown Appleton (August 7-10) and the 33rd annual Octoberfest (Sept. 26-27) in downtown Appleton.
Waterfest in Oshkosh and Heid Music Concert Series in downtown Appleton are also two annual summer-long music series’ that kick off this June. Waterfest, held at Leach Amphitheater, is known for its blend of local and national acts, while Heid Music Concert Series, held at Houdini Plaza and Jones Park, focuses mainly on local talent. For something fresh, Waterfest also changed its usual summer format.
Fox Cities PAC in downtown Appleton will also welcome a number of Broadway blockbusters in 2014 including “Ghost the Musical” (March 18-23), Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (April 11-13), “Sister Act” (May 6-11) and “The Phantom of the Opera” (June 11-22). In addition, the PAC will host music acts including Daryl Stuermer of Genesis (April 25), Chicago (May 1) and The Moody Blues (September 3).
This follows a 2013 season that included major shows such as “War Horse,” Disney’s “The Lion King,” “Flashdance the Musical” and “Memphis the Musical.”
Fox Cities comedy clubs also hosted nearly 100 comedians in 2013. Comedy Quarter in Neenah hosted over 25 acts including Tom Green and Rob Schneider before closing its doors in September. The longstanding Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton hosted closer to 50 acts including T.J. Miller, Ari Shaffir and Jimmy Pardo. Skyline also celebrates its 20th anniversary in November.
–Mike Thiel: Follow me on Twitter: @thielwrites