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Madison June Festival Preview

A Roundup of Madison's Free Outdoor Music Festivals in June

Caravan Gypsy Swing by Mike Huberty
May 2016

When you’re living in the Midwest, the elements are never too far from your mind. The sunshine is a commodity and we jealously guard it, desperate not to waste the beautiful days and bummed out when the rain washes the fun away. You get a preview of Summer in April, maybe wearing shorts for the first time during the season. By the end of May you can carefully relinquish that sweatshirt you’ve been wearing. Then in June, it’s here. We finally get to be outside and it’s actually pleasurable. And that means that we’re going to throw some festivals with bands. Drinking beer and watching bands outside is as Madisonian as some dude asking for money at the end of State Street. And the best part is, almost all of them are free!

Like the Isthmus Jazz Festival on June 17th and 18th that will take place at the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union Terrace (which is also one of the greatest places on Earth to hang out during the Summer!) Starting at 4:30pm that Friday, you can hear the best of the Madison jazz scene, from the UW Jazz Orchestra with Sharon Clark to Madison jazz regulars like Sherri DiMaggio and the Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble.

June 21st is going to host Make Music Madison which features acts performing all over the city. It’s based on the Fête de la Musique (ooh lala) that happens in Paris every Summer Solstice (that’s the longest day of the year) and bands and musicians play on every corner of the city. It’s grown from just Paris in 1982 to around 540 cities today. In Madison, you’ll be able to hear every kind of genre. There are over 300 artists currently signed up as well as 103 music venues. Some of the venues are the usual like coffeehouses and bars, but individuals host bands in their garages, apartment complexes invite musicians to play, and parks and markets that don’t usually have music will feature them. Some highlights include Central Park on the city’s near East Side where they’ll have a full stage set up and acts performing throughout the day. Also, in the evening at the Madison Mallards game, thousands of people will be playing “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor with a percussive musical instrument called a boomwhacker, led by the Madison rock band Sunspot. It is guaranteed to be ridiculous. Make Music Madison will have an app with a full schedule available on their website

I guess with a name like Festival Foods, that company was going to have to get in on the act with a free music festival. They’re hosting an event called “Shake The Lake” on John Nolen Drive starting at 4pm on Saturday June 25th. They’ll have two stages of music, one is a country stage and going to feature national artist Jon Pardi, but if you’d like some local flavor check out Madison country cover band, FIFTH GEAR, who will be kicking things off. On the other stage, the headliner is poppy jam-rockers GUSTER and indie rock BLITZEN TRAPPER. THE MASCOT THEORY (who we’ve covered in this very magazine!) opens up the show and provides local support. Then it’s a big fireworks show to end the night. Once again, all free.

So, there’s three chances to see some great live music in Madison in June and that’s just the bigger festivals. Local places like The Edgewater host free live music outside every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in June with acts like MARK CROFT, HAYWARD WILLIAMS, or the HOMETOWN SWEETHEARTS. Bowl-A-Vard Lanes has free bands for the car nights on Wednesdays at 6pm with acts like TWANG DRAGONS and JOHN MASINO BAND.

In other words, there are plenty of opportunities to check out the festivals and that doesn’t even cover the Fourth of July weekend where you won’t be able to walk outside without hearing live music. The beautiful days and nights are precious, spend them wisely by spending time with some local musicians!

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