Luke Jorgensen of Lower 5th and Whiskeyonsin organizer
Success with a group of musicians is one thing.
But also being an accomplished producer and event organizer should elevate the clout for one of the founders of The Lower 5th, a Madison-based, Midwestern-soul band. Yet any communication with Luke Jorgensen reveals a kind-hearted man, who is simply proud to be able to play a style of music he loves with people he describes as “amazing.”
Ask him about his three-year-old event, the Whiskeyonsin Family Reunion, and it’s when you get the fierce passion of someone who considers this one of the top shows to bring some of the best area bands together, and all for us. I asked Luke about Whiskeyonsin, how it has turned into one of his favorite things to be part of, and why the show is moving to Madison this June.
Maximum Ink: You are involved with music in many different ways. What are you most proud of accomplishing so far?
Luke Jorgensen: At this stage in my career I am most proud of the production side of music that I have been lucky enough to take part in. I’ve helped many artists and bands take that very difficult first step of recording their music, and watched as some of them have made really good careers from it. That is really rewarding for me. But I am also immensely proud of the Whiskeyonsin Family Reunion, which is a day festival I started 3 years ago. It has blossomed into a cool event and has really taken on a life of its own. It is an awesome feeling to put together an amazing roster of musicians each year, and to then see the final product pan out for an audience.
MI: Have you always had an interest in music?
LJ: I started playing guitar around 10 years old, started writing songs at 13, and by age 16 I finally got the courage to sing in front of people. My folks were the driving force of my musical ambitions. They were both into many different kinds of music and exposed me to a wide variety of artists like Neil Young, Lionel Ritchie, Allman Brothers, U2 and many others. My dad sometimes sang in a band with his brothers on weekends, and he always wanted to see me play music, too. He passed away when I was 9 and shortly afterwards my mom nudged me into guitar lessons and bought me my first guitar.
MI: Your parents were a wonderful early influence?
LJ: I think for a lot of people, it is just something engrained in you from an early age. You HAVE to do it. Whether you are terrible at it or amazing at it, you just have to do it. That’s how it is for me.
MI: Are you from Madison and do you feel this is a good place for your band to call home?
LJ: I am originally from La Crosse, but I have lived all over the country. So, why not Madison?! I love this place, and I remember when I was kid, road tripping to Madison to catch a show was the thing to do. There is so much musical history here and the music scene is, in my opinion, one of the best. There is a real community of musicians in this city and it is amazing to watch these talented artists emerge and grow year after year.
MI: Tell me about your band, The Lower 5th?
LJ: We are a 6 piece band consisting of Cory Swadley on lead guitar, Paul Metz on drums, Jamie Cash on keys, Audrey Pescitelli on bass, and our recent addition of Jeremy Henning on trombone. We like to call our sound Midwestern Soul, a phrase coined by our good friend Jonathon Ewald. It is really hard to pinpoint exactly what it means, but I think a big thing that people respond to is the fact we really can’t be put into any musical category. We are just fun!
MI: And the idea of a day of fun and music is why you started Whiskeyonsin?
LJ: Whiskeyonsin Family Reunion is an annual one day festival that started 3 years ago in Fall River, Wisconsin. I set out to do a couple of things: I wanted to put together a show that resembled the musical community I am lucky enough to involved in, and present that musical community to an audience. I wanted audience members to see and feel what it’s like when these very talented people get together. It is a very special thing. Most, if not all of the artists at Whiskeyonsin, are musically connected to one another in some way, like an extended family. I think that really comes across at the event. Also with Whiskeyonsin, I wanted to offer an alternative to the whole camping out for the weekend music festival. Weekend festivals are amazing and full of great experiences, but for a lot of people, $60-$80 for an entire weekend can be really difficult. I wanted to provide an alternative, an event that is both affordable and accessible to folks who want to experience the feel of a music festival, without having to commit as much time, effort, or money.
MI: This will be the first year Whiskeyonsin is in Madison. Why are you moving the show?
LJ: I loved our original venue in Fall River. CJ’s Bar did an amazing job of hosting our event for the first two years. But, we really wanted to make the event as accessible as possible, so the move to Madison seemed like the next logical step. The High Noon Saloon is hands down, one of my favorite venues for live music, so it was my first choice when seeking out a new venue. I really feel this move is going to open us up to an even larger audience and will allow us to work with other organizations like the Madison Area Music Association to do our part in promoting and growing our musical community.
MI: Any funny music-related stories?
LJ: Just some jokes. What’s the definition of an optimist? A folk musician with a mortgage. What do you call an accordion player with a beeper? An optimist
More information about the Whiskeyonsin Family Reunion: It will be held on June 18, 2016 from Noon to 1 am. It is a full day of music featuring some of the best talent our area has to offer, including:
Wheelhouse - mightywheelhouse.com
The Family Business - familybusinessband.bandcamp.com
The Mascot Theory - themascottheory.com
Lucas Cates - lucascates.com
The Eugene Smiles Project - theeugenesmilesproject.com
Teddy Davenport - teddydavenport.com
Gabe Burdulis - gabeburdulis.com
The Lower 5th – reverbnation.com/thelower5th
Old Soul Society - oldsoulsociety.bandcamp.com
Kari Arnett - kariarnett.com
Josh Elliot - facebook.com/joshelliottloops
Red Sky Warning - redskywarning.com
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