Grammy winners and grandmas shared VIP status during Appleton’s Mile of Music, a four-day festival that celebrated both music and the Midwest, elevated new talent and encouraged Nashville’s stars to feel like one of us.
Molly and I saw 29 bands in four days; we sang along with old friends, discovered new favorites and expanded our music library exponentially.
We heard a sweet Norah Jones feigning shyness and filling the Lawrence Chapel with her distinctive voice, we saw Grammy winner and Sugarland drummer Travis McNabb smoothly playing percussion with a couple of knives and a napkin canister during a flash concert at the Queen Bee diner, and we felt the trajectory of Swear and Shake, whose talent and euphoria made them, in our opinion, one of the festival’s break-out stars.
We witnessed an emotional homecoming when Brooklyn based Mel Flannery brought her soulful jazz back to Appleton and shared the stage with her musical mentor and father, Post-Crescent executive editor Dan Flannery.
In fact, family turned out to be the theme, as Christopher Gold gave a playful shout-out to his four-year old son, who waved from the chapel balcony, Hillary Reynolds recruited her dad Ric Reynolds to play base guitar for their Friday night set, which ended with a sweet tribute to her mom Trina Reynolds, and Tanya Winch sat in with her brother Sam Winch the Lullabadeer during both his Friday and Saturday night sets.
Those who weren’t related by blood, found themselves related by music and warmly embraced by one of its most passionate ambassadors, Cory Chisel.
While the festival’s one caveat, that its artists must perform original music, may have eliminated some talented musicians, it also exposed a grateful audience to the poetry of a well-phrased lyric and the melody of a well-placed chord.
Molly and I popped into Copper Rock Friday afternoon and caught a powerful set by Nicole Rae, a drummer for the Traveling Suitcase. Nicole apologized for her nerves and then belted out a series of tunes so raw and moving we’re still thinking about them today.
Midway through the festival, an optimistic adjective casually attached itself, which should be good news for all of you. The first Mile of Music became the first annual Mile of Music and we hope to see you all there!
Here’s a little taste of the flash concert at the Queen Bee:
And here’s a clip of Tanya Winch and the Dirty Mercy, an excellent band based in Austin, Texas: