By and large, Wisconsin bands are the point of the Lost City Music Festival, which is scheduled for July 5-8. Organizers of the event are booking only a few bands from outside the Midwest. Festival events will take place at the Project Lodge, High Noon Saloon, Good Style Shop, Dragonfly Lounge, the Audio For the Arts Recording Studio, the Rigby, and the Full of Bull roast beef sandwich shop.
Festival head John Kruse is drawing on many friends and bands he's worked with in booking a recent series of shows at the Dragonfly and running his label, Mine All Mine Records. Kruse and some of his fellow organizers and performers work or have worked at Murfie, a local startup that's sponsoring the festival.
The festival's Facebook page has been announcing a few bands a day. The artists include plenty of projects who've been featured at Mine All Mine's Dragonfly shows, including a couple of Kruse's own projects.
Lost City hasn't released a complete calendar of who's playing where. The Good Style Shop show will be experimental and unplugged acts, and one show at the Dragonfly will feature harder and noisier things, such as Wausau's burly hardcore group Poney and the slippery noise-rock of Kitty Rhombus, whose members are split between Madison and Minneapolis.
The Rigby will host a hip-hop show featuring Hyphon of the La Crosse-based crew Another Exoneration. Other acts in the festival mix range from Minneapolis' Fort Wilson Riot to Philadelphia's Br'er to Madison's Cribshitter. Free-jazz trio Glacier will play its last show with a set at Audio For the Arts, whose recording space has lately been serving as an excellent little venue for avant-garde music.
The festival is a benefit -- as in, the bands are basically playing for nothing. Proceeds will go to the Madison Area Music Association and Madison Music Makers. The festival is named for an area in the UW Arboretum that absorbed the remains of a failed residential development.
Kruse has to deal with the temptation of tacking more and more bands onto the lineup as the festival gets closer. After a planning meeting in which he and other organizers listed bands they could potentially book, he says, "It really opened our eyes when we realized had 100 people off the top of our heads." So far, the festival is promising 75-odd bands, spread out among 14 shows. Admission to individual shows will be $5, but patrons can buy a weekend pass for $10.
While the idea of seminars or panels at a music festival can seem a little too lofty, Lost City's might be esoteric enough to be worthwhile. Ellen Hebden, a UW-Madison ethnomusicologist, will share videos she's taken of taarab music, which originated in Zanzibar. Musicians can even take a master class on improvisation from cello-and-bass outfit the Weather Duo. There are also plans for a bowling tournament.
Kruse admits it's not always easy talking bands into playing a festival that's also a benefit. But the charity angle might just be what keeps the festival viable, since organizers won't have to worry about meeting pay guarantees. And the emphasis on regional eclecticism means the festival's format is very much worth trying in a place like Madison.