It's not always easy for a young singer-songwriter who's new in town to find a way into the Madison music scene. Just ask Anna Vogelzang.
Vogelzang, 25, is a native of Boston and a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. She arrived in Madison via Chicago in late 2008.
She's also one of the most promising new musical voices in the city, but until last month, her touring kept her unfamiliar to local audiences.
Then a friend suggested she sign up for the monthly Song Showdown event that made its Alchemy Cafe debut in January.
Vogelzang didn't just sign up. She won the contest, earned an appearance on WORT and gained fans who otherwise "never would have sought out one of my shows because we just hadn't crossed paths until that evening," she says.
The Madison Songwriters Guild Song Showdown is back after having disappeared for a couple of years, says host and organizer Jim Schwall.
The Showdown is one of three events promoted by the Madison Songwriters Guild, a membership group dedicated to advancing the local tunesmith community.
Songwriters in the Round is a monthly Brink Lounge event featuring three musicians who share a stage and take turns playing their compositions. Song Critique takes place the third Wednesday of every month at Noodles on University Avenue. The gathering lets songwriters collaborate on works in progress.
As for the Showdown, it is, says Schwall, "just something you can get up and do." Each contestant plays two or three songs. "We had six people play the first month."
The last song of each artist's set is his or her official Showdown entry. The audience-selected monthly winners will compete in a year-end competition for bragging rights to Showdown Song of the Year, says Schwall.
The Madison Songwriters Guild has existed for more than 10 years but until recently was known as the Madison Songwriters Group. Eric Hester founded the group in the mid-1990s after starting a local label, Slothtrop, that also provides artist management and consultation.
Schwall says the Showdown appeals to adventurous local music fans who want to hear Madison's newest artists and songs.
"You get to hear songs you almost undoubtedly haven't heard before by multiple songwriters," he says. "Some of the artists are younger and newer to Madison."
That's an element Schwall, a local music veteran, likes. "At my age, I'm not looking to start my career, but I like to help other people start theirs."