Why Not Wausau? Having grown up in central Wisconsin, this question has crossed my mind a time or two as I was stuck with polka bands or country cover bands as my only options for live music as a kid. The people at Flapjack Creative set out to answer this question with the WhyNotWausau festival last weekend– a semi-two-day festival featuring music from the area. I was unable to cover Friday’s portion, which featured Ryan Flannery & The Night Owls and Blueheels, but I made the 40-minute drive from my home in Stevens Point for Saturday’s lineup.
Saturday, Aug 14, I drove up to Wausau feeling unsure how this day full of contradiction was going to play out. I was going to see one of my favorite indie bands. In Wausau, WI. I just couldn’t imagine these two ideas in the same sentence, but hey, why not? With the growing young Wisconsin music scene due largely to the upshot in bands from formerly unnoticed Wisconsin cities, I guess it’s only natural that my neck of the woods get a little more with the times.
Trapper Schoepp & The Shades
The first band to take the stage at the the Granite Peak Ski Area was Trapper Schoepp & The Shades from Milwaukee. Though the crowd was small to say the least, what could you really expect from 12:30 in the afternoon and blazing sun? It was a start to an unusual day laying on a blanket amidst the out-of-season chairlift and a spattering of Central Wisco hipsters (a rare breed if I do say so myself). Trapper played a lengthy set of indie folk for which the crowd of mostly families remained a conservative distance away from the stage. It was enjoyable, but something about the temperature or the hour seemed to dampen their potential. This was true throughout the rest of the day– that is, until the indie highlight later in the day.
Absinthe & The Dirty Floors from Chicago
Farewell Milwaukee from Minneapolis
The Daredevil Christopher Wright
Though not the intended headliners, Eau Claire’s The Daredevil Christopher Wright were the reason that I made the trip up for the event, and it was apparent I wasn’t the only fan. This was my third Daredevil show and even though the ratio of young people to families and old hippies was skewed toward the latter, the former did as they always do and got up to the stage for some indie bopping and dancing. Though it was swelteringly hot by this point and the trio of brothers and a friend made clear that they were usually an “inside band”, their harmonious anthems translated well for the crowd in the middle of their home state. They even played a couple of new tracks, and of course ended things with their sure-fire sing-along/dance-along songs, “A Conversation With Cancer” and “The East Coast”. Unfortunately, not due to lack of longing cries from the crowd, time for an encore was cut short and unlike the last time two times I saw them, I went without hearing “Stewardess”. But overall, it was a a great day to be able to see one of my favorite bands so close to where I call my home.
Paintings which were completed throughout the duration of the festival at the base of this Wisconsin ski area
The goal of this festival was to answer the question, “Why not Wausau?” and I’m not sure there was a satisfying answer. After reading stories about the even after the fact, the attendance was much lower than expected- so maybe that’s an indicator that there just aren’t enough indie-loving people in Central Wisconsin. I guess that’s what Eau Claire or Milwaukee or Madison is for. But on the other hand, maybe this sort of culture just takes patient cultivation. I thank the folks at Flapjack Creative for being ambitious with their guinea pig festival and hope that they continue their efforts to bring these sorts of shows to the area. Who knows, the next Bon Iver could be hidden amongst the polka and country infested waters of Central Wisconsin just waiting to be heard.