Forward, Madison!

Image courtesy of Google Images

Forward Music Fest is in its inaugural round, has gone from wish-list to set-list in a short amount of time. This Friday and Saturday, Madison will be magnetizing musicians, both national and local, to the Midwest to play not only at the fest, but also surrounding venues in surrounding cities, all weekend long. Fan-belt blog’s Erin Wolf talks to Madison promoter and writer Kyle Pfister, one of five organizers of the festival that’s got the attention of its more experienced predecessors to find out what’s in store for the future of not only Madison’s music culture, nor Milwaukee’s, but the Midwest’s as a whole.


How did the idea for Forward Music Fest come about? I saw in an earlier interview that the idea was to get more UW students to attend Madison venues because many hadn’t attended a show at one? Is this true?

The idea of Forward Music Fest is based on a respect for the Madison music scene and the city’s potential as an arts destination. So encouraging everyone (students included) to support the exciting things happening at our amazing music venues in town is a big part of our mission.

The all-weekend access pass is a calling card of larger, established music festivals (SXSW, Lollapalooza, etc.)…was this to establish rank with these other festivals and lift some eyebrows by going ‘big’ right away?

The all-access wristband is what makes our event unique among what’s already happening in town. $40 for seventy-two bands is not just a fantastic deal, it’s the structure that allows sampling of many bands and genres as well as the collaboration between venues that we sought to achieve. We’re definitely taking a chance, but we believe in this idea and hope that our ambition attracts others to the table to support the project as we grow.

What was the first national act you sought out?

We started with a huge list of possible bands and attempted to concentrate on bands with some sort of connection to the Midwest. These conversations started back in the summer of 2007, so the festival has been through many reincarnations since then.

What was the first national act you booked?

I believe Dan Deacon was one of the first acts we booked, since he has never played Madison before and oozes the “festival” atmosphere we were shooting for after hitting the big festival circuit hard this last summer.

How did you go about doing the local bookings?

Members of our collaborative have a lot of experience booking smaller shows around Madison, so we had connections with many of the local bands we wanted to feature. We also received a lot of emails over this process. The goal was to pair national acts and local acts with similar sounds and I think we achieved that pretty well. Jake Shut of Crustacean Records was a fantastic help in booking the Killdozer and Dillinger Four openers.

To you, what is a trademark ‘Midwest sound’ or attitude shared by all of the artists playing at the fest?

We’re excited that the majority of FMF artists share a connection to the Midwest, but even more excited to show off the diversity of the Midwestern sound. From the pop of the Headlights to the gritty garage rock of the Detroit Cobras to the hip hop of Yea Big & Kid Static to the dance party that is Flosstradamus – I’d be lying if I said we found a singular Midwestern sound.

What do you hope will come of introducing these national and local acts to each other?

Festival goers will buy ticket to see their favorite headliner and we hope they really enjoy an opening set by a local act that they can support in town year round.

What are your personal picks?

The Dan Deacon and Leslie and the Lys bill at the Majestic will be the most interactive and beautifully raucous. The Headlights and Decibully bill at Café Montmartre will be classic. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down released one of my favorite indie albums of the year so far – so I’m really excited for them. And the Stars Like Fleas and Pale Young Gentlemen set is a perfect pairing for those looking for a really interesting evening.

No direct advertising was done, correct? Were there any hesitations about this approach?

Our media sponsor,
The Onion, ran advertisements. But we also commissioned ten Midwestern artists to design posters for each headline showcase. You can view these posters and the artist bios in the merch section of our website or at the shows themselves.

What’s the Madison Area Music Awards charitable foundation’s role in FMF and the Madison music community?

A portion of any proceeds made will be donated to the MAMA’s foundation, which makes sure our youngest Madisonians experience the creativity that playing and appreciating music provides for a lifetime.

Anything concrete for FMF, 2009?


Nope – just that we want to grow. And that we’re open to ideas. Anyone with passion, connections, or ideas should contact us and get involved in the collaborative effort.

For FMF’s weekend line-up and show times, or to schedule a collaboration, click *here*.
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