Madison’s original outdoor music festival once again delivers on its reputation for a high-end array of local, regional and touring national acts. Here’s what’s in store for the 53rd annual Orton…
Thursday, August 23
Cycropia Aerial Dance kicks off the four-day festival with a performance from under the park’s great bur oak on Family Night, Thursday, August 23rd. They go on at 7:30 pm, following the 5:30 pm pizza and ice cream social.
Friday, August 24
Madison’s own Shakey will open up the festival with a tribute to the music of Neil Young that manages to be true to the originals we all know and love, while still feeling fresh and new. These local musicians will take you on a journey through the past where rock ‘n roll never dies and rust never sleeps. They take the stage at 5:30 pm.
Next up at 7:00 pm is The People Brothers Band. Featuring some of the best vocalists and musicians in the region, The People Brothers’ eclectic combination of classic rock, blues and soul, along with their infectious stage energy, is sure to get folks up on their feet and out onto the dance floor. As one midwestern newspaper put it, “Want to get your face rocked off??? This is the band to see!”
We close out the evening with another dazzling performance by Cycropia Aerial Dance. This magical combination of dance and acrobatics, beautifully staged from one of Orton’s venerable oaks, will delight all ages. 8:30 pm.
Saturday, August 25
The fun begins on Saturday at 11:45 am with Evan Murdock and the Imperfect Strangers, one of Madison’s finest country/folk bands. Evan Murdock has been rocking Madison since 2000, starting with the Lonesome Rogues, then playing with the Kentucky Waterfalls. His songs run the gamut from soulful ballads to up-tempo dances, and touch on subjects ranging from love and loss, to dinosaurs. Murdock is accompanied by The Imperfect Strangers, a rag-tag amalgam of ruffians and roustabouts held together by their dedication to music and beer.
Stick around to hear Reverend Rectifier & The Sinners take the stage at 1:15 pm. A rock ‘n roll gospel and country band from right here in Madison, Reverend Rectifier & The Sinners features a cast of musicians with backgrounds ranging from punk, to R&B throw down, to old-time gospel, all on top of a steady rock foundation. Be ready for some rocking gospel and country western goodness that will open up your soul.
At 2:45 pm Squarewave takes the stage. Moving seamlessly between folk-rock, psychedelic early Pink Floyd style prog-rock, and buoyant pop, these Madison rockers offer chiming guitars, ethereal voices, and layers of synthesizers that create a dense, shimmering tapestry of sound.
We’ll take a short break at 4:00 pm for the MNA Auction. There is a lot of great stuff to bid on, and all proceeds benefit the local neighborhood association. Bid high and stay close by, because the music starts up again in just one hour.
Check in at 5:00 pm, when another hometown favorite, Acoplados Latin Jazz Project, explores the nuances of Latin American and Caribbean folk and popular music by using voices, the cajon, and the guitar to reinvent melody, harmony and rhythm. Come experience a show that will transport you to the “llanos” of Venezuela, the “solaressolares” of Cuba, and the “callejones” of Peru, leaving you in a place completely different and unexpected.
Next up, the Clyde Stubblefield All Stars are a Clyde Stubblefield tribute band based out of Madison, led by musical director and Grammy nominated drummer Joey B. Banks, and featuring Kevin Willmott II on vocals. The All Stars continue their namesake Clyde Stubblefield’s mission of bringing funk to the people. Look for Clyde Stubblefield hits, along with favorites from James Brown and The JB’s, including songs from “The Original” and “Revenge of the Funky Drummer” albums. 6:30 pm.
Wrapping up the Saturday line-up at 8:15 pm is Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express. Prophet hit the road straight out of high school in the ’80s with the psychedelic roots band Green on Red, and never looked back. He has worked as a singer/songwriter, guitarist, bandleader, and collaborator with artists as diverse as Cake, Kim Carnes, Solomon Burke, and Alejandro Escovedo, who declared on stage at his Orton Park headlining gig last year, “This looks like the kind of audience that would dig Chuck Prophet!” We took Alejandro’s advice and booked Chuck Prophet for this year’s Orton Park Festival. It’s going to be stellar!
Sunday, August 26
For Sunday’s Jazz Brunch Carolynn Schwartz Black and her trio (Cliff Frederiksen, John Widdicombe, and Mike Turk) will be playing jazz standard classics from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and more for your listening and brunching pleasure. Set your alarm clock; the brunch opens at 9 am and the line forms quickly.
Warming up the Orton stage at noon is Panchromatic Steel. This steel drum band is homegrown in Madison, and offers up authentic island calypso, jazz, classical and familiar pop/rock. The music of Panchromatic Steel is sure to brighten any day, transporting listeners to their happiest moments in the sun–they thread the needle by being creative and artful while still being fun, danceable and accessible to virtually everyone.
At 1:30 pm check out Furious Bongos, a Frank Zappa tribute band with the musical chops to take on Zappa’s music and the insight to channel Zappa’s satirical edge. Local legends, Conrad and Biff, the musical arrangers of Furious Bongos, tracked down hundreds of pages of transcription and scribbled notes from former band members, spent hours comparing different versions of the songs, and even dug up rare scores in Frank’s own hand (coffee stains included). As Frank Zappa famously said, “Music is the only religion that delivers the goods.” Furious Bongos is sure to deliver.
Next up at 3:00 pm, don’t miss the Driveway Thriftdwellers. Hailing from Milwaukee, the Thriftdwellers started out as a few guys who just wanted to play some Flying Burrito Brothers tunes, and have emerged as a top original act in Wisconsin’s Country and Americana music scenes. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel declared the Thriftdwellers’ 2017 Summerfest performance a “Best Of” performance for the festival, describing the music as “emotionally ripe, old school country.”
More Milwaukee goodness follows with Dead Horses, a folk band that has cultivated a soulful roots sensibility informed as much by early-American prose as modern Americana music. Sarah Voz and Daniel Wolff anchor the group to create a blend of elements of traditional roots with contemporary indie folk. According to The Cap Times, “Where ever they play, Dead Horses bring expressive, compassionate songwriting and beautifully wrought acoustic arrangements.” 4:30 pm.
Closing out this year’s festival at 6:15 pm are the can’t-be-missed Chicago (and England) favorites, The Waco Brothers. Engaged in the righteous endeavor of connecting progressive impulses in American country/folk–from dyed-in-the-wool lefty Woody Guthrie to pure products of old-time religion, like Johnny Cash, to the radical political aims of British punk–The Waco Brothers is a band whose unlikely aim is to turn the American country song into a Molotov cocktail. See you on the dance floor!
As always, Orton Park Festival will feature a number of terrific local restaurant vendors, as well as craft beer and wine tents. Kids games, the cakewalk and the ever-popular MNA auction (Saturday only) will return as well. The event is FREE – but please, no dogs or carry-ins.
See you at the park!