Waterfront 2018

Marquette Waterfront Festival returns June 9-10, bringing a blend of decades-old traditions with a few new surprises. The music for this 29th annual event will be as enticing as ever, with a mixture of local bands and touring artists to fulfill every musical taste.

Here’s what’s in store for Waterfront 2018…




The festival kicks off on the Main Stage at noon with the instrumental R&B quartet Barbacoa, featuring some of the most sought after musicians in the Madison area. The band consists of Tony Barba on tenor saxophone, Mike Cammilleri on Hammond organ, Richard Hildner on electric guitar, and Chris Sandoval on drums.

At 1:00 p.m. Madison’s own Low Czars warm up the Cottonwood Stage, covering songs both oft-requested and generally neglected from the ’50s through what seems like only yesterday — rock, roll, and all points in between, with lots of guitars, lots of singers, and one solid rhythm section. Waterfront Fest bonus: Low Czars will perform in a rare acoustic configuration for their Cottonwood set.

We’re pleased to bring Madison Hip Hop Awards Nominee Protege The Pro to Waterfront for the first time. Protege is a contemporary songwriter who’s made several original singles showing a small sample of his modern style of music, and is working on his soon forthcoming debut project titled Progress Report. He comes on at 1:30 p.m. on our Main Stage.

At 2:30 p.m. the Cottonwood Stage offers a rare opportunity to see Chicago singer-songwriter Heather Horton perform solo prior to her set with the day’s main stage closer Michael McDermott. Horton is a storyteller whose passion is matched by what Paste Magazine describes as music that, “invites the listener to the realities of her life while posing questions that invite them to consider their own existence.”

Cribshitter play beautifully crafted pop music filled with mischief and bizarre fascinations. Their most recent album Acapulco, pulls together shades of bubbly pop, playful country, hip-hop, and tender balladry, not to mention a show-stopping cover of J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine.” Cribshitter have parlayed their effusive songcraft into one of the most absurd and astonishing stage shows you can see in Madison. Catch them on the Main Stage at 3:30 p.m..


Next up, Glassmen, the duo of multi-instrumentalist/singer Sarah Jennings Evans and drummer/singer Vivian Lin, bring a haunting, affecting, and boundary-defying approach to rock music. Using guitar, synth (often played with organ-like foot pedals), and crafty vocal arrangements, Glassmen create stirring but complex rhythms, and otherworldly, gripping melodies. They play the Cottonwood Stage at 4:00 p.m..

At 4:45 p.m. Waterfront patrons will flood the grassy dance floor for guitar virtuoso Charlie Baran and Radio Free Honduras. The Chicago band creates an exciting blend of Honduran punta, Spanish flamenco, rock n’roll, and Latin country music. Before moving to the United States from Honduras, Baran’s song “Copa de Caracol” was the #1 Billboard Top Latin Song in 1992.

Madison native and musical polyglot Spencer Bible performs for the Cottonwood crowd at 5:30 p.m. in the solo version of his multi-faceted project Tippy. Tippy is also sometimes a four-piece band, but in this iteration it’s an effusive, electronics-driven outburst of pop and fearless introspection. Bible’s songwriting is often raw, tender, and funny all at once, whether he’s exploring the life of an artist in Tippy-the-band’s “Pipedream” or unpacking his first memory of being “iPhone fact-checked” in solo-Tippy’s “Bob Barker.”

We’re thrilled to bring Michael McDermott to close the Waterfront’s Saturday lineup at 6:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. McDermott’s rollicking 2017 release “Willow Springs” had critics comparing the opus to Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.” Novelist Stephen King, who quoted McDermott’s lyrics in his book, Insomnia, is among the Chicagoan’s biggest fans. Says King: “Michael McDermott is one of the best songwriters in the world and possibly the greatest undiscovered rock n’ roll talent of the past 20 years.” McDermott will appear at Waterfront with his full band which includes his wife, vocalist Heather Horton. His new album, “Out from Under,” is released just in time for the festival.


Fools’ Flotilla by Ray Pfeiffer

By boat or on shore, don’t miss out on the Fools’ Flotilla, the zany costumed boat parade that takes off from Tenney (10:30 a.m.) and travels down the Yahara toward the park. This year, the Flotilla’s official band, the River Rats, will disembark on the festival grounds, lead a second line parade through the park and take to the Main Stage to start our Saturday lineup at 11:30 a.m.. Be sure to be there for this festival first!

At noon we take a hip spin back to the ’70’s as Al Hirt meets Herb Alpert in one of Madison’s most talented tribute acts, Hirt Alpert. The band celebrates the sounds of the Tijuana Brass faithfully–all the fun intact.

Wander over to the Cottonwood Stage at 1:00 p.m. to catch Nigeria native and current Madison resident Jimmy Sugarcane put a cranked-up and electronics-heavy spin on dancehall, in songs that can be stark and hard-hitting but always get an audience moving.

Next up comes Pearls and Tar, a roots rock/Americana band formed in 2017 of veterans of the Madison music scene, Kurt Svensson (guitar), Jeremy Snow (drums), Nate Kendall (vocals and guitar), and Jed Heckman (bass). The band was drawn together by a mutual appreciation of music that toes the line between rock, country, and soul. Incorporating elements of psychedelia and indie rock with roots-bases American music, Pearls and Tar creates a bold and distinctive sound. They go on the Main Stage at 1:30 p.m..

Anna Wang

One of Madison’s most important rising new artists, Anna Wang, mixes loops and live keyboards with soaring vocals. Her 2:30 p.m. set on the intimate Cottonwood Stage is not to be missed.

Don’t Mess With Cupid is the very popular nine-piece Otis Redding tribute soul band fronted by the incredibly charismatic Kevin Willmott. Dance and sing along to your Redding favorites in front of the Main Stage at 3:00 p.m..

Viroqua native Simon Balto is now a Professor of African American History at Ball State University. Along the way Balto has made Americana music that blends a virtuoso guitar technique with songs that Tom Waits would turn the radio up to hear. Waterfront is excited to get Balto back in the Badger State for an intimate set in Yahara Park! Catch this show at 4:00 p.m. on the Cottonwood Stage.

The Right Now fills the groove where Quincy Jones’ cool sophistication of the 1970’s left off. The 7-piece is the go-to band Chicago band to open for acts including Fitz and the Tantrums, George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic, Rebirth Brass Band, and Betty LaVette. The band’s new LP, “Starlight,” caused NPR’s Sound Opinions to call The Right Now’s lead vocalist Stefanie Berecz’s performance, “stronger than Adele.” TRN’s 4:30 p.m. performance at the Waterfront Main Stage will have Madisonians motoring down to Chicago for more.

At 5:30 p.m. on the Cottonwood Stage you’ll find Madison five-piece Gentle Brontosaurus crafting friendly indie-pop tunes with subversively odd lyrics. The band’s 2015 album Names Of Things And What They Do builds on bright electric guitars, warm keyboards, and breathy but catchy vocal melodies to bring an accessible charm to songs including “Million Dollar Lightbulb” and “KFC.”

Closing out this year’s Waterfront Fest is Chris Forsyth, an accomplished guitarist who bridges the worlds of rock and experimental music. With his Solar Motel Band, Forsyth has released four studio albums and one live album of ecstatic, largely instrumental music centered around bright-toned electric guitars and charging rhythms. The Solar Motel band’s recordings, including last year’s Dreaming In The Non-Dream and 2014’s Intensity Ghost, walk the line between wide-open psychedelia and dialed-in, relentless melodic exploration. The band’s knack for creating taut dynamics, while still leaving space to improvise, should make for a beautiful send-off at this year’s festival. Don’t miss him — 6:30 p.m. on the Main Stage.


As always, the incredibly adorable (and highly competitive) 100 yard Kids’ Dandelion Dash kicks off Saturday at Waterfront Festival. It’s a great way to enjoy a beautiful summer morning by Lake Monona.

Dandelion Dash

Registration: 9:30am

Dash for 6-9 year olds: 10am
Dash for 5’s and under: 10:15am
Kids’ Disco: 10:30 – 11am

Join the Dash on Facebook for more details.

Our friends from Troop 34 will be back both Saturday and Sunday at Waterfront with games for the kiddos (check back for times). Look for them by the playground, and bring your quarters — they charge $0.25/ticket and every player wins a prize. Troop 34 is a member of Scouts for Equality that welcomes all boys ages 11-17.

Make your grand entrance to the Festival on Sunday by floating with hundreds of other fools from Tenney Park to Yahara Place Park as part of the River Alliance’s Fools’ Flotilla. Bring your own boat, PFDs and costumes.The more foolish the better! It’s free to participate, but you need to register here.

As always, Marquette Waterfront Festival will feature a terrific array of vendors from local businesses, artists and restaurants, as well as craft beer and wine tents. (Check back for the list of vendors.)

The festival remains free and fabulous thanks to the generous support of these fine folks: Lauer Realty Group, Willy Street Co-op, your northside neighbors Paul & Ellen, Pines Bach, Overture Center for the Arts, Solidarity Realty, The Chocolate Shoppe, Heartland Credit Union, Madison Gas and Electric, RP’s Pasta, Dane Arts, A Place To Be, Aprilaire, The Barrymore Theatre, The Bock Corporation, Gebhardt Development, Ground Zero, GWABA, Madison Greenhouse Store, SRO Artists, Mark Saunders, Robert J Sawicki of Innovative Financial, The Sylvee and TDS Custom Construction.

Big thanks also to our media partners Tone Madison, WVMO and WORT!

See you under the cottonwoods!