THE BACK 40

surveying the landscape of creative culture in the midwest.

— @wmanningiv on Twitter.

The 2nd 1st Annual Rock County Folk Symposium 

the back 40 // janesville, wi // sept 4-5

TICKETS (due to the intimate and participatory nature of this event, tickets are EXTREMELY limited and the venue address will only be given to those who purchase tickets in advance)

THE ROCK COUNTY FOLK SYMPOSIUM returns to its home along the beautiful Rock River for round two on Labor Day weekend, September 4th and 5th. After the enthusiastic response to last year’s inaugural event featuring Double Ewes, Anna Vogelzang, Pioneer, Austin Hays and Julian Lynch alongside a bevy of local microbrews, sweet corn, bon fires, fireworks, camping and swimming, the party returns this year with an expanded lineup and all new activities.

Folk in attitude more than sound, the #RCFS continues the tradition of experimenting with the boundaries of the traditional music festival experience by actively reintegrating sound into the natural landscape. Consider it an appreciation of the sonic terroir that shapes the experience of sound.

Along with a number of returning guests and traditions, we have added new participatory activities and experiences to complement the very intimate audience coexistence. This year’s headliner, Group of the Altos, blew us away at the SXWI showcase of Wisconsin artists at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, TX and is a megagroup of epic proportions, measuring twelve (that’s right, 12!) members. They will be featured alongside a still growing list of artists (more than double the number of last year) that include some of last year’s favorites and a lot of fresh new faces.

New this year is the FM Forest, an onsite radio station (bring your own radio!) that will transmit the entirety of the festival and will be DJ’d by hometown hero Julian Lynch. Expect streaming sets, late night parties, early morning ambience and more, carefully constructed to complement the sonic landscape. Speaking of sonic landscape, this year also features an ambient sound and light installation in the woods that will lay host to both extreme chill out sessions and woodland dance parties. All of this alongside, of course, traditional summer yard games, a river casino, a bar, and onsite camping (there are hotel rooms available across the street if you prefer). All of these serve the Back 40’s mission of returning sound to its place in the environment instead of isolated from it.

CONFIRMED ARTISTS INCLUDE:
/Group of the Altos
//Double Ewes
///Corcovado
////Pioneer
////Anna Vogelzang

/////Julian Lynch (DJ set)

+more to come!

Aug 17

The Back 40 Branded seal represents events which we recommend because they embody our spirit of collective exploration and discovery. It is a chance to rediscover the curiosity we share for art via original models of production, presentation and participation.

Kid Koala

la musique electronique @ la fête de marquette // e washington ave and south dickinson st // july 8 // 8:40pm

One of my fondest memories of Bonnaroo 2003 was a short mainstage dj set by Kid Koala. As the summer sun set long over the crowd of some tens of thousands of people waiting for whichever band would soon take the stage, a rendition of Moon River that rivals the gorgeous original drifted across the sea of humanity amassed in front of me and created a temporary transcendental lull that no drug could hope to replicate.

I anticipate an encore of this atmosphere in the much more intimate and familiar setting of this year’s Fete de Marquette, one of the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s banner summer festivals. And though the rest of the weekend’s (free! outdoor!) festivities are worth participating in as well, this is the performance I look forward to most. In the meantime, enjoy this taste of his recent Daytrotter session.

Jul 07

Photos of Corcovado’s album recording in Janesville coming soon, as is the EP.

Jun 09
Photos of Corcovado’s album recording in Janesville coming soon, as is the EP.

[note: This piece is a response to a debate I got into on Twitter with local blogger/journalist/foodie/all around renaissance man Kyle Nabilcy. In the interest of impartiality I did not read his response before publishing this piece.]


Newly minted Mayor Soglin has initiated a firestorm of commentary over his recent prediction that, without significant correction, the Overture Center is doomed to “crash and burn”. While I’m sure he meant this with no hint of hyperbole, as I mean this with no hint of sarcasm, he is doing the right thing by forcing our community to consider the landscape of arts and culture in Madison and evaluating the best steps forward toward creating a sustainable cultural community. His work prior to mayorship on the Overture’s ad hoc committee and his blog commentary on the issue was very astute and a significant reason that I supported and continue to support him as he plays devil’s advocate to our city’s well founded, but fragmented, arts base.

 

Let me start with a disclaimer. To say that the Overture is struggling is not telling the whole story. In fact, I would argue that the Overture Center is, by most measures, the best run, most beautiful and most community responsive arts organization in Madison and perhaps the entire midwest. I had the very rare opportunity of working with the management and staff of the Overture Center in planning both years of the Forward Festival and from contract to curtain it was one the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life. The management there (especially Susan and Rudy) went out of their way to be accommodating to our event in any way they could and in a way that no one else in Madison did. Every meeting we had, every little detail, every minor concern, every person we interacted with, was more professional and treated us with more respect than anyone else in the arts community I have yet to have a chance to work with. They truly exude a genuine desire to make the Overture succeed and to understand how to accomplish that. There is no doubt that they are doing the best they can with the cards that they’ve been handed. Any dire prediction about the Overture coming to fruition will be no fault of its management and by no lack of trying to correct it in any capacity they can.

 

So why then do we find ourselves in this situation?

 

Primarily, and obviously, a bum economy and sour investments. But it’s not as simple as saying the economy has negatively impacted ticket sales. The Overture has made well founded and dynamic programming decisions and their continually rising ticket sales are one of the most compelling reasons to keep subsidizing them, even if ticket sales alone are a long way from paying down the significant debt that they find themselves in. The fundamental issue at this point is fundraising. I saw this shrinking local donor base firsthand as a member of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission. Corporate partners and private donors alike are in significant decline locally and nationally and are forcing nonprofits to struggle more than ever to fulfill their missions. This is toxic to a place like the Overture Center, which despite their truly accessible and diverse community impact, is still a luxury item for our region and largely caters toward an affluent subscriber base. More than ever, the conversation needs to be refocused toward addressing that those patrons who appreciate what the Overture offers and can afford to support it need to step up and put their money where their mouth is.

 

But with Overture CEO Tom Carto hired largely due to his success and experience in fundraising prior to relocating to Madison, it’s time to make him fight for his job and prove how he is going to turn these numbers around. A change at the top could prove to be the best thing for the Overture Center at this juncture and send a strong message to the community that the city understands the problem and has identified a clear direction forward with a leader who can bring them there. There are plenty of strong internal candidates who should consider putting their hat in the ring. Moreover, identifying a candidate who is an active member of the local cultural community and understands the impact of the Overture on it should be considered a top priority.

 

This also reveals a fundamental problem with a project of this scale in our city. On paper, and by the numbers, our community was ready for the Overture. We are growing and culturally aware, but we are also a community that responds to grassroots initiatives that are progressive and at times experimental. The Overture was from inception a top down approach to cultural development. The project was funded largely by one gift rather than by building a large donor base. Compare this to the Garver Feed Mill project which was supported vigorously by the community in theory (77% of Madison voted to support it in referendum) but was shelved recently when it fell significantly short of fundraising goals. Sometimes, even frustratingly, often, community support isn’t the only indication of a project’s success in our city. We either need more community support financially or we need to resign ourselves to the fact that there just isn’t a large enough donor base in Madison to support a sustainable large scale arts project yet, even when we can justify it in theory.

 

We also need to rethink our approach to public policy and make culture and the arts front and center. This means primarily more flexible zoning so that small scale arts can thrive. The needs of arts organizations extend beyond the pervasive financial stressors that cripple their impact and leads on so much of the local arts coverage. Spaces like The Project Lodge, a cooperatively run DIY all ages arts space, struggle to remain active resources in the community, especially due to recent city intervention threatening the future of significant resources that have kept our young and emerging arts scene thriving and full of vitality at its own expense. We need this next generation of artists and audiences to be assimilated into this public conversation, as they are the ones who will sustain these projects into the future.

 

So what we are left with is this: Is the Overture Center a necessity in our community? Who will step up to make and support the argument financially? And what will happen if we can’t do that? These are the questions that an overdue citywide survey of our cultural landscape needs to address and without which we would be foolish to move forward. Bravo, Mayor Soglin, for leading this charge.

Jun 03

A recent dusting of snow on the ground here in Madison can only mean one thing: summer is right around the corner.

On Memorial Day weekend (May 27-28) Volume One in Eau Claire again hosts their Chippewa Valley Rock-n-Roll Kickball Classic. This year promises more of the greatness of last: bands (last year was headlined by the Shouting Matches, a project of local legends Justin Vernon and Brian Moen), bbq (yum), and beer (including a prize for the team that consumes the most). For the occasion, we’re gonna dust off the Madison Hype Initiative earlier than usual.

I’m looking for up to 12 people interested in coming together to kick off the summer with. If you are interested, please fill out The Chippewa Valley Rock-n-Roll Kickball Classic Back40 Team Signup Form.

Apr 22

der Rathskeller (Madison, WI)

Apr 05

Inspiration for The Back 40 came, as so many ideas do, in a bottle of beer. While lamenting the narrow focus of many music and design blogs I stared onto the label of the New Glarus beer I held in my hand

The “Back Forty” is property commonly found on the outskirts of the Wisconsin family farm. Here uncultivated acres wait prime for adventure- forts, tree houses, rope swings and first kisses! A place to run away, to camp, to climb, to build, to play. Not actually home but not too far away. That’s the Back Forty. The beer you hold is similar, both dark and adventurous, still smooth and familiar. Here’s a beer you can enjoy without pretense or explanation. Every mind requires some acres of possibility, space for dreams, the great escape, everyone needs a Back Forty.

This is a site dedicated to Wisconsin’s thriving and burgeoning creative class. Its aim will be on highlighting the work of independent creatives and surveying the cultural landscape of especially Wisconsin and the midwest.

What I have set out to do is not to create a music blog, though the focus, especially in these early stages of development, will be bent toward music or work inspired by music. This is an experiment in the interconnectedness and synthesis of all forms of art and culture, the Gesamtkunstwerk that invites us to consider and be inspired by the systematic impact of design, beauty and aesthetics in whatever forms it takes in our day to day lives.

Watch also for this idea to manifest itself in events which embody these principles. This is something I’ve already begun to explore with projects like The Rock County Folk Symposium, but will be elaborated on in the future with a similar goal of capturing the daring and spirit of possibility that experimentation fosters and that drives us to create.

The idea of the back forty resonates boldly with me and serves as an apt metaphor for this new project. Spring brings with it the return of life, a time for us to sow new seeds and anticipate the harvest of life that sustains us into the days ahead.

Thanks for watching this idea grow and develop with me.

forward,

wyndham

Apr 01

The 2nd 1st Annual Rock County Folk Symposium 

the back 40 // janesville, wi // sept 4-5

TICKETS (due to the intimate and participatory nature of this event, tickets are EXTREMELY limited and the venue address will only be given to those who purchase tickets in advance)

THE ROCK COUNTY FOLK SYMPOSIUM returns to its home along the beautiful Rock River for round two on Labor Day weekend, September 4th and 5th. After the enthusiastic response to last year’s inaugural event featuring Double Ewes, Anna Vogelzang, Pioneer, Austin Hays and Julian Lynch alongside a bevy of local microbrews, sweet corn, bon fires, fireworks, camping and swimming, the party returns this year with an expanded lineup and all new activities.

Folk in attitude more than sound, the #RCFS continues the tradition of experimenting with the boundaries of the traditional music festival experience by actively reintegrating sound into the natural landscape. Consider it an appreciation of the sonic terroir that shapes the experience of sound.

Along with a number of returning guests and traditions, we have added new participatory activities and experiences to complement the very intimate audience coexistence. This year’s headliner, Group of the Altos, blew us away at the SXWI showcase of Wisconsin artists at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, TX and is a megagroup of epic proportions, measuring twelve (that’s right, 12!) members. They will be featured alongside a still growing list of artists (more than double the number of last year) that include some of last year’s favorites and a lot of fresh new faces.

New this year is the FM Forest, an onsite radio station (bring your own radio!) that will transmit the entirety of the festival and will be DJ’d by hometown hero Julian Lynch. Expect streaming sets, late night parties, early morning ambience and more, carefully constructed to complement the sonic landscape. Speaking of sonic landscape, this year also features an ambient sound and light installation in the woods that will lay host to both extreme chill out sessions and woodland dance parties. All of this alongside, of course, traditional summer yard games, a river casino, a bar, and onsite camping (there are hotel rooms available across the street if you prefer). All of these serve the Back 40’s mission of returning sound to its place in the environment instead of isolated from it.

CONFIRMED ARTISTS INCLUDE:
/Group of the Altos
//Double Ewes
///Corcovado
////Pioneer
////Anna Vogelzang

/////Julian Lynch (DJ set)

+more to come!

THE BACK 40

Posted on Thursday July 7th 2011 at 04:05pm. Its tags are listed below.

Kid Koala
—  Moon River

The Back 40 Branded seal represents events which we recommend because they embody our spirit of collective exploration and discovery. It is a chance to rediscover the curiosity we share for art via original models of production, presentation and participation.

Kid Koala

la musique electronique @ la fête de marquette // e washington ave and south dickinson st // july 8 // 8:40pm

One of my fondest memories of Bonnaroo 2003 was a short mainstage dj set by Kid Koala. As the summer sun set long over the crowd of some tens of thousands of people waiting for whichever band would soon take the stage, a rendition of Moon River that rivals the gorgeous original drifted across the sea of humanity amassed in front of me and created a temporary transcendental lull that no drug could hope to replicate.

I anticipate an encore of this atmosphere in the much more intimate and familiar setting of this year’s Fete de Marquette, one of the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s banner summer festivals. And though the rest of the weekend’s (free! outdoor!) festivities are worth participating in as well, this is the performance I look forward to most. In the meantime, enjoy this taste of his recent Daytrotter session.

The Back 40 is on Twitter

Just started work on a list to follow some of my favorite cultural creatives on Twitter. Follow it for regular doses of inspiration, discovery and conversation on topics ranging from music, design, and food, to politics, writing and more.

Photos of Corcovado’s album recording in Janesville coming soon, as is the EP.
Photos of Corcovado’s album recording in Janesville coming soon, as is the EP.

Photos of Corcovado’s album recording in Janesville coming soon, as is the EP.

Can Madison sustain the Overture Center?

[note: This piece is a response to a debate I got into on Twitter with local blogger/journalist/foodie/all around renaissance man Kyle Nabilcy. In the interest of impartiality I did not read his response before publishing this piece.]


Newly minted Mayor Soglin has initiated a firestorm of commentary over his recent prediction that, without significant correction, the Overture Center is doomed to “crash and burn”. While I’m sure he meant this with no hint of hyperbole, as I mean this with no hint of sarcasm, he is doing the right thing by forcing our community to consider the landscape of arts and culture in Madison and evaluating the best steps forward toward creating a sustainable cultural community. His work prior to mayorship on the Overture’s ad hoc committee and his blog commentary on the issue was very astute and a significant reason that I supported and continue to support him as he plays devil’s advocate to our city’s well founded, but fragmented, arts base.

 

Let me start with a disclaimer. To say that the Overture is struggling is not telling the whole story. In fact, I would argue that the Overture Center is, by most measures, the best run, most beautiful and most community responsive arts organization in Madison and perhaps the entire midwest. I had the very rare opportunity of working with the management and staff of the Overture Center in planning both years of the Forward Festival and from contract to curtain it was one the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life. The management there (especially Susan and Rudy) went out of their way to be accommodating to our event in any way they could and in a way that no one else in Madison did. Every meeting we had, every little detail, every minor concern, every person we interacted with, was more professional and treated us with more respect than anyone else in the arts community I have yet to have a chance to work with. They truly exude a genuine desire to make the Overture succeed and to understand how to accomplish that. There is no doubt that they are doing the best they can with the cards that they’ve been handed. Any dire prediction about the Overture coming to fruition will be no fault of its management and by no lack of trying to correct it in any capacity they can.

 

So why then do we find ourselves in this situation?

 

Primarily, and obviously, a bum economy and sour investments. But it’s not as simple as saying the economy has negatively impacted ticket sales. The Overture has made well founded and dynamic programming decisions and their continually rising ticket sales are one of the most compelling reasons to keep subsidizing them, even if ticket sales alone are a long way from paying down the significant debt that they find themselves in. The fundamental issue at this point is fundraising. I saw this shrinking local donor base firsthand as a member of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission. Corporate partners and private donors alike are in significant decline locally and nationally and are forcing nonprofits to struggle more than ever to fulfill their missions. This is toxic to a place like the Overture Center, which despite their truly accessible and diverse community impact, is still a luxury item for our region and largely caters toward an affluent subscriber base. More than ever, the conversation needs to be refocused toward addressing that those patrons who appreciate what the Overture offers and can afford to support it need to step up and put their money where their mouth is.

 

But with Overture CEO Tom Carto hired largely due to his success and experience in fundraising prior to relocating to Madison, it’s time to make him fight for his job and prove how he is going to turn these numbers around. A change at the top could prove to be the best thing for the Overture Center at this juncture and send a strong message to the community that the city understands the problem and has identified a clear direction forward with a leader who can bring them there. There are plenty of strong internal candidates who should consider putting their hat in the ring. Moreover, identifying a candidate who is an active member of the local cultural community and understands the impact of the Overture on it should be considered a top priority.

 

This also reveals a fundamental problem with a project of this scale in our city. On paper, and by the numbers, our community was ready for the Overture. We are growing and culturally aware, but we are also a community that responds to grassroots initiatives that are progressive and at times experimental. The Overture was from inception a top down approach to cultural development. The project was funded largely by one gift rather than by building a large donor base. Compare this to the Garver Feed Mill project which was supported vigorously by the community in theory (77% of Madison voted to support it in referendum) but was shelved recently when it fell significantly short of fundraising goals. Sometimes, even frustratingly, often, community support isn’t the only indication of a project’s success in our city. We either need more community support financially or we need to resign ourselves to the fact that there just isn’t a large enough donor base in Madison to support a sustainable large scale arts project yet, even when we can justify it in theory.

 

We also need to rethink our approach to public policy and make culture and the arts front and center. This means primarily more flexible zoning so that small scale arts can thrive. The needs of arts organizations extend beyond the pervasive financial stressors that cripple their impact and leads on so much of the local arts coverage. Spaces like The Project Lodge, a cooperatively run DIY all ages arts space, struggle to remain active resources in the community, especially due to recent city intervention threatening the future of significant resources that have kept our young and emerging arts scene thriving and full of vitality at its own expense. We need this next generation of artists and audiences to be assimilated into this public conversation, as they are the ones who will sustain these projects into the future.

 

So what we are left with is this: Is the Overture Center a necessity in our community? Who will step up to make and support the argument financially? And what will happen if we can’t do that? These are the questions that an overdue citywide survey of our cultural landscape needs to address and without which we would be foolish to move forward. Bravo, Mayor Soglin, for leading this charge.

A recent dusting of snow on the ground here in Madison can only mean one thing: summer is right around the corner.

On Memorial Day weekend (May 27-28) Volume One in Eau Claire again hosts their Chippewa Valley Rock-n-Roll Kickball Classic. This year promises more of the greatness of last: bands (last year was headlined by the Shouting Matches, a project of local legends Justin Vernon and Brian Moen), bbq (yum), and beer (including a prize for the team that consumes the most). For the occasion, we’re gonna dust off the Madison Hype Initiative earlier than usual.

I’m looking for up to 12 people interested in coming together to kick off the summer with. If you are interested, please fill out The Chippewa Valley Rock-n-Roll Kickball Classic Back40 Team Signup Form.

Rock County Folk Symposium Questionnaire

THE BACK 40

Posted on Tuesday April 5th 2011 at 12:30pm. Its tags are listed below.

Yellow Ostrich
—  2011.04.04

der Rathskeller (Madison, WI)

The Back Forty

Inspiration for The Back 40 came, as so many ideas do, in a bottle of beer. While lamenting the narrow focus of many music and design blogs I stared onto the label of the New Glarus beer I held in my hand

The “Back Forty” is property commonly found on the outskirts of the Wisconsin family farm. Here uncultivated acres wait prime for adventure- forts, tree houses, rope swings and first kisses! A place to run away, to camp, to climb, to build, to play. Not actually home but not too far away. That’s the Back Forty. The beer you hold is similar, both dark and adventurous, still smooth and familiar. Here’s a beer you can enjoy without pretense or explanation. Every mind requires some acres of possibility, space for dreams, the great escape, everyone needs a Back Forty.

This is a site dedicated to Wisconsin’s thriving and burgeoning creative class. Its aim will be on highlighting the work of independent creatives and surveying the cultural landscape of especially Wisconsin and the midwest.

What I have set out to do is not to create a music blog, though the focus, especially in these early stages of development, will be bent toward music or work inspired by music. This is an experiment in the interconnectedness and synthesis of all forms of art and culture, the Gesamtkunstwerk that invites us to consider and be inspired by the systematic impact of design, beauty and aesthetics in whatever forms it takes in our day to day lives.

Watch also for this idea to manifest itself in events which embody these principles. This is something I’ve already begun to explore with projects like The Rock County Folk Symposium, but will be elaborated on in the future with a similar goal of capturing the daring and spirit of possibility that experimentation fosters and that drives us to create.

The idea of the back forty resonates boldly with me and serves as an apt metaphor for this new project. Spring brings with it the return of life, a time for us to sow new seeds and anticipate the harvest of life that sustains us into the days ahead.

Thanks for watching this idea grow and develop with me.

forward,

wyndham