While the vast majority of Mid West Music Fest acts are indeed Midwesterners and neighbors from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and both Dakotas, we will also have some visitors who are traveling a longer distance to join the festivities. Sorry Claudia Schmidt, Rivals of the Peacemaker, and Rooster Noodle Soup, but the Upper Peninsula, Chicago, and St.Louis are not quite far enough to make this list.
Nashville Tennessee, 800 miles down the road, qualifies. And so, too, do Jack Norton and The Zinghoppers. Norton, a former Winonan, often teamed up with folks like Ben Weaver and Sandman, playing almost every stage in town from the corner bar to Levee Park, and everywhere in between. Less familiar faces can be seen in the other Tennessee act, The Zinghoppers — for they consist of costumed animals Penelope the Funky Possum, Coconuts the Kangaroo, Olo the Donkey, along with DJ Kitty and Conductor Jack. Influenced by hip-hop and electro dance music, The Zinghoppers tour internationally and have an Emmy Award-winning television series.
Denver’s Anthony Ruptak will be traveling 900 miles to kick off his spring tour, which is his first U.S. tour ever! Ruptak was born, raised, and homeschooled in Colorado and is a self-taught musician who writes with equal shares of heart and mind. Influenced by Nick Cave and Charles Bukowski, it’s no wonder critics note he has “an old soul for such a young man.”
Brooklyn, New York, is 1,100 miles in the other direction, and is home to two MWMF acts — Cuddle Magic and KaiserCartel. Cuddle Magic comprises six multi-instrumentalist singers and songwriters who like to play quietly and close together. They performed to a silently stunned crowd at Some Sum Studio a few months ago and, after being shown the Winona Arts Center, are extremely excited about returning to play that “perfectly suited” room. KaiserCartel is Brooklyn duo Courtney Kaiser (former backing singer for John Mellencamp and for the Wallflowers) and Benjamin Cartel, who have played SXSW and 80-35 Festivals and Red Rocks Amphitheater. They’ve been compared to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris but think they are more like “Lucy and Ricky.”
Lisa Germano (Los Angeles via Indiana) is on this leg of the tour with KaiserCartel. Germano is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with widespread critical acclaim, recording a top album of the 1990s according to Spin magazine. She has sung on over 60 records, including those of John Mellencamp, Simple Minds, David Bowie, Yann Tiersen, Neil Finn, Sheryl Crow, Iggy Pop, Jewel and Eels.
Flying over 1,400 miles from Las Vegas is former Winonan Casey Korder and The Rumble Pups, a staple of many music bills in the 2000s. Winona would recognize a cow suit and ukulele onstage, or Casey behind the knobs as a sound man. The Rumble Pups play lo-fi unpolished folk music and were featured in the film “Rock That Uke.”
The Pacific Northwest is providing two return acts to Winona: Kendl Winter and Jenn Rawling & Basho Parks. Newly signed to K Records, Olympia, Washington’s Winter first appeared in Winona in 2004 with two bands: The Pasties and The Blackberry Bushes. Since that first tour that covered the now defunct Victorian Fair and Green Lantern, Kendl has appeared numerous times in the area. Jenn Rawling and Basho Parks, from Portland Oregon, have also become familiar faces in the area and have fallen in love with the Driftless Region. Last spotted at Boats and Bluegrass, Jenn and Basho play sweet, harmony-rich, indie folk music recently inspired by the Winona area. (Their new album is titled for an area home and the frac sand issue has made it into their repertoire.)
But the easy award for “Farthest Traveled” goes to Brett Newski, coming from halfway around the world to kick off a U.S. tour. Newski is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist living in Saigon, Vietnam. He has toured Southeast Asia alone for six months, writing and recording his first solo album in budget hostels and apartments across Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and the Philippines. Coined the “Homeless in Asia Tour,” Newski completed 30 shows in unconventional venues including Couchsurfer Apartments, convenience stores, record shops, and residential rooftops, while also playing club shows. Last year Newski completed a 20-date tour across South Africa, traveling exclusively on public transportation.
It’s 8,493 miles from Saigon, Vietnam (aka Ho Chi Minh City) to Winona, but Brett Newski seems more than capable of making it work. He’ll be playing in at Broken World Records on Saturday if you’d like to invite him to crash on your couch! Visit midwestmusicfest.org to learn more about all these (and other) acts.