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July 23, 2018
An Insider’s Guide To Musikfest
Cover photo taken by Ted Colegrove
This is going to be my 14th Musikfest as part of the ArtsQuest team. Friends often ask for some insider information, ways to best enjoy the ‘fest from my perspective. Despite my many years of behind-the-scenes Musikfest experience, this remains to be a very difficult thing for me to wrap my head around.
Here’s the thing: everyone experiences Musikfest very differently. That’s really what makes the festival so very special. Our mighty ‘fest is quite literally woven into the heart of the city itself and, as a result, every stage, every food vendor, and every single visit to the ‘fest is a little different.
Some people walk to the festival, others take advantage of the satellite parking lots and shuttle service (I highly recommend this, so you don’t waste time – http://www.musikfest.org/info/directions-parking/). Some people keep their ‘festing limited to the activities at SteelStacks, while others don’t ever leave their spot under the Wells Fargo Festplatz tent. Everyone’s Musikfest is a unique experience and that’s not a bad thing.
I pass no judgement on whatever your favorite ‘fest strategy is—whether you’re just people watching or just there for the food. That said, I’m going to share some of my favorites as well as some tips and tricks (because this is my article and I can do what I want).
The Main Stage
There are 11 days of headline performances this year (http://www.musikfest.org/lineup/ticketed/). If I wasn’t working, I’d be at Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown (8/2), Kesha (8/7) and Gary Clark Jr. (8/8). The Voodoo Threauxdown Tour is a celebration of New Orleans’ 300th Anniversary and I’m told that city knows how to party. Kesha is returning to Musikfest… the last time she was here I saw the most ridiculously amazing show I’ve ever seen. I’m still not sure what happened. Gary Clark Jr. is a guitar god—do yourself a favor and just Google him. You’re welcome.
This year’s Sands Steel Stage lineup is arguably one of the most diverse lineups we’ve ever had and I’m very excited.
The Free Stages
For many people, the free stages are Musikfest. Do yourself a favor and download the free Musikfest app (http://www.musikfest.org/app) and make your own custom schedule. You’ll never remember everything you want to see without it.
Some of this year’s blockbuster free stage shows include The Original Wailers, Marc Broussard, Marshall Crenshaw, Squirrel Nut Zippers, We Are Scientists, Colony House and GGOOLLDD.
Here’s my very special suggestion for you. A few years back Qiet (http://www.musikfest.org/event/6839/qiet/) played Musikfest, right after a storm had blown through. As a result, the audience consisted of like me, Patrick, and the sound guy. It remains one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time and I was super bummed no one else got to see it. I’m very excited that they’re coming back to Musikfest this year on Saturday, 8/11, at 7pm at IBEW Local 375 Volksplatz.
‘Fest Food: The Favorites
I eat lunch and dinner and second dinner at Musikfest every day for ten days straight. As a result, I’m uniquely qualified to give ‘fest food advice/recommendations. Last year I crowned my personal all time favorite ‘fest food—The Brown and White roast beef sandwich from the Fud Truck (https://www.facebook.com/FudTruk/) at SteelStacks. It’s a roast beef sandwich with local cheddar, onions, and garlic aioli. I ate 13 of them last year. I’m not kidding. 13.
Also, if you have extra tickets, consider buying Aw Shucks seasoning. They sell their legendary spice blend at the ‘fest and it’s great on eggs.
Stay Cool: Air-Conditioning
It’s August and it’s hot and humid. During the ‘fest, come to SteelStacks. Not only are the restrooms air-conditioned (!) but there are 3 venues inside the ArtsQuest Center that serve as a great way to catch more free music and recharge at the same time.
Seriously, Get The App
There are 500 performances at the festival. The app is the easiest and most accurate way to figure out what is going on when and where. Also, it’s free, so what are you waiting for, slacker?
Late Night Comedy At SteelStacks
Fun fact: when the north side closes at 11pm each night, SteelStacks still has performances! In addition to late night concerts on the town square, there are 6 FREE late night comedy shows (http://www.musikfest.org/musik-festivities/comedy-shows/). What a fun way to avoid that Musikfest-just-closed traffic!
There you have it, some “insider information” to help better your ‘festing. Have fun and we’ll see you at Musikfest!