WHAT: Steel Bridge Song Fest 5
WHEN: June 11-14
WHERE: Various locations, Sturgeon Bay
COST: $25 weekend pass, $250 VIP pass General admission to Saturday and Sunday's "Take it to the Bridge!" street concert is FREE!
Nighttime venues (except Thursday) are paid admission only.
Individual venue admission for attendees without passes will vary and are subject to change.
Bridge as metaphor. Bridge as inspiration. Musical bridges…
The idea was to save the Michigan Street Bridge in Sturgeon Bay from the wrecking ball. A grassroots group formed to raise money for and public awareness of the bridge. A byproduct of the group’s interest in historic preservation was a weeklong gathering of musicians, now known as the Steel Bridge song Fest.
The event culminates in a series of concerts around Sturgeon Bay and in a yacht yard in the shadow of the bridge, with a wide variety of music by local, state, national and international artists. Jackson Browne has headlined at the final main concert every year.
But what the public does not see is how the week starts off, with a group of invited songwriters convening and collaborating to create new music that somehow relates to the bridge or a bridge. The best of those songs are released annually on a Steel Bridge Songs CD, with each year’s recording appearing on disc at the next year’s festival. Proceeds from the sales go to a bridge fund held by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
As he has ever year since its inception, Jackson Browne headlines the main concert in the yacht yard beneath the old steel bridge.
The list of 150 or so performers is amazing. Check it out on the website, sbsf5.com. Here’s a partial list of just local bands/artists appearing at the festival: Andy’s Automatics, Blueheels, Chris Aaron, Dana Erlandson, Honky Tonk Twisters, Ifdakar, Nicki Sims, Profane, The Wandering Foolz.
We’ve heard stories of how musicians are so charmed by the area and the event and all the other musicians that they cannot help but return. Adam Mackintosh, a West Coast native, went one step beyond. He moved to Door County. We caught up with him for a few questions.
SCENE: Did you actually move here after participating in the fest? Which year was that and how did it happen? Had you run into pat mAcdonald on the music circuit?
ADAM MACKINTOSH: Yeah, actually. I met Chris Aaron at the second Steel Bridge (2006) and he invited me out to Denver to do some writing with him. We were doing some tracking in Madison with Clyde Stubblefield on drums and playing shows in the region when I slipped on some ice and broke my ankle in three places. Chris dropped me off in Sturgeon Bay where I had 6-8 weeks to heal up and got to know Door County. I did sponsorship for the festival and got to know more about the area and the people. Portland was completely behind me at that point, and falling in love with Anna (Sacks) pretty much sealed the deal. Anna had been working on the Holiday Music Motel project with pat, Jackson Browne and several others so we got an apartment and started doing things like the Songwriter Showcase to keep the vibe going through the winter. pat I met several years ago in Barcelona while on tour there, through our friend Eric McFadden.
SCENE: Where were you coming from (I saw a reference to Portland on the website)?
AM: I lived in Portland for 6 years and managed/booked Dante's while taking yearly trips to Spain to tour with my band. Before that I was in New Orleans for 5 years and San Francisco before that, which is where I actually "came from."
SCENE: What was it that attracted you to the area? Was there a "eureka" moment to the decision?
AM: Well, I was attracted to Anna and by the idea of working with the festival. The "Eureka" came in a slow motion sort of way, fanned out in the frames of 2 years' work. Somewhere around the "K" I think it started to make sense, when I realized the potential to be a full-time musician in this place. I began teaching kids guitar and composition, doing songwriter showcases all over the region and playing lots of shows in smoky Wisconsin taverns. Having a guitar in my hands the majority of the day has been a truly worthwhile endeavor. When I put The Last Dancers together things really started to get hustling. Now we're booked through summer on the peninsula and are recording a great deal of original music.
Since the fest is the result of grassroots volunteerism, has your role in the festival grown?
My role these days is more like an Ambassador. I tell people how great it is and to graciously accept if they are invited.
What is your role in this year's fest? Anything in particular you are looking forward to this year?
At this point my involvement is mostly musical, which is where I have worked very hard to be. I still help in a behind-the-scenes sort of way but it's more long-term and community based. Doing more outreach to other musicians nationally and working more venues into the actual routing of the musicians getting to the festival. For example, I've set up a show at a new venue this year with Player/Kommander from Birmingham, Alabama, that will help offset their travel costs to get James Hall here for the week of writing.
This year I am looking forward to a large group of cutting-edge musical creatives working together amid the borders of chaos. I think some very special things are going to come of it.
Is music your sole source of income? If so, did your standard of living change here?
Music is about 75% of my income these days and live shows, CD sales and teaching seem to be where it actually comes from. My standard? It used to be worry all the time, now it's rock all the time, so yes, it's changed dramatically.
What do you think of the music scene in northeastern Wisconsin?
It's pretty weird at first, especially coming from a hoity-toity place like Portland. But what you start to figure out eventually is that the audiences here know their music, they like to party and are generally very down to earth. Once you figure out how to make the kids and the wigs dance at a fish boil, you've arrived.
I can say this, there is a serious venue shortage statewide and many of the places out there could really benefit from adding a stage or a house sound system to their spaces. It would make mid-liner touring acts consider Wisconsin a more viable market to play in.
Want to say anything about Doorcountyscene.com (an online music calendar/promotional site he created for the Door County music scene)?
Beyond all the great songs written and recorded here by songwriters in the county (that stream free in the flash player), this year I've set up individual pages for some of the artists who tour through Door County in the Summer on the site, since I have very little time to administrate it these days. What's cool about that is everyone's Myspace calendar is listed so you can see when and where they will appear all season and those pages link back to the artist's pages so you can listen and learn more about them.
Also, several new venues are on there now that have just started having music this season, like The Fishing Hole.
Any regrets about moving here?
None. It has been great and I have met many great people I will know all my life.
Anything else people should know about Adam Mackintosh?
I have a song called Steam Train in a film coming out later this season called Westbound. It was made by Arketype, a Green Bay media company. It has music by pat mAcdonald, Melaniejane and Victoria Vox.