Washington Park Wednesdays – Summer 2018
by Kate Flood
The cat is officially out of the bag. Gone are the days where we could spend our Summer Wednesdays basking in the majestic rolling lawn of the Washington Park Bandshell with only our closest friends and neighbors. In its 80th year, the iconic park is on the verge of a renaissance and whether we like it or not, we have to share it with the rest of our fine city (a city, one could argue, on the verge of its own renaissance in many ways).
But this is precisely what Washington Park Neighbors and their Washington Park Wednesdays’ planning committee has set out to do. They’re building an elevated platform in order to adhere to their mission of unifying the park’s surrounding neighborhoods while highlighting for the rest of Milwaukee how vibrant the Westside is. One way they are accomplishing this task is by providing a truly diverse and multi-faceted weekly experience during the Summer months in order to redefine what a free music in the park series can be, for us Westsiders and for the Festival City as a whole.
The 2018 Season brings back the popular theme nights, carefully curated so audience members, as well as sponsors, can hand pick shows they’d like to attend and promote or simply swing through for all nine weeks and have a completely different experience each time. This year’s sponsorships include the wonderful folks at Washington Heights Neighborhood Association, Uptown Crossing, 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, The Brew City Bruisers, The Urban Ecology Center, Quorum Architects, Milwaukee County Parks, Outpost and Town Bank to name a few.
The one and only Summerfest has stepped in this year and Gruber Law Offices has joined the party as well. Milwaukee Center for Independence and Hunger Task Force are providing free meals to hungry children at all nine shows. Kids will also have their popular game area back and can run the track on their bikes and scooters until the sun comes down all to the dreamiest and rockingest of Summertime soundtracks.
Abby Jeane returns to headline the season opener on June 27 with the community music collective Freespace opening. Freespace is in part the brainchild of Milwaukee artist Webster X and is designed to give burgeoning musicians a chance to perform alongside more well-established acts. They have monthly concerts currently at the Riverwest Jazz Gallery and it’s very exciting that June’s showcase will be at the Washington Park Bandshell. The season opener will also double as the season’s Ladies’ Night – celebrating the imperative contributions of women to Milwaukee’s music scene. The 2018 season wraps on August 29 with a premiere project of Jay Anderson and Tarik Moody’s Diaspora Arkestra which is certain to blow many minds.
And speaking of minds being blown, in the weeks between the season opener and closer there is the crème de la crème of what’s happening in regional music right now. Fresh off their second tour of Europe, Nickel&Rose will partner with the ever-illustrious Sista Strings. The two duos will be hosted by the Urban Ecology Center who just announced a $12 million enhancement to the Washington Park UEC site. Before their international Spring tour, Nickel&Rose brought the music of Arlo Guthrie to Turner Hall with an onslaught of who’s who joining them on stage. B~Free aligns with this ethos when she brings her vision and entourage to celebrate the music of Prince. Having wrapped their midwest tour with Sylvan Esso and released their highly-anticipated album Hawaii, Collections of Colonies of Bees will share the stage with REYNA, who are headlining Pridefest this year. The New South Rampart Street Paraders, many of whom live in the neighborhood, will take you straight to NOLA for the night while Dead Man’s Carnival returns to amaze and delight the crowd. If you’ve been meaning to check out one of the many Salsa nights and classes that are popping up all over town, Chicago Cuban Fest headliners Rumbambere are coming in to bring the crowd to their feet and Danny Balderas of Salsabrosa will show them how to move those feet for an entire night. If wheels are more your thing, radio darlings No No Yeah OK headline bike night along with School of Rock alumni and festival crowd favorites, Negative/Positive. A critical mass style group ride will enter the park at the evening’s start, so be sure to join.
This is just a dusting of what’s to come at Washington Park Wednesdays. Be a part of this historic moment for this historic space by contributing to our crowdfunding initiative and/or exploring sponsorship levels. For more information on ways to realize this vision and more, visit the website – washingtonparkneighbors.com – or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Milwaukee’s best kept secret can’t remain a secret forever..