With 221 acts on the way and 60 venues to explore, Mile of Music can leave even the most dedicated music fans struggling to figure out where to start.
Scott Peeples of Appleton has more mileage than most on his odometer, having taken in 40 full shows and 17 partial shows at last year’s festival alone. Scott does his homework in advance of the festival to get the most from his Mile of Music experience. He shares his research and top picks with friends.
Scott is graciously allowing Valley Review to share his recommendations heading into a big Mile 7. We’ll be running them on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays leading into the festival. Click here for volume one or volume two.
And now … here’s Scott:
Genevieve Heyward; Genre: Tripping Americana
Rhyming Mona Lisa with “nice to meet ya” is as clever as Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah/do ya word play but that’s the least of Genevieve Heyward’s talents, which include Elton John-like piano playing, an ebullient stage presence and an unquenchable thirst for live performance. Few early 20-somethings have endeared themselves to Appleton audiences like Genevieve Heyward. (One other is Hannah Wicklund, who captivated the Red Lion Paper Valley Hotel Courtyard crowd on July 10.) One night she’s playing solo, the next she’s partnering with a singer songwriter or with her full band, the North. Heyward’s versatility is equaled only by her pertinacity. On the heels of her ambitious debut, “It’s Not Like Anyone’s Listening,” her latest, “The River,” takes her down unchartered Americana roads but her indestructibly beautiful voice still rises to the top. This girl is on fire.
Michelle Mandico; Genre: Celestial Folk Pop
It’s been awhile since Michelle Mandico found her bliss on the ski hills of Colorado, but her soaring, snow-bright voice evokes visions of that grandeur. Back for an encore Mile appearance, Mandico’s lilting voice demands attention on songs like “Sister,” “Water Bearer,” and the autobiographical, “First Winter Without Colorado.” From the first note, Mandico’s voice captures your attention and holds on until the silence carries. Meanwhile, the entrancing melody plays on in your head.
Wyland; Genre: Indie 80s Rock
If the talent is there, it seems only right to make space for a high flying New Jersey rock n’ roll band. Wyland fits the bill with their bright light, big guitar, resonant vocal sound. With musical influences like U2’s “I Will Follow” and early Police, Ryan Sloan (vocals, piano and guitar) leads the quintet that has toured extensively in New York and made a splash across the pond in U2’s homeland. Check out their song, “Nowhere Now.”
Sway Wild; Genre: Folksy Roots Rock
She’s a little bit Bonnie (Raitt), he’s a little bit Jeffrey Foucault. Sway Wild, the musical vision of Mandy Fer and Dave McGraw, is an amalgam of roots, folk, popping ’70 electric guitar and a cool harmonious wale that pulls it together. There’s a wild new name but the duo has been honing its unique sound since their 2012 release, “Seed of Pine.” Sway Wild’s first record comes out this summer. While together they make a delightful musical pair, Fer’s stage-gliding smooth guitar licks are worth the price of admission.
Brother Oliver; Genre: Psychedelic Acoustic Rock
Dueling acoustic guitar and mandolin licks, infectious inflected vocals and a quirky chemistry that comes with actual brothers, Brother Oliver has sharpened its game with 250 shows in 12 months. Their sound is somewhere between Simple Minds, the Belle Weather and Be Bop Deluxe. Brother oh brother, from South Carolina (via Michigan), Stephen and Andrew Oliver.
Nikki Morgan; Genre: Americana
Lovers of ‘60s folk rock, clearly spoken word strings and playful acoustic guitar as an escort will appreciate Nikki Morgan’s 2019 Mile debut. Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, she’s perfected her craft the last five years in the Chicago music scene. Influences include Etta James, Johnny Cash, Nickel Creek, Dolly Parton and her childhood gospel roots. On “Everything I Am,” she struggles with self-esteem and the approval of others: “Every time I deviate I hit a wall/Why can’t I be what I want?” And her crass confession song, “Little Sunday Sessions,” shows how far she’s strayed from the church choir. Every song has a strength of its own and Morgan’s swagger is as charming as it is haughty.