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, two and three.
And now … here’s Scott:
Claire Kelly; Genre: Acoustic Heart Songs
Claire Kelly writes honest songs that speak to a feeling and bring joy to her audiences. With a new EP, “Don’t Quit Your Daydream” and some success in “the sync” — that’s when artists get their songs on T.V. shows and commercials – Kelly’s genial glow is winning hearts in Nashville and across the nation. At the core of her message: Well written songs that exude optimism, both in content and in delivery. Her best work may well be “The Restless and the Reckless” from 2017. “There’s a fine line between the restless and the reckless. I, try, to make sense of the mass debate. There’s no reason I should, shy away from life. That makes us come alive.”
Me Like Bees; Genre: Whirl and Crunch Indie Rock
Me Like Bees is a taste that everyone needs to acquire. Making their fourth Mile appearance, the four men from Joplin, Missouri have put a permanent sting on Appleton, an indelible mark from a band that has become the standard for excellence at the annual festival. Every song is a masterful rock and roll gem, some jouncy and light, others dark and heavy. Lead singer Luke Scheafer is a compelling figure on stage and his short burst screams, rapid fire lyrics and clever audience connections set the tone for the whirl and crunch of the rhythm section. Come find out what the buzz is about.
Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish; Genre: Nimble-witted Rockabilly
While there are only two catfish in this pond – lead whiskerfish Jesse Ray and frenetic beat-master Dingo (Brando) Hop – they wow audiences with unbridled enthusiasm and intrepid pacing. Ray provides thrashing guitar in the spirit of Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and Brian Setzer and Elvis-on-Monster vocals. He also kills it on harmonica, steel guitar and a sneer that is nothing but charming. These are songs for the ages. Don’t miss one of the sweetest fishing holes at this year’s Mile.
Honeysuckle; Genre: Americana Folk
A rite of passage is children plucking honeysuckle blossoms to suck out the flower’s sweet tasting nectar. Holly McGarry’s warm voice, coupled with sweet harmonies and traditional instrument-picking from Benjamin Burns and Chris Bloniarz, transform that imagery into euphony. On songs like “Canary,” “Catacombs” and the mandolin-laced “Gaslight,” from their latest release, “Fire Starter,” Boston-based Honeysuckle brings modern inspiration to older roots sounds. The end result is delightful, musical nectar. (Photo below.)
Mike Main and the Branches; Genre: Indie Pop Rock
The Branches latest, “When We Were In Love,” exemplifies the magic that five years ago brought Mike and Shannon Main together in marriage and music. With bouncy pop tricks in the style of Wild, the Head and the Heart and Mile 6 favorites The National Parks, Mike and the Branches provide danceable tunes with traditional romantic themes (“Pouring Rain,” “Live Forever” ) and more introspective concepts (“Holy Ghost,” “Endless Rain.”) The strength of the band is Main’s carefully articulated vocal delivery and the Branches’ synth-sonic interpretations. This is roses in the rain pop rock that should be flooding radio waves. It always starts with dancing in the aisles.
Ginstrings; Genre: Bluegrass
Ginstrings dubs itself 33 strings and harmony, an apt description for wistful, pensive lyrics and perfectly synced bluegrass instrumentation. You might not remember all the words, but the melodies of fast paced songs like “Blue Cheese” and more introspective numbers (“Searching for Ann Marie”) are infectious. Dobro, bass, mandolin, guitar, fiddle and banjo weave through vocal exchanges to create some very lovely moments. The Minneapolis-quintet is bound and determined to make your soul dance and pull at your heart (gin) strings.