Concert kicks off Arts on the Square
By Angie Landsverk
This year’s ninth annual Arts on the Square Street Dance will feature Davina and the Vagabonds, a blues and jazz act based out of Minneapolis.
The band will kick off the arts festival when it plays for the free street dance from 7-10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, in downtown Waupaca.
Davina and the Vagabonds tours throughout the United States and Europe, averaging more than 250 shows a year, said Stephen Laedtke, who is the Waupaca Community Arts Board’s (WCAB) music and talent coordinator.
The arts board organizes Arts on the Square (AOTS), with funding from Community First Credit Union, city of Waupaca motel room tax dollars, anonymous donations, arts board sponsored events and individual donations.
With a goal of making the festival fresh and better each year, it decided to open the event with this band, he said.
“It was a leap of faith for the WCAB to book Davina and the Vagabonds for the street dance. A couple of board members had previously seen Davina perform, so when she was playing in the area again, we made it a point to get additional board members to go,” Laedtke said. “The captivating talent, energy and the band’s personal connection with the audience convinced us that Waupaca should host them. A successful community fundraising effort with many generous arts minded individuals and businesses allowed the WCAB to fit Davina and the Vagabonds into the budget.”
Playing numerous jazz festivals, including Monterey, New Orleans and Hell, Norway, the band brings 100 years of music history to those venues, he said.
The band features Davina Sowers on vocals, piano and ukulele, Dan Eikmeier on trumpet/vocals, Ben Link on trombone/vocals, Connor McRae Hammergren on drums and vocals and Matt Blake on upright bass.
“She’s very theatrical and funny and sincere. You feel like she’s your friend,” said WCAB President Marci Reynolds. “She connects a lot with the audience, and people dance to it. We want to retain that dance aspect.”
Sowers has been compared to Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Betty Boop.
The band’s influences range from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits.
“It’s just very great musicianship. They appeal to all ages,” Reynolds said.
With music and dancing for the whole family, Laedtke encourages people to make a night of it when they attend this year’s street dance.
“Besides the music and dancing, there will be a firespinning act with Broegy Pease during the band’s intermission,” he said.
In addition, vendors will offer a wide variety of festival food, with beer and other beverages available.
The following day, the city square will be filled with music on three stages, a poetry tent, a variety of workshops, a community art project and dozens of artists displaying and selling their work.
The Saturday, Aug. 15, activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“After raising the bar for this year’s entertainment lineup, the WCAB is already looking ahead to next year’s 10th annual AOTS. For that upcoming milestone event, we will be exploring ways to showcase even more of the diverse and amazing local talent and bring in additional exciting acts to our community,” Laedtke said.