Moon Dance Festival set for July 20-22
By Ben Rodgers
Fans of the genre can experience some toe-tapping, highfalutin, finger-picking bluegrass at the Moon Dance Festival July 20-22 in Fremont.
The three-day festival features an eclectic mix of local and regional talent along with one of the biggest names in modern bluegrass, Keller Williams.
Williams, on his acoustic guitar, headlines the event with a set from Keller’s Grateful Grass, a rotating ensemble of some of the biggest names in bluegrass covering Grateful Dead songs.
“It’s just exciting to have different energies playing the same type of music, the same type of way, bringing different things together,” Williams said. “It’s really exciting and I’m grateful I’m able to do it because it should be illegal. Things this fun are usually illegal.”
Williams will be joined by Jeff Austin on mandolin, formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band.
Previously on his Grateful Grass sets Williams has been joined by Keith Moseley from the String Cheese Incident and Andy Falco from the Infamous Stringdusters, to name a few.
“Luckily there’s a whole pool of folks who have allowed me into their world’s, which is unfathomable in some regards, but this has happened, and usually everyone is different,” Williams said of the changing Grateful Grass lineups.
However, Williams did warn that the Dead songs played at Moon Dance won’t include staples such as “Truckin’,” “Casey Jones,” “Touch of Gray,” or “Sugar Magnolia.”
“It’s a general love of the songs and understanding of the bluegrass style and bringing those two together and taking great liberties in celebrating this music in different fashions,” he said. “That is what Grateful Grass is all about, loose interpretations and massive liberties being taken.”
Williams is sure he will bring the same caliber show to Moon Dance that has brought to other major festivals including Bonnaroo, Rothbury, now known as Electric Forest, and Gathering of the Vibes.
“The smaller festivals are where the beauty and the love and the energy are for me,” he said. I look forward to it, to playing the ones off the beaten path.”
Still he has played in front of thousands of people, with massive subwoofers and LCD screens. At the same time Williams said he understands the importance of smaller local festivals.
“The coolest thing about it is festivals have taken on a formula of how to be run and a lot of these smaller festivals have grabbed on to that, and the fact that they are small, the music means more and it’s more meaningful,” Williams said.
Jon Schinke co-owns Moon Dance with Curt Biese. Schinke said the location of Fremont is perfect for attracting local talent from Green Bay, Appleton and beyond.
“The location as it relates to the Fox Valley area made it extremely desirable,” he said. “Our base of operation is in the Appleton area and being able to be 20 minutes from our doorstep made it extremely desirable.”
Acts from around the area coming to Moon Dance that people may recognize include Burnt Toast and Jam from Shawano and the Liver Killers from Green Bay.
Bigger names set to take the Moon Dance stage include Insomniac Gypsy and Cornmeal.
“Even if people don’t know the bands, they’ll start watching, they’ll start nodding their heads, they’ll start tapping their feet,” Schinke said. “It’s an innoxious type of music.”
At this point tickets for individual days are not available. Schinke wants to give people who want to camp the first chance at tickets. Admission, including camping, is $100 after July 6.
Schinke called it rough camping without electrical or water hookups. But there will be water access at the bar, along with food and drinks.
Attendees will be allowed to bring their coolers into the main stage area as well. Families are also welcome.
“Tons of people bring there kids. It’s a family friendly deal, but it is a party. It’s not a day care by any means,” he said. “Keep an eye and understand people are going to be having a good time.”
Tickets and more information are available online at www.wijam.net/moon-dance.html.