The brainchild of local musical darling Cory Chisel, of Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who is currently touring as part of the Wild Rovers Tour with The Candles and others, Mile of Music was a slightly different type of festival. More like a gallery walk with performers in bars instead of pieces in art galleries, visitors were able pop in and out of wherever the music was playing. The turnout was pretty huge, too, especially for it being the first time the festival was on, and also being Appleton, which is not huge at 70,000 people -- but not small either. There was an official lineup and schedule for the entire weekend, so visitors knew where and when everything was happening, but unlike a big festival in a park somewhere, one could be downtown and enjoy lunch at a favorite cafe, that may or may not have been playing music, but then walk outside and join in on a performance somewhere else.
There were headline and feature shows every night as well, which were the only performances where a ticket was required. Cory Chisel was one of these, and the rumor mill was churning well before the event with speculation that Norah Jones would appear during the concert. She did, in fact, appear, and hung out in Appleton during the weekend. She's involved in the Wild Rovers Tour and has been making unannounced appearances during shows along the way. I'm sure that was a nice little treat for those at the show, and not too shabby of a thing to have a Grammy award-winning artist appear in a small-town music festival in its first year. Somebody knows what they're doing... ;)
I went over in the afternoon as things were starting to get going, to see Charlie Parr, a well-known Minnesotan folk-country-blues performer. I had a great seat in the makeshift setup in the atrium of the downtown mall, and then afterward went down the street to a coffee shop where I ordered some much needed caffeine and waited for another Charlie Parr set. I caught the tail-end of an artist named J.E. Sunde, who hails from Eau Claire, WI and is part of a group I've heard of called The Daredevil Christopher Wright. I liked what I heard enough from J.E. Sunde that I later followed him down to another bar (a sports bar I never would find myself in otherwise) to sip an Angry Orchard cider and listen to his unique voice.
Among other groups, I also heard quite a bit of the band PHOX, out of Madison, who were on their way very shortly to the UK to play their first shows overseas. I was extremely impressed with them; the lead vocalist's voice was haunting and gorgeous, and the various instrumentation and rhythms were unique. I could describe them only as "indie" for lack of a better term. I think they're on their way to something awesome.
Some performers who I have seen previously, from our area, played small shows as well. I was really impressed with everyone I saw, and having seen a variety in the five-or-so hours I hung around, all were well worth the trip in and of themselves. I probably won't be around to make it to next year's, so I wanted to be sure to see it now. They have a good thing going!