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4th Annual Next Level Park Street Music Fest looking to bring a diverse blend of music, people to South Madison


With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, Next Level Park Street Music Fest organizer Clyde Gaines was not sure if he would be able to host one of Madison’s favorite music festivals this summer — the annual Next Level Park Street Music Fest — which had been canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“For a minute, when the vaccination activity picked up, we still didn’t know where that was going to lead in terms of hosting events. We had to delay getting it going.  But once we saw that they were making a strong push to have stuff open by the 4th of July, we thought it would be a great chance for us to go ahead and make it happen for 2021,” Gaines tells Madison365. “A big thanks to our sponsors for making that happen.”

First started back in 2017, Park Street Music Fest is a free one-day outdoor live music event designed to bring people together who are from a cross-section of music genres featuring local and regional artists that will be held Saturday, Aug. 7, 3-8 p.m. at the Labor Temple grounds, 1602 S. Park St.

“We’re excited about the musical groups that we have. The quality of music we think that people will really enjoy,” Gaines says. “When you have an event that’s centered around music, the music has to be pleasing to the ear and of high quality. We hope that Next Level Showcase Park Street Music Fest has been delivering on that so we want to continue on with that trend.”

“We weren’t able to host the event last year because of COVID, like many other events that weren’t able to take place. This will be our fourth one,” he continues. “We’ve had local groups and regional groups perform and some up-and-coming artists and some established local artists. We try to give it a blend of different sounds and styles or artists. We think it’s a great mix this year.”

PeBoGa (People Building Opportunity through Grace and Action), a Madison-based non-profit with a seven-member board, is doing the promotion for Park Street Music Festival, which prides itself on being one of the most diverse summer music festivals in Madison.

“We truly have a mixed crowd … a diverse crowd regarding age, gender, race, etc.  The music, obviously, is a focal point as we try to have great music that people can enjoy and feel involved,” Gaines says.

Wayne Strong plays bongos at a previous Next Level Park Street Music Fest

“For Next Level Showcase, we definitely strive to have a diverse group of people show up,” he adds. “We want the music to represent that diversity. We want people to feel like they belong.”

Many of Madison’s summer festivals — Waterfont Fest, La Fete de Marquette, Orton Fest, Atwood Fest, etc. — traditionally happen on the east side of town.

“The south side did not have a music event at all. They had a couple of things that would take place that involved music, but it wasn’t geared towards music,” Gaines says. “Music was always the afterthought of whatever the event was. This event – the Next Level Park Street Music Fest – is geared towards music.”

On top of the great music, the Park Street Music Fest have added other components including retail vendors, food trucks, information booths and a vaccination clinic.

“There are still a number of people, particularly in our communities of color, who have not been vaccinated. So we really wanted to give another opportunity for those folks who have not been vaccinated to maybe come out and get vaccinations while they enjoy music with family and friends,” Gaines says. 

Music acts that will perform at this year’s Park Street Music Fest include Kinfolk, Orquesta Sal Soul, Collage and Company, Crown Vic, and Alexandrea Cordell.

DJ Ace — YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell – will perform between acts,

“Having it at the Labor Temple is a great location. You’re right out there in the open and people can drive by on Park Street, which is a heavily traveled street in South Madison. There’s plenty of parking,” Gaines says. “It’s a good opportunity for people to come by and hang out for a few hours and enjoy the atmosphere.

“And it’s free!” he adds.

As he does every year, Gaines encourages people to bring a lawn chair to make sure they have a seat.

“It’s a great chance to sit around and talk and the Park Street Music Fest has a lot to offer not only to South Madison, but to Madison, in general,” Gaines says. “I think we need events like this that bring diverse people together and help us all understand that we’re all in this game together … we have to act like we’re all on the same team.”