“Our original intent was to make McPike Park accessible and appealing to the whole city,” says Bob Queen, founder and organizer of the Sessions at McPike Park. “We went out to do that by partnering with groups from throughout the city. I think we’ve pretty much achieved that – that that park is not another Marquette neighborhood park … it’s a valuable treasure for the whole city to enjoy.”
With that in mind, the whole community is invited to the 6th annual Sessions at McPike Park (formerly Central Park), which kicks off tomorrow night. This year, the five-night innovative concert series will benefit seven nonprofit partners from all over the city including Centro Hispano; The Urban League of Greater Madison; WORT-FM; The Omega School, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Common Wealth Development Corporation.
“The non-profits get a chance to raise a little money and to raise awareness about their agencies and programs,” Queen tells Madison365.
The Sessions at McPike Park are an all-volunteer, global concert series that will be taking place on [hopefully] five upcoming beautiful nights in August. Each night features one or two sensational touring bands that will perform on the main stage preceded by a talented local group. The dates for this year are Wednesday-Friday, August 7-9, and Thursday-Friday of the following week, Aug. 14-15.
“We have quite a line-up set for this year’s event,” Queen says. “We always try to have incredible diversity at this event and this year is no different.”
Sessions at McPike Park kicks off tomorrow night with the Old 97s and The Driveway Thriftdwellers.
The following night, The Figgs and The Bottle Rockets will be the main events for Thursday’s session.
“The Figgs are a band that is really going to be wonderful. They are fresh, clean, very danceable with clever lyrics,” Queens says. “I’m not sure if they are on everybody’s radar but they were Graham Parker’s back-up band for two of his albums.”
On Friday, Aug. 9, the Sessions at McPike Park will feature Panchromatic Steel, The Iguanas and Lyrics Born.
“Lyrics Born is great rapper from Berkely. He’s been at every one of our events,” Queen says. “He just played at La Fete De Marquette.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 15, The Travelin’ McCourys Select Session will feature Beth Kille and The Travelin’ McCourys. The following night will be all about local favorite Natty Nation and Dobet Gnahoré, a singer from Côte d’Ivoire
Gnahoré is the daughter of percussionist Boni Gnahoré, and she plays with the group Na Afriki, consisting mainly of French and Tunisian musicians, who accompany her with the guitar, sanza, the balafon, the calebasse and bongos.
“Dobet Gnahoré is a Grammy-Award winner. She sang with India Arie on an album. Just a sensational vocalist and percussionist and performer,” Queen says. “She has a range that you won’t believe.”
Every night there will be a wonderful array of dining options plus a fine beer, wine and cider selection. On Aug. 14-15, the All of Us Journey Bus, a traveling educational exhibit, will make its home at the McPike Park Sessions.
“It’s a health initiative nationwide and UW health and research is bringing the bus who can do things like pre-screening for dementia, diabetes, cancer and other things,” Queen says. “The bus is part of our overall commitment to the health of the community at large.”
Almost two months ago, the McPike Sessions got warmed up with their Pursuit of Happiness session – two full days of music, dance, and comedy on the weekend of June 22 and 23 with bands like Lilly Hiatt from Nashville, Les Poules à Colin from Quebec and Tribu Baharú from Colombia.
“That was a huge success and people were just packed in there to see great bands,” Queen remembers.
The 6-acre McPike Park, formerly known at Central Park, is named after longtime beloved Madison East High School Principal Milton McPike and located at 202 S. Ingersoll Street on Madison’s very near east side.
“The McPike family will be out on the Aug. 7th. So we are really looking forward to that, too. McPike Park is a lovely setting. The event is fun – it’s a beautiful night. It’s family-friendly,” Queen says. “We’re all volunteer and we have these great Madison non-profits that we will raise money for. It’s an event that has really evolved nicely. Lots of good food and vendors. There’s something for everybody.”
All of the work has been done and the bands and non-profits are ready to go. It’s all up to the weather forecast now.
“It looks like we’re going to get a nice stretch of great weather, but I should probably know better at this point to speak about that,” Queen says, laughing. “I’ve seen beautiful forecasts turn into pouring rain. Last summer, we saw a 40-percent chance for rain forecast turn into a 15-hour rain.
“But I do think we deserve some nice weather this year,” he adds. “That would be nice.”