Onward & Upward

The Forward Music Festival rocks on

A year ago, Bessie Cherry, Wyndham Manning IV and three other young music-loving Madisonians had a goal: to hold the first Forward Music Festival.

But the purpose behind that objective was even greater: to elevate Madison as a hub of the Midwest music scene, much like the popular South by Southwest festival has helped secure Austin’s reputation as music mecca of the South.

The festival’s producers hated seeing bands bypass Madison for larger Midwest cities. They knew if groups gave it a try, they’d find the city “intimate, tight-knit and culturally aware,” Manning says. And they’d come back.

If last year’s event is any indication, they’re on their way. And Cherry and Manning are back, hosting the second Forward Music Festival. This year brings more bands, concerts, venues, ticket options—“just more,” Cherry says—with  Andrew Bird, Low, Cougar and many others performing at downtown venues ranging from the Project Lodge to the Orpheum to Overture Hall.

“We’re about pairing local acts with groups that have ties to the region and Madison,” Cherry says.

As Cherry and Manning grow the festival, they plan to keep that local focus and strengthen ties to the city. “This has a grassroots feel,” Manning says. “That’s the really cool thing about Madison and why it works.”

The Forward Music Festival runs September 17–19 at several downtown venues. fmf09.com

Katie Vaughn is associate editor at Madison Magazine.

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