Waterfest 31 in Oshkosh!

Waterfest-LogoBY Jane Spietz

WHAT: Waterfest
WHERE: Leach Amphitheater, Oshkosh WI
WHEN: Thursday nights 6/16/16 – 9/1/16
Phone: 920-303-2265, x22
Follow Waterfest on Facebook & Twitter

Summer is almost here and so is Waterfest! Recently I connected with Waterfest president Mike Dempsey to get the scoop on the 31st season of the popular Oshkosh summer concert series.

Jane Spietz: Mike, the musical lineup for Waterfest 31 is incredible! How did you manage to bring in so many top acts this year?
Mike Dempsey: This is the summer to MAKE AMERICA ROCK AGAIN!, isn’t it?

Our sponsors and donors challenged us to deliver a game-changing line up that continues to distinguish Waterfest as ‘Wisconsin’s Best Community Concert Series.’ So we beefed up the headliner budget, but not at the expense of introducing some new artists to the area and providing local and regional musicians the opportunity to be featured as well.

JS: You start off with Styx!

MD: And slide guitar virtuoso Sonny Landreth on June 16th. Teachers are FREE on opening night with School ID! On June 23rd, we rock to 38 Special and former Cowboy Mouth founder Paul Sanchez and his all Star New Orleans Rolling Road Show. For July 14th, we reloaded big with progressive rockers Kansas with their special guest Henry Gross. On July 23rd, George Thorogood and The Destroyers roll into the Leach Amphitheater on their Badder Than Ever Tour. Sounds a little Spinal Tapish as a tour title, but Waterfest fans are lapping up that booking based upon the early feedback.

JS: Then on August 4th, you start a five consecutive week run.

MD: On August 11th, we have Rock Roll Hall of Famer Eric Burdon and The Animals, which retooled at full throttle. His tour is getting rave reviews during his Australian leg of the world tour. August 18th is a 5 way package starting at 5PM featuring The Wallflowers & Blues Traveler headlining. G. Love and Special Sauce, as well as Howie Day, are on the bill too! The Sept 1st finale’ features Toto with some of the best musicians ever to enter a recording studio. We have a few more to announce. Check out for updates and details.

JS: Waterfest is known for its “nuggets.” Which “nuggets” should we be on the lookout for this summer?

MD: Sonny Landreth on opening night is a mind blower if you are a guitar or blues fan. The Tin Men return from New Orleans to open June 23rd at 5:30 PM, dishing out Bourbon Street high and low rent ear candy. Henry Gross is tucked in to open July 14th. You might remember his #1 ‘70s hit about Carl Wilson’s dog “Shannon” stuck in your head. He was also a founding member of Sha Na Na, having played Woodstock while in college. Then we have both the R&B Cadets and The Suitcase Junket back-to-back on July 23rd. The Cadets are a reformed Milwaukee super group doing a handful of fest dates this summer and they gave us a date! We also picked off one of The Mile of Music crowd-pleasers in The Suitcase Junket on his way to Canada August 4th. Amasa Hines is another 2016 Mile of Music group offered to be dropping in on Waterfest as a rising star quintet. The Davis Rogan Band makes his way north from The Big Easy or some road house romp. Davis was the featured character in the HBO series TREME. We have Boston rocker Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles opening the dance floor at 5PM on Aug 18th. Her new release, “A Tendency To Riot” lets the cat out of the bag, so get there for Sarah’s set. Then on September 1st, we have rising star blues sensation Matthew Curry and The Fury. Think Jonny Lang meets Stevie Ray Vaughan.

JS: Talk about the pricing and admission policy for 2016.

MD: With the beefed up roster we thought we should reward the Waterfest Warriors who attend 5 or more times a season. So we have a General Admission Season pass that gets you in for less than $12 a night on sale now for $100. Better yet we have a Reserved Patio Access VIP Season Pass that gets you up front and personal for less than $17 a night now on sale for $150. The Season Passes allow you to come and go at any time all night. We will also have a FAST LANE for Season Pass holders for getting in. The single night VIP Admission are also heavily discounted at $30 most nights for shows that would cost $50-200 or more for that kind of access. General Admission is tiered, rewarding early birds. On some nights admission is as low as $10 if you are in line by 6PM! Veterans are free all season. Kids under 12 are as well when they bring a parent. Don’t forget teachers are free opening night with school ID!

JS: What will be included with the expanded VIP option?

MD: The Reserved Area Patio Access will be there waiting for you. There will be less crowd press and you can wiggle up front or kick back in some space within 100 feet, effectively a 20 row distance, of center stage. There is a dedicated cash bar with wine and craft beers and porta potties when you need them. While we do not allow chairs in the reserved area, some fans bring them and set up on the grass to chill. They come and go as they please. Those in the VIP area also can take pride in helping to keep General Admission to Waterfest affordable and as inclusive to the community as possible.

JS: Where can VIP and General Admission Season passes be purchased?

MD: Call the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce at 920-303-2265 x22 or drop in at the Chamber. Bank First in Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay also have them. We do suggest getting them in advance. However, will-call at the Leach Amphitheater is also selling them on opening night June 16 and again on June 23 starting at 4:30PM.

JS: As of today, the Waterfest Facebook page has grown to 6430 members! It remains a very valuable communication tool for fans. It’s always interesting and informative to view all of the shares and comments.

MD: Yes, the fans are feisty and engaged as well. They really let us have it when we disappoint or fail to communicate on such matters as acts, admission prices, food and beverage offerings, and so on. We listen, and it is important to our keeping True North compass heading. The Facebook numbers have almost doubled in the last 24 months. This makes for new audiences and a lively vibe to go with the warriors. FYI, we also are on Twitter and our web is getting heavy attraction as well. Links to both Facebook and Twitter are on our page. Hop on!

JS: The Leach Amphitheater is a fantastic setting in which to experience Waterfest.

MD: The surface parking, park and river walk sparkle. The facility is in great shape and as a venue is best-in-class. No better place to enjoy music outside on a warm Wisconsin summer evening with all your friends, for the price of a movie ticket.

JS: What else do concert goers need to know about Waterfest 31?

MD: You can come and go as you please. Keep rain gear and extra layers in your car! The Season Pass discounts are unreal. Grab the deal! Come early, pay less, get more! Tailgate in the park! The Riverside Park lots are fee based and usually have space if you are coming in late. Thank the folks at the gates and concessions. They are all volunteers making your night out possible. It takes 120 volunteer each night to please you. Tip generously! This is the year to MAKE AMERICA ROCK AGAIN! Spread the word! And last but not least…be nice or leave. We are all out having a great time!

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