Music lovers in Madison, Ind., have spent the past few years building a reputation for the city of 13,000 as the “go to” place for live music. From all appearances, they have succeeded.
From folk to blues to rock ’n roll, Madison festivals have offered up some of the best in the business in recent years. And the late night bar scene is also contributing with a strong menu of regular live talent performing at venues like the Off Broadway Tap Room, Thomas Family Winery and the Red Bicycle Hall.
Much of this success can be attributed to Tony Novello, one of eight owners of the Red Bicycle Hall at 125 E. Main Street. A specialty chemical salesman by day, Novello, spends much of his free time booking bands for the Red Bicycle Hall and previously for the RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival – for which he has been associated as a committee member since its inception in 2005.
The Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle from Cincinnati is among the many bands scheduled to perform in Madison, Ind., as part of the Mad Hop Music Festival.
“(RiverRoots co-founder) John Walburn got me involved in RiverRoots right from the beginning, and I stayed with it ever since,” said Novello, 52, a Boston native and 24-year resident of Madison.
Now Novello is striking out on his own by staging the inaugural Mad Hop Music Festival, set for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in Madison. The idea for this unique event is to schedule live bands playing all day at various venues around town. Created under the auspices of his company Fireweed Productions LLC, which books bands for the Red Bicycle Hall, Novello and a core group of his assistants have ambitious future expansion plans for the event going forward. For this first year, however, he has booked 25 bands that will play at five downtown Madison venues throughout the day, all ending by 7 p.m. The venues include the Red Bicycle Hall, Thomas Family Winery, Off Broadway Tap Room, the Electric Lady and House of Jane Barber Shop.
Advance wristbands are available for $25 online at the Internet website www.MadHopMusicFest.com and $30 the day of show.
“I’ve had the idea for this event in the back of my mind for a long time,” Novello said. “I had some freed up time and energy, so I decided to do it now. At first I was going to make it a two-day event, but that was too ambitious for the first year.”
Unlike outdoor music festivals. Novello says this type of event is “free from the risk of bad weather. And it’s over early in the evening, so people can go do other things later that night.”
Novello said another factor in creating this type of event was in response to many downtown bar owners’ complaint that during the local festivals, everyone is down at the river. “With this festival, the goal is to keep people shopping and eating in the downtown bars and restaurants.”
Another difference with the Mad Hop Music Festival is that it is its own event and in no way affiliated to Madison’s tourism office, VisitMadison Inc. “We’ve got great sponsorship to be able to offer up 25 bands for only $25. That’s like $1 per band. We wanted to make it inexpensive to get people to come. The venues can do anything they want (in terms of special menus or drink prices).
Novello’s core group who are organizing the event includes Tammy Beach, Dan Williams, Kevin Watson, Charlie Rohfling, Keith and Melinda Acree, and Sheryl Vaught.
Novello said he got the idea from similar hop around music festivals, like the one in Bristol, Tenn. – the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Music Festival that was just held on Sept. 20-22. “The concept isn’t new but it’s new in Madison. It’s kind of a proven thing around the country.”
He said the idea is “to have music playing at all of these venues, and people can hop around to see them. There will always be someone playing somewhere, and there will be some overlapping of bands playing.”
Novello’s group already is planning to expand the festival to a two-day event next year, with some bands playing multiple times. And as the festival grows, he hopes to expand the footprint to possibly include a large outdoor stage “where we can accommodate several thousand people. We have a very ambitious growth plan.”
The bands scheduled for Mad Hop Music Festival cross all styles of music, and that was by design, Novello said. “I’m trying to keep it genre neutral, but it’s difficult to do. There will be some country, some Americana roots music, rockabilly and Indie rock.”
He has booked some local bands and many out-of-town groups that include some national touring acts. “There will be multiple headliners and not just one big headliner because right now we don’t have a venue large enough to hold 1,000 people,” he said.
Novello has been booking bands for the past five years for the Ohio River Valley Folk Society’s winter Music Series. Most of those acts performed at the Red Bicycle Hall, and the proceeds generated were used to support the RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival. But that has all changed with the recent announcement by VisitMadison Inc. to change the genre of music to be offered at the June festival next year.
Novello said the society has now been rebranded to continue this winter as the Kindred Folk Series, with financial support from Kindred Healthcare. The winter monthly concerts, free music workshops and in-school children’s programs will continue under this new name, he said.
As far as why November for this new music event, Novello said, “I like the fall and I love November. It’s still pretty warm here, and the music is all being held indoors, anyway, so weather is not a factor.” He added that there are fewer events in Madison in November, so there will be less competition in attracting people to this event.
Jane Vonderheide, owner of House of Jane, a barbershop, art gallery and music venue located at 207 E. Main St., said, “I think the idea of the festival is great, and I’m excited to be a part of it. I also like the idea of bringing the event up onto Main Street where the stores and restaurants are. I look forward to seeing the event grow.”
In September, Novello’s group added a kickoff event to be held at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 – the night before the festival – featuring Maria Carrelli performing at the Red Bicycle Hall. Those who already have purchased a wristband can pick them up at the show and will have free entry to the show. If they aren’t attending the show, they can pick them up at Will Call at Red Bicycle Hall on the day of festival. Those attending the show can also purchase a wristband there for $25. Attendance to the Friday night show without a wristband will be $12.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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