Kinzie Benefit Concert Series

Kinzie Benefit Concerts, a local promoter organization in Wausau, is presenting a series of outdoor shows at The Amphitheater at Marathon Park on Wausau’s west side. They just put on a big-name country show in June with Sara Evans (voted the 2006 country female vocalist of the year) and Radney Foster, a popular veteran singer/songwriter from Texas.

On Wednesday July 12, they’re having a “Rock the Park” night. Legendary Wisconsin alternative rockers, Violent Femmes, will headline a multi-act concert. Also featured will be Better Than Ezra and Carbon Leaf, a pair of acoustic-based alternative rock bands.

Kirk Howard, manager of Kinzie Benefit Concerts, says he’s thrilled to bring a Wisconsin musical treasure to Wausau; the Femmes are in Europe on a far-ranging tour right now and they agreed to fly in especially for this show. The tour marks the band’s 25th anniversary.

Violent Femmes formed in Milwaukee in 1981; their debut self-titled album was released in 1983. That record rocketed the group to international fame and has since achieved platinum status — without the help of a commercial radio hit. Primarily, the band found its following on college radio and alternative rock stations, where their most notable hits, "Blister in the Sun", "American Music", "Kiss Off", and "Add It Up" found a home.

The band toured extensively and built a solid fan base … one of our promotions staff, Dino, was an exchange student in 1987 in Spain. Homesick, young, in a land far away, Dino found the Femmes on the jukebox of a bar in a town called Algemesi in Spain. Amazed that his "hometown" band was so far away, and so unplanned.

For many of us in our late 30s or early 40s, the Femmes will take us right back to our college days. But the 3-act show on July 12 will really cut across — and overlap — several age groups. The Femmes have long been established as a revered favorite for the next generation of alt rockers; the band has a highly credible reputation among younger alt rock fans.

Here’s a quote from the Femmes Web site:

“… perhaps the most distinctive thing about Violent Femmes is their relationship with their 'fourth member' which is the audience. No other band in rock has stayed active for as long while maintaining the same demographic. The Femmes have some audience members who have grown up with the band, and even some 3-generation families of fans. But for the most part the audience remains the same high school and college kids who have always been the core of the Femmes crowd. This 'Picture of Dorian Grey' effect is unique in the world of pop music”

Better Than Ezra, also described as an alternative rock band, is based in New Orleans. The band’s first nationally released album, Deluxe, came out in 1993, with the cut “Good” becoming an instant hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard chart. A steady string of radio hits followed leading up to “Juicy” from their latest album, Before the Robots; that tune was featured on season promotional spots for the Desperate Housewives TV series last year. The band is in the midst of national tour.

Opening the show will be Carbon Leaf, an eclectic Virginia-based 5- piece band that combines the sounds of mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars, standup and electric bass, and drums. This group is building a strong following, especially among the college crowd.

Even though this is basically a rock show, it will also have a distinct acoustic feel. It’s fair to assume that anyone who has enjoyed the eclectic feel of a Grateful Dead concert, or Phish or String Cheese Incident, will likely be right at home at this show. You can expect a good balance of high energy and some mellow, melodic moments. It will be a great experience under the pines at Marathon Park.

Actually, the venue is also one of the stars of the show. This is a great place to take in a concert. There’s a large, new covered grandstand with reserved, numbered seating for about 3,500. The seats are actually recycled from the old Milwaukee County Stadium where the Brewers played before Miller Park was built. The stage is down on the infield area … there will be standing-only, general admission tickets available for the infield, which holds approximately another 3,500 people. There’s really not a bad viewing spot in the whole venue; it’s an intimate space with great sight lines.

The whole venue is enclosed by a fence; so concert-goers are allowed to buy beer in the venue and take it to their seat or standing spot. There’s also all kinds of food vendors on hand. The grandstand is backed by an impressive huge stand of tall, second-generation white pines. It’s really a comfortable, eye-catching place to be. Marathon Park itself is easy to find; it’s just about a minute off the north- south U.S. Highway 51 corridor (take the Stewart Street exit) and it’s equally convenient to where east-west travelers on Wisconsin Highway 29 cross Highway 51. There’s plenty of lodging available nearby, in fact the park itself has a camping area, but I’d recommend reserving a spot right away. Here is camping information for the Marathon County Park system. Or you can call (715) 261-1566 for information and reservations.

So why’s it called Kinzie BENEFIT Concerts? A portion of the proceeds from their shows are designated for charitable organizations in the area. The Sara Evans show raised money for Habitat for Humanity. This “Rock the Park” concert will help raise money for Boy and Girl Scouts. The promoter wants to help attract more activity to the amphitheater at the park, and to Wausau in general … and he wants to help support local programs. It’s a grassroots sort of scenario.

Ticket for the concert are $25 for advance purchasers … and the price is the same whether you’re buying general admission standing-only infield or designated, reserved grandstand seating. Some people just want to get as close to the stage as they can, and some want to know they have a guaranteed seat. At the gate on concert day, all tickets will be $30. You can learn more about and order your tickets online by going to kinziebenefitconcerts.com.

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