Mid West Music Fest isn’t sure what the faraway future holds -- but the Winona-based music fest is charging into the digital era this year with an at-home, streamed showcase.
Instead of ticketed concerts, the May 8-9 festival -- now called Mid West Music Fest At Home -- will feature free live streams of 53 acts through MWMF’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages.
“People need this right now,” managing director Abby Lee said. “People are getting through this by making art and listening to music. It provides something that we really think will be uplifting.”
Creative director Parker Forsell said most of the fest’s original lineup agreed to play the streaming concerts and have been enthusiastic about reconnecting with audiences.
“I think they’ve been really excited about it,” Forsell said. “Most of these people’s work came to a screeching halt. … This is the best we can do, is to go virtual with the music.”
Because some of the bands share residences or studio spaces, there will be several group performances, he added.
Incidentally, this year will also have the highest number of venues that have ever taken part in the MWMF, Forsell said -- because most of the groups will be streaming from their homes.
“It’s going to be kind of an inside look into where the artists create their music,” he said.
The event will also stream wellness events, like yoga, dance, and mindfulness activities, as well as children’s programming. The fest provides an opportunity to focus on mental health and wellbeing, Lee said. That’s always a focus for MWMF, but it’s perhaps even more important nowadays.
“We want to start the day with something a little more active and mindful, then go into the music,” she said.
Fundraising for the future
Thanks to grant funding and “generous” sponsors, all of the musicians will be paid. That took some pressure off of the fest to sell tickets this year, Lee said.
MWMF does have a fundraiser (https://midwestmusicfest.networkforgood.com/projects/97468-save-mid-west-music-fest) going to ensure that the festival and smaller concerts they normally hold can continue past this spring.
“Forty or fifty percent of our income comes from these in-person events,” Forsell said. “Twenty thousand (dollars) won’t cover that loss.”
Furthermore, the grant landscape is changing, Lee said. They’ve received word that some “big grants” they’d normally have received in the fall will be shifting focus. On April 8, the Minnesota State Arts Board voted to suspend grant funding for fiscal year 2021.
But the fundraiser should allow the fest to get to the fall, where they can do more fundraising. It’s tough to tell whether they’ll be able to gather in that season, though -- so for now, planning is light.
“We’re waiting to see what it looks like and what we’re allowed to do,” Forsell said.