HIGHLIGHTS: The Ragbirds, Blues Fest & MORE

Blinddog Smokin’

Thursday 8/18, Campanile Center, Minocqua


Bluesy and funky, this 7-member, 2015 Grammy-nominated band knows how to have fun, with songs like “Funky Old Man” full of rhythmic drums and rockin’ guitar to get you moving. Blinddog Smokin’ also are known for working hard. Over the past two decades, they’ve played 200 to 300+ shows a year, and were coined “America’s Road Warriors” by Southland Blues Magazine. 7 pm. $27 adults, $17 students. 715-356-9700, campanilecenter.org.

The Ragbirds

Friday 8/19, Wildwood Station, Marshfield

The Ragbirds

The Ragbirds

This world-music roots quintet is praised by critics as “highly impressive” and “new and exciting.” Lead vocalist Erin Zindle brings violin, mandolin, accordion and the banjo to the band’s pop and indie sound. Erin’s brother TJ Zindle and the rest of the band, bring guitar, percussion (including congas and bongos), and unusual instruments. Erin’s distinct voice delivers the beautiful lyrics she writes, like “Book of Matches,” which hit No. 1 in Osaka, Japan: “I am a phoenix addicted to the fire/ I’m born and born again in ashes/ You give me water and you give me sky/ But all I want is a book of matches.” The Ragbirds performs at festivals all over the country, including their hometown’s Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Also performing this evening is Sarah Lou Richards, a folk-Americana singer, who’s originally from Nashville and studied music education at UW–Eau Claire. 7:30 pm. $25. 877-318-4540, voxconcertseries.com.

Big Bull Falls Blues Fest

Fri.–Sat. 8/19–20, Fern Island Park, Wausau

Tommy Castro

Tommy Castro

Music lovers from all over the Midwest come to Wausau for the national and international line up of talent—this year showcasing a lot of blues history. This 25th anniversary event sees the return of local favorites John Altenburgh with his party-making MoTones crew, and the man who originally helped launch Bluesfest, Otis McLennon. Music plays under the large tent, while the park is filled with food and drink vendors. Bring a chair, hang around the whole time, or come and go.


5 pm | Big N Tasty Blues  This big outfit from the Green Bay area incorporates blues, rock, country and funk, with killer vocals by Holly Larson.

7 pm | Big Bull Falls All-Stars featuring John Altenburgh, Chris O’Keefe, Mitch Viegut and Otis McLennon  These local favorites haven’t played Blues Fest often in the past 10 years or so, but when they do, the crowd goes wild with hometown love.

9 pm | Guitar Shorty  This legend in the blues world—Jimi Hendrix called Shorty one of his main influences—delivers riffs that are famously intense and off the wall.


1 pm | Renee Austin  Known for her five-octave range, this Minneapolis-based artist creates a cool buoyant show with her mix of blues, roadhouse, soul and maybe a little gospel.

3 pm | Matthew Skoller  For 25 years this harpist has taken his boogie rockin’ jazzy blues all over the world, and has been a fixture at Chicago blues houses.

5 pm | Tommy Castro  The famed San Francisco bluesman and his band The Painkillers have a soulful, gritty blues sound. He’s won several blues awards, including the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award.

7 pm | John Mayall  This “Godfather of British blues” is still going strong after 50 years. His Grammy-nominated album Wake Up Call featured artists like Buddy Guy.

9 pm | Elvin Bishop  This muscle guitarist came of age in Chicago in the early 1960s, during the urban blues-rock explosion. Bishop is famed for his feel-good, down-home blues-rock fun, scoring big with his 1976 pop hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which appears in the Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

All ages, but must show ID for beer bracelet. No carry-ins allowed. General admission tickets $45 two-day in advance ($50 at the gate); $15 Fri. only; $40 Sat. only. For tickets call 877-220-7340 or go to WausauEvents.org.

Concert on the Square finale: Charles Walker Band

Wednesday 8/24, The 400 Block, Wausau

Charles Walker Band

Charles Walker Band

This finale of the 2016 series will set the square on fire with the most groovy concert you’ve seen all summer. The Milwaukee band has been nominated five times as Best Soul/R&B Band by the WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) for its fun fusion of neo-funk, blues and soul. With great showmanship, lead singer Porsche Carmon commands the stage, while also maybe playing the congas and flute. Walker himself has played the sax since sixth grade and studied in UW-Eau Claire’s jazz program. They’re bring an 8-piece band with a full horn section for a big, funky and fabulous sound. Free. 6–8 pm. Organized by Wausau Events and City Pages. Concerts go on rain or shine. 715-297-9531.