Photo Credit: Live in Viroqua – WURK

It would be great if we could shut down Court Street and hold a live music event, similar to those you see in other cities…

Justin Miller

Manager, The Historic Fortney Lounge

We are listening to TUGG, one of the bands set to play “Live in Viroqua”, we chat with organizers Christina and Justin about the free music series and get into the details of the summer long event, we also touch on some highlighted shows including Heatbox with High & Rising, Them Coulee Boys, Chicken Wire Empire and TUGG.

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Transcript
Amy Gabay 00:00
The Great River Shakespeare Festival is running now through July 31st. Featuring Twelfth Night and the African Company presents Richard the Third and more at Minnesota’s premier Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota. Buy tickets online at grsf.org. Great river, great drama. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. You were listening to TUGG, one of the main bands set to play Live in Viroqua. We chat with organizers Christina and Justin about the free music series and get into the details of the summer long event, we also touch on some highlighted shows including Heatbox with High & Rising, Them Coulee Boys, Chicken Wire Empire and TUGG. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:38
And I’m Brett.

Amy Gabay 01:39
And this is La Crosse Local.

Christina Dollhausen 01:41
My name is Christina Dollhausen, and my day job is I do economic development tourism for Vernon County.

Justin Miller 01:48
My name is Justin Miller. I am the manager of the Historic Fortney Lounge in Viroqua right on Main Street and Court.

Brent Hanifl 01:55
So how did you guys get connected with Live in Viroqua, what was the kind of the starting point for it?

Justin Miller 02:00
I got interviewed and hired for the position I am currently holding at the Lounge in March of 2021. And very early on in those days, the hotel was still under construction, the lounge wasn’t open until June of last year. So just looking out the window one day thinking boy, it’d be great if we could shut down Court Street and hold live music events similar to those you see in other cities like Madison’s Live on King Street.

Brent Hanifl 02:29
I know the Viroqua area, we like to take road trips up there from La Crosse from time to time, even gone and seen few bands play up there. You guys kind of sent out an announcement and put a nice long list of some great artists coming. It says you want to build on the momentum of Viroqua as a live music destination. Where does this all come from? Because it does seem like you guys have a bunch of artists and musicians and things like that.

Christina Dollhausen 02:52
Gosh, you know, I have only been living in the Viroqua area for about six years now. And the live music and culture scene was one of the reasons I wanted to live here and raise my family here. Because I knew that we could be able to get that small town and rural area. But I remember seeing a ton of music like the Driftless Music Festival bring in artists from around the country. And it was just so special to be able to have that. Right you know, down the street. And then of course, you know, we have the Temple Theater and we have outdoor music festivals including like Larryfest. And my background before I started doing Economic Development and Tourism for the county is I actually was booking music at the Stoughton Opera House and running shows for a good 10 years. And I saw what happened when you bring music to an area. The visitors come together. The community comes together. And before you know it, you know we’re building a beautiful thing. Another thing that happened regarding momentum is last year, Justin and I work together along with some other great volunteers with the Friends of Vernon County Parks, and we started to put together music on Wednesday nights. And we had June, July, August and early September and had music in the parks every Wednesday between Sidie Harlow and Esofea. And I’m telling you a 200 to 500 people every Wednesday came out to see this music. It was fantastic. So we’re building and we are becoming a music mecca and people are seeking out Viroqua and Vernon County to see live music and be a part of it.

Brent Hanifl 04:19
You got a good lineup of a lot of local and regional acts and people that have connections to the Driftless. How did this lineup come about? And maybe name a few you know, I guess we got some shows coming up July 2nd. I know you’ve had a few shows already but.

Justin Miller 04:32
The names we’ll see are probably almost 100% personal friendships or acquaintances with people. For example, we got to work on Live on Court Street. I saw them I believe it was Bonfire People first maybe five, six years ago, down at the Driftless Music Gardens. And after the show I walked up to their lead singer and just said what an amazing job, would you ever consider coming to Viroqua, they would love you. And here we go, we had them last year for music in the parks and this year for Live on Court Street, so we’re really excited. And then Dave Huckfeld is a good friend with another organizer, Eddie Nix, so he’s got that personal connection with David. Blue Shields is a good friend of ours. He lives out in a little off grid cabin. Not too far out of town. So you see him in town all the time. High and Rising are good friends of ours. We’ve just met through different festivals at the Trempealeau Hotel. Heat Box I’ve seen him play a few shows in the area as well. So it’s just reaching out to these people and hoping that they’ll say yes.

Brent Hanifl 05:42
Yeah, and you also just have some good ones that really value the area. Them Coulee Boys are always coming through and they’re just blowing up. Chicken Wire Empire with TUGG. You also have it at various different locations, right? So you’re trying to do it in different locations each kind of show here?

Christina Dollhausen 05:55
Yeah first and third Saturdays, the first Saturday is on Court Street, where we block off Court Street in front of the Fortney and Driftless Cafe is there and right downtown. And then just a couple blocks away the third Saturday, we’re blocking off Railroad Avenue, which is in front of Driftless Books and Music, just trying to I think give a little flavor for different parts of Viroqua. And they’re all in walking distance obviously for anybody to come that lives in the area.

Brent Hanifl 06:23
So like on that you kind of referenced what’s around there. What else can people expect? So they can grab food, come and go? Is there going to be any vendors or anything like that?

Justin Miller 06:31
Vendors have been reaching out. And this week we had just a couple, the weather wasn’t the best. We had Driftless Beer on tap and then we get some help with La Crosse Beverage as well. So they’re providing some of the adult beverages. We had a lemonade stand and a guy selling gyros and chickpea gyros, so there was a meat and vegetarian option. And we were going to try to highlight some of our local restaurants. We’re going to try to get some more vendors out and about at these events, too. So kind of be like a little street fair for the folks that come to join us.

Brent Hanifl 07:04
So is there anyone you guys are specifically excited to see? Can you name just one?

Christina Dollhausen 07:10
I think they’re all good and they’re gonna be great. Everybody’s going to be smiling at every single one and dance and I’m interested to see how Chicken Wire Empire does. I’ve been following them and got to see him in My Own Life as well as been watching them blow up on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Justin Miller 07:26
I’m really excited to see Heat Box on August 6th. Not only is that my birthday weekend, but he’s an incredible musician who gets up there with his loop paddles, creates a one man band, so I’m really excited for that.

Brent Hanifl 07:40
Yeah, I think that’d be a you know, a nice combination of Heat Box and then High and Rising sounds like is either opening or closing that night. But if people want to find out more, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Justin Miller 07:52
You can find Live in Viroqua on social media, either Facebook or Instagram for any updates for upcoming events.

Amy Gabay 08:02
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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