How the Vox Concert Series is diversifying the Marshfield entertainment scene
MARSHFIELD—The Vox Concert Series started in 2005 as a way for Brian Sauer to thwart the familiar refrain that there is nothing to do in Marshfield.
Sauer, the founder and president of Vox, grew up in Marshfield as an avid music fan before moving to Milwaukee where he had planned to build his life. When his father had a medical issue Sauer moved back to Marshfield to help his family.
“I figured I would just move back to Milwaukee when all was said and done, and I would just continue my path that I was doing down there: going to grad school, working, and enjoy the bigger city. That didn’t happen.
“I settled into Marshfield, got my job, met a girl,” Sauer said. “Life kind of just happened, and so I ended up settling down here.”
Even after anchoring in Marshfield, Sauer continued to drive to Milwaukee, Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis to see big-ticket musical acts that did not visit Central Wisconsin.
Sauer wanted to find a way to bring an element of big-city entertainment to Marshfield, and he believes he has done that with Vox. More than just an event, Sauer says Vox brings a unique dynamic that can appeal to many groups in the community.
“We’re not just a place to go and watch a concert. We want you to come and experience music,” Sauer said. “We’re not a bar where the music is playing in the background. That’s not what we want to be. We’re also not a performing arts center like the Grand Theatre in Wausau. We’re a listening room. People come, and they listen. They’re quiet. They grab their beverage, and they drink their drink. They might bring some food, and it’s about the music first.”
Sauer said that because the shows are geared toward singer-songwriters Vox promotes an intimate mood. The word “vox” is Latin for voice, and the series aims to build an intimate experience around singer-songwriters to express their voices.
“The people that walk out of the concert, I think they feel like they know the musician as a person,” Sauer said. The genres of music played at Vox vary, including Americana, blues, bluegrass, rock, pop, alternative, soul, and more.
Donald Fritze, a three-year Marshfield resident, had always lived in bigger cities, most recently Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and said he enjoys the metropolitan element that Vox provides.
Fritze brings his own cheese and wine—as many Vox-goers do—and enjoys the atmosphere. “It’s an intimate audience experience,” Fritze said.
For ten years Vox has called Wildwood and Columbia Parks home, but Sauer said the time is coming for Vox to pursue a full-time independent venue.
With the growth of the concert series comes an increased demand for space that a new venue could provide. Sauer said that a new venue would allow Vox to consistently bring in bigger name acts as well as stop the constant setup, teardown, and removal of equipment from Wildwood and Columbia Parks.
In addition, Sauer noted that as Vox has grown, the series has started drawing concert-goers from Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and farther away.
“They come here, and they stay in our hotels, and they come (to restaurants) after the event, and they eat food, and they drink beverages, and they might go to the Kitchen Table for breakfast in the morning, or they might walk up and down Central Avenue, and they might do some shopping, but that’s the bottom line. If we’re doing our part well, other people are benefitting in the community,” Sauer said.
To build support for a permanent residence for Vox, Sauer is putting on a three-day festival called “The Una Sessions,” which will take place at Wildwood Station Pavilion from Nov. 13-15. Sauer believes the extended duration of the festival will give people a feel for what a permanent building would be like for Vox.
Sauer said that he has an idea of where he would want to build a new venue but that he’s “not dishing that out yet.”
As Vox has grown, so have the names the series is able to attract. Some of the big-name artists that have come to Marshfield are Anna Nalick, Emerson Hart from the band Tonic, Teddy Geiger, Matt White, and many others.
“All of those musicians have been on label, and they’ve all had music either on MTV or on the radio,” Sauer said. He added that getting musicians to Marshfield has not been a challenge but that building the crowd has been more difficult.
To raise funds and improve audience experience, Sauer recently overhauled the Vox website and ticket purchasing system, increased lighting for concerts, and added a raised stage.
Vox has also started working with local organizations like New Visions Gallery to help promote and market the concert series, and in return the partners get a share of the ticket proceeds.
For more information on the Vox Concert Series, visit their website: http://voxconcertseries.com/.