By Jeremy Ratliff
MARSHFIELD — Seventeen bands from the upper Midwest converged on the Chestnut Center for the Arts on July 22 for the sixth annual DangerFest X, organized by local music enthusiasts Steve “Danger” Apfel and Dani Belle.
Apfel said the term “Danger” stems from what began as a social media identity prank and ended up following him as a nickname.
According to Apfel, the show’s roots date back to his high school days and what he considered to be a vibrant Marshfield music scene.
“Marshfield’s local music scene was pretty big back then,” he explained, “but then people started moving away, and it just seemed like people weren’t really starting and keeping bands anymore. I am a former musician myself and gave it up to start working behind the scenes. I wanted to do what I could to bring the music scene back.”
In July 2011, with the help of friends and local contacts, Apfel organized the first ever DangerFest at the Chestnut Center. That first festival consisted of just seven bands. Despite a small turnout, Apfel and his associates pressed forward with a focus on improving the show.
“I have been on both sides of the music scene both as a musician and the organizational side. We wanted to try and make sure our shows were enjoyable for the performers as well as the audience,” Apfel added. “When we did our first show, I didn’t really know any bands. The only bands I talked to were bands that Bryan Fleming (drummer and vocalist of the band Rig Time) knew of from playing different places. Bryan and I have been friends for several years, and he was such a huge help for me in getting DangerFest up and running. As we moved forward, social media became a pretty big tool for us in recruiting other bands from around the area and around the state.”
“We just started building and getting bigger with every show. I think a big pull for us is we only do all age-shows,” said Apfel. “When I was a teenager, I wasn’t able to go see a lot of shows due to age restrictions of 18-plus or 21-plus. There really isn’t a lot for teenagers to do when it comes to seeing and enjoying live music. That is also a big reason we keep our admission at $10. That way anyone who wants to come see us, at any age, can afford to not only come and enjoy the show but afford to pick up some merchandise from the bands. That in turn helps the bands too, as selling merchandise like CDs and T-shirts is where they can make a little money.”
La Crosse-based RIG TIME!, consisting of Fleming, his wife Rebecca, and Mark Trueman, was one of the many bands that performed July 22.
“Danger and I have been friends for many years,” Bryan explained. “In fact, I was involved in the very first DangerFest with another band I was in. Ever since then, even though I’ve never been a staff member per se, I always do whatever I can to help out. Steve is doing something great with DangerFest, and I enjoy helping out whenever I can.”
“I’m from central Wisconsin originally, and it’s where I got started with my music career. We enjoy coming up there to play. And no matter what we have going on, we make a point to get back to central Wisconsin whenever we can. Saturday was our third time being there as RIG TIME!. It was really cool to get back, have fun, and play at a place I played at as a teenager. It was great to see familiar faces and support other bands,” he added. “DangerFest had a big community atmosphere, which is what Steve was hoping for. Our band happens to be huge advocates of not only supporting music but supporting art and music in local communities.”
Jake Kyes, guitarist for Black Cat Manor, based out of Freeport, Illinois, said his band had previous ties with Apfel.
“We worked with Danger when he put us on his compilation CD ‘Heavy Hitters.’ Then this past January when we were looking to book our summer, we were in contact with (La Crosse-based band) Shaky Bones, who also performed Saturday. They gave us the heads up about DangerFest, and we were all for it. We really have an appreciation for what Danger is doing up there with his do-it-yourself style of putting everything together,” Kyes said.
The future of DangerFest
Apfel said he fully plans to keep DangerFest moving in the future. Taking things a step farther, he has organized a winter DangerFest every February since 2015.
“We were pretty happy with Saturday’s turnout. Everything went smooth,” said Apfel. “We were very happy with the results. We didn’t have anyone leaving and saying they would never come back, especially bands, so that’s a good thing of course.
“Despite 85 degrees and probably five degrees higher inside the performance area, people stuck around the entire day, which was awesome. I really appreciate my staff and everyone else who helped me make this happen. We are committed to making (the) event as best as we can as we continue to move forward.”
The next DangerFest is planned for February of 2018.
For more information on DangerFest, visit facebook.com/dangerfestmfld.