madison pop festival – an interview

Jamie Hanson, a 25-year-old University of Wisconsin – Madison graduate student and self-proclaimed “horrible speller” was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day to stop writing a paper and tell me a little bit about Madison Pop Festival. Hanson, along with Danny Tenenbaum (a UW undergrad) co-founded the festival last year.

How did Madison Pop Festival come about? Mostly Danny. He was sitting in a class while studying abroad and just had the idea while some of his profs were yammering at him and he wasn’t paying attention. He knew every now and again I wrote grants for the Wisconsin Union Directorate Music Committee that we both volunteered on. The grants were to help fund really expensive shows that would be free [admission].

How does this year’s fest differ from last year? A bit shorter format, but across more venues. Last year we did two days at Madison’s Union South. They were marathon days filled with soooo many bands. By the time the headliners were coming on, I was tuckered out personally. So this year, there are less acts per day, but we are programming at Union South and Memorial Union. This year [has] a bit more diversity. Year one (last year) was mostly just “indie rock”. This year we have some indie rock, some world music, and some hip-hop.

Who or what are you most excited to see? To see how many people can cram into the Great Hall to see Joanna Newsom.

Did you encounter any major problems while planning MPF? The only minor problem was the response from some other local promoters. The fest is likely to draw a fair amount of folks, so some other promoters have expressed concerns about programming against a free, all-ages music festival. But hopefully we didn’t step on too many toes.

Will MPF be an annual event? Hopefully. I am hoping this year’s fest cements Madisonfest* as a major music event for the community. Once folks realize the potential of the festival, there is some hope that community sponsorship will increase. Most of the funding for this year came from things connected to the university. Danny and I wanted to try to create something bigger than just the university [and] its venues. We wanted to have a number of clubs in town working together on Madisonfest.

*[Editor’s Note: Madisonfest was the name of last year’s festival; this year it has been officially modified to Madison Pop Festival — not to be confused with the University’s annual hardcore festival that was this year renamed Madisonfest from the former title of Watch The World Explode.]

Who would you like to see play MPF in the future? Perhaps not who, but what is I would add, is the question I will answer. I personally love to dance, so this year and last, we never had any dance parties associated with Madisonfest. So perhaps next year I would like a big dance party, with Diplo or maybe some local DJs like The Glamour or Flosstradomas.

Madison Pop Festival is a free, all-ages event that is open to the public. Check out their official website,, for a schedule and directions to the venues.

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