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Driftless Music Festival offers plenty of variety
Theresa Andersson

The sounds of world-class music will be heard once again this summer when the Third Annual Driftless Music Festival returns to Viroqua on Saturday, July 19 in Eckhart Park. This is a free event.

This year’s festival offers a range of music—from bluegrass/country/folk to a New Orleans-style brass band to a contemporary blues/rock combo with a Zydeco flavor. The music starts at 1 p.m. and will end at 10 p.m.

This year's closing act is the Scandanavian-born New Orleans transplant, singer-songwriter Theresa Andersson.

Andersson was born and raised in farm country on the Swedish island of Gotland 60 miles east of the mainland.

"My mom and dad were always around—a secure upbringing" Andersson says. "They'd be working in the fields, and we'd be home by ourselves. I never went to daycare. Very steady, very secure, very safe, very comfortable."

As a teenager, she formed a trio with two other girls and sang and played a variety of instruments. One girl had a car, which they used to tour the island to get some performance experience.

"Kind of get a little taste — a blooded tooth, as we say in Sweden," she says. "That was my introduction to that life."

Andersson attended music school for two years, but she had never lived off the island until 1990, when, at age 18, she moved to New Orleans and quickly caught the city's musical imagination, playing with the likes of Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, and members of the Meters.

 Andersson will be bringing her one woman show to the Driftless Music Festival and festival organizer Joel Johnson knows it will be “extraordinary." Johnson originally worked with Andersson on a Katrina benefit and he was instrumental in booking her for the Viroqua event.

When performing, Andersson dances on her electronics. She taps buttons and turns knobs with her toes, while letting loose haunting high notes with her voice, sometimes doubled, tripled or quadrupled in harmony. It's clearly her show, and hers only.

Last year, the festival drew over 1,000 people and, Charlie Knower, one of the event founders, says he is planning on a crowd nearly double that size this year.

“This is a high quality, family-oriented festival.” Knower said. "The venue couldn't be nicer. Eckhart Park on a summer day is simply a lovely place to be. Folks can bring their lawn chairs and blankets and simply sit back, relax and listen to great music. And best of all, it's free."

Other performers for the day include the popular local group String Ties, Mama Digdown's Brass Band, a New Orleans-style group that has been entertaining audiences for over two decades, and Keith Leinert and Friends, a drum ensemble that nudges that mellow medium into creative new territory. And leading up to Theresa Andersson's closing set will be the award-winning group Copper Box, described by one reviewer as a "hot Zydeco Swamp/Blues Rock outfit that cooks and swings with some of the best Zydeco-influenced groups anywhere in the country."

The festival will also feature a range of food available from vendors--a variety of sandwiches, burritos, salads, wood-fired pizza, strawberry shortcake, smoothies and more--with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients.

The Driftless Music Festival is made possible as a free event because of the abundant generosity of over 50 sponsors, who, like the founders of the fest, believe that great cities have great music festivals that the entire community can enjoy.

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