The music scene in Madison has obviously been well-established for years — but there’s something new coming at the end of this month that might very well change the game.
I sat down with J. Scott Kunkel and Madda Udvari-Solner of Scotify Studios, as well as Jake DeHaven of Frameshift Collective to talk about the festival and its inception.
The festival is in its second year, founded by DeHaven. Kunkel and Udvari-Solner attended the first one just as music fans, and ended up meeting DeHaven. They enjoyed the atmosphere of the fest and how those vibes encouraged them to put themselves out there. That’s where the partnership began.
Last year featured familiar Madison acts like Kainalu, Disq and the Wilder Deitz Group. This year, they’re bringing in an array of local and regional artists spanning all genres with the help of Scotify Studios. Together they’ve stepped up their outreach methods and are hyping the event even more this year.
Kainalu and Disq remain on this year’s bill in addition to other Madison favorites like Lucien Parker, Proud Parents, The Hussy and more. GGOOLLDD and Abby Jeanne are coming from Milwaukee, and Post Animal and Slow Pulp (both dear to our hearts) are coming from Chicago. The list certainly doesn’t end there. The festival went from having about 10 bands to roughly 30.
“The amount of artists and genres Prism Fest is hosting gives smaller bands a chance to put themselves out there,” Udvari-Solner said. They’re excited to be able to provide a platform for lesser-known groups.
The festival itself is more than just music. There will be food from different vendors, art of all kinds, anywhere from fine art in a makeshift gallery to poetry, live painting and graffiti. There will also be art vendors set up to sell their work, and installations placed around the grounds.
Located at Common Gardens, a farm and venue space, the festival is moving from a combined urban and nature feel (last year they had part of the fest downtown) to an immersive outdoor experience. General admission tickets include camping, so it gives attendees an opportunity to get to know the space in that respect, plus it’s another way to get to know people.
An intimate and special part of the fest last year was to be able to wake up and have breakfast with those that stayed over — something they wanted to promote again this year, DeHaven said.
In addition to camping and the main performance spaces, there will be four hidden “living room” getaways in the woods, some of which are about a mile in. People have to find them, giving those who are looking for a little bit of calm or detachment from the main space a refuge and unique experience.
The “living rooms” will have literal couches and lamps in the woods. The goal is to make it warm and nostalgic — an escape. Kunkel found one of them last year, turning out to be of great comfort, meeting cool people. It felt kind of like home, Kunkel said.
There hasn’t been an experience truly like this in Madison, and Prism is the place to start, especially for students. To make it even easier, there will be buses for a small price that can take students and other attendees back and forth to the grounds. These guys have put in a lot of effort to make Prism really accessible — it’d almost be foolish to pass it up.
“Even if it’s a total bust, if you can get together with people that you care about, I think that’s what’s most important for me,” Udvari-Solner said.
In the end, Prism is about making new connections, collaborations and friendships. It’s an experience to them —not just a festival, they said. It’s a space where they can build professional relationships, but also genuine friendships where everyone is welcome, Kunkel said.
Similarly, Kunkel said that there’s a lot of cool people in Madison that really love music, and that hopefully, this festival will be a way for these people to interact when perhaps they otherwise wouldn’t have. He wants to see those connections made through good food, good music and good art.
“That’s such an open platform for everyone to express themselves, and really challenge themselves as well,” Kunkel said. “It’s a challenge to put yourself out there. But I feel like people in that element are truly them.”