Cory Chisel performs at the Shitty Barn in June 2015. His band, the Wandering Sons, returns on May 11.
Spring Green’s Shitty Barn is poised to become the shit again.
Things looked grim for Sauk County’s intimate and earthy music venue last year, when owner and co-founder Chris Staples dropped the bomb that he and co-owner Martha McCamy would be stepping away from the enterprise after shepherding it for the last six years. But anyone who reached for the all-is-lost narrative obviously isn’t familiar with the cast and crew of folks who’ve been making the engine hum all this time.
“I was worried, too,” admits Allen DeSchepper, who was part of the inner circle of nine key staffers rocked by the news. But at the Barn’s annual debriefing meeting last November, Staples offered the business to the rest of the nine free of charge (he and McCamy retained ownership of the land and the barn building itself). After a few weeks of soul-searching, everyone agreed to move forward, which led to last night’s raucous 2016 season announcement event at the Williamson Magnetic Recording Company on Willy Street, bookended by performances by Buffalo Gospel.
Booking the bands was the biggest challenge, says DeSchepper, even though Staples had laid some of the groundwork and had a short list of artists he was hoping to bring in ready to reference. With McCamy assisting with the business side of the transfer, the plan for the next few years is to stick with what’s worked.
“We’ve got a pretty good confidence we can carry this through,” says DeSchepper, who’s handling booking duties with Mike Lashua and Jason Frazier. “Most of us are most afraid of letting Chris and Martha down. There’s also an internal pressure not to let each other down.”
Everything officially kicks off May 4, when Sonny Knight & the Lakers crash the barn. The rest of the season is surprisingly strong and diverse, standing up against dockets fronted by more established Madison venues — including several acts that have played in those same venues.
The crown jewel is Bully on July 6, a gig you need to catch even if you’re suffering from a massive fireworks hangover. A May 25 show pairing Milwaukee’s GGOOLLD and NO/NO is a total electropopper’s paradise — and also outside the Barn’s traditional booking wheelhouse — while the July 27 pairing of Madison’s Lovely Socialite and ME eN YOU promises to be an intoxicating cocktail of jazz-rock and funk. With a whopping 25 announced dates, the season really does have a little something for every taste.
“I haven’t seen most of these bands,” says DeSchepper. “But then again, that’s the Barn’s ethos — bring the bands to us. It can be hard to break out of Spring Green sometimes.”
Amen to that, brother. Amen to that.
Tickets go on sale via the Shitty Barn website at midnight on Friday, April 1. All tickets are 20% off through April 30. Here’s the full schedule:
4 Sonny Knight & the Lakers
11 Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons
18 Laura Gibson
25 GGOOLLDD + NO/NO
27 The Legendary Shack Shakers
8 Chastity Brown + Crane Wives
9 Scott H. Biram
15 Dead Horses + Ida Jo
22 Paleface + Seasaw
29 Peter Mulvey + John Statz
6 Bully + Midnight Reruns
13 Adam Faucett + Wood Chickens
20 Walter Salas-Humara + Brett Newski
27 ME eN YOU + Lovely Socialite
3 Chris Bathgate + Simon Balto
10 Colin Stenson/Sarah Neufeld + CHANTS
17 An Intimate Evening with Cribshitter
24 Chris Pureka + Auralai
31 Willy Porter
14 & 15 The Pines
21 Paul Fonfara & Jim White
28 The Flat Five
4 & 5 Charlie Parr