WJJO program director Randy Hawke says he was tired of having to wait for Ozzfest or an occasional show at Alpine Valley to see national hard rock and metal bands play live.
So a local festival was one of the first things Hawke planned after starting his job at WJJO in 2001.
"My music director, Blake Patton, and I went back and forth on a name, and we finally settled on Band Camp," says Hawke.
"Fred Frank (of Frank Productions) was really the one who brought up having it at Willow Island," adds Hawke. "His office is at the Coliseum, and when he showed me an aerial photo of the island, I was amazed. I had no idea it was there."
Now in its fifth year, WJJO Band Camp has emerged as Madison's premier hard-rock event. Attendance for the one-day show has grown steadily. "We started out at about 5,000, and last year we had nearly 12,000," says Hawke.
This year's concert features 15 bands from 10 states and four countries. "It's a coup for us because we have four bands with songs currently on the charts of this music format," says Hawke. Those bands are Seether, Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman and Red.
For the first time, event production will include a 25-foot video screen.
Band Camp's headlining act is Seether, the South African band led by stormy front man Shaun Morgan.
Seether are still riding the popularity of their 2007 release, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. The CD debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart last fall. The first single from that album, "Fake It," spent nine weeks atop the U.S. modern rock chart.
"We knew Seether would be a great choice," says Hawke. "Their singles have a six- to eight-month life cycle. Even though their album was already out when we started booking for Band Camp last January, we knew it would still be getting airplay."
Hawke says Seether began playing the Annex several years ago and have built a solid following in Madison.
"JJO was one of the first stations to support Seether," says Hawke. "They've spent a lot of time here. What a great payoff for them to be headlining this concert now."
Morgan, 29, drew his musical inspiration from Kurt Cobain. He learned to play guitar by memorizing the chord progression to Nirvana's 1991 single "Polly."
Like Cobain, Morgan's lyrical themes are thick with references to guns and suicide. "I've burned down every bridge I've found; now I limit myself to a six-gun quota," he sings on the eighth track of Finding Beauty.
Seether's new album is high on melody, but Morgan sees consistency with the band's previous releases.
"We wanted to create songs that are a little different," Morgan says in the album's press release. "At the same time there is nothing on this album that would make people go, 'Whoa, I can't tell who this band is.'"
Putting on a large-scale music festival isn't standard fare for a local radio station. Hawke wanted to do it after he worked Summerfest for his previous employer, Milwaukee's WLUM.
"The Franks help with a lot of the concert logistics, and we have an active events department at Mid-West Family Broadcasting (WJJO's parent company)," says Hawke. "This is becoming a regional event. We're handling ticket giveaways on radio stations throughout the state."
A lot of Madison music fans are committed to this event, notes Hawke: "Last year it was pouring rain, and 12,000 people still showed up.
"That's how I know people are into it."