Focus: The Fox Valley Music Scene

February 12, 2010

Wisconsin’s Fox Valley is an area consisting of communities like Appleton, Neenah, Menasha and Winneconne-an interesting area, for sure.  I’ve always regarded it as a hidden gem that, unless you’re from WI, you may not know it even exists, however one visit to the Fox Valley and I guarantee you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.  Whether it’s Appleton’s high-quality performing arts center, or the picture-perfect Neenah Light, or the fact that the Braves’ Eric Hinske hails from Menasha…there’s a lot going on, and it’s all quite cool.
Adding to the almost secretive location of the Fox Valley is the amazing music scene that inhabits the area.  Though numerous bands have come and gone from this melodious mecca over the years, time has seen several establish a name for themselves and represent the area well.

Number One Fan/The Robins/The Wildbirds

Number One Fan was quick to gain a following, especially around the time of their 2003 release Compromises, which showcased their brand of Counting Crows-esque pop/rock.  Not long after, the group was signed to Pat’s Record Company, and thanks to the label’s distribution from Universal Music Group, Number One Fan found themselves touring with the likes of Something Corporate, The All-American Rejects and Switchfoot, winning fans over one city at a time with their lively performances and boy-next-door charm.  Following a string of shows opening for Green Day in 2005, the band rebranded themselves with a more classic rock image, and armed with the name The Wildbirds (originally The Robins), the band fully broke away from their previous incarnation with their debut Golden Daze.  Despite consistent touring and a high level of positive word of mouth, The Wildbirds fell on hard times in early 2008 when frontman Nick Ziemann’s father fell into a coma, thus plunging the band into a hiatus.  The group has sporadically been playing shows since then, including a performance at Summerfest in 2009, and even released a lost disc of Number One Fan material called Unreleased in late 2007/early 2008, but whether they’ll recapture the momentum they had before remains to be seen.

(Number One Fan) Recommended If You Like: Counting Crows, Dashboard Confessional
(The Wildbirds) Recommended If You Like: Tom Petty, southern-style classic rock ‘n roll

Silent Point

The future certainly seemed bright for Winneconne’s Silent Point, with a solid full-length (We Were Lions) generating a buzz and shows with The Spill Canvas and Forgive Durden under their belts.  Continuing the solid pop/rock feel the Fox Valley scene had become known for, the band gained a deal with Radtone Records in Japan and began the process of making this their careers.  However, after a few tours in 2007 the group abruptly called it quits, with frontman Mike DeAngelo focusing on new projects like his synth/pop-based The Catch, keyboardist Chad Johnson and drummer Evan Schmidt focusing on the low-key The Gilded Spade and guitarist Koley O’Brien turning his attention towards the surf-meets-Beatles vibe of A, B & The Sea.

Recommended If You Like: The Rocket Summer, Mae, Something Corporate


Comparisons can be drawn immediately between Ivory and the aforementioned Number One Fan-both achieved similar levels of success and both played a very similar style of music.  However, as the name might suggest, Ivory’s favored the piano-an extremely well-produced sound that was released initially via EP, amongst tours with groups like Spitalfield.  The group eventually faded away in late 2007, with frontman Nathaniel returning for a few shows here and there, and eventually their full-length Goodnight, Goodbye was released in the summer of 2009.  Since then, Nathaniel’s returned with solo projects such as the electronic-flavored Fotograph, and is now living in Chicago, preparing for his next big thing.  Drop him a line if you’re looking for a solid musician to jam with-I’m guessing you won’t regret it.

Recommended If You Like: The Rocket Summer, Number One Fan, Something Corporate

Verona Grove

With a more upbeat sound reminiscent of powerpop one-hit wonders American Hi-Fi, Fond Du Lac’s Verona Grove found success when Pat’s Record Company came knocking and offered them a deal, instantly placing the band on the road following a trip into the studio to record their solid debut The Story Thought Over.  Countless tours, high-profile shows, appearances on the E!  network and a devoted fanbase in their hometown seemed to indicate that superstardom was right around the corner.  Unfortunately, the group parted ways with their label not too long ago, and have since then been self-funding their recordings and playing shows around the Fond Du Lac area.  Check them out if you get the chance-their popularity level may have changed, but their shows and music have only gotten better.

Recommended If You Like: American Hi-Fi, Plain White T’s, sum41

With any luck, these groups represent a mere taste of what’s to come in the future from the Fox Valley.  Until then, turn your attention to the north and have a listen.


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