Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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“Artist-first” Winnetka Music Festival brings Milky Chance, Band of Horses, NU band and more to the North Shore

Shannon Tyler/The Daily Northwestern
Milky Chance, a German rock band best known for their 2013 hit “Stolen Dance” headlined Saturday’s lineup.

A sea of people of all ages filled downtown Winnetka this weekend to see to big names like Milky Chance and Band of Horses as well as discover new and upcoming music from Chicago and around the world at the 2024 Winnetka Music Festival. 

Sunshine and hot weather graced the North Shore suburb for a weekend full of folk rock music, food and community fellowship. With 30 acts spread between two days and four stages, the music festival brought in its biggest lineup to date, according to Val Haller, the festival’s founder and music curator.

[Check out The Daily’s Captured: The 2024 Winnetka Music Festival

Over the past eight years, the festival has grown immensely, from increasing the festival length to two days and expanding its capacity to 6,000 in 2023. Haller now partners with Evanston SPACE  to run the festival, but, she said, she has stuck to her mission and passion of connecting up and coming artists with a new audience — families north of Chicago. 

“I want (these artists’) music to get out there to the people,” Haller said. “A lot of festivals don’t have a person behind them or a brand, and this festival … we very much care about the bands, we want to know them, so we try to make our fest be more of an oasis for the artist too, and bring them a really big audience.” 

In her pursuit, she curates an artist lineup every year with quality music she knows the audience will love.

The festival prides itself on being family friendly and has performances for everyone.

This year, Haller invited Milky Chance, a German indie rock band who emerged onto the global music scene with their first single “Stolen Dance” in 2013 to be the Saturday night headliner.

Band of Horses, a folk-rock band hailing from Seattle, was the Friday headliner. The band’s emotionally intense music, especially their somber ballad “No One’s Gonna Love You” has made waves over the past two decades.

Accompanying the headliners, Haller brought in artists like Rayland Baxter, Michigander, Yola, Half Moon Run, The Heavy Heavy and more. 

These artists created a diverse setlist — Milky Chance brought a mix of Berlin club beats through strobe lights and electric keyboard riffs, British artist Yola introduced the audience to her soulful funk pop hits and Michigander stayed true to their Midwestern emo roots. 

Haller started this endeavor over a decade ago when she would invite bands to play in her own living room for free — with the promise of generous tips from the audience. She still continues that tradition, but also puts on free concerts at the town’s Chapel sponsored by her music-curating company ValsList. 

Haller has an “artist-first” mentality, according to Chicago-based music manager Hamon Kim, who has worked with her for years. He says when you get a call from Haller, you jump on the opportunity. 

“I really think that Val has curated a festival that kind of translates from that ValsList movement,” Kim said. “Putting artists first, showcasing artists so that the northside of Chicago can be introduced to what might possibly be their next favorite band.”

Haller invites a variety of Chicagoland small bands to the festival. One of those bands was Northwestern’s Widemouth, formed in Summer 2023 with lead singers and guitarists Communication junior Makena Carnahan and Jamie Eder (Weinberg ‘23), and later joined by drummer Bienen sophomore Lily Mitchell and bassist Weinberg senior Levi Saltzman. 

Widemouth formed during Summer 2023 and has since been writing and making music, soon to release a debut album.

The quartet brought their thoughtful lyricism about relationships, love and adolescence to the festival’s decadent yet intimate Chapel Stage. Carnahan and Eder’s voices harmonizing  against Mitchell’s dramatic beating of the drum sent chills through the chapel as they shared their heartfelt and nostalgic verses. 

The band’s music, mostly still unreleased, draws inspiration from bands like Big Thief, according to Carnahan. She and Eder, who started dating this past year, write most of the music from their separate and entwined experiences. 

“We blend pieces of our lives that kind of can get toward the same feeling,” Carnahan said of her songwriting process. “And then we make the two of our separate experiences into that sort of feeling that we’re trying to get more broadly.”

Eder added it usually starts with a moment or a memory. 

The two shared precious moments of their found love on stage with the audience, like the song “All I Ever Wanted” which Carnahan wrote about Eder. 

Following Widemouth was another young Chicagoland band Ur Mom — made up of four young adults from Park Ridge, Illinois. The band’s members — lead vocalist and guitarist Maura Wolf and bassist Andrew Vucsko-Cameron got together during high school, and they were later joined by drummer Alex O’Malley and guitarist Tommy Hinds. 

With a very drastic change of pace and volume, Ur Mom rocked the Chapel with their funky, folky rock blues. 

With Wolf’s hauntingly hypnotic voice accompanied by Vucsko’s energy and Hinds’ wild riffs (and hair), Ur Mom is making a name for themselves. Their music, a blend of each of the members’ music inspirations, is raw and real with songs like “Sushi (with your ex)” about jealousy and relationships and “OCD” about receiving a diagnosis for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

The band’s name started as just something temporary on a cardboard sign at a house show they played — but after some time and many conversations about changing it, they grew to love it. 

The name matches the band’s eccentric energy which pulsated throughout the audience Saturday afternoon. Vucsko-Cameron even ran through the crowd at one point.

“I want to be exciting and really look like I want to be there because I feel like as an audience, if you’re watching a band play and they don’t look like they want to be there, why would I want to be there?” Vucsko-Cameron said. 

Other bands like Chicago-based Ax and the Hatchetmen and British bands The Heavy Heavy and Yola were some of the highlights of Saturday’s performances for many festival-goers. As people walked out of the festival’s gate, they left invigorated by and in awe of the talent brought to the community. 

Haller’s hope for the weekend was that those who attended the festival would find a new favorite band. 

“If we do our work well, then these bands are all going to leave with some new fans that will be new followers to them,” Haller said. “That would be a full circle mission for me, sort of a dream come true.” 

Email: [email protected]

X: @Shannomtyler 

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