On Thursday, September 8 at 7 p.m., community members gathered to hear local Wisconsin band “The Dang-Its” perform at Cravath Lakefront Park. More than 30 spectators have set up lawn chairs on the grass in front of the park’s amphitheater, with many more enjoying the show from the comfort of their own vehicles in the nearby parking lot.
The Madison-based band, in business since 1998, has performed a mix of covers
and original songs influenced by genres like folk, country, and Americana. The group’s co-founder, Tom Waselchuk, notes, however, that there is a uniqueness they bring to their music. “We play traditional music, but we’re all into swing and jazz, so we bring an element of improvisation to it,” the guitarist said. “Any other folk or country band you’re going to see will be playing the same tunes they do every night, but we have a little more freedom to follow the timing,” Waselchuk said.
The performance was filled with friendly energy, with the band interacting with the audience between songs and during breaks. At one point, an audience member pointed out the moon, which was two nights away from being full. Waselchuk admired her orange hue before thanking the viewer for bringing attention to the nighttime spectacle.
Two of the audience members, Richard and Kori, have been fans of “The Dang-Its” since 2013 and were eager to show their support for the band on Thursday. “We want, at least by our presence, to support the musicians. They’ve had a tough fight since the pandemic,” Richard said, “so we like to show we’re there for them. »
Each of the band members shows a long history of music. “For me, I’ve always loved music,” said Matt Rodgers, the band’s bassist. “I started with the electric bass, then I played with CDs of bands that I liked. I studied music in college and I teach music in public schools; I appreciate it very much.
Rick Nass, who co-founded the band with Waselchuk, has also made music a big part of his life.
“I was encouraged by my parents at a very young age to try something. They thought it would improve my life, so I started playing the accordion and retired at age eight. I I was already doing gigs and solo stuff when I was seven. Nass now plays pedal steel guitar for The Dang-Its. “I wanted to be a saxophonist, but [the pedal steel guitar] gives me exactly the feeling and the emotion that a sax would have given me. And since I have asthma, I’m happy to do that instead.
Waselchuk enjoys all kinds of music and musicians. “Anyone who plays well inspires me,” he said. “I love good musicianship and when it can take me emotionally to a different place than where I am right now.”
The group’s current fiddlers, Ruthie McQuinn and Waselchuk serenaded the hall with their comforting vocals, alternating between duet and solo vocals for each song. At times, McQuinn focused entirely on vocals, which certainly added to the grounded and understated feel of
the performance. “Writing songs, I love to sing. For me, it’s about finding the melody and then writing words to fit it. The melody and the lyrics come first.
This isn’t the first time “The Dang-Its” has performed in Whitewater. They have been invited to perform several times over the years. “It’s good to play here in this park,” Waselchuk said. “The background is beautiful. It’s always nice to come back to a place where they know you and appreciate your music.
Thursday’s performance was a perfect example of the energy and culture that local bands can bring to small towns through these small venues. Larger events just can’t feel so personal or casual. The next Dang-Its performance will be on September 15 in Spring Green, WI. More information about this event and the band can be found on their website here.