The October 28 show will also feature George Clinton and Kweku Collins.
Freakfest, Madison’s annual city-sanctioned Halloween party on State Street, has transformed into a respectable music event during its decade-long existence. Initially launched in 2006 as a way to impose order on Madison’s notoriously rowdy Halloween celebrations, the event hooked up with concert promoter Frank Productions in 2007 to book music lineups that initially didn’t seem to have much to do with freaky, um, fun, much less taste. Each year there have thankfully been good local acts in the mix—and organizers deserve credit for giving local hip-hop a pretty consistent presence at Freakfest—but they often labored under relatively weak headliners given the prominence the event commanded.
The first-ever headlining band at Freakfest, in 2007, was Lifehouse. In 2009, it was Third Eye Blind. Along the way, there were hints that the event could pull in good headliners, or at least ones that made sense for the audience—Twin Cities hip-hop soldiers Atmosphere in 2014, Matt & Kim in 2013. But the turning point came when Anderson .Paak headlined last year. An excellent hip-hop/R&B artist in the midst of a breakout moment—it’s hard to ask for more at a big outdoor party, even if, like me, you’ve made a punching bag out of Freakfest’s low-hanging headliner fruit in the past. With Anderson .Paak, though, the event seemed to have found the sweet spot of its Mountain Dew-sponsored groove, which continues with this year’s lineup.
Taking place on Saturday, October 28, the 2017 installment of Freakfest has given the top slot to the infectiously syrupy R&B singer D.R.A.M., who last visited Madison for a sold out January show at the Majestic. Other highlights will include George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic (who were just in Madison a few months ago for Brat Fest), sonically eclectic Evanston, Illinois rapper Kweku Collins, and recently formed Madison noise-rock outfit Twelves. The full lineup is available here.
Of course, a big Halloween blowout on State Street still isn’t going to be everyone’s thing, and that’s OK. Halloween in Madison tends to be an amateur-hour shit-show any way you cut it. Other options will presumably include about five million tribute-band bills throughout the weekend. But the argument for Freakfest used to be, essentially, “it’s better than a bunch of shit getting broken by out of town ass-hats,” but with these inspired recent lineups it’s become something with legitimately strong appeal.