The inaugural ball for governors-elect of Wisconsin is a tradition that typically involves speeches, fundraising, cocktails and dancing at the Monona Terrace.
This year, the political supporters of Tony Evers attending the private Inaugural Gala on Monday night will also be treated to a festival-like musical lineup with at least six artists performing sets of jazz, polka and hip-hop.
Music has always been an integral part of the gala. In 2015, Gov. Scott Walker made headlines when he belted out a cover of a BoDeans song. In 2007, Gov. Jim Doyle booked the legendary blues performer Taj Mahal for his inauguration celebration.
This year’s lineup stands apart for the volume and diversity of the musical performances.
Jorna Taylor, the director of the gala and a self-described “music person,” said that she envisioned a festival-like vibe to the show, with a wide array of musical offerings. She said that the team organizing the event put a lot of research into possible featured artists, and extended invitations to performers who she were standout ambassadors of different genres.
“We wanted to make sure that, one, we were showcasing the great talent that Wisconsin had to offer. And two, that we had something for everyone, from hip-hop to polka,” said Taylor.
The resulting lineup features standouts from Milwaukee’s music scene. Abby Jeanne is a soul singer known for her deep, smokey vocals who took home artist of the year and album of the year at the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards in 2017.
Also on the lineup is New Age Narcissism, a musical collective that includes some of the city’s biggest ambassadors of hip-hop and R&B. Among them is Lex Allen, an R&B singer who was recently featured this year as a performer at Summerfest, and WebsterX, a rapper who has had his music featured on NPR and whose single “Feels” was highlighted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as one of the year’s best.
Madison will be represented at the gala by DJ Boyfrrriend, a DJ known for her work organizing parties and entertainment for the city’s queer community. Also in the mix will be Oshkosh jazz pop combo KWT featuring Tom Washatka, and the Milwaukee-based live party and wedding band Platinum.
Taylor said there will be even more performers besides, including a yet-to-be-announced polka band.
Taylor also noted that music will be throughout the inauguration events, including the weekends’ children's galas in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton, and at the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, where she said the Eau Claires Memorial Madrigals and a children’s choir will perform.
The ultimate goal of all the music, said Taylor, is to connect people of different backgrounds from across Wisconsin.
“A big way people feel connected to something is through music,” said Taylor. “If you’re able to identify with us through music, maybe they can connect with what this administration is trying to be.”
A rundown of the lineup, and other Inauguration-related events, can be found here.