The Jordan Wilson Coalition (top) plays to a packed house at the Off Broadway Taproom around 1:40 p.m. Saturday during the Mad Hop Music festival. (Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
The Jordan Wilson Coalition (top) plays to a packed house at the Off Broadway Taproom around 1:40 p.m. Saturday during the Mad Hop Music festival. (Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
What’s the encore?

That’s what venue owners are wondering after the first Mad Hop Music Festival far surpassed expectations for attendance and wristband sales.

Everything seemed to cooperate, especially the weather, for organizers of the five-venue festival downtown Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Festival-goers saw 25 acts at different times at the Off-Broadway Taproom, Electric Lady, Red Bicycle Hall, Thomas Family Winery and House of Jane barber shop throughout the day.

“It was awesome for a first time. We couldn’t be happier,” said Tony Novello, head of the Mad Hop committee. Novello has in the past worked with the RiverRoots and Ribberfest Festivals. He is also a Red Bicycle Hall partner.

Novello said 400 to 500 wristbands were sold, surpassing the original goal of 300. By Saturday morning, they were all sold out, he said.

Novello and his committee started planning for the event early in the year and took inspiration from the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, another multiple-location-based festival in Bristol, Tennessee, he said.

Like Mad Hop, the Bristol festival started small, but exploded because of its new approach on music festivals.

Unlike big festivals, Mad Hop allows weather to play a lesser part and gives festival-goers more leeway in coming and going to different sets, Novello said.

Dan Williams, another organizer and the lead organizer of RiverRoots for the past three years, said it was a goal to bring people to Madison, make sure they spend time exploring the city and to place artists in venues suited to them. All of which was done on a model in which Mad Hop pays for the artists to play different venues, and the venues themselves make money from alcohol and food sales in exchange for offering their space all day, he said.

For Steve Thomas, owner of the Thomas Family Winery, it was all about bringing in new faces, both in the crowd and on stage. Thomas said the winery was packed all day with people he had never seen in Madison.

The mild 60-degree weather also made it a pleasant experience for festival-goers to sit inside or hang out on the back patio, he said.

“We’ve seen some days on this date snowing sideways and some days 70 degrees,” Thomas said.

A quieter place away from the bars was House of Jane, which saw a number of acoustic acts throughout the day. The owner, Jane Vonderheide, said the small barbershop was at or near capacity all day, especially during Robert Reynolds’ solo set.

Future plans for the festival include more downtown venues and the possibility of weatherproof tents for outdoor sets, Novello said. One welcome addition would be the Ohio Theatre because it could add 500 to 600 seats, he said. The theater has not re-opened after a fire about a year and a half ago.

“If they say they’re ready, we’ll be ready,” Novello said.