Strange Fruit Music Festival is Back for a Second Year

Aug. 23, 2017
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Paying tribute to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit,” Milwaukee's Strange Fruit Music Festival is back for its second iteration. The independent festival aims to spark discussion and awareness on racial relations in Milwaukee and the rest of the United States through music and live performances.

Founded by Milwaukee-based musicians Chauntee Ross and Jay Anderson, the festival has turned into an annual event following last year's success. This year, Strange Fruit Music Festival will span three days starting on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at three venues in the Milwaukee area. On Wednesday, The Diaspora Orchestra will fill Washington Park Bandshell with its music. On Thursday and Friday, bands and individual artists will play at Gibraltar MKE and Company Brewing respectively. 

The Strange Fruit Music Festival was created after the back-to-back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in 2016. Philando Castile was a black man shot by a policeman for reaching for his driver license when he got pulled over for a busted taillight; Alton Sterling was a black father of five, shot several times in the front and back by police officers in front of a grocery store. They were two of the 233 African-Americans shot and killed by police in 2016.

According to the Washington Post's police shooting database, there have been 15 more fatal shootings this year than at the same time last year. A chilling realization, that illustrates the need for a festival such as Strange Fruit Music Festival. "Progress regarding the racial climate in the nation generally and Milwaukee specifically is progressing at a glacial speed, and could be argued is actually regressing," Strange Fruit organizers argue.

“We can no longer be violent with our bodies or our actions," Jay Anderson says. "We are here to be violent with our art. And so we will create a piece of art to immortalize these temporary emotions that we feel about the state of the country.”

The full lineup is below: 

Wednesday, Aug. 30 at Washington Park Bandshell

The Diaspora Orchestra

Thursday, Aug. 31 at Gibraltar MKE

Brit Nicole

Taj Raiden

Mikey Cody Apollo

Bo & Airo

No Seat Belts

Friday, Sept. 1 at Company Brewing

Dasha Kelly Hamilton + Still Waters Collective

VoodooHoney Horns

Kavon Cortez-Jones


Kevin Hayden Band

David Wake Quintet

Black And Mad


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