Mile of Music brings production teams and musicians back to work

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APPLETON – The sun is high in the sky, and Gary Bomber takes off his bob to wipe his forehead. He set up the Mile of music‘s Spats Stage at the Core for four hours Thursday, from 9:30 a.m.

But Bomber isn’t complaining. He said he was excited to be working on live events again.

In March 2020, calls to cancel events began, with live events like Mile of Music, one of the many victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The phone started ringing in the opposite direction,” Bomber said. “We thought it was a joke.”

Last year, Bomber saw the number of events he usually works on jump from 80 to 100 per year to 12.

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Most musicians and production companies have gone 14 months without live events. Guys like Bomber will tell you the break in business sucks. This week they’re happy to be at Mile of Music, which started its day on Thursday.

Bomber, who is from Appleton, has been in the business for over 35 years, the last 15 years as the owner of Bomber Sound Productions. It has provided speakers, microphones, lighting and other technological equipment for Mile of Music since its inception.

He said this summer is shaping up to be one of the busiest for many production companies.

Gary Bomber of Bomber Sound Productions sets up ahead of the Mile of Music festival Thursday in Appleton.

Mel Kohl, owner of Event Production Systems, agreed.

He said it was difficult to follow so many events after the drought. To keep the production company afloat, Kohl began using his semi-trailers to haul freight rather than the equipment needed to build stages.

Now the business is so busy that Kohl feels stretched at times. But he knows everyone wants to get back to live events, so he’s working as hard as he can to make it happen.

The company, which Kohl started in 2003, has worked to build up Every Mile of Music.

For this year’s Mile, Event Production Systems provided stages for Jones Park, Washington Square, the Red Lion Paper Valley Ballroom and Spats. While Bomber was equipping and preparing the Spats scene, EPS was preparing the other big scenes. EPS also provided stages for smaller venues, as well as barricades for the festival.

Brian Meixl of Bomber Sound Productions cables a light rack ahead of the Mile of Music festival Thursday in Appleton.

“We love it,” said COO Andrew LaPrise. “It’s kind of like a family reunion for us to get together with some of these other crews and organizers.”

Christopher Gold, a local musician who has played the Mile of Music since its inception, is excited to perform again at the biggest event he has hosted this summer. He started performing at outdoor festivals and house shows in June.

During the pandemic, Gold has found ways to continue to occur, despite the lack of physical locations. He has performed private virtual shows and livestreams which have been hosted by sites. He has also released albums and podcasts. He encouraged customers to pay what they could.

With COVID-19 variants on the rise, Gold remains bullish, but cautious. He wants to keep playing for everyone, but doesn’t want to be caught off guard again.

“I think the nature of being a freelance artist is that you learn to be flexible,” he said. “You learn to do whatever needs to be done to make things happen.”

Contact Roshaun Higgins at 920-205-1154 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @row_yr_boat.

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