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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Bobby Hussy, performing with Heather Sawyer for The Hussy, brings incendiary energy to his performances, guitar on fire or not.

Hussy prepares for annual Turkeyfest

Bobby Hussy talks touring, inspiring music fans and the excellence of Mickey's Tavern

Strands of red and white Christmas lights illuminate the dark East Mifflin basement. Remnants of a surprise birthday concert remain on the walls, including a “Happy Birthday” banner and a smashed piñata. Fire Retarded, a local four-piece band, sets up to practice, preparing for the 6th Annual Turkeyfest, taking place at Mickey’s Tavern Friday and Sunday, and at the Crystal Corner Bar Saturday. One of the members, Bobby Hussy, flits around the homemade stage, attempting to find an aux cord. This is one of six bands of which Hussy is a member, and he’s anxiously awaiting this weekend where he’ll take the stage three times at Turkeyfest.

“It kind of makes sense at my festival I’ll play all three nights, so it’ll be fun,” Hussy said. He’ll be performing with Fire Retarded, The Hussy—a band which he started with Heather Sawyer—and filling in at bass for Dumb Vision.

Hussy is a native of Plymouth, Wis., about two hours northeast of Madison, and has lived in Madison for most of the last 10 years, receiving a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After going on hiatus to live in the Bay Area of California for a year, Hussy returned to Madison and “never looked back.”

Spending the last several years finding himself, Hussy noted that his current attitude of a subdued, chill punk wasn’t always the case. While he was introverted throughout most of his adolescence, Hussy said that playing music helped him blossom into an energetic, yet chaotic, performer. That chaotic spirit included lighting objects on fire while performing.

“I usually just do my guitar,” Hussy said. “If we were ever playing in a place that wouldn’t be conducive to having kids get wild or me lighting things on fire we’ll stop playing them.”

While his bands have been banned from a few venues—including Crystal Corner for a time— Hussy smiled and stayed positive, noting that, “There’s always gonna be another place to play.” 

Turkey Time

Besides playing in several bands, Hussy heads Kind Turkey Records, which is where the name for Hussy’s fest originated. After playing at Chopperfest, a festival organized by Milwaukee-based Chris Capelle, Hussy started Turkeyfest six years ago, originally as a one-day event. Since then, the fest has expanded to three days and two venues.

“To me, [the shows at Mickey’s] are a bonus, because Turkey Fest is about Crystal Corner, it’s about the big show... it’s about the band me and Heather (Sawyer) think is the best band in the country,” Hussy said. This year, Hussy is bringing in Obnox and We Are Hex to perform on Saturday at Crystal Corner, along with The Hussy and Proud Parents. 

“The kids are our future, man”

Hussy’s rampant and extensive touring history has connected him with bands across the country, which allows for him to get a solid basis of talent for selecting bands for Turkeyfest.

While Hussy notes that he’s stable and set-up now, touring took everything from him.

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“Touring is the real deal,” Hussy said. “I’ve given up everything in my life to tour, I’ve slept on couches.... You lose friends, you lose girlfriends, you lose money. I’ve quit jobs for it.”

Hussy acknowledge that he won’t spend the rest of his life touring at his current rate, but he’s going to continue for as long as he can.

“I’m 29, I’ve been touring since I was 18, I don’t know how to do anything else well, as well as I know how to [tour],” Hussy said.

When not touring, Hussy attends concerts around Madison, and attempts to go out to shows more than three times a week. Hussy tries to give every band a shot, regardless of genre.

“[I’ll] check out a band one time, and if it's not my thing, I’ll give them eight months and check them out again,” Hussy said. This passion Hussy instills in discovering newer acts comes from lessons he’s learned over the last 10 years, especially from Sawyer, who helped him understand various customs about the punk scene, the importance of ear plugs and the exchange of hospitality between bands.

Hussy looked to his Fire Retarded bandmates as an example of how college students and younger music fans can pass on the spirit of musical camaraderie. He understands that students are more likely to pass on new music and information to other students.

“If you inspire one kid, they’ll tell 10 friends,” Hussy said, going on to note that even music fans his age may not be as active in contacting friends about a new band.

Hussy has spent the last 10 years cultivating a persona, both on and off-stage. The former introvert has found himself through his music, and continues to tweak and develop his sound. The breadth of talent in Bobby Hussy’s mind is immeasurable and inspiring, and his continual evolution as a musician will take him further than anyone can imagine.

Turkeyfest takes place throughout the weekend. Friday and Sunday nights at Mickey’s Tavern will be free, while the Saturday performance at Crystal Corner Bar will cost $8. Both venues are 21 and older.

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