MILWAUKEE — Joe Adamek and Betsy Ade certainly won’t complain about their Racine-based band winning $5,000 for playing three songs on a Summerfest stage in front of 1,000 screaming fans Thursday night.
Their band, Well-Known Strangers, finished second in Summerfest’s fifth annual Land the Big Gig Contest Thursday night. The band was one of three finalists to play at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard with a chance to win $20,000.
For finishing second, the group took home $5,000. Juice, a Boston-based group, won the $20,000 top prize.
“We were completely stoked to make it into the top three,” said Adamek, a Racine native and St. Catherine’s High School graduate. “We are happy to place second. We are proud of this. The whole band is proud of this.”
The band, a little more than a year old, consists of Adamek on rhythm guitar, Racine native John Kulas on bass guitar, Ade on lead vocals, Roger Gower on drums, Sacia Jerome on cello, and Theodore Koth on lead guitar.
The band started after Ade and Adamek sang together at a wedding for a mutual friend last year. They liked how they sounded together, joined up, and added different pieces as time passed.
The Land the Big Gig contest started in May, with hundreds of bands and artists submitting songs. Judges winnowed the list to 155 artists and fans voted on the submissions for nearly a month.
Judges selected a top 10 and had those artists submit video of a live performance. Well-Known Strangers used video from its very first show at Route 20 Outhouse in Yorkville and were chosen one of three finalists.
The three finalists performed Thursday night at Summerfest. Well-Known Strangers went first and played three songs during its 17-minute performance.
“I preferred going on first, but we didn’t have a lot of time to get to the levels we wanted,” Ade said. “But I thought we played well off each other. I thought we did really well out there.”
The crowd of about a thousand people was by far the biggest the band has played in front of.
“I was nervous,” Ade said. “But it was amazing. I can’t say enough about the fan support we got.”
The band practices three times a week, Adamek said, and that has prepared them for anything. “You know something will go wrong,” he said. “The question is will you be able to recover. We got out there had a lot of fun.”
The band also will have a lot of work in the next few months. They are finishing a music video that goes with their first single, which will be released later in July. The band will play on the Route 20 Outhouse float at Racine’s Fourth Fest parade, then has several shows in Minneapolis and Chicago in August and September.
Not bad for a band that played its first gig at Route 20 last October. “It’s been a very, very quick ride,” Adamek said. “Once the momentum started, we realized this could be some something pretty serious.”