Live music fans generally won’t expect a nationally acclaimed band to play eight nights at a bar in a town with less than 3,000 residents. Jesse DeFosse doesn’t much care for expectations.

DeFosse, a co-owner of the Dells’ Showboat Saloon since 2002, booked country band Mike and the Moonpies for an eight-day run at his bar, running June 24-July 1.

According to DeFosse, his interest in live music has coincided with running the saloon from the word go.

“Since the beginning, my focus has always been live music,” DeFosse said. “Which is not an easy thing to do in a town of 2,000. We do have a good problem with tourism, but being a live music venue isn’t always the easiest.”

However, DeFosse stayed persistent throughout the years, and has been rewarded with visits from hugely successful acts in the past. One of the highlights is four-time Grammy winner Jason Isbell, and DeFosse thinks Mike and the Moonpies could be a phenomenon of the same caliber.

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“I wanted them to be someone I believe is going to be the next superstar,” DeFosse said of his rationale behind booking the band. “The next big-time musicians. The agent said ‘Who do you have in mind?’ And I said ‘Someone like the Moonpies.’ They’re kind of the darlings of the industry right now.”

DeFosse isn’t just blowing smoke about the Moonpies’ popularity in the industry. Their sixth album, 2018’s Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, received widespread acclaim. Rolling Stone called it “an electric, must-hear mix of twang and boogie.”

Reviews like that led DeFosse to take a risk in signing them to eight nights at the Showboat. By DeFosse’s own admission, bands traditionally don’t play that many nights in a town the size of the Dells; they typically play a night or two and move on to bigger venues in more populous areas.

But DeFosse wanted to make sure Showboat was an important memory in the band’s mind. He wanted to break the cycle of being a small, unimportant stop on a longer tour and become a highlight instead.

“I’ve had all these bands that have come through and gone on to be Grammy winners, and we’re just one little speck in their journey,” DeFosse said. “I’ve gone to watch them at bigger venues, and they’ll mention events related to our venue, but they won’t necessarily remember our venue. I wanted to put a stamp on it.”

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