The North Code plays often and wins big in the Madison area

Band has won many awards, including Rising Stars
The North Code plays often and wins big in the Madison area
Romulo Ueda

In the summer of 2018, the barely 1-year-old indie-folk band The North Code was ubiquitous, playing every Madison venue and event that would book them. That included city-sponsored events like Make Music Madison, Madison Night Market, Art Fair on the Square and at the park shelter in downtown Verona.

“I can’t even tell you how many shows we did” that summer, North Code drummer Adam Prinsen says. “We were totally indiscriminate.”

Playing music in the same vein as Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers, The North Code played its first show as a five-piece at the North Street Cabaret at the end of 2017. They have made multiple appearances at Bos Meadery, The Winnebago and Art In as well as The Crystal Corner Bar, The Wisco and Crescendo Espresso Bar + Music Cafe on Monroe Street. The band has so far ventured only as far away as Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee campus to play but its members aspire to tour.

The first big local break came when the band was named the overall winner of the 2018 Overture Center for the Arts’ Rising Stars Competition. The grand prize was to open for the Americana strings trio Kittle & Co. in Overture’s Capitol Theater in October.

In December 2018, The North Code was edged out by Mount Horeb-based funk fusion band Wurk for the title of Breakthrough Artist in an annual battle of the bands organized by the Madison Area Music Association. Nevertheless, The North Code was awarded with a performance slot at the Between the Waves Conference and Music Festival in Madison last June.

The North Code has also notched several gigs at the High Noon Saloon, starting with a well-attended album-release show last May for “In My Head,” the band’s first full-length album.

The same week as that show, three members of the band (Prinsen, guitarist Josh Pankratz and keyboardist/mandolin player Craig Hoffmann) learned they had won Project M, 105.5 Triple M’s multiweek songwriting contest. That earned the full band (including Ben Strohbeen on bass and Rin Ribble on violin) a show on the Harley-Davidson stage at Summerfest last July.

Now, having resumed its winning streak and gained more exposure, The North Code is being advised by Madison venue managers to play less frequently and not saturate the city with shows like they have been.

“It’s something we are trying to keep in mind,” Strohbeen says, “because we are playing out so much — maybe too much — to where we may not draw [as many people] as we can to a single show.”

“We’re never wanting for shows,” Prinsen adds. But the band has its eyes set on larger Madison venues such as the Majestic Theatre or The Sylvee, where they’d love to play as an opening act.

“It’s our hope to continue building relationships and getting on those bigger stages,” Prinsen says.

Click here to read more about Madison’s music scene.