Aug. 24--The last time Nicholas David played a show in La Crosse, his fans knew him by a different name.
The St. Paul-based singer, formerly known as Nick "The Feelin'" Mrozinski, performed on the bicycle-powered stage at the inaugural Downtown Sound Music Festival in 2012.
That same year, he launched into national fame as a contestant on NBC's "The Voice." It was quite the transition for the hippie-soul singer who made his living gigging five nights a week, sometimes two shows a night, but the musical education the singing competition show offered was priceless, Mrozinski said.
"It was super surreal, too," he added.
He sang with Smokey Robinson. He got pointers from Bill Withers. He made Cee Lo Green cry. He ended up taking third place. Now, he's launching national tours opening for major acts like the Avett Brothers, headlining shows of his own and working on a new album that will drop in October.
"It's been a rocket ship," Mrozinski said of his post-"Voice" experience. "I want it to be more of a hot air balloon ride."
Mrozinski returns to La Crosse Labor Day weekend to play the third annual Downtown Sound Music Festival. He will perform at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cavalier Theater.
"I've been trying to think of a way to come back to La Crosse," said Mrozinski, 33. Already widely known in the Twin Cities, The Feelin' has played locally at the Popcorn Tavern, The Root Note and The Waterfront Tavern. He also was a regular performer at Ed's (No Name) Bar in Winona, Minn.
"We thought this was a good opportunity to get (Mrozinski) to come back," said festival organizer Dane Gonzales, who co-owns The Root Note. "He's a great musician (whose) voice really stands out. Plus, he's just a really awesome person."
Mrozinski sets the musical tone for this year's festival lineup, which includes 15 acts performing in four different downtown venues. The festival unofficially kicks off with country-blues singer Charlie Parr at The Root Note on Thursday and launches in earnest on Friday with the steampunk folk-rock sister quartet SHEL at The Pump House Regional Arts Center.
Fans of alternative, soul, folk-rock, jam bands and singer-songwriters alike will find something to love on the free, outdoor, bicycle-powered stage on Pearl Street on Saturday and Sunday.
When the stage shuts down, the party continues with Nick Shattuck at The Root Note and Nicholas David at the Cavalier Theater.
Downtown Sound buttons, featuring a logo designed by local artist Landon Sheely, are $10 and can be purchased at The Root Note and The Pump House. The buttons are good for discounts on Downtown Sound's club shows as well as drink specials.
"This is not a moneymaking festival," said organizer Corrie Brekke, who co-owns the Root Note. "Buttons are a way to show support."
Downtown Sound launched three years ago as an offshoot of the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival with partnership from the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and this year added sponsorship from Downtown Mainstreet, Inc., but the festival needs public support to continue.
"This festival started with the idea that something like this should be happening in La Crosse," Gonzales said. "We're hoping to see it grow."
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