If Saturday’s show ends up as the last hurrah for Dairyland Youth, they can say they did Summerfest proud.
The band, originally from Germantown, tore the roof off the Cascio Stage Saturday afternoon in a proud display of pure punk and left to wild applause from a crowd of about 70.
The fresh, angry screaming on songs like “Nazis at a Brat Fry” or “Wired” to open the show helped bring energy to the Cascio, but the real culprit was the band’s chemistry onstage. The DY website proudly proclaimed that the band “hasn’t been in the same room together in over 13 years.” Despite that, the banter between Brad and lead guitar Alex was lively and fun to watch. Extremely comfortable on Summerfest’s stage for the first time, Dairyland’s members cracked that “We sound better with more beer!” and were laughing and joking with each other throughout the show.
Whether it was a killer guitar solo, the guitarist playfully cutting off Brad’s “witty banter” with the opening bars of another track or simply watching the band blaze through 14 songs in 45 minutes, Dairyland Youth put on a really fun show.
The next band, Arkady, was a big comedown. Where DY was bouncing and passionate, Arkady seemed flat and uninspired. The lead singer made a joke early on about the band being “forced to be here” that rang uncomfortably true. The band never had anywhere near the same energy of Dairyland Youth.
Arkady managed a few good guitar solos and one loud, humming punk-esque song, but even that seemed laid-back in a lazy sort of way. Their final song, “Call it Crashing”, was probably the best in the eight-song set. It spent the first three minutes as a fairly poppy instrumental, pleasingly mellow except with cymbals in the background. After that, “Crashing” evolved into a happily bluesy number. If the rest of the set had been more like it, it might have worked better. As it was, the only question after the show was whether the audience or the band was more eager to leave.
Arkady gave way to Death Ships, which started slow but gained excellence as the show went on. Lead guitarist Jamie was worth the price of Summerfest admission all on his own. In a fairly polished band, he stood out as the jumping, crouching, ridiculously entertaining center of the thing. He even sang along with the lead singer’s part despite a distinct lack of microphone.
In fact, I’d say the best part of the Death Ships was the individual performances. The drummer, Little Thumps, was as good a drummer as I’ve ever seen live. He was somewhat muted through the first bit of the set. On the last song, “Shit-Eating Grin”, he broke off an amazing solo, then proceeded to top himself by playing a similar solo in double time. “Shit-Eating Grin” featured solos by both guitars as well, and served as an excellent send-off for the band.
DS’s lead singer, Daniel, was also very good with the audience. Whether it was yelling out “this song is called ‘tuning!’” or, again, encouraging everyone to drink more, Daniel seemed in complete command of the crowd.
The last band I saw were the Cascio headlining Wildbirds. A lot more bluesy than the other bands, WB also drew a more substantial crowd. A crowd of about 150 were there to watch the Birds’ crooning and commanding a mosh pit of about twenty people.
Although it was under an hour long, like all the other shows at Cascio, the Birds still provided some pretty good music. They seemed to emphasize 80s-style guitar jamming, which took place during a number of their songs. The singer also had a knack for crooning at the audience in old-time John Lennon style, which went over well with the capacity crowd.
The biggest weak spot in their show was probably the tambourine. The offending instrument was a part of nearly all their songs. However, all five band members were already playing their chosen instruments. Anyone playing the tambourine had to give up their instrument, which took away from the overall playing of the group. Worse, the bassist and the lead guitar were each stuck with the tambourine for one song apiece, which definitely lessened the playing of the band. The Wildbirds managed to fuse elements of blues, country and rock for a genuinely entertaining show.