Come one, come all

Summerfest is for everyone

Many summer festivals play to a specific audience, but not The Big Gig. Summerfest's all-inclusive attitude is what makes it great.

By - Jun 25th, 2012 12:38 pm

Summerfest is upon us. Follow @TCDigest on twitter and tag your posts with #TCDsummer to come along for the ride.

Check out the many great Summerfest promotions offering free discount entry each day of the festival and have a safe ride down to the festival with the Milwaukee County Transit System. Rock on, Milwaukee.

From Dan Shafer, Managing Editor:

“I always dream about a Unified Scene.
Hey there’s James King and theres King James and there’s James Dean.
At a table in a corner of my Unified Scene.”
– The Hold Steady, “Sweet Payne

Some people despise Summerfest. I don’t know if it’s a modern, Interwebz-fueled trend to mercilessly criticize large, amorphous entities like “The Media,” “Stupid People,” “#YOLO-ers,” or “Summerfest,” with whom no actual argument can be had, but his line of thinking is not entirely unreasonable, and it is (probably) less destructive and (certainly) easier than directing such vitriol at, say, your immediate family or your employer.

The Big Gig draws countless criticisms, most of them valid. Me? I happen to love Summerfest. It’s one of my favorite things about Milwaukee. I’ve attended every Summerfest since I turned 16. I take irrational pride in my streak of seven consecutive Opening Nights.

Sure, I’ve left the festival spitting mad and vowed never to return—last year’s Friday night Girl Talk set comes to mind. But I always go back, and I always love it in the end. Flaws be damned. The Big Gig spans the majority of the musical spectrum in one big beer-soaked extravaganza, and there are those moments where the festival is a perfect snapshot of the strange and wonderful beast that is the Brew City.

Summerfest is always my favorite place to people watch. Each time I meander up and down the Grounds, I’ll see at least a half-dozen people that make me say, “I LOVE THIS CITY!!” and a half-dozen more that make me think, “We are so fucked.”

Such is the duality of Summerfest. In a sense, the same can be said for the Cream City at large. Some days, Milwaukee feels like the greatest place in the history of mankind. Other times, this city makes me want to weep for days.

The quote at the top of the page conveys the core mentality of one of my favorite bands, The Hold Steady. Nasal wordsmith Craig Finn dreams about a Unified Scene. So do I. And every so often, you’ll see it at Summerfest.

I love seeing 40-something moms and dads rocking out to Bon Jovi covers, teenagers ignoring the music and hunting for beer, and gravity-defying balancing acts on metal bleachers. I love seeing the dudes Mark Metcalf calls “The Beefy Youth” waddle around the grounds, oversized MGD in one hand, fried deliciousness in the other. I love jockeying for position at a crowded show. I love the people crowding the rocky lakefront in anticipation of fireworks. I love the Sky Glider. I love the bus rides from the suburbs and back, where underage drinkers clutch Aquafina bottles full of vodka and chase it with the cheapest soda on the convenience store shelf. I love scarfing down quality eats from local favorites like Saz’s, Goolsby’sJohn Hawks and so many more. I love running into old friends from past lives. I love the chaos that comes at closing time. Most of all, I love when a brilliant show upends the audience, many of whom are only there because their one friend insisted on it, and everyone leaves yelling like hell to the heavens, feeling the same adrenaline rush that can only come from a kick-ass set.

Not all festivals are for everyone. Summerfest is for everyone. And it might be the closest thing we have here in Milwaukee to that “Unified Scene.”

The TCD staff is excited for Summerfest, though as you might have guessed, not all of us for the same reasons. Our staffers shared a few acts they’ll be down on the Grounds to see this year, and we invite you to share your selections in the comments below.

Carly Rubach, Social Media Specialist/TCDIY columnist:

I’m in Summerfest denial. Each year it gets more and more difficult to look at the Big Gig lineup with no mention of Tom Petty. Before I lived in Milwaukee, we’d come up for Summerfest every year to see Petty–even then, he looked like death. I remember going to the show with my whole family one year and asking my parents what that funky smell was all around us. I think they called it “cigar smoke” or something less offensive–so many new discoveries. Going to see Petty at Summerfest was my introduction to Milwaukee; I was enamored by the lake view from the top of the hill at the Marcus Amphitheater. I felt inexplicable excitement when we’d rush the gates to get our hands stamped for the free lawn seating.

Tom Petty, Summerfest is not the same without you and I continue to rock my tour t-shirt that so boldly demands, “Sell your computer, buy a guitar. Tom Petty Rocks.”

If you’re not in Summerfest denial, I highly recommend the big sound of the Altos playing on the local Cascio Stage Thursday, July 5 at 9 p.m. This is a unique musical experience that you have to see. Check out their recent and locally made music video for a preview.

Sahan Jayasuriya, Editorial Assistant:

Man, I’ve racked up so many great Summerfest memories since my first visit back in ’95. Seeing the Smashing Pumpkins on the Adore tour in ’98 was great. Seeing an ultra-young Glassjaw open for the Deftones in 2000 was rather impressive. The Hold Steady’s set from 2010 definitely ranks up there as one of the best I’ve seen. Nostalgia aside, here are some of my picks for who to check out this time around.

The Promise Ring

I saw the Promise Ring a few times back in the early 2000s, and they put on a great show. I saw them recently at Turner Hall, and they still put on a great show. Almost two decades after their formation, the beloved Milwaukee four piece can still kick out the jams, and I am certain that they’ll do just that at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse this year.

Fountains of Wayne

There’s much more to Fountains of Wayne than “Stacy’s Mom,” and their latest album Sky Full of Holes perfectly showcases the group’s fantastic power pop song-crafting abilities. Their 2003 Summerfest appearance was fantastic, and I am greatly looking forward to their set this year.

The Hives

With more swagger and attitude than all of Europe, the kings of Swedish garage rock are back on the road, touring in support of their upcoming album Lex Hives. Don’t be an “I-D-I-O-T“–this is a show you won’t want to miss.

Matthew Reddin:

When I saw Fitz and the Tantrums was coming back to Summerfest–as a headlining act–I may have actually started jumping up and down. I saw them for the first time at Summerfest last year, when they opened for Maroon 5. As it turned out, I didn’t get to stay and watch Adam Levine sing his entire musical library in drastically altered, non-falsetto keys, but it didn’t matter: With Fitz, a six-piece neo soul team that can put on a show like no other, I’d gotten my money’s worth.

The next time I saw them, at the rainy Rock the Green concert this fall, they said they’d only performed in Milwaukee three times, so that means I’ve seen the majority of their concerts in our fair city. Which is pretty cool. I don’t know if they’ve been back since, but even if this summer’s gig doesn’t give me an awesome three-of-four record, I’ll be rocking out up close to the stage and loving every minute of it. “Sweet Dreams,” Fitz, until we meet again.

From aging, used-to-be wild man, Curt Yorkey, Director of Sales:

Okay kids, someone needs to take the country music reigns here and I’m just the fella to do it. What can I say, I’m a sucker for lyrics and I feel that country music has the best lyricists. These are in the order of my preference, if anyone would like to take me.

1. The main draw at the Marcus Amphitheater on Saturday, June 30 is Lady Antebellum, but I would buy tickets for the opening act, Darius Rucker (formerly known and Hootie). What I like about him is that his songs are easy to listen to, just like in the Blowfish days. The fact that he has separated himself from his pop years shows his immense musical talent.

2. Phil Vassar will grace the Briggs & Stratton Backyard stage on Saturday, July 7, at 10 p.m. Vasser has blessed the music world with a plethora of hits not only for himself but also for stars like Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Collin Raye, and many more. He has won a ton of awards, but for some reason, always seems to be flying under the country music mega-star radar. Hits include, “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “American Child,” “Six-Pack Summer,” and “I’m Already Gone.” Vassar is a hit-writing genius, and I haven’t even mentioned how this dude can bang the ivories!

3. On June 28 at 10 p.m. the Miller Lite Oasis offers us Mr. Gary Allan. Allan’s music has always been in the misty side of one’s heart. His wife Angela Herzberg committed suicide after suffering from depression and migraines in 2004, and in the years since, he has written a number of songs that deal with his coping of her passing. Allan allows his fans to know exactly where he is coming from.

4. Atlanta’s very own Zac Brown Band will take the Marcus Amphitheater stage on Thursday, July 5. The band brings all of the edges of country music into its repertoire, and this is truly a live concert to behold. They certainly look anything but a traditional Country music group and there are numerous times in which they don’t even sound like traditional Country music. The Zac Brown Band is a guaranteed evening of fun, and who in the world doesn’t need to have some fun?

One last thing I wish Summerfest would do is schedule a few of the headliners for earlier in the evening. That would give some of us almost-50 folks a shot at seeing someone we enjoy at a decent hour.

Find the the full Summerfest lineup here, and click here to sign up for TCD’s E-News, where we’ll be giving away free tickets to the World’s Largest Music Festival. 

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

0 thoughts on “Come one, come all: Summerfest is for everyone”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Uh, I think you mean all WHITE people, right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    A convincing rebuttal, but most white people don’t know they’re only talking about white people unless someone points it out. You’re welcome. By the way, Milwaukee is majority-minority. Something to consider next time you make generalizations about “everyone” in the city.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can’t remember the last time a group of white kids rioted at a Milwaukee festival.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Milltown – Accusing writers of generalizations by basing yer argument on a generalization comes off as reactionary at best. Something to consider if you ever hope to be effective.

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