Review & Photos | Summerfest | Milwaukee

Images by: Kristina Danitz & Jesse Cooper

Words by: Jesse Cooper

Summerfest :: 06.26.13 :: Marcus Amphitheater :: Milwaukee, WI

Despite torrential rainfall throughout the Midwest, Summerfest opened up to sunshine. A cool breeze rolled off the lake on an otherwise balmy evening as the sun glistened in the gentle waves of a Great Lake. The smell of grilled corn on the cob surrounded everything as various side stage bands played with the occasional hoot or holler from a happy patron. Boasting "the World's largest Music Festival", Summerfest followed through on its claim offering a wide array of acts across its 12 stages and posting some of the biggest names in musical headliners. Ever-growing since its debut in 1968, Summerfest continues to be one of the must-see festivals in the Midwest bringing in close to a million people. Opening the Marcus amphitheater with a bang was an oddly perfect lineup in Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Avett Brothers, and the Violent Femmes.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros took the stage in the still baking sunshine. Alex Ebert strolled to the front row questioning "You guys know our repertoire. What do you want to hear first? 40 days? Good call..." He continued to pour out lyrics like a Baptist preacher, outstretched arm to the crowd and the other hand over his eyes. The gypsy collection of musicians played with a sting of the blues, the heart of folk, and a hint of funk. The half capacity crowd clapped, danced, and sang along lyrics in the gloaming of the slowly setting sun. Midway through "That's What's Up," he grabbed a phone from someone in the front row and took video of the crowd and then himself, shouting like a madman. During an impressive delivery of "Man on Fire," Ebert climbed down in the crowd, dancing through, while singing "I want the whole damn world to come dance with me." They finished, predictably, with a fine performance of "Home" to a roaring crowd.

Against a flowery pastel backdrop The Avett Brothers opened up fast and loud with "Live and Die" echoing to the elated crowd as darkness finally took over the horizon. They continued bouncing around the stage with their classic punk- folk energy, banging on their unique collection of classical and folk instruments. They finally slowed tempo rolling into "Down With the Shine." The lake smell permeated the amphitheater as they wooed the crowd with "Laundry Room" in a slow crescendo to an ample roar. They displayed their amazing chemistry, volleying lyrics back and forth. Late in their set, they harmonized to a touching rendition of the traditional gospel song "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" huddling around the microphone under a solitary spotlight. They played on through the crack of fireworks popping over the water with "February Seven." As the fireworks raged on they erupted into "Kick Drum Heart" as the stinging sulfur smell lingered on. And as if planned, the fireworks grand finale perfectly coincided as Scott Avett belted out the title lyrics, "I and Love and You."

Following an unusually long intermission The Violent Femmes took the stage. Amidst the mist of the firework aftermath, Gordon Gano announced with pride, "The name of our band is Violent Femmes and we are from Milwaukee, Wisconsin." The crowd screamed appreciation to the homecoming band. Being their first year back since the 2009 breakup, it's not surprising that there were a few hiccups in the set. "Blister in the Sun" felt a little slow and "Kiss Off" was a near train wreck at one point. However, the band reeled it in and delivered a memorable show to young and old alike. The entire amphitheater aided in singing "Do Not Go," and they danced hard and shouted the lyrics to "Day After Day." Pausing briefly, Gano joked that they weren't really playing a concert, they were just playing the album. Despite their age they had impressive energy and the band appeared to be having a lot of fun in their hometown. The amphitheater was completely full and swaying like waves, to the beat of their timeless classics. The crowd left Summerfest’s opening night emulating their staple motto, “Smile on.”

JamBase | Smile On
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[Published on: 7/8/13]

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