Locust Street Festival
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Sunday’s Locust Street Festival found Milwaukee rebounding from a snap of lousy weather and finally getting its summer-block-party groove on. The A.V. Club milled around for the better part of the afternoon and took in the crowds, the music, the beer, and the obligatory drum circles. Here’s our minute-by-minute report.
1:31 p.m.: Magnetic Minds’ supercharged two-piece fuzz-bass-rock at the Lakefront Brewery Stage is making us crave a beer for some reason.
1:32 p.m.: Well, hello there, Lakefront beer tent! Don’t mind if we do. At $3.75 a cup, the temptation to smuggle in booze from home and risk the $500 fine is much easier to resist than at, say, Summerfest.
1:40 p.m.: We don’t get many chances to drink on the street while thumbing through crates of vinyl and listening to live music, so we’ll take this opportunity.
1:51 p.m.: An unbilled acoustic guitar trio belts out Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” from the Locust Street curb. Summer has officially arrived.
1:57 p.m.: The obligatory drum circle on Bremen Street actually features a trumpeter this year. Instant credibility.
2:05 p.m.: Sigmund Snopek III, unofficial grand marshal of the festival, is still jamming out weirdly inside his makeshift tavern backdrop. This year, he’s joined by Micheal Woods and Lisa Ridgely as the aptly-named Sigmund Snopek’s Beer Show.
2:11 p.m.: Undercover Organism gets a late start at the Riverwest Public House Stage, but a sizable crowd has gathered to bob and sway lazily. In case the dancing skeletons on the multicolored tapestry didn’t give it away, this is a jam band.
2:15 p.m.: There are booths for Tai Chi, Christianity, Scientology, and Chiropractic all within a one-block radius. This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but it’s been a very peaceful festival as far as we can tell.
2:22 p.m.: Ahab’s Ghost is as shaggy sonically as the band members are visually, bringing to mind a more garage-y rebirth of S.O.D. We don’t see any devil horns held aloft—has the phenomenon died with Ronnie James Dio?
2:35 p.m.: D’oh! A set-time switch at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Stage results in God’s Outlaw going on early, and we missed ’em. Luckily, we like Irish music too, and Frogwater’s family-friendly blend is appealing enough for a Sunday afternoon.
2:45 p.m.: A one-handed juggling act is impressive enough, but when the other hand is playing saxophone, you’ve got a real shot at street-performer notoriety.
2:50 p.m.: Sigmund is nearing the end of his three-hour-plus set, and he’s throwing out bags of chips to the crowd as if they were guitar picks. The fest wouldn’t be complete without him.
3:07 p.m.: The self- and audience-deprecating humor of Crappy Dracula is causing rampant outbursts of laughter among the crowd. This is easily the most straight-up entertaining set of the day.
3:35 p.m.: The Dracula’s finish up with “Free Wi Fi,” a song that extols the virtues of Internet-equipped funeral homes. For what it’s worth, our Internet connections have been buggy all day.
3:59 p.m.: Just before Crooked Keys come on, a band member’s brother is hustling passersby near Linneman’s to check out the band. “Hey, you like good music, right?” is his pitch. We must say we’re very impressed with vocalist Leah Kowalewski.
4:30 p.m.: Remember this name: Space Collector. The new-ish metal band is killing it.
4:49 p.m.: Inside Linneman’s, No Sleep For The Bear plays to a crowd that’s at least half in line for the bathroom. Despite a couple of guitar strap malfunctions and a shirtless-corduroy-jacketed bass player, the band puts on an enjoyable set.
5:20 p.m.: It’s probably a good thing in that less food will be wasted, but aside from Klinger’s generic school-lunch cheeseburgers, food vendors are running out of goodies. We should’ve jumped on that beef brisket hours ago when we had the chance.
5:45 p.m.: Three words: pugs, pugs, pugs.
5:55 p.m.: Group Of The Altos might be too big for this open-air event, literally: Three members are relegated to street level in front of the actual stage. It feels like the subtleties of the band’s experimental post-whateverish music aren’t connecting with the increasingly intoxicated crowd. Probably best to catch these guys in a club.
6:46 p.m.: You know the evening is winding down when the east end of Locust is mostly cluttered with Steve Miller and Pink Floyd covers.
6:53 p.m.: Best last-minute food option of the day: Immy’s African Cuisine, which will reportedly be opening an actual restaurant in the near future. We recommend the meat sambusa and the bajia. (Look ’em up.)
7:23 p.m.: To close out the night in style, Juniper Tar plays a killer hour-long set on Pierce Street. Judging by Aaron Schleicher’s Red Sparowes T-shirt and a couple of intense noise jams, the band is veering toward heavier and more interesting territory, but the key is still those lush, three-part harmonies. Don’t take ’em for granted, Milwaukee.