Summerfest Day 1: The Fatty Acids, Logic & Raze, and jumbo chess
- MONDO LUCHA! celebrates fifth anniversary in high-flying style at Turner Hall
- David Sedaris goes off book, shines at Pabst Theater
- Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck offer glimpses of greatness at Riverside Theater
- John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman give Pabst Theater three shows for price of one
- Top 5 musical moments from Kenosha’s 2013 Ride of the Living Dead
Give the brains behind Summerfest credit: In a world of niche tastes and ever-increasing fragmentation, The Big Gig does a remarkable job of being all things to all people. Classic rock? Check. Country? Check. Crappy “new rock” bands and even crappier cover bands? You bet. Hell, there’s even a smattering of hip-hop, world music, and the overpowering smell of roasted nuts tossed in for good measure. Oh, and cigars, which remains a thing people do at Summerfest.
With all that said, it was hard to guess just who Summerfest was aiming to please with its strangely lackluster 2012 opening day. Unless you were a die-hard country fan hoping to see Rascal Flatts at the Marcus Amphitheater, or a sleepy-eyed governor drooling at the prospect of tokin’ it up with Steve Miller, there wasn’t much in the way of compelling headliners. (Lupe Fiasco? The Dirty Heads? Kool & The Gang?)
But it’s during its occasional off-days that Summerfest really shines. It’s no secret that Henry Maier Festival Park can become an intolerable morass of people when the sun goes down, but during the day, the park can be downright pleasant. On Wednesday afternoon, the usual collection of bros, dudes, babes, goths, parents, grandparents, surly teens, and cops milled about the sweltering grounds, with the usual assortment of 2:30 p.m. cover bands playing “All The Small Things” and “P.Y.T.” serving as accompaniment.
As for real music, the day offered a perfect chance to see some local acts making good on the main stages. First up were The Fatty Acids, playing a plum 5:30 p.m. slot on the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. The Acids have long been one of Milwaukee’s most unabashedly energetic and grin-worthy live performers, and Wednesday’s set proved that their act works just as well outdoors as it does inside a club. Kicking off with the unstoppable “Howl” from 2010’s Stop Berries, Berries and Berries, Berries, the Acids treated a healthy-sized crowd of fans and random onlookers to their distinctive amalgamation of synth-pop, indie-rock, and jam-band sensibilities. “Astrovan,” also from Berries, served as an epic-length highlight that left many in crowd simply screaming in delight; indeed, along with pals Sat. Nite Duets, The Fatty Acids have some of the most fervent and joyful fans in town. Just try to forget about the whole “grown adults wearing face paint” thing.
Less successful were Logic & Raze, who found themselves filling the 6:00 p.m. slot at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse. A massive crowd camped out for the 10:00 p.m. Lupe Fiasco show was already in place for the local hip-hop duo, but it seemed to have little patience for songs not titled “The Show Goes On.” Opening with the great “Kites”—a re-worked version of the Violent Femmes “Blister In The Sun”—Logic & Raze tried their best to win over the sea of frightfully young Fiasco fans, but by the time they got to the undeniable awesome “High,” most of the crowd had taken a seat. It was too bad, since Logic & Raze remain one of the best hip-hop acts in town. Chalk it up to the perils of the enticing-yet-dangerous early-evening Summerfest slot.
Still, there were plenty of oddball moments throughout the day to keep things lively. On the south end of the grounds, near the brand-spanking-new BMO Harris Pavilion, a group of kids played a jumbo-sized game of chess. Far from the din of the music and the crush of people, here were a group of chess nerds simply doing their thing, oblivious to the ridiculous, sweaty scene around them. Did playing chess in the middle of all the cut-off t-shirt action make any sense? Nope. Did it at least make someone happy? Yes. Summerfest in a nutshell.