Summerfest Day 10: wrapping things up with The Flaming Lips, Meat Puppets, and bird poop
- Bill Cosby delivers lighthearted enlightenment at Riverside Theater
- Satan for the masses: Ghost B.C. brings spooky Swedish metal to Turner Hall
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver bombastic, potent show at Turner Hall
- Joe Bonamassa falls into familiar blues groove at Riverside Theater
- Milwaukee Psych Fest delivers variations on a tripped-out theme
“18-year-old me would be cumming his guts out...”
Day 10 of Summerfest 2011 wasted zero time in serving The A.V. Club its penance for wanting to watch The Get Up Kids’ 8 p.m. set on the Miller Oasis Stage. The twisted synchronicity of having your slice of pizza shit on by a nearby bird while suffering through the Edith Bunker-y, goose-honk vocals of Prussia vocalist Ryan Spencer at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse was a nightmare that could only be spun by the sinister forces initiating The Big Gig.
“This is my first time in Wisconsin, and I can’t believe we’re opening for The Flaming Lips,” declared Spencer between songs. What a coincidence—neither could we. In front of the rapidly thinning family crowd, he continued. “18-year-old me would be cumming his guts out in a bed at home, having a wet dream about this.” The Detroit band stumbled through a set of post-Vampire Weekend African-pop, with Spencer’s Blood Brothers-esque screech adding an out-of-step tap dance on Fela Kuti’s grave.
As Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” began blasting through the mains at the Miller Oasis Stage, The Get Up Kids seized the stage to ultimately prove that even though they’re Get Up Men now, they can still convincingly crank out chest-pounding, second-wave emo classics like “Don’t Hate Me.” “If no one’s tried the German egg rolls, they’re quite delicious,” shouted guitarist-vocalist Jim Suptic, undoubtedly referring to Milwaukee’s Mader’s Restaurant.
The caveat with watching The Get Up Kids 11 years after 2000’s Something To Write Home About—an admittedly great album that ultimately jumpstarted the second-wave emo movement—is trudging through the newer synth-driven tunes from this year’s There Are Rules. “Tithe” and “Shatter Your Lungs” were ultimately forgettable amongst the nostalgic punch of the Matthew Pryor-led “Holiday,” or massive sing-along set closer “Ten Minutes.”
We’ve got to say that after catching a half-hearted Wu-Tang Clan set earlier this year at The Rave, it was refreshing to see that hip-hop is still a labor of love for the legendary De La Soul at the insanely packed Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage. “What happened?” asked David “Trugoy The Dove” Jolicoeur with a big, Papa Smurf grin on his face. “Why ain’t y’all at Britney Spears?” Kelvin “Posdnuos” responded with a swift, “Fuck that, hip-hop is over here.” From there, the duo pounded its audience into submission with a thunder-clap treatment of “The Grind Date,” a tune they refused to finish until everyone—including a security guard that closely resembled Jeff Foxworthy—was waving their arms along.
Saturday was hipster heaven (relatively speaking, of course), with a slew of non-traditional rock bands throughout the day. Two local Mogwai-style post-rock bands anchored the Cascio Stage—early in the afternoon, up-and-comers Stock Options proved to be more engaging live than on record, as any such sludgy instrumental combo ought to be. Later in the evening, stalwarts of the scene Canyons Of Static played a more refined and melodic set, celebrating the release of the new Challenger EP. The band was impressive—particularly drummer Nathan Gaffney—and given the group’s sporadic activity of late, it was great to see one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at the local stage.
Another regional act, Sturgeon Bay’s Purgatory Hill, played perhaps the most intriguing set of the day. Generally speaking, when the lead instrument of a band has to be explained to the audience, you should get ready for a gimmicky novelty act. Not so in this case. The duo consists of Melaniejane—well known in these parts as a singer/songwriter in her own right—on percussion, keyboards, and vocals; and Pat MacDonald (formerly of Timbuk3) on vocals, harmonica, and Lowebow, an amplified cigar-box guitar that produces a unique combination of bass and slide guitar sounds. Together, the two put unique twists on well-chosen covers as well as quirky, bluesy originals that were almost as enthralling for their lyrics as for their unique instrumental sounds.
Across the grounds, Fresh Cut Collective was doing its best to impress fans under the Potawatomi Pavilion. We only caught the tail end of the set and immediately wished we’d seen more. Crowd response alone was enough to warrant checking the group’s tour schedule. Unfortunately, AUTOmatic didn’t fare as well following Fresh Cut. The cavernous pavilion was the worst sounding stage throughout the festival, and it was clearly not constructed with hip-hop in mind. The group was full of energy, but it sounded like a muddy echo chamber in there. Note to Summerfest: Next year, have hip-hop day in the open air where it can be heard. Market research shows that your target audience enjoys this genre.
At the nearby U.S. Cellular Stage, Ezra Furman And The Harpoons were laying down quite a racket; somewhat less impressive were the Meat Puppets. The band has put out a couple of decent Meat Puppets-sounding albums since the Kirkwood brothers reunited in 2006, but it appears Curt is trying to turn the group into a jam band. (Perhaps he’s forgotten that he’s not that good at lead guitar.) Maybe it was just an off night, but as nice as it was to hear “Backwater” and other classics from the band’s influential and varied catalog, the songs ran together in a verse/chorus/guitar solo formula that felt tired.
The most crowded scene we witnessed at Summerfest this year occurred for The Flaming Lips. Many fans had staked out seats all day, but well before the beginning of the band’s set, the Harley stage was overwhelmed. Frontman Wayne Coyne emerged, as expected, in his giant hamster ball and rolled out triumphantly over the crowd, and the band played amidst a hail of confetti and streamers and an impressive lighting display. Unfortunately, we found it impossible to enjoy the spectacle in such a stifling crowd, and scrambled after a few songs to catch a bit of Alkaline Trio. As fans roared every word to tortured punk-pop anthems like “Bleeder,” we tried to picture Lips fans passionately belting out songs about pink robots, and felt we may have ended the night properly after all.