Best Coast photo by David Black.
The traffic jams and routine bumping into other attendees - who all inexplicably travel in different directions and varying speeds - can be a frustrating constant at Summerfest. But on the festival’s slower days when crowd accumulation isn’t as suffocating, the comfort in knowing that one can travel between stages without fear of crashing into someone paying little attention is reassuring.
So while a second day of foggy conditions and cooler temperatures definitely drove attendance down, the smaller size wasn’t all that bad. But as jumping from one stage to another became more accessible, it became much easier to spot a lot of major issues acts experienced throughout the evening.
Things didn’t get off to a great start for local Milwaukee rapper Wave Chappelle, who performed to a sizeable crowd at the Miller Lite Oasis, or at least spent a long time trying to. He was still sound-checking 10 minutes past his 6 p.m. slot time. Those waiting—presumably for B.o.B.’s headlining set—seemed unfazed. As the crowd sang along to LMFAO’s “Shots” playing over the P.A., I made my way to the Milwaukee Bucks draft party. But I was still close enough to hear the pre-recorded music finally fade out, and unfortunately, Chappelle came on stage a little too late for me to catch him.
While traveling—quite freely I might add—to the Summerfest Grounds’ southern end, I passed what I thought was a basic cover band at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, but ended up being Danny Gokey gleaming through a rendition of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” (I guess my initial assessment remained correct.) As there was nothing to see here, I kept heading south only to be obstructed by a group of people circled around a man wielding a flaming whip. Summerfest, you guys!
Following a bombastic celebration over the Bucks’ draft selection of Jabari Parker, I bee-lined over to the KNE New Music Stage to catch a lively set from Milwaukee troubadour Brett Newski. The charming singer-songwriter normally performs as a solo act, but this time he enlisted the assistance of bassist Harrison Dole and drummer Alex Bunke (both of Bright Kind) to fill out his self-described “power folk” sound.
Newski’s set list contained a good many songs from his latest Vietnam-inspired album, American Folk Armageddon, but he also threw in a searing Violent Femmes’ cover of “Add It Up” that concluded with Newksi hammering through a killer solo while his guitar laid flat on the ground. He would apologize to his mom before closing with a spot-on assessment of the narcissistic Internet generation, “We Are All Fucked.”
Newski’s accompaniment seemed extremely lo-frills when compared to St. Lucia’s tragic performance at the nearby U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. After taking an extra 30 minutes to set up, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Johannesburg electro-pop group still couldn’t get off the ground. Singer Jean-Philip Grobler explained that two crew members couldn’t make the show because they were bumped from their flight and the band had trouble obtaining their lost backing mixes. Their set contained a great number of deer-in-the-headlights moments, like when one song had to be re-started three times. After 30 trying minutes, the group decided that performance couldn’t be saved. “Unfortunately, this is our last song because nothing is working,” Grobler remarked. That announcement was met mostly with relief. With its synthesizer-based cheesy ‘80s pop music, it’s not hard to imagine St. Lucia coming back and performing to a packed Summerfest crowd, but tonight just wasn’t their night.
Following St. Lucia’s set, the sun-blistered, fuzzed-out California vibes of Best Coast’s songs were a constant reminder of the unseasonable temperature. The performance recalled memories of having to use the bathroom during a long car ride with no exit in sight while the passengers won’t let you forget how bad you need to pee. Singer Bethany Cosentino’s continual gushing about the effervescent West Coast seemed like a massive jab at us freezing and sensitive Wisconsinites, but something I could overlook because she wore a dress featuring the characters from The Simpsons. “It’s not as cold as I thought,” she confessed. “I wanted to wear sweatpants. No one would bring me sweatpants, though. Next time I play here, I’ll wear sweatpants, even if it’s really hot.”
And now some random notes:
Jabari Parker: The overwhelming consensus at the draft party was that the Bucks should select the offensive-minded small forward from Duke. But the Bucks were basically powerless in that decision, as the Cleveland Cavaliers made the first pick and the outcome seemed like a toss-up between Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. When new NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the Cavs had in fact picked Wiggins, the Summerfest crowd ignited with cheers, understanding that the Bucks would select Parker. They did. Want to feel old? Parker was born in 1995.
Pizza cone: I showed some self-control on opening day, holding off on ordering my first pizza cone of the year. Last night I displayed little restraint, and immediately stopped by the SoLo stand to grab one of the pepperoni variety. Tyler Maas from the Milwaukee Record pointed out a new mac and cheese packed cone to me, but my self-loathing had already reached too drastically low to order a second offering.
Today’s schedule: The Miller Lite Oasis showcases a handful of acts signed to the Minneapolis hip hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment (deM atlas, 4 p.m.; PROF, 5 p.m.; Grieves, 6:30 p.m.; DJ Abilities, 7:30 p.m.; Brother Ali, 8:30 p.m.; Atmosphere, 10 p.m.). Brad Paisley headlines the Marcus Amphitheater with openers Darius Rucker and Joel Crouse at 7:30 p.m. Third Eye Blind “graduate” from the side stage to the more expansive BMO Harris Pavilion at 8 p.m. And finally, two sister-led bands round out the day (Vic and Gab at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, 6:45 p.m. and Tegan and Sara at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 10 p.m.)