When organizers announced the Summerfest line-up back in March, the bill seemed like a much more refreshing serving than the festival had dished out in years. Many praised the diversity and relevancy of the Marcus Amphitheater acts—Superbowl performer Bruno Mars, a recently reunited Outkast, Usher’s only summer date, not so many country artists. But the Big Gig didn’t just hit a home run with its main stage performers; it also booked music that detractors always complain is missing: rap.
Due to a slight delay, Nashville-by-way-of-Milwaukee rapper Prophetic started his set at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse 15 minutes late, but when he delved into his word-slinging, he did so with a ceaseless and fiery bravado. The hour-plus performance included a cameo by local R&B singer, D Lux, who played a couple songs, one with Prophetic and the other, his Ace Hood-featured radio hit, “Bomb, Bomb.” But the night belonged to Prophetic. On “Never Can Say Goodbye,” the rapper discussed his intentions for leaving the city to pursue his dreams. And when a light rain began to drizzle over the crowd, Prophetic declared that we should all embrace the shower and live in the moment, before following through with that statement with song about living in the moment. The rapper’s euphoric homecoming couldn’t be quelled by the rain, and his animated set confirmed that Prophetic remains as strong a rapper as ever.
I headed one stage over to see whether or not Rusted Root would open with its early ‘90s hit “Send Me On My Way.” It turns out the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard was also experiencing delays, as Rusted Root didn’t look ready to take the stage, or that’s what I thought until I heard loud explosions overhead. Big Bang Fireworks! Speaking of delays, the opening day fireworks had to be postponed six days due to foggy weather, but finally rocketed through a joyous fifteen minutes of bright colors and loud noises.
Nas followed the fireworks at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse (on time!) with a performance that included him revisiting his seminal 1994 rap album Illmatic, basically front-to-back. The songs sounded as enlivened as ever, and the Queens songwriter made efforts to add some extra weight to the material. Singers are rapping about the same things as 20 years ago, Nas explained to the packed crowd, and still face the same problems as back then. That needs to change, he pleaded.
As an appropriate send-off, I sneaked back over to the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard just in time to see Rusted Root perform “Send Me On My Way.” The small crowd had been bouncing and swaying all night, but kicked into another gear at this point. The song came off inherently cheesy—there’s that penny-whistle solo—but you’ve got to cherish these fleeting, goofy moments whenever you can at Summerfest.
And now some random notes:
Loaded Twister Dog: While the Chicken N Waffle Cone from Trinity Three Irish Pubs proved disappointing, I still had high hopes for the stand’s other offering, the Loaded Twister Dog ($6). My confidence quickly turned when I tried to bit into the cumbersome foodstuff. A dozen or so spiral-cut kettle chips surround a hot dog on a stick, making it hard to take a bite from either the side or the top. I ended up pulling the chips off and eating them separately. Ketchup, mustard and some indistinguishable white stuff—mayonnaise, I guess—on top of the dog, but all those condiments pooled underneath, along with some candied bacon.
Today’s Schedule: It’s another big night for rap music at the Big Gig. Ludacris headlines the Miller Lite Oasis at 10 p.m. with Milwaukee-based openers Yo-Dot (8 p.m.) and Klassik (6 p.m.). DJ Pauly D spins the ones and twos at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse at 10 p.m. And Maritime close the KNE stage at 9 p.m. Oh, and Dave Matthews Band plays the Marcus Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.