Tuesday night’s long-delayed fireworks display and the even longer-delayed warm summer night seemed to triumphantly mark the end of the season’s unseasonably cold, foggy, rainy days. But that wasn’t quite the case. Last night marked a return to form to the typical Summerfest experience this year, a damp, chilly evening that didn’t stop festival goers from staking out spots at the bigger side stage acts.
“On a scale of one to wet, what are you right now?” local rapper Klassik asked the Miller Lite Oasis crowd as a slight drizzle fell. The genre-bending singer had a hard time connecting with the disinterested audience—a sizeable turnout that was simply waiting for Ludacris. That doesn’t mean Klassik’s performance lacked the proper engagement. He and his seven-piece backing band masterfully bounced through the most accessible songs in his pop-friendly oeuvre. During the trifecta of “Boogie,” “Moonrock” and “Light” he seemed to have turned a corner. But the conditions didn’t do Klassik any favors. The fans in the corners cheered him and sang along to his lush songs, but those on the benches just tolerated the rain.
Another Milwaukee rapper, Yo-Dot, found a better way to excite the bench-standing audience at the Miller Lite Oasis following Klassik’s set. “Shout out to the class of 2014!” he said during one of his many breaks—with college, high school and junior high graduation, that exclamation must’ve hit a high percentage. One of the hardest working rappers in the city, Yo-Dot has experienced a fruitful 2014 himself, opening shows for Big Sean and Waka Flocka Flame, plus putting out a massive amount of new material. He utilized that experience to whip the crowd into a frenzy during his 8 p.m. slot. He measured the crowd reaction in each section, stopped halfway through so his DJ, DJ Bizzon, could spin some radio hits, and he even jumped down near the railing and ran around manically high-five-ing the first row.
The Ludacris crowd was suffocating large by the time he took the stage and after the Austin-Powers’-influenced “Number One Spot,” the early 2000s nostalgia had worn off. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the DJ Pauly D set actually offered a much better experience. The crowd appeared large but not overwhelming for the former Jersey Shore reality star. It’s about time Summerfest makes a better effort at booking DJs.
Over at the KNE New Music stage, the Sleepwalkers soldiered through a rough start that had them competing with the sound of a “Teenage Wasteland” cover bleeding over from the Uline Stage—lead singer Ian Olvera smoothly paused during the band’s opener to fist pump to the Who rendition. The performance picked up from there, as the four-piece spent the remaining time playing its high-energy power pop tunes. It’s a shame that the notorious, crazy dancing guy didn’t show up to the Sleepwalkers set for two reasons: one, his dance moves are infectious and hilarious; two, there would’ve been a competition between him and the man performing front handsprings near the front of the stage. Duke it out, boys!
Later, Maritime headlined the KNE New Music stage, and yes, they pointed out the irony of the “new music” label behind them—the band’s been around for more than a decade and when Maritime formed, frontman Davey von Bohlen had already spent significant time in seminal emo bands Cap’n Jazz and The Promise Ring. Unsuitable naming aside, the smaller stage actually fit the group quite nicely, as a dedicated following descended underneath the brightly lit Ferris wheel to watch Maritime delve into some older hits and also some new material. Von Bohlen acted nutty and amiable all night, often riffing with guitarist Dan Hinz. It was a no-pressure performance played to interested fans, an all too uncommon occurrence at Summerfest.
Today’s schedule: Trapper Schoepp & The Shades (8 p.m.) opens for The Hold Steady (10 p.m.) at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. The Fray (10 p.m.) headlines the Miller Lite Oasis and Rise Against (10 p.m.) plays the Harley Davidson Roadhouse. And the Marcus Amphitheater show (7:30 p.m.) is Zac Brown Band with openers Jared & The Mil.