Jack Antonoff, pop producer and frontrunner of the band Bleachers, has played shows around the country and world, but he returns to Milwaukee to get his creative juices flowing.

Jack Antonoff, one of the most prolific pop producers of our time who has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Lana del Rey and Lorde, credits little ol’ Milwaukee as an inspiration for his band Bleachers’ upcoming album. I know what you’re all thinking — how did the land of beer and cheese heads become a muse for the man who brought us “Look What You Made Me Do?”

It all started back in 2014 when Bleachers played one of their first shows ever at Summerfest. Fresh off the massive success from his band fun, Antonoff  launched Bleachers that year, using the new slate to lean into big ’80s-style beats that he would later use with Carly Rae Jepsen. Only having released a couple of singles before playing the 2014 Summerfest show, Antonoff has said that this is the show that helped Bleachers find their groove.

“Bleachers was in many ways born at Summerfest,” Antonoff said about the 2014 show in a video. “That was one of the first times we extended ‘You’re Still A Mystery’ and put the saxophone in.”

The band returned to Summerfest in 2017 to promote their sophomore album, Gone Now, but the show they put on this July was more reminiscent of 2014. During both shows, the band was a bit rough around the edges. In 2019, this was not due to new band jitters but rather the fact that it was one of the only shows they had played all year. Antonoff had dragged the band out of the studio where they were writing and recording their third album just for Summerfest — he loves the festival that much.

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“My goal this year was just to be home in the studio and writing and just do maybe one or two shows,” Antonoff said in the same video. “I want to put all of this energy into [Summerfest] and completely wear myself down so I can get right back into it and remember why I’m making these records.”

Put all of his energy into it he did. The July 2019 concert was one of the most bizarre and manic events I have ever been to. The Harley-Davidson Roadhouse was packed with die hard fans who had been on board with Bleachers since their single “I Wanna Get Better” hit alternative radio stations in 2014. Writhing around in a striped red polo, Antonoff was euphoric, delivering monologues about how much he loves Milwaukee and how lucky we are to have such a big music festival in our backyard. To the dismay of festival security, he encouraged fans to get on top of each other’s shoulders and dove into the crowd while playing Bleachers’ biggest hits. I was honestly worried for Antonoff’s safety and crossed my fingers that he would make it to the end of the show.

But apparently this mania was inspirational, as Antonoff credited the concert as giving the band motivation to finish their third album. “bleachers x milwaukee forever,” he has written. Despite your antics, we love you too, Jack.

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