7 Side Stage Acts to See at Summerfest This Year

Today is the first day of Summerfest, but in case you aren’t great at looking ahead, we’ve got some ideas of who your ears might appreciate.

1) Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

We’re not really sure what is being promised by the band name. What we do know is that Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, who graced the main stage last year as part of the Outlaw Music Festival. Lukas is a little more rock-focused than his dad, but his band’s 2017 self-titled album still reached No. 2 on Billboard’s U.S. Country chart, songs from which can be heard at the Johnson Controls World Stage on Wednesday, June 27.

See our staff picks for who to see at Summerfest

2) Third Eye Blind

There’s a good chance all you remember are “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper,” but Third Eye Blind still puts on a show like it’s 1998. If you want to relive the ‘90s — or just pretend you lived them the first time around — the Miller Lite Oasis Stage is the place to be on Saturday, June 30.

3) Black Violin

Black Violin is the combo of violinists Wil B. and Kev Marcus, who have now rubbed elbows with the likes of Kayne West, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Wu-Tang Clan and Alicia Keys. They will be leading the Johnson Controls World Stage on Sunday, July 1.

4) Janelle Monae

She’s come a long way from her roots in Quindaro on the Kansas side of Kansas City. Now, six-time Grammy Award nominee Janelle Monae will headline the BMO Harris Pavilion on Friday, July 6.

5) The Flaming Lips

A Flaming Lips concert was once described to me as “Every single birthday party you’ve ever been to happening at once.” It’s unclear whether candles will be blown out or a piñata will be smashed during their 10 p.m. concert on Friday, July 6 at the Harley-Davidson Warehouse, but it will probably include tracks from psychedelic progressive albums like “Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles” and “Free Radicals (A Hallucination of the Christmas Skeleton Pleading with a Suicide Bomber).” Q Magazine picked them as one of its “50 Bands to See Before You Die” — we’re inclined to agree.

6) Jon Batiste with the Dap-Kings

Late night TV fans will recognize the bandleader from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Jon Batiste got his master’s degree from Juilliard, and now he’s bringing his multi-instrumentalist talents to the Johnson Controls World Stage at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 7. He’s joining forces with Dap-Kings, a funky soul group that performed on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and collaborated with Kesha, who will also be performing on the Fourth of July.

7) Timeflies

Timeflies is kind of like ComedySportz, but not really. No two shows will ever be exactly alike because this quick-witted rap duo (Cal Shapiro and Rob Resnick) takes suggestions from fans online beforehand and in-person at the show as inspirations for off-the-cuff freestyles. Their raps can be hit or miss, but it’s worth seeing in case the next hot track comes together live in front of the Miller Oasis Stage at 10 p.m. on Sunday, July 8.



Adam is a journalist who recently returned to his Wisconsin home after graduating from Drake University in December 2017. He interned with MilMag in the summer of 2015 and has been a continual contributor ever since. Follow him on social media @Could_Be_Rogan