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Which is the best day to head down to the Big Gig? We compiled the 11 days of Summerfest from worst to best using our special "scientific" formula.

Not all days of Summerfest are equal. That’s why it’s become a yearly tradition here to pick the best day to attend the festival.

Sure, ranking which day is superior to the rest is a somewhat absurd task. Every person’s tastes and preferences are significantly different. (Hey, maybe The Moody Blues show on Wednesday, June 28 at the BMO Harris Pavilion will change your life.) But if you’re on the fence about when to go, use this list as a guide to finding the optimal day.

Per usual, we picked six bands from each day (the American Family Insurance Amphitheater headliner, the three highest rated Ground Stage headliners, the highest rated opening act, and the highest rated local band). Each are graded on a metric* of Relevance (released an album recently and/or considered in prime form?), Rarity (play out often?) and Performance (good live band?). All the points the bands or artists accumulate form a total score for that day—the higher the score, the better the day.

So, let’s get started once again. Here are your annual Summerfest Power Rankings:

*Rating system: 1-10; 10 being the highest score (Relevance + Rareness + Performance = Overall Score.)


 11. Friday, July 7

Tigernite. Photo by John Grant Photography.

Rhymesayers fans will want to take this Friday off work, as the Minneapolis-based rap label takes over the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage on the second Friday of the festival (Atmosphere, 10 p.m.; Brother Ali, 8:45 p.m.; Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic, 7:30 p.m.; Grieves, 6:45 p.m.; and Sa-Roc, 4:15 p.m.) but there’s little else to get too excited about. If you’re feeling down with the line-up, an anthemic performance from glam rockers/space cadets Tigernite will certainly turn your mood around.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner:

Dierks Bentley (7+5+5= 17), 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Huey Lewis and the News (4+6+7= 17) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

➞ Dan + Shay (6+6+4= 16) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Atmosphere (5+5+5= 15) at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: Vinyl Theatre (7+6+6= 19) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 8:30 p.m. 

Local Options: Tigernite (6+3+9= 18) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 7 p.m. 

Total score: 102

10. Sunday, July 2

The first week closes out in underwhelming fashion, but seeing indie-rockers Car Seat Headrest is alone worth making the trek out to the Summerfest grounds. The band’s 2016 album Teens of Denial is a smart and effortlessly catchy guitar rock album. Its aimless, 20-something narrative is fitting for a warm summer night.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner:

P!nk (5+7+7= 19), 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Car Seat Headrest (8+7+8= 23) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Ludacris (5+6+7= 18) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10:15 p.m.

➞ Peter Frampton (3+5+7= 15) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 9:15 p.m.

Notable Opener: Danny Gokey (3+6+5= 14) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Ray Nitti (6+7+6= 19) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 8:30 p.m.

Total score: 108

 9. Thursday, June 29

Here’s a solid day to get to the festival early. Dial into Tommy Tutone’s set at the U.S. Cellular Connection stage or take a slow ride with Foghat (both at 4 p.m.), then see local groups Willy Porter Band at (6:45 p.m.) and GGOOLLDD at Johnson Control’s World Stage (8 p.m.) before taking your pick of classic rocker Peter Wolf at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard (9:30 p.m.), the soft rock of Toto at BMO Harris Pavilion (9:45 p.m.) or EDM DJ Steve Aoki at Miller Lite Oasis Stage (10 p.m.).

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Luke Bryan (7+4+6= 17), 7:30 p.m.

Press Photo of GGOOLLDD

Photo Courtesy of GGOOLLDD

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Steve Aoki (6+7+7= 20) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Toto (7+7+6= 20) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

➞ Peter Wolf (6+7+7= 20) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 9:30 p.m.

Notable Opener: Foghat (3+3+7= 13) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 4 p.m.

Local Options: GGOOLLDD (8+5+7= 20) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 8 p.m.

Total score: 110

8. Sunday, July 9

Closing night of Summerfest features one helluva Marcus Amphitheater line-up. The loaded bill includes names both old and young, including folk music legends Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and rising stars like Nathaniel Rateliff and Margo Price. Don’t sleep on Jason Isbell, either—perhaps one of the best singer-songwriters going today.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Willie Nelson (8+8+8= 24) with Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Margo Price and Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real, 2 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ The Shins (7+7+7= 21) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

➞ The Spinners (4+7+8= 19) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 9:30 p.m.

➞ Lee Brice (7+5+5= 17) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: Lauv (5+5+5= 15) at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Bella Cain (5+3+6= 14) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 6 p.m. 

Total score: 110

7. Wednesday, June 28

Red Hot Chili Peppers. Photo by Steve Keros.

Even though the Red Hot Chili Peppers are ripe for parody (comedian Jon Daly fooled music blogs with a single “Abracadabralifornia” that mocked the band’s love of their home state and staid musical formula) and the group’s best albums are decades behind them, their headlining performance is sure to bring a steady stream of unstoppable ‘90s radio hits. The fireworks may be the real star here on opening night, but Red Hot Chili Peppers comes in a close second.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Red Hot Chili Peppers (7+8+8= 23) with Deerhoof, 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Flume (8+8+5= 22) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (7+6+6= 19) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Spin Doctors (3+6+5= 16) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: Shaed (5+5+5= 15) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Eagle Trace (6+3+7= 16) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 6:30 p.m.

Total score: 111

5. (tie) Friday, June 30

Come for Paul Simon, who has navigated between many artistic peaks throughout his career. It’s likely that 2016’s Stranger to Stranger won’t be considered a memorable album—although, “Wristband” may ring true to his younger festival-going fans—but Simon also knows his audience will want to hear the classic material, and he’s not one to leave you dissatisfied.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Paul Simon (8+7+9= 24) with Brandi Carlile, 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (7+6+9= 21) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ House of Pain (3+7+6= 17) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

➞ Dispatch (6+4+4= 14) at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: Lady Wray (5+7+7= 19) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Devil Met Contention (7+4+6= 17) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 4:15 p.m.

Total score: 112

5. (tie) Wednesday, July 5

T-Pain headlines the Uline Warehouse Stage. Repeat, T-Pain headlines the Uline Warehouse Stage. Do not miss T-Pain.

T-Pain, Summerfest

T-Pain. Photo by Hannibal Matthews.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (6+5+8= 19) with Chris Stapleton, 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ T-Pain at (6+8+7= 21) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Girl Talk (6+6+8= 20) at Harley-Davidson Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Phillip Phillips (6+6+5= 17) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

Notable Opener: Welshly Arms (6+5+6= 17) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Abby Jeanne (7+4+7= 18) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 3 p.m.

Total score: 112

4. Saturday, July 1

The Isley Brothers return for what should be another unforgettable performance. At the very least, stick around for the dynamic R&B hit “Shout,” which will do the impossible—quiet the Summerfest crowd to a bare whisper before, of course, bringing them back to uproarious levels.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Zac Brown Band (7+5+5= 17), 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Bleachers (8+7+6= 21) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10:15 p.m.

➞ The Isley Brothers (4+7+9= 20) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

➞ Horseshoes & Hand Grenades (6+5+8= 19) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: The Naked & Famous (6+6+5= 17) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 5 p.m.

Local Options: Dead Horses (7+5+7= 19) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 8 p.m.

Total score: 113

3. Saturday, July 8

The show of the festival and perhaps the year is the mega-bill of Future, Big Sean and Migos. All three rappers scored No. 1 albums this year (Future even had two). It could be one of those groundbreaking and inspirational shows that could be written about for the 75th anniversary.

Future, Summerfest, Big Sean, Migos

Photo courtesy of Future

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Future (9+9+7= 25) with Big Sean and Migos, 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ San Fermin (7+6+6= 19) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ DNCE (6+6+4= 16) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10:15 p.m.

➞ Chevelle (3+5+5= 13) at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 9:45 p.m.

Notable Opener: Whitney (7+6+8= 23) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 8 p.m.

Local Options: Trapper Schoepp (8+4+8= 20) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 8 p.m.

Total score: 116

 2. Thursday, July 6

Leave Tom Petty (who also plays the night before) in the dust for a better option, like R&B singer BJ The Chicago Kid, who has guested on Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Kanye West tracks as well as his own soul record In My Mind, or the twin sister indie pop duo Tegan & Sara, which stylishly transitioned into accessible synth-pop jams.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (6+5+8= 19) with Chris Stapleton, 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ BJ The Chicago Kid (8+7+7= 22) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Tegan & Sara (7+7+7= 21) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ AWOLNATION (6+6+5= 17) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

Notable Opener: Direct Hit! (7+6+8= 21) at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 7:15 p.m.

Local Options: Lex Allen (6+4+7= 17) at Johnson Control’s World Stage, 8 p.m.

Total score: 117

 1. Tuesday, July 4

It’s bound to be crowded on the Fourth of July, but it’s worth wading through all the people for this bill. The Chainsmokers are much maligned for their cookie-cutter, antiseptic dance music, but you have to admit songs like “Closer,” “Roses” and “Paris” are endlessly catchy. But the real must-sees are local rappers on the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage. WebsterX, fresh off his mesmerizing and uplifting album, Daymares, and the city’s biggest hip hop export IshDARR put on display the wide breadth of talent coming from Milwaukee.

WebsterX

WebsterX. Cover Art for Daymares

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliner: 

The Chainsmokers (9+8+6= 23), 7:30 p.m.

Ground Stage Headliners:

➞ Death From Above 1979 (6+7+7= 20) at Uline Warehouse Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Alessia Cara (6+8+5= 19) at Miller Lite Oasis Stage, 10 p.m.

➞ Third Eye Blind (5+5+8= 18) at BMO Harris Pavilion, 9:45 p.m.

Notable Opener: WebsterX (8+6+7= 23) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 6 p.m.

Local Options: IshDARR (8+7+6= 23) at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 10 p.m.

Total score: 126
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