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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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The fireworks weren't the most memorable thing at this year's Summerfest.
The fireworks weren't the most memorable thing at this year's Summerfest.

Summerfest reflections

We all have our dirty little secrets. Here's mine: I have lived in Milwaukee all my life and have only been to Summerfest once before this year.

I know. I get it. That's bad.

My Summerfest-ing till now has consisted only of a short Dashboard Confessional concert in 2007 where some drunk guy patted my head and I had to stand in the bushes to get a decent look because we got there too late.

My family went every year to the Irish Fest Mass in August, so I grew up with the impression that the Marcus Amphitheater was a church. Last week I realized that might not be completely wrong. Summerfest is a spiritual experience for a lot of people. I've definitely been missing out. I think it's remarkable that our city plays host to this festival, this celebration of music in all its forms – a festival that features both icons like Neil Diamond and unknown gems like Carrie Melton and the Minor Fall.

Here are a few of the more memorable moments from my first real Summerfest. Ironically, none of them really have to do with music. But hey, Summerfest is so much deeper than that, right?

Whatever those bathroom attendants are making, it isn't enough. I was standing in line the bathroom on the south end of the grounds on July 3. Since it was the night of the fireworks and the grounds were more swamped than usual, of course the restrooms were filthier than usual. And then it happened. The unmistakable sound of water gushing forth. Every head swiveled immediately to look toward the noise. A toilet had exploded in one of the stalls. We held our breath. The stall's occupant emerged red-faced. "It was not me!" she cried, almost tearfully. "I swear to God! It was the girl before me! I swear to God! I swear to God!" A Summerfest employee approached the mess, sighed and looked wearily at us all, as if to say, "Are you serious right now." If this were the Hunger Games, that would have been the part where we all pressed our three fingers to our lips in a sign of blessing and solidarity to this poor girl, who I suspect was about to have the worst night of her summer.

At the Big Time Rush concert, there was a cute moment where all the singers chose a girl from the audience to accompany them onstage. I included it in my review because, having once been a shrieking boy-band fan, I thought it was precious. Until my fiance ruined it for me. "That's kinda weird," he said into my ear as one of the 22-year-old band members planted a kiss on the cheek of a delirious tween seated next to him. "Like, statutory, don't you think?"

While we were watching the fireworks, a sparrow latched on to the belt strap of the guy standing in front of me. He had no idea. I, of course, am always the first one to lose my cool in this type of situation. I started screaming. (I've seen "The Birds." I know how this ends.)

I loved the new BMO Harris Pavilion – but not as much as I loved its bar area right next to the lake. It allowed me to see shows while eliminating my least favorite parts of outdoor music festivals: standing, enduring oppressive heat and the awkwardness of having to hold a beer for two hours straight. Sitting there, taking in the lake vista with a drink in my hand and the world's greatest music festival behind me, I thought to myself: This is a pretty awesome city. I don't know why you'd want to live anywhere else.


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