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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, April 21, 2014

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Dancing on picnic tables is contagious.
Dancing on picnic tables is contagious.
Just happy to be here.
Just happy to be here.
Are you ready to rock?
Are you ready to rock?

Easing back into the Big Gig

Everyone has a favorite holiday. For some it's Christmas, others Thanksgiving, but for me it's that summery time of year in Milwaukee. You guessed it, Summerfest.

All right, maybe I'm a little too excited about all this and, yes, I know it's not actually a holiday, but then again, maybe you're just not excited enough. Pros and cons aside, I'm a fan. From my point of view, one of the best sales tactics the good ol' folks at the fest came up with this year was the power pass. If you go more than three times and didn't buy one, you should kick yourself. This wonderful little pass allows me one-time access to the grounds each day for $45.

After working the morning brunch shift, by Saturday afternoon, I was itching to get to the Big Gig. My mind was filled with memories of past Summerfest experiences. You know, eating deep fried anything, chugging MGD and rocking out to a variety of music.

My trek to Summerfest took a minor detour in order to pay homage to one of America's best beers, the one, the only, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I stopped at Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., mid-afternoon to check out the Burnhearts and Pabst Street Party. I confess, I missed this event last year, but I was pleasantly surprised upon arriving at the scene.

A large stage was set up next to the bar entrance at the corner of Logan and Potter Avenues, and a section of Potter was blocked off to traffic. Outside, you could snag a PBR for $3, with all other drinks and the full beer selection available inside the bar.

After getting our Pabst fill, my small group strolled up a few blocks to Palomino, 2491 S. Superior St., to collect one more group member and catch a shuttle down to Summerfest. The shuttle begins picking up from Palomino in the afternoon and runs approximately once an hour. By about 6:30 p.m., we arrived.

Getting through the gates was manageable as most of us bought a power pass or ticket in advance. A small line and mild pat-down and then I was free to roam the fest. Upon realizing it was not yet 7 p.m. and most of us were mildly buzzed, we set off in search of food. I settled for a veggie kebab and made my way over to the Miller Lite Oasis.

While eating our food, I was marginally distracted by the random man who began to dance on the tabletop just down the row from us. I suppose I should also mention that this man was wearing a pig nose. As we chatted and chowed down, his lonesome dancing began to attract others and before I knew it, I was dancing on the table, as well.

After ending our awkward dance party, we moved further toward the Oasis to find better seats for the show. Local band, Fresh Cut Collective was set to take stage at 8 p.m. with The Roots starting at 10. Although familiar with Fresh Cut Collective, I had never actually seen a live performance. We managed to scoop seats close to the stage and almost directly in the center. As people began to fill in the empty sections around us, I was more than thankful we arrived early.

When the band finished setting up, a few members took stage to throw copies of their latest album to the crowd. No, I didn't catch one. However, at that very moment, the look on the face of each member was priceless. The energy was already there and it was obvious this was a show not to miss.

From that point forward, the band started off strong with a set list featuring songs from both their older and newer album as well as a half dozen covers and even a few guest appearances.

The stage presence and energy from frontman Kiran was a show in its own right. He kept the crowd energized and engaged as he jumped, danced and strutted from one end of the stage to the other.

The crowd melted into guided chanting during the performance of "Let Go" and everyone was getting down during "Bangy Bangy." One of my favorite moments was the Clash cover of "The Magnificent Seven."

The performance exceeded my own expectations and received positive feedback from the strangers around me. Although opening for a hip-hip band, Fresh Cut Collective can be appreciated by music fans across the board.

By the time The Roots were to take stage I was exhausted from all the dancing, screaming/singing and gyrating. I stayed for about half of the show before making an attempt to ditch and beat the crowd to the shuttle.

Big mistake.

Leaving Summerfest was a complete buzz kill. Drunk zombies lined the streets and slowly shuffled down the sidewalk to the buses. Of course, as my luck would have it, there were some issues with the shuttles and we were all being rerouted to another spot. I made the executive decision to walk and find a cab.

Once away from the gate, the walk wasn't horrible, but it did take us until the intersection of Water and Erie Streets to find a cab, which we shared with a nice man on his way to La Cage for a birthday party. Our night ended back where it all started, at Burnhearts for a nightcap – the perfect end to a fabulous Summerfest kickoff.

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