Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com
One of Milwaukee's native sons returns home for 10 days of summer fun and exploration.
One of Milwaukee's native sons returns home for 10 days of summer fun and exploration. (Photo: Bobby Tanzilo)

From Conejitos to church fests: An MKE native's annual summer return home

Steamy and stormy. That’s how I think of Milwaukee summers. And incredibly hectic, too.

Summer in the city is always crammed with more festivals, fairs and block parties than civically necessary or nutritionally advisable.

But it’s an integral element of my longtime summer routine, and I’m too old to stop now. Admittedly, though, some moderation has crept into my ritual over the years; I’ve already been back for 10 days on my annual visit to Milwaukee, and I haven’t had a frozen custard cone from Kopp’s or Leon’s yet (although in checking the website for whether or not Kopp’s has an apostrophe, I noticed chocolate peanut butter is an upcoming flavor of the day and my abstinence streak may need to be broken).

OK, I already have had a few Wisconsin brews, but I am from Milwaukee. My doctor will understand. Plus, I had to check out the new (to me!) beer gardens at Milwaukee County Parks.

When I do Milwaukee, I do the city right. I’ve worn out lesser men and women who’ve braved the journey with me over the years. One retired friend who visited during a particularly sweltering summer actually called the airline to move up his flight a few days after he feared he wouldn’t survive another sweat-drenched day of roaming Milwaukee with the local kid.

Just about every summer since I moved from the city in 1979, I return for at least a few days – always around Summerfest.

This year, I decided on a different approach. I took a couple of extra weeks off from my job teaching journalism at Colorado State University, loaded my Trek bicycle in the car and headed to my Wisconsin summer home (that sounds much nicer than the house where I grew up in the heart of Milwaukee). I figured the bike would give me a new perspective – at least one that I haven’t had since tooling around the neighborhood on my Schwinn Sting-Ray when I was 10.

And you know what? It did give me some interesting new looks at my favorite city. Heading south from my Walker’s Point ba…

Read more...
Atlas Genius hit the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Friday night at Summerfest.
Atlas Genius hit the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Friday night at Summerfest.

Atlas Genius entertains Summerfest with new songs and subdued vocals

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

The instruments were set. Sound was being checked. Anxious fans began bouncing around large beach balls. Obviously committed to the alternative rock style, Atlas Genius arrived fashionably late – 13 minutes to be exact – with Etta James’ "At Last" fittingly playing as they took the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Friday night.

Like many of today’s musicians, Atlas Genius found their big break via the Internet. The band found success after being featured on the blog Neon Gold in 2011, and a year later, they went from fresh indie band to signing with Warner Bros. Records.

The Australian band – including two concrete members: the Jeffery brothers, Keith (lead vocals and guitar) and Michael (drums) – played the same stage at Summerfest two years ago and were gladly welcomed back Friday night with a bass guitarist and keyboardist in tow.

"How you doin’ Milwaukee," frontman Keith Jeffery asked the audience. The crowd, made up of many teenagers and young adults, instantly replied with energetic cheers. Thankfully, the overcast sky and active breeze made being in a horde of people slightly less uncomfortable.

The show opened with "Symptoms," and it was clear from the beginning that the vocals were being drowned out by the bass. It was quite unfortunate, however, because despite the subdued vocals, the show was still strong. The band members really knew how to perform and shined on stage despite the technical woes.

The first new song debuted off of the band's upcoming sophomore record was "Refugees," with the band then immediately going into the secondary fan favorite, "If So." Audience members moved equally to the rhythm of both songs, which must say something good about the new alb…

Read more...
Violinists aren't a usual Summerfest mainstay, but Lindsey Stirling impressed on Thursday night.
Violinists aren't a usual Summerfest mainstay, but Lindsey Stirling impressed on Thursday night.

Stirling's Summerfest set proves the violin is cool

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

Last time I checked, playing the violin wasn’t the coolest thing to do. But dubstep electric violinist Lindsey Stirling, however, might just change that.

Thursday night was Stirling's Summerfest debut, but it was far from her first time in Milwaukee – she performed at Turner Hall Ballroom and Riverside Theater in 2013 and 2014, respectively. I’ve listened to Stirling since I discovered her on YouTube in 2012, so when I saw her on the lineup, I knew I had to see her. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a dancing, dubstep violinist?

Violin in hand, Stirling stepped onto the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage in a glittery silver outfit. She took a powerful pose in the middle of the stage and began playing her violin, immediately entrancing the audience.

The crowd was a mix of young and old. Everyone was standing and seemingly transfixed by Stirling as she danced with her violin.

Not only a talented musician and dancer, she’s a visual artist, too. Stirling told the audience she often thinks of a music video before she writes a song. Her love of Peter Pan inspired her to create and write "Shadows," one of my favorite sets of the night. Stirling’s shadows, large and small, were projected onto panels on the stage. Some would mimic her movements, others would move in their own right.

Stirling performed "Video Game Medley," showing beautiful shots of vast countryside and scenes of her music videos for all the gamers in the audience. She even opened up to her fans about her battle with depression a few years back when introducing "Transcendence." This was when I could really see her passion and love for what she does.

Her most popular song, "Crystallize," drew many phones into the air…

Read more...
Sheryl Crow performed hits both old and new (but preferably old) at her Summerfest gig Wednesday night.
Sheryl Crow performed hits both old and new (but preferably old) at her Summerfest gig Wednesday night.

Sheryl Crow's old hits soak up the Summerfest support

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

Like a lot of people, I was a big Sheryl Crow fan back in the '90s. I saw her put on a great show at Lilith Fair in 1999, and I own her first four albums.

Considering that most of the crowd at her Summerfest concert Wednesday night looked to be in their 40s and 50s, it’s fair to say the same was true for most of them. Not surprisingly, the audience saved its cheers and dancing for the songs that put Crow on the map, while the excitement level in the BMO Harris Pavilion dropped noticeably when Crow played songs off her most recent album, "Feels Like Home," released in 2013.

For their part, Crow and her band also gave their most enthusiastic performances on the hits that made her a star. They only played three songs off "Feels Like Home," and during them the band seemed to be going through the motions. But as they moved into familiar favorites like "Can’t Cry Anymore," the crowd got on their feet and swayed along. Each time they returned to the new songs, you could feel the energy draining away as the audience resumed their seats.

Crow had minimal banter with the crowd at the beginning, but seemed to ease into it as the concert went on. She joked about being a crappy parent because her kids don’t know who the Rolling Stones are, which drew applause. It’s nice to know even musicians screw up their kids’ musical educations. During "Members Only," when she asked who’s sick of politicians, she got one of her biggest cheers of the night.

Crow and her band hit their stride for the last third of the show. Playing hits like "If it Makes You Happy," "Soak Up the Sun" and "Every Day is a Winding Road," the crowd got to its feet and stayed there for the rest of the night. It was like Crow s…

Read more...