Summerfest Recap: Day 6
There are times when a band has such an uncontrollable energy in the live setting that it's only a matter of time before those watching get sucked into their music's world.
Last night at the Cascio Interstate Groove Stage, Milwaukee's own John the Savage wrecked havoc musically onstage and certainly sucked the fairly sizable crowd into its strange, slightly odd-ball, and psychedelic-tinged world.
As the band charged in its fast-paced songs with howling, raw vocal delivery (thanks to the band's energetic singer Michael Skorcz) and trippy, genre-hopping sound, it was like an alternate or parallel musical universal burst open. A universe where genres get along and a fast paced punk song mixed with some instruments mainly used for polkas and the like (i.e. an accordion being the obvious example) don't seem such a crazy idea. Pretty much anything goes in this world, and the band has been compared to many others including Tom Waits.
The band's six members certainly had their pick of instruments to use with string bass, cello, mandolin, violin and others. Whatever instrument they were in charge of, they found a way to make them gel well together, or at least maintain a hint of control over the song.
For the hour they played, the crowd was swept in their jaw-rattling, furiously paced amusement ride that took a number of unexpected turns in their psychedelic world. The crowd certainly didn't mind as a few of them danced in the dense crowd that had pushed right up to the stage. Others might have had more of a mental music journey.
The band played a variety of old and new songs, including ones featured on their new EP "Still Stuck In The Cyborg Fortress." Regardless if people heard the songs before, the response was definitely positive. The band fired away in each song with bullet precision. At one point Skorcz came out into the crowd with accordion and walked over the bleachers. Later he was more ambitious and leaning into the crowd he began to crowd surf. The band's played Summerfest before but this time they definitely offered one of the most energetic live shows at that stage.
Other highlights from Tuesday:
Moxie Motive: The Chicago band mixed rock and pop with stand-up bass, violin and trumpet helping give their sound some added juice. The lead singer had a rough edge to his voice that fit well with the music.
Fahri: I didn't really know what to expect from the Milwaukee-based band but they definitely exceeded my expectations and then some. The trio offered a great set of alt-rock and pop, which kept in good pace with the band's lead singers (Sarah and Miles) trading off vocals duties every other song. Both brought something unique to the songs they sung. I especially thought the songs that Sarah sung were exceptional. She has a voice somewhere in the space between Neko Case's more pop sensibilities and Heartless Bastards' Erika Wennerstrom's harder rock/rougher edge.
Earl Greyhound: The band's last trip to Milwaukee came earlier this year as they opened for the OK Go concert. This time they had a more premium spot. The New York trio fired into their soulful '70s-like muscular rock and while the sound might not have been the best they provided a pretty good set of songs from their latest and past material. Their female lead singer (they also have a male lead singer) was the most active as she grooved with her guitar in tune with the music.
Willy Porter: Porter has been a staple at Summerfest for years and from what I hear always delivers the goods. This year he definitely did, as he offered the packed crowd at the Potawatomi stage some of his much touted about songwriting and storytelling through folk music. His set featured several songs from his latest album, "How to Rob a Bank" as well as many favorites. Porter's jovial, witty and personal lyrics along with his intimate and engaging vocals certainly make him easy to recommend, especially for those who who like their songwriters like Leonard Cohen. With his band or without (as he was for the title track of latest), he can sure give a memorable performance. Speaking of Cohen, Porter offered a great cover of his song "Everybody Knows." He had some excellent help from his backing band, which included an excellent young guitarist he nicknamed "Casper."
Fever Marlene: I'm a bit biased with Fever Marlene as I've seen them a number of times in the past few years. Over that time the Milwaukee duo has gotten better and went from opening act to headliner. Last night, even with a fairly sparse crowd and battling sound from Cyprus Hill at the U.S. Cellular stage electro-pop/rock duo didn't back down and provided one of their best sounding shows so far. The band's set included favorites as well as several new ones, possibly from their next album. It might be hard to top their debut but their new material held up live. I only caught part but luckily they played my favorite FM tune, "Backseat Lover."
Guster: Obviously having not seen them before, I definitely wanted to check out their show. The band offered a variety of their catchy alternative rock songs from past albums as well as ones from their upcoming album. While the band's been doing it for some time, Guster hasn't lost much of it luster and provided the crowd with a fun and dance-inducing set. They ended the set with a pretty faithful version of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight."
You forgot Weird Al.. That stage was PACKED with fans, overflowing into the general walkway areas.. And he put on a fun, 2 1/2 hour show. I'd call it a highlight
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