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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

The venerable Marcus Amphitheater ...

In Travel & Visitors Guide

and family favorite, the Big Bang fireworks show.

Milwaukee Face Off: Marcus Amphitheater vs. Big Bang


Bear with us while explain the concept for this series of articles: we take two seemingly unrelated Milwaukee icons, then pit them against each other in 10 categories. In each category, we'll assign them points, one through 10, then add them up and name the winner.

No, it's not scientific, but yes, it's fun, and for this Face Off, we look at the two giants of Summerfest. How does one of the biggest venues in town, the Marcus Amphitheater, stack up against the free and explosive Big Bang fireworks display? Read on to find out ...

Affordability:

Marcus Amphitheater, 5
Obviously, it depends on the show, but tickets to bigger venues can get pricey. The best seats for Tom Petty this year cost $89.50 ... but the grass seats are only $30. Less popular shows like Stone Temple Pilots max out at $40, but start at $20. And they include admission to Summerfest. Of course, finding free parking is a different story, but if you can walk a few blocks it's doable.

Big Bang, 10
You can't argue with free. These fireworks don't cost a penny, and you can see them from all over Downtown.

Value to city:

Marcus Amphitheater, 5
Summerfest's ability to bring in big, national acts helps establish Milwaukee a world-class city. You can argue that some of these acts don't deserve to be on such a big stage (see: STP) but others are bonafide huge names. Some of the biggest bands of all time have played Summerfest. It's hosted acts like Prince, Paul Simon, Jimmy Page, the Eagles and Dave Matthews -- and dozens more.

Big Bang, 5
Everyone loves fireworks. How much value they bring to the city is debatable. But with lots people coming to the lakefront and basically camping there, area businesses certainly benefit.

Popularity:

Marcus Amphitheater, 9
Not every show sells out, but the majority come close. Capacity is 25,000 -- and over 11 days, we're talking more than 250,000 seats getting filled. The only other venue in town that can boast those kind of numbers is Miller Park.

Big Bang, 10
Plain and simple, people camp out for these fireworks. Easy parking is practically non-existent. Tens of thousands of people at Summerfest stop watching the bands and turn around to watch the display. The Big Bang could not be more popular.

National name recognition:

Marcus Amphitheater, 1
Sadly, Summerfest is still too often regularly ignored by the national press. Regionally, everyone knows about the world's largest music festival. But on a national level, the Marcus Amphitheater means hardy anything to most music fans.

Big Bang, 0
Hear the crickets? No one outside the area, obviously, knows anything about Milwaukee's big fireworks display.

Design:

Marcus Amphitheater, 7
The Amp is a pretty good sounding shed. It's incredibly spacious, which means that you'll find lots of funky angles, and the grass seats are good for listening but not seeing. Video screens, however, have done a nice job filling in the blanks.

Big Bang, 9
You know if they're designed by Bartolotta Fireworks in Genesee Depot, they're gonna be good. This family has been delighting adults and scaring dogs for more than 30 years.

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