Naima Adedapo, hometown star of "American Idol," used to work at Summerfest. On Saturday night she saw the Big Gig again, but this time as a performer.
During her set she recounted for the audience her days cleaning out dressing rooms, emptying trash bins and cleaning toilets at Summerfest.
"I always visualized myself on the stage and even when I worked there as grounds clean up, I was performing," she told me last week. "I would work until 4 p.m., take off my uniform, jump in my performance clothes and hit the stage at 5 p.m.! But what I will say is now that I have my own band and show, I definitely like this angle a lot more!"
In her performance at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Stage, scheduled for 8 p.m. -- but which actually kicked off about 15 minutes early (the first time I've ever witnessed an early start in 32 Summerfests) -- Adedapo was clearly enjoying the view.
In case we couldn't tell for sure, Adedapo performed a rousing cover of Pharell Williams' "Happy" during which the stage filled with dancers, and there was no doubt about her mood.
Adedapo, who splits her time between Brew City and Music City, made a number of references to her new post-"Idol" life in Nashville, where she is currently writing and recording material toward an upcoming release.
Some of that new material was performed Saturday evening in front of what started out as a medium-sized crowd -- reflecting what appeared to be a relatively lightly attended Summerfest at that point of the night -- but that picked up more and more as the 90-minute performance progressed.
One standout was, "#Winning," a tribute to folks like working parents and single mothers who find their hard work pays off.
Adedapo was working hard onstage, prowling from side to side, making eye contact with, and gesturing to, audience members, staging a lively performance and breaking a sweat.
Supporting her was her band, which includes Joe Hite (keys), Jordan Kroeger (bass), the kinetic Olen Franklin (drums), Randy Komberec (guitar), Cecilio Negron (percussion) and backing singers Rodney Cunningham and Joy Bach.
But Adedapo got a little help from some other friends, too, during a cover of Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street," when an African drummer and dancers from Ton Ko-Thi dance troupe -- of which her mother is a part -- came out onstage for an African dance interlude before the band segued back into the Motown classic.
The balance of the set continued with a mix of original songs and covers like versions of Sara Bareilles' "Brave" and Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."
Adedapo didn't win her season of "American Idol," but not for a lack of charisma, stage presence and talent. On Saturday night all of those combined for the kind of performance that could continue Adedapo's trajectory to broader fame.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.