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If you look up Summerfest on Dictionary.com, it says "Did you mean summerset?" That’s no help at all, and it’s why you can’t trust books or the internet. But ask any Milwaukeean what the definition of Summerfest is, and you’ll no doubt get a giddy, grinning response that includes all or some of the following words: "fun," "awesome," "crazy," "so great," "drunk," "so drunk," "world’s biggest music festival," "cool," "amazing" and probably "Pat McCurdy."
My musical preferences have been described by people as ranging from "no taste" to "radio taste" to "you like the bands that people who say they like all kinds of music don't like," by OnMilwaukee’s Jason McDowell. So, yeah. We have plenty of more aurally attuned, talented writers – basically all of them – that can give you the lowdown on the best good acts performing at Summerfest this year; for everything else, there’s me!
Remember, Milwaukee, this is our time to shine. These 11 days are not only a local party, but also a civic showcase of our proud town. So leave the jean shorts in Cudahy, throw back a few High Lifes so you can feel strong about your tune-groovin’ game and, when you feel like you’ve fested all you can and you can fest no longer … #festharder.
Wednesday, June 29
Cooler people than me have said this is the best day/night to go, given the lineup, and, um, I agree! The girl from "Wizards of Waverly Place" is headlining the Marcus at 7 p.m., so that’s pretty exciting. Carolynn Buser’s got you covered with all things Selena Gomez-related. At 10 at BMO Harris Pavilion, ol’ Willie Nelson is playing, and the rest of our staff is apparently pretty stoked about that.
When I was 8 years old, my friends and I formed a "Weird Al" Yankovic cover/tribute band wherein we played his songs on a boom box and then accompanied them with our own instruments, which were a broken keyboard, a fake toy guitar and a recycling-bin drum. So, yeah, I’ll probably go see Al at 10 at Uline Warenhouse Stage, for old time’s sake. If you want to support local and good music, The Fatty Acids are right before Weird Al at 8 at Uline.
Thursday, June 30
Summerfest is playing all of its appeal-to-young-people cards early, bringing in Pitbull as the 7:30 p.m. Marcus headliner the night after Gomez. And, again, if you want the scoop on Mr. Worldwide, Carolynn’s got it.
I bought a Styx CD when I was in middle school for some reason (they’re at 9:45 at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse); Black Violin legitimately is great (8 p.m. at Johnson Controls World Sound Stage). But I’ll probably just go see what all the college kids are doing these days at the 10 p.m. Passion Pit show at Miller Lite Oasis. ... OMG, wait, what is that?! SO MANY COLORS.
Friday, July 1
Is Rebecca Black playing today? No? Are those jokes beyond expired? Yes? All right, then moving right along. Ray LaMontagne is excellent folk rock/Americana (didn’t even have to look that up!), and he’s at 10 p.m. at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse.
I’ve seen O.A.R. at every Summerfest since I was, like, 16, so I guess I won’t stop going now – they’re at 10 at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard and yes, I promise you they’ll play "Crazy Game of Poker" but they’ll play it at the end, so just shut up and wait, OK?
Also, this is literally the only day in which Division BMX Stunt Team is not appearing at the Gruber Law Offices Sportszone, so I guess go see Brew City Wrestling at 6 p.m. there while you can? Otherwise, it’s BMX Stunt Team "headlining" every other night.
Saturday, July 2
I won’t say I didn’t have a brief, regrettable Gavin DeGraw phase (a girl I had a crush on liked him; the things we do for love …); he’s at 10 p.m. at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard.
But tonight is all about Nelly. He’s 41 years old now, but don’t think about that. And don’t think about the Cardinals hats. Just think about "E.I." Nelly's at 9:45 at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse and he still puts on a hot show.
Sunday, July 3
The Roots are good, supposedly; they’re at 9:45 p.m. at Miller Lite Oasis. My parents love Indigo Girls (7:30 at BMO Harris Pavilion). The Wailers are great and have a real different sound, if you’ve never heard reggae music before (10 p.m. at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard). And I actually like Otis Taylor, who croons at 8 at Johnson Controls World Sound Stage.
But it’s Sunday, so take your kids or your niece/nephew and go see Wayne & Wingnut – Red Hot Chili Puppets (performing often, at the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater and Playzone) or Milwaukee Community Circus (12:30, Kohl’s Captivation Station) or the surely amusing ComedySportz show there at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, July 5
My first OnMilwaukee Summerfest review show! Sorry in advance! I’ll be at Jason Derulo ("Jaaasonn Deruulloooooo, yeaahhhh!") with 14,000 enraptured girls/women screaming for him to take his shirt off. That’s at 10 p.m. at Miller Lite Oasis.
Annoying Johnny Depp and his dumb hipster band of old rockers, otherwise called Hollywood Vampires, is at 9:45 at BMO Harris Pavilion. Depp will be wearing way too many scarves and the concert will attract way too many people.
Wednesday, July 6
Back-to-back reviews for this guy! At 10 p.m. I’ll be at the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage for … wait for it … Sir Mix-a-Lot! His music, in particular one stirring single that came out when I was 4 years old, really spoke to and guided me through life.
Well, he’s 52 now. Neither you nor I nor Mix nor anyone else has a clue what this performance will be like. See you there!
Thursday, July 7
I like country, which is apparently a mortal sin and potentially fireable offense in this office. BUT SORRY I LOVE AMERICA. I’m seeing and covering Luke Bryan at 7 p.m. at the Marcus; if you go, come say hello. I’ll be the one sing-screaming "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" in an inadvertently self-created open space vacated by frightened concert-goers.
Good stuff elsewhere here today, too – at least in my opinion, which may mean it’s pretty bad. I’m looking forward to seeing The Decemberists at 10 p.m. at Miller Lite Oasis in a more … clear-minded state than the last couple times. You’ve always got to love Violent Femmes and really do need to see them at least once (9:45, Harley-Davidson Roadhouse). And Cheap Trick – at 9:45 at BMO Harris Pavilion – is fine, if you somehow missed them the first 37 times they were here.
Friday, July 8
Strong night. Common at 10:15 at Miller Lite Oasis; he packs people in and puts on awesome shows. The Fray (9:45 at BMO Harris Pavilion) have always really reached me on a girly rock level. Phil Vassar is decent-enough country at 10 at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard.
But be sure to go check out Eric Hutchinson at 10 at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage; he’s fun, funny, upbeat, feel-good pop rock, with surprisingly witty lyrics.
Saturday, July 9
I liked Death Cab For Cutie when I was in high school, which is when it’s OK to like Death Cab For Cutie. If it’s still OK for you and you don’t mind being old at an emo rock concert, they play at 10:15 p.m. at Miller Lite Oasis. Barenaked Ladies are Summerfest regulars and still entertaining; 9:45 at BMO Harris Pavilion.
Ben Folds is a fun show, even if the music can be a little slow, because he’s hilarious live (10 at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard). People that are better at appreciating music than me are pretty into De La Buena – they’re performing at 8 at Johnson Controls World Sound Stage.
Sunday, July 10
A couple weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when people didn’t annihilate me on Twitter for saying, "I think I like some Matisyahu songs. Is that OK?" I know I’m about a decade late to the mitzvah here, but that’s real nice Jewish jam rock/rap (or something?); he’s at 9:45 p.m. at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard.
The WhiskeyBelles – 8 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage – are local, talented and damn fun; I’d like to get into a bottle with them and make some good old Irish toasts. After the Belles, I’m heading to Harley-Davidson Roadhouse at 10 to see Ryan Adams and the Shining be incredible and powerful and a terrific cap to another fantastic Summerfest!
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.