Last summer, we here at OnMilwaukee compiled a "wish list" of acts we thought would be perfect for celebrating a half-century of the Big Gig in Milwaukee.
So far, we’re batting .000.
There’s Tom Petty and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zac Brown and Luke Bryan, Pink and The Chainsmokers on the schedule, but no Adele, no Beyonce, no Boss, no Madonna, no U2, no Coldplay or any of the other blockbuster acts we’d had on our list.
But does that mean we’ll finish without putting the ball in play?
The problem as I see it for Bob Babisch and Summerfest – if you can call it a problem – is that they overachieved the past two years. Two years ago Bob booked The Rolling Stones.
The. Rolling. Stones. At Summerfest.
How could he ever hope to top that?
Well, last year he booked Paul McCartney. A Beatle. Not just A Beatle.
Paul. McCartney. At Summerfest.
How could he ever hope to top THAT?
Honestly, short of bringing John Lennon back to life or rousing Elvis and Hendrix from their rural Michigan hidey-holes, it’s arguably an impossible task. And that's why our wish list – which wasn’t so much who we personally want to see – was basically a long recitation of some of the biggest names in pop music.
The only way to top Mick and Macca is with sheer volume.
That’s why I’m standing by our list. While the headliners so far make for a respectable Summerfest amp lineup, Summerfest 50 needs to be as much Big Bang as Big Gig.
There are four slots left and the obstacle that Bob Babisch faces is the same as ever: availability (that is, competition from European festivals, limitations like radius clauses preventing concerts too close to other nearby concerts, etc.)...
Bruce Springsteen doesn’t have any dates on the books anymore this year ... yet. He wrapped up a down under tour last month, but at the moment, he appears to be wide open in June and July. Just sayin.
I really want to say U2, but I don’t see it happening. They’re already booked in the U.K. for two of the remaining open Amp dates and are surely traveling or resting for that trip for a third. The last one, June 30, falls between two already-booked dates and is most likely a travel day.
Alas, Coldplay is in Europe, too, during Summerfest.
Madonna, on the other hand, just wrapped up her own Aussie tour this past weekend. So, she’s road-ready and at least publicly, her calendar looks open.
Garth Brooks? He’s been playing pretty regularly the past couple years. Not an intensive tour but a long-running simmer of dates. These keep coming and nothing’s been announced yet as far out as June/July, so it’s a real possibility.
Taylor Swift is apparently not touring this year, and there’s been speculation about a Katy Perry jaunt, but no solid news.
Justin Bieber is touring later in summer, but has one gig booked during Summerfest – in Texas – but is otherwise available. So mark him as "possible," though his currently booked shows are all in stadiums.
Lady Gaga, who is performing at Coachella, has a handful of August dates slated, so she’s another with potential.
Bruno Mars is on the road this summer and free during the Big Gig, but he's in Chicago in August and that radius clause might kick in and put the kibosh on Brew City. Call him maybe.
Meanwhile, while Adele has U.K. gigs during Summerfest, she’s tantalizingly free after a July 2 Wembley gig. Three of the remaining Amp gigs are July 7, 8 and 9. BUT! The singer recently said she's sick of touring and has referred to the Wembley gigs as "The Finale."
So, to go out on a limb one more time, I’m going to say we can make this a blockbuster with gigs by Bruce, Madonna, Garth and either Lady Gaga or, potentially, Bruno Mars.
Just please don't let it be Elton John.
Who’s with me?
– Matt Mueller contributed to this article.
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.