Milwaukee’s environmentally-conscious music festival Rock the Green returns this Saturday for its fourth year. The festival has a reputation for curating an impressive lineup of big-name indie acts, including past headliners Third Eye Blind, Lord Huron and a pre-celebrity status Imagine Dragons.
But Rock the Green’s third installment last year – after a three-year hiatus – was especially Milwaukee-centric, and 2017’s lineup is continuing the Milwaukee music tradition. The bill is roughly half local bands, and for good reason. Milwaukee’s music scene is currently exploding with talent across multiple genres, and Rock the Green is doing its part to showcase a variety of the city’s most unique performers.
With a name like Rock the Green, there’s naturally going to be a rock band or two thrown into the mix. Milwaukee’s most dapper rockers Devil Met Contention will bring their unique brand of alt-Americana to the Reed Street Yards for the first time this year.
"We’re really thrilled to be invited to Rock the Green. We’ve never played a zero-footprint festival, and we are really looking forward to playing the Power Pedal Stage," explains singer Ehson Rad. "We really love the crowd participation and involvement you can only get at a music festival."
The rest of the local rock will be provided by the campers of Girls Rock Milwaukee. The camp is held twice every summer and encourages girls as young as age six to pick up an instrument and play their heart out. Local all-girl punk bands Negative/Positive and Gas Station Sushi both formed at the camp, and each have a few Milwaukee street festival gigs under their tiny belts. The young rockers will both be getting their first experiences playing a large-scale festival alongside nationally recognized artists.
Gas Station Sushi bassist Olivia Eis is looking forward to playing in front of a crowd much larger than normal.
"We’re very hopeful that Gas Station Sushi can gain a greater amount of exposure from playing Rock the Green," says 16-year-old Eis. "We think that this is a really great opportunity to reach a wider audience than we already have. We’re very excited to be able to play such a major festival, especially considering the cause that it’s for."
EDM is often considered rock’s antithesis, but that surely isn’t the case in Milwaukee. Formerly known as Vic and Gab, REYNA will be bringing their infectious electronic pop to the Reed Street Yards. Last fall, the duo opened for CHVRCHES at the Riverside Theater, and their most recent single "Matinee" just hit over one million plays on Spotify. They’re easily one of Milwaukee’s most cherished groups and even have a history with the festival.
"We played the Pedal Stage on Earth Day in the past as Vic and Gab. It was a show with such cool energy. Ever since then, we have wanted to play the actual festival," says keyboardist/guitarist Victoriah Banuelos. "We will be playing our new single live for the first time on Saturday. We are so excited to finally be able to play it live and even more excited to release it in the next couple of weeks."
Rap fans, don’t fret – Rock the Green has something for you, too. Rapper and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Klassik will inject a dose of hip-hop into the festival’s lineup. Klassik’s performances are always jam-packed with energy, regardless of if he’s performing solo or with powerhouse local collective New Age Narcissism. He’s a frequent Milwaukee street festival headliner, and it’s safe to assume his Rock the Green performance will dazzle per usual.
Pedal Power stage headliner D'Amato will be bringing a little bit of soul to Rock the Green alongside a 27 person backing band. A D'Amato performance can often feel like a "who's who" of Milwaukee music - his talented army is comprised of many other notable local artists. "We have played in front of some huge audiences before, but whether four people or 4,000, we intend on freaking out," the singer explains. A horn section and backup singers are only the tip of D'Amato's iceberg. The singer possesses the rare gift of being able to turn an intricate, lavish performance into a seemingly intimate affair, even in front of an enormous crowd. D'Amato's magnetic energy can be felt from quite a distance. If you're at the festival, you won't be able to resist his 8:30 set.
The busiest local musician on Saturday will undoubtedly be Evan Christian. Christian isn’t only performing in the festival; he’s also hosting the official Rock the Green afterparty at his Walker's Point nightclub, Gibraltar. The club often hosts live performances up to six nights a week, and Christian himself is frequently the headlining act. He’s the only local musician with Rock the Green street cred, having played the inaugural Rock the Green way back in 2011. Six years later, he makes his return to a new venue with a much bigger catalog of songs.
No matter what your favorite genre is, we guarantee there will be a Milwaukee musician you’ll love at Rock the Green. Get down to the Reed Street Yards at 3 p.m. to make sure you catch them all (each performer's scheduled time is available on the festival's website). Tickets are still available at rockthegreen.com/tickets.