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The Strumbellas fought through a rough and awkwardly extended impromptu sound check moments before their 10 p.m. show at the Miller Lite Oasis. Coming off a rainout the night before outside of Toronto, this made for a rough start to what ended up being a nice show for Summerfest's final night.
They balanced the awkward start immediately with a nice rendition of "We Don’t Know," the second hit from their 2016 breakout "Hope." It was the five-wide harmonies that were the cream of the performance, especially powerful on "Young & Wild" and "Salvation," while their on-stage rapport was the relaxed kind that comes from the continuity of performing together for 10 years.
After announcing that five out of six of the band’s members hailed from Toronto, in an ill-advised move, vocalist Simon Ward addressed the Raptors' series win over the Bucks. This was not well received. "Too soon," noted violinist Isabel "Izzy" Ritchie. "Well, you got the MVP. Fear the deer?" he semi-sarcastically added, attempting to win them back.
Normally the lead man and songwriter, Ward is the focal point of the band, but not for this evening. They decided to make violinist Ritchie the big story as she grew up in Milwaukee, and they made her work in her homecoming return. "My first job was at Summerfest at Cold Stone Creamery," she recalled. At another point during the show, bassist Darryl James had her recite a list of localisms off a cheesy vendor shirt – including the word "bubbler" – checking for accent accuracy.
The on stage banter was consistent, with a lot of effort and attempts to get the crowd going. At one point, they asked for a "super loud" cheer in order to get guitarist Jon Hembrey to remove his shirt for a song. This was met with a tepid response from the half-full Oasis crowd. The shirt stayed on. They achieved much better success with Ward asking "We need one hand up, big high fives for, ‘One Hand Up.’" They got some buy in and the fans complied which created a nice moment.
Five songs later, they finally got to "Spirits." The runaway hit had everyone going and clearly stole the show. I’ve been to many a Summerfest show where the crowd was lingering and waiting to hear a band’s hit song before leaving. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case this night, but there was an uncomfortably empty encore as the people who were there to hear "Spirits" cleared out. For those who stuck around, they were treated to a beautiful cover of Blind Melon’s "Soup," and "Shovels and Dirt." A nice ending to an entertaining set.
"We Don’t Know"
"Young & Wild"
"In This Life"
"Left for Dead"
"One Hand Up"
"We Were Young"
"Soup" (Blind Mellon cover)
"Shovels and Dirt"