By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 18, 2016 at 6:56 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

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We may have just now finally gotten our voices back from a week and a half of Summerfest goodness, but that doesn’t mean we’re not already looking ahead to how we’re going to lose them again at next year’s 50th anniversary, the Biggest Gig.

Obviously, the good folks at Summerfest are going to do their damnedest to somehow make the world’s largest music festival even larger next year. But how? In the past two years alone, they’ve snagged the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney; how do you top those two sure-fire bucket list shows? Reanimating Elvis? A hologram David Bowie?

Of course not, so here are 11 only slightly more realistic wishes for the 50th anniversary Amp lineup from us to Summerfest. 

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce already has a history of famous, one-of-a-kind Cream City shows, and what better way to add to that legacy than with a huge half-century celebration set at Summerfest? The Boss is currently touring Europe and the U.S. on a stadium tour for "The River" – one that stopped by Milwaukee this past March – but maybe by the time next summer rolls around, he’d be good to do a one-off show to give the Big Gig the birthday celebration it deserves. Packing the Amp certainly wouldn’t be a concern.


Madge may not be the beloved, bigger-than-life star she used to be in her glory years … but she’s still a true bigger-than-life star with a repertoire of hits from across the decades that could easily get a packed Amp crowd of youths and olds going nuts and voguing like it’s 1990. Plus, if you’ve even just side-eye glimpsed one of her concert extravaganzas, or perhaps the Super Bowl halftime show back in 2012, you know she puts on one hell of a show – even without the help of an impromptu M.I.A. middle finger or the bravest tightrope performer in the history of the art (jump to 4:48).

Actually, no; bring that guy, too. That guy’s insane. He can be the opener.

Justin Bieber

It only seems fair that, after his ex opened up this past Big Gig, the Biebz would be given a crack at the Marcus Amp, as well. And love him or loathe him – and we know there’s so much loathe; so, so, so, so much – it’s hard to deny that the Canadian star and tabloid mainstay knows his way around a remarkably catchy pop song. Admit it; you’ve sung along to "Love Yourself" or "Company" or "Sorry" or "What Do You Mean" or … my god, how do we know so many Bieber songs? That devious little earwormy Canuck!

Most importantly, though, Bieber could easily fill the Amp with all of his screaming Beliebers. Just a tip for Summerfest if this ends up happening: Please provide free earplugs at the gate. Oh, and if you can’t get Bieber, we’d happily accept a different but perhaps even better pop-world Justin ...

He already has love for MKE, anyways.

Bon Jovi

It wouldn’t be Summerfest without bringing a classic rock act to the Amp to please the non-millennials in the crowd, and who better than Jon Bon himself. It’s been a while since the "Livin’ On A Prayer" rocker has graced the Cream City – 2011 at the Bradley Center – and Milwaukee is certainly a big fan of his blue collar persona and his classic hits. Maybe he could make some time for a Big Gig visit in between making impromptu wedding performances and ruining marriages in DirecTV ads?

Drake & Rihanna

Summerfest has arranged an impressive collection of double acts over the years: Sting and Peter Gabriel, Black Keys and Florence + the Machine, Chris Stapleton and Alabama Shakes, just to name a few of the most recent ones. So why not bring in the hottest double act currently gracing the airwaves: Drake and Rihanna. Drake could open the show, Rihanna could close it and, in the middle, they could join for "Work" and a few other duets. And as a bonus, the two’s obvious sexual chemistry could burn the Marcus down, making the room necessary for its planned replacement. So there’s savings there – as long as you save them for the closing night. 


In just the past two years, Summerfest has gotten The Rolling Stones and a Beatle to headline the Amp. Is there any rock royalty left to bring? U2 may have sullied its name a bit by becoming the world’s most infamous iTunes hackers, by releasing some lukewarm new albums and by being, eh, a touch on the pretentious side. But if they were to play just a bit of "Where The Streets Have No Name" or "With Or Without You" with the kind of grandiose, sweepingly emotional showmanship their concerts have become known for, all that would be pushed aside, and you’d remember they are, indeed, rock giants – one of the few we’ve got left after this brutal 2016 (knocks on all of the wood in the room).

Even those who’ve gone blind eye-rolling at Bono have to admit U2 would put on a show worthy of Summerfest’s half-century of existence for sure – and that they’d probably be in attendance, singing along to "Beautiful Day" full volume.


The odds of the world’s most powerful pop voice Beyonce bringing her current stadium/arena tour to the comparatively intimate Marcus Amp are mostly just a dream. But is this not a dream list? Can you imagine seeing Queen Bey bring "Lemonade" and the rest of her Formation tour to a small(ish) setting where the heartbreak, rage, power and emotion of especially her new tracks could explode you back into your seat? We can … and it’s awesome. Come on, Beyonce; give the Big Gig a 50th birthday gift for the ages and come slay Summerfest.


No list of dream Big Gig performers would be complete without the other current queen of pop, Adele. True, her current tour just had a three-night sold-out stint down in Chicago, where she just happened to bring some Milwaukee on stage, but why not go a step further and bring the whole stage to Milwaukee? Her tour now runs through November, so maybe by next summer, she’d be ready to do a one-off or a mini-tour.

It’s worth noting also that Sia has worked with both Beyonce and Adele, and we would not be against her showing up at Summerfest, too. We could even call it "the Big Wig at the Big Gig." See, we’ve already begun the promotion process.

Taylor Swift

By this time next year, Taylor Swift may be too busy taking Kanye West to court for secretly recording phone calls or still trying to prove her and Tom Hiddleston are a real couple (HA! please …). But if she’s available and willing to bring her star-studded catwalk – and almost certainly shrink it down a bit – to Milwaukee for a night, there’s no way Summerfest wouldn’t book it in a heartbeat.

There’s no doubt she’d put on an all-caps SHOW – complete with her #squad and probably some Wisconsin royalty, like Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn, to parade. And while her persona may rub some the wrong way, showing off her famous friends like she’s playing Pokemon GO but with celebrities, most of "1989" is undeniable pop perfection. Minus "Bad Blood." "Bad Blood" is just bad. Unless she brings Kendrick …

If Tay’s off the market, however, maybe snatch up her arch-nemesis Katy Perry, who just released her new song, "Rise," and probably has a new album – and tour – not far behind. We won’t tell Taylor.


U2 for the millennial generation, Coldplay is no stranger to celebrating 50th anniversaries. And while they may have been completely – and predictably – overshadowed at that Super Bowl halftime show by the fire-combination of Beyonce and Bruno Mars (other than the resurrected body of Prince, who wouldn’t be?) the British rockers still put on a bright, good show that would make a perfect fit for the Marcus Amp. Public perception might be low on Coldplay – undeservedly, in our opinion – but we think the Big Gig would still receive the high reward of fans and haters alike sobbing listening to "Fix You."

Garth Brooks

Our apologies, country fans. We’ve somehow managed to go this entire wish list without a single country artist – which, judging by recent Summerfest headliner lists, won’t be the Big Gig’s approach. But which country star – or stars – do you get for an event as big as the Big Gig’s 50th anniversary? Luke Bryan’s been here three of the last four years, so he’s clearly a fan as well as a fan favorite. Zac Brown Band is always a winner around these parts too, while Chris Stapleton was a champion in his first Big Gig visit. Then there’s Blake Shelton, who’s certainly a big enough name to earn 50th anniversary headliner status.

But we’re going big or going home: Garth Brooks. The guy is still the biggest name in country music, and just last year he ended an almost two-decade draught from performing in Milwaukee with a duo of shows at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. One show at the smaller Marcus Amp might be a hard sell for Brooks, but if you’re Summerfest, how do you not try to make it happen? Maybe you pull a Rolling Stones-esque twist, open up the Big Gig early and give him the first two nights? After all, who would complain about more Summerfest? It’s 50 now; it can do what it wants.