Mike Mangione is quite the jet setter these days. He just started a tour a few days ago in Illinois and after tonight’s show at Summerfest – he played at the Johnson Controls World Stage with his band the Union – he continues with a rigorous schedule through mid-November.
His tour will take him everywhere from the Midwest to Slovakia, with stops like North Dakota and Pennsylvania and Tennessee in between.
Mike Mangione and the Union are an orchestral folk-rock five-some with a variety of strings, drums and electric guitars. The group is bluesy, folky, ambient and intense. Their choice in attire demonstrated the intensity: everyone was wearing black outfits with the exception of the bass player, who wore a bright red shirt.
Mangione donned a black hat – which he re-situated often – and a black jacket. He later removed the black jacket, revealing a black shirt.
"My chest is shaved with ‘mikemangione.com’," he joked, but, unlike Billy Idol last week at the BMO Harris stage, never actually removed his shirt.
In September, Mangione will release his fourth album – and the third one he’s recorded with the Union. Called "Red-Winged Blackbird Man," the album was produced by Bo Ramsey, who also produced Greg Brown, and was recorded in a mere two weeks.
Their debut album, "Tenebrae," received positive press from outlets all over the country.
Tonight, the band drew from past and current material, including "You Don’t Want To Leave," "Someday, Somebody," "You Were Beautiful Once" and a passionate, intensely built-up "Cold, Cold Ground." Another high point was a rollicking cover of Bob Dylan’s "Tombstone Blues." This was Mangione’s most lyrically-indecipherable song, but seemed apt in the spirit of Dylan.
One song that is on the new album Mangione described as "so new it’s scary to play." That one went out to Phil.
Mangione, who currently lives in Milwaukee, grew up in Des Plaines, Ill. After high school, he moved to Milwaukee and attended Marquette University for environmental sciences. During this time, he met his wife, Stacey. He later moved to Chicago and Los Angeles.
Despite being offered jobs in his field of study, Mangione is committed to being a musician. Consequently, he has held many non-related side jobs including a Starbucks’ barista, paper shredder for a medical office, secret shopper and movie extra.
Mangione played the "mail boy" – he is credited – in "Anchorman – the Legend of Ron Burgundy" and another role in "Fred Clause."
"After a year and a half of this ridiculous lifestyle, I bought a used van and toured the country with my dog, playing coffeehouses," says Mangione.
This was my first show of the season in the new Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, formerly the Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage. The stage has a mission beyond music: to educate people about energy efficiency.
The stage features LED lighting, an energy-saving air conditioning unit, a small wind turbine and solar panels. There is also a screen that provides information about the stage and general energy conservation.
Mangione, however did not conserve energy tonight. He was interactive and passionate and performed a heartfelt, electrifying show. Mangione embodied a bluesy David Gray who, like Gray, will undoubtedly land success, if he stays committed to his heart and talent.
"I might look like I’m in pain, but I’m actually enjoying myself," he said tonight, referring to his intense facial expressions while playing. "Don’t let the eyebrows fool you."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.