While day one of the first VERGE music festival was marked by clearing skies and abundant sunshine, the final day was drenched by a heavy rain.
As the day moved along, though, it became evident that many people weren't going to let that ruin their experience and braved the elements. The music was right there for them, shining brightly and giving the large crowds a memorable and unforgettable experience.
For many who decided to attend the full length of the festival, there was plenty of diversity in the music. From harder rockers, rock and roll for partying, heartfelt folk and more, there were plenty of options and journeys that could be had.
I arrived just in time for a good chunk of Madison rockers Locksley's set. They used their time positioning to their advantage (they were the only band playing for at least most of their set) and provided the crowd with some fun pop-rock tunes that had a bit of an early British Invasion mixed with an early American punk bands and modern garage rock groups kind of sound. At one point the lead singer helped the guitarist play the guitar . As the band wrapped up, it started to drizzle.
Next up was Milwaukee's own Juniper Tar. They had been one of the local bands I've been looking forward to seeing, as I really enjoyed their emotionally charged and beautifully crafted Midwest indie folk rock. The band, which returned home after some road traveling, didn't show any signs of ware or fatigue and provided a great set of music with songs coming from their full length "To the Trees" and their latest EP, "The Howl Street EP."Juniper Tar provided a great mix of slower and jam-ier songs to the modest crowd, which didn't seem concerned about the approaching downpour. They provided some introductions to songs such as one about New Orleans and helped provide for a fun time for everyone.
After Juniper Tar wrapped up, it was off to Manchester Orchestra. The band provided a good set of their hard-edged rock with a indie rock heart to a pretty decent crowd. The band's lead singer got the crowd pumped up with emotional delivery and offered some humor between the songs (including one about a quote in the movie "Changeling" and it went as good -- or not very good -- here as it did in Germany that made some chuckle).
From there I headed over to watch Geri X's show. Despite their tour bus breaking down in Ohio and needing repairs -- forcing the band to grab their guitars and enough clothes -- the band managed to make it and proceeded to give the crowd an set of folky pop rock music with an emotional punch. Geri X's powerful punch was helped by a powerful female singer who gave it her all on the stage. She provided some interesting facts to the crowd including a fascination with naming songs after famous bands and also revealed that the others hailed from Wisconsin.
It was as their set ended that the deluge of rain began, soaking anyone that wasn't at the covered Fringe Stage. Unfortunately for me, I had planned to see The Ravonettes next but I toughed it out and made the wet journey over to the Verge Stage. They provided a fun set of their alternative rock that features two-part vocal harmonies in the vein of The Everly Brothers and hard-edged with a surf-like guitar playing. The crowd got pumped up and didn't seem to mind getting drenched.
Following a brief break after the show, I decided to catch a bit of Invade Rome's set. I've seen them a couple times prior, and while I probably can't say too much that I haven't said before, the band gets better with each time I see them. The power rock trio came out in force with their big sounding rampage of rock and roll. The band offered a nice surprise by playing some of their new songs (from an album they're working on right now). While their debut was pretty good, these new songs are just as good or even better.
I probably would have stayed longer but I wanted to see the Cold War Kids so I ventured out back into the rain to venture back to the Verge stage. The Cold War Kids provided a pretty good set of their soulfully soaked rock. The band offered fan favorites as well as new songs, including "Hang Me Up to Dry" (fitting for the situation), "Audience," "Something is Not Right With Me" and the piano driven "We Used to Vacation."
From there it was time to back to the Fringe stage for Jaill and Rogue Wave. For Jaill, a Milwaukee band that is on quite a roll with their Sub Pop signing and a new album coming out at the end up July, this was yet another chance to get their name out there and move to the next level. The band roared into a great set of their '60s sounding rock and roll, including songs from their first album as well as ones off the upcoming album. They are another Milwaukee band I've been looking forward to seeing and they definitely impressed me that I want to see them again.
Following a long breather between shows, Rogue Wave went on and gave the crowd a powerful and wildly entertaining set of their rock and roll that pulled the crowd into the expansive ocean of their catalog. One thing I like about Rogue Wave is that they jump between rogue waves, including dance inducing and sweeping melody driven songs like "Good Morning (The Future)" and the aptly played "Lake Michigan." The band revealed that this was their first show in the city outside of a performance at Atomic Records. Among many highlights, the one that stuck with me most is when singer Zach Rogue walked over to drummer Pat Spurgeon and the two began an epic and frantically driving drum off. I hopes the band comes back as they really caught on fire with the Milwaukee crowd.
To finish off my marathon of bands and experience at Verge, I ventured over for the Weezer show. For me, it was a chance to rediscover a band I had frequently listened to a number of years ago. I'm a bit out of the loop as far as their newer material, but that didn't matter -- Weezer provided quite a party to send off the VERGE Festival. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo was quite charismatic and energetic as he smashed guitars, threw water, and playfully splashed in the rain water that had built up at the front of the stage (and getting down and getting himself soaking wet in a puddle).
The band played old classics and newer material, including songs like "Hash Pipe," "The Sweater Song," "Holiday," "Buddy Holly" and "Beverly Hills." The band even through in a cover mix-up of MGMT's "Kids" and Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." During one point the band started playing but Cuomo had to stop them so he could tune his guitar. "I demand perfection," he said. With an energetic party atmosphere, it was a pretty perfect way to finish VERGE.