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Black Thought of The Roots get the crowd going.
Black Thought of The Roots get the crowd going. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)
The Roots rounding members Black Thought, left, and Questlove are still going strong.
The Roots rounding members Black Thought, left, and Questlove are still going strong. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)
The Roots MC Black Thought's strong vocals carried a great set.
The Roots MC Black Thought's strong vocals carried a great set. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)

The Roots bring it yet again at Summerfest

There are few acts in hip hop who can be define in large part by their live performances, but such is the case with The Roots, the Philadelphia based act fronted by MC Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and backed by drummer and co-founder Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson along with Kamal Gray on the keyboard, Frank Knuckles on percussion, Captain Kirk Douglas on guitar and Mark Kelley on bass.

The group - which some younger faces in the audience no doubt now knows as the house band for Jimmy Fallon's late night show on NBC - has produced 13 records and won four Grammys, but their live sets have garnered more acclaim, if such a thing is possible.

Summerfest fans were treated first hand on Day 4 of the Big Gig as the band headlined the Miller Lite Oasis stage. The group lived up to its rep, led by Black Thought's strong vocals.

The Roots have been touring about of late, playing sets in Europe, New York and the Bonaroo festival and a staple of the set list has been a cover of the Beastie Boys classic "Paul Revere" in honor of MCA, who passed away of cancer in early May.

It has been roundly hailed as a fitting tribute – and perhaps is expected now by those who have been following the band in that time.

They didn't disappoint, leading off the 90-minute set with the track and dedicating it to MCA and Chuck Brown.

Black Thought made some minor lyrical changes, and the dynamic of the live band made it a unique and fitting tribute.

One of the reasons the band's live show earns such rave reviews is because they're versatile enough to add other covers to their repertoire, and Saturday was no different with Kool And The Gang's "Jungle Boogie."

The crowd went ballistic once the opening chords of Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" were struck, which after the chorus became a remixed medley of quick covers.

They also give a nod to Led Zepplin with a few chords of "The Immigrant Song."

As with "Paul Revere," the verses and music were purely Roots.

Douglas made Slash - and any g…

Lupe Fiasco brought high energy to his performance at Summerfest on Day 1.
Lupe Fiasco brought high energy to his performance at Summerfest on Day 1. (Photo: Jennifer Johnson)
Lupe Fiasco engaged the Summerfest audience all night.
Lupe Fiasco engaged the Summerfest audience all night. (Photo: Jennifer Johnson)

Lupe Fiasco brings house down

Perhaps some pre-show time with Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings put Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco in a feisty mood, as the MC got out of his car with a limp in the back of the Harley-Davidson stage, but performed with exhaustive energy for 90 minutes on the opening night of Summerfest.

Fiasco played songs from all three of his studio releases – "Food & Liquor," "The Cool" and "Lasers" – and only teased the crowd with singles off his upcoming "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album."

Late in the show, he asked the crowd which song they wanted of the two, and as the crowd roared at each mention, he instead broke into "Superstar," his hit off "The Cool."

The MC seemed to feed off the crowd's energy as the show went on – especially once early sound problems were rectified – as they took care of the hooks for the songs that needed it. He smiled frequently, with none bigger than the one he wore as the predominantly Caucasian audience drowned out the bass as soon as the beat for "All Black Everything" started.

"Sometimes we only see what's on the surface," he said to the crowd after the song. "Sometimes we only see a color. We don't see what's in here."

He then pounded his chest to heavy applause.

Some highlights in the show included his verse on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky", a cameo on West's 2006 release "Late Registration" that introduced Fiasco to the world prior to "Food & Liquor's" release.

He and his live band brought a rock energy to "Kick, Push," "Out Of My Head" and "Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)," which most likely included the best guitar solo of the night anywhere on Summerfest grounds.

Fiasco, playing his third Summerfest, often interacted with the crowd to give himself a breather, but late in the show, someone who tossed a New York Knicks hat on the stage created the strongest Fiasco-Milwaukee bond of the night.

"Who's hat is this?" he shouted.

Incredibly, someone claimed it stage right, so he set the hat on a speaker and turn…

A fan can join Brandon Jennings at a Summerfest concert on Wednesday.
A fan can join Brandon Jennings at a Summerfest concert on Wednesday. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Play golf and listen to music with Brandon Jennings and Jon Leuer

No matter what you think of sports journalists – online, print or broadcast – we all got into this business because we started as fans, and we love sports.

I'm fortunate to say that I haven't lost that feeling completely, and I can recognize something cool when I see it when it comes to fans and the teams they love.

The Milwaukee Bucks are doing just that through the Bucks Summer Experience Sweepstakes.

The team is offering fans unique opportunities to get up close and personal with members of the organization throughout the summer, and the first two experiences are so good that I have to highlight them.

The first is this Wednesday at Summerfest, where you can hang out with Brandon Jennings at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse to watch rapper Lupe Fiasco. 

In my short time covering the Bucks, Jennings seems like an interesting guy and Fiasco is without question of the best rappers out there. It should be a great show.

The other summer experience worth getting in on is happening during the week of the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler. One fan will be able to join Jon Leuer inside the ropes on Monday, July 2.

The fan will be able to be a part of the Wisconsin Sports Shootout, a five-hole challenge pairing LPGA players with Leuer, Packers fullback John Kuhn and legend Mark Tauscher, and former Wisconsin Badgers legend and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

I'll give the players credit on this one. These guys rarely have time to themselves, and they're opening up some of that time to their fans when they easily could say no.

Good move by the Bucks, Jennings and Leuer. It's an instance where even the distanced sports journalist can say "yeah, that's cool."

The Hotel Blackhawk lobby. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)
The Hotel Blackhawk lobby. (Photo: Jim Owczarski) (Photo: Hotel Blackhawk)
A bedroom at the Hotel Blackhawk.
A bedroom at the Hotel Blackhawk. (Photo: Hotel Blackhawk)
The Hotel Blackhawk bistro.
The Hotel Blackhawk bistro. (Photo: Hotel Blackhawk)

Hotel Blackhawk is the place to stay in Davenport, Iowa

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Driving over the Mississippi River at night is truly something, as you leave Illinois, arch up and over the blackness and to the lights of Davenport, Iowa. The lights from the other side give glimpses to the water below, jumping off the ripples and then disappearing like fireflies.

During the day it's just as majestic, its sheer size and power moving beneath you in the opposite direction.

It's a great scene setter once you get into Iowa, where I made my way to the historic Hotel Blackhawk. Built nearly 100 years ago in 1915, it's one of the country's historic hotels  and has been recently renovated by the hotel restoration company Restoration Saint Louis.

It's a must-stay if you find yourself traveling to Iowa, or to the Quad Cities for the John Deere Classic PGA Tour event July 9-15 in nearby Silvis, Ill.

It's a good year to make the trip considering there are no regular PGA Tour events in Wisconsin or Illinois this year, and tickets to the PGA's Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago have long been sold out.

Madison resident Steve Stricker is also going to attempt to make history at the JDC as he vies for his fourth consecutive title at TPC Deere Run, a feat accomplished only by Tiger Woods, Young Tom Morris, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen.

In a crowded marketplace for visitors, Hotel Blackhawk sets itself apart thanks to not only the historic, old-time feel but all of the first world amenities we expect – and some we don't.

The hotel offers a free WiFi connection, which is a huge plus, along with a bowling alley. Yes, bowling alley – the Blackhawk Bowl and Martini Lounge. There is no better nightcap for the nightcap than bringing it downstairs and knocking down a few pins.

The lobby is spacious, luxurious and runs seamlessly into a renovated bar and restaurant area. Workout facilities and Spa Luce are on-site, and there's access to area golf clubs (if you're not out watching the professionals, that is). If you decide…