Go local and go large for Rebel Grace
"I have no idea what you're saying! But keep doing it because I love noise!" was the direction from Amileigha Blue of Rebel Grace. And the audience did. The crowd made noise, sang along, sang solo and danced through Rebel Grace's 90-minute set on the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage at Summerfest Saturday.
It was packed, let me tell you. And you may have thought that people were gearing up and saving their seats for LOCASH who headlined the stage at 10 p.m., but the Wisconsin-based Rebel Grace has quite a following in Milwaukee.
The band killed, nailed and any other word that means "did it up right" their performance.
I know, I know; they're a cover band. What am I getting so excited about, right? But you'll feel me here. There are cover bands where you sit around and drink and talk to your friends because the music is familiar and fades into the background. And then, there are cover bands where you feel like you are actually at a concert, where the music is more important than finding out why your best friend's cousin is fighting with her husband.
I can tell you with 100% certainty that Rebel Grace is, start to finish, the latter. They're the band I'd be shushing my friends to listen to. They pumped the crowd up from song one and didn't quit until they left the stage.
Opening with "Gonna Know We Were Here" by Jason Aldean, Rebel Grace ran through 23 songs – most of them country, all of them brilliant. The band seems to find that fine line between simply performing covers the way the original artist performed them and finding a way to own the song giving it just the tiniest of little tweaks to make it their own. Skillful, difficult and executed masterfully.
Setting the stage are two hugely talented lead vocalists: Amileigha Blue and Jeremy Zima. Both possess pipes – serious pipes. Pipes that I'd pay to hear in Nashville. Rounding out the talent was Andrew Walker on lead guitar, Kevin Mushel on bass guitar and Elliott Paulin on drums.
After their seventh song, Amileigha started to get hoarse, and I kind of held my breath through the rest of their show hoping she didn't lose it. She didn't.
And it's a good thing she didn't. The band was aggressive in their song choices, picking tunes that are fresh and now – which depending on the talent, could either be phenomenal or a disaster. I mean, attempting "My Church" following Maren Morris' giant voice, or a soft song like "Tin Man", which is delicate and vulnerable but still powerful, is a total risk. So is trying to pull off "Red Dirt Road" and "Fishin' in the Dark." But Rebel Grace did. And it was as far from a disaster as is possible.
I had the chance to correspond with Rebel Grace before their show. They noted that they'd added a production company and LED video walls to help give their fans the real concert experience. But the thing about playing early on one of the side stages at Summerfest is that you don't have your full production. So you really have to be good.
Rebel Grace was real and authentic. If they had any deficits normally hidden by production and LED screens, it wasn't obvious. It's clear that the band's focus is on the music and giving their fans the best they can.
Rebel Grace started about 10 years ago. While it's changed members a couple of times, the band has always been Wisconsin-based. The band's current members have been together about four years. While that might seem like a long time for a band to gel, when the members all have day jobs and families, it's really not. They're neophytes with the sound of a band that's been together much longer.
The proof is in the non-stop gigs and the WAMIs they've been racking up. In 2016 alone, the band took home WAMIs for Female Vocalist, Country Artist and Live Engineer Sound/Lights. Plus, they've earned several "Best of Milwaukee" awards in the last three years.
Rebel Grace gives due credit to their fans for allowing them to keep coming back to the stage. You can tell that they are a fan-centric band, which is unusual. But they took it as far as letting their fans name the band – which is kind of crazy, but cool, too.
Their local roots probably help in keeping the band's schedule packed. But honestly, after today, it's really not hard to see why the band is so popular. They aren't just your typical cover band. There's depth and talent beyond what you'd normally expect.
They're local. They're large. And really, they're every bit as much country western stars as those that tour around the country.
Catch them if you have a chance. Seriously, do it.
"Gonna Know We Were Here" (Jason Aldean cover)
"Peter Pan" (Kelsea Ballerini cover)
"Dust on the Bottle" (David Lee Murphy cover)
"Settlin'" (Sugarland cover)
"I Want Crazy" (Hunter Hayes cover)
"American Girl" (Tom Petty cover)
"How Country Feels" (Randy Houser cover)
"Done" (The Band Perry cover)
"Jolene" (Dolly Parton cover)
"Something Like That" (Tim McGraw cover)
"Sleep Without You" (Brett Young cover)
"Carolina" (Parmalee cover)
"It Ain't My Fault" (Brothers Osborne cover)
"My Church" (Maren Morris cover)
"The Fighter" (Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood cover)
"Tin Man" (Miranda Lambert cover)
"Great Day to Be Alive" (Travis Tritt cover)
"Red Dirt Road" (Brooks & Dunn cover)
"Fishin' in the Dark" (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cover)
"Any Man of Mine" (Shania Twain cover)
"Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" (Shania Twain cover)
"When She Says Baby" (Jason Aldean cover)
"Red Wagon" (Miranda Lambert cover)
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