11 Summerfest bands that you haven't heard of but you've definitely heard
Covering Summerfest means a lot of planning – and yet one of my favorite memories from last year's Big Gig came completely unplanned.
My friend Allen Halas (of local music website Breaking And Entering) and I were stuck waiting around at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse for Elle King's headliner show. There was a band performing on stage, sure, but it was background noise, just a random guy bouncing around and trying to get the crowd into it. His name was Coleman Hell – and all of a sudden, he chimed in with "2 Heads," his hit song. My friend and I were stunned; we totally recognized this song, yet somehow had no idea where it had come from – much less that the once anonymous performer on stage would suddenly burst into it to the delight of the growing crowd.
Those "Wait, that's THEIR song?!" realizations and random discoveries are some of the most enjoyable parts of the Big Gig. So we're here to help find some of them early – or maybe help you find your favorite band that you've heard but maybe haven't actually heard of yet. Here are some names to put to the mystery songs (no late night headliners allowed).
Where you know him from: The Weinstein Company must really like the young English singer-songwriter, because they've repeatedly used his songs for several of their movies – and he's only got five to really choose from. But if you saw the 2015 Bradley Cooper chef movie "Burnt," you heard "Fire," while you only had to see the trailers for "The Founder" and "Gold" this past year to have heard "Glitter & Gold." But really, as Milwaukeeans, you probably heard "Glitter & Gold" as the background music for some tasty brews in a recent Miller Lite ad campaign.
Where he's playing: Barns Courtney will take the Miller Lite Oasis Stage at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 30, opening for Jon Bellion.
Where you know him from: The Los Angeles native hit it big this past year with the melancholy radio hit "I Hate U, I Love U" featuring Olivia O'Brien. It's currently his first and only major hit, landing all the way at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Where he's playing: gnash will take the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 5, opening for James Arthur – also a decent candidate for "Oh, he does THAT song" eligibility with his current hit "Say You Won't Let Go."
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Where you know them from: By now, you should know Nathaniel Rateliff; they're no strangers to Milwaukee – or even Summerfest – by this point. They found some radio success with "S.O.B.," but in case you're not one much for radio anymore, the song popped up over the end credits in the premiere of the highly anticipated third season of "Fargo." You also might recognize them from a 2016 Kia commercial – though, to be fair, it's hard to see much past those creepy CGI hamsters. They are haunting.
Where they're playing: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats will take the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at 3:55 p.m. on Sunday, July 9, as a part of the Outlaw Musical Festival.
Where you know them from: It's quite the compliment when a Quentin Tarantino movie uses your music for part of its marketing campaign. That's what happened to the Cleveland-based Welshly Arms, whose cover of "Hold On, I'm Comin'" popped up in the ads for Tarantino's latest, "The Hateful Eight." It's their hit "Legendary," however, that might be even more popular, providing a suitably, uh, legendary background for promos for "The Blacklist," "Empire" and – truly the greatest compliment of all – a Miller Lite ad.
Where they're playing: Welshly Arms will play the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 5.
Where you know them from: Admittedly, you probably haven't heard any of Captain Cuts own music, but you've certainly heard their handiwork, as they've helped write and/or produce hits like Grouplove's "Tongue Tied," Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" and many more.
Where they're playing: Captain Cuts will help open for The Chainsmokers at the American Family Amphitheater, starting at 7:30 p.m. on the Fourth of July.
Where you know him from: And while we're on the topic of DJs with impressive writing credits but not a ton of actual songs, here's Shaun Frank, who helped co-write a little song called "Closer" by The Chainsmokers.
Where he's playing: Shaun Frank will be performing at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on the Fourth of July at 6 p.m.
Where you know them from: If you're a fan of Netflix's original television show "The Ranch" – and you must be, because there's been two seasons of the Ashton Kutcher/Danny Masterson country-fried sitcom – you might recognize the song "Greatest Love Story" by LANco playing over the closing credits of one of its first season's episodes.
Where they're playing: LANco will hit the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage on the Fourth of July at 8 p.m.
The Naked & Famous
Where you know they're from: If we're being honest, The Naked & Famous are way too popular to be stuck with a 5 p.m. gig. You've almost certainly heard "Young Blood," the New Zealand indie pop group's hit which has popped up everywhere from movies ("21 & Over," "The Cabin in the Woods," "Prom") to trendy television like "Gossip Girl," "Degrassi" and many more. And if that's not enough, it also provided the soundtrack for a Kohl's ad campaign. And that's just "Young Blood." They've got plenty of hits that have popped up in places – enough that they should've scored better than an early evening act.
Where they're playing: The Naked & Famous will take the Miller Lite Oasis Stage at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 1.
Where you know him from: Let's head back to the '90s for this throwback: Tonic. Some might remember this name, but more would likely remember the song "If You Could Only See." It was a popular enough hit that the late grungy rock band wound up on the soundtracks for late century hits like "American Pie" and "Scream 2," but fell off the planet pretty hard. But hey, they're back! Nostalgia!
Where he's playing: Tonic will play the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 1.
Where you know him from: Hey Violet's slinky breakthrough radio single, "Guys My Age," sounds like it should be from a "Fifty Shades" soundtrack. But nope! Just a single off the Los Angeles band's second studio album, "From the Outside," released just this month.
Where he's playing: Hey Violet will play the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage on Saturday, July 1 at 8:30 p.m.
Where you know them from: Normally people watch HGTV for the home makeovers, not the music, but you might recognize the song "Home" by this Nashville blues/soul duo as the opening credits song for the hit remodeling show "Fixer Upper."
Where they're playing: Johnnyswim will play the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on Sunday, June 30 at 8 p.m.
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