We had a great time in Milwaukee for a couple of days covering Summerfest. I don’t know why we don’t make our way up every year, but going forward it is likely you’ll see more Summerfest coverage. The drive up from Chicago is pretty quick, Milwaukee is an easy city to get around, and the festival itself always has something to offer. This year we picked the days that had the most that interested us.
I’m posting the late headliners separately, so you can look for those after you read this. Really, one of the best things about Summerfest is that they have so many stages and they fill them all with quality music, so there’s always something to see. We started out on Saturday with Candlebox, a band that I’ve listened to since I was in junior high and whose debut album stands up with the greats of the grunge movement of the 90’s and, I would argue, stands above most of them.
25 years after its release, I finally got to hear a lot of these songs live. I couldn’t believe how good they still sound. Some bands lose their passion and just play gigs for money, but Candlebox seems to still be getting after it with the same intensity they had in the beginning. And the crowd that showed up for this set…holy cow! a 4pm set drew more people than the band on the same stage drew for the 8pm slot the night before. You could barely walk through the concourse it was so packed.
I ran around a bit to get passes to shoot some other stuff while Kari stuck around the Harley stage to catch Dorothy. I don’t really know that much about Dorothy other than people seem to dig the band. I actually ended up standing right next to lead singer Dorothy Martin and didn’t realize it. She was talking to one of the security guards and I thought maybe she was a Kardashian (maybe it was the purple lipstick). Musically she reminds me of a harder rocking Sheryl Crow with a little Grace Slick mixed in on the vocals.
Next up was our friend David McMillin’s band Grand Am. They’ve been together about a year and already found some success getting song placement on MTV’s “Teen Mom 2” and “Catfish.” They haven’t played that much live, so I was excited to see what they could do. They headlined the Emerging Artist Series for the day, so a pretty good crowd was there to witness it with us.
I’ve been writing about David for years because he’s also in a great band called Fort Frances. Grand Am sounds nothing like Fort Frances. It’s more intense and immediate; music you can dance to. Perfect for Summerfest. It was interesting to watch David transform into this new version of himself-working the stage like a maniac instead of standing behind the microphone strumming his guitar. It was a lot of fun and they sound really good. Can’t wait to hear the album when it comes out.
We split up again for the main stage headliners and Kari went to see Phantogram. I was hoping that Big Boi would join them to do some Big Grams songs, as I prefer that project to a lot of Phantogram’s songs. He was opening for The Weeknd on another stage, so I thought it might be possible. It didn’t happen, but it sounds like the set was a big success anyway and a lot of people turned up to the Miller Lite Oasis to see them play. The bass was a bit heavy from what I understand, but that just means you can feel the music better.