Summerfest 2013

  • Post Author
    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Sat Aug 10 2013

Milwaukee's Summerfest prides itself on being “The World's Largest Music Festival,” and, without a doubt, lives up to this name. Taking root on the Henry Maier Festival Grounds on Milwaukee's lakefront, this festival touts a total of 10 stages that are booked solid for 11 days. As a Milwaukee native and Summerfest veteran, I've become adept at maneuvering the grounds and finding the best acts. While the evening headliners draw the largest crowds, it's the bands that take the smaller stages during the daytime hours that I have found to be the most interesting time and time again.


Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros/Avett Brothers/Violent Femmes

Wednesday, June 26

I kicked off my Summerfest adventure by breaking one of my top festival rules: attending a show at the Marcus Amphitheater ( This is the largest stage on the Summerfest grounds and the only one that charges an entry fee. It houses both stadium and grass seating, creating such a distance between the crowd and the performers that no sense of intimacy is feasible. Regardless, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to see the Violent Femmes, especially when paired with Edward Sharpe and the Avett Brothers.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros ( were adorable, as always. Alex Ebert sauntered onto the stage nervously and asked the crowd “are you familiar with our repertoire?” When the entire stadium roared a resounding yes, he crafted the entire set based on requests from the audience. These songs were performed with high energy and just the right amount of kitschy charm from Alex, Jade, and their gaggle of admittedly random musicians.

The Avett Brothers ( displayed such cohesion during their set that I can't describe it as anything less than perfect. And I don't say that lightly. Seamlessly transitioning between old and new pieces, fast and slow songs, this group of gentlemen kept the audience engaged at every turn, despite being interrupted by a fireworks show in the background. The extraordinary musical precision of this band was epitomized by Joe Kwon's ability to jump around the stage while playing the cello expertly—without the help of even an endpin.

The concert disappointingly plateaued during the Violent Femmes' ( performance. This trio opted to do a play-through of their debut album, hesitating to even stop for applause. The obvious tension on the stage was apparently the result of Victor DeLorenzo's departure ( from the band, which was announced several weeks later. As a long-time fan of the Femmes, I will prefer to remember them as the skilled and enthusiastic musicians that graced the Summerfest grounds in the summer of '08.


Friday, June 28

Exploring the grounds later in the week, I stumbled across a Madison-area staple. Performing on the small Renegade Stage on the outskirts of the park, Colorphase ( definitely proved impressive. Each member of this band exhibited a mastery of their craft, coming together to create a booming sound and powerful stage presence. What caught my attention were the striking lyrics of Colorphase songs that were brought to life through the soaring and soulful vocals of Vanessa Anderson.

He's My Brother She's My Sister

Friday June 28

I'm all about bands that are both fun to listen to and fun to see live and He's My Brother She's My Sister ( fit the bill. It was impossible for me to keep my eyes off this (for ease of categorizing) rockabilly band. Dressed akin to circus runaways, these musicians pranced around the stage to the beat of the music, even in the hot mid-afternoon sun. Especially mesmerizing were the percussion stylings of Lauren Brown. As a jack-of-all-trades performer, Brown stood on a kick drum and tap danced while keeping a driving beat by attending to other percussive instruments.

SoHo Ghetto

Saturday, June 29

Nova Scotia-based SoHo Ghetto ( made their U.S. debut at this year's Summerfest. As part of the “emerging artist” series presented on the Johnson Controls stage, this ensemble held their own. Although I imagine they'd feel more at home at a smaller and more intimate venue, SoHo Ghetto did not fail to impress at this large festival. While the songs' hooks are obviously ear-catching, it's the beautiful harmonies of this seven-piece band that made me fall in love with them.

Roster McCabe

Saturday, June 29

Minnesotan reggae-rock group Roster McCabe ( is a mainstay of Summerfest. Performing daily at the Tiki Stage, these guys have always made my must-see list. On a hot Summerfest day, there's nothing more refreshing than Alex Steele's cool vocals and flowing keyboard-produced melodies. Dabbling in many genres, RMC never fails to drum up a sizable audience and keep listeners on their feet. The only critique I have about this show is that this band deserves a larger stage and a prime time slot.


Wednesday, July 3

MGMT ( put on a very…interesting show. The crowd drawn to this show was far too large for the venue, which tainted the overall experience, at least for me. However, for drawing such a large crowd, the band seemed quite underwhelmed, even lethargic. After 3 unremarkable songs, I decided to bid MGMT (and, for this year, Summerfest) adieu.

Avett Brothers song link: (

SoHo Ghetto song link: (

He's My Brother She's My Sister song link: (