Summerfest, Milwaukee’s annual festival of music, food and entertainment, erupted under sunny skies on Wednesday, June 26. A refreshing, cool breeze blowing across Lake Michigan gave relief to thousands of fans who made their yearly pilgrimage to The Big Gig. Opening day highlights included the triumphant return of Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes, The Avett Brothers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gavin DeGraw and a monstrous fireworks display.
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Fans have been waiting for Violent Femmes to return to the stage for years, and many have had their calendars marked once Summerfest hinted that they’d return to Summerfest this year. Their strong performance of their eponymous release at BottleRock, ironically opposite the Avett Brothers performance at the same time, suggested Milwaukee would be in for a treat Wednesday evening.
Gavin DeGraw performed on the BMO Harris stage in 2012 [review], and returned for an encore performance in the same venue. The charismatic singer-songwriter is still performing on his 2011 release, “Sweeter,” but issued a new single this month, “Best I Ever Had.”
Twenty One Pilots played to a responsive crowd on the U.S. Cellular stage at 8:00 p.m. The duo of Tyler Joseph on vocals and Josh Dun on drums hit the stage to a deafening roar and kicked out an hour-long set of alt-rock jams that turned into a sing-along with their gratuitous fans. Joseph’s quirky persona and exuberant stage presence had him all over the stage, upon his piano and singing from atop a large monitor stack during the night.
Performing opposite Grouplove, Gavin DeGraw and Diplo, amongst others, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs showed why they were all the rave at Coachella this year. Opening with the eerie, “Sacrilege,” the focus from the start was on enigmatic vocalist, Karen O. She bounced her way across the stage as they played “Cold Light” and “Slave” while her musical accompaniment, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase were relegated to the shadows. That set the mood for an ethereal dose of post-punk tunes that lifted Karen O to another plane.
Summerfest runs through Sunday, July 7 with an day off on Monday, July 1. Thursday’s headliners will include fun., Billy Idol, Dropkick Murphys, Talib Kwell, REO Speedwagon and Atlas Genius.
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