(Live Review) MILWAUKEE SUMMERFEST - 6/29/23
By The Beard & Little Johnny
Welcome Beard & Little Johnny fans to a different kind of metal/rock review. This weekend, your roving reviewer enjoyed a weekend on the lake as we took in the gigantic Milwaukee Summerfest. Three days (Thu-Sat), for three Weekends, with 12 stages and well over one hundred bands of every genre imaginable descend on this Lake Michigan adjacent festival grounds. It is a lot of Midwest food, beer, and music and The Beard and Little Johnny were there for three days and nights of it.
This review will gloss over the non-rock acts and pay more attention/detail to the heavier side of things, but nevertheless it will be a rollicking read.
Let’s break it down into three days * nights beginning with Thursday June 29th.
Event 32 bands 164-167
(Ed: Looks like you missed the good time rock'n'roll of The Georgia Satellites?!)
Arriving in the afternoon on Thursday, Johnny and I got our “Lay of the Land.” With 12 stages, the grounds are quite expansive. For those who have never been, on one end is a giant amphitheater (10,000 plus seating where the biggest bands of the night play), a secondary large theater, (a few thousand capacity) where the next level bands play, and another ten open stages that can accommodate large G/A crowds. The rule at Summerfest: if you don’t like what you hear, walk 100 yards and you’ll get a brand-new stage.
With no real itinerary, the first item of business was hit a Wisconsin Brewer for recovery juice aka beer. After procuring those, Johnny and I wandered over to a very crowded open-air stage, (especially for 4:00PM on a Thursday), to find that Debbie Gibson was playing.
Now, Debbie Gibson is definitely NOT rock & roll or metal, but the Beard remembered the late 1980’s when Gibson became the youngest to chart a number one album at 16. The Beard also remembers the 2005 Playboy spread (Ed: I hope you hid this mag from our innocent lad, Johnny!) and wanted to see how she was holding up both body and voice-wise at 52 years old. Short answer, a LOT better than I am at 56. Admittedly the heavily choreographed Gibson aerobics-like dance numbers get old quickly so we did depart before the big “Only in My Dreams”, closing number. Cute little nod to nostalgia here at Summerfest. No grade not metal.
Our second stop had us checking out the Texas based, and New Orleans influenced blues and funk band ...
Singer Kevin Russell presents a perfect figure as the white-goatee-sporting-suit-and-hat-wearing southern gentleman dandy and he performs with no pretensions or rules, dancing like no one is watching, playing guitar mandolin and even ukulele. With a horn section, keys and percussion backing, this was a fun hour-long set. Exactly the type of act you would watch on Bourbon Street while enjoying a cocktail or maybe a few. No grade not metal.
After his set, we wandered to the amphitheater for headline act ...
THE DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Ironic as it seems, The Beard had never actually witnessed the DMB perform a live set. I can say they are all accomplished musicians, with credit going to guitarist Tim Reynolds as underrated. DMB played a lot of songs, and several were of course lengthy and filled with plenty of solos. I found myself enjoying some, as well as being a bit bored sometimes at the long brass solos that occurred. I think DMB at an outdoor venue is appropriate and perhaps viewing in a slightly altered state of mind would also be an enhancement. No grade not metal.
Last set of night one was 1980’s hair era rockers ...
Night Ranger are celebrating 40 years together. Coming out on stage to “You can Still Rock in America” garnered a good crowd pop and a nice song choice as their opener.
After that though, the next six songs I had either never heard before or didn’t remember if I did. They did play the original “Night Ranger” from Dawn Patrol. There’s a blast from the past that I probably haven’t heard in over three decades. They also covered “High Enough” from Damn Yankees, so that was at least something else I recognized.
Night Ranger are a bit of a caricature of who they were once upon a time, but I guess as long as they are getting paid well and crowds show up it behooves them to keep going. The big hits, "When you Close Your Eyes", "Don’t Tell Me You Love Me", and of course show closer, "Sister Christian" (of which honestly The Beard was never a fan), did send the crowd home happy, and in music, that is the goal. For a Summerfest set of nostalgia they did their jobs.
Night Ranger 78/100.
That ended Night one of Summerfest weekend Two. Day/Night 2 review to be posted tomorrow ...