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(Live Review) MILWAUKEE SUMMERFEST - 7/7/23

The Beard and Little Johnny

Welcome to the final weekend of Summerfest. Tonight, is the eighth of nine Summerfest days/nights and part four of our five-part Summerfest coverage. This also marks event number #35 and bands #177-183 on our year long “The Reviews Never Stop Tour 2023.”

This day/evening your hosts (The Beard & Little Johnny) are checking out:

The Cuz

The Balkan Brothers

Pink Houses

Here Come the Mummies

Alley Rocks

Jet Black Roses



A garage band, but at least playing originals and sounding like a real band. Decent vocals and sound: there is a little punk, a little rock, and a little blues. The Cuz were one of the best early acts at this year’s fest. Johnny liked them.


Our second act of the day were ...


A Connecticut brothers’ band who has opened for some decent majors including Anvil, Joe Bonamassa, George Lynch and Chris Robinson. Odds are at minimum they will be an original and professional sounding rock act.

The Balkun Brothers are in fact truly that, a two-piece act with Steve Balkun singing and playing guitar, and brother Nick Balkun drumming and occasionally singing a bit.

The Beard can see why they opened for Chris Robinson as they have that Black Crowes sound. They are what I expected, a competent act that gives you an hour of bluesy rock entertainment. I enjoyed them and both brothers are entertaining. Johnny loved Nick’s hat.


Third up over at a different stage was the band.


Pink Houses. Nope, they are not a John Cougar cover act, but ARE a nine (yep nine) piece band covering virtually everything. Toto, Bruno Mars (Ed: Who?), Pattie La Belle (Ed: There he goes again making shit up. Were mushrooms involved this long weekend?), AC/DC. You get the idea.

A little background shows they are popular in the Wisconsin area. I can see them doing wedding receptions and other events, but by this point, we had seen our share of cover bands at Summerfest.

(Ed: Personally, I would have left at the start of the Toto cover!)

No grade cover band.

Fourth up was a visit to the Miller Lite stage for American funk rock band ...


Johnny’s first response when they hit the stage was, “Woah, they’re REAL Mummies! That is so awesome!”

Very Very horn based. Think Parliament Funkadelic, but done by Mummies.

Different, and the Beard does admit, the Mummy schtick makes an oddly compelling asset to their act, as does the funk songs about Egyptian themes such as “Ra Ra Ra” about the Sun God.

No official grade as this was clearly not rock, but if you find yourself with an hour to kill, this is a pretty entertaining way to do it. (Ed: Er, I think I'll just go to the museum instead.)

Fifth up tonight was ...


A Milwaukee garage band. They do original songs, but I’m not that taken with them. The bassist threw down a solo that was Bach done well enough that I recognized it as Bach, so points for that.

These guys aren’t bad, but ultimately, they are time fillers. The Beard does appreciate they are doing their own stuff rather than the easy cover band thing, so he will award a 75/100.

Johnny had vanished after the set with the Mummies. I don’t really want to know what he’s getting into.

The Beard shall enjoy a peaceful hour without him and if he doesn’t find his way back here in about an hour, then The Beard may have to head out towards our “Special” chair that we identified this morning as the “go to if lost chair” to locate him like he was a kid in a K-mart.

(A bunch of people just said, “a what now? Look it up youngsters.”), but for the moment, The Beard will enjoy the solitude. There are still two more bands on our agenda.

Sixth up and the official opener for STYX were from Atlanta Georgia ...


Kind of a Tom Petty-meets-George Strait feel. It’s rock but dunked deeply into some Southern borderline country. Like a cornbread biscuit into the gravy. (Damn, now I’m hungry). I think they want to be like The Eagles.

They have a six-piece band and an easy practiced style but are just “that much” too far on the country sound for me. It’s clear, clean and more than competent musically, but I just can’t quite call this rock, although their mash-up of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison done to the beat of Whole Lotta Love, was pretty impressive and unique...

Grade is 80/100 since they are STYX’s opener.


Headliner Styx has been a love of the Beard since I first heard them in 1977 and first saw them almost ten years later in 1986. Since I wasn’t a Kilroy was Here fan, I didn’t love that show. (Ed: Otherwise known as The Beard Was There Tour.)

Although the Beard has every album from Equinox to Paradise Theater, I do not have any of their last six releases. (Ed: What? Crash of the Crown was The Mighty Decibel's 2021 album of the year. Where's your loyalty!) So, a lot of tonight’s set may be unfamiliar, but it will be nice to see/hear Tommy Shaw and JT Young playing some of the classics once again.

Styx came out at exactly 9:30 with “To Those” which the Beard confessed he didn’t know. (Ed: If you'd listened and worshipped Crash of the Crown you would have known!) That virtually would not happen again over the next 90 minutes.

Blue Collar Man and “Grand Illusion were to follow, and then to get the crowd even hotter, they called out original bassist Chuck Panozzo (who no longer tours regularly due to poor health), for a raucous crowd singalong on “Lady. (Ed: Pee break time!)

Giving a nod to their number one charting last album, the boys played the title track “Crash of the Crown”, which the Beard enjoyed. Then it was back to the classics with; “Lorelei”, “Miss America”, and a fantastic “Crystal Ball” where Tommy Shaw excelled on both vocals and guitar solo. Best song and solo of the evening. Perfect, and my high point of Summerfest. (Ed: The only high point?)

Band introductions would follow before a strong “Rocking the Paradise.” Tommy Shaw then took it down a touch with the banjo driven “Our Wonderful Lives” before calling Panozzo back up for “Fooling Yourself” & “Too Much Time on My Hands”.

The band took a break so we could witness the classically trained piano majesty of vocalist Lawrence Gowan on “Khedive. That man can play Juilliard level classical piano. Just as impressive, he can play equally well facing the piano or with his back to it and playing in reverse. Give THAT a try.

Once more Panozzo returned for the short “Lost at Sea” before Gowan launched into the piano intro to “Come Sail Away”.

BMO arena was clearly waiting for that one and several thousand voices thundered along in what was the loudest crowd response number of the weekend. When the band (in full) broke into the rock portion it was with lights and smoke aplenty and featuring Tommy Shaw’s solo from atop the set piece. Styx certainly knows how to present a memorable visual.

STYX had a two-song encore featuring “Mr. Roboto” (which I still don’t really like) and closing the night with “Renegade” (which I most certainly do), another huge audience participation song that sent the Summerfest crowd home clapping and happy. (Ed: Of course. Finally, something to cheer for!)

Even after 52 years, STYX still brings it. Although certainly Chuck Panozzo, and JT Young are at least somewhat acting their ages, Tommy Shaw (himself just a couple months shy of 70), still runs around the stage as well as up and down the stairs to solo all over the place like a man half his years.

The best compliment The Beard can give this set is to say this. STYX, (a Chicago band), got a Milwaukee crowd to cheer them all night, and give them a huge standing ovation!

Going 95/100 for a great night and set of music.

This ends part four of the five-part Summerfest 2023 review.

Until next time, remember to read all the Beard and Little Johnny Reviews on The Mighty Decibel, and our subsidiary sites, and then be sure to check out the videos on TikTok by searching.




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