(Live Review) MILWAUKEE SUMMERFEST - 7/8/23
The Beard and Little Johnny
Beard & Little Johnny fans, today marks the final entry in our five-part 2023 Milwaukee Summerfest review. This is also event #36 and bands #184-187 on our yearlong “The Reviews never Stop Tour 2023.”
Four more bands are on the agenda today as we look to cover:
Arriving shortly before noon, young Johnny and I were greeted by a giant line at the back gate. This was unusual. There had never been a line like this any of the other days. So, we walked around to the front gate to find an EVEN BIGGER line.
At this point we were made aware that on this final Saturday, Summerfest was free to enter between noon and three PM. Given it was perfect weather, AND a Saturday, many many many people were ready to take full advantage of free entry.
Fortunately, a few nights earlier, The Beard and Johnny had drinks with an individual who was involved in security for the festival, and he told us about a little used gate that was only for bands, press, and VIP’s. So, off we went to that one. Again, we were fortunate that this unnamed individual was there, recognized us and walked us in that way. Thus, we were able to sidestep the bull rush at gate opening. Score one for talking to a big black guy at a biker bar. Score another that the Beard looks like he even belongs in a biker bar in the first place.
Anyway, we figured we had better hit the craft beer tent early, do a once around and then get to our stage of choice for the first act of the day. Now, for those of you looking for the snarky side of The Beard, here it is.
I enjoy Summerfest despite feeling like a human ATM here. There is truly no other fest that offers the incredible variety of musical styles, genres, and acts that the nine days of Milwaukee Summerfest does. But a quick walk around the grounds early here on Saturday showed that eight different stages currently had “cover bands” playing early.
Now, The Beard enjoys a cover band as much as the next guy. It can be fun in a bar environment to hear songs you know and want to sing along with. That said, the proliferation of cover bands these past two weekends have run the gamut of pretty damn good, (Bobby Friss), to just plain horrible.
There are times where you watch about two minutes of a group up there on stage just doing a hatchet job to Journey, and you find yourself saying, “No. It’s really okay. You guys CAN stop believing.”
So, beers in our hands, Johnny and The Beard headed back to a stage with “original” music as we prepared to hear the alternative metal of Dallas, Texas band ...
Lockjaw is alternative metal with clear vocals and some punk aggression. It’s got a tamer Marilyn Manson vibe vocally, (without all the makeup and costumes and stage show schlock of the actual Marilyn Manson show), but at least they are originals. I understand what he’s singing about, and Johnny gets to start his day with metal and beer.
78/100 for the Manson vibe.
Second up were Wisconsin’s own hard rock four-piece band ...
This is yet another alternative band with an okay voice and okay music. Nothing harmful, but honestly, we didn’t stick around for the entire set. No grade as we left about five songs in to take another lap around the fest.
It was on this second lap though that we realized just how many people were already in here and the entrance gates still had full lines. By 3:00pm (when free entry finally ended), Summerfest had already let in over 30,000 people. Johnny and I didn’t so much walk another lap around the festival as flow in the human river that was the path of Summerfest. Normally, it takes about fifteen minutes to make the circle of all twelve stages. This lap took close to an hour.
We made it back to a VERY full stage by 4:00PM and took up residence behind some bushes that we could just see over in order to catch the third act of the day, Tennessee grunge/alt rock band...
Saliva has been around for over 25 years now and this is The Beard's first time seeing them, although purists might correctly make the case that this is actually Saliva 2.0 since no original members remain.
Saliva was a decided step up from everyone else so far, this final Saturday. They present like a tour level band. Powerful voice from singer Bobby Amanu, (who at 11 years in the band is its longest existing member).
This is more alternative than my particular tastes enjoy, but Little Johnny is attempting to get a circle pit going with Amanu’s eager encouragement. “That’s going to get you kicked out little dude. Rules are different here, plus those bleachers in the front are fixed and will rack the hell out of your knees.”
Johnny loved the set as one of his favorites of the entire festival and begged The Beard to award Saliva a 90 because they rocked AND as he put it, they did it with a chick drummer. (Sammi Bishop having very recently been installed as Saliva’s permanent drummer after Paul Crosby left the band for a second time.)
I’m seeing more like 84, as I did like “I walk alone”, the Genesis cover of “in the Air tonight”, and of course closing number "Click Click Boom" (which was enthusiastically shouted by what now seems like everyone in the city of Milwaukee). The Beard will compromise with 87/100 as they made me like them despite not loving their chosen subgenre. The crowd loved them and crowd respect counts.
Fourth up tonight was another band we’ve never seen live ...
Buckcherry have also been around for almost 30 years and have released ten albums in that time, best known for their hit “Crazy Bitch”. They present as 80’s metal meets 90’s alternative.
Johnny was fascinated by all the tattoos a shirtless vocalist Josh Todd and guitarist Billy Rowe were sporting. Johnny said it looked like they fell asleep in a tattoo parlor for like a month.
Energetic set, and songs like “Sorry”, “Everything” and of course “Crazy Bitch” all had the crowd going, but Buckcherry didn’t grab me like Saliva did.
At this point, it was still going to be almost two hours before headliner Tesla took the stage and frankly the Beard had reached a saturation point. This was easily the most packed I have ever seen a place and I seriously think Moses led less people out of Egypt than were right here on the Summerfest grounds at this point. Craving a quiet spot for a meal and a beer, The Beard grabbed up Little Johnny and we slogged through a river of pushed together humanity towards the exit. Amazingly, there was still a line at the entrance of people waiting to get in. Beard cried “Uncle” and that wraps it up for this five-part event, but not for the Reviews Never Stop Tour. We will be back at it again next week. Until then, keep reading our reviews on The Mighty Decibel and following along with all the videos on our TIKTOK page.
(Ed: You deserve a raise for your dedication to the job for enduring five days of classic rock, funk, alternative and cover bands. Now let's get back to some metal!)
Until next time