by Mike Huberty
June 2013

Madison's Phox

Madison's Phox

Growing up in Milwaukee as a music-addicted teenager during the years of the Alternative Nation, we always got the big summer tours because of the proximity to Alpine Valley, but some of the smaller acts would often skip the city. Unless they were looking to fill a date between Chicago and Minneapolis, there were plenty of shows that we just didn’t get. That is, unless it was that blessed time between the last week of June and the first week of July. Milwaukee was the center of the live music universe for the 11 days of Summerfest. It was also a place my parents were fine with just dropping me and my friends off in the morning and picking us up when at night. But it was the place where you could see almost every good band that was touring that summer. Where else could you see The Lemonheads, Dio, and Ringo Starr ON THE EXACT SAME DAY?!? It’s like Lollapalooza with more diversity, every single day, and this year there are more great bands than ever.

Day one kicks off with VIOLENT FEMMES (always a hometown favorite) with their only other US appearance this year (the other being Coachella, but this time you can enjoy it without the mud and the holograms), but if you don’t wanna spring for the extra cash to get into the Marcus Ampitheater, you can get your indie on with YEAH YEAH YEAHS (and I’m dying to hear that Stones-ish song, “Sacrilege”, live; I wonder if they’re going to bring out background singers for it). Or if you’re up for something a little more poppy, then GROUPLOVE is up that night as well. And if you’re looking to bounce, well, then DIPLO is there, too. And those are on the ground stages where you can just go with your general admission ticket ($16 for the day if you pay full price, but there are plenty of ways to get in less expensively)!

FUN. is the big headliner on the second day, but there’s still BILLY IDOL (whose sneer has been on so long, his face is actually frozen that way), TALEB KWELI, DROPKICK MURPHYS (do they serve Guinness there? I’m not sure, but sneak some in if you’re going to that one), and CAPITAL CITIES on the ground stages. And it’s like that every day, so any one you pick will have something great!

And speaking of the Alternative Nation, if you’ve got a taste for the 90’s (and who doesn’t? Every 20 years things come back into style, so I’ll be gelling up my hair and busting out some Vans), there’s plenty to pick from. SOCIAL DISTORTION, BLUES TRAVELER, CAKE, CRACKER, THE MEAT PUPPETS, 311, BAD RELIGION (Yeah!), and BARENAKED LADIES are the highlights from the days when every girl dreamed of getting a dolphin tattooed on her ankle and the biggest political issue we had to worry about was whether or not the president was dropping executive orders on his interns. I saw BAD RELIGION there in the 90’s open up for PEARLJAM and they blew those guys away. Hell, even the SPIN DOCTORS are coming. I forgot about those guys, but Summerfest didn’t.

When it comes to new alt-rock, IMAGINE DRAGONS are bringing their dubstep-flavored tracks and so is AWOLNATION. The inexplicably popular MATT & KIM will be showing up with their bouncy songs. THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT will be there and MGMT will be synching about as well. The awesomeness that is the SILVERSUN PICKUPS will be gracing the stage. NEON TREES is coming with their brand of pop-rock and how could you not love JIMMY EAT WORLD? (And they just are getting better with age, is it possible not to love them?)

There are plenty of DJs if dancing is your thing, and it being Milwaukee, of course the cock rock is going to come fast and furious. LOVERBOY (ironically playing on the weekend), FOREIGNER (who will finally show you what love is),  and REO SPEEDWAGON will all be living the dreams of the late 70’s and early 80’s again.

And if you get there, don’t forget to check out the local bands. SOMETHING 2 DO is ska-punk and a lot of fun, THE MELISMATICS are Twin Cities-rock that’s fantastically catchy, IAN & THE DREAM is Milwaukee pop, COPPER BOX is one of the most popular bands from the middle of Wisconsin, PHOX is fantastic art-rock of the FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE variety, and there are hundreds more of your next favorite local acts playing.

Sure, there’s RUSH and TOM PETTY and the EAGLES at the Marcus Ampitheater, but you’ve probably seen those guys a thousand times. And at $60 for the Power Pass (which means unlimited access to the ground stages, that’s good every day of the festival), you can see almost everybody for a tenth of the price of THE ROLLING STONES’ Look Who They Dragged Out Of The Morgue Tour. It’s the biggest music event of Milwaukee every year and this one looks like one of the best lineups in ages.

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