Summerfest 2019 Days 1 & 2Jul 01, 2019
Radio K’s first day in Milwaukee had the perfect weather for Summerfest! Lake Michigan’s breeze kept everyone cool enough to thoroughly enjoy all the music on a hot and humid Saturday. After fueling up on corn dogs and lemonade, we walked around listening to different artists amongst all the families, couples, and groups of music fans. There was a band for everyone’s tastes, even little kids who enjoyed the various puppet shows and magicians performing on their own stage.
After cooling off by the lake with some root beer in hand, we wandered over to watch a group called The Gilligans perform. Taking their name from the TV show Gilligan's Island, all six band members were dressed in red shirts and white beach hats. Full of energy they performed a variety of covers from Brittany Spears to Lady Gaga and Pitbull and Ke$ha, the band rarely staying still and dancing to the entire time. The Gilligans put on a great show, and it was clear they truly loved every song they covered.
Next up on our docket was Julian Baker, and she did not disappoint! Putting on a characteristically wonderful show, her voice and passionate lyrics easily filled the entire amphitheater. Baker was joined onstage by a brilliant violinist, whose accompaniment added an even more emotional and personal depth to the music. While her songs are quiet, Baker’s lyrics and impressive voice are powerful enough to keep the audience captivated throughout the entire set- including us! We loved every minute and hope to see her perform again.
Following Julien Baker, Lord Huron took the stage, turning up the volume with their country-tinged indie rock. Taking inspiration from the midwest region, whose topography was formed by slow but powerful glaciers, Lord Huron’s music centers on the magical forces of nature. Their accompanying visuals stuck to this theme, consisting of a collage of footage depicting breathtaking scenes of wilderness and the natural world. With their dizzying visuals and spiraling lyrics, watching Lord Huron’s set left us hypnotized.
Following Lord Huron was popular electronic folk artist Bon Iver. If somehow the audience wasn’t having a good time before, Bon Iver definitely energized the crowd and captured everyone’s attention. Hailing from Wisconsin himself, artistic force behind Bon Iver Justin Vernon and his touring band were clearly excited to perform at their first Summerfest. As the audience sang along to old and new releases alike, it was clear the performance was certainly a milestone of sorts for Bon Iver, a folk legend and success story of the midwest, to be a headliner at the long- running Wisconsin festival.
Closing out our first day at Summerfest was Jimmy Eat World, whose crowd had the most energy of the day by far. Every single audience member sang and danced along to every song, creating a contagious and infectious atmosphere. Playing a great variety of songs from all their albums, Jimmy Eat World kept smiles on everyone’s faces. Ending the night with the popular track ‘The Middle’ proved to be the perfect way for Radio K to wrap up our first day at Summerfest.
Day two at Summerfest was as sweet and calm as it was entertaining. With a full day of sets to see ahead of us, we crossed our fingers the storms would pity the festival-goers. Unfortunately it poured during the morning and afternoon, but clear skies appeared by the time the evening came around.
Kicking off our coverage of day two was Adia Victoria, an artist who brought all sorts of passion and talent to the stage as she opened for The National. With gothic rock style blues and southern charm, she grabbed the crowd’s attention and did not let go. While performing a few songs from her debut album ‘Beyond the Bloodhounds, Victoria primarily played songs from her latest album “Silences”, which was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National. The second song in her set, “Stuck in the South”, is always dedicated to Trayvon Martin. Victoria spoke of the importance of blues and what it means to her-- the Blues isn’t a distinct genre or a certain sound -- it’s is a state of mind from which her music speaks. Adia Victoria’s emotional and raw performance contrasted The National’s higher tempo folk rock, and it was great to see different artists supporting one another.
Following Adia Victoria, The National took to the stage. While currently touring in support of their most recent album, “I am Easy to Find”, the crowd seemed most excited to hear songs from previous releases ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ and ‘High Violet’. The National has been a band for nearly 20 years now, and their set seemed to acknowledge that, including a great mix of crowd favorites and new songs for first-time listeners.
Traversing the festival grounds to a different stage, we arrived to witness the set of Welsh indie rock group Catfish and the Bottlemen. Formed in 2014, the band frequently tours the United States and arrived at Summerfest fresh off the heels of an earlier show. With trademark charm, the first song the band’s set was titled “Soundcheck”. Catfish and the Bottlemen kept the crowd incredibly energized even as they played elongated versions of their recorded songs, jamming on lengthy instrumentals. Frontman Van McCanhad’s characteristically wild stage presence kept the audience enthralled as he moved around, taking advantage of every inch of large stage.
Stay tuned for more Radio K coverage of Milwaukee’s Summerfest Festival!
-Lizzie Richie & Marina Lundell