I tell you, I will NOT be missing those aluminum benches anytime soon.
A few years back, I had a run of 50 consecutive days of Summerfest. But late that final year, I read an article that interviewed one guy who had over 100 consecutive days, and another that had been to every Summerfest day in this century, and suddenly the whole thing seemed…well, kind of pointless.
And then last year, I was in the hospital and the cardiologists kept me for an extra day, so I missed the Opening Day of 2015. Although I was no longer pursuing the full attendance, I was always happy to make opening day. In fact, I can’t remember the last year I missed opening day. More than a decade, for sure.
That’s why the first announcements of headliners was so gratifying. Usually, I don’t find a ton in the headlining slots that attracts me, but this year, there was something pretty much every day. On top of that, the daily acts and the Rebel Stage offered much for all the other times. It was almost like Summerfest became alarmed when I only did 7 days last year and decided they needed to step it up.
Well, they certainly did and so did I. I attended every single day of Summerfest 2016, all eleven days.
Take today, for instance.
It was the kind of warm, partly cloudy day with a nice cool breeze, one of those Wisconsin summer days that make you think that the winter suck is maybe tolerable. I slept in a bit, then did some chores, then a little Klark Kent duty, then we went down.
Local 90s crunchy guitar power-poppers Pet Engine were on. They had a few regional hits, and were one of the bands that narrowly missed the brass ring during the final days of when major labels actually mattered. But their songs are still good, their new songs are better, and their covers (Divine Inspiration, Can’t Hardly Wait, a bit of The One I Love wrapped into one of their own songs) were lovely. So glad to see them come back out…
Then, we wandered aimlessly (a Summerfest Art in itself) for a bit, getting some food and watching various bands. And then, local traditional country ladies The Whiskeybelles played, singing songs about drinking, and cheating, and drinking. Special highlights are the cover of Jolene, the cover of All Along The Watchtower, and the original Must Have Been The Pills I Took. They are fun, and kind of nice to watch.
At this point, it is worth noting that even with the loss of the KNE/Cascio stage, we still saw a large amount of local music this year. Not because there was a lack of national and international talent (hello, Neil Finn!) but that the local talent compares so favorably. Between the Rebel Stage and the other stages that had Milwaukee bands on them, including resurgent careers of the Bodeans, Sammy Llanas, and the Violent Femmes, it was a pretty good Summerfest Year for Milwaukee Music.
To round out the night, and the Fest, we saw Ryan Adams and The Shining do a fine set on a cluttered stage that included comically oversize amps (that I figured they got from an old Crazy Horse tour), several video games, a Dr. Pepper soda machine, a stuffed tiger and a peace flag.
It seemed to want to rain, so after a great day and a wonderful 2016 Summerfest, we bid a fond farewell to the festival for another year. But on the way in, we go 2 free tickets to next year’s gig, the 50th anniversary, so see you then!