Well, that escalated ….OK, not quickly, it kind of took all day.
I decided to go down for lunch, and there were a couple of things to watch for entertainment. I rode the bus, and it was Children’s day, so free entry (I have the 11 day pass, so whatever, but still cool) and definitely needed a Martino’s Chicago Dog. Got a beer and Ate it while watching the First Robotics demonstration. WOW that was good.
I remember Pat McCurdy when he fronted a New Wave band, the Men About Town. That was a long time ago, and they lost (barely) to Sawyer Brown on Star Search, so he abandoned the Rock Dream and since then, he’s been mining a solo sardonic music comedy show. As he says on stage “it’s a ridiculous way to make a living, but I’ve been doing it a long time and I have a house!” So I usually see him once a year at Summerfest, he has been there almost as many times as Sigmund Snopek. I watched him for a while and had another beer.
Also, walked through the merch building. No good t-shirts this year, but I got a pin and some nice fridge magnets.
Next, I went way north on the grounds and found a local band I hadn’t heard of, the Gleasons; an Irish-Americana-rock outfit that sing songs about Wisconsin and Ireland and drinking beer. Sign me up!
From there, I rambled one stage over for the Whiskeybelles. We first saw these ladies at Locust Street Festival of Art and Music, sitting right in front. They are amazing; doing country acoustic versions of covers and originals with an infectious charm and enthusiasm for, yes, whiskey. They even sell a flask! As ever, they were great fun, with an excellent cover of Ring of Fire and a set-closing All Along The Watchtower.
At this point, my wife showed up and at the end of the set, Kyle. Kyle doesn’t get to Summerfest too often anymore, so we make the most of it. We got some Famous Dave’s BBQ, and then moved on.
We rolled down for a bit of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, who are fun in a back porch country blues kind of way. He also thanked Summerfest for a slot in 2007 that got double-booked, allowing them a slot opening for Flogging Molly (I was there). He also said “This is the kind of band you’re dealing with; we’ll set our friends on fire”. But my wife traded the washboard for a violin at the neighboring stage, a bluegrass band from Madison called Wheelhouse.
Now, this was probably my mistake in going over the schedule, because I forgot that we saw, and liked, Wheelhouse last year with Paleotectonics. Now the important thing here is to remember in addition to being an excellent band, they have their own whiskey.
We parked for the remainder of their set, and Kyle had to leave. Like I said above…. Wheelhouse finished their set with a rollicking cover of “Comfortably Numb”. No really!
Let’s keep in mind at this point it was only 7:30. I went over to an adjacent stage, where Jason Isbell was slated to play later, but the stage was MUCH bigger and seemed to be filling up pretty well already. So we stayed where we were at, where we had snagged a pretty sweet table location.
So we were camping out for the headliner, and Dead Horses came on.
Dead Horses is a local band (again!) based on the songwriting of Sarah Vos and a tumultuous childhood and young adulthood, including losing friends to heroin (thus, ‘Dead Horses’). A band I had not heard locally, but they’ve been receiving accolades and it was about damn time I rectified that, don’t you think?
At first I thought the music tended toward the mopey, but as I listened closer, I could see the depths waiting below, like it was a calm day on Lake Michigan, concealing the power waiting below. By the end of the set, I was strolling to the merch booth, looking for at least the latest CD “My Mother the Moon”. Alas, all they had were t-shirts, so I rectified it on my computer when I got home.
After this was another band, regional this time, that I like quite a bit: Trampled by Turtles from Minnesota. I first became aware of them when I stumbled across “Wait So Long” video on the internarfles, which became one of this songs you kind of ignore at first, then perk up somewhere in the middle when it really grabs your attention and then you have to listen to it four or five times.
Story has it that the band formed when the singer’s rock band equipment was all stolen except for his acoustic guitar; when he looked for people to join his new gig, he looked for people who also were not traditionally folk or bluegrass artists (the villain player was a drummer in a thrash band), and the band hit the stage like they were a thrash band. Thrashgrass. violent, frantic and propulsive, they refused front lighting so we could hardly see them or what they were playing.
For the entire set, they barely slowed down, once or twice, allowing me to sits my poor feet. They played a short encore, featuring Petty’s “You’re So Bad” and another slower song to calm everyone down; my wife said “they probably shouldn’t even come out for an encore, they are probably exhausted”.
But they finished their set with that song that got me started, and holy shit I had forgotten how much I like this band:
We went home. I went to bed. Dammit.
That, I think, may have been the longest day I’ve ever spent at Summerfest. I didn’t put a stopwatch on it (because Summerfest!) but it was 11 hours, give or take. I saw seven bands and a bunch of robots. I am glad we stayed, because HOLY SHIT Trampled by Turtles are really damn good. But although I am not a youngster any more, I can still run the race with them, even if I don’t sprint.
Oh, and since the day was cloudy with possible sprinkles, I forgot sunblock. So it got warm, humid and sunny, as it will. Although it usually happens earlier in the run, as they say in Shaun Of The Dead, I’ve got some red on me.