Summerfest Recap: Part 1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Pretty Lights, Roster McCabe.

My birthday. Christmas. Packers’ playoffs. Summerfest. That’s the ascending order of my favorite days of the year (at least until Summer Camp becomes a yearly tradition). I’ve been to every Summerfest since ’99 (when I was 7), and I know my parents have brought me along earlier than that, I just have no recollection of it. My father has been to every single Summerfest since the opening in ’68, but that’s a whole other story. Maybe I’ll share that in a future post. Anyways, this is the 11 day span I make sure I get off work months in advance every year. The last Wednesday of June through the first Sunday of July. Every year. The most I ever attended was 8 nights back in 2010. This year I will total 6 appearances, the first 3 I will share below.

summerfest entrance

^mid gate entrance

Thursday, June 27

Thursday morning, I had no plans of attending Summerfest. I didn’t have a ticket, there were’t any bands playing that I was real committed to seeing, and I was already going to the Brewer game in the day. Some of my college buddies were in town and had never experienced The World’s Largest Music Festival, so I had to show them a good time. Being a Thursday night, it wasn’t too crowded, so we stage-hopped around a bit. We started at REO Speedwagon, a band I am not all too familiar with (just the main radio songs) for about a half hour. They were on the  Big Backyard stage, which is probably my favorite side stage on the grounds. It’s smaller and more confined, creating an intimate feel between the crowd and the band. The crowd was loving the show, as the band members displayed a lot of enthusiasm and showmanship up on stage.

The next stop was to go see Blues Traveler, the most fun I had in the night. It was my first time listening to Blues Traveler, and after seeing them, it won’t be my last. I didn’t know any of the songs, but I loved their sound – I’d describe it as a mix of southern blues jam rock.

Friday, June 28

This was the day I had marked on my calendar for some time. I got to the grounds by 6 to catch an hour long set of Roster McCabe, who was performing on the Tiki Stage. I’ve written about these guys before and I can’t say enough about their talent and potential. The sky is the limit for this small time electro-rock reggae jam band from Minneapolis. Here is a video I took of their original, Critical Speed. This song makes me feel like I’m in a video game.

After Roster McCabe, I ventured to the south end of the grounds near the Marcus Amphitheater to find myself a Tom Petty ticket. Honestly, I just would have been fine with a lawn seat for $50 (~face value). I spoiled myself a little bit, and found a ticket in about the 20th row for just $80. Such a steal. I walked through the gates into the Amphitheater with the BIGGEST smile on my face. It’s been 4 years since I’ve last seen Petty, and I was worried that I’d never get the chance again. First thing I got to say is, we need to start reconsidering the Heartbreakers as a jam band. They’re not there yet, but 3 different times during the show the band displayed some serious extended pieces of improv from their tunes, sparking more dance moves from across the stands. Highlights of this show for me include the three consecutive greatest hits of Here Comes My Girl, MJ’s Last Dance and Free Fallin’. As I’ve said before, little concert moments have compared to Free Fallin’ live. One of my all time favorite songs, as well as I’m sure the rest of the sold out crowd at the Marcus Amphitheater. Even into his old age, Petty still brings the love and energy every night and shows his passion on stage. You can just tell he absolutely loves being up there, and that he’ll do it as long as he sure can.

Setlist: (source:

Rock & Roll Star, Love is a Long Road, I Won’t Back Down, Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes My Girl, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Free Fallin’, Woman in Love, Cabin Down Below, Band Introductions, Tweeter and the Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys), Rebels, Melinda, Learning to Fly, You’re So Bad, I Should Have Known It, Refugee, Running Down a Dream.

Encore: Don’t Come Around Here No More, You Wreck Me, American Girl

Here are some videos I was able to capture:

Here Comes My Girl:

Free Fallin’

Don’t Come Around Here No More:


^ sell out crowd at The Marcus Amphitheater!

Saturday, June 29

I do not consider myself a very big electronic music fan. I prefer the good ol’ rock and roll. A handful of talented musicians up on the stage pouring their souls through their instruments. Pretty Lights, however, is one of 2 exceptions (Big Gigantic being the other). This was my first Pretty Lights show, so I wasn’t too sure of what to expect. The Harley Davidson Roadhouse Stage was just PACKED with people, shoulder to shoulder. I will estimate about 15,000 were in attendance for Pretty Lights on this hot summer night in late June. Of all the shows I’ve been to, Pretty Lights (Derek Vincent Smith) instantly put himself in the top tier of a good time. One word to describe the atmosphere? Party. As crowded as it was, everyone there was having a blast and dancing to the best they could with limited space. I am sad to admit that it was difficult to take pictures and videos, but for good reason: the picnic table I was standing on was shaking! Too many people dancing. I suppose that’s a good problem to have at any concert! I can’t wait to see him again. The highlight for me was definitely his remix of Time by Pink Floyd, considering there was a Floyd cover band playing Summerfest earlier that day that I missed. I wish that I was closer, but if I had tried any further up there I would have been too uncomfortable to move and dance.

Setlist (source:

Let’s Get Busy, Around the Block, A Million Tomorrows, So Much in the Dark, Can’t Stop Me Now, Finally Moving, Cold Feeling, I Put a Spell on You, Done Wrong, Time, How We Do, SummerTime, If I Could Feel Again, Out of Time, World of Illusion, One Day They’ll Know, So Bright, I Know the Truth, Yellow Bird, Total Fascination, Still Night Remix, I Can See It In Your Face, Up & Down I Go, Hot Like Sauce, Exodus

Here’s my video of Finally Moving:

IMAG0885 IMAG0909

^ my 2 best pics from Pretty Lights.


After PL finished, I caught the tail end of Roster McCabe’s set again at the Tiki Stage. I could hear their hit “Take a Breath” from a whole stage over and ran up to join the small frenzy of dancing Summerfesters. Take a Breath is the perfect song I think to set an example for Roster McCabe’s sound: a mix of reggae, rock, and EDM. Here is their released live album version:

They encored with Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” a great cover choice as it drew the attention of even more passer-byers in and added to the fun. I saw Roster in mid June in La Crosse, where they also covered the MJ classic. Here it is:

At the end of each show, Alex, the lead singer, takes a picture of the crowd and posts it to their facebook. Here is the photo, which doesn’t quite do justice to how many people were in the tiny little area



^ Roster family photo!

And that sums up my first 3 nights of Summerfest! My next recap will be Umphrey’s McGee from July 2nd, followed by another blog of Dark Star Orchestra and 311.