A week into the new year, it’s time to look ahead to all of the musical excitement that this year has to offer. But first, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year I just had…
After 2012, I had been to 105 total concerts – which isn’t too many, I know – but considering I’ve been an athlete my entire life I have other priorities that take precedence over live music! 2013, however, was a milestone year for me in music as I fortunate enough to attend 45 shows, nearly twice as many as I saw in 2012. A lot of this is due to my first ever attendance of a camping festival (Summer Camp), and then of course my annual celebrations at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Let’s start with…
The Most Frequent Bands I Saw in 2013
Roster McCabe – 9 shows: I’ve written extensively about this band (now known as Night Phoenix) before, so this is nothing new. The Midwest “electro-rock” tours heavily throughout the year and I was able to catch them 9 times, putting my career tally at 20 Roster McCabe shows.
Umphrey’s McGee – 4 shows: No surprise here – my first UM show occurred in 2004 when I was just 12 years old. In 2013 I was at all 3 Scamp shows and also their set at Summerfest, making it 4 on the year. I have seen the improg group at least once every year since ’07.
Michael Franti & Spearhead – 2 shows: My favorite feel good musical choice, Michael Franti & Spearhead rolled through the Midwest in 2013 in support of his latest album, All People. I caught the “rebel rocker” at the Minneapolis State Fair in late August and about a month later in Madison with Moon Taxi.
Nahko & Medicine for the People – 2 shows: I had never heard of this band until about a week before they showed up in La Crosse, WI for a show at my favorite bar The Popcorn Tavern, which was a memory I’ll write about further down the page. A similar sound to Michael Franti and Matisyahu, Nahko just has a radiance of good vibes glowing off him that the rest of the band and crowd feeds off of.
Other notable acts: Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Moon Taxi, moe., Victor Wooten & Friends, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, 311, EMEFE, Steez, and Dark Star Orchestra covering The Rolling Stones.
My Top 5 Shows of 2013:
Of the 9 shows I saw Roster McCabe perform in 2013, why this one? Perhaps because it was only one set, which means it was a straight up dance party. Also, this was on Thursday at Summer Camp – the pre-party – so it was just a great way to set the tone for the entire weekend. The Camping Stage was a great spot right on the outskirts of the woods to draw in all the campers – and everyone LOVED it! The crowd didn’t stop moving through the entire – most of them unaware of Roster – but loved discovering a new band to get down to. They closed the set with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky that turned into a frenzy.
4) Umphrey’s McGee, 2013-07-02 Summerfest – Big Backyard
So many great things about this show. My hometown, in the front row with all my friends, Kevin Sinclair sit-in, Pink Floyd cover, 4 song encore (!!!) that included rarity Dear Lord, this show is a must download!
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2013-06-28 Summerfest – Marcus Amphitheater
This was my 6th Tom Petty show, and possibly my last. A sell-out crowd at the Amp sang along with all the hits and had great energy, as always. Petty loves Milwaukee, he makes that very clear every time he comes (all 6 times I’ve seen him came at Summerfest) and even showed a surprising amount of improv jams in a couple songs!
2) Trey Anastasio Band, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Sunshine Stage
This would be #1 if not for the unfortunate fact that the show was cut short. Due to the extreme rainstorm. But wow. This was my most listened to show of the year by far. I can’t imagine a better band to make such miserable weather conditions tolerable.
1) Everyone Orchestra, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Red Barn
The lineup included Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Allie Kral, Alex Steele, Mike Dillon, Roosevelt Collier and a few other I can’t remember, all conducted my Matt Butler. This show just completely blew my away from start to finish. 100% improv! What else could you ask for from an all-star lineup?!
Conclusion and Looking Towards 2014
The only regret I have from 2013 is that I didn’t get to see my all time favorite band, Phish. I had tickets for all 3 nights in Chicago but unfortunately it didn’t work out with some other things that popped up. I have a good feeling they’ll return to Alpine Valley for 2 nights this summer though!
2014 will be a great year. Of course Summer Camp already has an amazing lineup announced and it will only get better. Particle reunited and is on a heavy tour for 2014 – don’t miss out on these guys! One of the founding bands of the electronic jam scene next to the Disco Biscuits and STS9.
Happy new year, and see ya on the road!
^ South Gate Entrance
Thursday, July 4th.
A great day for America. A great day for Summer. A great day for music. Dark Star Orchestra, the well-known Grateful Dead cover band notorious for covering exact shows, was slated to headline the Harley- Davidson Roadhouse stage for 2 sets on this fine Thursday night. I saw Phil Lesh and Friends at Summerfest a few years back (coincidentally, also on July 4th), and last summer a small bar band that covered the Dead (called The Greatest Story Ever Told), and I have the Closing of Winterland DVD. I am familiar with The Dead, but I don’t want to give off the impression I know them super well. Because I don’t. I recognized maybe about half the songs that DSO played that night, but I definitely recognize great music when I hear it.
It was so intriguing to walk through the crowd and see the variety of people there. There was the old tye-dye hippies who I wouldn’t doubt have followed GD around in the 80′s. There were the young barefoot hippies dancing in the aisles having a great time. There were the middle aged adults wearing their polos who just wanted to have a good time. And everybody had a good time. The show wasn’t that crowded (in general, all of Summerfest wasn’t crowded that night, as the 4th is their slowest business day) so I was able to mingle around and get all sorts of perspectives on the show.
DSO started shortly after 7:30 and the first set lasted til about 8:45 I want to say. I was curious to what show they were covering; I had heard that they usually have a sign somewhere up on the stage that had the date. There was no sign up there this night, though. The next morning I found out that it was actually an original show. Pretty neat! DSO opened with Samson and Deliah. I may have been the only one who didn’t know all the words to this song (seemed to be a common theme throughout the night). The grooves were flowing and the bleachers were shaking from the first chords and lasted throughout the night. I understand I was not a Grateful Dead show, but it seemed to me like you could have fooled the crowd. The fans were just as into this show as the phans at every Phish show I’ve been to. I loved the energy. Alabama Getaway was the second song of the set, another frenzy the crowd loved. Other first set highlights include Mexicali Blues, Ramble on Rose, and the closing segue of New Minglewood Blues > Deal.
The second set and encore spanned nearly 2 hours I want to say. And this set brought the fire with it. China Cat Sunflower with a segue right into I Know You Rider, two of my actual favorite GD songs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand this is actually a common second set opener for GD in their hey day. I say that because I have just one GD show on my computer, 1987-04-03, and the second set started exactly as that. Another highlight of the second set was Saint Stephen, another one the crowd went crazy for, as well as a raging epic climax to Going Down the Road Feeling Bad that segued out of seemingly nowhere into the Rolling Stones classic (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The GDTRFB put me in such a trance that while I thought I was recording it, I realized I wasn’t. Oops. I did however, catch the segue that lead into Satisfaction. Hopefully my video captures how much the crowd was enjoying this show.
We all love irony, right? When I saw Phil Lesh on July 4th at Summerfest in ’08, he encored with Box of Rain. So what did DSO encore with? Easy Wind, and Box of Rain. Only makes sense.
DSO – original setlist (source: DarkStarOrchestra.net)
1: Samson and Deliah, Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story Ever Told, Hey Pocky Way, Mexicali Blues, Jack-A-Roe, Cassidy, Ramble on Rose, New Minglewood Blues > Deal
2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Feel Like a Stranger, Scarlet Begonias > Drums > Space > Saint Stephen, Aiko Aiko > The Wheel > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad > (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
E: Easy Wind, Box of Rain
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnvNhEoyvUA&feature=c4-overview&list=UU9VVC7Hq_FJB0IzMXCrpriQ
Saturday, July 6th.
“You’ve got to trust your instinct, and let go of regret. You’ve got to bet on yourself, now, star, ’cause that’s your best bet.”
311 is one of my longest favorite bands. One of my older brothers introduced them to me when I was in 1st grade (I think) with the album Soundsystem. I loved it. To this day, 311 always remains in my playlist and I see them every chance I get. 4 shows now, each one of them at Summerfest. Things work out that way when you’re from the Milwaukee area. Although I always wish that they play longer, they really put on a true rock show and it’s always a blast. Always. They love Wisconsin (lead singer Nick Hexum is from Madison) and play what we fans want to hear. I would LOVE to see 311 headlining at next year’s Summer Camp. Make it happen! They are much more insightful and conscious than they appear (they get heavy \mm/) but their lyrics provide thought provoking issues. At the end of each show Hexum says some sort of variation of “Love yourselves, stay positive.” Each summer when they go on tour it’s called “Unity Tour”, because like all other bands at Scamp, they’re about bringing people together with the common ground of music.
Highlights of the show for me was the opener of Beautiful Disaster, a fan favorite, Freeze Time (my all time favorite 311 song) and the set closing of Amber, Down, Jackpot.
311 setlist (source: 311.com)
- Beautiful Disaster, Sick Tight, Sunset in July, Don’t Tread on Me, My Stoney Baby, Random, You Wouldn’t Believe, Champagne, Time Bomb, Applied Science, Who’s Got the Herb, All Mixed Up, Rub a Dub, Come Original, Freeze Time, Don’t Stay Home, Bass Solo, Nutsymptom, Amber, Down, Jackpot
E: What Was I Thinking, Creatures
Rub a Dub, Come Original http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY7xIQM7yXk&list=UU9VVC7Hq_FJB0IzMXCrpriQ
What’s better than seeing Umphrey’s McGee at Summerfest? Seeing Umphrey’s McGee at Summerfest for free. Each day, Summerfest offers admission promotions, such as a canned food drive in exchange for a free ticket. On Tuesday, July 2nd, there was no promotion. Simply, admission was free for everybody from 12-3. So without thinking twice, I of course went down to the grounds shortly after 12 to get in for free, and left right away with a re-entry wristband that is good until 7 pm. Perfect.
UM was headling the Big Backyard stage, which is my personal favorite stage at Summerfest. The opening act, Grace Weber & EMEFE, is definitely worth mentioning. I had never heard of them before, but I definitely remember them now! I was confused during the show because Grace Weber, who just sang, was only on stage for about half of the show. Turns out, Grace Weber & EMEFE are 2 different bands that collaborated just for the show. To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure how to pronounce EMEFE, but they know how to make me dance. They had about a dozen members – a horn section, drums, guitar, bass, keys – the whole 9 yards. And it’s probably worth noting every one of them had a mustache. I classify them as a funky jazz jam band. I’ve researched they are a small band from New York, so hopefully they gain enough support to tour through the Midwest again soon!
So, anyways, this band Umphrey’s McGee, brought the heat. I knew we were in for a treat when Joel told me earlier in the day via the Twitter (after I asked) that it’d be 1 extended set and an encore. A lot of my favorite UM shows are 1 setters (example: 10K ’07). Le Blitz as an opener was the perfect anticipation builder to lead into a great show. After Wife Soup, Bayliss dedicated the next song to “all the ladies who chose to spend their time with us instead of New Kids on the Block.” NKOTB was headlining the Marcus Amphitheater at the same time. So expecting to hear a poppy cover song, instead we get a gold classic heavy metal Guns n Roses cover of It’s So Easy. Lol. Well played, Umphrey’s. A few songs later, Joel introduces Kevin Sinclair to come out to join on saxophone, as they crush a Pay the Snucka into Let’s Dance by David Bowie. The lyrics were switched in Pay the Snucka to “Stasik, go have a baby, a baby, will make you tired as hell.” Small things like lyric changes are reasons I love this band so much. You never know what to expect; it’s always different and improving. Speaking of not knowing what to expect, dear lord what an encore!!! Seriously, Dear Lord. I have been in love with that song ever since I heard it at The Rave back in ’09. They had already melted my face with a raging Deeper > Tinkles, which I thought would have segued right into the ending of Snucka, but instead they snuck a blissful Dear Lord that myself and the rest of the crowd loved.
Before the encore, Joel announced the band would be returning to The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee for 3 nights of Halloween this year. Mark your calendars, people: 10/31/13-11/2/13.
Setlist (source: allthings.umphreys.com) :
1: Le Blitz > Plunger, Turn & Dub > Mail Package > Wife Soup, It’s So Easy (Guns n Roses), Robot World > Out of Order, Pay the Snucka@ > Let’s Dance@ (David Bowie), Bright Lights, Big City > Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd), 2×2 > No Comment > 2×2
E: Deeper > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Dear Lord > Pay the Snucka
@ Kevin Sinclair on saxophone
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.
^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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D9gEfWOu_o
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: http://instagram.com/p/bJhmihyB1G/)
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8vHWZu6-kM
Free Fallin’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=784Jett6cZU
Don’t Come Around Here No More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdRutD0-_AA
^ 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.
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omCT4Bzak5U
^ 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmedpaoyw34.
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX8ENXjfj5I
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.