If you can deal with the tangles of traffic, overpriced food and hordes of puking patrons, Summerfest is a great place to hear live music. Milwaukee's Henry Maier Festival Park is the site of Big Gig #45, where time-tested bands will lure the investment banker down after work to loosen his tie, toss down Miller Lite and shake it with his third wife. Among them are acts like Kool & the Gang (Miller Lite Oasis, Wednesday, June 27, 10 p.m.), and Chicago (BMO Harris Pavilion, Sunday, July 1, 9:45 p.m.). The festival started June 27 and continues through July 1, and July 3-8.
I happen to love Chicago. So I may join that banker with the tasseled loafers dancing on the picnic table. I love other stuff, too. And while Summerfest may pick your pocket for that plate of fried zucchini, it remains a hell of a deal at the gate. A daytime pass valid until 4 p.m. is nine bucks. General admission passes good all day and night run $16. There are daily deals available on the festival's web page.
Here are your Isthmus picks.
Gary Clark Jr.
Summerfest Rock Stage, Thursday, June 28, 10 pm
The 28-year-old Austin native is doing for blues music what Carolina Chocolate Drops are doing for black folk music. Indexing, updating, energizing.
Morris Day & the Time
BMO Harris Pavilion, Friday, June 29, 9:45 pm
Day's high school band included Prince. Prince went on into varied musical frontiers. Day dredged deeper and deeper into the music he started with: R&B and soul. This will sizzle.
Collections of Colonies of Bees
Cascio Interstate Music Groove Stage, Friday, June 29, 9 pm
"If the world was perfect, Collections of Colonies of Bees would be as big as U2." That's what Justin Vernon of Bon Iver told Pitchfork about the Madison/Milwaukee indie collective.
Machines Are People Too
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Saturday, June 30, 4:15 pm
This trio is an indie-pop dance machine from Chattanooga. Not to be missed.
Miller Lite Oasis, Saturday, June 30, 10 pm
Jimmy Fallon's house band is now mainstream, but expect the hip-hop/soul group to get absolutely unhinged and turn Summerfest beer swillers into sex-starved werewolves.
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Sunday, July 1, 6:45 pm
This indie-pop ensemble with a country fixation moved from Denver to Nashville in 2010. This will be an edgy set from a band that loves to play out.
Joe Pug Band
Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage and Pavilion, Sunday, July 1, 8 pm
Pug comes from the John Prine school of working Chicago singer/songwriters. His voice is rough and pure. His lyrics will make you cry.
Trampled by Turtles
Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage and Pavilion, Sunday, July 1, 10 pm
Too many notes per minute for some, but these indie folkers know how to party.
The Head and the Heart
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Sunday, July 1, 10 pm
Sexy, sensuous folk-pop music vs. Summerfest's savage environment. Here's hoping the Ballard, Wash., outfit wins.
Summerfest Rock Stage, Wednesday, July 4, 8 pm
Now Brooklyn-based, the pride of Madison West High School rocks the skinny jeans crowd as well as anyone can.
The Avett Brothers
BMO Harris Pavilion, Thursday, July 5, 9:45 pm
As with the Head and the Heart show, this threatens to be a WTF battle between literate, nuanced Americana and toasted, late-night Milwaukee patrons. Good luck, boys.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Friday, July 6, 10 pm
Innovative, fun rock from Vermont. GPN will be featuring music from their combustible new record, The Lion and the Beast.
Cameron Jayne & Eighty6 Black
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Saturday, July 7, 3 pm
In the soft metal/grunge tradition of another great Kentucky rock band, My Morning Jacket, this Lexington-based 4-piece soars.