The annual Locust Street Festival of Music & Art & Tai Chi Demonstrations marks the official start of Milwaukee’s summer street fest season. The busy Riverwest thoroughfare pulls out all the stops with six stages of live music, tons of beer, tons of food, tons of crafts, and an overwhelmingly positive vibe that sets the tone for the next few months. Plus, there’s the 1.8-mile beer run/walk in the morning, there are dogs and babies galore, and there’s inevitably some dude walking around on stilts.
The weather for the 38th edition of the fest couldn’t have been better, and the beer couldn’t have gone down easier. With that in mind, Milwaukee Record presents its slightly sunburned, slightly buzzed minute-by-minute recap of Locust Street Festival 2014.
1:31 p.m. – We’re walking down Weil and happen upon Ugly Brothers at Linneman’s outdoor stage, already in the process of their return performance and final show of a 16-day, seven-state tour. There doesn’t appear to be any love lost between band members on the road, as they play beaming renditions of “Smoking In The Presence Of Cancer” and “Topeka.”
1:49 p.m. – Before calling it a day, the young folkers invite people on stage to sing the finale, and about half a dozen oblige. Children dance and a guy with a funnel cake chases a napkin he dropped along the sidewalk.
2:01 p.m. – We’re booking it to see part of Platinum Boys, and we find ourselves caught up watching a drum circle.
2:04 p.m. – After spending the maximum amount of time one can possibly watch a drum circle, we arrive at the crowded Riverwest Public House stage to catch the last three Platinum Boys songs. They finish with “CRUISIN’ USA.”
2:18 p.m. – We’re now standing behind a guy in a banana costume in line for a Port-a-John and people in horse headdresses are chanting “Four legs good! Two legs bad!” A guy near us mutters “Riverwest.”
2:24 p.m. – Linneman’s outdoor stage is currently occupied by Caley Conway & The Lucy Cukes. The band is turning in a low-impact, gently funky, lyrically verbose performance that should be a perfect warm-up for the day to follow.
2:27 p.m. – Burgers and waffle fries are being passed through the window at Klinger’s East at an alarming rate, and the Kevin Fayte Rock ’N’ Roll Trio is playing “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” nearby. We missed Sigmund Snopek earlier in the day, so this will have to do as the most Locust Street Fest-y moment of Locust Street Fest so far.
2:59 p.m. – Back at the RWPH stage, punkers Static Eyes are wrapping up an intense and interactive set. The lead singer ventures into the pretty substantial crowd and yells “You!” while pointing at brave souls in the front row. He isn’t shy with the air kicks. We’ll definitely check these guys out again.
3:19 p.m. – Animals In Human Attire are giving the hula hoopers something to hula hoop about at the Linneman’s stage. This marks Locust Street appearance 12 of 34 for Myles Coyne.
3:32 p.m. – The Uptown Sunglasses guy is doing brisk business. All is right with the world.
3:38 p.m. – There’s an unofficial techno dance party on the roof of the Riverwest Healing Arts center. “Techno is for lovers” reads a sign. People are climbing up and down a rickety ladder to get to the action, which seems like a terrific idea.
3:41 p.m. – Castle Thunder is a band that changes lineups like other bands change socks. (Note: This may not be the best analogy for bands playing Locust Street Fest.) The current lineup, however, which includes Bryan Dorn on drums, Ryan Rupprecht on keys/synth and “Dr.” Nick Westfahl on bass, seems to be the real deal. The band’s big, synth-y, and space-y vibe sounds great on the Lakefront stage. An early (and unexpected) highlight of the still-young day.
3:46 p.m. – Finally, the show we’ve all been waiting for…the Tai Chi Center demonstration. We take in a few minutes before–like most others nearby–continue on our way.
3:50 p.m. – Our baffled demonstration exodus finds us back in front of the Public House stage (easily the most solid lineup of the day) to check out one of the few non-Milwaukee bands, Washington D.C. no-wave quartet Priests. While non-local, the dark, female-fronted District touring band proves a quality booking decision with its snarling songs and lyrics like “You are going to die / You are going to die.”
3:57 p.m. – Bathroom break inside the Public House. “Let’s Talk About Sex” is blaring from the P.A.
4:21 p.m. – Post-punk quartet (and our personal favorite of Myles Coyne’s 71 bands) Temple kicks off a set that’s equal parts tight and loud-as-fuck. In addition to standards like “Warm Chamber” and “Bleeding Time Machine,” Temple play two new songs that top anything we’ve heard from them to this point.
4:26 p.m. – In case you were wondering, Locust Street Festival’s “no dogs” policy is once again being gleefully ignored.
4:40 p.m. – Mark Borchardt is spotted taking in the sounds of The Delta Routine at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Linneman’s outdoor stage. All joking aside, The Delta Routine may not be our favorite band in town, but “I Wait Alone” is a killer cut, and now Borchardt-approved.
4:51 p.m. – Trudging along the slow-moving path of people, we spot something amazing: one guy wearing a retro Jonathan Lucroy jersey walking past another guy wearing a retro Jonathan Lucroy jersey. They high-five. Other jersey highlights include two Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Rockets jerseys, a Joey Galloway Dallas Cowboys jersey, and a guy decked out in a full Rick Vaughn (“Wild Thing” from Major League) uniform.
4:59 p.m. – Ah, what the hell. We enter to win a moped at the WMSE kiosk. This could be our year!
5:05 p.m. – Heavy, sludgy, and exceedingly bearded music is never a great fit for street fests, but kudos to Old Northwest for giving it their all on the Lakefront stage anyway. Oh, and an anonymous insider confirms for us that Bar Rescue will indeed be doing its thing at the Y-Not III. Shut. It. Down.
5:23 p.m. – Rio Turbo wins for the biggest crowd of the day. Craning our necks we can spot the Turbettes doing their thing to “Ish Ish,” as well as two “security guards” flanking the Public House stage.
5:34 p.m. – Never mind. Riverwest synth-pop kingpins The Fatty Acids pack in people tight outside Linneman’s for the first of their steady run of festival gigs. Hours removed from his Platinum Boys performance, Fatties’ guitarist Matt Pappas dons a blond wig during a set-starting cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” Now the wig is off and TFA launches into original material, including a new song.
5:48 p.m. – Scrimshaw remains one of Milwaukee’s weirdest acts, with herky-jerky, Ween-esque ditties like “Donkey Venom,” “Dippy Time,” and “Tiny Belt.” The assembled crowd Lakefront stage crowd seems evenly split into people with mile-wide grins on their faces, and those who just look confused. So it goes for a band that proclaims itself to be “the most beautiful thing in the world.”
6:08 p.m. – Dude on stilts.
7:10 p.m. – Whips are currently burning down the Lakefront stage. Is there a better band going in Milwaukee these days? Probably not.
7:15 p.m. – The crowd for Fresh Cut Collective is huuuuge. Props to the Public House for a such a solid lineup.
7:25 p.m. – Once upon a time, the members of Kane Place Record Club were so miffed that a certain now-defunct publication failed to mention their performance during a Locust Street Festival that they sent the editor a picture of their bare asses, with a hearty “Fuck you” message attached. It was delightful. So, to avoid any future KPRC moonings, we’re happy to report that we watched the band perform to a packed and enthusiastic Linneman’s crowd. It, too, was delightful. So long, Locust Street!