Remember last year when we enjoyed an entirely local weekend at Summerfest? A similar feat will be much harder to pull off this year, as news has broke that the KNE New Music Stage—long home to the vast majority of local and regional music at the Big Gig—will not be returning in 2016. According to Piet Levy at Tap Milwaukee, KNE (K-Nation Entertainment) has decided to end its sponsorship of the cozy stage tucked next to the Uline Warehouse and that arcade tent or whatever. Summerfest officials have chosen to “take a break” from it as well. Levy quotes Summerfest’s vice president of entertainment Bob Babisch thusly:
“KNE (K-Nation Entertainment) was an incredibly generous title sponsor of the KNE Stage for several years, covering the vast majority of expenses related to the staging, talent and production. After much consideration, KNE determined they would not continue with the stage for Summerfest 2016. With this decision, Summerfest also determined to take a break from this stage in 2016 but we hope a stage featuring a similar lineup will return with a new sponsor in the future.”
As Levy notes, the local stage dates back to 2008, when it was sponsored by Cascio Interstate Music. The quality of the stage’s lineup varied from year to year, but it was always a welcome oasis in a sometimes-crushing sea of people and picnic tables. And while some of the area’s biggest bands will no doubt find themselves on the main stages this year, the loss of the KNE stage (for now) is a huge blow to local music at Summerfest. Let’s at least hope the “secret” Rebel Stage returns in 2016.