Summerfest! Like the last two editions, “The World’s Largest Music Festival” is mixing things up in 2023 by staking out three Thursday-Friday-Saturday blocks instead of the traditional 11-day run. In an effort to help you make some potentially difficult Summerfest decisions, Milwaukee Record is offering Record Recommendations for all three weekends of Summerfest: a suggested headliner, a reason to show up early, a can’t-miss local act, and a tip for a way to have a cheaper and/or better experience. Here are our Record Recommendations for Summerfest’s opening weekend.
Thursday, June 22
Three 6 Mafia — 10 p.m. @ UScellular Connection Stage
Long-running Memphis hip-hop outfit Three 6 Mafia will end Summerfest’s opening night in style as DJ Paul and Juicy J treat the UScellular Connection Stage to the group’s many hits that span more than 30 years.
Jupiter & Okwess — 4 p.m. @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard
We’re having a hard time thinking of something more summer-suited than the musical stylings of Jupiter Bokondji and his Okwess backing band. Whether you’re a fan of the Congolese powerhouse or you just want something great to fit the Summerfest vibe, Jupiter & Okwess is the best way to spend the afternoon this Thursday.
DJ Shawna — 7 p.m. @ Sound Waves Stage
Who better to christen the new Sound Waves Stage than Bucks in-arena DJ, local music mainstay, and Milwaukee favorite DJ Shawna? She’ll get behind the turntables starting at 7 p.m. to play a set with an overarching “Women In Music – Dance Through The Decades” theme.
DEAL / TIP
All patrons who arrive between 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. and donate a minimum of three non-perishable cans of healthy fruits or vegetables (or any three non-perishable food items) will receive one FREE admission ticket, valid for the day and time of the promotion only. Food donations will be accepted at all gates. Limit one ticket per person. All donations benefit Hunger Task Force.
Friday, June 23
The Avett Brothers — 9:30 p.m. @ BMO Pavilion
While The Avett Brothers are no strangers to playing Summerfest, we’re not complaining about this repeat booking. The world-renowned folk rockers will close out the festival’s first Friday by playing tunes from its vast and varied catalog that stretches 10 acclaimed albums and a trio of EPs.
Radkey — 5:30 p.m. @ Uline Warehouse Stage
Since Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon Radke started Radkey back in 2011, the sibling band has released two well-received albums and three EPs, and has served as touring support for the likes of Foo Fighters, Jack White, Rise Against, The Damned, WIZO, Descendents, and Local H. About six weeks removed from playing Cactus Club, the hard-working rockers will come back to Milwaukee to play a 5:30 p.m. set at Summerfest.
Diet Lite — 12 p.m. @ Uline Warehouse Stage
Everyone always says they’re busy, but Milwaukee garage-rock outfit Diet Lite has been really busy. Since releasing the delightful Seems To Be The Way It Tends To Go in 2021, the group has played more than 100 shows, gotten its gear stolen, made a video/short film about getting its gear stolen (“This God Damn City”), and released two EPs. Those EPs—plus 10 more songs!—make up Diet Lite’s latest record, the sprawling Into To Pudding. Now, Summerfest will be pudding…er, putting Diet Lite on the Uline Warehouse Stage for a noon performance. Get to the grounds early! You won’t be sorry.
DEAL / TIP
All patrons arriving between 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. will be admitted for FREE! Spend a fun-filled day with the family enjoying Children’s Fest activities, including the Shorewest, Realtors Map of Fun. Select food vendors will offer discounts on food and beverage items.
Saturday, June 24
Elvis Costello & The Imposters — 9:30 p.m. @ BMO Pavilion
We don’t have to write anything here. He’s Elvis Costello, he’s playing at Summerfest, and you’re not going to miss it.
Holy Pinto — 12:45 p.m. @ UScellular Connection Stage
Fresh off their memorable performance at Summer Soulstice, Holy Pinto—an indie rock project headed up by Milwaukee (by way of England) singer-songwriter Aymen Saleh—will keep its festival streak going with an early afternoon outing at Summerfest. Grab a Saz’s sampler platter, take a seat on the UScellular Connection Stage’s bleachers, and bask in the locally-sourced goodness of Holy Pinto this Saturday afternoon.
NilexNile — 6 p.m. @ Generac Power Stage
Also fresh off his Summer Soulstice (headlining!) performance last weekend, up-and-coming Milwaukee rapper NilexNile’s artistic ascent will continue with a 6 p.m. performance at the Generac Power Stage. Enjoy high-energy renditions of songs from his Free Lunch mixtape and his new Nostalgia Everclear album as you await your chosen headliner on Saturday night.
DEAL / TIP
Help support Mary Lou’s Closet, a program providing needed hygiene supplies for youth in area public schools. The first 1,500 patrons who arrive between 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. AND donate NEW deodorant, socks, and/or menstrual hygiene products, (deodorant is preferred, due to greatest need) with a total minimum value of $10, will receive one FREE admission ticket, valid for the day and time of the promotion only. All donations benefit United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and community schools.