Summerfest Weekend 2! It was a good one! There were no SZA sets or surprise Kim Kardashian appearances, but there was a whole lot of music, some baked beans can koozies, a stolen Saz’s sampler platter, and more. Here’s our absolutely-by-no-means-even-remotely-exhaustive, nostalgia-heavy recap.


I arrived at the Henry Maier Festival Park grounds just after noon. Since it wasn’t very packed yet, I was finally able to spin the prize wheel at the Bush’s Beans area. I won a branded can koozie (which I later gave away).

After enjoying my first Major Cheeseburger—the best Summerfest food, in my humble opinion—of the year, I spent my first few hours of this otherwise nostalgic weekend seeing modern Milwaukee music mainstays.

Over at the UScellular Connection Stage, Gold Steps killed it (as always) with a tight, fun set anchored by winning pop-punk originals and a few covers of songs by Taylor Swift, Paramore, and Wheatus. Across the grounds, Sleepy Gaucho later brought its distinctly light, breezy, and faintly psychedelic folk-rock sound to the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard for a great early afternoon set. I could’ve watched local favorites all day long, but my self-assigned day of nostalgia was about to begin.

With a half-priced High Life tallboy in hand (bless you, Throwback Thursday!), I got a spot near the stage at the BMO Pavilion to see Tiffany—yes, the Tiffany, whose eponymous album topped the charts for a few weeks in 1987—doing her thing at 3:30. She kicked off her set with a few newer numbers, which landed somewhere between hair metal ballads and blues rock instead of her pop-suited sound that put her on the map.

She was far from alone (now), as the former pop music sensation managed a pretty solid turnout for a 3:30 p.m. set in 2024. She seemed gracious and upbeat and the crowd seemed to enjoy it enough, especially as she delved into her back catalog. Sadly, I couldn’t hear any of her hits, as I had to leave about 20 minutes in to get to my next nostalgic appointment.

A few minutes after 4 p.m., I veered from the late ’80s into the early ’90s as Letters To Cleo took to the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard Stage. Vocalist Kay Hanley—sporting bright orange hair—mentioned the band had no prepared set list and that they’d be selecting songs from their catalog at random. During my brief time watching them, the Boston-based alternative rockers played material from their first two albums, both of which cracked the Billboard Top 200 for a time. Once again, I had to keep the nostalgia train rolling to another stage after about 20 minutes, but I’m told Letters To Cleo worked in covers of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” and Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” before their time was up.

Instead of staying to watch Letters To Cleo, I booked it back to the UScellular Connection Stage to check out Eve 6, an early afternoon highlight of my 2021 Big Gig that I was excited to see again. I wasn’t alone in wanting to see them, as the stands were full of folks singing along to late ’90s and early aughts hits like “Here’s To The Night” and “Inside Out” (heretofore known as “The Heart In A Blender Song”) and laughing at singer Max Collins’ witty and self-aware banter between songs. Eve 6 was the best part of my Thursday at Summerfest. They were also the last part of it, as I caught a bus back home immediately after their set. [Tyler Maas]

Oh, and then this happened (exactly as described). Later that night, Sleater-Kinney was good, too. [Matt Wild]


Some bar shuttle delays found me arriving to the grounds a little later than anticipated on Friday night, but that was okay because there were only a couple acts on my itinerary. As I awaited their set times, I tempted fate and ordered the very same platter the other half of Milwaukee Record had taken from him the night before. It was no Major Cheeseburger, but it was good nonetheless…even if the cheese curd representation was downright abysmal. Later, we caught the back half of Metric at the Uline Warehouse Stage. To be honest, I didn’t think I knew anything by the band, but was happy to be proven wrong as they played “Help I’m Alive” and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World standout song “Black Sheep” before a jam-packed and enthusiastic audience.

Following a between-band beer, a Skyglider ride, and some much-needed mini donuts, I was back at the Uline Stage for The All-American Rejects. As they kicked off their set with “Swing, Swing,” the heavy rain started and would persist for the remainder of the set. Despite getting soaked to the bone, I had a great time listening to AAR whip through its hit-laden catalog before a massive crowd that wasn’t discouraged by the conditions in the slightest. Singer Tyson Ritter also adopted a “son” in the form of a shirtless dude he brought on stage for a couple songs, and he raved about Spotted Cow and Wisconsin in general. In all, it was a good time that was almost worth the uncomfortably wet odyssey home once the band played “Give You Hell” for its encore to close out its set. [Tyler Maas]


It was Gen X/Elder Millennial Day on the Miller Lite Oasis Stage on Saturday, with a string of era-appropriate bands playing throughout the afternoon and night: The Dandy Warhols, The Hold Steady, The Afghan Whigs, and The Church. Also, it was a hot one on Saturday, with temperatures in the upper 80s and a sun that only rarely ducked behind some clouds. I arrived at the park at 12:30, met up with my dear friends, and buckled up for a full day of Big Gig action.

But first it was time for some free swag! While not baked beans-related, the American Family Insurance House make-your-own-fanny-pack is a Summerfest must-have. You get your choice of colors (new this year: a clear pack!), your choice of three patches, and your choice of three pins. “I’ll take the guitar pick, the MKE thing, and the boombox,” I said to the nice lady putting together my pack. “That’s a DJ turntable,” she said, giving me a flat look. Did I mention it was Gen X/Elder Millennial Day?

Milwaukee country band HOSTS was playing the Uline Warehouse early in the afternoon. I’ve sung their praises before, but boy did they sound great in a big-stage Summerfest setting. Also enjoying HOSTS’ set? Milwaukee treasures Bert Lauderdale and Ted Perry. Good people!

After wandering the grounds and bumping into an old pre-writing-career co-worker (hi, Jay!) my friend and I utilized Summerfest’s beloved public transportation system—a.k.a. the Skyglider—and headed back to the Uline stage to catch a little of Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs. The former Tom Petty guitarist/collaborator played “Listen To Her Heart,” which was super rad!

Then it was time to post up at the Miller Lite Oasis Stage. The Dandy Warhols opened with one of their biggest songs, “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”—you know, the “heroin is so passé” song. Singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor had some sort of glitchy effect on his vocals, which was cool, and keyboardist/bassist Zia McCabe was rocking the hell out of the tambourine. The band’s hazy and occasionally noisy set was perfect for a hot festival afternoon, and it was awesome to hear new songs alongside old hits like “Bohemian Like You” and the theme song to Veronica Mars (“We Used To Be Friends”). Oh, and shout-out to the guy recording the Dandys set on his flip phone!

Do you have a band that takes you back to a very, very specific time in your life? A time in your life that was full of confusion and joy and heartbreak and fun and everything in between? A time that makes you so, so glad it’s over and that you (somehow) made it out alive? Apparently, The Hold Steady is that band for me, because when I heard them rip into ’00s songs like “Party Pit,” “Sequestered In Memphis,” and—oh god—”Your Little Hoodrat Friend” I started bawling. Like, blubbering, sobbing, convulsing bawling. Go figure! This was my first time seeing The Hold Steady and it was weirdly and wildly emotional. It was also absolutely fantastic. (And yes, all my friends tried to console me with their spot-on Craig Finn impressions.)

But whatever. Like the man says, let’s have a constructive summer, Milwaukee. And a constructive summerfest! There’s one more installment coming this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday! Be there! [MW]

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