On August 24, 2024, Guided By Voices will headline WMSE’s Backyard BBQ in Humboldt Park. Yes, on that Saturday, you can simply show up at the Humboldt Park stage and enjoy a free show (!) from the Dayton, Ohio indie-rock legends. To quote the band: shit yeah, it’s cool.

On June 30, 2002, Guided By Voices played Summerfest. Yes, on that Sunday so long ago (remember when Summerfest did Sundays?), you simply had to park yourself at the Piggly Wiggly Music Market (where the Uline Warehouse is today, I believe) and you could enjoy a free show (provided you wore a college T-shirt or brought along some canned goods or something) from the Dayton, Ohio indie-rock legends. Shit yeah, that was cool, too. (GBV played Summerfest more recently, in 2019, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.)

Curiously, GBV did not headline the Piggly Wiggly stage that day. That honor went to Milwaukee hometown heroes The Promise Ring. (I’m 65% sure TPR was the final act on that stage that day, but I’m 100% sure they played after GBV.) I remember a fair amount of disbelieving chatter about this scheduling quirk at the time—Guided By Voices was “opening” for The Promise Ring? Guided By Voices?—but it was hard to get too bent out of shape about it. The Promise Ring was a Milwaukee band, after all, and one of the finest and most successful Milwaukee bands of the era. If anyone deserved to follow the band that wrote “Game Of Pricks,” it was the band that wrote “Everywhere In Denver.” (The latter won our Promise Ring song bracket earlier this year!)

Looking back on the Summerfest show 22 years later, the lineup order makes a little more sense. Yes, Guided By Voices had delivered their mid-period classic Isolation Drills a year prior, but The Promise Ring were playing in support of their just-released Wood/Water. There was clearly a big promotional push behind Wood/Water, as TPR had performed “Become One Anything One Time” on Late Night With Conan O’Brien just one month before the Summerfest gig. The record proved to be divisive—and TPR’s swan song—but it has gone on to become a lush and low-key favorite in the band’s impeccable discography.

It goes without saying that GBV’s record from 2002, Universal Truths And Cycles, was not their last. The band went on an extended hiatus following 2004’s Half Smiles Of The Decomposed (there was a record in 2003, too, called Earthquake Glue), but they got back together in classic-lineup form in late 2011. Can you guess how many mainline records Guided By Voices have released since then? Would you be surprised if I told you they’ve released 24 records in the last 12 years? (Strut Of Kings, the band’s 40th studio album, was released this June. It’s good!)

Anyway, shout-out to Summerfest 2002. The lineup for that year was kind of wild—Tom Petty, Ray Charles, INXS, Alicia Keys, Blondie, Sheryl Crow, Ben Folds, Indigo Girls, Jewel, Widespread Panic, Andrew W.K., Soul Asylum, the Eagles, Judas Priest, Kenny Chesney, NICKLEBACK, and tons more—but it’ll always be Guided By Voices “opening” for The Promise Ring that will stick in my mind.

Oh, and seeing OK Go play songs from their 2002 debut record, a full four years before they hit it big with that treadmill video. Weird!

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Hey! Here’s the 2024 Summerfest lineup!

Take me back to Summerfest 2011: Alkaline Trio at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage

Take me back to Summerfest 1991: Club MTV (Bel Biv DeVoe, C+C Music Factory, Color Me Badd, more)

Take me back to Summerfest 2001: Prince at the Marcus Amphitheater

Take me back to Summerfest 2017: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at Summerfest amphitheater

Take me back to Summerfest 1995: Hootie & The Blowfish at Marcus Amphitheater

Take me back to Summerfest 1992: Bobcat Goldthwait at the Comedy Stage

Take me back to Summerfest 1984: “Weird Al” Yankovic at the Rock Stage

Take me back to Summerfest 1990: Depeche Mode at Marcus Amphitheater