Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday was Summerfest 2022's first day with a threatof rain (and, intermittently, madegood on the threat). It also marked the end of the Milwaukee music festival's first weekend back in its usual spot on the summer calendar.
Here's some of the best and worst performances seen on the festivalgrounds Saturday.
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Zach Bryan’s first visit to Milwaukee would have to be deemed a success.
This is a man who didn't exactly take it easy during the pandemic; he went from YouTube phenom to major-label debut *triple album American Heartbreak* in that span. Ambitious to say the least, particularly for a no-frills Oklahoma country singer.
There were moments early in his Saturday night set when Bryan looked out over the overspilling crowd at the Miller LiteOasis with what seemed an endearing embarrassment, no false humility detected. And fans sang along passionately even from where they couldn’t see the stage.
Bryan has a Garth Brooks-type ability to turn a simple relatable rhyme and singable melody into gold, downto earth and poetic. Originality takes a back seat to connection; glasses raised, couples swaying arm in arm, pockets of dancing, general goodwill pervaded the grounds Saturday night.
From a certain perspective, it was all very boring. Bryan offers nothing remotely fresh. If his songs endure, we’ll be talking about them as his legacy. If not, his fans will still have nights like this to remember.
— Cal Roach, Special to the Journal Sentinel
The Band Camino
Saturday night's performanceat the Uline Warehouse was the last tour stop for indie-rock/electropop group The Band Camino.
The youthful, Nashville-based band started the set with "Know It All," followed by the optimistic"Roses," which featured lead singer Jeffery Jordan on keys and some nice harmonizing from the rest of the band, and the longing "Less Than I Do," a romantic jam with an R&B vibe.
The sweet-voiced Jordan brought a humble and sensitive element to the performance, which the Generation Z audience, who slow-bopped on top of the bleachers, really seemed to respond to.
"This is our first time at Summerfest — it feels good," Jordan said. "Thank you for being here and singing the words; that's really cool."
— Catherine Jozwik, Special to the Journal Sentinel
The current reviewer isn’t enough of a religious scholar to know if ironic enjoyment of a subgenre is even a minor sin, but the fans who gathered to see Stryper at the UScelluar Connection Stage on Saturday afternoon didn’t pretend they weren’t there to rock.
Stryper came out of California in the mid-1980s — the right time for its hair-metal attitude, a few years early for its Christianity to be closer to the pop mainstream — and made a comeback starting in 2003. Live, the four members couldn’t really hide their ages, physically or artistically; they also couldn’t hide their commitment.
Verily, after some opening-song sonic adjustments, the harmonies of Michael Sweet, Oz Fox and Perry Richardson lunged toward a fair approximation of metal majesty, and the older songs held up no less well than those of the era’s bigger secular names, like Bon Jovi. It worked just fine taken straight.
— Jon M. Gilbertson, Special to the Journal Sentinel
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The Far Side (formerly The Pharcyde)
Breakups and legal issues have plagued the Far Side for years. Now back together minusoriginal member Bootie Brown, the creators of twoclassic hip-hop albums performed on Summerfest'sGenerac Power Stage before a fairly packed late-afternoon crowd Saturday.
The '90s group previously known as The Pharcydecame to the stage introduced by Lil Jon via prerecorded track, andlaunched into “Y? (Be Like That).”They didn’t rap it, though. The song played and the artists — Slimkid3, Imani and Fatlip —walked out one by one and froze in place. They then unleashed “Ya Mama,” which is a staple forany hip-hop head.
Their distinct voices and heavy boombap sounds took many back to 1992, but it was the J Dilla-produced “Drop” that was the nail in the coffin. Every single head in the crowd was nodding in unison. The groupstuck to tracks from classic albums “Labcabincalifornia” and “Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde,"didn’t miss a beat and showed they are still one of the best hip-hop groups of all time.
— Damon Joy, Special to the Journal Sentinel
The Record Company
Summerfest is a kind of homecoming for Chris Vos, frontman of The Record Company. There’s a reason why the bluesy rock trio is a frequent Big Gig headliner: Vos grew up on a rural Wisconsin dairy farm before moving to Milwaukee to pursue his music career. On Saturday night, the band made a triumphant return to the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage and performed a blistering set in front of hundreds of head-banging fans.
The Record Company’s guitar-driven sound harkens back to the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll. When performed live, tracks like “Baby I’m Broken” and “Out of My Head” really showcased the band’s raw power. Lengthy guitar riffs and harmonica solos kept the audience on their toes, even though Vos took a while to warm up to the crowd.
Forty minutes into their set, Vos became a bit more vocal when talking about the band’s brand-new cover of “Hound Dog.” He showered the legendary Big Mama Thornton with praise and didn’t once mention Elvis Presley (even though a biopic about The King opened in theaters this weekend). Kudos to the band for melding their timeless sound with current references.
— Lauren Keene, Special to the Journal Sentinel
Max Weinberg's Jukebox
Max Weinberg's Jukebox is not your average cover band.
The E Street Band drummer and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" bandleader and his three-piece group responded to audience requests with gusto at an interactive show at the Briggs & Stratton Big BackyardSaturday night.
Fans could choose from dozens of classic rock, '60s popand British Invasion pop songs displayed on the stage's large screen. Additionally, Weinberg had polled Milwaukeeans to ask what songs they wanted to hear — the resultsincluded Deep Purple's "Hush" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."
The audience — who had a lot of breathing room in the bleachers Saturday — shouted requests includingBob Seger's "Night Moves," The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and Cheap Trick's "Surrender," to name a few.
"I hope we bring back some memories," Weinberg said. Itwasapparent that he did; the mostly baby boomer crowd, and his band, really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
— Catherine Jozwik
Israeli singer-rapper-songwriter Noga Erez managed a subversive trick when Apple picked up her song “Dance While You Shoot” to use in an ad; the song’s a tad political for the corporate world, not to mention Summerfest.
But the song is a banger, and fans at the Generac Power Stage Saturday only suffered a few light sprinkles to experience it.
Erez is known as more of a hook rapper, not someone who might, say, spit a few minutes’ worth of Kendrick Lamar’s “Black Friday” in the middle of the set (which she did Saturday). Also, though, recent material like “End of the Road” and “Bad Habits" showcased a budding prime-time flow, nonchalant but unpredictable.
She played one song, “Fire Kites,” that’s a little uncomfortably similar to old-school M.I.A., an obvious influence; otherwise, Erez'smelange of hip-hop, electronic and pure pop is starting to resemble a style, no small feat in today’s kitchen-sink climate.
“The news I’ve heard over the past couple of days sucked ass,” Erez acknowledged before her last song, “No News On TV.” Its enduring refrain: “Come out, play with your enemies.” What better motto for Summerfest could there be?
— Cal Roach
On a sunnier, slightly warmer Saturday afternoon at the BMO Harris Pavilion, Senri Oe’s music would have enticed many more Summerfest wanderers to sit, listen and let him cast a spell. Neither Oe’s face nor his fingers indicated any disappointment at the size of the crowd.
In his native Japan, Oe had been a big enough pop star to fill stadiums, but since 2012 he’s been leading his own bands as a jazz pianist based in Brooklyn. Onstage, he retained the earnest intensity of an eager, very talented student.
He played with great clarity, letting the notes guide him instead of aggressively chasing them. His sidemen, bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Ross Pederson, leaned toward him and were similarly easygoing in their dexterity. They created a kind of luminous magic to glow in the empty rows between spectators.
— Jon M. Gilbertson
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