MILWAUKEE — Summerfest came and Summerfest went. Eleven days of music, food, and sun (for the most part). I'm a reporter at TODAY'S TMJ4 and just moved to Milwaukee in late May. I spent seven days at Summerfest and these are my four main takeaways from a first timers perspective.
For the sake of total transparency, I wasn't sure what to expect from Summerfest.
I was expecting less well known acts at prime time slots given the festivals duration, but I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of musicians throughout the day. From the noon to the 10:00 p.m. shows each band/artist brought an energetic and enthusiastic performance. Trust me, I saw artists from just about every level of fame, age, and genre. The 3:00 performed just as well as the 9:30 just with different sized crowds. Plus, during my interviews with musicians, I challenged them to impromptu freestyles and each one performed above my expectations. If I wasn't working all day long, I definitely would get there as the gates open and stay until close. With so many varieties of music, it seems like the day never gets stale.
SUMMERFEST IS CLEAN
Litter was kept to a minimum. I didn't know the festival was all on pavement, but that helped prevent anyone from becoming a muddy mess. Even with a few downpours, there seemed to be enough overhangs and a few covered stages to keep people out of the rain for the most part. Aside from the typical cigarette butts, beer cans, and wrappers, the festival was clean. There were ample garbage cans, and crews worked well to clean up anything left over.
AFTERNOON VERSUS NIGHT
The crowd in the beginning of the day versus the end is drastically different. Since I was walking through the crowd, all day from 11:30 a.m. to about 9:00 p.m. I witnessed how the crowd and bands changed. More and more young people got to Summerfest later at night. That's expected. I get that. But I thought since it is summer, there would be a younger crowd earlier in the day. There were also lots of classic rock cover bands from 12:00 to about 5 or 6:00. Now, it's not to say classic rock cover bands didn't perform later or other genres didn't perform earlier, but the majority of cover bands seemed to play in the early afternoon which catered to a generally older audience. (This is nothing against classic rock. I've seen the Doobie Brothers five times, Chicago, and Steve Miller Band. Just an observation.) The difference between the crowds and bands as it got later was night and day. (Haha get it?)
EMERGING ARTIST SERIES
I am a big fan of the Emerging Artist Series. I'm glad that a festival the size of Summerfest gives an outlet to local up and coming musicians. Especially given the length of the festival, it just makes sense to offer these musicians an opportunity to reach a large live audience. This echoes my first takeaway, each band had strong performances. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but I like that the stage for the emerging artists had a cover over the audience. In one instance when the rain came down, the entire seating section was filled and gave a performer the largest audience she has ever had. The stands may not have been as packed without the cover. It forces people to watch the new artists. Just like some say 'support local farms,' I say 'support local music.'
For a first-timer, I loved Summerfest. I got an incredibly unique experience of it, and I am looking forward to covering it again next year.