Best, Worst of Summerfest 2022 Opening Day

The opening day of Summerfest 2022 enjoyed perfect weather and a musical lineup as diverse as anything the Milwaukee Music Festival can muster.

Here are some of the best (and worst) the Big Gig stages had to offer Thursday.

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Steve Aoki

Over the past few years, there has been more discussion than ever about nepotism in the entertainment industry. Miley Cyrus, Zoe Kravitz and Maya Hawke are among the best-known ‘nepotism babies’ – but there are plenty of well-connected performers with more low-key family ties.

Enter Steve Aoki. The DJ and record producer is the heir to the Benihana restaurant empire. Instead of following in the footsteps of his greedy father, Aoki has found fame and fortune drawing crowds all over the world with his distinct style of DJing.

The claims of nepotism might bother some people, but they certainly didn’t bother the massive crowd Aoki drew to Miller Lite Oasis on Thursday night. Countless times during his set, the long-haired DJ ordered the audience to “Put your (expletive) hands up!” as they waited impatiently for the pace to drop. The crowd quickly turned into a sea of ​​millennials bumping their fists with fresh summer tans. At times, I felt like I was watching an episode of “Jersey Shore”.

“Jersey Shore” and Aoki’s music have something in common: neither is known for his intellect. But it is okay. After what we’ve been through for the past two years, some of us just want to party – and Aoki’s energetic ensemble proves he knows how to do that.

— Lauren Keene, Journal Sentinel Special

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Jason Isbell and Unit 400

Jason Isbell and Unit 400 performed the most publicized “free” scene at Summerfest on Thursday night – but if you counted the number of people in the crowd at BMO Harris, you wouldn’t believe it. At the start of the show, the seating sections weren’t even half full, and the back bleachers remained mostly empty throughout the band’s jaw-dropping set.

Isbell’s left-leaning tweets and interview revelations can be polarizing — and the sparse crowd could perhaps be explained by his progressive stances on racism, public health and the 2020 presidential election.

Fans who made the trip to Summerfest were treated to a solid setlist complete with tracks from the Alabama-born rocker’s solo career and his tenure with Drive-By Truckers.

Isbell’s anthemic guitar riffs and confessional lyrics might remind some rock ‘n’ roll devotees of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but his aching Southern bent sets him apart from his ’70s predecessors. For that reason alone, he Isbell is likely to have gained a few new fans on Thursday night. Hopefully those new fans fill a few seats the next time Isbell plays the Big Gig.

—Lauren Keene

modest mouse

Modest Mouse will headline the Uline Warehouse at Summerfest on Thursday, June 23, 2022.

After the Summerfest opening night fireworks spectacular, cult favorite Modest Mouse was greeted to deafening applause from an overflowing ULine Warehouse audience.

“How are all the living members of your family?” It was frontman Isaac Brock’s call and response before he told the audience he was here for Irish Fest. Between obscure rock/alternative songs, he would stop and connect with the elated crowd.

While their music is a bit darker, Modest Mouse managed to keep the crowd amped up with fan favorites. Their biggest hit, “Float On”, received less response than the underground hits; it was definitely a “deep cut” crowd. Next time Modest Mouse comes around, they’ll definitely need a bigger stage for said crowd.

— Damon Joy, Special for the Sentinel Journal

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naked ladies

Fans of alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies crowded the UScellular Connection stage at least an hour before the band took the stage. Clearly, the sweet scent of 90s nostalgia was in the air.

It was expected that aging hipsters would browse a catalog over 30 years old. It was far from the truth. BNL played with the energy of themselves. The seasoned veterans made the hits “Brian Wilson”, “One Week” and “If I Had $1000000” sound refreshing and modern with some musical variations. Frontman Ed Robinson still has the chops, but there’s still a slight ache for the vocals of his alum, Steven Page Overall, the band and audiences of all ages seemed to be enjoying themselves.

— Damon Joy

Big Boi

Eight years ago, OutKast’s reunion tour stopped in Milwaukee, and the show was arguably the highlight of that year’s Summerfest.

The tour turned out to be OutKast’s last to date, and while the world is still waiting to see if André 3000 will ever release his own album, Big Boi never stopped. Still, his Thursday night headliner at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard felt more like a victory lap than a new album tour.

In sad acknowledgment of the current inflationary crisis, Big Boi emerged with an abbreviated “Gasoline Dreams” before a seamless mix of “ATLiens” and “Rosa Parks” immersed the crowd in the OutKast classics. Rather than the rapid-fire medleys favored by most legacy rappers of his generation, he served up generous helpings of “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson,” and didn’t skimp on the ” Bob”.

“Recreation,” from Big Boi’s 2021 album “The Big Sleepover,” was the rare new song to make an appearance, tucked away in the middle of a set that didn’t last an hour. The highs were catchy though predictable; let’s call it goodwill rather than ambition.

— Cal Roach, Special for the Sentinel Journal


When Anthrax hit the scene in the early 1980s, thrash metal was the heaviest type of music ever invented, and therefore not suitable for a family event like Summerfest.

As the metal universe has moved into darker and more extreme territory, even modern thrash bands present themselves as a bit of nostalgic fun. This particularly benefits Anthrax; of all the original legends of their kind, they’ve always had the most fun.

Their Thursday night set at the Generac Power Stage was their first Summerfest, and it was littered with fan favorites – including several covers.

“If your friend isn’t singing, give him an (expletive) nudge,” guitarist Scott Ian said before a rousing rendition of AC/DC’s “TNT,” which featured guest vocals from a fan the size of a man. a pint named Brady. Longtime singer Joey Belladonna has done a lot of aggression for the cameras – more glamorous than Satan, of course – but somehow more graceful than most of his aging thrash contemporaries, still posing with their dark, tired faces.

-Cal Roach

evil pop

Pop Evil performs at the Generac Power Stage at Summerfest on Thursday.

Hard-rock/alternative band Pop Evil have been hard at work since 2001, releasing six studio albums, including “Versatile” in 2021. Thursday’s Summerfest show at the Generac Power Stage was the first leg of the band’s “Vortex” tour. North Muskegon, Michigan.

The group started strong with their new single, “Eye of the Storm”, followed by the hit “Deal With the Devil” and the “Versatile” album “Let the Chaos Reign”. The survivor-themed ballads “Fire Inside” and the tortured “Torn to Pieces” were good complements to the rest of the fast-paced set.

Pop Evil drew a sizeable crowd, despite the show’s early start time. Although the group was beset by technical problems, they pulled through with thunderous strength. Leigh Kakaty’s melodic voice didn’t miss a beat, and he even acknowledged the hard work of the sound technicians and crew behind the scenes.

When the singer encouraged the crowd to “put those (devil’s) horns in the sky, let me (expletive) hear you. I need some Milwaukee noise,” the crowd happily agreed.

— Catherine Jozwik, special for the Journal Sentinel

Femi Kuti and the positive force

The first day of Summerfest was sunny, windy, incredibly pleasant. By the time Femi Kuti & the Positive Force took the stage at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, the sun had gone down enough that the I-794 overpass cast shade over the first 10 rows of bleachers, which was almost enough for the show. whole crowd.

First, the eight-piece afrobeat ensemble, then a trio of dancers, then Kuti himself emerged – a constant bright green blur throughout and as vigorous in voice as in movement. . “Infectious” hardly does the man’s energy justice.

The band were relatively relentless, easily overcoming the curse of booking the afternoon festival as the crowd grew bigger and more enthusiastic with each song. Although tracks like “Politics Na Big Business” and “You Can’t Fight Corruption With Corruption” sound terrible, Kuti and his team got their point across with a smile and with music powerful enough to cloud the mind if necessary. .

-Cal Roach

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