Summerfest saved its best lineups for its final weekend

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

Summerfest has entered its final stretch. The final weekend of the 2021 installment begins today, and if the story from the festival so far has been its sporadic attendance — especially during its first weekend — this weekend represents the festival’s best chance at reversing those trends.

That’s because Summerfest has saved some of its biggest lineups of the year for last, with headliners including Megan Thee Stallion, Ludacris and Diplo tonight, and an absolutely loaded Friday night that includes Run The Jewels, Bleachers and Future Islands, in addition to Miley Cyrus at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

Harmony Gerber Run The Jewels | Courtesy of the artist

On this week’s episode, we’re sharing our picks for this final weekend of the fest. Stream it below.

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What’s driving the drop in Summerfest’s attendance?

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

When we spoke to Summerfest’s organizers earlier this summer, their expectation was that the long-awaited return of the festival this month after would draw some huge crowds — that there was so much latent demand for live music and festivals again that fans would be lining up to get back to the Big Gig.

So far that hasn’t happened. The big story from Summerfest’s return last weekend was its modest attendance, which some vendors have been describing as the lowest they’ve seen in 30 years. Some national headliners earlier in the day have been playing to crowds of just a few hundred (or sometimes even just a few dozen) people.

The Summerfest grounds last Thursday afternoon


This week on Tap’d In, we discuss what’s driving that unmistakable attendance drop. The truth is there are a lot of factors at play, the continued spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant being chief among them. On top of that, there’s the uncanniness of having Summerfest in September for the first time, and a new three-weekend structure for the festival that attendees aren’t used to yet. For the first time during the festival’s run, Summerfest really hasn’t been top of mind the way it usually is for Milwaukeeans. The festival seems to have snuck up on people this year.

The good news is there’s still time for some of that to change with two weekends of the festival left. And some strong lineups, particularly during the final weekend of the festival, could help make the grounds look a little bit more like pre-Covid times on some nights. Plus, Piet and I agree, Summerfest is most pleasant when the grounds aren’t packed to the gills. The thin crowds make the event safer, the views better and the lines shorter — enjoy them, if you can.

Also on this week’s episode, we’re previewing some standout shows for week two of the fest. Hear us talk about them all below.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

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Tap’d In’s 2021 Summerfest Weekend One Preview

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

It’s really here. Today is the first day of Summerfest, which returns after more than two years with a very different look: a three-weekend, nine-day structure that packs in even more big headliners into a tighter amount of time (yes, there really are national acts playing at 4 p.m. every day this year). You can find the complete 2021 Summerfest schedule here, and this week on Tap’d In, we’re looking at some of the highlights of Summerfest’s opening weekend.

Summerfest | Courtesy photo

We discuss why Chance the Rapper has a lot riding on his appearance tomorrow night at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater (his only concert of 2021) and why KennyHoopla’s decided to go all in on pop-punk. We also tout the joys of T-Pain and Flo Rida’s live shows, and ponder whether Kurtis Blow puts on a good concert.

Hear us talk about all that and more below on our 2021 Summerfest Weekend One Preview.

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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Summerfest headliners aren’t the only big concerts coming to Milwaukee in September

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

It used to be that Summerfest shut down virtually every other music venue in the city for its 11-day run each year — no venue wanted to competed with a festival that size. But things are different this year. As Summerfest tests out a one-time September run and a new three-weekend structure, many of the city’s other concert venues are carrying on as usual, which means that Milwaukeeans will have even more live music to choose from this month.

Japanese Breakfast | facebook.com/japanesebreakfast

This week on Tap’d In, we’re highlighting some of the big September shows outside of Summerfest. And there’s a lot to see, including two very prestigious acts at the Cactus Club (who are playing much larger venues in other cities) and a highly anticipated Japanese Breakfast concert at Turner Hall Ballroom on Sept. 17 (one of the rare shows on her schedule that isn’t sold out). Piet also gives us the run down on a new festival that’s the heir apparent to Warped Tour, and I sing the praises of Tinashe, who released one of my favorite albums of the year earlier this month and who will play the Rave on Sept. 22.

Hear all our picks below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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Comedy is becoming big business for Milwaukee concert venues

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

If you’ve noticed a lot more comedy shows than usual on the city’s concert calendar recently, you’re not alone. Comedy is everywhere right now; the Pabst Theater Group alone will have more than 30 comedians playing its venues through the end of the year. And Summerfest for the first time ever is having a comedian headline its amphitheater, Dave Chappelle.

On top of that, there’s a brand-new comedy venue called The Improv opening in Brookfield this weekend, and it already has booked dozens of national names.

Dave Chappelle will headline Summerfest on Sept. 11 | Courtesy photo

Piet reported on the comedy explosion for a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Some of it is due to an obvious demand for live comedy. But the pandemic is at play, too. “Comedy shows are some of the easiest ones to book,” Piet explains. “Their crews are really small … logistically it’s easier to program that stuff. And while things are uncertain, especially right now with the rise of the delta variant, those are some of the easiest shows to reschedule.”

We discuss all of this, and what it might mean for Milwaukee’s own comedy scene, on this week’s episode. Stream it below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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The concert industry’s survival hinges on vaccine requirements

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Last Friday, Cactus Club became the first major Milwaukee concert venue to announce it would begin requiring proof of vaccination for all attendees. That policy seemed smart and sensible on the surface, but it wasn’t until I attended my first concert at the club since the pandemic the following day that I fully understood how necessary it was.

Being in a packed club for the first time in a year and a half was exhilarating — it was clear how much the crowd pined for this experience again. But even for me, somebody who’s vaccinated and has spent most of this summer feeling very confident about the protection the vaccine has provided me, it was nerve-wracking. It hadn’t fully clicked for me until I actually attended one, but concerts are not the same as a trip to a crowded store. They’re not the same as indoor dining, or even a bar or a ballgame. Concerts pack huge crowds into small spaces, where they act as one organism, breathing the same air, singing and shouting along to the same songs.

And you can’t do that without some basic sense of trust and safety.

A crowd catches a guitar at this summer’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago | Photo credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images via NPR

That was the day it became clear to me that most, if not all, venues in markets like Milwaukee would have to eventually require some sort of similar requirements. And sure enough, we’ve seen that. On Tuesday, Summerfest announced that it will require proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test for all attendees over 12. Just hours later, The Cooperage adopted those same policies. And this morning the city’s Pabst Theater Group venues announced that starting next month they will have those polices in place, too.

One thing that’s become abundantly clear as these policies have rapidly become industry standard (AEG, the country’s second largest promoter, just announced it is adopting them today as well) is that this is not something the industry wanted. It put off instituting these policies as long as it could, both out of hope there would be no need and out of fear of backlash. But lagging vaccination rates and surging Covid-19 cases left them no choice. These policies are the concert industry’s last, best chance of carrying on hoped this winter.

“This isn’t a political statement,” the Pabst Theater Group insisted in a press release this morning. “It’s recognition that the science is showing vaccines protect from the worst potential outcomes of Covid-19 … If you want to enjoy a performance with us and thousands of others, you will demonstrate you’ve protected yourself, the people around you, and the community by taking the vaccine.”

This week on Tap’d In, Radio Milwaukee’s weekly music podcast with me and the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy, we talk about how and why the industry is implementing these policies. You can stream the episode (which was recorded yesterday, before this morning’s Pabst Theater Group announcement) below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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Wisconsin State Fair is featuring some of Milwaukee’s best bands this year — yes, really

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

The Wisconsin State Fair starts today, and this week on Tap’d In, we’re sharing some of our live music picks for the fair. Usually that isn’t the easiest thing to do: As fun as the State Fair is, it’s never been first and foremost a music festival, the way Summerfest is. Music is more of a feature of the fair, not a main draw, so you’ve got to adjust your standards accordingly.

Wisconsin State Fair | Via Wikimedia Commons

But this year, in addition to a couple nice shows at the Main Stage (hello Boyz II Men and Ginuwine on Friday, Aug. 13) and the usual spate of cover bands, the fair has booked a lineup of great Milwaukee bands at one of its most unassuming stages.

It’s easy to miss it on the schedule: The stage is called Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub and Eatery, and thanks in part to some help from WMSE and Lakefront Brewery, it boasts a lineup of Milwaukee music that any festival would be proud of, including lots of 88Nine favorites.

This is something we’ve wanted to see at the fair for a long time, so it’s worth celebrating. You can listen to the episode and find the complete lineup for Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub and Eatery stage below.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 5

12 p.m. Quick & Painless
1:45 p.m. Negative/Positive
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
7 p.m. Old Prospectors

FRIDAY, AUGUST 6

12:30 p.m. Bruce Humphries & The Rockabilly Rebels
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
7:30 p.m. Stephen Hull Experience

SATURDAY, AUGUST 7

12 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
3 p.m. L’Resorts
7:30 p.m. Cosmic Endeavors Collective

SUNDAY, AUGUST 8

11 a.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
2:30 p.m. Lovanova
7 p.m. Cullah And The Comrades

MONDAY, AUGUST 9

12 p.m. Jack Reed Group
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
6:30 p.m. Sleepy Gaucho

TUESDAY, AUGUST 10

12 p.m. Frugal Stu & The Coupons
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
6:30 p.m. Devils Teeth

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11

12 p.m. Jack Reed Group
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
7 p.m. Max And The Invaders

THURSDAY, AUGUST 12

12 p.m. Yum Yum Cult
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
7 p.m. Rocket Cat

FRIDAY, AUGUST 13

12:30 p.m. Caley Conway
4 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
7:30 p.m. Trapper Schoepp

SATURDAY, AUGUST 14

12:30 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo w/ Ester Flonaze
3:30 p.m. Rocket Cat
7:30 p.m. Shle Berry And Friends

SUNDAY, AUGUST 15

12 p.m. Resurrectionists
1:45 p.m. Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends
4 p.m. SistaStrings

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Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

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These great concerts are coming to Milwaukee in August

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

This week on Tap’d In, we’re sharing our August concert preview. It’s going to be the biggest months for shows in the city yet since the pandemic, and there are a few in particular we’re especially looking forward to, including Cloud Nothings, who are returning to the Back Room at Colectivo on Sunday, Aug. 22 — they’re a band that puts on exactly the kind of show we’ve been missing for the last 16 months.

Cloud Nothings at Studio Milwaukee in 2017

We also give some love to the great Chicago indie-rock act Ratboys, who are playing Cactus Club with Telethon on Aug. 6, and debate the merits of seeing a Modest Mouse show in 2021 (it’s complicated!) And, although it’s not technically in August, we call some attention to the biggest rap show the city has hosted yet this hear: tomorrow night’s huge Lil Durk/Lil Boosie show at the Miller High Life Theatre.

Hear us discuss all those shows and more on this week’s episode below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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When is it rude to stand at a concert? Some reminders on basic concert etiquette

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

Over the last couple months we’ve seen a number of smaller concert venues host their first concerts since the outbreak of Covid-19, and the really major shows are just around the corner (hello, Foo Fighters). But while we’re all excited to see big shows again, we’ve probably forgotten about some of the inevitable headaches that accompany them: people talking over the band, people using their cellphones at the worst times and people arguing with each other over whether they should be sitting down.

https://www.maxpixel.net/photo-455762 File photo

That last subject is particularly contentious: Piet and I have both seen audiences almost come to blows over it. We have some pointers for how to defuse that uncomfortable situation on this week’s show, where Piet also shares some of the other etiquette tips he highlighted in a recent article for the Journal Sentinel.

Hear us chat about it on this week’s episode below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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Why are so many tours skipping Milwaukee?

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Every Thursday on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Evan Rytlewski — talk about the music coming into Milwaukee and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.

Earlier this week Phoebe Bridgers announced a big tour that will include dates in Madison, Chicago and Minneapolis — but not Milwaukee. It’s part of a trend you may have noticed lately: It seems like a number of big tours, especially of the indie-rock variety, have been skipping Milwaukee. Courtney Barnett, Low, Waxahatchee, Cat Power, Microphones, Hop Along, Julien Baker and St. Vincent have all announced tours without Milwaukee dates in recent months. That’s on top of big tours from Lorde, Bad Bunny, J. Cole and Lil Baby that have also passed over Milwaukee, too.

Phoebe Bridgers | Courtesy photo

So what’s going on? To be sure, Milwaukee is still getting plenty of great concerts this year — including Summerfest’s biggest lineup in at least half a decade. So it’s not like we’re going hungry here. But as Piet explains on this week’s show, if it feels like you’re planning on driving up to Madison more than usual for shows this fall, there are some reasons for that.

Piet also explains how festivals’ infamous “radius clauses” may or may not be contributing to Milwaukee getting passed over by some big tours and debunks some common misconceptions about why artists may decide to skip a city.

He also shares some good news for anybody lamenting that their favorite artist is passing over Milwaukee: With so much touring for artists to catch up on after the pandemic, there’s a decent chance that some of these artists could still add Milwaukee dates in the future.

Hear us talk about it all below.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at RadioMilwaukee.org/Podcasts. We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part examination of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!
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