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Remembering Kanye West's 2011 Summerfest spectacle

This week marks the tenth anniversary of one of Summerfest's biggest bookings in recent memory: Its 2011 Kanye West concert. A Kanye West concert would have been a big get for the festival under any circumstances, but it was especially rare at the time. Although he'd just released "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," an album many fans and critics have declared his masterpiece, he didn't tour extensively behind it, instead playing only a handful of shows in the United States. He didn't play Los Angeles, New York or even his hometown Chicago. But he did play Milwaukee.

Kanye West at Summerfest | Photo courtesy Summerfest

A few years ago I wrote about the concert in a guest column for Summerfest's website. West was a couple of years removed from his infamous VMA's Taylor Swift incident, but was still reconciling with his newfound status as one of pop's villains (a role, I think it's safe to argue, he would begin to play way too readily in later years):

"Throughout the set, West was periodically accompanied by a flock of 20 interpretive dancers, who jumped and flailed away in front of an Apollonian backdrop. He had a band, too, and he was joined for a few songs by opener Kid Cudi, but by and large he kept the focus on himself as he delivered one of the most purely physical rap shows I’ve ever seen. When he wasn’t working the crowd by running himself breathless, he was falling to his knees, as if pleading for atonement. For Kanye during that time, concerts were a kind of public self-flagellation."

Piet has an article coming up in the Journal Sentinel reflecting on that concert, too, and for this week's episode we share our memories of it. You can stream the episode below.