Are Summerfest’s intimate American Family Insurance House shows worth the hassle?

Are Summerfest’s intimate American Family Insurance House shows worth the hassle?

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The American Family Insurance House Summer Series hosts performances by artists playing Summerfest, including some headliners, in a small performance space. A new feature at Summerfest this year, the house is advertised as providing audience members with the opportunity to see their favorite performers play an “intimate acoustic set.” At least one artist is slated to play the house each afternoon during Summerfest, and this year’s lineup includes Hanson, Brandi Carlile and Jimmie Allen.

I spent the afternoon at the American Family Insurance House on Summerfest’s opening day. The venue looks great, and the idea of having popular artists playing Summerfest take to a smaller stage is wonderful in theory, but it leaves something to be desired in reality. Truthfully, I spent more time waiting in line than I did watching my favorite artists on stage. If you decide to check out the American Family Insurance House for yourself, it might go something like this.

12:03 p.m. In order to see a performance at the house I needed a free credential, which could be obtained starting at 12 p.m. and admits the holder to see one show. By the time I made it into line three minutes after the Summerfest gates opened, the first show’s 50 person capacity had already been reached, and my hopes of seeing Hanson were dashed. Credentials were still available for Walk The Moon, but unlike most acts who are featured at the house, they were doing a question and answer session without a performance.

12:10 p.m. American Family Insurance employees walked down the line of people waiting to receive credentials and offered a clipboard where attendees could suggest questions to be asked of Hanson and Walk The Moon. The questions were chosen at random and approved by the bands’ managers before they were asked during the session.

12:25 p.m. Successfully making it to the front of the line allowed me to register for the Walk The Moon show and receive a pretty important-looking credential — not a bad souvenir. I had about an hour and a half to kill, so I planned on walking around and returning just before 3 p.m. in hopes of catching the end of Hanson’s set. 

2:50 p.m. The Hanson event supposedly started at 2 p.m., and when I arrived at 2:50 p.m. the place was deserted. So apparently in the span of 50 minutes, 50 people had been ushered inside, Hanson performed, answered questions and did a meet and greet. 

3:05 p.m. After a much-needed snack break, I returned to the American Family Insurance House to investigate the DIY swag station and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities promised to me online. In between sets, anyone is welcome inside the house to make free personalized bandanas or painted LPs, or to enjoy the view from the second floor. 

3:45 p.m. Fifteen minutes before showtime, everyone is ushered out and those with credentials for the next show get back in line to prepare to re-enter the house.

4:10 p.m. I am allowed to re-enter the American Family Insurance House after flashing my Walk The Moon credential at the door. The space is about half full, and there is a group of people without credentials standing outside of the barricaded side entrance. For those willing to sacrifice a great view in exchange for less time standing in line, this seems like a great option.

4:15 p.m. An American Family Insurance representative facilitates a few games with prizes like VIP Summerfest passes and Brewers tickets. Finally Walk The Moon emerge and the question and answer session begins.

4:20 p.m. Walk The Moon’s favorite thing about Summerfest? The ability to see a variety of popular acts all in one place. Their favorite place to perform? Rio de Janeiro. What music they’ve been listening to lately? Lizzo and Toronto band Valley.

4:30 p.m. The question and answer session ends, and I am quickly ushered out of the way so fans can take pictures with Walk The Moon in front of an American Family Insurance backdrop.

The American Family Insurance House Summer Series serves as a wonderful opportunity for those whose absolute favorite artist is included in their lineup. It’s for those people who don’t mind arriving at Summerfest early, heading straight for the house and spending the better part of an hour waiting in line for a short set. If that doesn’t sound like you, your time may be better spent elsewhere. If you’re lucky, you might walk by at the right time at catch a bit of a great set, after you’ve made your free bandana, of course.

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