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Nine artists you can’t miss at Summerfest this year

Milwaukee World Festival

While the announcement of headliners like SZA, Keith Urban and Lil Uzi Vert had everyone scrambling for tickets in the orchestra pit, this year’s Summerfest lineup is filled with some of the most internationally renowned and buzzworthy emerging acts across all genres.

From Musica Mexicana breakout stars like Ivan to and R&B meets alt-jazz Chicago staples like Jamila Woods and Sen Morimoto, grunge-pop darlings like Cherry Glazerr to certified partystarters like Cimafunk, this year's lineup has plenty of hidden gems that are sure to speak to those looking for something a little more left of the dial. Here are 10 standout acts you shouldn’t miss at Summerfest 2024.

Sen Morimoto
June 20, 6:30 p.m.
Aurora Pavilion

Chicago experimental artist Sen Morimoto’s music is hard to classify under a singular genre, but that’s entirely the point. While the free-flowing lo-fi jazz, acidic guitarwork and saxophone-heavy raps that light up releases like 2018’s Cannonball! and last year’s Diagnosis may sound disordered in theory, Morimoto’s unwavering improvisational impulse delivers every time, making him one of the most exciting acts across all of the Midwest.

Jamila Woods
June 20, 7:45 p.m.
Aurora Pavilion

Chicago-based R&B pop visionary Jamila Woods’s poetic verses are shaped by the past just as much as they are by the present. Whether she’s putting texts by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison into a broader conversation or musing upon post-breakup clarity, Woods’s soul-searching lyrics and impeccable arrangements always make for stunning live performances.

Kevin Kaarl
June 20, 8:30 p.m.
Miller Lite Oasis

Mexican folk singer-songwriter Kevin Kaarl’s raw ballads oscillate between dreamy, romantic musings and utterly heartwrenching ruminations with both traditional and contemporary twists. Singles like the wildly popular “San Lucas” commemorate young love, while torch songs like “me va a costar” convey pangs of heartbreak that could easily go head-to-head with any early 2000’s Bon Iver deep cut. If you’re not sure where to start, the Chihuahua, Mexico, native’s recent spellbinding Tiny Desk performance — complete with banjo and trumpet — is the perfect introduction to his catalog of mostly acoustic, atmospheric folk songs.

June 27, 9:30 p.m.
Uline Warehouse Stage

If you missed out on Sleater-Kinney’s Madison show earlier this year, good news: the massively influential indie rock icons make their return to Milwaukee for weekend two of Summerfest. Steely guitars line the band’s latest album, Little Rope, as Corin Tucker’s inimitable vibrato propels their latest single “Untidy Creature.”

Cherry Glazerr
June 29, 4 p.m.
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard

L.A.-based garage rock outfit Cherry Glazerr has come a long way from their Haxel Princess days. Last year’s ’90s grunge-tinted I Don’t Want You Anymore showcases a more polished but heavier and refreshingly unfiltered sound, as lead singer and guitarist Clementine Creevy pens back-to-back cathartic verses against walls of fuzzed out riffs.

Ethel Cain
June 29, 10 p.m.
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard

Singer and songwriter Hayden Anhedönia, better known as Ethel Cain, channels remnants of her Tallahassee upbringing into southern gothic gloom-pop productions. Fan favorite “Sun Bleached Flies” is deceptively dreamy as the artist wrestles with memory and mortality in this sprawling ballad.

Reyna Tropical
July 5, 5:45 p.m.
Aurora Pavilion

Sleater-Kinney diehards may recognize singer and guitarist Fabiola Reyna, who joined the band onstage throughout their Path of Wellness tour. But she’s also behind one of this year’s most notable (and underappreciated) releases, Malegría. Its 20 tracks form a vivid sonic collage brimming with dembow rhythms and buoyant Peruvian cumbia-influenced riffs as the frontwoman grapples with the loss of her late bandmate Nectali Díaz. While Malegría is heavy in nature, Reyna’s charisma and musicianship shines through and always manages to translate well into live performances.

July 5, 7 p.m.
Aurora Pavilion

Certified party starter and proudly Afro-Cubano funk incendiary Cimafunk's mood board conjures up everything from a James Brown level of showmanship flair to the kaleidoscopic rhythms of old school mambo. Even Parliament Funkadelic bandleader George Clinton, who makes a cameo on the opening track of 2021’s soul-nourishing El Alimento (aptly titled “Funk Aspirin”), is a huge fan.

Ivan Cornejo
July 6, 9:30 p.m.
BMO Pavilion

While corridos tumbados singers like Peso Pluma and Natanael Cano put Música Mexicana under a global spotlight, a slightly younger generation of Mexican artists has been making waves with their alternative-rock-influenced sierreño ballads. Ivan Cornejo stands at the forefront of this movement with his soft-spoken but blistering tales of unrequited love.

The 20-year-old singer and self-taught guitarist’s latest single, “Donde Estás,” has already amassed 27 million views despite only being released a few months ago, and the singer’s upcoming Summerfest performance follows his wildly popular and nationally sold out Terapia tour.

Nayeli Portillo is a music journalist based in Milwaukee. She has also written for Remezcla, Pitchfork, them and the Austin Chronicle.