Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Excited about Summerfest

Remember the ever-present backup singers of groups during the ’60s?

Gladys Knight had the Pips for “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”

The Blue Belles stood behind Patti LaBelle as she crooned “I Sold my Heart to the Junkman.” The Teenagers vocally supported Frankie Lymon during “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”


I have always wanted to be one of those backup singers. The synchronized rise and fall of the hands accompanied by the shifting sidestep. The constant “doo-wop” chorus. The snazzy coordinated outfits abundant in lamé and sequins. If only I had a band in the foreground.

It is unlikely the situation will arise — my voice is not of the serenading sort. But if it should, what better time?

There is something so music-friendly about the summer season. It might be the increased leisure time, the fewer pressing intellectual exercises. Perhaps the sunshine simply inspires musical endeavors or fosters a willingness to expand auditory preferences. Whatever the causes, consider the following suggestions to make optimal use of all this music season offers.

– Roll the windows down, take the convertible top off and partake in the pleasure of what Lucky Boys Confusion frontman Stubhy calls a “motherf–king road song.” He refers to the Commitment single “Hey Driver.” I refer to anything you must shamelessly sing along with while driving. This is your “Almost Famous” bus scene with Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Karaoke in your car.

Traveling across town for groceries or road-tripping across the country, winding down empty country roads or completely stopped in traffic, driving songs make any time in the car more enjoyable. Not too long ago, Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” began each and every journey to Door County. Indeed, I looked ridiculous grinning with the rhymes “All the rappers be hatin’ off the track that I’m makin’ / But all the hustlers they love it just to see one of us make it.” All the same, there is nothing but bliss in the ignorance of the four-hour road ahead of me.

Generally, tried and true rock-and-roll tunes — the likes of Springsteen or the Stones — take precedence over current chart-toppers. It is okay, you can admit you overpower the stereo blasting Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.'” You know you want to chime in with Mellencamp singing “I fight authority / authority always wins,” air guitar the subsequent riff or use the glove compartment for that drum break. Give in to it.

– Spinning off all the vocal preparation from driving, become the rock star on your block. Throw the windows wide open. Turn the front porch into a makeshift stage. Allow afternoon jam sessions to become public performances and welcome auditions.

Take a cue from Tim Payne. With bass in hand, he headed over to help make sense out of the noise he overheard from neighbors Don and Andy Isham. Madison’s own Treats were born that day.

Last summer, few evenings passed without the singular song from an aspiring musician across the alley. I was not the only one who heard the lonely guitarist. Before too long, drums were added to the mix. By August, another guitar joined. True, the sounds were not stellar. But from the laughing — as loud as the playing — it did not seem to matter much.

– Whether amateur or refined sounds fill the air, take advantage of the outdoor music venue. You need not travel far or spend the big money. What could be better than a cold beer and good music on the Terrace? With a box of chocolate’s offering of genres, you never know what you will get. Local rock powerhouses may share the stage with indie rapper Jean Grae. Minnesota’s jam band The Big Wu will follow Madison’s Latin-influenced SLIM.

Give the Terrace some serious steroids and you have Milwaukee’s Summerfest. The 75-acre venue is larger. The adjacent Great Lake is bigger. The drink is more plentiful. The theory is the same: bring bands outside and the people will come.

Since 1968, Summerfest has become the world’s largest music festival. The 23,000-capacity Marcus Amphitheater hosts national headliners and 10 smaller stages offer continuous performances. For 11-straight days — starting June 30 and running until July 10 — one can stare out on Lake Michigan and sit in auditory bliss. Hip-hop, country, punk, violins, maracas … wander around long enough and you will hear everything.

Should you want something more genre-specific, festivals are never lacking. There is Vans Warped Tour for the punks. The second stop is in Milwaukee June 19 — meaning Fall Out Boy, Tsunami Bomb and Madison’s I Voted For Kodos are among more than 50 bands on six stages as ready to mosh as the fans.

There is Bonnaroo for the free spirits. Jack Johnson, Jurassic 5, Mars Volta, Kings of Leon. The list of acts is as long as it is impressive. From June 10-12 in Manchester, Tenn., premier grassroots rock bands take to any one of eight stages.

There is the 10,000 Lakes Festival for the stoners. In Detroit Lakes, Minn., during July 22-24, jam bands display the best of their improvisational skills. Wisconsin’s Fat Maw Rooney is among scheduled performers including Widespread Panic.

– After hearing all the random sounds of outdoor venues, make an effort to discover new music. You do not have to resist the long-awaited releases of Weezer and the White Stripes. Go ahead and revel in the end of Coldplay’s two-year hiatus. But with each album of the familiar, consider picking up something slightly more obscure.

There are veins of influence from the Kinks throughout Elephant. Other than “You Really Got Me,” can you name one of their tunes? The sounds of Kraftwerk find their way into X&Y. Why not let them find a way into your stereo?

Classes are not quite over. Summer has not yet begun. Yet plans are already in the making. Be sure to pencil in some driving songs. Make time to enjoy the breeze off the Terrace and beats from the bands. Take advantage of the music. There is no better time.

Christine Holm is a junior majoring in English. Her summer musical endeavor is learning to play the guitar. Any teachers? Reach her at [email protected] for question or comment.

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