Summerfest endures tough weather, amphitheater cancellations in 51st year

Though attendance was down in comparison to most years, fun was not lost in Milwaukee

Summerfest was still successful, even with lower attendees than in prior years.
Ben Sefarbi/The Badger Herald

The World’s largest music festival persevered through bad weather and canceled performances at Summerfest. 

The city of Milwaukee hosted the big gig for the 51st year at Henry Maier Festival Park, featuring notable acts on both the ground stages and the American Family Insurance Amphitheatre. Music could be heard from the likes of classic groups like The Spinners to the superstars of today such as Billie Eilish from June 26 to July 7, aside from a break July 1. 

While country acts like Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band dominated the amphitheatre to begin, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony reminded the Summerfest crowd you can’t put a price on nostalgia. The Cleveland natives proved they haven’t lost a step when members Wish Bone, Layzie Bone and Flesh-N-Bone opened with “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.”

Billie Eilish, Rhymesayers own night at SummerfestBillie Eilish and her older brother Finneas O’Connell may not be rock or country performers, yet they packed Summerfest’s American Family Read…

Gryffin, a.k.a. Dan Griffith, brought a high energy set during his time at the festival. A trained pianist and guitarist, Gryffin displayed his abilities throughout his set as he transitioned between the electronic drums and guitar. Additionally, smoke and confetti were fired off throughout the performance, to the crowds’ delight.

T-Pain and The Lonely Island made for infectiously fun hip-hop performances. The late 2000’s singer had just finished at the Roadhouse stage when the Oasis stage crowd began chanting and calling for T-Pain from the Roadhouse venue. The “Saturday Night Live” alums led by Andy Samberg then performed their collaborative SNL digital short “I’m On A Boat.” As the other three performed the classic parody, Samberg and T-Pain gave each other high-fives and exchanged smiles during the epic collaboration. 

While electropop performances from CHVRCHES and FRENSHIP took on the biggest ground stages, West Coast rockstars Young the Giant made their return to the Summerfest grounds at Henry Maier Festival Park. To start, the all caps acts put their abilities as dynamic musicians on display as they switched between guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Frequent dance breaks kept the crowd engaged as the duo performed a setlist filled with catchy melodies and pulsating rhythms.

When Los Angeles based Young the Giant took on the Uline Warehouse Stage, the beautiful venue appeared a little cramped for the crowd supporting the band. This is ironic, as despite the fact there were only 10 amphitheater concerts, and four days of severe thunderstorm warnings, attendance was reported at 718,144.

Beloved Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Gryffin shine brightest at SummerfestBone Thugs-N-Harmony reminded the Summerfest crowd you can’t put a price on nostalgia. The 90’s legends headlined the Johnson Controls Read…

The Fourth of July show at the amphitheater was initially supposed to host Ozzy Osbourne. He canceled his entire tour after contracting pneumonia. His replacement at the same stage, Megadeth, also cancelled their tour for health reasons. In a press release, lead vocalist Dave Mustaine announced he had been diagnosed with cancer, per

Had there been the typical 11 amphitheater openings, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. says festival attendance would be projected at 733,144. With a 6 percent decline in attendance, Summerfest organizers have blamed the statistic on four days of poor weather and the Fourth of July missing a headlining act at the amphitheater, according to WITI. 

EDM enthusiasts were treated to a spectacular show as duo Two Friends opened for Matoma at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage. Across the festival grounds, the dramatic fog that settled in Milwaukee proved no match for legendary hip-hop group The Roots at the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion.

While percussionist Jeremy Ellis went nothing short of ballistic on his electronic soundboard, the crescendo caused by the rapid movement of his fingers triggering animated sounds matched the fireworks behind him. With the venue at the right angle, the holiday display in the sky cut through what fans described as being inside of a nimbus cloud.

The National put on blood buzzing show at SummerfestThe Oasis Stage of Summerfest hosted The National for their final U.S. performance on their “I Am Easy To Find” Read…

The Philadelphia gods were led by microphone controller Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter through a medley of classics including “The Next Movement” before the other 10 band members on stage took the crowd through a hurricane of hip-hop.

High profile rappers and a wholesome rock performance capped the last weekdays of Summerfest. Longtime Vic Mensa fans were treated to a medley combination of “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” a track the rapper is featured on with superstar artist Chance The Rapper and “I Feel That,” arguably Mensa’s most well-known solo record.

One of the many staples of the rap genre to come out of Atlanta, the artist formerly known as T.I.P. strived to prove he wasn’t just Ludacris’ time slot replacement. Fans waited through several rap performances to hear the “King of the South.”

Strolling out in a maroon sweatsuit, T.I. was backed by his DJ and hype man to “Top Back,” “Rubberband Man” and “24’s.” The theme of medleys showcased the number of hits the southern rapper had under his belt but left some fans unsatisfied by the jumping around of songs before completion. 

‘Wiscansin’ goes boating with T-Pain, The Lonely Island at SummerfestT-Pain and The Lonely Island made for infectiously fun hip-hop performances Thursday night at Summerfest. The vocalist known for preferring Read…

The Head and the Heart played a diverse set, drawing from each of their four albums throughout their 75-minute show. The blend of slower tracks, such as “Down in the Valley” had the audience quietly singing along, whereas high-energy songs like “Missed Connection” had the whole crowd moving. With that said, easily the most compelling part of their show was the finale — “Rivers and Roads.”

To conclude Summerfest, a young superstar and some old-time rappers received love from music fans in Milwaukee. Billie Eilish and her older brother Finneas O’Connell may not be rock or country performers, yet they packed Summerfest’s American Family Insurance Amphitheater to capacity.

The eldest sibling may play a role in Eilish’s music, but he was far from the main attraction. Following visuals projected onto the curtains that mimicked “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Eilish finally came out, smiling at screaming fans before jumping into “bad guy.” The single off her second and latest album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

After Eilish concluded early, music lovers swung by as Rhymesayers Entertainment Group group took over the Miller Lite Oasis stage Saturday night, featuring seven of their artists. 

The Roots, Matoma shine through Milwaukee fogHip-hop icons The Roots and rising stars in the EDM genre, Two Friends and Matoma used their sound to cut Read…

Opening acts from Niki Jean, DJ Abilities and Sa-Roc, deM atlaS took the stage with an American flag draped over his head. As the crowd began to fill in, the Minnesota native brought a high-energy set, jumping around the stage as he performed. 

Following deM atlaS was Evidence. One-third of the highly regarded underground hip-hop group, Dilated Peoples, Evidence proved his experience in the rap game with a polished set. Following Evidence was Madison-born rapper, Brother Ali. Born with albinism, Ali’s music often encourages self-love and accepting oneself. The crowd was treated to some of Ali’s biggest hits, such as “Forest Whitaker” and “Self Taught.” 

To close the night out at the Miller Lite Oasis was two of the founders of Rhymesayers, Slug and Ant of Atmosphere. Atmosphere drew from their extensive discography, which dates back to 1997.

Throughout their performance, each song was met with a roar from the crowd, proof of devotion from the fans that this group has accumulated over the years. For fans of hip-hop, one would be hard-pressed to leave wanting more after witnessing the party that Rhymesayer Entertainment brought to Summerfest.


This article was published Jul 15, 2019 at 1:54 pm and last updated Jul 25, 2019 at 9:46 am


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