Unless you are living under a rock, you know that Summerfest starts today. Since everyone else does it, here are my picks for music and food.
Rancid, 8:00pm, Thursday, June 25 Harley Stage– I cannot believe that Rancid is opening for Rise Against. I mean Rancid hasn’t released a great album since 1997’s “Life Won’t Wait,” but Rise Against still isn’t at the level of Rancid. Rancid’s latest album is kind of a return to the older sound found on their first four albums but it feels really forced. Having them play at 8 leaves time open for…
Connor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, 10:00pm , Thursday, June 25 Briggs & Stratton Stage– Better known as Bright Eyes, Connor Oberst has released two albums with his new band. The first one “Connor Oberst” was awesome. I haven’t heard the latest one but I hear he really lets the other band members play key roles, including some of the vocals.
Dropkick Murphys , 9:30pm, Friday, June 26 Harley Stage– I have seen them numerous times and they always put on a great show even if they attract some total meatheads.
The Roots , 10:00 pm, Friday, July 3, Briggs and Stratton Stage – One of the best rap groups around plays shows with a real live band, unlike most rap artists. They are also the house band for the Jimmy Fallon show. This is a must see.
Flogging Molly , 10:00 pm Saturday, July 4, Miller Lite Oasis– Irish-influenced punk reminiscent of the Pouges. They put on an awesome show in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day this year. Always a fun time.
The English Beat, 6:30, Sunday, July 5, Miller Lite Oasis – You might remember them for the 80s hit “Mirror in the Bathroom” but they have a lot of other excellent ska-reggae tunes.
Spoon, 10:00pm, Monday, June 29, Harley Stage– I saw them at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago last summer and they are a great band to see live.
Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s, US Cellular, Sunday July 5, 8:00pm– I got into this Indianapolis band because of Jeffrey T. Meyer of the Good Beer Show podcast. He was a fan well before they signed to Epic records. Fans of Radiohead and the Arcade Fire type music should enjoy this set.
I’ll take some heat for this but Summerfest food, for the most part, sucks. Its really just restaurants serving lukewarm, dumbed down versions of the food found in their restaurants. There are some good finds, but they are few and far-between.
The Saz’s Combo, fried cheese curds, mozzarella marinara, and sour cream and chive fries. Hands down the best Summerfest eats. The Saz’s BBQ Pork Sandwich is also pretty decent.
Crawdaddy’s– Pretty much anything is good here. I remember when they actually served crawfish. I loved siting down with some beer, crawfish and corn.
Usingers Sausage – Good but you can get their stuff anywhere.
Sabor– Lenguica or other kebabs. They are overpriced but I found them pretty tasty.
Venice Club Fried Eggplant Strips
Martino’s Chicago Dog – Martino’s does dogs right. Just don’t ask them to put ketchup on it or you’ll be ridiculed, and rightfully so. If you add ketchup, its not a Chicago dog.
The King & I – Spring Rolls and some of their entrees (especially Volcano Chicken)
Mader’s Sampler Platter –Bratwurst, knackwurst, kraut and potato salad.
There is one thing Summerfest does well and that is beer. There are so many stands you never need to wait more than a couple of minutes for a cold beverage. Sprecher and Lakefront stands are my favorite, alternating between Lakefront’s Belgian Wit with a slice of orange and Sprecher’s Hefe Weiss with a slice of lemon is sure to provide temporary relief from the heat. Water Street Brewery also has a huge stand at the south end of the festival.