Milwaukee's Summerfest has something for everyone

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Nico Savidge
Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stop me if this sounds familiar: You want to go out for a night of live music with your friends, but everyone wants to see something different.

One likes country, another classic rock, another hip-hop and yet another indie rock.

Faced with this situation most weekends, disagreements are inevitable and somebody's going to end up unhappy with what's coming out of the speakers.

For a couple of magical weeks this summer, though, there's a place your musically diverse horde can go that satisfies everyone's needs.

Summerfest kicks off Wednesday, June 26, at the Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's Lake Michigan shoreline. It runs through Sunday, July 7.

With more than 800 acts playing over the 11-day festival, just about anyone can find a show to check out, along with the usual assortment of food, games and activities.

You can all arrive together, grab some food and not-too-overpriced beers (many of them from top-notch local breweries) and explore the grounds together.

That might mean a ride on the Skyglider chair lift or a trip around the water on one of the festival's paddleboats, a new attraction this year. The boats hold up to four people and are available from noon to 7 p.m. each day at the boat dock on the north end of the grounds. The cost is $8 per person for a 30-minute trip.

Summerfest also offers a new zipline tour of the waterfront for $5 for one trip, $8 for two.

After returning to shore, your group can split off in whatever direction each person's favorite act might be.

Let's take Friday, June 28, as an example.

That night, the classic rock fan can watch Tom Petty at the Marcus Amphitheater, and the country lover can see Phil Vassar at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage. Your hip-hop head can check out Brother Ali and Atmosphere at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage, and the indie rocker can bop along to Matt & Kim at the U.S. Cellular stage.

Pick a place to meet up after the shows, and everybody goes home happy with who they saw, often for the reasonable general admission price of $17.

In your correspondent's humble opinion, this is not a particularly strong year for Summerfest's Marcus Amphitheater, which commands a higher entry fee for its big-ticket acts.

The choices this summer range from legends of dad-rock (The Eagles, John Mayer) to insufferable pop (Pitbull, fun.). That's certainly not the caliber of artists seen in years past, when the likes of Kanye West and The Black Keys graced the stage and were worth the extra money.

Your best bet is to spend the cash you would have dropped for those concerts on food and drinks as you bounce around the festival-at-large for artists such as these:

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' most recent album got mixed reactions from fans, but the punk rockers are bound to deliver a good live show. They headline the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse at 10 p.m. on the festival's opening day, Wednesday, June 26.

Brother Ali and Atmosphere, mentioned above, make for a pretty great one-two punch for hip-hop fans Friday, June 28. Brother Ali goes on at 8:30 p.m., Atmosphere at 10 p.m.

If you're looking to ditch the headliners and find a good afternoon show, Baraboo natives Phox play the U.S. Cellular stage at 4:15 p.m. Friday, June 28. Show up before 4 p.m. to snag cheaper admission ($9, down from the usual $17), then feel in-the-know for introducing your friends to the up-and-coming band's airy, soulful sound.

Somali rapper K'naan's early albums carried clear influence from (and melancholy nostalgia for) his war-torn home. He headlines the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard on Saturday, July 6.

Trampled by Turtles played a great set at Summerfest last year, delivering cuts from its extensive discography and a couple of rousing sing-along covers. The Minnesota bluegrass quintet returns to close out Summerfest on Sunday, July 7, with a 10 p.m. show at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard.

Last updated: 3:07 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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