ELMS: Let the Summerfest countdown begin!

Summerfest is one of the many reasons why I love Milwaukee. I know, I know, the week-and-a-half-long music extravaganza won’t be here until the end of June. But the countdown is under 100 days, so I think it’s fair for me to start getting excited.

That, and a bunch of headliners were just announced. Now I really can’t contain myself.

When I think back, Summerfest actually served as my introduction to this wonderful city. I am one of the many Marquette students who, before college, called the suburbs of Chicago home. In junior high and high school, I got my live music fix at barn shows, countless battles of the bands, Libertyville’s Mickey Finn’s and Arlington Heights’ Knights of Columbus Hall (where Fall Out Boy got its start).

Once I got my driver’s license, though, I started to think bigger. Milwaukee is only an hour north of my hometown, and Summerfest admission is only $8 if you get there before 4 p.m. Not only that, but this festival actually books an awesome variety of music. How could I – or anyone else, for that matter – pass that up?

Naturally, the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I started making the trip to Henry Maier Festival Park, and I haven’t stopped since. This 11-day celebration of music has become a staple of my summer. Take it from me: If you’re going to be anywhere near Milwaukee this summer, you’d be missing out on a lot of good music – and people watching – if you don’t check it out for at least one day.

If my nostalgic reflections aren’t enough to persuade you, here’s some information that should. 24 ground stage and seven Marcus Amphitheater headliners are already confirmed and posted on the Summerfest website, and there are many more to come. Some ground stage standouts include The Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, Lupe Fiasco, Robyn and Fitz & the Tantrums, and those are just the artists I’m personally pumped to see.

The Avett Brothers played two sold-out shows at the Riverside Theater earlier this year, and the performance I saw blew me away. I knew they would be good, but their talent and stage presence was beyond what I expected. The Head and the Heart also graced Milwaukee with their presence this year, filling Turner Hall Ballroom with their inescapable energy. It was probably the second most fun concert I’ve ever been to, behind only Portugal. The Man (which is my favorite band, so I may be a little biased).

Did I mention the ground stage shows cost nothing more than the general admission? At what other venue would you have the opportunity to get your dance on to Lupe Fiasco and Robyn for under 20 bucks?

Fitz & the Tantrums are Summerfest veterans who opened for Maroon 5 at a free stage last year. The fans have spoken, and this time around, the soulful six-piece band has snagged their own spot as a headliner. The supporting acts have not been announced yet, but often they are just as good as the main draws.

The two amphitheater standouts so far are The Beach Boys on July 1 and Aerosmith on July 7. They are interesting choices after last year’s Katy Perry, Kanye West and Britney Spears amphitheater shows, but fun ones nonetheless. Better yet, there are still four amphitheater spots left to fill, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are performers in the works that appeal more to the younger crowd as well.

Summerfest offers something for everyone, no matter what your musical tastes are. It is also a huge part of what makes Milwaukee so much fun in the summer. If you’ve only experienced this city during the school year, I suggest you hang around once school lets out. There is a lot more to Milwaukee than Marquette’s campus, and Summerfest is a great place to get your feet wet.