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Summerfest’s 2013 lineup a mix of the good, the bad and the just plain weird

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Photo via milwaukeeconsumer.com

Photo via milwaukeeconsumer.com

Hello again, Summerfest, you weird, enormous, fantastic festival, you.

After weeks of teasing us all by announcing headliners one by one, Summerfest at last revealed its 2013 lineup this past week.

And as usual, some choices for the biggest acts are tweet-about-it-like-a-nerd exciting, some are obscure names begging to be discovered, some are clearly for old people and some are just kind of weird.

But also per usual, this year’s Summerfest promises plenty for almost anyone to get excited about. From lovers of indie music, to oldies, blues, 90s rock, or even those people who like to get drunk and scream really loud at Styx shows, the benefit of being the self-proclaimed largest music festival in the world is clear: There’s just a ton to choose from.

With a schedule that promises more than 800 bands over two weeks — June 26-30 and July 2-7 — an unbeatable price of $15 a day with pre-ordered tickets and 74 big-name national bands, the choices can get overwhelming.

So for those of you feeling overloaded, here is a breakdown of a few different acts coming to this year’s festival, from the awesome to the baffling and everything in between:

Marcus Amphitheater Headliners

For any Summerfest newbies out there, the Amphitheater shows typically bring the biggest acts to Summerfest, with Kanye West, Prince and Bob Dylan all making appearances in past years. These are the only shows that cost more than the price of admission, but for those on a budget, cheap seats go for around $40. Out of this year’s 11 headliners, though, there are a few shows that might be worth coughing up the extra dough.

The Must-See:

Violent Femmes & Avett Brothers

After 30 years of performing together with huge hits like “Blister in the Sun” and a devoted following in alternative music, the Milwaukee band Violent Femmes broke up in 2007 over the use of their song in a Wendy’s ad. But Frosties aside, the band will return from its six-year break to open the festival. Violent Femmes will team up with folk-pop superstars Avett Brothers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Ivan & Alyosha. With the announcement of such a respected ensemble all in one show, fans of alternative and folk music collectively squealed a little and marked the presale date of April 10. This will be a show to remember, but tickets are sure to go fast.

The Why Are You Here?

New Kids on the Block with Boys II Men and 98 Degrees

Like a sampler platter of bad boy bands, this show promises a lot of sharp-arm dance moves, hair gel and screaming Gen Xers reliving high school. Are there really enough NKOTB fans to fill an arena that big?

Honorable Mentions:

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Fun., John Mayer, Tim McGraw, Rush, The Eagles

Hip-Hop 

The Must-See

K’NAAN

This Somalian rapper’s socially conscious music entered the international stage when “Wavin’ Flag” was chosen as a promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. K’NAAN’s live shows are known for their mix of crowds joining in to sing the best-known choruses and K’NAAN’s impressive flow when he raps live. Usually appearing with a full live band, K’NAAN is one of the best names in independent hip-hop to see live.

The Why Are You Here?

LL Cool J

After crowning achievements like being a star on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and teaming up with J-Lo, I bet you thought Mr. Cool J could sink no lower. But his recent collaboration with Brad Paisley on “Accidental Racist” manages to be both offensive and hilarious. Though LL might have meant well in this song about repairing relationships between white Southerners and African Americans, spouting lines like “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains,” “The relationship between the Mason Dixon needs some fixin,” and “R.I.P Robert E. Lee” is embarrassing. LL Cool J, just stop.

Honorable Mention

Atmosphere

Alternative 

The Must-See

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O is one of the most in-your-face performers in music today. Known for rocking outlandish costumes like rainbow feather headdresses and David Bowie-inspired leotards, Karen O has a high energy stage presence that is gender-bending and dramatic. This is a show to arrive early for. Like watch-the-two-shows-before-it early. The group is touring after the release of its new album, “Mosquito,” which hits stores on April 16, so there will be new music as well as the possible appearance of the band’s melancholy breakout hit “Maps” and newer dance-y sound with “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll.”

Why Are You Here?

Switchfoot

Switchfoot is known for weak-sauce songs like “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live.” Cut from the same terrible cloth as Hoobastank and Lifehouse, Switchfoot continues to have a very devoted fan base. Why that is continues to be a mystery.

Honorable Mentions

Yeasayer, Silversun Pickups, MGMT, Trampled By Turtles, Imagine Dragons

Grab Bag

The Must-See

Lewis Black

Comedian Lewis Black, known for his political humor mixed with indignant rants, is bringing comedy back to Summerfest. The festival, which hasn’t strayed far from music in recent years, returns to stand-up with Black’s ornary persona made famous on the Daily Show segment “Back in Black.”

Dr. John & the Night Trippers

Dr. John is 72 years old and still creating some of the best blues music around. A true product of the New Orleans, Dr. John has been creating music since the 1950s. His latest album, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and famed producer DangerMouse, has a modern sound that’s ghostly, gritty, but also groovy.

The Why Are You Here?

Loverboy

Remember that cheesy ’80s hit “Working for the Weekend?” Well now you can see it live. This band embodies the Summerfest tradition of adding a few names so random and past their prime that you wonder who takes time to seek them out. But it’s these random acts that often give Summerfest its unpredictability and bit of wackiness. They make every lineup interesting and  turn every festival into a celebration of music in general, good and bad, high and low brow, up and coming and, as is Loverboy’s case, stuck in 1981.

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