Summerfest 2019: Yungblud, Lauren Alaina and more of the best and worst from the side stages on Day 7

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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On a foggy Wednesday night at the fest, the energetic Yungblud was feisty and risque, while Lauren Alaina pleased her crowd with Badger shoutouts. 

Lauren Alaina

Lauren Alaina performs at Summerfest's U.S. Cellular Connection Stage in Milwaukee on July 3, 2019.

Lauren Alaina knows how to get a Milwaukee crowd on her side. As she sang the bluesy rock chorus of “Queen of Hearts” Wednesday night at the U.S. Cellular Connection stage, she grabbed a Brewers hat from the crowd and donned it as she strutted in front of her four-piece band.

Another way to gain our favor? How about sharing this in her introduction of “Georgia Peaches”: “I grew up in Georgia, but my mom lives in Rhinelander, Wisconsin,” Alaina said. “So, I’m an honorary Wisconsin resident!”

The small but energetic crowd of Cheeseheads seemed to concur as they joined in on the thumping ode to the Peach State. The onetime “American Idol” runner up-turned-country star has a rich, emotive voice that can run sweet like it did on the tender, yet playful “Doin’ Fine," but can also growl ferociously like it did during a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Paradise City.”

Later in the show, Alaina invited the crowd to visit her family’s bar in northern Wisconsin for a beer. Now that’s how you really win over a Milwaukee crowd.

Erik Ernst

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday performs at the Miller Lite Oasis on July 3, 2019. Hannah Schroeder/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With long, curly hair and a sweet Alabama accent, Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara took to the Miller Lite Oasis stage with heart and soul Wednesday night.

The crowd was filled with longtime fans who immediately launched into "What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost" with no preparation necessary. After all, this is Taking Back Sunday's 20th year as a band.

Large, low-to-the-ground fog clouds were an issue for the first half of the set, but by the second half, they had mostly dissipated.

"We are playing a show inside of a cloud, ladies and gentlemen," Lazzara quipped.

Lights synced with the beat of the music and so did the crowd. During the call and response part of "You're So Last Summer," fans responded loudly and without hesitation. "If I'm just bad news," the band called. The crowd finished with "then you're a liar."

To say Lazzara's voice is powerful is an understatement. He was never once drowned out by either his bandmates or the crowd. The underlying passion and spirit of the band's performance truly made it a must-see show.

Grace Connatser,

The Roots

The Roots perform at Summerfest's BMO Harris Pavilion on July 3, 2019.

Standard concert smoke machines proved unnecessary Wednesday night as the thick fog that blanketed the lakefront created a dramatic haze throughout the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion as The Roots took the stage.

The Philadelphia hip-hop group’s arrival was also accented perfectly by the delayed lakefront fireworks whose bright colors danced along to Jeremy Ellis’ percussive electronic sampling. (The way the fog was layered, this stage was actually the only one where the fireworks were even visible.)

When the 11-piece band assembled, MC Black Thought led them into the bumping first verse of “The Next Movement” before a jazzy swirl of smooth bass, guitar, syncopated drum lines and, of course, sousaphone matching the silky gauze of the fog lifted from the stage.

Something the fog couldn’t hide, though, was the wide array of empty seats in the three paid reserved sections (including the entire row this reviewer occupied) at the front of the venue. Some kind of solution to allow the much larger crowds in the free bleachers to come down once the show begins to fill in the glaringly empty seats would definitely help the atmosphere for both artists and fans.

Erik Ernst


Yungblud performs at Summerfest's Miller Lite Oasis on July 3, 2019.

You may not have seen him well, but you certainly heard him loud and clear.

Despite the low and heavy fog Wednesday night, Yungblud kept concertgoers in high spirits at the Miller Lite Oasis stage.

Yungblud, whose real name is Dominic Harris, delivered an energetic and even shocking show. He ran on stage in a revealing little black dress, eventually flashing his underwear to the crowd. It didn't faze anybody as he launched immediately into "21st Century Liability" with the crowd following along.

The singer made the crowd do everything from jumping to getting on their knees, to wrapping their arms around their bleacher neighbors. The audience followed every command.

"Don't be shy," he said. "Get cozy."

Yungblud didn't stop running and jumping from every side of the stage, even singing loud through it all. He ran with a guitar during what might be his best-known song, "I Love You, Will You Marry Me." A tambourine during "Ice Cream Man" and other songs thereafter didn't stop him, either.

Grace Connatser,

Hawthorne Heights

Hawthorne Heights performs at Summerfest's Miller Lite Oasis on July 3, 2019.

Say this about emo punk band Hawthorne Heights — they know their place in the world.

Playing the Miller Lite Oasis early Wednesday evening, the band performed in front of a giant banner that read "I used to listen to Hawthorne Heights in high school."

Sure enough, many fans there were likely in high school when the band broke out in the mid-aughts, and they sure were thrilled by frontman JT Woodruff's announcement that they would play debut album "The Silence in Black and White" in its entirety (which, fun fact, happened to be recorded in Madison at Butch Vig and Steve Marker's Smart Studios). 

Angsty anthems like "Life on Standby" and "Niki FM" seemed to hit the nostalgic sweet spot Wednesday. But there were actual teenagers in the crowd, too, likely staking out a spot for Halsey-endorsed emo rap-rocker Yungblud, who liked what they were hearing. Thanks to gigs like this one, the band will be able to find a new generation of fans who can one day claim they used to listen to Hawthorne Heights in high school.

Piet Levy,

Nora Collins

Milwaukee native Nora Collins performs on Summerfest's U.S. Cellular Connection Stage on July 3, 2019.

With Nora Collins, it was never a question of if she would succeed in country music, but when.

As a teen country artist in Brookfield, Collins would play some 200 gigs a year, anything and everything she could. Before she was even an adult, she displayed some of the greatest determination of anyone hustling in the local music scene.

Many of those shows have been at Summerfest, largely on unofficial stages and daytime slots. But on Wednesday, the now Nashville-based Collins was officially a headliner, preceding Lindsay Ell and Lauren Alaina at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. 

With tender takes of Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert tunes, and her own smart and vulnerable songs about heartache like “Guess I Woulda Known by Now,” Collins showed she had every right to be on that stage. And she showed that the country music success that will continue to come her way — not may, will — is going to be very much deserved.

– Piet Levy,

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