10 Can’t-Miss Acts at Milwaukee’s Summerfest

Featured image – Fans take in the grounds and the Milwaukee skyline on the Summerfest Skyglider. Photo credit: Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI

It’s the biggest fest you’ve never heard of – the massive Summerfest returns to Milwaukee this year with two long weekends full of amazing shows, as usual, but somehow I’ve never met anyone who’s actually attended. After seeing this year’s lineup, I suspect that will change.

The 11-day megafest goes down June 26-30 and July 2-7, boasting hundreds of performances with some very high profile headliners. With all the options, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and miss sets – make sure you add these 10 to your schedule:

Billie Eilish
At this point, I’m more surprised when I find out people haven’t heard of Billie Eilish – the 17-year-old is well on her way to becoming a superstar and her debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?,” currently rests comfortably in the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart. If you get the chance to see her live, don’t miss it. Especially when it’s at a festival that you’re paying the same price for her + others as you would for a solo Billie show, which sells out often these days.

Jennifer Lopez
It’s been over two decades since “On the 6” was released and I still get giddy at the thought of seeing J-LO live. Her performances are insanely high-energy, her outfits and dancers are always on point, and she knows what her fans want to hear, often including older hits such as “Jenny from the Block” and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” in her setlists. She is an icon and a true performer. 

An aerial view of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at night. Photo credit: Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI

Willie Nelson
At this point, I definitely wouldn’t fault 85-year-old Willie if he wanted to retire at some point – he’s had a longer, more successful career than most artists do in a lifetime. We’re lucky that he’s still performing, meaning that I’m going to see him in concert every chance I get until he’s not anymore. Try not to cry when you hear him play “Always On My Mind!”

Death Cab for Cutie
Another one that’s had an impressively long and successful career. Death Cab can seemingly do no wrong, from their initial commercial success in the early 2000s to their most recent release, 2018’s “Thank You for Today.” They’re one of the few bands that I got into during my emo years and still listen to today, and outdoor festivals are a perfect setting for their specific brand of melancholy.

Brandi Carlile
I first saw Brandi Carlile live at FloydFest nearly six years ago, and I knew she was going to be big – her voice is incredible, her backing band (the twins!!) are so talented, and her performances suck you in. Fast forward to 2019, and she’s the most-nominated female at the Grammys, showing up in blockbuster movies (spot her in A Star is Born), and giving the same passionate, high-energy performances. Come for “The Joke,” stay for her catchy cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Throughout the day fans take in entertainment at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard. Photo credit: Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI

The Lonely Island
Nobody knows what to expect from The Lonely Island’s tour (their first ever), which makes it that much more exciting. What songs will they play? What special guests will they bring out? Seeing them in a festival setting is ideal, because they’ll have plenty of options of performers to join them onstage. 

“Iiiiii’m cryin’…” – because I didn’t get tickets to Lizzo’s tour. Her new album, “Cuz I Love You,” is so good, and she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. However, that means that she’s gone from playing small clubs to getting headlining festival spots and selling out major arenas. Like Billie Eilish, Lizzo is on her way to superstardom, and her ticket prices reflect that – everyone wants to see her in concert. Getting to see her at a festival is a bargain. 

Maybe it’s the ’90s kid in me, but I’m just so curious about Hanson now. Are their voices the same? Will they play “MMMBop?” I have no idea what to expect from this set, but I’d go just to see.

Fans take in an exciting show at the Harley-Davidson (TM) Roadhouse. Photo credit: Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI

YUNBLUD punched his way onto the scene semi-recently with his hit, “I Love You, Will You Marry Me,” and has grown steadily since. His set promises a healthy dose of antiestablishment energy – and maybe a cameo from girlfriend/”11 Minutes” collaborator Halsey? Okay, I’m speculating, but she did play Summerfest last year and she currently doesn’t have any conflicting tour dates. We’ll see!

Shaed has been working hard for years – Chelsea Lee, Spencer Ernst, and Max Ernst (they’re twins; Chelsea’s married to Spencer) grew up together in the suburbs of D.C. and began working on music as kids. I had the privilege of seeing them play live in some tiny venues when I lived in the D.C. area, and it was always pretty clear that they deserved to get big – Chelsea’s vocals go beyond your typical pop star’s, filling any room but never overpowering the poppy vibes from the Ernst brothers. With their hit single “Trampoline,” the trio has finally gotten some of the recognition they deserve – head to their set to hear their other great tracks as well.

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