Summerfest June 28, 2018

Though Summerfest officially started off on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, we hear at Bah Magazine covered “Throwback Thursday,”. Which offered patrons discounted drinks from noon to 6 p.m. and familiar sounds from the past at a number of stages throughout the festival grounds.

Throughout the afternoon and into the early evening hours, festival-goers enjoyed soft drinks and for those old enough adult beverages while turning back the clock. The brand-new U.S Cellular Connection Stage had the Sugarhill Gang go on before Nelly (who’s also something of a throwback at this point). Uline Warehouse brought out “Cornerstones of Rock” to play hits of the ’60s and ’70s before George Thorogood & The Destroyers, and Meat Puppets headlined the Johnson Controls World Stage.

There was a vintage booking suited for almost any musical taste Thursday, at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., the stage offered three acts who combined to sell more than 20 million albums, accumulated a handful of Platinum records, and became cultural touchstones during one of the most all-around amazing time in modern music history. As short-lived “nu metal” genres, each of these acts first achieved close to 20 years ago and, in most cases, receded from the public eye shortly after. So how would Alien Ant Farm, Lit, and P.O.D. go over live in the year 2018? Surprisingly, not half bad!

The five-hour block of rock was set into motion by Alien Ant Farm, a one-hit (of their own, another by Michael Jackson) wonder that first reached mainstream awareness with 2001’s Anthology. The record sold more than five million units, largely based on their catchy cover of the King of Pop’s “Smooth Criminal” and secondary single, “Movies.” After that, AAF enjoyed modest success with 2003 follow-up, truant, and then faded out of the public eye. Along the way, they endured lineup changes, leaving vocalist Dryden Mitchell and drummer Mike Cosgrove as the only original Ants left on the farm.

As the crowd filled the Summerfest grounds Thursday, Alien Ant Farm took the stage and played a set mostly made up of cuts from those two releases albums. After establishing themselves as an affable and energetic late-afternoon force in their first two songs, the band used one of the biggest weapons in its limited arsenal when they played “Movies” as its third song. Though the 2001 track had infectious guitar licks and the still-infectious chorus got the crowd going and even inspired some to sing along.

A few minutes after 6 p.m., Lit chased that cover with a crowd-pleasing tribute of their own. With the bleachers now full, they started their set with a performance of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” that was true to the original. Lit’s presence was interesting because, unlike the other two acts that flanked them, they truly had just one hit. That song, of course, is the remorseful and unavoidable 1999 anthem “My Own Worst Enemy,” which propelled the band’s breakout album, A Place in The Sun, to Platinum status.

After “American Girl” was in the books, the band tried to keep listener attention with micro-singles “Zip-Lock” and “Miserable” (the video of which features Pamela Anderson tantalizing a shrunken-down Lit) early on (with some success) before having the courage to play material off their new album. They’ve released four records since A Place in the Sun, including one last year. The band’s singer also teased a new album that they hope will be ready to release next month.

As their set neared completion, they played a song that was apparently on the American Pie soundtrack, a new-ish song called “Fast” (which they debuted on CMT), and a couple other Kid Rock-adjacent cuts before giving the vast majority of the building crowd the one and only thing they wanted. Like “Smooth Criminal” two hours earlier, “My Own Worst Enemy” prompted cheers, and a large fraction of the audience singing along to each and every word.

 Finally, this early 2000s triple-headers were brought to a close by the biggest of the three bands. Since first forming as a Christian rock band in 1992, P.O.D. has sold more than 12 million albums, been nominated for a few Grammys, and dominated rock radio airwaves between 1999 and 2003 with a steady stream of nu-metal singles. Though a fraction of the amazing turnout of fans at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage might’ve been just holding their just to see P.O.D. Right before they took the stage, Linkin Park’s “In The End” played over the house P.A. and elicited a small-but-noticeable applause from the bleachers. P.O.D. then came out and pulled no punches, opening with “Boom.” Two songs later, their now-dreadless singer was welcoming us to “Southtown” with album-like precision. “Youth of A Nation” immediately followed in the top-heavy setlist.

Though songs pushing 20 years old populated most of the set, it didn’t seem to deter people from singing along and enjoying the new-look, new-sound, and nu-metal take on Throwback Thursday. By the time P.O.D.’s closer “Alive” rolled around, the audience seemed to share the song’s uplifting sentiment. As hard as it might be to come to terms with popular songs you can clearly recall making the swift transition to “oldies,” this collection of three early-2000s made for a surprisingly fun experience on the second day of Summerfest.
Also, to close out Bah Magazines night we cover another blast from the past Nelly. But despite past appearances, Nelly was still able to draw sizeable, enthusiastic crowd that spanned generations to the recently renovated U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Thursday night. Almost in perfect unison, clearly eager for him to single-handedly start the party. As soon as he emerged, Nelly’s years of performance experience were obvious. His set was played practically without effort, relying on the swagger of a rapper who’s performed that same set a thousand times before.

Nelly’s demeanor was cheery, and he vocalized his appreciation for the crowd almost immediately. He thanked the audience countless times throughout his 90-minute set, paying special attention to fans who have been by his side since day one. Though there were plenty of 30- and 40-somethings in the crowd, a high percentage of the audience were baby-faced members of Gen Z who were probably born around the same year that Country Grammar was released. Despite what happened to Nelly in the past, it was refreshing to watch a cherished rapper do what he does best: party. Within the first 20 minutes of his set, Nelly had performed some of his biggest hits, including “E.I.,” “Shake Ya Tailfeather” and “Country Grammar,” much to the crowd’s delight. Nelly’s arsenal of greatest hits managed to keep the crowd’s attention, and his high spirits were shared with the audience.

The performance relied heavily on those pre-recorded vocal tracks, but it’s safe to say the drunken crowd wasn’t there for a memorable musical performance. Nelly’s hits became hits for a reason; they’re catchy, they’re hooky, and they’ve certainly solidified their place in the early 2000s cultural landscape.

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