Summerfest. Day #2

Let's just say Day 2 went a whole lot better than Day 1 ... (not that Day 1 was that bad ...)

... I left the house at almost the exact same time as Friday night. But this time, when I got to the Park & Ride lot, there were plenty of parking spots to be had. They hadn't even bothered putting the overflow signs up ... nice. Plus, I'd brought enough one bills this time so the bus driver didn't have to get me change.

Once at the Summerfest grounds, I found myself gravitating toward the Briggs & Stratton Stage again. Funny, in all my past years at Summerfest, I've hovered around the U.S. Cellular Stage (formerly the Piggly Wiggly stage) and the Miller Lite Oasis --stages generally reserved for the younger crowds and current, hip acts. Until this year, I'd never seen a show at the Briggs stage, and now here I was for the second time in as many nights (I must be getting old ...) ... this time waiting to see the Go-Gos ... woo hoo!

So I got my bucket of Mountain Dew (seriously. The cups they sell at Summerfest are so big, I call them buckets ...) and grabbed a seat. There was about 2 1/2 hours before the Go-Gos were scheduled to come on at 10, and still plenty of seats. On stage was the Briggs Bluesbusters, who according to the schedule had already been playing for about an hour and a half. A decent classic rock cover band with 13! members ... they kept switching in and out so not all of them were on stage together until the finale, but I counted as many as four guitarists, two keyboard/organ players, a couple women doing tamborines and vocals, a guy doing sax and flute duty and the drummer. One of the guitarists also was a former member of The Grassroots, which helped the band do a great cover of 'Temptation Eyes.'

... Even when I started to get a little restless, I tried looking for other stuff, but nothing at the other stages appealed to me and pretty soon I was back at the Briggs Stage -- just as the Bluesbusters were returning from a break and going into The Who's 'Baba O'Riley' ... Awesome!

But just when I was about to give it my 'cover of the night award,' they played Deep Purple's 'Hush, Hush,' which normally wouldn't grab me, but the Bluesbusters version featured a jaw-dropping organ solo... The band continued, playing some Springsteen, some Mellencamp, among other classic rock staples, and then -- for the finale -- an amped-up version of Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone' ... While the band, now with all 13 of its members lined up on stage, rocked out and whaled into their mics, the crowd was on its feet, dancing and clapping. One of those scenes where you can't help but look around and smile at everybody having so much fun. No one seemed to notice the song was going on and on and on, I swear the band looped the song like three times ...

There was one crusty old guy sitting in front of me, however, who wasn't enjoying the music as much ... About midway through the show, he began berating the band for not playing anything he apparently wanted to hear, even getting in a 'You Suck!' during a break in one of the songs. Then, after yelling a bit more and shouting, 'Play something good! ... this isn't rock n' roll!!' the guy threw up his arms and stormed away from the seating area ... to the smiles and laughter of the crowd sitting around him. It was so good, it was as if the band had staged it, like one of those angry audience members in skits on 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien.'

... The Bluesbusters finally went off at about 9:15 p.m., and while there had been some empty seats throughout the area, the crowd swelled very quickly and began packing in for the Go-Gos show ... in the meantime, I had finished my bucket of Mountain Dew and badly needed to get to a restroom. And I had a sixth row, center seat that I did not want to lose. Luckily the burly bald guy next to me agreed to save it for me. ... Thanks Burly Bald Guy!

... As the crowd grew, I was pleased to see I wasn't the only guy in the audience -- as I had previously feared. No surprise, there were several packs of 30 or 40-something women who no doubt idolized the Go-Gos back in the day and were strying to recapture some of the magic on this night (I caught one group of women wearing matching T-shirts that said 'Vogos: 2006 Reunion Tour' which I took as some sort of inside joke; another woman sitting a couple rows in front of me was sporting a 1983 Tour t-shirt), but there was also a nice mix of families, older teens and 20-somethings, and middle-aged guys (like the superfan in front of me, who I think pulled a tattered piece of paper from his wallet that was scribbled full with Go-Gos setlists and notes, and he was telling Go-Gos story upon story to the couple sitting on the other side of me...).

... and as 10 p.m. got closer, I noticed my anxiety level actually increase a bit, and I thought: this might be my most-anticipated show of this year's Summerfest -- but only behind the Guster show next weekend ...

... and then it started pouring!!! ... But nothing to fear. The Briggs stage is situated under the interstae overpass. So while rain soaked the rest of the grounds and spectacular ligtning flashed across the Milwaukee skyline, we were completely dry!! ... Ha!

... Finally the recorded music stopped. The stage lights dimmed ... A soft chord started coming from the speakers, slowly picking up speed and volume like a drum roll and then there they were, taking the stage one by one, each of them bobbing and swaying to the beats like the pop-punk princesses they are -- Jane Wiedlin, Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock.

It was sooooooo sweet.

Seconds later, the guitars were strapped on and 'Our Lips Are Sealed' was being played in force ... (watch the original video here! ...whoah '80s!!)

The girls plowed through all of their hits, in addition to some of their other popular tracks from then and now (Get Up And Go, Lust To Love, Skidmarks on My Heart), playing every one of them with punked-up, loud, heavy, roaring guitars ... Meanwhile California girl Carlisle belted out every tune just the way I'd always seen her, swaying to the beat, tapping, beating a tamborine and bopping around the stage -- I could barely take my eyes off her all night ... Just as charming was Wiedlin, dressed in a white shirt with a pink tie around her neck. She too was constantly jumping around the stage, occasionally dancing alongside Carlisle, and beaming with glee, appearing to be having as much fun as anyone ...

Before we knew it, the girls were ending their first set with 'Vacation' (awesome!) ...

... a short break, and then they were out again for a short encore. Kathy Valentine started it off by telling the crowd, 'We've played Milwaukee before, but we've never played Summerfest ... wow. Wow!' ... she then noted Wiedlin was from Milwaukee and Wiedlin picked up the commentary, explaining the 'sad day' in 1985 when Carlisle left the group to embark on a solo career, 'and we thought what's she ever going to do with us,' Wiedlin said. 'Then she goes off and sells 5 zillion records. So right now we're going to play her first hit ...'

It was a nice intro to 'Mad About You.' ... Once again, Carlisle was at the mic belting out the vocals. And the rest of the girls were adding background vocals and heavy guitars, making for yet another sweet, rocked-up version of a song that normally passes for something on an easy listening station ...

After thanking the crowd, Carlisle announced the band's last song would be a cover from one of the original girl groups, a version of the The Shangri-Las 'Walking in the Sand.' ... It was probably the lightest tune the group had done all night ...

By 11:30 it was all over, and I was on my way to catch the shuttle back home again ... and I was beaming.

...Now I've had Go-Gos songs playing in my head for most of the day, and when Kates and I picked up our Sunday night Chinese food earlier tonight, I couldn't resist and stopped in at the record store (c'mon! it's right next to the Chinese place! ...) and went straight to the G's in search of Go-Gos records. A couple minutes later, I was paying for vinyl copies of 'Vacation' and 'Beauty And The Beat' ...

'The Go-Gos, huh?' the clerk said.


'Back in my day, we used to call them The Pretenders because we didn't think they could play, we thought they were pretending. But they put out some pretty good albums. They were really good ...'

... Uh, yeah! ... They're still good ... In the time it's taken me to write this post, I've had both albums going on the turntable and I think I've played both sides of both albums three or four times ...

a My Summerfest preparation: 'It's here baby!!'
a My Summerfest Day #1
a My Summerfest Day #3
a My Summerfest Day #4
a My Summerfest Day #5

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