Summer never seems officially summer in Milwaukee until we live up to our “City of Festivals” nickname. Kicking off the mother of all festival seasons, Verge Music Festival, a new ‘mini-Summerfest’ showcases its potential this weekend. Verge has high hopes with it’s two-day, twenty-eight band format, of giving the city’s younger set a more independent-leaning music event that leans heavy on the local. The initiation-year lineup for Verge, although heavy on some mainstream (AFI, Weezer) also showcases those indie bands that sit on the fence between being big enough to draw a good-sized crowd, but perhaps not quite Summerfest-digestible fare yet (She & Him, the Raveonettes, Cold War Kids).
The main draw for many festival-goers is undoubtedly the local acts. Every local band playing the stages of Verge this weekend already has a strong following among their community of music-loving peers. Over the two days of Verge, diverse local bands like 1956, Pezzettino, Red Knife Lottery, The Championship and Jaill get the chance to be adored on the big stage and do set changes with national acts. Here are some of the notable locals you’ll find at Verge this weekend:
Red Knife Lottery
(playing the Verge Stage at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 4th)
The early 2000’s were a goldmine for those who liked their music loud and thrash-y. Bands like Temper Temper and Since by Man brought a gritty, yet professional sensibility to their versions of hardcore, punk and rock. Red Knife Lottery’s hardcore freakouts ocassionally make way for melodic guitar and keyboard work, showcasing the vocal prowess of singer Ashley Champman, who goes from a growl to a purr in mere measures.
(playing the Fringe Stage @ 5:15 p.m. on Friday, June 4th)
Bourbon-soaked white boy soul best describes what Milwaukee’s rock quartet the Wildbirds are capable of and pull of with finesse. The band, who first started out in 2007, first gained speed with the release of their upbeat and melodic-but-grungy Golden Daze. With their lineup solidified with Jon Phillip (The Benjamins, Limbeck) and Quinn Scharber (Quinn Scharber and the…) in addition to original founders Nicholas Stuart and Hugh Masterson, the Wildbirds sound has further solidified.
(playing the Edge Stage at 9:15 p.m. on Friday, June 4th)
The trio of Jay Reimer, Troy Butero and Mike Mattner is getting set for a new album at the end of the summer and Milwaukee rock fans should be excited. The band’s former release Saboteur was a beautiful study in post-rock minimalism, stripped down to put the most emphasis on tone quality and poignant, yet understated vocals. If you like your music prettily moody, yet need a little oomph to carry it off, 1956 is the perfect anwswer.
(playing the Fringe Stage at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 5th)
Hip hop that put the emphasis on smart lyrics and building up the community has put Milwaukee’s Figureheads on the map. The trio’s releases span from this build-up of both the minds and spirits of adults and kids (their 2006 release The Movement’s lyrics are centered around the young’n’s) and also takes this credibility to the stage and schools, performing for everyone from adults at festivals to grade-schoolers and high-schoolers. Not to mention, their sound is pretty fresh, too.
(playing the Fringe Stage at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 5th)
Singer-songwriter Geri X makes the most of her influences: Jeff Buckley, Jesse Sykes and Iron & WIne, to create sparse, lyric-centric ballads. Her Bulgarian roots and classical piano and guitar training lend haunting storytelling qualities and intricate compositional characteristics.
(playing the Fringe Stage at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 5th)
Milwaukee’s twang/twee-poppers have been around since 2002, but only until recently have many sat up and taken notice. Core members Vinnie Kircher and Austin Dutmer have been perfecting their upbeat songs with the bright guitars and deceptively wry lyrics all along, yet a recent signing with little-big label Sub Pop has thrust the Milwaukee band into the limelight with news of their release, That’s How We Burn, slated for late-July of this year. Buzz, buzz. Catch the band before they dive into their tour schedule!