The Fray

So on the 4th, I went to see The Fray at Summerfest in Milwaukee, which is billed as the world's largest music festival. I don't know how they quantify that, but it was pretty damn big. They have something like six full-time stages, all running simultaneously with various artists, both known and unknown. One stage, for example, was entirely for tribute acts. I saw a Garth Brooks imitator, who seemed to believe that Garth's fattest period was his most scintillating and that emphasizing the curse words-based alternate verses would most please a crowd...at 3pm...on a Saturday afternoon...filled with kids and grannies. Nope.

I went by myself because a) Keven hates The Fray and b) they're not the kind of band that needs to be see in a group. They're rather intellectual and emotional, so I was content with the idea of enjoying them in a cone of my own introversion. So I left the car at a park 'n' ride and took a shuttle in--the absolute best thing ever. I always get lost coming out of Milwaukee and didn't want to have to deal with post-concert traffic jams.

While wasting time, I saw a band called The Urbanites out of Chicago. One of the stages was designed to feature nothing but up-and-coming acts. Nice set. Great sound. The guitar player reminded me of a young Sting--not just the shades and bleached hair, but the attitude and self-importance. Perfect for a rock star. If you're curious, they have a free EP on their website.

After grabbing a fantastic BBQ pulled chicken sandwich and trying not to ruin my shirt with sauce, I listened to Katzenjammer, an all-girl group from Norway that blends the harmonies and folk-country instrumentation of The Dixie Chicks with the retro-throwback sensibilities of a squeaky clean Amy Winehouse. Like if Nancy Sinatra was Norwegian and sang like a rowdy cowgirl. Here's "A Bar in Amsterdam," which brought down the house--especially the bit with the trumpet. I would've bought a CD but they were sold out.

Anyway, then it was over to the Marcus Amphitheater for the main show. Opening Act No. 1 was like a cross between Elton John and the Blues Brothers. No good. Opening Act No. 2 was some local group that seemed to have tons of appreciative fans. They put on a good show. The assholes behind me in the stands, however, were drunk and loud. I prepared myself to be annoyed for the duration.

On came The Fray. The started with a verse from "Happiness," then into "Absolute" and "Over My Head (Cable Car)"--a bit surprising. Get their biggest hit out of the way first so no one's waiting around for it? The best part was when they completely rocked out to "Little House" and "We Build Then We Break." Can you head bang to The Fray? OK, maybe not really, but I got really close with those two. Amazing how some of the younger fans were more fans of drippy-sappy "How to Save a Life," but hardly anyone clapped for one of my favorites, the darkly jaded "Say When." Kids. They rounded out the night with a full performance of "Happiness," which raises goosebumps on my skin even now. Brilliant.

So after the show was over, I raced back to the bus and hopped on the first one bound for the car park. I was home just after 1am. A very unique experience, and well worth the time and effort, but I think next time I'll drag someone along with me.

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