REVIEW: Rise Against at Summerfest – 7/3

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Rise Against are no strangers to the Summerfest stage, and they once again proved that on Thursday night at the Harley Davidson Roadhouse. With a packed crowd waiting, watching the night’s fireworks display, the band hit the stage and quickly jumped into “Ready to Fall”, the first in a slew of hits that they would play. When they followed it up with “Give It All”, their breakout song, it was apparent that Rise Against were not wasting any time running through what people wanted to hear.

Milwaukee shows are special for the Chicago band, and frontman Tim McIllrath was all smiles throughout the night, thanking fans for coming to see them play all of the halls and legion posts throughout the years leading up to this point. (Side note: How awesome does Rise Against at Shorewood Legion Hall sound in hindsight?!). The band got to have some fun, playing older songs in the mix with the ones that made them famous. You can tell that these guys still have as much passion for their music now as they did when they were first starting out. That’s always a good thing to see.

The packed Harley Davidson Roadhouse did not disappoint, either, as they were a very responsive, fun crowd. While in previous experiences, I’ve seen fans at Rise Against shows get somewhat violent throughout the set, Thursday night’s crowd seemed just as interactive, without the fighting. The usual pits broke out along the sides of the bleachers, but for once it seemed like kids were actually just dancing most of the time. It seemed like nobody wanted to ruin this for anyone else. Point, Rise Against fans. At one point McIllrath called for a circle pit, using the “universal punk rock symbol” of waving his finger in the air, but then had to retract his order, realizing that the crowd had to contest the metal bleachers. He noted, “We’ll be back at a place where you can dance more”, so it would be a wise idea to watch for that presale at The Rave to pop up in the near future. All in all, the band had fun with the crowd, and vice versa. You can’t really ask for more than that.

After powering through a high energy set, McIllrath hit the stage with an acoustic guitar for encore tracks “Hero of War” and “Swing Life Away”, dedicated to his parents, who were in the crowd on their anniversary. The rest of the band rejoined him for a few faster songs to close out the night, including “Savior”. During the end of the song, it seemed like the band didn’t want to leave, extending the song with a brief jam session and carrying on some parts longer than usual. It’s clear that Milwaukee is a big part of Rise Against’s history, and that they did not want to disappoint. In turn, they gave one of the best shows of Summerfest so far, and will certainly be back to take in the festival again soon.