REVIEW: AWOLNATION at Summerfest, 7/3/2015
For many bands, the opportunity to see your fanbase grow does not carry many benchmarks; In the instance of AWOLNATION, they were able to see just how far their following had grown by playing the same stage that they had graced in years prior on Friday night. The band played the US Cellular Connections stage previously at an 8:00 slot, but made their return as a 10:00 headliner, and boy has their been a significant growth since then. The band that once had barely enough fans (and people waiting for the evening’s headliner) to fill the front section of bleachers had now loaded the area nearest the lakefront for their set.
This time, the crowd was in Aaron Bruno’s hands, too. The group peppered the crowd with hits from 2011’s “Megalithic Symphony” as well as latest offering “Run”, and everyone in attendance ate it up. Hands bounced and swayed with fervor as Bruno led them through the Robin Hood like heroics of “Jump On My Shoulders”, and the crowd rocked along, singing “Not Your Fault” back to the band to the point where it was recognizable word-for-word. All the while, the band remained backlit with an exciting light show behind them, and as an added bonus, at least half of their regular set was coupled with the 3rd of July fireworks, which seemed like they may last until the set was finished. The crowd also met the new material without much hesitation, as well, bouncing along to recent single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”. The jittery, spastic “Burn It Down” created a frenzy amongst both the bleachers and the ground on the sides of the bleachers, as well. It was clear, though, that there was still a significant portion of the crowd waiting to hear their breakout “Sail”, but Bruno and co. certainly kept them entertained as their anticipation built.
Bruno moved with intensity throughout the night, invoking the crowd to sway with him, and sang with passion and conviction. The rest of the band matched this passion, and were able to show off quite a bit of talent in their own right, as well. Drummer Isaac Carpenter was given the stage near the end of the band’s regular set, and attacked the drumset with a furious, impressive solo bathed in bouncing white lights. The set closed out strong, and the band was offstage for the slightest of intermissions before coming back out for their encore. The group returned for a few songs, and there was slight unrest amongst some of the crowd on the ground, but the bleachers were fully into AWOLNATION. Fittingly, the opening chords of “Sail” bounced their way through the PA, and everyone erupted. A large crowd filtered in from all sides to sing and shout along with “Sail”, with a significantly large crowd rushing in from the festival’s main stretch on the left side of the bleachers. Even with a slew of successful singles, it is apparent that nothing will be topping the reaction that “Sail” receives for some time.
In any case, this was a testament to AWOLNATION’s perseverance. The crowd that they drew on Friday, which was one of the busiest nights of the festival, was well deserved. There appears to be no glass ceiling for the band, either; We may very well see AWOLNATION playing the Marcus Amphitheater within a matter of years. There would be no debate that they are, in fact, very worthy of the headlining position, and Friday night was evidence.