REVIEW: Big Data at Summerfest, 7/4/2015

The concept of Big Data performing live is nothing but intriguing. The band is the brainchild of producer Alan Wilkis, and the project received a large part of its success, including a number one spot on the Billboard Alternative Song chart, without ever really playing a show. Add to the fact that almost all of Big Data’s songs feature singers other than Wilkis himself, and now you have issues that make the appeal of seeing the “band” live seem questionable. However, on Saturday night, Wilkis, along with an assembled band, dispelled any issues that there might be, putting on a solid show at the US Cellular Connections stage.

If you didn’t catch it from the name, the concepts of Big Data’s songs revolve around digital technology and the paranoia of it being used against us to some capacity. That being said, the set was loosely tied together via a computerized voice that pokes fun at that concept. The voice insisted that it was there to “enhance your concert going experience”, and that everyone in the crowd’s personal information had been stored and relayed to the merchandise booth. Clever, albeit a little cheesy, but a good way to tie in the band concept in a live capacity. The voice also instructed people to pull out their phones, take selfies, and shine their lights back at the band during a song. If they’re gonna do it anyway, might as well incorporate it into the show, right?

Computerized voices aside, Big Data were able to pull off what might be the more challenging part of their live show, as well, which is the music itself. Wilkis was joined onstage by vocalist Liz Ryan, as the two bounced vocal parts with one another throughout the set. Both Wilkis and Ryan wore all black, contrasting the scientist-like all white that the rest of the band wears onstage (do you get the feeling that you’re involved in some sort of weird experiment yet?). In addition to Ryan’s impressive vocals, the rest of the band held their own, keeping the crowd energized throughout the 8:00 slot.

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Most of the set came from Big Data’s full length release “2.0”, which had a lot of big, poppy elements to it that fit a live setting well. There was also a fun, glitchy cover of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” that leant itself not only to the set, but the concept of the band overall. There was a short break, only for the computerized voice to interact with the crowd, announcing that hit single “Dangerous” would be the last song of their set. The bleachers didn’t really react, however, until the song’s signature bass line broke out, getting people bouncing around the crowd. All things considered, Wilkis, Ryan and the rest of the band version of Big Data provided an exciting, fun hour long set that managed to both capture the fun of “2.0” live, as well as introduce many new fans to their concept of paranoia pop. If I get an email telling me what Big Data merchandise I should buy, however, I won’t be surprised.