REVIEW: Future Islands, Run the Jewels at Summerfest

My one and only day of Summerfest was this past Friday, and thankfully the two acts I wanted to see this year were both on the same night. We got to the grounds right around 8PM and I was anxious that we’d miss the beginning of the first’s set, but luckily they stalled for fifteen minutes so everything worked out. I saw Future Islands at the Johnson Controls Stage followed by Run the Jewels at the Generac Power Stage, the latter we got in the pit for.

Future Islands are a synthpop band consisting of vocalist Samuel Herring, bassist/guitarist William Cashion, drummer Michael Lowry, and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers. They are originally from Baltimore and are known for Herring’s high-energy stage performances; we’re talking growling vocals, elaborate dance moves, and overall animated persona. Such antics in addition to colorful and idyllic melodies have garnered them immense acclaim over the years. If you haven’t seen their performance of “Seasons (Waiting On You)” from their 2014 record “Singles” on Letterman before, go watch it right now – it’s absolutely stunning. As far as Friday went, Future Islands opened with their song “For Sure” from last year’s “As Long As You Are” which really set the tone for a joyful ride. They played a handful of their old hits including aforementioned “Seasons”, “Balance”, “A Dream of You and Me”, and “Tin Man.” The rest of their set largely contained songs from “As Long As You Are” as well as their most recent single “Peach.” We sadly had to leave during their third-to-last song but according to setlist.fm they closed with a song from their 2008 debut. It was a solid mix of tunes old and new; you could tell Future Islands were stoked to be back on the road giving their latest material its rightful colors. They’re definitely an essential live band to see.

Run the Jewels is the hip hop duo of rappers Killer Mike (of Atlanta) and El-P (of Brooklyn). Known for their trademark “pistol and fist” hand gesture, RTJ are unabashedly, aggressively political in their convictions about the peoples’ struggle against state-sanctioned violence (police brutality, systemic racism, etc). In tandem, many of their songs contain chanting hooks that encourage the audience to come together around. This was only their second show since quarantine; their first was two weeks ago in California, and for Friday they expressed how excited they were to be in Milwaukee. Their set was heavy on tracks from last year’s record “RTJ4” but they peppered in hits from as far back as their 2013 debut album such as “36′ Chain” and their self-titled song (which they closed with). The chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P is genuine and immaculate; it’s hard to walk away from their performance and not feel inspired to organize for radical change. Be sure to listen to some of Killer Mike’s activism interviews as well.

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