Dummerfest 2017 - Live in Milwaukee (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dummerfest 2017

Live in Milwaukee (2017)

live show

I did not make it to the inaugural Dummerfest in 2015, but I’ve had my eye on it ever since. After skipping 2016, ‘the Milwaukee area’s leading all-ages single-day poser convention’ returned with a vengeance this year. On top of a bunch of the best pop-punk bands in the country was one of my all time favorite hardcore bands, Negative Approach. I took that as a sign that my attendance was mandatory. The lineup definitely justified the five hour drive. It’s been a stressful spring and early summer around the Trauma house, and I was in serious need of blowing off some steam. I’m not sure what I was looking forward to more, all the great bands or two days of responsibility free drinking. Plus, I grew up in Wisconsin and I’m always looking for an excuse to visit. Unfortunately, it was a quick trip and I didn’t have time to catch up with any old friends.

We started the weekend with the PEARS/Galactic Cannibal pre-party show on Friday night. I’m happy to report that our night of heavy drinking had minimal negative consequences on Saturday morning. Although I wasn’t going to be able to visit with any old friends, we did have plans to meet up with some new ones. Sean, one of Punknews’ newest reviewers, was supposed to arrive by train at 11:30am on Saturday. Of course his train was late, so once he got in we had to head almost directly to venue. Dummerfest was held at the Metal Grill in nearby Cudahy, WI. It’s pretty cool dive bar with good sound, good sight lines and reasonably priced drinks. There’s also a nice outside space to cool off and hang out, and for the bands to sell their merch. The food was even pretty decent, though our vegan friends were likely turned off by the strong aroma of bacon.

We were in the bar with a drinks in our hands when Direct Hit! took the stage about 1pm. The room was already full for the first band. I’m sure this was by design. Direct Hit! is a bigger draw than many of the bands that followed, and by playing first they force people to show up on time. Nick Woods also hosted the event, so playing early freed him up for the rest of the day. Direct Hit! definitely started things off with a bang. PEARS’ guitarist Brian Pretus even joined them for their last song. Woods reminded the crowd to pace themselves, as it was going to be a long day. (Our pace was about one High Life tallboy per band.) The Milwaukee quartet’s high energy half hour set the bar high for the bands that followed. Fortunately, most of the bands seemed up to the task.

Next up was another Milwaukee four piece called Avenues. I wasn’t very familiar with the band, but was impressed by their classic punk with a bit of pop sensibility. (All the bands, with the exception of the last two, got 30 minutes.) I wish I would have had at least another hundred bucks with me. I would have bought a lot more stuff, including an Avenues record. Chicago’s The Eradicator replaced Cincinnati’s Head Collector, who had to cancel at the last minute. The ski mask wearing Eradicator spent 20 or 25 minutes ranting and raving about his athletic prowess and the virtues of the game of squash. His digital hardcore was entertaining as always. Refreshingly, most of the crowd seemed to be in on the joke. The Eradicator has a full length record coming out later this year and you should check it out.

Most of the bands at Dummerfest were made up of dudes in their 30’s, but there was some female representation. 83 Wolfpack is a ⅔ female trio from Minneapolis. The drummer is male, but the other two trade off on lead vocals. I very much enjoyed their aggressive pop-punk. Rational Anthem is another trio, and I’m not sure where they currently reside. (Iowa? Florida?) The male bass player and female guitar player share lead vocal duties, and I enjoyed their melodic punk too. Minneapolis’ The Slow Death was another band that I was only vaguely familiar with, and their set was excellent. The Brokedowns, from Elgin, IL, might have been the funniest band of the night. Their music was top notch too.

At this point we were quite a few bands and beers in, and we were really getting to the meat of the lineup. The crowd shrunk a bit after Direct Hit!, but now the room was starting to get packed again. (Every band had a respectable crowd.) Toys That Kill from San Pedro, CA had to travel the farthest to get to Dummerfest. Their frantic garage punk was a rare treat for midwestern fans. I predicted that the mosh pit would start with PEARS, but it was actually one band earlier with The Copyrights. The Chicago quartet’s energetic set did not disappoint. PEARS traveled all the way from New Orleans for Dummerfest, and played both nights. The Saturday set was quite a bit different than the night before, when they played the entire Go to Prison album. A shirtless Zach Quinn once again crawled around on the floor, unlike Friday night. They definitely got the audience moving with a heavy dose of songs from their most recent LP, Green Star.

Negative Approach turned the insanity up even further. The Detroit band was playing Milwaukee for the first time in their 35 year history. I heard people talking about driving long distances just to see NA. I had experienced them a couple of times before, so I knew what to expect. Their set was definitely the most intense of the evening. They played most of the songs from their now classic 1982 self-titled EP including “Can’t Tell No One”, “Ready to Fight”, “Nothing”, “Lead Song”,the 8 second “Pressure”, and my personal favorite, “Why Be Something That You’re Not”. Singer John Brannon has the angriest face in hardcore, even if he was mostly friendly between songs. They played a few tracks from Tied Down (1983), like the title track, “Hypocrite”, “Evacuate”, “Dead Stop” and “I’ll Survive”. There were also a couple of extremely aggressive covers including a 4-Skins song I didn’t know, Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout” and their set closing version of The Stooges’ “I Got a Right”. Negative Approach was the only band I went into the pit for. When I looked up, young Sean was there too. Despite a two and a half decade age difference, there we were, bonding to some of the greatest hardcore ever.

I was a little worried for Off With Their Heads. They definitely had a hard act to follow, but they did just fine. I have been slow to embrace OWTH. For some reason I thought they were something I wouldn’t like. As I checked them out leading up to this show, I was shocked how much I enjoyed them. Ryan Young has the ability to say in a few words what would take most of us a paragraph. Or maybe a whole book. The rest of the band was great too, and Brian Pretus also joined them for their last song. (That makes three times on stage for him, if you’re keeping track at home.) The majority of the audience seemed to know most of the songs, and was singing along for the entire 45 minute set. Off With Their Heads provided a satisfying finish to this long day.

I have only a few more random thoughts about the event. Dummerfest was very well run, and managed to stay on schedule all day. There was no punk time! The show was sold out, but the crowd was not huge. (Maybe 400?) Most of the bands were hanging around outside and easy to talk to. The crowd was mostly men in their late 20’s and early 30’s, but there were also some older guys in their 40’s and 50’s, some women, some teens and even a few young kids. Everybody was cool. There were no festival bros. We also showed up in time to get an awesome free enamel pin from Stupid Rad Merch. (I got 79/100, but still regret not buying the flask!) As I mentioned previously, there was a lot of cool stuff to buy. I will definitely bring more money next time. I hope there is a next time. Dummerfest is an awesome event and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.