Portugal. The Man was Portugal. The Life of the Party on Thursday night at Summerfest, rocking out an unpredictable set in front of a rip-roaring crowd and capping off a magnificent (if a little muggy) night of vibes at the Miller Lite Oasis.
The surprises came early in the evening as bassist Zachary Carothers first took the stage not for the Alaska-born band's first song, but for a land acknowledgement ceremony with several indigenous tribe representatives. It was a surprisingly thoughtful and well-received start to the concert ... shortly followed by the lights coming down and the words "cheese curds" flatly announcing their presence across the backstage screen. Talk about an instant crowd-pleaser – though the band continued to keep the audience on their toes and throw some curveballs for the next 75-80 minutes.
Indeed, for those new to the Portugal. The Man experience prepared for an evening of light-hearted, peppy pop rock along the lines of "Feel It Still" and "Live in the Moment," the Oasis gig was a bit of a twist (though those smash hits were still certainly in attendance to the crowd's joyous approval). Following a Beavis and Butt-Head clip, the band took the smoke-covered stage – staying on theme with the day's foggy forecast – and launched into an impressive medley of thrashing, thumping rock covers featuring the likes of Metallica, Pink Floyd and more. Nobody would confuse them with Halestorm just a stage down – but the two shows were closer in rollicking, shredding energy than you certainly would've expected at the start.
The thrash levels came down a bit after that intense introduction, but the band's feverous performance level certainly did not. (Nor – maybe just from my spot – did the pounding bass levels, unfortunately muddying and overwhelming some of the night's vocals and sound.)
Portugal. The Man continued an unrelenting flurry of roaring, catchy psychedelic sound for the rest of the set, rarely pressing pause to chat with the crowd much less to even switch to the next song. Each song was like the surreal visuals behind the band: shapes, faces and figures melding and flowing into one another while amped-up renditions of the strutty "Purple Yellow Red and Blue," "Atomic Man" and "Evil Friends" did the same through the speakers. The result was a 75-minute wall of casually rocking, happily eardrum-pummelling music that regularly defied expectations and genre – each hit or out-of-the-blue cover (Nirvana and "Hey Jude" would make later appearances) coming as a giddy pop of surprise in the sweep of the set.
Thanks to the music itself, it was a show with definite personality – even if the band didn't make much time to get personal with the Oasis audience. Again, there weren't many interactions with the crowd once the train started rolling, with the only particularly memorable one coming from Carothers briefly and modestly announcing that the Brew City performance was ironically his first sober show – but he still knew how to party. (If Thursday night's set is any sign: Confirmed.)
Even the staging itself wasn't helpful in the engagement department, the band members spending much of the night backlit by the lights and screen behind them, appearing mostly like rocking silhouettes. Some in the crowd might've taken it all as impersonal – but the aesthetic actually worked quite well with the overall hazy, overwhelming sensory experience vibe of the evening.
Indeed, Portugal. The Man's show was pumped-up burst of good vibes, ending a whole day of incredible ones at the Oasis stage. The sunny ambient pop groove of Milky Chance was pure summer vibes – well-received by a strikingly massive crowd for a 6:15 p.m. booking, giving the Oasis essentially two headliner-level shows on Thursday. (Only fair since they lost their Saturday headliner earlier that day.) Follow that with the Strokes-esque Geese and Portugal. The Man's eclectic electricity powering out vibes into the Summerfest night, and one of the last days of the festival was a first-place experience.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.