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Summerfest Daily Highlights: Thursday, June 28

Foo Fighters, Ben Folds Five and The Promise Ring

Jun. 20, 2012
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Foo Fighters
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.

Rock isn't dead and it probably never will be, but it's certainly seen better days. In recent years the genre has been stuck in a creative vacuum, resisting innovation even as its sales have nose-dived and it faces a challenge for the hearts and minds of young audiences from an insurgence of increasingly influential electronic acts. The genre may not be producing new stars the way it has in past decades, but at least one of its veteran acts is in a good place: Foo Fighters are coming off of the genre's biggest critical and commercial hit of last year, their seventh album, Wasting Light. That record, which reunited Dave Grohl with Nirvana producer Butch Vig, is the band's heaviest in ages, all bulldozing riffs and roaring choruses, and it makes a magnificent case for how vital gimmick-free rock music can still sound in 2012. “I just want to say: Never lose faith in real rock 'n' roll music,” Grohl said while accepting an MTV Music Video Award for the album, which also won five Grammys. More than most of his contemporaries, he's giving fans real reason to keep that faith. —Evan Rytlewski

Ben Folds Five

BMO Harris Pavilion with Miller Lite, 9:45 p.m.

One of the most successful bands to ever have a hit song about abortion (“Brick”), Ben Folds Five broke through the angst of the American music landscape in the 1990s with a refreshing piano-based alt-rock sound influenced by jazz and prone to spurts of improvisation. After disbanding in 2000, the group's vocalist and piano-playing namesake recorded solo albums, collaborated with William Shatner, wrote songs for animated feature films and served as one of the finest reality-TV judges ever on the a cappella singing competition “The Sing-Off.”

The members of Ben Folds Five reunited last year to record three new songs for the triple-disc compilation The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective—which, incidentally, redefined the worthiness and effectiveness of the box set format—and enjoyed themselves so much that they decided to give things another whirl. A new album is slated to drop in August. —Michael Popke

The Promise Ring
Harley-Davidson Roadhouse with Miller Genuine Draft, 10 p.m.

Following their triumphant late-February reunion show at the Turner Hall Ballroom, the members of Milwaukee favorite sons The Promise Ring made a decision that undoubtedly delighted legions of fans: They're keeping the band together. This summer, the indie-rock group's Summerfest gig falls in the middle of their reunion tour, a cross-country jaunt that will bring them to such cities as Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. And there are signs that this reunion will be more than a summer fling. The band is set to play Seattle's Bumbershoot festival in early September, along with Riot Fest in Chicago on Sept. 14.

As of yet, the band has been tight-lipped on whether or not they will be debuting any new material at these shows, and there's still no word of a follow-up to 2002's underrated Wood/Water. But California-based Dangerbird Records will release a collection of rare studio and live tracks from The Promise Ring to coincide with the group's summer dates. Here's hoping we see them at next year's Big Gig, too. —Michael Carriere


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