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Summerfest Daily Highlights: Sunday, July 1

The Beach Boys, Robyn and Chicago

Jun. 20, 2012
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The Beach Boys
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.

Few bands have created their own musical genre, but if any group can claim that honor, it's The Beach Boys, who captured and turned the "surf sound" into the American pop music voice of a generation. Formed in 1961 by brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and high-school friend Al Jardine, The Beach Boys began life as The Pendletones. Their name changed—much to the band's own surprise—only after they recorded their first song, "Surfin'," in 1962 and the record company executive thought "The Beach Boys" was a more marketable moniker.

The band rocketed to the top of the charts with musical confections like "Surfin' USA," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Help Me, Rhonda" and "California Girls." But leader Brian Wilson's growing musical sophistication (not to mention his encroaching mental illness and massive drug intake) changed the band. Their 1966 album Pet Sounds is credited with prompting The Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but its follow-up album, Smile, was not released until 2004, owing to Brian Wilson's declining condition.

Decades of lawsuits and the death of Dennis Wilson in 1983 and Carl Wilson in 1998 followed, but The Beach Boys' songs endured. The current lineup for this 50th anniversary tour, which also includes early members Bruce Johnston and David Marks, will mix old favorites with songs from the new album That's Why God Made the Radio to remind us all that there is still hope for an endless summer. (Wouldn't it be nice?) —Michael Muckian


Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.

Stockholm-born and -bred singer Robyn has been a favorite among the dance-club crowd since her 1995 debut, Robyn Is Here, and she further solidified that standing with her 2010 trilogy Body Talk, Pt. 1, Pt. 2 and Pt. 3. The 33-year-old scored a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording with the catchy "Dancing on My Own," which pretty much describes her live performances. (She garnered two more Grammy nods earlier this year for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica album).

Robyn marches to the beat of her own drum machines, relying heavily on synth loops and mechanized beats to get her groove on. She clearly knows her way around a beat, having caught the attention of Katy Perry to open for Perry's "California Dreams" summer 2011 tour. For the curious and uninitiated, this is a good opportunity to catch the Swedish songbird in flight among the die-hard fans in the great outdoors. —Michael Muckian

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

James Pankow is fond of telling the story of the record producer who told him, "Man, if you get rid of the horns, we'll sign your band." Pankow, one of the founders of and trombonist for Chicago, likened the advice to telling Elton John to get rid of the piano. Pankow and his band mates didn't follow that advice, creating one of the first rock/big-band fusion groups to wail its place into America's pop music consciousness. The band, founded in the Windy City by students from DePaul and Roosevelt universities, embraced the brass, creating a sound and building a repertoire unlike those of most of its contemporaries.

The group formed in 1967 as Chicago Transit Authority, also the name of its first double-album (and the object of a subsequent cease-and-desist order from the real Chicago Transit Authority over the identity usage). Shortening its name to Chicago, the band became known for its brassy sound and, surprisingly, its popular ballads.

Lineups have changed over the years, most notably with the departure of vocalist Peter Cetera. In addition to Pankow, the current iteration includes founders Robert Lamm on keyboards, Lee Loughnane on trumpet and Walt Parazaider on sax and woodwinds. The group remains second only to The Beach Boys among American bands in Billboard single and album chart toppers, and it's easy to tell that, after more than 40 years, Chicago still has the brass to make its own singular musical statement. —Michael Muckian


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