Thursday, June 28, 2012

Outdoor Music

Last night was the first of Concerts on the Square, a six-week free concert series on the lawn of the Capitol.  Every Wednesday in the middle of ungodly hot weather season, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra decides to put on black suits and test their wooden instruments' humidity-defying abilities.  The rest of Madison decides that, for one day, they'll move their Happy Hour celebrations to the grass in front of the Capitol.  The police are strangely cool with the whole situation.  This is a pretty fantastic event.  It’s outdoors, features free live music, and involves a bit of drinking.  

Sunshine, music, wine
Yeah, you normally wouldn’t peg the symphony-going crowd as a bunch of drinkers, but Concerts on the Square is a good drinking party.  Every group of four has at least six bottles of wine.  And why not?  It's not often you can bask under the midsummer sun and drink the evening away to Tchaikovsky and Copeland.  We enjoy it while we can and revel in every second of it.  The aftermath is a field of wine bottles strewn about with haggard soccer moms lurching after their husbands like zombies back to their car.  Like I said, a fantastic event.

The aftermath

But Concerts on the Square is just one of many outdoor concert opportunities in Wisconsin.  Of course there is the heart and soul of summertime Madison, the Union Terrace.  Since 1928, the Terrace has been the best place to soak up summertime culture.  Grab a pitcher of beer and a brat, find a table on the lake, and enjoy the music.  It's Madison summer Mecca.  If you know anybody who went to UW Madison, they'll have plenty of stories about needing to go study for finals, but the siren call of cheap microbrew and brats being too tempting to resist.  Have I sold you yet?  Check out the webcam to see what’s going on right now.

Soul of Madison summer

But Madison does not have a monopoly on outdoor music.  Milwaukee has a little get-together we like to call Summerfest.  It all started with a dream: in 1968 Henry W. Maier, the mayor of Milwaukee, wanted to start a festival that would rival Oktoberfest in Munich.  It may not rival the iconic German festival in beer consumed, but Summerfest has become the world’s largest music festival and brought amazing music acts to Milwaukee.  For just $16 a day, you can hear over 700 bands in this 11-day festival.  That’s over 60 bands a day, for only 25¢ a band! The grounds for Summerfest also host ethnic festivals all summer as well.  Polish Fest, German Fest, Festa Italia, and Irish Fest draw in thousands every year and feature the best in music, food, and culture from their respective countries.

And this happens all over Wisconsin - not just in the bigger cities.  From Superior to Beloit, almost any town of size offers plenty of free outdoor tunes.  We love music, we love drinking while listening to music, and we love getting outdoors in the summer.  Wisconsin may not be the most famous summer party spot, but we know how to have a great time.

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