Summerfest: Sunday, June 27
Justin Bieber w/ Sean Kingston, B.B. King and Less Than Jake
Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
The Justin Bieber phenomenon can be explained in three words: YouTube, Usher and Twitter. The pint-sized Canadian singer was discovered through his YouTube channel, where he posted videos of himself covering R&B and pop hits and impressed one of the artists he covered, Usher. With Usher’s backing, Island Records signed the teenager and rushed him into the studio before puberty could set in, pairing him with the industry’s very best songwriters and producers to record sexless, tween-friendly alternatives to today’s glossy Top 40 hits.
Bieber is a fine singer and dancer, but
his true talent is social networking. He’s one of the biggest stars on Twitter,
where his 2.3 million followers ensure he’s a permanent trending topic. He
rewards the loyalty of his biggest fans by @-replying to them and re-tweeting
their declarations of love—the 2010 equivalent of signing an autograph.
Opener Sean Kingston is four years
older than Bieber, and fittingly that much edgier. “We can go to the tropics,
sip pina coladas, or we can go to the slums, where killas get hung,” he sings,
spiking his description of exotic locales with a hint of danger on his hit
“Take You There.” Though the 20-year-old sometimes hints at a gritty,
Akon-esque back-story, cautious parents need not worry too much. Kingston is more
interested in old-fashioned girl-chasing than gunplay. (Evan Rytlewski)
Classic Rock Stage, 9 p.m.
Few would argue the notion that B.B. King is the greatest living blues guitarist, a claim that he will once again prove when he takes the M&I Classic Rock Stage on June 27. But there would be no legend without Lucille, his beloved Gibson guitar, the most recent iteration of which is actually named the B.B. King Lucille model. And there would be no Lucille without that Arkansas fire.
It was 1949 and King, who earned the
moniker “Beale Street Blues Boy,” or B.B., thanks to his Memphis R&B radio
show, was performing at a dance hall in Twist, Ark. It was a cold night and the
proprietors lit a barrel half-full of kerosene to heat the room. Two men got
into a fight and knocked over the barrel, setting the hall on fire. King ran
out with the crowd, but then realized he left his $30 Gibson acoustic guitar
behind and went back for it.
The next day, King learned the men had
been fighting over a woman named Lucille, and she became the musician’s muse.
The original Lucille is long gone, but each subsequent guitar has taken on the
same name. It’s a reminder, King has said, to never again do anything as stupid
as run into a burning building or fight over a woman.
How sweet the latest Lucille plays will
be up to her Grammy-winning 84-year-old owner, now on the fourth year of his
“farewell tour.” But that’s something you can do if you’re a living legend.
Less Than Jake
Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.
Remember ska? In the graveyard of brief
trends from the 1990s, in the section devoted to upbeat, full-brass-section
musical revivals of decades-dead genres, ska is the one buried next to swing
music. Less Than Jake remembers ska pretty well. Of the bands that reached
mainstream success, they were one of the only pure products of the movement to
achieve mainstream success.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were a
holdover from 1980s attempts at ska; No Doubt was a hoax. And while both might
be seminal bands of Less Than Jake-era ska, Less Than Jake was the prototype
band. They were one of the early adopters of the pop-punk meets horns and
swing-beats style that defined ska at the end of the millennium. The trend
didn’t stick—it’s probably time to give up hope that those checkered Vans are
going to come back into vogue—but its appeal is extremely easy to understand.
More than a decade after their breakthrough, Less Than Jake still plays the
type of music that’s perfect for an outdoor gathering on a summer day. It’s
fun, it’s easy, it’s extremely danceable and, unlike swing music, it’s not
confined by a rigid historic tradition.
Remember ska? Yes, you do. You even remember how to skank. (Joe Uchill)