Summerfest Daily Highlights: Saturday, July 2
Jason Mraz, Maroon 5 and Loretta Lynn
Marcus Amphitheater, 6:30 p.m.
Singer Jason Mraz has attracted an international following thanks to an engaging, upbeat sound that comes, in part, from an "idyllic" childhood in Mechanicsville, Va., a white-picket-fence town he once described as "a good place to grow up." His sound has attracted a multi-generational following.
The artist blends multiple influences from folk, pop, jazz, hip-hop and others into his songwriting. "I'm Yours," Mraz's breakaway hit from his third album, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., has a distinct reggae flavor. The song has attracted fans as far away as New Zealand and Norway, and sold more than 5 million copies in the United States alone.
Mraz—whose name means "frost" in his native Czech—started out in community theater, once playing Joseph in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. For a short time he studied musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, eventually dropping out to focus on songwriting. Those combined experiences helped catapult the 34-year-old singer/songwriter into his current career.
Mraz, a vegan, owns an avocado farm in Oceanside, Calif., and supports multiple social causes. He's engaged to singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman, but they refuse to marry on principle until gay marriage becomes legal. (Michael Muckian)
Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.
It's been 17 years since four high schoolers in Los Angeles decided to form a grunge garage band named after a girl they all had a crush on. Kara's Flowers would play their first date at the well-known club Whisky a Go Go and go on to record an album, but it would take another seven years before overnight-sensation syndrome would hit once the band changed its name to Maroon 5. With four hit singles from their debut album, Songs About Jane, vocalist Adam Levine and the band were bona-fide hit-makers, going on to win the Best New Artist Grammy in 2005.
Levine's high-pitched pop vocals set against the band's funky-music-white-boy grooves proved to be what the band needed—and fans wanted to hear—to sustain the momentum. Following two live albums along with a remix, the Marooners released a third studio album in 2010, Hands All Over, with its second single, the catchy, irresistible pop rock "Give a Little More," signaling that the band was back in business. Since Levine is busy as a contestant judge and coach on the TV talent show "The Voice," now's your chance to hear the band in a rare live Milwaukee appearance. (Harry Cherkinian)
M&I Classic Rock Stage, 10 p.m.
Loretta Lynn has always been a country traditionalist at heart. She began her recording career in the early '60s, during a time when the genre's few female stars earned their fame by reaching a crossover audience. "At the time there weren't really any women doing country music except for Kitty Wells," Lynn recalled in an interview last year with the Shepherd. "Patsy Cline was going down the middle of the road, doing pop and country, and Wanda Jackson was in the middle of the road, too."
Lynn preferred hard-edged, meat-and-potatoes honky-tonk to glamorous crossover ballads, and it was in part because of that adherence to genre orthodoxy that she was able to take songwriting risks none of her peers dared to try. Using the traditional country sound to challenge traditional country values, she emerged as the genre's first feminist, not only standing up to her husband on hits like "Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," but also tackling elephant-in-the-room social issues, like birth control and the stigma facing divorced women.
That boldness has made her a hero to a younger generation of musicians, including Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Gretchen Wilson, who paid homage to Lynn on last year's compilation Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn, and Jack White, who produced Lynn's remarkable 2004 comeback album, Van Lear Rose. (Evan Rytlewski)