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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summerfest Daily Highlights: Wednesday, June 27

Rascal Flatts w/ Little Big Town, Kool and the Gang and Steve Miller Band

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Rascal Flatts w/ Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.


It's easy to see why Rascal Flatts has become one of America's favorite country bands. The group, which met up in Nashville by way of Columbus, Ohio, includes lead vocalist Gary LeVox, multi-instrumentalist Jay DeMarcus, and vocalist and lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney. Rascal Flatts creates country music that appeals to young and old alike, making it one big family affair (LeVox and DeMarcus are second cousins).

These Rascals started out strong in 2000 with their self-titled debut and the hit “Prayin' for Daylight,” a song that got them signed to a label in the first place. The debut's upbeat music and pleasant country-pop twangs propelled the next three hits to the Top 10: “This Everyday Love,” “While You Loved Me” and “I'm Movin' On,” which went on to win Song of the Year from the Academy of Country Music in 2002. Since then, the trio has released another eight albums, including 2012's Changed. About the only thing that's changed for Rascal Flatts is their audiences: They keep getting bigger and bigger. —Harry Cherkinian

Kool and the Gang
Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.


Nothing moves a crowd as quickly as a solid funk beat, music that de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings the rhythm groove of bass and drums to the forefront. No practitioner has met with quite as much success as Kool and the Gang, the Jersey City, N.J., ambassadors of classic funk.

Started in 1964 as the Jazziacs by Robert “Kool” Bell and his brother Ronald, whose father was friends with jazz great Thelonious Monk, the group quickly began mixing its jazz with soul and rhythm-and-blues to develop a potent funk mixture. In 1967 they became Kool and the Flames, quickly abandoning the name to avoid confusion with The Famous Flames, James Brown's backup band. In 1969, they signed their first recording deal with De-Lite Records as Kool and the Gang.

Along with drummer George Brown, alto saxophonist Dennis Thomas and others, the band recorded a string of hits, including “Open Sesame,” picked up for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and “Jungle Boogie,” used in the film Pulp Fiction. There's a good chance their biggest hit, “Celebration,” is played at some public event somewhere in the world every day of the year.

The Bells, Brown and Thomas are still with the band, bringing their distinctive brand of funk to fans old and new. —Michael Muckian

Steve Miller Band

BMO Harris Pavilion with Miller Lite, 10 p.m.


Some people call him the Space Cowboy, some call him the Gangster of Love. But whatever his nom de tune, Milwaukee native Steve Miller is coming home. Miller, a scion of the 1960s San Francisco rock scene, got his musical start in the Badger State. Born in Milwaukee in 1943, Miller was 4 years old when an uncle gave him his first guitar. Family friend Les Paul taught him some early licks and told him that musically he “was really going places.”

When the Millers moved to Dallas, a series of musicians played in the family living room, including blues great T-Bone Walker. Miller formed his first band with high-school friend Boz Scaggs, who then followed Miller to UW-Madison, where they formed other bands with fellow student and current Madison-based jazz pianist and NPR personality Ben Sidran, author of “Space Cowboy.”

After not quite graduating from UW-Madison, Miller became part of the Chicago blues scene, then migrated to San Francisco as the psychedelic sound was beginning to emerge. His pop side eventually flourished as “The Joker,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Fly Like an Eagle” and other hits entered his repertoire.

Listen for your favorites as well as cuts from his 2010 album Bingo! And be prepared to add “Badger” to his list of musical identities. —Michael Muckian

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