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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summerfest 10 p.m. Headliners

Galactic, Polyphonic Spree, Michael Franti

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New Orleans’ Galactic is one of the few bands in the jam scene to attempt hip-hop without embarrassing themselves. Unlike all the bands that condescend with snot-nosed, novelty covers of rap hits or time with monotone raps, Galactic challenges themselves with more thoughtful, complex hip-hop rhythms. Of course, it helps that instead of relying on a dreadlocked novice rapper, they outsource established emcees to do the rapping for them. At their last Milwaukee appearance they brought along Chali 2na of the Jurassic this time around, at their 10 p.m. Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard show, they’re performing with militant funkmonger Boots Riley, of The Coup.

The Polyphonic Spree traded in their colorful, gospel-choir robes in for more menacing militia uniforms to promote their latest disc, The Fragile Army, but the sunny vibrations so central to the band’s sound haven’t gone anywhere. Using the massive, orchestral rock of The Flaming Lips as their starting point, the Spree have a vibrant sound that doesn't quite come across on record but absolutely overwhelms in concert, where the spectacle of this singing, costumed cult drives the music. They’ll do a 10 p.m. show at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage tonight.

Michael Franti gets more political with each album. With his reggae/hip-hop outfit Spearhead, he's moved from the broad promotion of peace in the band's 1994 debut, Home—which housed songs such as "Positive," "Piece O' Peace" and "Love is Da Shit"—to the infinitely more-detailed rally cries of their latest, Yell Fire!, which examines the war-torn Middle East. Expect at least a few references to the impending presidential election tonight when Michael Franti and Spearhead does a 10 p.m. Harley-Davidson Roadhouse show.

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