Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Father John Misty, and Jade Bird June 16th, 2019 in Milwaukee, WI.
The Venue: The BMO Harris Pavilion
The BMO Harris Pavilion is a stage on the Summerfest grounds that holds concerts during the summer outside of the festival itself. If there is one stage that is better than the AmFam Amphitheater, (The Summerfest main stage) it’s this stage.
The stage hs cool RGB lights in the canopy and is situated right on the lake with a beautiful view of not just the stage, but the city around it. The only complaints I had was that this concert was pretty cold. That’s not the venue’s fault though. What is the venues fault, is the poor surround audio setup. Most of the speakers are located at the front of the venue with maybe 6 speakers at the back. This has a profound effect on the mix of the sound. Acts like Father John Misty can sound washed out due to all the different sounds involved in their music, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Set 1: Jade Bird
Jade Bird opened the concert, and I was slightly surprised that she performed without her backing band. Despite that, she killed it. Her ability to flawlessly play the guitar and sing without any assistance is truly a sight to behold. My friend and amateur concert photographer Tom VanGaal looked at me a said: “She’s going to be popular one day.” She sounded just like she does on the album and had fun playful energy between songs. Even though the crowd was small, (only 50 or so people showed up early to see her) she got a standing ovation when she got done. She played most of her popular songs and played an unreleased song called “Early Bird” before ending with “Going Gone.”
Set 2: Father John Misty
Next up was Father John Misty. I expected everybody to stand up at this point. Instead, everybody stayed seated and it seemed like most people were just waiting for Jason Isbell to start. I chalk this up to a couple of things: First, Father John Misty is a bit different from Jason Isbell so there might be little overlap in their fanbases. Second, it was pretty cold so people might’ve wanted to bundle up. Third, the audio setup did not do him any favors. His vocals were pretty drowned out and I find his lyrics to be his strongest attribute so it took a lot away from his show.
Despite all that, he put on a decent show and even played a song called “Time Makes Fools of Us All” which is an unreleased song he made for the movie “A Star is Born” but got rejected.
Set 3: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit
Finally, it was time for Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit to take the stage. They started with “Anxiety,” and the crowd went ballistic. You immediately forgot how cold it was and basked at the moment as Jason and Sadler displayed excellent guitar work. He even played a couple Drive-By Truckers songs, including “Outfit.” Which is a song he wrote for his father, and he decided to play it due to it being Father’s Day.
A notable scratch from the set was Amanda Shires. I later found out this was because she is on tour supporting a solo project. I don’t think it took away too much from the show though. She’s an integral part of The 400 Unit, but the guys did an excellent job.
Jason Isbell has the uncanny ability to tap into your emotions in a way that I have a hard time explaining. He called the whole concert a “cold, sad, summer beach party,” and I don’t think I could come up with a better description myself.