Playing a large festival is both a blessing and a curse, especially for up and coming bands. The blessing – The band is playing to a larger audience than you’d typically see at a bar. The curse – A majority of the audience is indifferent to the music.
That scenario was no different for Nashville based Leagues at Summerfest, Wednesday night in Milwaukee. A 5:30pm start time provided a mixed audience of those who wanted to see Leagues, a group heading out the door after drinking since noon and late arrivals coming down to the festival after work.
League’s time slot allowed for a way too brief 35 minute set. So they wasted no time and launched into “One Hand” from their debut, You Belong Here. On the record, it’s a fairly mellow song, built around lead singer Thad Cockrell’s voice. But it came to life on stage by highlighting the guitar work of Tyler Burkum. And that was the story for a lot of the songs. They’re good on the record, but damn, they sound even better live. ‘Haunted’, ‘Magic’, ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Walking Backwards’ all benefited from a larger sound on the stage.
Lead singer Thad Cockrell (who is not a douche) has come a long way as the front man for the band. When I saw Leagues open for Mat Kearney during the bands infancy, Mr. Cockrell had yet to find his comfort zone as the lead. He was timid, hesitant and struggled to convey the energy of the music. But not this time around. He commanded the audience’s attention. Seamlessly moving around the stage, making numerous attempts to connect with the crowd. At one point he said “I’m about to dance like an idiot, consider that your invitation to do the same.”
Those in attendance were treated to an energetic, but all too short of a set. The large festival blessing & curse applies to the fans too.