In Festival Guide

The 10,000 Maniacs played a half set tonight before the storms came. (PHOTO: Dan Garcia)

10,000 Maniacs fans will never know if "Hey, Jack Kerouac" was on setlist

Hey, Generation X'ers, we might need special glasses to read our bar receipts now, but we still know how to party. Maybe not as hard and as often, but we still got it. Go here for more Gen X bands at the Big Gig.

At least 1,000 people showed up for the 10,000 Maniacs concert at Summerfest today – a decent crowd for 4 p.m. on a weekday – and although the show was cut abruptly short due to approaching storms, it started out strong and sweet.

A reserved Mary Ramsey – who replaced Natalie Merchant in 1995 – took center stage wearing black sunglasses, black pants and a plain black jacket – with the rest of the band, including her husband, rhythm guitarist John Lombardo. The couple performed in the '80s and '90s as a folk duo called, aptly, "John & Mary."

The band opened with "Like the Weather" which was foreshadowing in retrospect considering the weather would also close out the show. Ramsey immediately reminded those of us in the audience who wore out our "In My Tribe" cassette that her voice, phrasing and affectations are incredibly eerily similar to Merchant's.

Ramsey's voice mirrored Merchant's in numerous other songs, particularly in hits like the compassionate "Trouble Me," "You Happy Puppet," "Cherry Tree" and "What's the Matter Here?" a heart-wrenching fan favorite about an abusive mother and her young son.

Musically, Ramsey – a classically trained violinist who began learning the instrument at age 5 – adds a lot. She brings mood, depth and originality to the familiar songs like "Eden" through her incredible violin playing.

Although Ramsey is clearly the heart of the band – she even removed her black jacket midway through the show to expose a satin blood-red shirt underneath – she graciously gave accolades to her bandmates and stepped side stage so they could perform a pre-10,000 Maniacs song.

And then the proverbial needle loudly scratched across the proverbial record and the show was over. The stage manager announced that, despite the fact the sun was still bouncing off the few open spots on the aluminum bleachers, the weather was about to get really nasty and fans should take cover.

Ramsey did look up at the sky but said nothing, smiled, removed her violin from the stand, waved goodbye to the crowd and walked off the stage. It ended as abruptly as this review is about to, with a slightly-shocked crowd shuffling toward exits and beer tents, curious but never to know what was left uncrossed from the set list.


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