Cold War Kids Deliver Transcendent Performance at Summerfest

Cold War Kids Deliver Transcendent Performance at Summerfest

There was something transcendental about Cold War Kids’ performance last night at Summerfest.

Lead singer Nathan Willett seemed possessed by the music, letting the sounds flow over, around and through him until they became one with him. The concert was more than just a performance; it was an experience where the music and the artists merged into something greater than the songs they were playing.

That sense of being part of something extraordinary was palpable as I stood in the crowd for a jam session that outshone the songs themselves. Despite the no-nonsense setup—just five guys with their instruments and none of the backdrop screens often seen at Miller Lite stage performances—their musical acuity shone through.

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Cold War Kids’ humble beginnings as a group of friends working in an LA clothing store were evident in their grounded, authentic performance. They found early success with their debut EP in 2005, and have consistently released music in their signature indie rock, guitar-infused style since their 2007 debut album.


Throughout the show, I was charmed by the band’s versatility. Willett switched from his trademark high-pitched, often warb-like vocals to guitar and piano, even delivering an extended piano solo. Keyboardist Matthew Schwartz also switched to guitar, making for an engaging duet with the lead guitarist. The talent required to achieve and maintain this level of fame while playing multiple instruments was clearly evident throughout the show.

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Milwaukee fans were treated to a mix of songs from their new EP, “CWK,” which dropped earlier this year, as well as classic hits like “So Tied Up” and “First.” The crowd gave Cold War Kids a loud welcome for their return trip to Summerfest, and Willett expressed his gratitude, saying it was his best Milwaukee show yet — a sentiment he felt deeply, you could tell.

The 90-minute set concluded with their most popular song, “First,” with a rock star ending. Electric guitar, drums, keys, bass, and Willett’s vocals culminated in a cacophony of sound that vibrated all the way to Lake Michigan. The flickering lights and the final note had the crowd jumping out of their seats as they took in the spiritual experience of Cold War Kids’ Summerfest performance.