I just made you say underwear

I probably didn’t. I probably haven’t made you say anything.

That’s actually a lyric, from the song “Pinch Me” by the Barenaked Ladies.

The band who was catapulted to ubiquitous radio airplay and stardom in the late ’90s by the song “One Week” provided the soundtrack to a Fourth of July night at BMO Harris Pavilion at Summerfest. They joked about the irony of a Canadian band being a part of Milwaukee’s Independence Day festivities, but somehow it seemed like just the right band at just the right time.

From the bleachers, flanked by Lake Michigan on the left, I was treated to a show from a band I’ve been a fan of for about 15 years. It was one of those moments that reminds me why being a music fan is truly the best kind of fan to be. I’ve always argued that little compares to the energy and the reward of a live show. When that live show is more than a decade in the making – and the band delivers more than expected – the reward is truly sweet.

BNL opened with a couple of new tunes, which initially felt like a bit of a letdown. I would’ve loved for them to launch right into “Brian Wilson” or “If I Had $1,000,000.” My disappointment, however, was short-lived. I enjoyed the new stuff and then was all the more excited when they launched into “Pinch Me.” Over the course of the night, they sang the aforementioned hits, along with “Be My Yoko Ono” and the Big Bang Theory Theme song.

Though “One Week” is nowhere near their best tune, it was quite fun to hear live. With its rapid-fire lyrics about pop culture, it’s so delightfully annoying, overplayed and kind of wonderful. Singer Ed Robertson impressively delivers the wonderfully weird, rhyming lyrics, spewing them like buckshot.

The band is known for being quirky and a bit off-kilter. Which might be part of the reason I’ve loved them so much over the years. Their stage show was in keeping with that beloved oddball-ness. Robertson did a fantastic freestyle rap about Summerfest, and there was quite a bit of banter among band mates between songs. And then there were the good-hearted jokes about Rush. “This is the first time we’ve ever played a show with absolutely zero Rush fans,” Robertson joked with the crowd, alluding to the night’s main-stage headliners Rush, performing just next door at Marcus Amphitheater. The band played a few bars of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” at one point and even said they attended the warming-up of the other band before going onstage themselves.

Aside from the joy of hearing songs I’ve loved for years and their comedic repartee in between, I really enjoyed when the band did a few of their new tunes, huddled at the front of the stage, showing their prowess on the upright bass, the banjo and even bongo drums.

At the end of the show, after people had already started filing out, the band did a hilariously-awesome medley of pop songs that included Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and yes, Macklemore. It was worth sticking around for. For the encore, Robertson switched places with the band’s drummer Tyler Stewart, who performed their humorous ode to adult beverages, the diddy “Alcohol.”

Thanks, Ladies, for a superb Canadian-infused, music-filled Fourth. You rocked it.


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