101 W. Bayfield St.
Washburn Wisconsin 54891United States
Midwest Living Recommends
One of the Midwest's most beloved outdoor arts venues presents live music tailored mainly to the NPR crowd all summer.
The Lake Superior Big Top preserves the nearly lost experience of gathering under a soaring tent on a summer night for live music. The giant tent, which seats around 700 in the main tent and has overflow room for more, sits at the base of a ski hill just south of the vacation town of Bayfield, Wisconsin. The summer-long lineup includes big-name national acts, such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Garrison Keillor ("a who's who of Americana music," the operations manager calls it). Plus, there are plenty of local folk acts, including the house band. The acoustics have been refined through the years to provide an excellent musical experience, and the speakers and other audio equipment are topnotch. Selection generally skews toward the folk music and NPR crowds. We attended the house band's original production "Take It To The Lake," saluting the Great Lakes in an enjoyable, professionally executed mix of poems, songs, dance numbers and essays. Some musical numbers, we must say, are definitely going to be funnier to fans of show tunes and old vaudeville schtick, and some of the environmental readings get a little precious in their embrace of Mother Earth (witness the silhouetted yoga moves taking place behind the big screen during one reading). But the production quality and musical performances are excellent, and if you like Keillor's show, you'll love the Big Top. And just as if to prove it's not too highbrow, on the night after our visit, the Big Top was presenting "The Music of ABBA."