The hardworking Summerfest performer doubles as performer and stage manager

MILWAUKEE — One of Summerfest’s hardest workers takes on the dual role of performer and stage manager. There are a lot of hard workers at Summerfest, and Eugene Gruber is among the best of them.

“It’s an investment of time and money, blood, sweat and tears, you know,” he said.

He is a manager at the Second Floor Stage. It’s a pop-up stage for local artists who get the chance to play the Big Gig. Many performers are acoustic cover artists. It’s a chance for local artists in the immediate area to make themselves known. On day four of Summerfest, the entire lineup was made up of people from the Waukesha area.

When you see him on stage, he’s the one helping out with sound checks, putting microphones in the right places, and helping out with anything the performers might need. Plus, pretty much all the gear you see – amps, mic stands, mixer and more – belongs to him.

“Assemble it piece by piece and at the end of the night take it apart and put it away, and I do that every day throughout the race,” Gruber said.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s a job he loves. It helps give artists a chance to perform on the biggest music stage. But he doesn’t just help other singers and guitarists perform, he’s also on stage with a guitar in his hand.

“It makes me feel like a kid like it was something I wanted to do when I was really, really young, and I never took advantage of it, and I can’t believe that at this age I do,” he said.

Gruber has been coming to Summerfest for as long as he can remember. In fact, before he started performing on the festival grounds, he was playing a song outside for those entering.

“I always wanted to play here. When I started playing alone, I was playing outside the north gate,” he said.

He performs on the second floor stage and on the Local Motion Music Cart which can move around the Summerfest grounds.

“(It’s) exclusively designed to be used by my team because we run the stage all day and we all like to play so when we go out there. That’s where we do our entertainment.

So if he doesn’t play guitar, he helps set up guitarists. It’s a lot of hard work, but he’s a man who has achieved his dreams and loves Summerfest.

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