Summer Set Music Festival 2016 Won Festival Season
Summer Set Music Festival celebrated their 5th year anniversary August 12-14th. Since its start, the festival has changed dramatically, from the tickets we buy to the land on which the festival sits. Just when we think that Summer Set can’t get any better, it does.
For the 5th anniversary, Summer Set wanted to bring their festival full circle. From Cherub, who have played every year, to Grimes, a powerhouse of an act who has yet to hit Wisconsin, this year’s headliners d’t stop at the top 3 names on the ticket. There was an artist to satisfy all tastes at Summer Set, from rap to synth pop. Friday’s top contenders were Mija, Lewis del Mar, and Chance the Rapper. Mija was a stand out hit (as per usual) as one of the few female DJs on the lineup to bring such a large crowd. Her versatile style was unmatched the entire weekend. Lewis del Mar, two outgoing guys, left everyone with a smile at the end of their set through their mission of exploration and creativity shining through.
As someone who is not a fan of rap music, Chance the Rapper was a really good show. Playing with a live band called The Social Experiment, Chance went the way of politics and social change rather than bitches and the club scene. His visuals were real and down-to-earth with photos of a younger time. Of course, the entirety of the set wasn’t all politics and tears, but the message portrayed was one of unity and understanding which something you don’t see much anymore with popular rap artists.
Saturday was one for the history books. It seemed every artist on the lineup was either making a comeback or introducing a new album. Black Tiger Sex Machine had the Big Top stage overflowing with fans. The group has truly made a name for themselves on the festival circuit, and those who love the group are willing to travel to see them. They’ve gained a following for good reason, they’re just a step above the rest. Autograf brought their chill house vibes to The Grove stage, making a smooth transition to the funky tunes brought by Cherub. Atmosphere held the locals in awe. As Minnesota natives, these guys brought the Midwest vibes to the Main stage, showing eternal love for their city and where they came from. Slug’s flawless voice booming through the natural amphitheater.
Grimes was the stand out performance of Saturday, in fact the entire weekend. After years in the studio, her latest album has shot her to the top and everyone wants a piece. This one-woman show (with the exception of a couple dancers) had the entirety of the Grove in awe. Passersby made the hike down the hill and those in the campgrounds pressed against the fences. Precision is an understatement in regards to the way Grimes would jump from singing and dancing to dominating the drum and MIDI machines. The swift way she moved across the stage was flawlessly orchestrated, she literally never missed a beat, and the sound quality at the Grove made it all worth the while. The set reminded us of why live shows exist in the first place. This gal was a tough act to follow.
Bassnectar held a great spot as the one to close the main stage before Jauz’s after party. As promised, his omnitemo maximalism was at its finest. The sound quality at Summer Set is unmatched, and Lorin continues coming back for this reason. The bass can be turned up and everything still sounds smooth and crisp. One begs to wonder how it is that Bassnectar can be banned from several venues due to noise complaints when the Summer Set Amphitheater is only blocks away from a dense residential neighborhood. It is possible that the natural amphitheater pushes the sound up rather that out, reducing the intensity in the surrounding area…but that’s another investigation entirely.
Sunday was a day for DJs. It seemed the filthy bass crew came to hang out on Day 3. Mr. Carmack kept it unique and NGHTMRE destroyed those without earplugs. Marshmello made his Summer Set debut and left with hundreds of new fans. Those who had yet to check out the anonymous DJ were pleased with all the previous hype. It’s clear this guy knows the ropes, whoever he may be. Skrillex was the favorite of the night. Every time he gets on stage, the crowd cannot help but stay captivated until the lights go out, Summer Set was no different. From the light show to the family photo, the festival could not get enough. His sound design has become a genre that is impossible to pinpoint and his popularity proves he moves in the right direction. Exhausted from the weekend, attendees were still screaming for more following Skrillex.
The after parties and VIP sets at Summer Set were the true gems of the festival. In order to grasp the full experience, going that extra mile with VIP or Afters tickets was the way to go; the textbook cure for FOMO. All those in attendance at Jauz and Zhu were talking about these sets until the music started up again for the following day. Zhu kicked off the festival Friday with a long awaited live set; it seemed to take a lifetime to get the stage ready, but it was worth the wait. Zhu’s flawless falsetto brought sex appeal to the Grove, his latest album GENERATIONWHY sounded even better in person. The band sounded straight from the studio, with exceptional sound and smooth transitions. The concert played like a DJ set, with each song teasing and turning into the next, leaving the crowd itching for more. It was a smooth start to the festival and a perfect dance-able wind-down to Day 1. Meanwhile, Cherub played a secret set in the VIP “lounge.” Word traveled fast once people found out, and the secret quickly turned into festival buzz. The funky set kept VIPs dancing into the wee hours of the night.
Jauz brought the hype to Saturday night. Those still flying high from Grimes and Bassnectar couldn’t have been happier to continue to rage. Heading to the festival without a regular time slot, Jauz couldn’t help but bring everything he had. Transitioning from his signature future house to only the hardest dubstep bass, earplugs were highly recommended for this party. The entirety of the festival could hear the set, even if Afters tickets were never purchased. Stories of attendees dancing at the fences just to be closer to the music circulated all day Sunday. Meanwhile in VIP, Autograf smoothed things over for their pop-up set. A perfect juxtaposition for Jauz over in the Grove, these guys never disappoint with their effortless teamwork to bring you the smoothest grooves you can’t help but dance to.
For the festival’s 5th year, Summer Set finally hit the nail on the head when it comes to their stages. The Main Stage held household crowd-pleasers such as Chance the Rapper, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Mija and more. With a Ferris wheel, a Yo Yo ride, sponsor attractions, and natural stadium seating, the Main stage held the most entertainment value of the festival. It’s the Main stage that has continued to be a constant at Summer Set. The Saloon sat back at the top of the hill overlooking the Main stage. With a wooden interior and an intimate stage, the Saloon held many local favorites that Midwesterners flocked to see. The Big Top sat at the top of the hill on the way to the Grove. With its signature circus-style white vaulted tent, the Big Top was best seen at an aerial view. The tent provided some shade, which allowed for the lights and LED walls on stage to continue to rage all day, no matter how sunny. This feature was perfect for the electronic acts at that stage such as NGHTMRE and Black Tiger Sex Machine. The Big Top has been the place to rage since its inception.
The Grove deserves a round of applause. Each year organizers find a way to make the Grove just a little bit bigger and a little bit better. Just when we think the Grove can’t improve, somehow it still impresses attendees. From its humble beginnings as Summer Set’s second stage, the Grove can no longer be considered second to the Main. At the bottom of a fairly steep hill, the natural amphitheater had both plenty of “floor” space in front of the stage as well as hill seating. The interactive, fire-spitting statue at the bottom of the hill never seemed to stop shooting flames. Any passerby could come and pull a string, releasing a burst of fire into the sky above. The Grove held memorable acts such as Grimes, STS9, and both after parties.
It seems the stages at Summer Set are a rotating turn-style of trial and error. The first year’s Hockey Rink is now a bad distant memory, yet the Grove can no longer be considered as second to the main stage. Last year, the addition of the Meadow at the top of the hill separating the Grove from the main stage held acts like Nahko & Medicine for the People and Cloud Cult. It replaced the spot of the previous Big Top (which replaced the Hockey Rink), pushing the electronically-charged stage to the bottom of the hill behind the Grove. As a consequence, few actually traveled as far as the Big Top, and getting back to the Meadow was a grueling trek uphill. The creators of SSMF saw this and decided to nix the Meadow and bring the Big Top back where it belongs. This move made the festival much easier to navigate. We think Summer Set has finally gotten it right when it comes to the stage setup, 5th time was a charm
Overall, Summer Set has made a name for itself as the destination camp-out for music lovers in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Word is starting to spread about this intimate festival, and more out-of-state plates are being spotted in the campground and parking lot year after year. The festival can only physically grow so large, but demand for this festival will continue to grow as long as the people of SIM Shows, React Presents and Majestic Live keep up their amazing hard work in listening to fans and improving the festival each year. We can’t wait for year 6!