Title Photo Credit: Joe Create
This year marked the fifth anniversary of Summer Set Music Festival held in Somerset, Wisconsin. For me, this was my fourth year in a row attending the festival. I've seen the festival change every year in order to help create the best festival experience possible. This year, The stage layout was changed back to it's most well-known four stage layout; The Saloon, The Big Top, The Grove and The Main Stage. The lineup had a large focus on local acts from the tri-state area; Bassnectar returned as a headliner along with Chance The Rapper and Skrillex.
I pulled into Somerset around 11 A.M. of day one and returned to where I first experienced Summer Set, The North Campground. Summer Set introduced a new ticketing system this year by packaging daily passes with camping passes, lowering a lot of confusion for festival goers. The North Campground itself was also changed into a tent-only site. This meant that campers would be parking in a nearby lot and bringing their supplies into the campground from there.
I was guided into my parking spot, then I made a game plan. Everyone had to go through a security checkpoint before entering the campground, even if you were making multiple trips. Since it was just me staying in the North Campground, I would have to make multiple trips. I waited in line to get through security, this is where made my first connections of the weekend; a wedding DJ from Chicago and a couple who packed smart and pulled a collapsible wagon behind them. We talked about who we were excited to see, and even traded a shot of my sun screen for a bottle of water. As everyone knows, it's all about trades while camping at festivals. After passing through security, I set up at my assigned campsite. The perk about no cars was that you could have a well organized campground layout without having to worry about squeezing in vehicles. I quickly set up my tent and went back to my car, where I loaded up my bags on both shoulders and trudged through security one more time. While this process was long, keep in mind that it was just me for the time being. Most groups I talked to were able to get everything inside in one trip.
My Summer Set music experience kicked off with SNBRN at my favorite stage: The Big Top. This stage was a huge, four-peak tent equipped with multi colored uplighting on each peak and wildly patterned material hanging inside. Together the setup gave the stage a true carnival feel. SNBRN delivered his unique Sunset House sound as he always does, while the crowd was blasted with an orange glow of the warm sunset-colored LED panels.
The warmth and sun didn't last long, however, because the rain showers started later that afternoon. I met up with my friends who were camping at Float Rite, located literally across the road from the festival. After catching up over some drinks, I left to catch Emancipator back at The Big Top.
Because of the rain, the dance area at The Big Top was now turned into slippery mud. That didn't stop everyone from dancing to Emanicaptor's set. Some people were even showing off their Poi skills in the back of the crowd. Emancipator's set consisted of soft, electro tracks as the LED panels showed off their full potential, displaying crystal clear images of random cityscapes at sunset.
The festival grounds were fairly quiet at this point. Many people headed back to their campsites to wait out the rain, however, I was ready for more music. I headed down hill to The Grove Stage. This stage was hidden in a valley surrounded by trees. If people wanted their pyro fix, this was the spot. Not only was fire found on stage, but from a large gas-powered metal sculpture. There were chains hanging from the sculpture that people could pull in order to give the fire a quick shot of gas. I found myself pulling it multiple times throughout the weekend. I made it down the hill to The Grove stage to witness an amazing set from Tory Lanez in the rain. The combination of the smaller crowd size, Tory constantly climbing on top of people, combined with the rain made it one of the most intimate sets I would see all weekend. I stuck around The Grove and met up with my friends to watch a two hour set from STS9. The slow burn of the fire sculpture, beautiful colors of the post-rain sky, along with the upgraded stage lighting from previous years, made for the perfect setting to catch the live sound of STS9 while laying on the hillside.
We wrapped up the first night with Chance The Rapper headlining at The Main Stage. This was a rare set, because Chance brought along his live band, The Social Experiment. People in the crowd were singing along while a large ferris wheel and spinning carnival ride glowed behind them. Chance and The Social Experiment sounded equally amazing, ending day one with a peaceful vibe.
After showering and grabbing some coffee and a veggie breakfast wrap from the vendors located near the campground, I hopped on a Festi Cab back to my friends at Float Rite. For a few dollars, you could hop on one of these golf cart cabs and get dropped off anywhere through the campgrounds. After catching up with the Float Rite crew, I made my way to the festival gates, where I would wait for a half hour gate delay until getting through at 3 o'clock. I quickly made my way to The Big Top to catch Ghost Channels' set already underway. The Minneapolis DJ dropped a great mix of House music originals and remixes, such as his track “Channing Tatum” with fellow Minnesotan, Megan Hamilton, and a filthy remix of Flux Pavilion's “Bass Cannon”. Summer Set's mascot, Big Ray, decided to come out on stage during Ghost Channels' set. The shades-wearing sun character waved the Summer Set flag and hyped up the crowd in front of an LED panel displaying Ghost Channels logo, filled with television static. Minneapolis was making it's mark at The Big Top, because fellow residents, Judah, were up next. Judah played a set filled with heart-pounding Progressive Trance, including their original with Fatum titled “Anybody”. Fans bounced in front of a glowing red stage as go go dancers made their appearance and blew bubbles out into the crowd.
After The Big Top sets, some friends and I decided to explore the vendors for the first time that weekend. The vendor turnout was bigger this year, which was great. You could find everything for sale from dreamcatchers to LED headbands, You could also get your arms tie-dyed, and sample some alcohol. The ladies supported one of the vendors, who recycled old Disney and other cartoon character prints and sewed them into Clothing. Later in the weekend, I would pick up a couple of prints from one of the local artist booths.
I said my goodbyes to my friends who had to head back to Minneapolis, then made my way back to The Big Top for Illenium. This was the first time I caught the tent overflowing with fans. He rocked out on his drum pads through his slower melodic and fast remixed tracks. Shortly after the set, I got the chance to chat with Illenium. He would do a second set later kick off the after party that night.
I hung out in the area where I interviewed Illenium to catch a cool view of the crowd at the Main Stage waiting for Minnesota's own, Atmosphere, to perform. There was a purple glow from the stage that flooded onto the crowd as Prince's “Purple Rain” blasted from the speakers. Atmosphere took to the stage and performed a lot of classics plus a couple new tracks from the new album “Fishing Blues”. The Minnesota love was at it's peak on this night. Screams rolled through the crowd at any mention of the state from Atmosphere's Slug on the Mic.
Grimes was performing at The Grove before Bassnectar shook The Main Stage. I've never seen her live, but had heard nothing but great things. Tons of stage and CO2 blasted on stage while she screamed along to her track “Scream” featuring Thai rapper, Aristophanes. After the song, Grimes would get on the mic in her perky voice to introduce each track. This was the perfect atmosphere to pull the chain on the fire sculpture one more time.
After Bassnectar's headbang-worthy set on The Main Stage, the night wrapped up at the Grove with Illenium's second set of the day, followed by JAUZ. My friends and I watched from the hillside alongside the group of hammocks set up for festival goers to enjoy. Even after a full day of music, everyone raged out to the hard hitting remixes of Illenium and dirty beats of JAUZ.
I woke up early and packed up my campsite, after that I grabbed a coffee from the nearby vendors and sat at the Festi Cab pick up bench waiting for a ride. Here, I met one of the drivers and said that the Summer Set crowd was the most fun, yet behaved crowd she's experienced at a festival in a long time. I was dropped back off at Float Rite and hung out with my friends until later that afternoon.
Unfortunately, I had lost track of time and had missed my chance to support the Minneapolis DJs; Zak Michaels, AZN Persuasion and Mic Daddy at The Big Top. I did, however, make it just in time for the set I had been looking forward to all weekend, Claptone. The soft and smooth House tracks from Claptone flowed perfectly with the intimate crowd. Next time, I'm remembering a Claptone Mask!
I met back up with my friends at The Main Stage for Marshmello's set. We were able to grab a perfect spot on the right edge of the crowd near the front. Perfect for dancing along without worrying about getting pushed around. The pyro-heavy set kept Mellogang party lit and had wrapped up with “KeEp IT MeLLo”.
After the set I caught up with one of my favorite booths at the festival, The Silent Disco presented by local radio station 89.3 The Current. This year they grabbed an awesome spot right behind The Main Stage. The person I talked to said that next year they're planning on setting up just outside the festival grounds for everyone at the festival and nearby Float Rite park to enjoy!
Year five was finally wrapping up with Skrillex at The Main Stage. We were lucky enough to grab the same spot from when we watched Marshmello, however, we still managed to be engulfed by the enormous crowd totem-filled crowd, including a giant octopus that Skrillex kept giving shout outs to. As you would expect, Skrillex delivered his hard hitting Dubstep originals, some Hip Hop transitions, and some Jack U tracks. The set was hit with never-ending clouds of CO2 glowed red from Skirllex's famous red lit stage. This was the first time I had caught Skirllex live as well. It was amazing!
So concluded another year of Summer Set. At this point, the festival feels like an old friend. The grounds are familiar, yet the festival gets fine-tweaked every year to keep me coming back for more. Big thank you to the folks at Summer Set for having me be a part of their anniversary weekend!