I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Summer Set Music Festival in Somerset, Wisconsin. This year’s Summer Set, held this past weekend, was the sixth year of the three-day festival. I have attended every year except the first year.
This year there were four main areas where you could catch music: The Main Stage, The Grove Stage, The Saloon Stage, and a silent disco. There was also a surprise Pop-Up stage that appeared at a random location, and hosted random artists on Saturday and Sunday.
After pulling into the grounds and grabbing our wristbands and camping pass, my friend Jenn and I were on our way to set up camp. We passed through a seamless security check and were given directions where to park. Unfortunately, the directions were not so seamless because we set up in the wrong area.
After setting up, we headed to The Grove stage to check out BLU J. The Grove was a stage that was tucked downhill between the main festival grounds and the campgrounds. BLU J kicked off our day right with a House set, including their hit with SNBRN, “You Got Me”.
After BLU J, we walked to The Main Stage for the first time that weekend to catch Slushii already throwing down a massive set. The Main stage area is the actual amphitheater setup at Somerset Amphitheater. There was a large ferris wheel and swing ride on the cement area in front of The Main Stage, all surrounded by a grassy hill.
While we were at The Main Stage, we teamed up with the Summer Set media team to help our friend, Chris, propose to his girlfriend, Meggan. It was set up so that Meggan would look at the ferris wheel located on the grounds and see four signs saying “Will. You. Marry. Me?”, then turn around to see Chris on one knee. With the help of our friends and the amazing media team, it worked out and she said “Yes”!
With everyone in good spirits, we headed back to the Grove to check out sets from Ghastly and Malaa. Ghastly played some killer Dubstep including some dubby versions of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Otherwise” and Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock”. Looking around, I noticed the huge turnout of festival totems that had popped into the crowd. The Ricky & Morty themed totems were popular this year, which included several Pickle Rick totems.
The masked DJ, Malla, stepped onto the stage after Ghastly. He performed a House set consisting of his usual Hip Hop inspired House tracks like “Notorious” and “Diamonds”. Malaa also had part of the set that focused on more classic sounding House tracks which had a groovier feel to them. It was early evening at this point on Day One, which was perfect for experiencing the CO2 and lighting production The Grove had to offer. There was also a cool octopus art piece that shot fire out of its large tentacles that attracted us like flies to the light.
Zeds Dead wrapped up day one at The Main Stage. The pyro heavy set included a good variety of tracks to end the night. The set included everything from a remix of The Beatles to a remix of Dillon Francis’ “Say Less”. Zeds Dead brought out Illenium to end the set and they play their collaboration, “Where The Wild Things Are”.
The party wasn’t over on day one. The after party kicked off in the grove stage with JTandT, consisting of Summer Set partner, Jack Trash, and Tyler Allix who opened for Illenium. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, security did not allow us to enter. However, we were fortunate enough to clearly hear the after party from our campsite. Falling asleep to some groovy tunes always makes up for anything.
Our second day started back at The Grove stage to check out Minneapolis DJ, Indrid Cold, drop some Tech House tracks. There was also a pretty stellar remix of Linkin Park’s “In The End” in the mix. Summer Set has always been a huge supporter of area producers and DJs. In fact, a showcase of this local talent was held at this year’s new and improved silent disco. The silent disco, which was previously held at a booth of a local radio station, grew this year to hold more people and brought in more than 30 DJs.
Also showcasing near the silent disco was the Urban Arts Tent and Synth Petting Zoo. The Urban Arts Ten featured things like graffiti or fire dancing. The Synth Petting Zoo sponsored by Minneapolis' Slam Academy was a new addition this year. Here you could play with anything from a tambourine to a full synthesizer setup. This made for some fun and interesting sounds.
At 3:30 that afternoon, Chicago producer, Whethan, had a great turnout. Inside that crowd we found a man rolling on the ground at an angle inside a large ring. It was almost like watching a coin roll before it fell on its side. The crowd was fully behind Whethan when he wrapped up his set with his huge single “Savage”.
In between sets we set off to explore the vendor area. If you wanted a unique art piece or a cool outfit for the festival, this was the place to be. The food vendors also had another huge presence this year. We grabbed some addicting cheesy potatoes from Tots & Dogs and an unbelievable mushroom & spinach quesadilla from Peace Love & Quesadillas.
After eating, a notification came on our Summer Set app saying that Megan Hamilton & The Bermudas were playing at the Pop-Up stage. The Pop-Up stage was a fun idea over the weekend where a stage would randomly be set up with a surprise set from. The stage on Saturday was located near the North and South campgrounds. The location was a great for Megan Hamilton & The Bermudas, who threw down a funky set in front of a sunset lit hillside.
A little deeper downhill at The Grove we found Ookay, who was in the middle of a massive set in front of a packed crowd. Ookay’s set consisted of some classics like Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” and of course his mello tracks like “Thief” and “Chasing Colors”. At The Grove, we filled our water bottles at one of the convenient filling stations and headed back to The Main Stage.
We held down The Main Stage for Zomboy, RL Grime, and Zedd to close out Day Two. Zomboy brought his classic Dubstep sound in his set. On the large display panels, highly detailed visuals of a robot and an animated flying brain filled the screen. RL Grime was my favorite set of the remaining three sets. RL played a dark, yet bassy set. The panels behind RL Grime lit up red to each hit of the bass, revealing his silhouette. This looked awesome for being such a simple production. Zedd was the closer of The Main Stage. Many Summer Set goers said it was their favorite set of the weekend. Zedd’s set was a fun mix of Pop and EDM. He ended the night with Empire Of The Sun’s “Alive” as a sea of confetti washed over the massive crowd.
I had better luck this time around and was able to make it to the Day Two after party at The Grove. My friends and I chilled in the trees on the hillside among the people who set up their hammocks. Manic Focus had a live guitarist and drummer on stage with him to make up for a funky set. Louis The Child closed out the after party and officially closed day two. They threw down many of their well-known tracks like their “Blasé” remix, and even brought out fellow Chicago native, Whethan.
After waking up and tearing down camp early, I had a few hours until the festival grounds would be open for the day so I headed back to the twin cities to regroup at home. The nice thing about a large percentage of people attending Summer Set is that the festival is close enough where they had the option to go back and forth if they needed to.
During the afternoon, the Pop-Up stage made its appearance at a new location near the silent disco. Artists from All Good Records would be playing at Sunday’s Pop-Up stage. I caught snaps from the Summer Set Snapchat of a packed area as GRiZ played a nearly two hour set! The Summer Set social team was definitely busy going through what must have been thousands of snaps over the weekend.
I might have been late to the party on Day Three, but I made it back just in time for Die Antwoord’s return to Summer Set. Their set was just as amazing and weird as I expected. Since I was running behind I snuck away to catch SunSquabi closing out the Pop-Up stage. The groovy sounds of the two guitars and drums of Sunsquabi kicked off what would be a funk filled night to wrap up my day three experience.
I headed to The Saloon Stage to keep the funk going at SoDown’s set. The tin roof of the Saloon themed building rattled aggressively to the mix of SoDown’s Funk, Hip Hop, and Dub style sound. I was able to squeeze in a quick interview with SoDown before leaving the building and heading down The Main Stage hillside for GRiZ.
I met up with some friends who were in line at the ferris wheel and we hopped on just in time for GRiZ to drop “Good Times Roll”. The large Summer Set crowd looked beautiful from the top of the ferris wheel. Peaceful was a good way to describe the rest of GRiZ’s set. Many of his tracks had visual of anti-hate signs and messages of love.
The combination of fireworks, CO2 and confetti was an epic way to wrap up this year’s Summer Set Music Festival. After GRiZ walked off stage, the lights dimmed and Jack Trash got on the mic to remind everyone to “take care of each other and love each other”.
Looking back, Jack Trash’s message was really the theme of this year’s Summer Set. I didn’t come across anyone who was out of control or passed out. In fact, I often saw festival goers handing bottles of water to other attendees or to a security guard. The crowds were also respectful, allowing room for everyone to dance even during the more popular sets. Of course, there couldn’t have been a better message of love than watching my friends get engaged!