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Favorite ThisDawn of a New Set: Reviewing the Season’s Final Camping Festival

Published: September 13, 2012
By: IMagine REALity (Adam Epstein, Duncan Ross & Max Pottebaum)

There’s is nothing more thrilling than the proverbial blank canvas and now Summer Set Music Festival has a big enough palette to color it all in. Skepticism concerning the most recent attempt to revive Somerset Amphitheatre was put to rest a fortnight ago when hordes of festi-heads invaded the sleepy little Wisconsin town. The launch of Summer Set Music Fest’s inaugural endeavor proved that promoters React Presents and Sound in Motion possess remarkable foresight. Financial ventures of this sort can easily result in disaster, but attracting well-versed festival buffs with distinguished acts and gorgeous scenery put this fest on the map. Thanks in part to meticulous planning and execution, it appears we will see many more Sets.

The subsequent years will be fascinating to observe considering the impact already felt nationwide. By preserving a similar aptitude in forethought, Summer Set has the assembly required to emulate the spirit of other major Midwest-fests such as Electric Forest or Summer Camp. Disregarding the long-standing traditions in Rothbury and Chillicothe these fests appear analogous in terms of occupants, but what truly separates Summer Set is the integration of hip-hop/rap. With this innovation they have geared themselves towards a newly-developed group of music enthusiasts simply by imparting and renovating on lineups synonymous to its peers’. Direct marketing towards experienced festi-goers had profound effects on the overall culture, radically altering crowd’s consistency as well as mood. This being said, Summer Set will have to step up even further in order to maintain its progressive ethos.

It appears as though the abyss between hip-hop and electronic music is closing. Early Friday, to show their respects to contemporary legends (Nas, Mos Def and Talib Kweli), turntable duos RJD2 & Break Science and Emancipator sampled tracks from each of the artists. Combining related music genres that were long separated has paved the way for a previously cast aside generation of musicians to step to the forefront of the festival landscape. It’s a risky maneuver that has forced a ground-breaking alteration in the makeup many lineups.

Summer Set broke the anticipation by coming out with conviction and putting some of their top acts on first. Chicago bred electronic-jam trio Future Rock busted out new tracks from their recent album One Day and had everyone’s faces melted during the peak of the sweltering day. As the temperature subsided, Emancipator’s main stage set evoked a blissful trance throughout the festival grounds with his melodious instrumentals.

Immediately afterwards, EDM acts Mimosa, PANTyRAID and Zeds Dead each threw down banger sets in what was by far the most unique of the three stages; a full-sized hockey arena. With a remarkable blend of stage lighting, provocative dancers as well as fat stacks of sound this ice rink had a vibe the artists and fans both cherished.  As twilight emerged perennial main stage act Big Gigantic, who for good reason continues to get invites to headline festivals, delivered an energetic set as the first night raged on.

Saturday held a stacked lineup full of up and coming acts such as NiT GriT, GRiZ, and Araabmuzik who continued to rock the arena. Even veteran jam-band Umphrey’s McGee got into the electronic theme, throwing down a furious night set that left it all on stage.

Sunday kicked off with little-known duo Sovereign Sect. on the main stage. Don’t let their hometown of Fargo, North Dakota fool you since this quad-core act’s progression in the competitive EDM world will be measured by their uninfluenced and distinct method. Following this pleasant surprise from our northern neighbors, the highly anticipated Bonobo DJ set didn’t disappoint at all. During the funky yet somehow organic sounding set a Minneapolis break-dance crew formed a crowd and, feeding from the energy, flowed into an all out street stomp that made for one of the weekend’s most memorable performances.

This festival also had Steez. The electric-funk group out of Madison certainly had everyone’s feet grooving Friday evening on the regional stage. This local band is a frequent performer at co-sponsors’ Majestic Theatre and has developed quite the following among dive bars in the central plains. Underrated acts in young festivals such are absolutely crucial to building long term success, forming a relationship that will ultimately benefit parties. This is done by allotting priceless exposure and access to new listeners for the band while ensuring the festival’s outlook.
Never before has the area held a festival of this enormity. Many decades before a change in ownership, the location was home to a reputed segment of folk, jam-rock, and bluegrass acts as well as several small-scaled jamborees that played host to merely one viewer base. Following the dissipation of these micro-fests, Northwest Wisconsin’s most renowned outdoor venue has remained relatively dormant. Despite this, the amphitheatre’s divinity is undeniable; having been created when millennia of glacier till melted away and imprinted a gradual bowl-shaped slope that produces peerlessly natural acoustics. At first glance Summer Set appeared rather abstruse to many live-music lovers due to an uncertainty in the fest’s integrity. Albeit in a controversial stage, Summer Set retains immense potential that has begun to generate widespread recognition in the mainstream scene.

Sharing the same rhythm with thousands contributes mightily to the tight-knit, family feeling music festivals embody. A gathering comprising of one official main stage brings stability and singularity to all who listen, forming a liminal bond between us all. Somerset Amphitheatre pertains to this initiative and without question is one the most phenomenal venues in the Midwest. With the assertion of a stacked lineup and spectacular setting it provided a solid foundation for what many hope to be long-term commencement. In lieu of the festival’s primary success there remain many unaccounted and unresolved factors within the confines requiring adjustment before next year. Attempting to win over thousands of spunions is an overwhelming task; however, there is enormous expectation for the next go-round. Notwithstanding the sudden concerns that accompany a rookie fest, there is incalculable prospect for growth. One aspect remains true; the spirit of Midwestern counterculture is mighty. Now after throwing down one of the most ambitious fests of the season, Midwest festi-goers can hibernate peacefully this off-season knowing that Summer Set is poised to return.

Tags: Hip HopDrum and BassLivetronicaBreaksDowntempoElectronicaElectroHouseDubstepGlitch