Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day two, 8/25/12

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
By Aaron Rupar and Anand Balasubrahmanyan

See Also:
Slideshow: Summer Set 2012, The People
Slideshow: Summer Set, The Artists
Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day one, 08/24/12

Fans, campers, and two Gimme Noise reviewers hit the second day of Summer Set in Somerset, Wisconsin, for a day that proved damper than Friday's entertainment. Highlights obviously included Umphrey's McGee, Matt & Kim, and Nas. According to reviewer Aaron Rupar, if you're a rock n' roll fan and you haven't seen Umphrey's McGee, then what the hell are you doing?

Anand Balasubrahmanyan: Already stuck with the least desirable spot in the lineup (1:30 p.m.), Minneapolis based instrumental rockers There Are No Words made the most of their hung-over and drizzled-on environment. The group's shoegaze take on Sunny Day Real Estate fit the grey landscape and crescendoed just as the rain broke.

I sought refuge from the deluge in Summer Set's only indoor venue, which was a bit like a dystopian future cave. The converted hockey rink blasted wobbling dubstep while a massive lighting rig induced robo-seizures via strobed messages like "YOLO" and "Jump." Luckily the rink was the perfect rave up for mud-splattered spirits and soon everyone was wildin' out like a citizen of New Zion. First the subwoofers were abused by DJ Jesse James, who laid down terminator-apocalypse bass drops over manic blast beats. The crowd, perhaps inspired by the state fair, was rife with inventive things on sticks including a deer skull with glo lights and several homemade Christmas light jellyfish.

The rain let up just in time for me to catch Cherub's R n' B falsetto magic. I'd never heard of the playful duo before but they quickly won me over by trading guitar solos while crooning like Prince and Justin Timberlake just had twins. '80s-aping track "Mines Yours" lathered up the dance ready crowd while the snotty kiss off of "Doses and Mimosas" let them know that, no, Cherub cannot afford alimony.

Aaron Rupar: Our afternoon started at the main stage with Excision, a DJ who spins what the kids these days call dubstep. As sprinkles fell from above, hundreds of youngsters -- more than a few wearing "Sex, Love, and Dubstep" T-shirts -- pumped their fists in unison while abrasive sounds combining the energy of metal with the beats of hip-hop blasted. (Thankfully, the rain stopped soon thereafter and didn't return.)

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
From there, we journeyed over to the "hockey rink," which is just what it sounds like: a hockey rink converted into an electronica venue, complete with pulsating lights and a bar near the penalty box. AraabMuzik's rink set overlapped a bit with Excision's, which was appropriate considering the overlap in the DJ's dubstep-centric sounds. But AraabMuzik also has a strong hip-hip influence, which provided a nice segueway to the next main stage performer -- Nas.

Anand Balasubrahmanyan: "Straight out the dungeons of rap!" Nas opened his set with one of his best lines (from "N.Y State of Mind") and played through an impressive string of the '90s hits that guaranteed his headliner status. The crowd put their hands up for "Dead Presidents" and "It Ain't Hard to Tell" while Nas tossed off the sort of boasts that would sound ridiculous coming from anyone else (before his new single "Loco-Motive" he announced, "America, this is my music, this is your culture!") Some of his more recent songs dragged a bit towards the end of his set but no one was going to tell Nas that to his face.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Aaron Rupar: Nas has been off my radar for a few years, but his latest album, Life is Good, received a strong review from Pitchfork, and it was exciting to see one of hip-hop's all-time greats in the Wisconsin countryside. He didn't disappoint, and his propulsive beats actually nicely complemented all the electronica before and after his set. Rolling rural hills and green tree-tops provided an odd backdrop for his street-smart flow, but what the hell? (At one point, apparently desiring to be insulted, Nas exhorted the crowd to "Put your middle fingers up!" The 1,000-or-so people at the main stage obliged by flipping the bird in the general direction of the stage.) That's what festivals are for.

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