Summer Set Music Festival, day two, 8/10/13

Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen

Summer Set Music Festival, Day Two
With Girl Talk, Passion Pit, Blackalicious, SBTRKT, Zedd, MaLLy, and Doomtree
Somerset, Wisconsin
August 10, 2013

Replace the palm trees of Coachella with corn fields, or swap out Lollapalooza's dramatic Chicago skyline backdrop for rolling Wisconsin farmlands, and that approximates the vistas of Summer Set 2013. With an emphasis on electronic and hip-hop acts, the little festival that could managed to put on one hell of an enjoyable show on a picture-perfect Saturday in Somerset.

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Taking in the sights and the scenes of the festival-goers while getting acclimated to the grounds proved to be far more interesting than the music on offer in the late-afternoon hours, as the spacey, psych-funk of Papadosio and the electronic dance rock of STRFKR proved far too innocuous and generic to compete with what was going on elsewhere at Summer Set, even with the latter's bubbly take on Cyndi Lauper's good-time anthem, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

At indie-rock shows, most fans are dressed in dark colors and have a darker attitude to match, while at Summer Set, neons in all shades were the predominant colors of the day, and I gave out more reluctant high-fives than I did during the entire 15-1 Vikings season of '98. People were clearly there to enjoy themselves to the fullest, and that uninhibited, carefree atmosphere permeated the entire event. While the attire (or complete lack thereof) of some fans would cause even the most experienced club kids to cringe, blush, or both, that brazen sense of exhibitionism only added to the overall spectacle.

The Main Stage (one of three performance areas spread throughout the festival grounds) area was sparsely populated just minutes before Doomtree were set to start, leaving me to wonder if more people were here for the scene than the actual music on offer. But once Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak unleashed their festival-sized beats and the local crew got things going with a particularly feisty take on "No Way," the party was officially on and the fans packed the front of the stage to join in the fun.

Though you could tell that this wasn't a typical Doomtree show straight from the start -- with P.O.S. taking the stage yelling "Rave or die!" and eventually taking an inflatable whale out of the audience and throwing it behind the speakers, to Dessa asking the guy spraying the audience with water to concentrate his efforts on a fan's "Show Me Your Tits" sign in order to bring it down, eventually taking it into her own hands to spray the sign (and the fan) into submission.

Photos By Anna Gulbrandsen

But musically, their set was vibrant and lively, with the towering speakers booming the beats over the slowly swelling crowd as the group got them amped with spirited takes on No Kings tracks "Bolt Cutter," "Beacon," "Little Mercy," and a massive run through of "Bangarang," as well as a sampling of solo tracks from the various MCs that peaked with dynamic versions of Mike Mictlan's "Creeper Status" (which he hostilely dedicated to "the guy who pissed next to my tent last night") and P.O.S.'s "Get Down," which got the audience into it under the fading summer sun. The spunky hour-long set came to an end with a unifying version of "Team the Best Team," as the crowd showed the crew plenty of well-deserved love.

The local hip-hop vibe continued up the hill from the Main Stage at the small Saloon, as MaLLy worked up a sweat with an impassioned set of his own. Drawing from his stellar recent record, The Last Great, the upstart MC put on an assured half-hour performance that showcased his potent lyrical talent as well as his boundless charisma. MaLLy dedicated an animated take on "Winner" to everyone who was staying at the festival all weekend, while he brought the rapid-fire set to a strong close with a funky version of "Good One" that sent the crowd out into the early evening with some positive thoughts.

Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen

The German DJ Zedd was up next on the Main Stage, and the electro-house dubstep artist ended up putting on one of the clear highlights of day two of the festival, as the crowd reached its peak (in both senses of the word) and went completely bonkers for his booming, towering beats. It was the perfect confluence of the ideal time of night and proper frame of mind for the fans, as everyone still had plenty of energy and the setting sun turned the clouds pink to add to the celebratory display.

Photos By Anna Gulbrandsen

For any DJ set to truly be successful, it's ultimately up to the crowd to put on most of the show, especially when the light show is rather minimal and Zedd stayed behind his laptop the entire time. And the large crowd went wild for the massive drops of "Clarity" and an 8-bit tinged "The Legend of Zelda" mix. It was such an impressive set that I even saw a dude in a Cannibal Corpse T-shirt getting down to the music, which totally encapsulated the appeal of an event like Summer Set in the first place -- no matter your tastes or background, there was definitely a place for you here.

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