Summer Set Music & Camping Festival, 8/15/14
Summer Set Music & Camping Festival
with Danny Brown, RL Grime, Chromeo & Kaskade
Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset
Friday, August 15, 2014
Friday of Summer Set 2014 had everything you might expect from a music festival in the middle of the woods. There were flower crowns, neon-clad ravebros, nonsensical internet meme signage, and gigantic lines -- and a lot of solid, high energy and fun performances. It was a fitting start to a weekend of music, people watching, and general sensory overload.
Slideshow: Summer Set: People and Scenes
When thousands of people are trying to go through security and park their cars in a field near an amphitheater in a tiny town in Wisconsin, delays are part of the deal. Still, Summer Set's logistical clusterfuck was a sight to behold. People seemed to be having a decent time in their basically immobile cars -- one dude even flew a kite -- but the wait was nuts. Even after skipping the last 100 yards or so by finally figuring out how the media entrance worked (whoops), getting into the festival took almost three hours.
Through the madding crowd, past the DJ tent full of vaguely swaying ravers, down a surprisingly steep wood-chipped path, was the grove stage. In this clearing in the woods, surrounded with grass-covered slopes, Danny Brown performed for a few hundred people. Conditions seemed ideal for turning up. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Tepid is not a word commonly associated with the green-haired leader of the Bruiser Brigade. But a lot of the set was, an example of the festival taking precedence over the music.
It wasn't entirely Danny Brown's fault. The audience, with a few enthusiastic exceptions, didn't seem very familiar with the Detroit rapper's catalog. Brown put the mic over to the crowd for the hook in "Molly Ringwald" -- which is just "Molly Ringwald" -- and got almost nothing back. The same problem repeated itself for typical hits like "Drinkin and Smokin" and "Trampy." All in all, the set counted on a lot of help that the audience didn't provide. Brown's performance wasn't blameless, however. Though his prodigious technical skills were on full display, his delivery and stage presence were straightforward and by-the-book.
Still, the show managed to get something going, despite itself. "Shake that ass for a hipster n*gga" from "Handstand" seemed to resonate with a lot of the crowd, and the song transitioned seamlessly into "I Will," the ode to cunnilingus off XXX that is basically the platonic ideal of Danny Brown. People got involved and stayed engaged for "Dope Song" which featured a moment of actual spontaneity from the audience in the form of a rhythm clap. For that part of the set, it wouldn't have mattered if Brown had been playing for a checked-out afternoon festival crowd or a nursing home -- it was going off.
Next up in the grove was Los Angeles EDM savant RL Grime. Good DJ sets are like roller coasters -- moments of intensity balanced with anticipation, moving ceaselessly forward. RL Grime switched between remixes about every 40 seconds, with few exceptions. With so many sharp transitions, it was shocking how few were jarring, and the character of the set was both surprising and consistently high energy. Unlike most other DJs throughout the weekend, RL Grime was almost unaided by lights and visuals, with only a white outline of a doorway on a black background projected behind him. The overflowing, absolutely boisterous crowd helped him out with an impressive and sometimes confusing array of signs and flags, including several stuffed bananas, a laser-beam shooting space cat that read "Fuck real life," and Ron Swanson's face with "aroused" written on it. It was like living inside the internet.