Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival - August 9th-11th, 2013 (review)

A Review By: Ryan Weber

The second iteration of the Summer Set Music and Camping Festival held just across the border in Summerset Wisconsin was, if nothing else, a crazy good time.  Kicking off Friday afternoon and running hard through Sunday night, the three stages scattered around the Summerset Amphitheater were host to over 60 acts.  With an EDM heavy line-up, and a young crowd, it was poised to be a nonstop dance party.
The evening prior to the festival, as many people were in line to enter the campground for Early Entry camping, the crew at Summer Set Fest made a series of posts to their website and social media outlets "clarifying" some of the rules around camping and the festival. Limiting each camper to one case of beer or box of wine, and NO hard liquor of any kind.  They were sure to note that additional beer and a selection of liquor would be available at their "General Store" within the campground.  Several of these updates appeared to be more like last minute additions to squeeze a little more cash out of the festival crowd. Some were outraged, most people didn't sweat it.  Upon arrival to the festival and passing through security, it was obvious that they we by no means going to strip search everyone on the way in.  The man in the blue polo shirt with a walkie-talkie flipped open the lid of our cooler, never touched anything, then closed it and sent us on our way.  No big deal.

As we lugged our busted cooler (the damn handle snapped off about 5 steps from the car, it was awesome) to the back of the campground to meet up with our crew, several things became glaringly obvious. At 35 years old I was clearly one of the oldest people in the place, there was an abundance of neon attire everywhere, and these kids were ready to party.  The 2012 SSMF had a definite EDM element to it, but 2013 carried with it a more electronic centric line-up and the crowd represented that.  Once we were to our site it seemed that getting through security wasn't a problem for most people.  Within about 5 minutes we had, um "vendors", offer up anything from home-made organic Bloody Mary's, to "top quality LSD", and I hadn't even gotten my tent set up yet.  You really didn't need to bring anything with you, it was all there for the asking.

Once again the staff of SSMF did a good job of bringing in a variety of genres, from EDM to Rap and Rock to Blue Grass, there was a little something for everyone.  What seems to have happened though was that the EDM artists got the vast majority of the attention from those in attendance.  The Grove stage, which played host to many of the EDM acts during the weekend, was never quiet.  At times they were forced to turn people away from The Grove because they had exceeded capacity.  One of the times this was true was during Polica's main stage set, Adventure Club was playing in The Grove.  I was blown away by how empty the place was when Polica took the stage, and their lead sinner Channy Casselle was obviously taken by surprise.  Part of the reason I was so excited for SSMF this year was to catch a number of MN local bands on the festival stage.  They threw down a great set and by the end of their time on stage, a significantly larger crowd had gathered.  There was a similar story for the 4 on the Floor set, which they rocked as usual.  I do hope we see a few more jam band or electro jam acts back on the 2014 roster.  2012 had Umphrey's McGee closing out Saturday night and additions like that brought in a whole other set of fans, and they are my people. ;)

Big Boi on the Main Stage

With great music all over the place, you were never without options.  From Greensky Bluegrass on the Saloon Stage to Big Gigantic closing out the show on the Main Stage, our crew rocked out all over the festival grounds.  The entire festival crowd gathered to watch Big G melt the faces off the kids in front.  Still one of my favorite EDM artists for their combination of real live instruments mixed together with electronic beats, Jeremey and Dominic are in a class with only a few others.  After a short break, the guys from Big G teamed up with Marc Brownstein (Disco Biscuits), Aron Magner and Chris Michetti  (Conspirator), Ben Baruch (Underground Orchestra) and played the after party in The Grove as Gigantic Underground Conspiracy.  An ensample, that by all accounts, should happen again and again.

Big Gigantic 

Once the music ended, the party doesn't stop.  The campground was a 24 hour party and you didn't have to travel far to find nice people just looking to hang out.  We made friends with people from nearly every site bordering ours, never saw any real drama, and in general people just wanted to have a good time.  The facilities were fine.  Portable toilets were never that far away and were cleaned regularly.  
Passion Pit

Saturday and Sunday felt much like Friday.  Music everywhere, you were never looking too hard for where to go next.  With acts like Pert Near Sandston, and 4 on the Floor, satisfying the local rock and bluegrass fans, Passion Pit, Girl Talk and Krewella to get your dance on and closing out the festival with Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), again the diversity of the fest was apparent.  

Girl Talk

The food available was good and not outrageously priced for a festival.  A huge range of vendors made for a great way to kill time between sets.  Need a break, go check out the guys blowing glass, or the huge array of hats available from the Grass Roots crew.  Just want to get off your feet for a while, the folks had a hammock lounge set up. 

If I had to complain about anything it would be the beverage situation in the festival grounds.  My buddy and I wandered around for over an hour looking for a place to fill up our water bottles, finally stopping for directions at the First Aid tent, and even they had no real idea where to go.  We finally found the one location that was set up, at the far back of the main stage area there was a row of drinking fountains that made filling a bottle a complete comedy of errors.  Give us a few water nozzles like you had back in the campground in a few more areas next time, please.  And the beer selection was pitiful, you had 3 choices, Miller Lite tall boys or 12 ouncers of Leinie's Summer Shandy or Honey Weiss....  Yeah, sure, great...  I know you can do better than that.

All in all, we had an incredibly good time.  Thanks to the folks at Summer Set Music Festival, SIM Shows, and our whole camping crew.  Until next year...


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