Summer Set Music & Camping Festival, 8/17/14
Summer Set Music & Camping Festival
Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset
Sunday, August 17, 2014
We returned for the final evening of Summer Set Music & Camping Festival with ears still somewhat weary from the previous day's onslaught of thundering EDM. This time, there were two separate lines for people to be searched upon entering the festival: one for women, and one for men.
Slideshow: Summer Set: People and Scenes
Inside, the crowd appeared to be a bit thinner than the day before. Sunday began with some local talent, as the Minneapolis hip-hop trio Kids Like Us rocked the Saloon stage alongside Beak Nasty. Tyler the Creator went on early, serving as a replacement for Chance the Rapper, who had canceled his scheduled appearance just days before the festival. Tyler engaged in his typical stage manner, inciting the audience and acting provocatively. He always brings a great amount of energy and hype to the stage, and the crowd at Summer Set was apparently full of Odd Future fans.
At the Big Top stage, Illinois house and techno DJ Green Velvet was satisfying the needs of concertgoers who were still starved for more EDM. Underneath the tent was its own world. Though it was still light outside, the lights on stage were so bright that it created the illusion that it was actually somehow quite dark under the tent. A single figure stood atop a box encased within a screen, another larger screen looming menacingly behind him, both flashing obnoxiously and causing him to appear as just a black outline. Confetti shot through the air, and people danced wildly, waving their homemade signs in the air.
Green Velvet played pounding four-on-the-floor beats, rattling the ceiling of the tent. It was far more techno-oriented than any of the electronic music we'd heard on Saturday, slipping into a sprawling repetition rather than being broken up over and over with drops and anxiety-causing build-ups. Green Velvet's music was both chill and dance-friendly, taking some of the frantic edge off of the rave kids. A guy in a furry dog costume wandered behind the sound guy stationed at the center of the tent, threatening black claws poking through the tips of his gloves.
Down the woodchip trail to the Grove, Umphrey's McGee played their unique brand of progressive rock, which sounded like a strange mixture of metal and Pink Floyd-esque instrumental jamming. The system was absolutely deafening. Umphrey's McGee seemed like an unlikely fit with the rest of the acts on the bill, but there were plenty of people who were really digging the jam band vibes. It was pretty clear, though, that the energy had gone down a bit on this third day. Some looked raved out, like they were forcing themselves to keep partying. An enthusiastic rendition of Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" seemed to wake people up a bit, at least enough for everyone to start wandering back over to the Main Stage.
There, Flying Lotus was demanding that someone turn all of the lights on the stage off. He quickly got his wish, and continued playing his signature experimental hip-hop and electronic sounds. A giant purple octopus standing on tall sticks was spread over the crowd, different people holding each of its tentacles down to the ground. The girl with the "I hate heroin" sign caught Flying Lotus' eye too, as he said down to her from the stage, "I don't like heroin either." Flying Lotus engaged in lots of banter with the crowd, cultivating a more intimate environment than any of the other singular electronic artists had created. "I'm just drunk enough!" he exclaimed, then continued to make comments about the technical side of things: "I have no control over the volume. Just letting you know, a motherfucker might be deaf tomorrow." He played a wide range of his own music off of Cosmogramma and this year's You're Dead!
The light was turning to a golden yellow as the sun fell behind the haze. People sprawled lazily upon the hills, smoking cigarettes and drinking water with their signs laid out next to them. Groups of girls were hula-hooping towards the back of the concrete lot that stretched out from the stage toward the carnival rides. A girl clung to her inflated donut, frosted in pink and dusted with rainbow sprinkles. A bro in a neon tank-top carrying a "Where's Waldo?" sign walked by. Another bro sat on the hill before us, holding a sign with a photo of a random guy on it. "My drug dealer," the bro explained. "Best drugs I've ever had."
Back at the Big Top French DJ and house music producer Cedric Gervais was spinning a mix of Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful." The lyrics flashed across the large screen onstage flanked by two dancers in fishnet stockings and shorts. A pink glow illuminated the audience as they danced to a selection of trance, techno, house, and some elements of harder-hitting electronica. Gervais stuck mainly to house, though, and his famed remixes of top 40 songs that have caused his name to be more mainstream of late. His set received an overly enthusiastic response from the kids playing with their poi at the back of the tent. Poi, as we learned earlier in the afternoon, are glowing balls at the end of ropes that dancers twist and spin around themselves.
Inside at the Saloon Stage, Ras Movement was playing to a strikingly small crowd. The stage itself seemed almost an afterthought. Ras Movement is a live reggae band, and they brought a joyful presence to the small stage. Two female back-up singers danced wildly, and a conga player with flowing dreads drummed alongside another man playing a full set of drums, adding a neat percussive element to the sound. It was a welcome respite from the loudness surrounding the outside of the structure, and refreshing to see a band on the stage pouring themselves into some organic sounds being met by swaying hips rather than pumping fists.
Like yesterday, the crowd had been migrating towards the Main Stage as the other stages were shutting down. People were abuzz, waiting in anxious anticipation for Bassnectar, this evening's headliners. It was now pitch dark, and a lone white balloon hovered over the crowd, looking like an artificial moon. There was absolutely no means of getting down to the dancefloor, as it was completely full of people. It appeared that someone had handed out glowing rainbow-colored wands, as a huge section of audience members were all waving theirs in the air. Suddenly, a voice penetrated the echolalia. "Do you like... bass?"
Lorin Ashton, the man that is Bassnectar, played a barrage of skull-rattling breakbeat, dubstep, glitch, drum and bass, and trap music. Everyone broke into dance. It appeared that the hills were alive and moving. EDM took over. The lighting display was nothing shy of impressive. Beaming strobes reflected off of the sea of signs and waving wands, and the octopus from earlier was aglow. On the stage, giant screens projected images of neon elephants parading. Bassnectar continued to deliver huge drops and harrowing breakdowns, where songs appeared to melt and dissolve into a thunderous nothing that built back up into heavy dub remixes. Police officers wandered the hills, intently scrutinizing concertgoers. Somewhere in the crowd before us, someone was setting off fireworks. They screamed their way into the sky, exploding above us in loud flashes of light and sparks. Bassnectar threw in a sample from the Zombies' "Time of the Season," just for good measure.
Again it was apparent that EDM had eaten this festival. The entire audience seemed hypnotized. People stood in groups with their arms around each other, swaying. Seemingly endless glowsticks shone through the night, and the rainbow wands waved frantically. One man stood on the stage, performing for the endless sea of people before him. Maybe ten years from now, Summer Set will be headlined by a machine. Perhaps the festival itself will be at a remote location accessed only by our cell phones. I wonder what the selfies would look like then.
Critic's bias: I was way more excited about this day of the festival when considering the EDM offerings, because I'm way more into techno, house, and anything that Flying Lotus does than anything dubstep. I thought Umphrey's McGee was so weird. I didn't know what they were before this and I'm still kind of confused as to what they are.
The crowd: Quite a bit smaller than earlier days, it seemed. Lots of neon-wearing, lots of hipster hats, lots of people carrying signs and people covered in beaded bracelets. Very young. Very stoned.
Overheard in the crowd: I didn't hear this one, but I did see a (white) guy frolicking over the hills holding a sign he'd made that said "Fuck White People" in neon green duct tape.
Random notebook dump: I like watching the people who dance alone on the hill and dreaming up lives for them.
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