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

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

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

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day two, 8/25/12
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.
 
After Nas, we checked out a bit of MSTRKRFT's rave-style house beats in the hockey rink and spent some time just wandering around. The first time I was at the Somerset festival grounds was last year for SoundTown, which was a great time despite being sparsely attended. Thankfully for those of us who would like to see Somerset's once-thriving festival scene revitalized, Summer Set looked to be better attended and organized than last year's one-and-done event. A drum circle later, we took in a bit of Roster McCabe, a fun and tight Minneapolis-based jam band that we had somehow not heard of.

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day two, 8/25/12
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Anand Balasubrahmanyan: I was initially nervous that the peppy synth pop of Matt & Kim would stick out in a festival dominated by dance and jam acts, especially after fellow indie favorite Cloud Cult's intricate glockenspiel and french horn interplay didn't translate the previous night. My fears, however, were unfounded as the Brooklyn duo's high energy pop won over new converts. Playing only their third show this year, both musicians took turns standing on their instruments. After singles "Daylight" and "Yea Yeah" amped up the crowd, Kim performed the most acrobatic act of crowd surfing I've ever witnessed by standing atop the audience's outstretched hands and doing a self described "ass dance." Actually, I can't think of a better image to encapsulate the oversaturated frenzy of Summerset 2012; one woman standing on thousands, rump roaring.

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day two, 8/25/12
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Aaron Rupar: Umphrey's McGee seems to emphasize a different aspect of their rock-funk-reggae-dance sound every time I see them (As one fan writes, "I don't always drink Face Melt, but when I do, I drink Umphrey's McGee.") Saturday night, blues was the flavor du jour. Guitarist Jake Cinninger channeled his inner B.B. King and made his instrument scream and moan while he and his five compadres did what they do best -- build tension with lengthy improvisational jams, then release with foot-stomping, head-swaying climaxes. Consistent with the blues theme, they played a gritty version of the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," a rock n' roll classic that was probably too old for many of the Summer Set revelers. But after Umphrey's performance, they'll at least recognize the tune's wailing guitar riff.

Yet underneath the soaring guitars and feel-it-in-your-bones bass was the dancy rhythmic foundation laid by drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag. With their beats still ringing through my head, I walked away from the festival grounds on a beautiful late-summer Wisconsin night literally feeling like I understood what the Summer Set organizers had in mind, at least for Saturday's installment: a celebration and showcase of 2-and-4 heavy music that gets you moving, whether it's house, hip-hip, or high-minded jam music.

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival day two, 8/25/12
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Rupar's Notebook:

The crowd: Remarkably young. At 28, I was easily in the 95th-percentile of oldness among Summer Set attendees, many of whom were decked out in scanty and scandalously eye-catching festival attire.

And as you'd expect, altered. This was definitely a pot-friendly event. In fact, the smell of ganja was so thick, I would've believed organizers were pumping in the scent through the main stage and hockey rink's smoke machines. The kids these days apparently take that "Sex, Drugs, and Dubstep" thing pretty seriously.

Balasubrahmanyan's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Due to the 4:30 a.m. arrest of a belligerent misogynist camping in an adjacent lot, I slept poorly Friday night. I suppose it's impossible to gather so many people together and not see an ugly moment in someone's life, but at least this particular rage filled fellow was booked by a camp security guard with one of the best "take 'em away boys" lines I have heard in real life. The disgruntled camper got into a physical altercation with his (now ex?) girlfriend and when a security guard came to calm him down the man flung insults at him including the mean spirited, "What do you make, 5 dollars an hour?" to which the guard replied, "I'll show you a paystub in the back of my car, dipshit" and arrested him.

The Crowd: Soggy, but unperturbed.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Which way to the wub wub tent?" - a concert goer looking for Summerset's depraved hockey-rink-turned-dubstep-dance-hall accidently names a new hit children's show


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