Summer Set's Jack Trash on SoundTown, EDM, and building Midwest memories

Summer Set hopes to draw a bigger crowd than SoundTown did last year
Summer Set hopes to draw a bigger crowd than SoundTown did last year
Erik Hess

See Also:
SoundTown and Minnesota's music festival fatigue
SoundTown 2012 has been canceled
Summer Set Festival 2012 lineup

This past Tuesday, Gimme Noise delved into the cancellation of the SoundTown Festival, and the implications for other festivals here in the Twin Cities. Somewhat overlooked in all the recent speculation, however, is the other major camping festival slated to take place out in Somerset this year: the Summer Set Music and Camping Festival, which kicks off August 24.

Not that the omission is entirely surprising: With a lineup that ranges from hip hop legends Nas and Black Star to headliners Pretty Lights and Umphrey's McGee, plus a slew of EDM acts and even some reggae, it's a little hard to know what to make of Summer Set. If nothing else, it falls well outside the norm for music in this neck of the woods. But local DJ and Sound in Motion founder, Jack Trash -- who's spearheading the festival with Chicago-based REACT -- is undeterred, insisting ticket sales are right on target.

"It's been an interesting couple of weeks," Trash admitted when we caught up with him over the phone. "We've had to deal with a lot of rumors and a lot of things related to [SoundTown]--which is good and bad..." Find out more about the plans for Summer Set below the break.

Gimme Noise: How did you get to be involved with the Summer Set Festival?

Trash: One of the primary owners of REACT and I have known each other for a long time, and about a year or so ago we started chatting about how we should look for a place somewhere between Chicago and Minneapolis that would fit for a lot of people in the Midwest. There's plenty of stuff going on in Chicago, and Soundset pretty well covers hip hop here, but the EDM and jam bands, there's not a lot here.

And so you landed on Somerset.

We started looking at venues and Somerset just popped out. Initially I thought it was too close -- I wanted to appeal more to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison -- but Somerset, with what [owner and general manager] Matt [Mithun] has done, he's done a lot. It needed a gut job, and he did a great job with it.

Has Matt been very involved with Summer Set, or is it pretty independent?

This is our deal. Matt owns the venue, we have an agreement with him, but this is our deal. We got involved with the Majestic Theater in Madison, which is kind of like a mini First Ave with the bands they book, and they fit perfectly. So we formed a new company between the three of us -- SIM, REACT, and the Majestic -- which we called Summer Set.

What was your reaction to SoundTown getting cancelled last week?

SoundTown caught me out of left field, too. I think it caught a lot of people out. I was kind of shocked. You know, it's festival time and everyone is trying to do one. It would be interesting to see what's going on there. I liked the line up, I know a lot of people were excited about going. Things have been good for us in terms of sales, so I assumed it was the same for them, and obviously not.

How did you guys conceive the lineup for Summer Set? It's pretty eclectic, to say the least. Was there anything particular you wanted to do with it or with the concept of the festival itself?

We wanted to be very aware of other things in the area. SoundTown, for example, had a heavy indie lineup, so we tried to stay away from that. We do have an interest in the indie world, and there's a little bit of that here and there on our festival -- but that's for SoundTown; that's their target demographic, and we didn't want to mess with that.

Jack Trash: DJ, SIM chief, and Summer Set ringleader
Jack Trash: DJ, SIM chief, and Summer Set ringleader
Courtesy Jack Trash

And the EDM and hip hop seems like a natural a fit, with your backgrounds.

We got stuck a little bit with the EDM because there's a huge festival in Europe called Creamfields the same weekend as ours, so when it came to the big trance and progressive guys we got a little left out. But we have a great dub and electro lineup. And the jam band thing is a great niche. Electric Forest has a similar concept in Michigan, and it did pretty well last year and this year... In the future we'd like to target more indie, depending on what goes on, but we definitely wanted to try to establish a niche without having to fight against other people.

So how do you envision Summer Set down the road? Do you want it mainly to attract people between here and Chicago, or do you want it to be a real Midwest attraction?

We've targeted it from day one as a Midwest attraction. We got a team of people in Ohio flying into a festival out there this weekend because Big Gigantic is out there, and probably five more of our headliners, so we got three people out there with flyers and posters. There were advertisers at Wakarusa and Bonnaroo, too, because people who go to these festivals, they like to travel. We even had someone head down to Red Rock when they had a festival there, and she sent me pictures of rows and rows of cars with flyers on them. It just really felt like, if we were to live and die between here and Chicago, we were probably going to die, you know?

That's a good point. Honestly, when I think of camping festivals, I think especially of jam bands. Do you think that's a pretty untapped resource around here, or maybe just easier to build a festival around in general?

It's new ground. Everyone is kind of hyped around here by what happened with SoundTown, myself included. If there were something that went wrong there that we could use [to know about], that's good for us. One of the things that has come up is, with the whole indie-heavy lineup outside the city, is it too far away, and are those people not interested in camping? Especially with the EDM and jam band genres, those folks love going to a festival for the weekend, like packing coolers and tents. They love it.

It's interesting where our sales are at because this isn't a mainstream lineup. The Current aside, who we've done a little with because Matt has an agreement with them, there's not a strategic partner for us here. But if Umphrey's McGee posts on their Facebook, people pay attention.

It's definitely a real word-of-mouth culture, isn't it?

Yes, big time. Pretty Lights, as an EDM-jam band crossover brand, they have a huge word of mouth and social media aspect. People really pay attention to what's going on in those worlds -- which is great for us because then we can save some ad money, too, and not have to throw it out at radio.

So aside from the lineup you have, are there any particular ways you're trying to differentiate Summer Set from other events happening around here?

The musical aspect we're really excited about and we want it to be able to stand alone. But one thing we're working on big time right now is trying to make it a unique experience as well. We want to put together a whole area that's heavy on art stuff, like live painting, performance art, presentation pieces -- basically a whole area to engross yourself in this artistic element. Especially with our genres, it's a great opportunity to integrate art. With like the Electric Daisy Carnivals on the West Coast, they always have a giant Ferris wheel, and we got some stuff in the works that we want people to remember -- to build memories of the whole festival, and not just Pretty Lights closing it.

Summer Set's Jack Trash on SoundTown, EDM, and building Midwest memories

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