Last weekend Summer Set rolled back into Wisconsin for its fifth annual dance festival. Music lovers packed up their camping equipment and party gear for three days’ of killer sound from local musicians to rappers and big name EDM artists alike. With their colorful clothing, glow sticks and late night after parties, the Midwest showed they can party with the rest of them.
Those who arrived early in the morning on Friday were lucky enough to set up in the sun. Long lines to get through security are nothing new at any festival but this year Summer Set seemed to do a better job keeping things rolling along than in previous years. Campers with the means to afford VIP camping were able to breeze quickly into their respective camping spaces and most of the park was already in full party mode by noon. Even campers waiting in the longs lines for regular camping got the party started early by cracking beers and getting into the spirit of the weekend while they waited to get through security.
The four main stages were back this year - the Main Stage, Saloon, the Grove, and the Big Top but with the notable absence of the Meadow stage from previous years. The Main Stage was back in its regular location at the bottom of the front hill. This year the hill showcased several large wooden lanterns that also doubled as benches with colorful lights sprouting from their tops like flowers opening up in bloom. The Saloon maintained its rather bland barn like appearance and felt more like a bar with a small band playing in the background than another festival stage. The Big Top sat atop the hill inside a large tent complete with colorful canvas shapes and plenty of lights and lasers. Just outside was a unique wooden fountain that looked like some kind of evil tree root escaping from the ground. The Grove stage was situated in the valley at the far side of the festival. Like a pyrotechnics wet dream, the Grove had no shortage of flame shooting canons and fiery sculptures to light up the night sky.
Home grown Minneapolis local artists Crunchy Kids kicked off the main stage. With their engaging hip-hop and instrumental sound, as well as a guest appearance from local Minnesota rapper Sean Anonymous, they set the bar high for many acts that followed throughout the weekend.
The rain moved in midway through the afternoon but that did little to slow the party. Porn and Chicken from Chicago eviscerated the Big Top while big names like Flux Pavilion and Steve Aoki kept the party rolling throughout the day. STS9 closed out the Grove with a killer two hour set and Chance the Rapper closed out the the first day on the Main Stage.
Thankfully festival goers were greeted with plenty of sun the next morning to dry out their wet tents and clothing and get everyone back in the gear for day two. The always entertaining Minnesota local, Heatbox kicked off the Main Stage with his unique brand of effects pedal layered beats, one man harmonies and slick R&B vocals, he eased viewers out of their hangovers and back into action.
The rest of the day saw an impressively stacked lineup. Denver’s own Illenium played the Big Top with a monstrous bass set that turned the heat up in the tent until the tent itself became almost stifling. Illenium’s one of a kind mix of beautiful vocals and gnarly bass drops set the tone early on for the rest of Saturday evening.
Cherub, Black Tiger Sex Machine and Alison Wonderland carried the big stages through the evening. Infected Mushroom came out guns blazing with their usual mix of metal and dance music and heavy rock vocals. Like a heavy metal 80’s band, a 90’s industrial metal group and the grimiest EDM artist all mixed together, Infected Mushroom may just have been one of the best, almost certainly the heaviest set of the weekend.
Atmosphere pulled in huge numbers at the Main Stage as the the sun set over the hills and Bassnectar finished off the evening to easily the largest crowd of the weekend. His usual melodic bass heavy set made sure that Wisconsin residents for miles around were checking their local news coverage to see what was causing the earthquake they were feeling in their living rooms.
Back in the campgrounds festival goers seemed determined to outdo themselves from the night before. With parties running so late that security had to ask groups to dial things back from eleven, it was clear the lack of sleep wasn’t going to stop the bros from keeping things going until the sun was back up.
Mod Sun kicked off the Sunday lineup as the fourth Minnesota local to grace the Main Stage. His music was a combination of lyrics about his life in Minnesota and how hard he parties. Coming to the stage with a bottle in Jameson in hand, Mod Sun made sure the crowd knew that he was there to party with the rest of them.
Most campers were clearly beginning to feel the weight of the weekend slowing them down by mid day on Sunday. Rufus Du Sol, Marshmallow and Logic played some solid sets that kept the energy level inside the venue grounds high enough to keep everyone going. Gramatik took over the Grove stage early Sunday evening and threw down a funk fueled set with enough fire and pyrotechnics to leave a very satisfying end to the Grove stage weekend lineup.
Finally, Grammy winning EDM superstar Skrillex took over the Main Stage to close out the weekend. Hyping up the tired but persistent crowd with references to Pokemon and his signature massive face melting drops, Skrillex played a nearly ninety-minute-long set that perfectly capped off the weekend.