Summer Set 2013: It's got a good beat and you can dance to it

MICHAEL RIETMULDER | Updated 8/12/2013

The jam/dance/rap festival in Somerset, Wis. drew an average of 15,000 attendees per day, up from its first run in 2012.

There were plenty of reminders that fans at this weekend’s Summer Set Music & Camping Festival in Wisconsin were young. Sure, the beer lines were modest and faces babied. But at a certain age, neon tutus and “Let’s rage” T-shirts stop being desirable fashion choices.

Organizers said the three-day dance, jam rock, indie and hip-hop festival (emphasis on the dance) drew an average of 15,000 attendees to Somerset Amphitheater each day, significantly higher than last year’s 9,000-10,000 average.

“It’s exciting to be on the back end of this and see some of the things we jumped off the cliff to work out,” said Jack Trash, founder of co-organizing group Sound in Motion. “Maybe next year we jump off a higher cliff.”

Predominantly in their late teens and early-twentysomethings, fans’ colorful get-ups made for State Fair-trumping people watching. Girls donning daddy’s-worst-nightmare ensembles, kerchief-covered faces and bobbing festi poles created a spring-break-carnival atmosphere. The second-annual Summer Set was no exception to the nu-rave culture sweeping the national festival circuit and the EDM stage was popular among concert goers. It was so popular Friday night that between dubstep duo Adventure Club and Australian electro-house star Tommy Trash’s sets, the smaller dance stage area hit capacity and entry was temporary halted, frustrating many fans.

However, onstage highlights were ample during the glow-stick-brandishing bash. Here’s a look at the more memorable moments.


Polica: As faux ravers flooded the EDM area, the electronic-tinged soft rockers played to one of their smallest hometown crowds in recent memory. But the beloved locals sounded as powerful as ever strutting some fresh material. One newbie titled “Tiff” was a creepy crawler with haunting electronics lacing brooding rhythms — so, you know, a Polica song.

Big Boi: Hampered by a knee injury from a May performance, the Outkast emcee appeared in a leg brace and was mostly resigned to a large throne. But the Atlanta legend didn’t botch a bar during solo hit “Shutterbugg” or Outkast classics “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” or the nostalgically grooving “Ms. Jackson.” Hobbled or no, the ever-crisp “So Fresh, So Clean” asserted his timeless pimphood.

Big Gigantic: The second-time headliner’s electro-jam fusion brought the first night to a rapturous close. Oversized beach balls bounced atop a jubilant sea of fans bouncing along to the Colorado duo’s dirty and jazzy drops, sexified by saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli’s brass bursts.


Doomtree: While detrimental to no one’s get-down, there was a brief culture clash between the socio-politically savvy hip-hop collective and a misogynistic fragment of the “rave or die” audience. At one point Dessa — Doomtree’s lone lady — encouraged the obliging crowd to break one bro’s “show me your tits” sign. Otherwise, it was a typically grade-A Doomtree performance with all-crew cuts and select solo material.

Zedd: Headliners aside, this Interscope-inked producer had the largest draw through Saturday. The main-stage crowd erupted as the electro-house wunderkind spun his platinum single “Clarity” and infamous Zelda mix. While Zedd’s set was fraught with standard big-room tracks, the Russian-born star had Summer Set more hyped than any other performer.

SBTRKT: The masked Londoner displayed all-star DJ skills, smoothly transitioning between dark, sub-quaking tracks and audience-appeasing rap remixes. Post-dubstep proof that mixing prowess beats a retina-frying light show.

Passion Pit: Michael Angelakos and his cool indie-pop quintet bounced, bubbled and twinkled during their after-dusk performance. The cardigan-clad frontman’s spine-tickling falsetto shined on R&B standout “Constant Conversions” and a sky-reaching “Cry Like a Ghost.”

Girl Talk: The headbanded DJ blasted 20-second snippets of merged pop and rap hits for a not-so-soothing nightcap. Dancing fans filled the stage and confetti flew through the air as the sultan of splice bombarded the crowd with co-opted hits. The ever-amped Gregg Gillis’ music is on par with Jock Jams and bad karaoke, but Generation ADD was lapping from his sonic slop bucket.


Common: Making amends for being 25 minutes late, the Chicago soul-rap stalwart delivered the weekend’s most playful set. Feeling the August heat, the veteran emcee punted beach balls back to the crowd had security hose him down with water before freestyling about taking a selfie with a fan he pulled on stage.

Krewella: Fans darted toward the main stage as this Hot Topic-styled trio’s mutated bass hit “Alive” started thumping. Sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf took turns DJing and adding live vocals to prerecorded whomp-pop, proving ace hype-women along the way.

[Photos: Anna Reed]