Let me start by saying that I had an amazing time at the 2016 edition of the Summer Set Music & Camping Festival. Amazing! I had an amazing experience. I didn't have the typical music festival experience, but it was great nonetheless....allow me to explain...
I was at Summer Set as a bartender. I also would have said that I was not a big EDM fan going into the festival. I'm definitely a metal head. I've been digging deep into hip hop over the last few years (good, lyric hip hop), I still dig some hot jazz....but Electronic Dance Music? Not so much. However, the performances I saw at SSMF definitely changed my mind about EDM.
I was in the Grove, one of four stages for the three-day festival. The Grove was the stage furthest away from the main stage, and also one of the busiest of the weekend. In addition to having some great acts on the Grove stage during the day, the Grove was also the sight of the midnight to 2:30am afterparties 2 of the 3 nights of the festival.
The past few years I've had the awesome opportunity to bartend at some of the biggest music festivals in Chicago, but this was the first time ever traveling (with friends) to bartend at a large festival outside of Chicago.
I'm an adventurous person. I have no problem going into a situation, not knowing exactly what to expect, and this was a perfect example. Starting out, I didn't even have any idea that Somerset, Wisconsin was 6 hours away. When my friends told me, I said "You know, if I'd known that, I might have passed on this shindig!" In retrospect, I was glad that I didn't.
First and foremost, Summer Set is a camping festival, which was a first time for me. I haven't been "camping" since I was in the military, lugging around a shelter half, while my battle buddy carried the other half. For this outing, I had much more fancier digs, having borrowed a 2-man state-of-the-art tent from REI from one of my training partners. Something very similar to this:
My friends had tents that ranged in size from 2-man to 10-man. While I may have suffered from a slight case of tent envy, I made due.
Now, let me say that the people at Summer Set were awesome...everyone! From the React Presents staff to all the customers that we served beer and shots too. Now, I'm a metal head. I've never bartended at a metal concert or festival, but I've attended way too many to count, and let me say that the vibe was so much different...better. I always thought that the metal community was open and accepting (I remember going to shows and seeing the same 2 or 3 other black kids that I'd always see), but man, they have nothing on the EDM community. I can officially say that Skrillex's set at Summer Set was the best show I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. A few drinks, a lot of dancing, and being surrounded by thousands of people high fiving, and smiling, and embracing each other as people....I haven't experienced anything quite like it. I was enthralled.
Beyond Skrillex, who completely destroyed the crowd, the stage, and left us all smiling, and wanting more, but completely wasted, I saw some other great performances. The other three standouts to me were
Now I'd never heard of Tory Lanez prior to Summer Set. The music was good, but the performance? Now, I'm a musician. I've never been an outstanding musician, but I've always been a good performer, particularly when I sang in a metal band back in the day. I could perform, so I absolutely appreciate and love good performers...and Tory Lanez is it. he spent most of his set either crowd surfing, or, walking on the hands and shoulders of the crowd upright, which I found mind boggling. This kid has it!
I just remember dancing, serving beer, dancing, serving beer, jumping, serving beer. A great set, in my opinion, is one that leaves you in a euphoric state. You don't need alcohol, you don't need drugs, you just get so in tune with the music, the visuals (React Presents staff was on point with the visuals and screens, the fire, the entire presentation for all performers was on point)....Gramatik had it going on. His song/music choice was so eclectic, he had a different flavor from everyone else I heard the weekend, and I was loving it!!!
Jauz was another performer I'd never heard of before summer set. But man....he destroyed the after party he headlined, and he had me in the palm of his hand. I can't remember if I danced more, or served more beer....
What else can I possibly say? I saw beautiful women, met interesting people, made some new friends.....it was an amazing weekend. The only downside of the weekend was me drinking too much Sunday night (follwing the Skrillex set) and getting sick later that night...which proceeded into me being sick pretty much all day Monday, and losing my voice as a result of the stomach acid burning my throat while I prayed to the grass.
Nothing's perfect. I hope I have the opportunity to go to Summer Set again, because it was the s**t!
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