I had heard some mixed reviews of Summer Set’s first two years, from free margaritas in year one to damn near a police state in year two. Needless to say, free drinks are very tight and police peeking over your shoulder are oh so not. Well, there were no free drinks. And while the festival ticket itself was surprisingly affordable, we were charged for camping. And then we were charged for parking. And then there wasn’t anyone checking whether we actually paid for camping or not… And security wasn’t even checking wristbands to get in camping OR the festival! It seemed as though security was solely interested in checking bags and overly frisking girls who were already wearing next to nothing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the final day of the fest when ladies were being checked by ladies, and men by men – what a concept. It took 5 hours to drive through the initial security checkpoint, before arriving to a campsite with no workers/volunteers/anyone directing people where to go. I stopped asking people questions after being on site for a couple hours because nobody had any answers. Not even the people sitting at an “Information” booth knew anything about shuttles to campsites, whether there was a media tent, or when the festival gates would open. It was the most frustrating first day of any festival I’ve ever been to. But then there was music. Good, sweet music.
Schoolboy Q lit it up before Wu – arms flailing during “Hands On The Wheel” and bucket hat boppin’ for most of Oxymoron. And Chi town was well represented at Summer Set, clear when ProbCause set fire to the intimate saloon with a high energy thats not easy to pull off early on in the day – salute. Danny Brown didn’t get any head but was weirdly entertaining, as usual. Aside from hip hop, Manic Science, Russ Liquid, Chromeo, Cherub, Claude VonStroke, and Bassnectar all blew me away. And as far as misses go, we missed Chance. Everyone did. Chance’s Acid Rap was playing in campsites so often it almost felt like the whole fest was pre gaming for a Chance show. Tyler The Creator was put in his spot last minute, and frankly the festival may have been better off had he also not shown up. He spent more time heckling people than rapping. Luckily FlyLo followed Tyler, bringing a much needed boost of… uhh… music to the Main Stage.
After getting past the bullshit, it became clear that Summer Set has the potential to be a destination festival. The site is golden. With a lazy river just a stones throw from the festival grounds, you can walk or take a shuttle to Apple River where you can spend the morning or afternoon just floatin.’ On site, there were four areas to catch music (the Main Stage, Saloon, Big Top, and Grove Stage) with campgrounds surrounding almost all of them (as opposed to other festivals where there is generally only one entrance, by my count there were at least three at Summer Set). This is an ideal situation in that there was rarely a line to get into the fest, and most campsites ended up being “good spots” (so lining up to get into the campgrounds the morning of isn’t necessary). I hope Summer Set continues to grow, with more music, vendors, and fans next year. With more art, vendors, and better organization and execution, Summer Set may just become the best way to end the festival season in years to come. For now, we look to North Coast.