If you’re going to organize a festival, you have to find a way to stand out enough for people to notice you. You have to decide on a focus point to leverage yourself against the growing number of new festivals, as well as the established ones.
For a small festival in rural Wisconsin, their choice seems painfully obvious. It can’t be easy being a festival promoter for a young festival like Summer Set. They’re not based in a heavily populated area, with the closest city being the oft-overflown Minneapolis, a city with an up and down relationship with EDM, and with music festivals, for that matter. The venue, Somerset Amphitheater proved a challenge for the promoters last year as far as layout and managing the entrances between stages. This has got to be a hard sell for booking talent, not unlike selling a used Ford Tempo to oh, I don’t know, the RZA.
But they did get the RZA. They got the him, and eight of his closest friends. They also got Kaskade, Bassnectar, Flux Pavilion, Danny Brown and a whole host of other artists you’d expect to see at bigger festivals like Spring Awakening, or Electric Forest. But it’s not Spring Awakening. It’s a little festival in a tiny town in Wisconsin. Promotion and organization is being handled jointly by React Presents out of Chicago, as well as by Sound in Motion (aka SIM Shows) out of Minneapolis. Their focus is decidedly on the line-up first, experience second, and everything else…we’ll get to that.
I attended Summer Set in 2012, and to be honest, there was a lot of room for improvement. Mainly, it was the pricing structure for camping, and that their second-biggest stage was in an enclosed hockey arena. It was wet, sticky and the sound was not great. In 2013, I saw a lot of changes, like addition of the Grove Tent as an alternative to the sweatbox arena, and the process to get through security and into the festival was much quicker, much less of a pain.
Unfortunately, the pricing structure for camping remains intact. A camping pass gets you spots for six people and one car, either parked outside the festival or inside at your site, depending on which campground you’re in. Who do you know can fit six people and three days’ worth of camping gear in a single vehicle? What about all the people who are showing up with one or two other people? What about normal sized people with normal cars? It’s baffling, but then, there are alternatives nearby, so it’s not as if you’d be stranded if you don’t opt for a bulk camping ticket.
Camping aside, I can’t find anything else to complain about with the festival. Last year’s troubles with getting searched when traveling between stages, as well as the cramped dust-bin that was the Grove have been acknowledged, and SIM Shows promises they’ve learned their lesson. One important change is the increase in number of water stations. They’ve also offered up helpful advice for festival survival in the form of a Top 10 post on their site, and even popped up with an app (download here, sorry no Android support) to help you plan your day and navigate the festival. As for the latter, my advice would be to use a paper schedule for planning and only use your phone to find your friends. And maybe to post a few bragging-rights pics along the way.
Three- and single-day tickets are still available through Club Tix. Keep an eye on ElectoJams for coverage and photos throughout the weekend, and prepare yourself with an indoctrinating Spotify Playlist here.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.