Summer Set Shows That the Music Makes the Festival

written by Austin Allen

Summer Set Music Festival at a glance

Summer Set was exactly how I thought it would be: exciting artists, a great venue, an aggravating crowd, the tightest security I’ve experienced all summer, and a medical staff that seemingly lacked experience. Over the course of the weekend one staff member used the pins on my hat as an excuse to go snooping around my campsite, while another offered me free Taco Bell. There were good times and not so good times at Summer Set, and while the lineup was certainly star-studded, at the end of the day this wasn’t the place to get lost in the best of vibes.

Music genre: Super wide variety; everything from rap, house, trap, and not enough dubstep (sad face)

Camping: North and south GA camping, VIP camping in the woods, and RV camping. Summer Set also teamed up with Unity Travel to offer exclusive hotel/shuttle deals for those who preferred not to camp, including a shuttle from Chicago to Somerset, WI.

Capacity: Lots of people, whole lot of em (around 14,000)

Crowd type: Kandi kids, frat bros and strat girls, adults that still get down, obvious undercovers (one went around asking if anyone was selling ‘headys’…)

Water stations: One at every campground as well as a few inside the venue. Take note, you’ll have to dump all liquids before entering the stage area

For the first timers

The closest airport is MSP – Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport located about 50 minutes from Summer Set. That would be a pretty costly taxi ride but Summer Set has you covered with shuttle buses—to and from hotels and the festival grounds, even from Chicago and back (see above). They also hooked it up with multiple package deals including hotel rooms + shuttles for couples, as well as all you solo festival goers.

Security takes an interesting form at Summer Set. Though police presence is strong, I’ve heard several stories of theft. One young girl explained to me through sobs that someone had unzipped the front pocket of her backpack and taken her phone right out of it. I suggest investing in a fanny pack to keep an eye on your belongings. Other experiences at previous festivals have taught me that the unwritten rule of festival camping actually needs to be written, so allow me: stay cool with your neighbors and watch each other’s stuff.

Standout Food

Summer Set offered a variety of food that was honestly really damn good. I myself am a pizza man, and I think I fell in love at a food vendor’s booth the first night of the festival. Wooden Paddle Pizza was the place where I laid eyes on true beauty. “The Buzzkill” is what they called her: pepperoni, chili peppers, basil, mozzarella, and house-made red sauce are layered on house-made dough before it goes in the on-site oven. Then she comes out and is drizzled with honey…good thing I wasn’t wearing socks because the Wooden Paddle Pizza would’ve knocked them off.

Stage Layout

There are four stages: The Grove, The Big Top, Saloon, and finally the Main Stage. Each one a little different than the last and more than equipped to host dancers as well as sit back and relaxers. The main stage area was extremely spacious, with a large dance floor and a hill where peopled laid in the grass, relaxing and enjoying all that Summer Set had to offer.

The Grove, one of my favorite stages, was lit. Literally. Many curious attendees were drawn to a large machine with chains hanging from it in back of The Grove which, when pulled, would shoot fire out of the top. It was a pretty powerful feeling having that much fire just shoot into the sky whenever you’d fancy some flames.

Musical Highlights

Atmosphere, hands down. A superb storyteller and fantastic producer, Ant and Slug blew Summer Set out of the water. With so many iconic songs in their arsenal, Atmosphere impressively blended the entire set into one song, start to finish. “The Women with the Tattooed Hands”, “Sunshine”, “Fuck You Lucy”, “Trying to Find A Balance”, “Little Man”, and so many more…I don’t think I’ll ever forget that performance.

I started listening to Atmosphere in middle school, and their songs—each packed with their own meaning and symbolism—really shaped how I’ve grown up. I’ve become addicted to the poetry. The duo infuses such strong emotion into every production in a way that has grabbed me and many others by the hips and enabled us to truly internalize their message. Summer Set was just another festival Atmosphere triumphed over, giving a set that was easily my favorite of the weekend.

Things to do

  •  Yoga
  • Aerial
  • Hula hoop jam
  • Pole dance
  • Dance circle
  • Fire performances
  • Live painting
  • Face and body painting
  • Printing and graffiti
  • Henna tattoos
  • Jewelry making
  • Lazy river (thanks to the festival’s partnership with Hide-A-Way and Rivers Edge Campgrounds)

VIP or nah

VIP at Summer Set comes with a whole slurry of perks. Hospitality tents are stocked with snacks for your late night tummy grumbles, plus with non-alcoholic drinks. At Happy Hour, local mixologists create exclusive and delicious cocktails. Climate controlled restrooms and showers mean you don’t get gross all weekend long, and can fully enjoy the VIP-only viewing areas at the Main Stage and The Grove. Finally, VIPs get tickets to every after party that Summer Set has to offer.

Story corner

I was relaxing on the hill of the main stage, awaiting Atmosphere’s performance and enjoying the weather with my buddy Jay. Not long after lighting some Palo Santos—Peruvian incense—a pack of college bros from North Dakota with pupils bigger than their IQs approached us and asked to take a hit. They failed, and left to catch one of their favorite artists, Steve Aoki.

Later that night, Jay and I were walking around, unable to sleep and looking for anything better than sitting around our campsite. First we stumbled upon a few fire spinners who gave me the opportunity to spin a fire staff. Fast forward an hour or so, and Jay and I are sharing a cigarette and some laughs with an older man who was closing up the gates to staff camping when he asked if we liked tacos.

“Sir, I like tacos more than I like myself,” I replied, and he proceeded to hand us two brown bags full of Taco Bell, one with quesadillas and one with tacos. People talk about finding love at music festivals, and after having survived on mostly chips for the past two days, I’d say laying eyes on those bags of Taco Bell counts as a love at first sight moment. We continued to stroll through the campgrounds like kings, eating tacos and smoking Marlboro 27’s till the sun came up.

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