Making sense of Summer Set

The seemingly disparate lineup of rappers, ravers and jam bands at Somerset Amphitheater this weekend is a proven crowd-pleaser.

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Umphrey's McGee plays Saturday.

Another weekend, another new festival.

Not exactly. Of all the outdoor music marathons to launch (or at least try to launch) locally over the past couple years, this weekend's Summer Set Music & Camping Festival at Somerset Amphitheater is hands-down the weirdest. It boasts an ambitious but seemingly incoherent roster of acts from dissimilar genres. Electronic dance makers perform alongside jam bands, with some indie-rockers and three of the most revered rappers of all time thrown in for good measure.

Perhaps the most bizarre pairing of all: The fest's late-night dance parties are taking place in a neighboring indoor ice rink. Surely one DJ will perform atop the Zamboni, right?

As odd as it all sounds, Summer Set is based on a formula that has worked before. One of the event's co-promoters, React Presents, produces a similarly freakish lineup in its hometown of Chicago called the North Coast Fest, which sold out Union Park in the Windy City last year. This year, many performers are pulling double duty at both Summer Set and North Coast, happening one weekend later.

"[We] noticed that the jam bands, electronic and hip-hop genres were all meeting in the middle to create its own sound and style," React marketing coordinator Pat Grumley said. "So we formed up like Voltron, and built a festival around it."

And now another. Of course, there's one key difference: Summer Set takes place in the middle of farm country. Grumley said it may be better there, since there's no 10 p.m. outdoor curfew like in Chicago, and the after-parties are on site.

Here's a rundown on who's performing each day:

FRIDAY

Colorado sax/drums/electro- beat duo Big Gigantic headlines the main stage (10:30 p.m.). One of a handful of bands that blur the lines between dance, hip-hop and jammy rock, it played Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza earlier this summer. Another duo, Toronto-based Zed's Dead (9:30), is a mash-up act of the Girl Talk variety. Local transcendental chamber-rockers Cloud Cult (8:30) made Summer Set their only semi-local set of the summer. On the hip-hop front, Alabama wild man and Eminem protégé Yelawolf (7:30) leads the pack alongside Minneapolis' own maniacal MC, Prof (10 p.m.), who got Yelawolf to guest on a track for his upcoming album. Other performers include beatmaker-turned-orchestrator RJD2, PANTyRAID, Bassjackers and David Jones. The after-party (midnight-2:30 a.m.) features Alvin Risk, Lo Bounce and Blake Jarrell.

SATURDAY

The biggest, most eclectic day. Chicago jammers Umphrey's McGee (10:30 p.m.) play their first local outdoor show after four years of multi-night stands at First Ave. Queens, N.Y., rap giant Nas (7 p.m.) just dropped one of his best albums, "The Good Life," after celebrating the 20th-anniversary reissue of his landmark debut, "Illmatic." Cute Brooklyn indie-pop duo Matt & Kim (8:30 p.m.) have 89.3 the Current's most annoyingly overrated song of the moment, "Let's Go." Toronto duo MSTRKRFT (9:30 p.m.) is led by Jesse Keeler of Death From Above 1979 fame. Newly remade local favorites Solid Gold (4:30 p.m.) and San Francisco hippie-rockers Tea Leaf Green (3 p.m.) merit an early arrival. Also performing: Brooklyn indie-rapper Mr. MFN eXquire, Excision, Griz, AraabMuzik and fest co-promoter Jack Trash. The late-night dance party (midnight) includes FTampa and Midnight Conspiracy.

SUNDAY

The most dance-oriented day of the fest will be topped off by Colorado fest vet Pretty Lights (10:30 p.m.), who spins samples, hip-hop, synths and, yep, dubstep. Israeli psychedelic duo Infected Mushroom (9:30 p.m.) will debut an ambitious 3-D stage show. Other electronic stars include British trance newbie Mat Zo (8:30 p.m.), Frisco fave Claude VonStroke (4:30 p.m.) and local vet Woody McBride (1:30). Rap fans may not want to miss the rare Black Star set with Mos Def and Kweli (9 p.m.), who have a new album to preview -- only their second in 14 years. Several jam bands are sprinkled in: Lotus, the Big Wu and the Sublime-like Rebelution. The dance party (midnight) has VonStroke and Nadastrom.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

  • SUMMER SET

    When: 3 p.m. Fri.-2:30 a.m. Mon. • Where: Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, Wis.

    Tickets: $125 three-day, $45 daily. • Web: www.summersetfestival.com.

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