SOMERSET, WISCONSIN—When I showed up at SoundTown, it was raining and somewhat dismal. All the attendees were walking around in colored ponchos and the bored staff of teenagers looked like they would rather be playing frisbee and texting than directing people to their campgrounds. We settled in and went to get some food at the very end of free food time, and as I walked across the festival grounds, I was surprised by how empty it was compared to other music festivals I’ve been to. Where was everybody?
But when I got to the tent, my party immediately ran into other people we knew. I even saw one of my friends from high school. It was a strange feeling, like a festival where you actually know everyone there. I quickly realized why that was: the local press were there, and in Minneapolis, that’s a tight scene.
Eventually, what originally appeared to be a broad, lonely festival slowly turned into a camping extravaganza. Thanks to the VIP passes—which are totally worth the extra price—many of the people at the festival got all the free beer and wine they wanted, along with lunchroom-style meals with fatty brownies and plenty of vegetarian options. The high density of people knowing each other meant that everyone was dining, drinking and soon, late-night partying together. Unlike the fields, the campgrounds were crowded with all kinds of characters, and people naturally congregated together over Bloody Marys, campfires, s’mores, and gossip.
The event climaxed when someone brought a freakish gummy skull into the MPR tent where we were hanging out and forced us all to take a bite. Then the weekend settled to its conclusion the next morning, as we all sat and watched a dude who was on something or other stand up and grunt while trying to take a poop. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen at Pitchfork Music Festival, where everyone ditches the grounds after 10 p.m. to go party in ritzy Chicago bars.
You might have noticed that I haven’t talked about the music. That’s because it wasn’t exactly the emphasis of the weekend. Sure I saw a few crowd-amping performances by local acts like Phantom Tails and SIMS on the small, tented local stage (which was arguably the most popular), and the Flaming Lips were mind-blowing as ever, but there weren’t enough must-see bands on the line-up.
That problem could easily be fixed next year. Despite the fact that SoundTown wasn’t highly attended, the fact that the local press (the music scene’s “early adapters”) were so into it probably means that it has great potential to grow. If it becomes a recurring fest, it will give city-dwellers the chance to escape for some camping debauchery just as much as it will give under-stimulated Wisconsin kids something cool to do. On my list for next year is to utilize the campground’s river and treat my hangover with a day of tubing.
Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons
More Than Lights
Sims with Lazerbeak
Roma di Luna
The New Pornographers
New Century Masters
White Light Riot
Joey Ryan and the Inks
Molly Maher and Her Disbelievers
Pert’ Near Sandstone
The Flaming Lips