Another year, another cracking Soundset Festival in Shakopee, Minnesota. After a heavy barrage of rain the night before, the nightmare scenario of a mud-bath was raising its ugly head but once we arrived and saw that the worst of it was contained to the middle patch of grass by the Main Stage and everything else was just a bit squidgy, we knew it was going to be alright. Walking up to the entrance, we caught the last couple of songs of the Slaughterhouse set – a shame we didn’t catch more of it, but with such a good line-up on the rest of the bill, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Taking our place a little further back from the main stage, we rolled in just in time to see Dilated Peoples make their triumphant return with Babu cutting over Evidence and Rakaa’s lyrics and getting the crowd whipped up from the very start. Rolling through some newer tunes including the crowd favourite This Way, the trio performed with smiles as big as those in the crowd and even brought out a female fan who had traveled all the way from LA [not as far as London!] to perform a track with them. By the time they finished up on the anthem Worst Comes To Worst, they had the crowd eating out of their hands.
They were followed on stage by Mac Miller, which meant an swift exit to avoid hearing his horrible music before heading back for the Main Stage debut of Doomtree, who killed their set despite obvious sound problems. Never a crew to let the energy levels drop, their set span crew tracks as well as solo tunes from various albums and also saw performances of new tracks by Cecil Otter and P.O.S., whose song has an instantly catchy gang chorus about spitting on Nikes, kicking out DJs and rocking a party. They’re favourites, obviously, but bias aside, they slayed it, a definite highlight. De La Soul moved the crowd as you would expect, mixing in their old-skool vibes with newer tracks like Ooh and proved that despite their age, they still know how to rock a set.
Moving over to the Fifth Element stage, we took in another sterling performance by Edan, who had wowed me earlier this year at the Jazz Café in London. Whilst it was almost an exact replica of that set, his ability to entertain is second-to-none and as such the crowd swelled with every song. His wordplay and back-and-forths with hype man Paten Locke had everyone slamming hands in the air and when he busted out the acoustic guitar and kazoo, it was over, he’d cemented his place in everyone’s hearts. Unfortunately it meant we weren’t able to see Brother Ali’s set, but by the look of the crowd in front of the stage, he was killing it as usual.
Then it was time for the main two acts of the festival – Big Boi and Atmosphere. The Outkast MC brought a ton of girls on stage with him [most of whom looked like jailbait, but still] as he ran through classic Outkast material dating all the way back to the first album through classics like Ms Jackson [which included comedy “ooohs” from the crowd at every chorus] and Ghettomusick before ramming everyone’s ears with tracks from his brilliant solo album – Shutterbugg being the highlight of a great set.
When Slug, Ant, Nate and Erick hit the stage though, the noise levels went up that bit further, welcoming their hometown favourites back after a grueling tour. With tracks from their new album The Family Sign sounding brilliant, especially the bouncy She’s Enough, a quick Slick Rick impression from Slug and old favourites like Guns and Cigarettes and Trying To Find A Balance being wheeled out, it’s easy to see why Atmosphere continue to bring in so many plaudits. As the sun set on both them and the festival, the estimated 30,000 people finished their day on the ultimate high. Long may independent labels continue and here’s to Soundset 2012.