2012 Jammin’ On The Wolf Music Festival

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Luckily, the organizers of Jammin On The Wolf set this day up to be the apex of the weekend, with no music scheduled at all for Sunday. More small festivals should adopt this strategy — it’s great to have the final day of the weekend to pack up and head home with no real time constraint. I woke up in time to catch Fresh Hops, who yet again got stuck with an opening set. They have gotten very good at playing with far less people watching than there should be. But still, it would be nice to see these guys get a shot at a nighttime set, they definitely have what it takes to get a whole tent full of people dancing.

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Around this time we started getting the urge to swim, and since the river lacked a real swimming hole, we made the short trip to White Lake for a quick dip. There was a large rafting trip scheduled around this time, but we decided that there wasn’t enough time for a six (or even three) hour trip — there was too much good music to see. We made it back in time to catch the very end of IndigoSun’s set and what I heard was a more downtempo, relaxed Indigo, perfectly suited for a chill afternoon set.

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Up next was UV Hippo, who is always a treat on any festival lineup. This time they were without their usual bass player, Brian Samuels, and had guest Ian Davis playing in his stead. Davis brought a funkier edge to the Hippo sound with some really sharp slap style, a sound that really hasn’t been there with Hippo in the past. It was really cool to hear in a song like “Run Rabbit Run,” one that I’ve heard so many times but with the subtle little differences in the basslines, gave it an awesomely fresh feel. They ended the set with a really chill version of Garaj Mahal’s “Stoked On Razaki.” Sometimes this song can get insane, but this one stayed in that jazzy pocket, perfect for the bright afternoon sun.

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It’s unfortunate that I got so sucked into Hippo’s set, because I almost completely missed Chicago’s hip hop-EDM force Shapes & Colors. These guys were like a snowball in 2012, rolling along and picking up both momentum and members. As they year’s gone on, their sound has gotten tighter and tighter, especially as they added Lucas Ellman on saxophone/EWI and Dan Cantone on guitar. RamZ (production), Rez (drums), and Jeremy (bass) already have an awesome chemistry from their Raoul Duke days, so adding these two baller musicians into the mix only made things better. This is definitely one of Chicago’s rising bands, as evidenced by their set-ending remix of Ratatat’s “One” with a great rap sample and some gnarly licks from Cantone. Need moar SnC beats!

From a different festival but it’s a similar version. 

After that nice little afternoon run of sets, it was time to kick my feet up again, eat a ton of food (my parents were clutch in this department all weekend — they came seriously prepared), and prepare for the last night of the festival. I bounced around to Fifth World then The Coop then Steez, all of which were definitely fun, but none of them truly stuck with me. In these bands’ defense, I was distracted with spending time with Noah and my parents and just generally being in hard-chill mode, so it’s not as if any of them played poorly. Basically, I totally slacked at this festival, and I’m trying to talk my way out of it. So it goes.

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Everything was building to a peak. The laziness during the day/evening pretty much mandated that I went hard this night. Leave it all on the field. The nighttime is the right time. And there were artists left that always ensure that… as well as a third ‘set’ that was pretty much the coolest thing ever. More on that one later. As the sun started to go down, Thibault started blowing up. Thibault usually throws down festival sets of utterly devastating electro — as aggressive as electro gets — with huge swells and thunderous drops. But on this night he pumped the brakes a little bit, felt softer around the edges. Of course he dropped some elbows off the top rope, including his staple “Air Jaws,” but he weaved in a cool Chemical Brothers remix and hit a major peak when he played a remix of M83’s “Midnight City.” I’d never heard this angle of his approach before, definitely never two popular, more mainstream remixes like this in one set. It showed an awesome awareness of the crowd and the festival overall, which set the table perfectly for the last set of the festival.

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I was definitely surprised by the choice of Break Science to headline this festival. Being way the hell out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin and all, Break Science is just so much more… city. But what ended up happening was one of my favorite electronic performances I’ve ever seen. A major reason for that was getting to watch Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee work up close. These guys are both extremely talented musicians, the kind of talent that awes & inspires me. Lee is the answer to every person who uses the stale argument about EDM and ‘pushing play.’ He was constantly at work, using various samplers, synths, and sequencers, a vocoder, and even a fine bit of melodica. He was involved in every second of production the entire time, actually recreating damn near everything from studio cuts in the live setting. He was seriously impressive.

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And on the other side of the stage was Adam Deitch, my personal favorite drummer and hands down one of the most skilled drummers on this planet. No matter which of his myriad musical projects he’s with, he’s always incredible. Any genre, any time festival time slot, any song you got, Jack — Deitch can slay that shit. So it was an absolute treat to be able to stand directly in front of him and really dig into how he was playing, really study his habits. The sound was absolutely perfect close to the stage; earlier in the day it was a bit harsh but by the end of the day, sound man extraordinaire Asim Ali had it totally honed in. While I’m at it, the other guy behind the table, the inimitable Herm was splashing out a light show that seemed to raise the low slung roof of the barn about ten feet higher.

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The young go-hard, in his natural habitat.

But back to Deitch… He was put on a dazzling display of every percussion style and trick, every tempo change and pattern in the book, utilizing every centimeter of the surfaces in front of him to twirl a drumming performance that blew me away. Naturally, the other drummers/percussionists settled in front of him as well. The young bucks just soaking up the aura of the master, percussion disciples in front of their sensei. So many songs were stretched out just to let Deitch play around and do his thing. Like any true virtuoso, he made it look so easy.  In the midst of one particularly spacey drum section, he went into a cymbal run where he touched every cymbal he had, and somehow spun a loop inside of a loop, finishing an ultra fast trip inside the rhythm of the original loop. It made an involuntary “Yeah!” bark out of me, quickly followed by a feeling of completely boggled mind. I must have stood there with my mouth agape for a total of like 40 minutes of the entire set — Deitch totally mesmerized me.

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When it was all said and done, this Break Science set instantly slid into my favorite shows of the year list. It was a really special set at a small festival that was a hell of a lot of fun. But the fun wasn’t even over yet. After a while, the music across the way started to get louder, then some drums kicked in, then I got off my ass to see what was going on. In the middle of the road, right in the middle of the festival, a whole group of the musicians gathered for a semi-amplified, totally improvised jam session. Kobrakai was in there with his laptop and some tiny speakers, laying out various songs, beats, and other electronic weirdness for Matt Rezetko to drum under, the horn section from Genome and Igor (guitar) from Fifth World and Genome to play over, with various people on a big hand drum and a girl playing a wood saw with a bow for good measure. People around the festival quickly caught on and before long there was a mass of people with amazed grins huddled around the odd sounds. This is the awesome part about music festivals: the collision of so many musicians who can create music that is completely unique. They whipped up a moment that continued the special feeling and added a really unique & unexpected exclamation point on the end of a beautiful weekend. There’s no doubt about it, we jammed the hell outta that wolf!

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Jeremy Frazier is the editor-in-chief of Soundfuse.