NORTHERN INVASION 2017
3RD ANNUAL 2-DAY ROCK FESTIVAL AT SOMERSET AMPHITHEATER
MAY 13TH & 14TH, 2017
Written Content by: Caleb Baumgartner
Photo Content by: Patrick Dunn
The Northern Invasion experience is something that is difficult to cover in any typical review sense. Far from your typical concert, the entire festival is something like if 93x were to come to life as a three-staged-beast catering to a delightfully debaucherous fanbase. There’s a lot going on, so it goes without saying that some things are missed. Yet the overall impression of Northern Invasion is that it’s an amazing experience that’s worth the drive and the price of admission. They layout is easily navigable, and the staggering of the acts was done in such a way that there was little overlap, and one could take in virtually whatever they wanted to over the course of the long weekend.
Many of the bands in attendance this year were amazing. Though their sets were shorter, they were often tighter and more focused on audience-pleasers than deeper cuts. That may be a weakness of the show for some folks, but it definitely never bothered the crowd, who were generally energetic and rowdy at virtually every one of the three stages that were being performed on. Though much of the stacked card seemed to appeal to some nostalgia factor (with headliners like Godsmack, Soundgarden, The Offspring, and Kid Rock being long-established acts), the undercard, if you will, of the event was often every bit as strong as the big names in attendance. There were many newer bands performing who had excellent sets as well, such as Starset, a relatively new act by comparison to the rest of the bill, who delivered a killer performance in opening the main stage on Sunday.
Of particular note this year were the performances of Bush, The Offspring, and Sum 41. For both crowd and performers, the energy levels of these acts were off the charts. At one point, Gavin Rossdale left the stage and performed throughout the natural amphitheater, showing off an impressive display of cardio as he both nailed his vocals and covered an incredible amount of distance, bringing the mob to him as people surrounded him wherever he went. Sum 41’s performance may well have been better suited for the main stage, as the crowd spilled out in all directions from where they were performing, crowding even the main path through the event. Their sound received an incredible response, with a very active circle pit forming right in front of the stage and numerous crowd surfers being hoisted up and carried to the front (an awkward mix that somehow didn’t end in disaster). The Offspring’s performance, while much less of a rowdy affair, was still incredibly energetic, with a significant portion of the audience singing along with every track.
The weather, too, did its part to make this an amazing weekend. In stark contrast to last year, in which the festival was held in insanely cold temps, the weekend posted clear skies and temps which, while arguably a bit high, were offset by a perfect breeze. One could watch from Saturday to Sunday as attendees developed decent tans (or, in the case of some, decent burns, somewhere in the light pink to oh-man-that-looks-painful-red spectrum).
In spite of the quality of music provided by the bands, arguably the greatest aspect of Northern Invasion is the people. The atmosphere on the grounds invites easy conversation with strangers, and the people watching is some of the best you will ever have. People show up in costume (hello, Jesus, complete with crown of thorns), people show up in bizarre shirts, people yell odd things (hello, “I just got arrested yesterday” guy). In a two-day span, the event seemed to be incident free, which may have been a minor miracle considering the amount of alcohol flowing and the nature of the music being played. Everyone was cool and everyone was there to have a good time.
Northern Invasion itself as an event was incredibly efficient and well-organized. The RFID wristbands made entry and movement very easy. The layout was well done, and the scheduling was nearly perfect (though those few times where overlapping bands were playing on different stages made for some interesting listening). The acoustics were terrific for an outdoor show, making proximity to the stage something of a non-issue, meaning that if you didn’t feel inclined to get rowdy with the crowd, you could simply post up on a hill and take everything in without too much concern of losing sight of the band or losing too much quality in the audio. In many ways, this experience was superior to stadium show viewing, in that there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. The only real issue with the event from an organizational standpoint was that, as the night wore on, and people became increasingly sloppy-drunk, the portajohns became virtually unusable messes. It’s not a small issue, to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things it’s both something to be expected and something which may be terribly hard for a venue to attend to until overnight cleanup begins.
In all, Northern Invasion was a great success. The event had an inviting atmosphere that made small talk with strangers incredibly easy, while featuring an amazing array of acts that for the most part performed very well (and those that perhaps failed to live up to expectations? Hey, at least they were short sets). This is definitely an event to recommend, in the spirit of that recommendation, I’d like to close by offering up some useful Pro-Tips to those considering attendance next year:
Strongly consider the VIP passes! It’s really worth it if just for access to honest-to-God flushing toilets alone. Avoid the portajohn mess!
Pregame hard. It might not be a bad idea to take in some food and drink before entering the venue. Food there is a bit on the pricy side. Drinks are a bit pricy, too. Think Minnesota State Fair pricy. So be prepared to spend some cash once you’re inside.
If you want to eat there, definitely have a look around. Day one I paid eight bucks for a corn dog. Day two I spend eight bucks on a delicious BBQ meal of pulled pork, cole slaw, and beans. Definitely a big difference. There is an array of amazing eats to pick from, so check everything out.
Need to make friends? Find one of the few shady spots in the venue. You’ll either join a great group of people or be joined by one very quickly, and you have built-in access to everyone’s (least?) favorite conversation opener: “Hey, how about that weather?”
Get a hotel or camping access early! You’re going to be short on luck trying to find something day-of.
Want to get into the thick of things in front of the stage? Keep your head on a swivel. There’s a good chance that you’ll be receiving crowd surfers from behind you. Lend them a hand, it’s all part of the show!
Bring your phone charger! There are spots on the grounds to plug your phone in so you can keep plugging away with photo and video, both of which you’ll want in abundance, because there is a lot to see and share. (Another VIP perk, they had many tables in their area that had chargers for various models of phone built in.)
Look in town for parking. Some of the local business charge a bit less for parking than the venue itself. Saving ten bucks on parking is nothing to sneeze at, and it’s a very short walk to the venue itself from town.
And just for your own personal entertainment, wear a pedometer. You might be surprised how much walking you end up doing.