How do you even put a weekend like this weekend into words. The first outdoor festival of the year is always my favorite weekend. It’s a sign of summer and the fun times to come. Walking into the festival before the masses to get set up in the press tent is always a reminder of just how far I’ve come in the past couple of years. Everything about the first festival of the year is perfect but this year’s first seemed so much more perfect.

Northern Invasion is held in Somerset, Wisconsin just about an hour away from the Twin Cities. Although the festival headliner’s aren’t typically my cup of tea (they focus on the radio rock and psuedo-metal side of things), I still always look forward to going because you just never know what you’re going to get. On top of that, they treat press really well so who am I to say no? With 38 bands on the line-up (of which I caught 36 of them), me writing about each band would absolutely bore you to death so here are some highlights of the weekend.

Early on on Saturday, I caught Dube. I had never heard of them before this weekend but my goal was to see every single band that played this past weekend so I hiked on over to one of the two side stages to see them. I got to their set about half way through and was a bit stunned by what I saw. Apparently the sound had gone out on the stage leaving the band with only the sound of the drums. Most bands would just wait for the problem to be resolved and then move on with their set but not Dube. Because of the misfortune, I was treated to one of the greatest air guitar versions of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ that I have ever seen. Although there was no sound ringing through the speakers and all you could hear were the drums, you could hear the song in your head as the group air played through it. The audience was eating it up and providing the vocals for the group. It was one of those moments that definitely gave me a new respect for this band.

Whitney Peyton was the second act for me on Sunday. Again, like Dube, I had never heard of her prior to this weekend but after meeting her in the press tent early on Sunday, I just couldn’t resist. She came off as very sweet and very real. When my photographer asked if he could get a couple of shots of her she offered to grab a giant inflatable pink flamingo that she would later ride through the crowd. This may sound like a tiny thing but, to me, it showed a sense of creativity and fun in this woman and it made me excited to see what her set would bring. Whitney was the only hip-hop act on the nearly forty band bill but she didn’t change a freaking thing to try and fit in better and I love her for that. Her bright pink hair bounced around with the beat as she got the early rising (and clearly hungover) crowd moving for day two.

One of my more highly anticipated acts of the weekend was The Fever 333. I’ve heard the chatter, seen the pictures… I knew this was a band I couldn’t miss. The Fever 333 started their stage with a white sheet concealing whatever was going on on the stage . After a couple seconds of audio of news clippings, the singer took his spot in front of the sheet with a black hood over his head. It was an ominous sight and definitely seemed to peak the interest of majority of the crowd including myself. As the music kicked in, the white sheet fell to the ground and the crowd was treated to what I’m going to go ahead and call the best set of the weekend. The energy was insane, I watched in amazement as the singer ran everywhere he could. He jumped on speakers and even climbed the scaffolding of the stage at one point. The music matched the energy. It was fast, dirty and intense creating a truly explosive and stand out set . This whole weekend was full of great bands and music but The Fever 333 truly took the cake.

Anti-Flag was the only band I jumped into the pit for. I truly don’t understand how as they played at 5:30 on Sunday and I was beyond exhausted and dehydrated at that point but I did it. Their political protest songs and unrelenting energy when it comes to their live show have kept this band a constant in my life for years and years. Prior to their set, I saw them sneak into the press tent for some interviews. I couldn’t resist, I grabbed my photographer and, although I was shaking uncontrollably, I pulled it together long enough to snap a quick picture with two of the members. They were super friendly and super understanding of my nervousness which added a side to this band that, although having listening to them for years, I had never experienced. Sure, they’re just regular guys but they are regular guys that have stiff morals and ideas on society that are completely in line with my own. Their set was full of new and old favorites. I ran in the giant circle alongside hundreds of other fans until my legs truly couldn’t take it anymore. By the time I left the intimidating circle pit, I was coughing up dust and ready to be done for the day but Northern Invasion had other plans and my day continued until after the sun went down.

I could tell you about the nostalgia I felt during the sets from The Used, Hawthorne Heights, and Senses Fail and how I was surprisingly blown away by Avenged Sevenfold- a band I had written off years ago for being too mainstream and generic. There were those mini heart attacks I would get when someone would walk into the press tent while I was busy writing away or when I walked out of the bathroom and almost directly into members of Stone Temple Pilots. How about when I got my picture with the one and only Andrew WK or how I finally understand the hype behind Maynard and all of his bands (both Tool and A Perfect Circle played this weekend). There were so many moments this weekend that I will never forget and so many moments that you, as a reader, clearly don’t care about because they mean everything to me but nothing to you.

Go to a festival and attempt to see every single band that plays. You’ll find some new favorites, get reminded of oldies but goodies, and see some that you swear you will never see again. I’m sunburnt, still coughing up dust, exhausted and am craving a salad or something that’s not fried. This weekend was a challenge but it was truly one of the best challenges. I’m absolutely honored that I got to experience everything I did this weekend.

For more in depth descriptions of every band, check out my reviews I did for Twin Cities Media at: www.twincitiesmedia.net

Line Up:

See The Full Line Up Here

Venue: Somerset Aphitheater

Sausage Fest Meter- 9 out of 10

Average Age of the Crowd- There were people of all ages!

How Many Random People Put Their Finger Through My Gauged Ears- 17

How Many People Felt The Need To Show Me Their Nipple Piercings After Commenting On All Of My Piercings- 7

How Many Servings Of Island Noodles I Ate- 3 (If you’ve ever been at a music festival, chances are Island Noodles were there– best festival food if you ask me!)

Crowd Surfers- No way to count this

Stage Divers-  So many of the vocalists

Broken Bones- Saw one dude get his ankle broken during Anti-Flag– I’m sure there were more

Spotted Flying Through The Air- Bodies, Beer, Clothes, Shoes, Ice, Cans, Cups, 1 pink flamingo

Fights- I honestly didn’t see any but I’m sure there were plenty

Pukers- Too many to count and too many that I didn’t want to see

Drunkards Taken Out By Security- HA!

Celebrity Sightings- Not fair– I was in the press tent

Overall Score- 11 out of 10

Show on Deck- The Struts

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