Summerfest's "Fancy Pants In the Bowl" stage served numerous functions this weekend, providing cover from the unforgiving sun, air-conditioning and cheaper drinks to those wearing the coveted pink wristband. But on Sunday, it served as shelter from the pouring rain and home to Mic Skills's energetic performance just before sunset.
In advance of Mic's set, drenched and muddied bodies packed the tent. Indeed, we wondered how Mic - who is very particular about the cleanliness of his kicks - fared on the muddy festival grounds. "You're upset right now, aren't you?" we asked him, peering down at his muddy Nikes.
"Yes, very," he said. "But it's all good. It's just dirt. It comes off,"
It was a not-unexpected response from one of Aftermath's favorite and hardest-working local underground rappers. Telling from the energy of his set, Mic was apparently successful at likewise shaking off the fatigue from a weekend of performing. He had just arrived from Austin, coming off of two shows including an opening set for Kid Sister Friday at the Mohawk.
For the last year, Mic has been tirelessly promoting his debut album Defiant, an autobiographical work matching his earnest rhymes with DJ Vango's head-nodding beats. Performing Defiant's tracks live is clearly a cathartic experience.
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At the jump, Vango set up his equipment and dropped the beat for "I Am the Man." Mic jumped onstage, asking everyone in the tent to come to the front, "even the people at the 29-95 table with the crayons and markers." Fellow local rapper Radremm joined him onstage as his hypeman.
Mic followed with the made-for-summer-rollerskating Defiant jam "Roller Rink," with vocals by the always-lovely Karina Nistal. Soggy festival-goers entering the tent, as if on cue, nodded their heads or danced their way through the entrance. With all the mud on the floor, a makeshift roller rink or slip-and-slide was not inconceivable. "Cirque du Soleil," featuring PKT, came next - a song about the challenges of maintaining a 9-to-5 and playing the rap game. Vango's beat samples Jermaine Jackson's "Do What You Do." "Criminal," a hard-hitting track inspired by a racial-profiling incident involving Mic, followed. "Who's the criminal? Are you the criminal?" he asked the crowd. The "Criminal" video is as pointed as the track's chorus. Shot in black and white HD, the video features cameos by local artists Thurogood Wordsmith, Shina Rae, Radremm, Hero, DJ Remix and DJ Rockwell. After performing the first track off the forthcoming Defiant follow-up Radremm called "Something Amazing," a tattooed groupie approached the stage. "Omg! U guyz r so good!" she said. "Do you guyz have a CD or something?" "How 'bout we take care of this after the show?" Mic said. (Handle it, Mic.) "Sick" featuring Hero and Mikeflo of Mike & Ike, a banger Mic described as a "crowd favorite," ended the set. Following his set, Mic told us that his second album will be more on the "experimental" tip and will chronicle the period since Defiant's release, effectively the period since Mic established himself in the local music scene and "became Mic Skills." If the follow-up is anywhere in the same stratosphere as Defiant, sign us up. The album is set to be released in the fall.