REVIEW: Steve Aoki at Summerfest

If you’re going to have an eleven day music festival, kicking things off with one of the biggest names in EDM isn’t a bad way to start by any means. That was the case when Steve Aoki headlined the Miller Lite Oasis on Wednesday night. A massive crowd filled up the Oasis area, making for a party like none other on the opening night of the festival’s 52nd year.

As far as EDM shows go, many are your standard fare; beyond a DJ mixing, there’s steam cannons, hard-hitting bass, plenty of hyping the crowd, etc. However, Aoki went out of his way to deliver the superlative version of that on Wednesday. His show involved the most steam, confetti, streamers, and whatever else could be launched as a projectile into the crowd possible. His bass drops hit hard enough to rattle your entire body. His light show was nothing short of seizure inducing. Everything else surrounding the music was turned up to eleven, and Aoki himself was somewhere around a solid fourteen.

The DJ and Dim Mak Records founder also deviated from a standard DJ set by playing predominately his own tracks, with a couple popular remixes instead of trying to mix in something that he knew would get the Oasis crowd (even more) energized. The early part of the show was also more dance-oriented, putting high tempo tracks together to get bleachers bouncing and bodies moving. With the amount of energy at the ground stage by that time, though, it didn’t take much to make a party happen.

The latter half of the 90-minute set was where things started to go in a different direction. Aoki mixed in collaborations, including tracks with K-pop megastars BTS, as well as fellow Dim Mak artists and major label acts like Lil Uzi Vert. The label roster performed earlier in the night, and Aoki brought his DJs out to the Oasis crowd to introduce them to Milwaukee properly. Dim Mak artist Bok Nero also came out to perform “Kolony Anthem” live, a trap track that transitioned us into the heavier part of the set. If it was possible to pick things up, Aoki did, with a blistering mix of hard hitting dubstep tracks that got heads banging along the rails and throughout the crowd.

Oh, and of course there were cakes. Ten of them to be exact. Aoki explained to the crowd that he was about to play “Cake Face”, and then an all out assault of Styrofoam-bottomed sheet cakes made their way into the crowd at full force. Aoki was energetic throughout the night, making his way from the top of his tables to the sides of the stage, and even into the crowd for a little bit, but his signature act was where he really perked up. Then again, who wouldn’t enjoy getting to toss baked goods into a sea of humanity?

The biggest challenge that EDM acts face, arguably, is how to stand out in a live setting. For Steve Aoki, that was an easy task, as he went bigger and better on Wednesday night from every aspect of his performance. The Wednesday night show was as unique of an experience that you could get from an EDM act, and Milwaukee was more than willing to take it all in.

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