REVIEW: Atmosphere at Summerfest


“Thanks for looking at us. We love looking at you.” A line that uttered many times by Slug, the lead singer from Atmosphere. It was a reassuring statement as it was clear that the creator of the Rhymesayers label loved being there. Atmosphere’s show was packed full of unbreaking songs from their long list of songs over the past 20 years. Their energy matched the audience approval of each of these songs as they cheered and rapped along with their favorite jams. Being one of the better known independent hip hop acts they have a reach that warranted their spot at the Miller Lite Oasis.  With Slug’s unmatched stamina, mixed with the pounding bass created by Ant (Anthony Davis), this show was one that rivals one of the better shows at this years Summerfest.

The Band

The hip hop duo of Atmosphere comprising of Slug and Ant has been creating music since the mid-’90s. Coming out Minneapolis the two have staked their claim as the independent hip hop show to see from the Midwest. The lyrical act is known for spitting bars that are relatable to their fans who deal with rejection, alcoholism, and finding happiness that comes beyond money. Contradicting the norms we see modern day hip hop. 

Creating their own label, Rhymesayers tend to sign acts that follow this trend of lyrical heavy hip hop that you typically won’t hear on the general hits stations. By creating their own brand of sound that can be heard in other artists such as Brother Ali, MF Doom and more recently that of Prof. and Dem Atlas.

The Experience

Attending an Atmosphere show is something that can be a bit predictable but in all the right ways. You’ll see different fans than the typical hip hop idea. By this I mean they’re all walks of life. You’ll see the cool styling younger crowd but also mixed with a healthy portion of middle-aged folks that have been listening to this group for years. Atmosphere tends to draw a great crowd and it’s clear why. Mixed with their larger discography, Slug makes sure to throw a bone to the older fans frequently, playing some of their older hits such as Fuck You Lucy and the better-known gems like GodLovesUgly. 

While it is always enjoyable to say you are a fan of the band, there are a few deeper cut tracks that you really need to know in order to gain full enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that newcomers wouldn’t still be able to nod their heads and bounce to the bass. It’s a mixture of balanced, new, old, and hits all lumped together for a show that refuses to slow its momentum. There wasn’t any point where Slug left the stage or had the crowd begging him to come back. He interacted with the crowd in a choreographed manner that almost reminded me of professional wrestling. 

I don’t mean this to come off as a slight against Slug at all. It made the show more enjoyable if anything. Think of the exaggerated moves of winding up your hand and putting it to your ear to hear the crowd’s reaction. It was these moments that make you feel like you are truly a part of the show. The constant interaction between Slug and the audience made sure that everyone was excited about what was to come next. At some parts between the songs, Slug would do a bit of a freestyle talking about life, making music, and being at Summerfest. It was clear he was in his natural element and he fed off the energy that Milwaukee provided him.

The Verdict

If you have never seen Atmosphere, I would highly recommend it just from an energy standpoint. It’s rare to see an artist really dive into Summerfest with such tenacity and excitement on the stage. It goes without saying that if the artist is clearly having fun the audience will reciprocate that back. With a band that has been around for more than 20 years and has amassed a following such as Atmosphere and the whole Rhymesayers crew for that matter, it’s hard to find something you wouldn’t like. Sure it may seem like some bands play every single Summerfest, but with Atmosphere, it’s with open arms that we invite them back to the Big Gig. 


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