Last Sunday, one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the country took place in suburban Minneapolis: Shakopee, MN to be exact. Soundset Festival drew 20,000 fans and hip-hop groups from around the country, although local talent – including headliner Atmosphere, Brother Ali, the Doomtree crew and more – shared the spotlight equally with big-name national acts like De La Soul (pictured above) and Big Boi.
Shooting the fest was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I love shooting outdoor festivals. The lighting is obviously a breeze, but there’s also a certain vibe that goes with these festivals that’s always fun. On the other hand, Soundset offered a few challenges. A lot of the acts involved a DJ way in the back of the stage and a single MC rapping up front. These guys (and almost all of them were guys) were invariably expressive, but there was little in the way of onstage interplay to make my photos interesting. When the exceptions came up – De La Soul, Doomtree, Slaughterhouse, to name a few – I tried to make the most of it, but an extremely high stage made compositions involving multiple musicians a challenge.
Logistically, while Soundset’s stages were too close together, all pouring music into the same surprisingly small piece of land, pit access to the main stage was a nightmare. There was one side of the stage that was very easy to get to; of course, photographers weren’t allowed in on that side. On the other side, we had to push through 10-20 feet of packed-in crowd space just in order to reach the barricade. Naturally, that was the side we were required to use to access the pit. So every time a new act came on the main stage, it was time to push and shove through the crowd. Not a huge deal, but definitely an annoyance, and one that should have been easily remedied for everyone’s sake.
That said, I don’t have much to complain about. The weather was beautiful (it was supposed to rain but never did), the crowd was eating it up, the music was varied and enjoyable, the access was fine aside from the mainstage pit issues. It was good to shoot a festival again.
And, of course, no outdoor festival would be complete with a ton of fan photos: