For better or worse, expectations play a big part in experiencing live music. When Paris Hilton was scheduled for a DJ set at last year’s Summerfest, expectations were low—same with seeing Dead Kennedys at Turner Hall with Skip McSkipster taking lead vocals rather than Jello Biafra. You get an idea in your head about what something is going to be, and you roll with it. Wednesday night at the Briggs & Stratton stage at Summerfest, Mike D of the Beastie Boys performed a DJ set that took any expectations and trampled them down with no mercy: D—a.k.a. Michael Diamond, a.k.a. one-third of one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all-time—plays pre-recorded, pre-mixed EDM and trap music.
It was a strange evening. Pre-show, Milwaukee DJ Devast8 mixed up hip-hop favorites from the likes of Jay-Z, DMX, and T.I. to a crowd that skewed mid-teens to early-20s. His set ended a little after 8 p.m. and the crowd dispersed, leaving maybe the first 15 rows of bleachers full of kids waiting for the legendary Mike D to take the stage at 10. There was a band that performed during the interim, however: Milwaukee’s own Jaill. How Jaill, a jangly, power-pop-leaning rock band that utilizes surf-rock licks in several of its songs, found itself in that position is hard to say. There were a handful of people there to cheer them on, but it was a futile effort when the rest of the crowd had their backs turned to the stage, chatting with friends and smoking weed.
Shortly after 10, Mike D took the stage behind a large setup that included turntables, mixers, and a laptop. Then he began…with the intro to Kanye’s “Mercy.” The crowd loved it. D gave a “Hi, Milwaukee” shout and then started bouncing up and down, pumping his fist in the air when the bass dropped. He also spent a fair amount of time talking to his tech, who stayed at his side throughout the night to help him out.
From there, Mike D basically stood behind the setup and fiddled on his laptop while pre-recorded and pre-mixed tracks were played. He had mixes including a sample of the chorus from Soulja Boy’s “Crank That”—yes, “Crank That.” Besides that abomination, it was a lot of trap music and EDM with some mixes from tracks like M.I.A. and, unfortunately, the Beastie Boys. Alas, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” was included, and Mike D shouted “Yeah” into the mic every now and then. The crowd thinned out as the show went on.