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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 25, 2014

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Slug at Summerfest.
Slug at Summerfest.
So much of this.
So much of this.

Just the right Atmosphere at Summerfest tonight

It's been a long time since I was smashed in the front row of a concert, unable to move, victim to beer spilled in my sandals and the smell of whatever else is going on in the air. But that happened to me at the Atmosphere concert, which took place tonight on the Miller Lite Stage.

And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Atmosphere is a Minneapolis-based hip-hop duo consisting of Sean Daley, a rapper otherwise known as Slug, and DJ/Producer Anthony Davis, or Ant, who has produced every Atmosphere album with the exception of just a few tracks.

They were, as usual, in great form tonight, whipping the mostly college-aged, white audience into an absolute, hand-waving frenzy for the majority of the one-hour show that actually started about five minutes ahead of schedule.

The band opened with "Trying To Find A Balance," followed by the second song on 2003's breakthrough album "Seven's Travels" and then that same album's third song, "Bird Sings Why The Caged I Know."

These tunes were followed by "Shoulda Known" from the album "When Life Gives You Lemons …" and then "Sunshine," "Guns and Cigarettes," "Between the Lines," "She's Enough," "Just For Show," "Puppets," "Godlovesugly," "I Don't Need Brighter Days," "Guarantees," "Shrapnel" and "Yesterday."

They wrapped it up with "Say Shhh," a hidden track on "Seven's Travels" which they claim to usually only play live in Minneapolis.

The band – originally called "Urban Atmosphere" – formed in 1989 when Slug was still in high school. Originally, he was the DJ and another rapper, Spawn, was at the mic. Slug soon met Ant and switched to the lyricist. The two have worked together ever since.

Slug bounced between heartfelt appreciation for the audience and playful beefs.

"Thank you for coming to the show," he said at one point. "You're my family … I wanna make love to all of you."

Later he said, "You are all my people, you love to start fire and drink beers."

"Milwaukee I need you to put a smile on your ugly face … You know how to put on a spectacular show, especially considering how ugly you (explicative) are."

He went on to ask if the Y-Not II was still in business (Yes!) and remembered playing there long ago and then going to a place called "Thai Joe's or Joe Thai's." (Thai Joe's!)

And he crossed lines, making comments that probably need to be just between those of us who were there. But also, there was this, which received huge audience woots:

"Outdoor music in the summertime. This is as close to church as some of us get," he says.

Atmosphere has always maintained a rigorous touring schedule. After tonight's Summerfest show, the band will play nine more shows in cities from Nashville and Anchorage to San Bernadino before returning to the Midwest in early September.

Atmosphere has played hundreds of different venues around the world and recently sold out two shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Col.

The band has seven studio albums and 10 EPs. The latest release, "The Family Sign," came out last year and is considered to be the group's most personal album. "It's about being OK with losing friends and strengthening your bonds with others, celebrating the person who's been the most positive in your life, your kids, your homies, leaving the people you need to behind, and bringing the ones you love with you," reads the Atmosphere website.

Tonight's show was insanely interactive – the line between performer and audience doesn't get any fainter than this. Even at the Big Gig, all the world's a stage. Word.

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