By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 07, 2024 at 3:16 PM Photography: Ty Helbach

Freshly updated and revamped, the Aurora Pavilion may be all modernized to 2024 standards now – but on Saturday, it was the '90s all over again at the midgate stage, with Quad City DJs, Digital Underground and C+C Music Factory sending Summerfest out by sending it back in time. 

The trio of time-traveling throwbacks began with Quad City DJs – and history class, as founding member C.C. Lemonhead enjoyed imparting little lessons on the packed, dance-happy crowd about the songs’ origins and popularity. The real lesson, though? Lemonhead loves getting paid. Their early 95 South-era hit “Whoot, There It Is” was allegedly ripped off by Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)”? That’s fine: They own the rights to both, according to Lemonhead, so he gets paid no matter what. Planning on watching “Space Jam” – or, for some cursed reason, the sequel? Great: He gets paid for that too, he told the crowd – and also maybe they should watch one or both them when they head home for the night.

Hey, fair enough – especially since the Florida-based hip-hop tandem earned their paycheck Saturday afternoon, throwing a hell of a mid-day retro dance party featuring some of the best Jock Jams of yore – including both “Whoot” and “Whoomp” as well as “Tootsee Roll” (a 69 Boyz song that they produced). After polling the crowd on their preferred “Space Jam” movie – a landslide, with the sequel predictably coming in with sub-RFK Jr. numbers – the duo busted out both the original still-beloved theme song as well as an unreleased remixed version from the long-anticipated, short-remembered LeBron-led sequel. 

The DJs then wrapped up the half-hour retro dance party with potentially their biggest hit: “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train),” turning the Aurora Pavilion into Penn Station with several dancing trains of all ages chugging and choo-chooing under the roof. Pay the men their money for a job well done. 

Digital Underground
PHOTO: Summerfest

After Quad City DJs’ train pulled out of the station – plus some tunes from local hip-hop legend Doc B, keeping the crowd moving and engaged in between all three sets – Digital Underground took the stage for a bumpier (make that humpty-er) ride.

The West Coast hip-hop classics hit all their randy old-school favorites – “Same Song,” “Kiss You Back,” “Freaks of the Industry” and, of course, “The Humpty Dance” complete with the moves. And with retro music videos and lyrics playing on the screen backdrop, giant cartoonish hands for their DJ and an impressive scratching demonstration from DJ Nu-Stylez, their 40-minute run was the flashiest and most extravagant of the afternoon’s bunch. 

Yet it also sometimes felt like the chintziest. Shock G, the memorable face and voice of the group, unfortunately passed in 2021, so “Young Hump” – aka Chris Clarke – now dons the iconic nose and glasses on stage alongside fellow original member Money-B. And while he did an enthusiastic job and sounded close enough to the part on stage (one could say he did not ruin the image and the style that you’re used to) it couldn’t help feeling more like the cover band version of Humpty rather than the lived-in, genuine article. It's just a tall task to try and authentically recapture such a one-of-a-kind, uniquely oddball persona. 

He also doesn’t have the most comfortable crowd work, inspiring the crowd before “The Humpty Dance” by preaching about how we may all be different, but the thing that unites us is … we all have a favorite food? Battling what appeared to be mic issues later into the gig, he also at one point told the crowd to tell him if he should be turned down – rarely a positive when a musical act asks the audience if they want to hear less of them.

Between those technical issues, as well as seeing QR codes for branded gear and ads for Shock G tribute beer on their screen, Digital Underground’s set felt sweatier than the other two, like a retro act clinging to the spotlight rather than still owning it. But the Aurora Pavilion crowd, packed and dancing under the covered stage, still had a good time – oatmeal lumps and all. 

C+C Music FactoryX

Bringing the throwback triad to a close was C+C Music Factory – albeit minus either of the Cs. Amongst a bunch of heated legal drama, the group currently consists of just original rapper Freedom Williams along with new frontwoman Smooth Jammy. 

While the current touring lineup’s pretty distant from the classic group, you wouldn’t know it from Saturday’s performance. Between Williams’ low assertive raps and Jammy’s powerful vocals – even with what looked like another batch of mic and monitor gremlins near the end – the duo confidently and capably kept the still-crowded Pavilion on their feet through time-tested dance floor anthems like “Things That Make You Go Hmmm,” “Do You Wanna Get Funky” and even a quick cover of iNi Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper.” Oh, and obviously “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” their most monstrous hit and a spirited sports arena staple even decades later. 

The biggest surprise of the day: Of all the acts and concerts I saw during the Big Gig, I didn’t expect C+C Music Factory to be the only one to feature an on-stage political statement. But indeed, near the end of the show, Williams took a moment to make a rousing, inspirational statement for this upcoming election year: Every politician is a liar. Well, consider my civic pride awakened – and here’s to wrapping up the Fourth of July weekend on a high note!

But cynicism aside, all three throwback acts did their part to bring the Big Gig to an entertaining close, the Jock Jam-rich sets fittingly helping the Aurora Pavilion crowd power through the finish line of another supreme Summerfest.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.