Outside writing in: Nick Nugent on Snake on the Lake


Today, for your reading pleasure, I present the second installment of Outside writing in, CineMadison’s semi-regular series of essays, reviews, interviews, and whatever else, all composed by local writers who are not me. (Note: I’d really like to ditch the “semi-” in “semi-regular,” so if you’re a writer whose zip code happens to begin with 537, feel free to send me an e-mail at dasullivan@wisc.edu statin’ your biz.)


I’m especially excited about this particular installment of Outside writing in as it was written by none other than my very dear friend and all around worldly dude Nick Nugent. Nuge has contributed a nuanced review of Snake on the Lake 2009, the music mini-festival thrown each fall by 91.7 WSUM on Memorial Union’s Terrace. Nuge’s style of writing—admittedly, this is the first time I’ve ever read something written by him—fuses Bukowskian dazedness with a sort of satirical academicism, resulting in an assemblage of genuine philosophical insights and funny vernacular flourishes. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more stuff by Nuge in the months to come, if only because my brain is seriously on the verge of exploding due to the monumental load of reading I have this semester. Anyway, without further ado, I give you Nuge:


Untitled review of Snake on the Lake 2009

By Nick Nugent


I was very fashionably late to WSUM’s 2009 Snake on the Lake Festival. I treat shows in the same way I treat gamedays, and I’ll probably keep my protocol for festival pregaming personal. But in terms of a small-scale music fest or single show, I am akin to the real fan who shows up for the game a quarter or two late, and who either gets really into or totally ignores the spectacle at hand. This intense attentiveness or apathetic, dreary-eyed staring is indirectly a result of my being late, and directly an effect of the raging I partake in just moments before concerts, football games, or, in especially low points, anthropology classes. 


And such was the case last Friday at the union’s teeming Terrace (the pregame was so excessive that I was one of the select hardcore fans who did not even make it to the football game that started at 6:00 PM Saturday “morning”). Arriving lakeside a couple of bands late did leave me clueless to a vast percentage of the day’s music, but RJD2 was undeniably the reason attendance was so high for the festival, and the reason I mustered up the strength to grab a beer for the road and head down to the Terrace at all. But catching the tail end of Hollywood Holt and Million $ Mano’s rowdy set was worth it just for the fervent version of “Just Bought a Moped”, and now knowing that Holt is the fearless leader of the notorious Chicago Club moped gang inspires me to look into his music a smidgeon deeper. And PR is all too often the goal of concerts these days, isn’t it? The great thing about Snake on the Lake, however, is that it at least has the feel of being a party for the sake of being a party. The humble banner practically blowing off the scaffolding of the Terrace stage revealed a handful of the small icons of sponsors, but other than that minute display of the economic workings that make such an event happen, Snake was just a wholehearted gathering of underage drinkers and underpaid artists. That combination made for a respectful crowd working alongside respected performers, all striving toward getting drunk, paid, or laid. 


And as RJD2 took the stage, and the mob got shwasted-er (am I speaking for myself…I wasn’t the only guy pounding Natty Lights under the table was I?), the mood was ‘aight. The interstices of well-crafted blurps and booms that spread out the DJs more known stuff were refreshing and substantially groovy. The only limiting factor I saw to the party was the Terrace’s sound system, which could barely support the barrage of RJD2’s bass. Some failure on behalf of the speakers led me to ponder how venerable a venue the terrace could easily be. I have said many times before that it is one of my favorite places to see a show, but it is mostly the beautiful Lake Mendota background and like-minded crowd of young’ns that gets me. If the UW could drop some dough on a state-of-the-art system for the Terrace and Rathskeller, the university could perhaps attract bigger names on a more frequent basis, and thus attract more low-grade, shiftless students to inundate campus venues and patronize munchies spots at unprecedented numbers. Music is, after all, one of the principal reasons I found myself on the Van Galder from Midway years ago. Madison is a music city, and Snake on the Lake is a great way to get the word out, especially to the newer UW generations ready to experiment.


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