In its seventh year, Frank Productions’ FRZN Fest brought a slew of high caliber music back to Madison, ending the month-long drought of concerts that coincides with the UW-Madison winter break every year.
Night one at High Noon Saloon was defined by an onslaught of hip-hop acts. Minneapolis-based group Shredders headlined the night after two openers from the Madison area and a raucous set from Astronautalis — a rapper hailing from Jacksonville, Florida but now based out of Minneapolis.
Astronautalis’ energy throughout his set sparked an explosion of excitement in the crowd that was previously inactive. The first third of his set was defined by the slow, emotionally vulnerable tracks exploring his past, deaths of those close to him and insecurities. Once the last of the slower songs concluded, Astronautalis said he was going to finish the show with the “loudest fuckin’ fastest songs in the world.” Promoting total crowd engagement, he urged fans to sing along if they knew the words, and to make words up if they didn’t.
Astronautalis used his tradition of freestyling mid-show to honor FRZN Fest itself. “How ironic FRZN Fest day one, but it got way fucking above freezing, son,” he rapped. Each line before and after the nod to the festival was a display of the former battle rapper’s lyrical wit — effortlessly referencing his surroundings, immediate thoughts and his steaming hot cup of tea with Jameson mixed in.
A brief intermission bridged the gap between Astronautalis’ set and headliners Shredders. “If you were looking for a lack of hubris, you came to the wrong fucking show,” Sims, one of the group’s vocalists, said. The group, formed by members of the Doomtree collective, continued the display of frenetic rhymes as the night went on.
Where Astronautalis drew out crazed screams from the audience, Shredders drew out uninhibited dance moves from the crowd. With danceable beats galore, they didn’t disappoint for anyone who was looking to kick off their weekend with one of the more energetic shows in the past few months. Shredders’ first show in Madison was a roaring success if the standard for measuring success is based on cheers from the crowd post-show.
The first night of FRZN Fest set a high bar for the following days as artists from across the world traveled to Madison to entertain the hundreds of music lovers who visited High Noon Saloon and Majestic over the weekend.