Tucked away between cornfields, off of the Illinois river, a gathering of sweet vibes and phenomenal music took place Memorial Day weekend. Several hours away from Chicago across from the scenic yet then flooded river bank, Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe Illinois held home to this festival. Summer Camp returned for the tenth year with some huge musical talent on the agenda. The music wasn't the only draw to the crowd. There was something to say about the down home, close-knit attitude's of the people which made the weekend. This years line-up was attracting more-so than in years past, with seventy plus bands, including the usual suspects like Moe, Umphrey's McGee, Cornmeal and Keller. Vendor booths, art displays and even Make a Difference Activities touching on crucial issues in today's society enticed many to come and kick off Summer with live music in the sunshine. This gathering had a lot to offer and many positive attributes. Yet, throughout the weekend the apparent frustration in patrons was very present. In regards to organization surrounding this gathering there were many aspects that needs attention for this place to be better rounded. Ticket booths were a mess, many waited in the sun for hours just to receive their tickets only to wait again to go through security gates. Harsh enforcement on outside alcohol being ban made for an expensive weekend for the average ticket holder. VIP of course received accommodations on all ends in regards to alcohol being let in, that is as long as they slang the security a bit extra. Even typical necessities of cleanly restrooms was hard to come by, its ridiculous though that you should have to pay hundreds of dollars more to get standard living necessities such as this. Volunteer workers were uninformed on many vital areas which patrons need to be aware of such as where to recycle, information on garbage collections or where to locate stages. Overall this festival still needs a lot of work on interior organization. The call to the music was undeniable to say the least. Though this has been known as Moe's Midwest festival, many others dominated the stages and rocked attendees the duration of the weekend. A diverse collection of genres were covered within the stages. The dance floor surrounding the stages were filled with awaiting fans to get their groove on. As the bands began summertime, to many present did as well.
Thursday Pre- Party~ May 27th Those early ragers who purchased pre-party passes unpacked and hauled their belongings from the parking lot to the camping areas. Many arrived to catch the acts in the early afternoon yet those coming a bit later in the day were just in time to check out Family Groove Company. They drew you to the lit up stage and funky melodies which dispersed into the air. This band is a complete, genuine act with a fire of emotion to their jam rock style. Whole hearted passion went outward with every jazzy rift, lyrics fun and outreaching to the lighter side of life. The Chicago based band strummed, slid and banged out energy. The crowd has had a long wait to sway outside to melodies like these. At one point Jordan Wilkow, the incredibly multi talented musician on keys, mentioned his own cabin fever relating to those dancing in the crowd. The band played remarkably in front of a lively audience, the music seemed to soar. The jams were well balanced and fast paced enticing you to move. Kicking off the numerous appearances of this band throughout the weekend with an uplifting set. An appearance from Allie Cral of Cornmeal on fiddle during one song and the cover of “American Girl,” all included. You couldn't have chosen a better band to kick off the festival experience.
Emerging next on the Starshine stage was Cornmeal, a band which has surpassed expectations and broken boundaries on live bluegrass music. The area surrounding the stage populated, heavily as the music began causing shaking and grooving in the crowd immediately. Lifting spirits through furious plucking and flashes of enthusiasm with striking cords. The energy was overflowing. Fast tempo jams and breathtaking solo's by the talented musicians populating the band. The crowd did not cease to move the whole time the music played. Whether it was the sincere playing or their stage presence, the audience was hooked. The set was positive and elevating. Adding a splash of R&B flare to typical strings. Making a guest appearance, Kenny Liner of The Bridge beat boxing was incredibly unique and interesting to see and hear. The combination of sounds was new and completely in sync. Performing several Cornmeal classics such as, “My Georgia Home” along with a cover of “When the Music's Over.” The set was sensational and left lovers of bluegrass anxious to hear the band play again later in the weekend.
Moving forward in the night, late night sets began. In a big red barn on sight, music flowed outreaching to those passing by. On Thursday night the band Dumpstaphunk held to their name with pure funky music. Introducing their own slice of jazz and soul to the Scamp crowd. Ivan Neville is a key player in the band, he emphasized on the power and compassion encompassed in this music style. The whole populous on stage wailed, a very visual display. Witnessing spirit in every note, the craziness of the set was a temptation cured for those shaking it in the barn. Glancing at the faces of the musicians was priceless. You could see the delight which was carried out with every beat in the music. Dumstaphunk definitely swayed the crowd till the final beats were dropped. The audience cheered louder and gave praise to the soul masters that just rocked their evening away. Stepping outside the red barn 30Db was performing on the Campfire stage. Giving an intimate feel with the stage being located next to a fire. The fellas of this band know how to get a crowd going. Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band and Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's McGee put together their masterly instrumental skills along with their kooky personalities and created this entertaining sensation. Both members of this band have charming and hysterical stage presence. Such intense interaction between the music and the crowd. Jeff's wacky vocals and vivid mandolin playing beside Brendan's guitar skills made for an act not to miss. Both have instrumental skills deeply explored and displayed in this band. They kept the night flowing with strumming melodies that made you move. Close to the conclusion of their set they brought out Allie Kral of Cornmeal to sauce up the performance with her fiddle playing. The power behind this collaboration is complete and insanely in tune. Its fantastic when the appreciation of talent is put together and shared. For this duo is one not to be missed if the opportunity arises between both members touring schedules.
Friday May 28th Awaking in a boiling tent with the Midwest heat and humidity beaming down it wasn't hard to get up prepared to see some music. Early afternoon acts were jam packed with tranquility and helped distract you form the heat. Van Ghost was a notable act perfect for the start of the day. Walking past the Campfire stage you had to check out the smooth, rock beats. This Chicago band knew how to strum out the soul and liven up those surrounding the stage. Mixing acoustic and electric instrumentals also accompanied by powerfully moving feminine vocals of the notable Jennifer Hartswick, the stage was streaming soft melodies making you sway to the rhythm. The lead singer/ songwriter of the band Michael Harrison Berg is talented and sincere with his playing on the acoustic guitar, adding the subtle and sweet vocals. True meaning came with every note played, the message to “Spread a bit of that good love,” was vivid and felt. This band created a relaxing yet upbeat vibe for those who were present.
Taking a hike back to the main stage, Dumpstaphunk was at it again. Full bodied playing was noticed instantly in the members body language. Nasty guitar rifts with droplets of R&B flare created entertaining and seductive music. Every addition of sound was controlled completely by the musicians almost as if they were cooking up some delicious soul food. Mellow rhythms and bluesy vocals were projected into the sunbeams. This band brought New Orleans style music to the cornfields of the Midwest. They made it too easy to move in the sweltering heat with the music created. Comical lyrics were interesting to listen to as “put it in the dumpster,” bellowed outward. As comical as some of the words were others were powerful, filled with meaning as “I just want my freedom,” echoed over the crowd. A literal and important message to spread with music in current times. This band was on fire and shared moving melodies with those who listened.
Walking over to Family Groove Company perfomingthe music was captivating and fresh. Building and innovative the band busted out smooth rifts and sweet vocals. The quartet finds perfect collaboration in all the instruments used on stage. Representing how hard females can rock, Janis Wallin is a true inspiration. Smiling from ear to ear the whole set. There is something about her bass playing which captures your spirit and glues your eyes to her fingers furiously plucking the bass line out. Mattias Blanck on drums is riveting with his beats, he perfects the addition of percussions to the mix and spices up the songs with powerful build-up. Adam Lewis on guitar strums away with sincere playing and powerful solo's popped in. Their appearance on stage brought many old Family favorites including, “Guns of Ticonderoga.” An uplifting cover of the song ”Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard,” created silliness and a sing along to the set. FGC has captured many fans and is completely comfortable with their skills on stage. They know how to wail and kick back while sharing the music that they love, true appreciation was described by the members as they continued to spread the love through melodies.
Sound Tribe Sector 9 is a band which has grown and expanded in numerous ways throughout their duration of playing together. Instrumentally breathtaking and visually enticing, these guys know how to get a crowd swaying. Every set for this band is longly awaited by fans for they never cease to shock and amaze. The growth in these fellas playing has seriously hit a peak after ten years and continues to develop and explore new boundaries. Electronic sounds fume from the stage as the lights illuminate and mesmerize perfectly coinciding with the music. Opening up the set with a “Really Wut?” a euphoric song enticing the thoughts of the weekend ahead was created as they diversely transferred into a “Kamuy”. Sticking to instrumental roots they also kicked off an, “Equinox”, into, “Inspire Strikes Back” and leaving the crowd finally with a, “Lo Swagga”, they left the crowd aching for more and anxious for late night, that is if you were lucky enough to acquire it.
One undeniably amazing thing about this festival is the diversity in musical genres. One minute you can be moved by instrumental electronic and the next you can hit up knee-slapping bluegrass. Yonder Mountain String Band is that indeed. Bluegrass that made you want to hoot and holler. While these fellas lite up the stage there is no end to the movement. The crowd brought a cloud of dust surrounding the hillside stage area. Plucking on their strings with long hysterical banters was a performance to see. Opening with the upbeat tune, “Troubled Mind,” the crowd was pleased from the start. Moving into,” Half Moon Rising,” the melodic playing and associated lyrics created positive feedback. From the get go this band forms the whole essence of bluegrass in their performance. Continuing to cause an uproar of dust as the dancing ensued you could not get enough of the lyrics and strumming of the strings. To conclude this display banjo player Danny Barnes hopped on stage for the finale. “Kentucky Madolin,” into “Boatman,” left the attendees skipping and jumping away to the next band.
A thunder of force was rattling the crowd standing at the Starshine stage as Bassnector began his musical creation. This production induced by the musical sensation, Lorin Ashton. With this music it is a combination of electronic rifts with alternative musical genres splashing in. The praise of this artist by the audience was intense to witness, insanity arose as the bass bumped and the beat projected outwards. Fans were flashing with movement as the work was put together. So unique and different from other artists, this man knows how to break down and build up tempo to entice those present. The outcome is known to be called, “Omni- tempo Maximalism.” This gives no limitations on what to expect from his music. Dashing with different beats and saucing up the crowd with drops of rare collaborations made this performance a mind trip. The insanity which is inspired by this act is mind-blowing, glancing as the faces in the audience they were hooked at the movements Ashton made and curious to what the movement would bring to the music. Crazy flying objects, such as a blow up robot machine looking thing and consistent movement made Bassnector a display deeper than the music which was created.
Drifting towards one of the final performances of the night unless you purchased late night tickets. Umphrey's McGee was heard tearing up the stage. Dedicated fans gripped to the music as the band members wailed on their instruments inducing a dance fever. The lights were flashing perfectly in unison with the music as this sensational display continued. This band has gone so far and expanded from when they started in many ways. Its almost like a roller coaster for your ears as they take you up and bring you back around with the continuation of jams and rhythms. This band played two sets on this evening, both were sensationally gripping and uplifting to witness. Playing fan favorites such as “Ocean Billy” and “In The Kitchen,” they wowed longtime fans and newcomers to their music. Lively with a cover of “Girlfriend is Better,” by the Talking Heads; there is no question as to why this band made several appearances throughout the weekend.
Saturday, May 29th Reggae is one of the best genres of music to soak yourself with in the heat. Raising spirits with the vibrancy in their music Steel Pulse took stage early afternoon to get the attendees going. Swaying along to the rhythms of this highly accomplished reggae band from Britain, the atmosphere was powerful. Steady beats with sleek additions of percussions and inspirational vocals made a great start to the day.
Continuing the rhythmic tones of reggae, Dubskin took on the beaming sunshine. Soothing melodies and peaceful lyrics created a great surrounding in front of the Campfire stage. This Colorado band brought on more heat with their mighty instrumentals and influential vocals. Reggae mixed with dub, soul and a bit of blues created an uprising. People moving, sacrificing a sun burn just to shake off a little steam with the mellow tones and down to earth appeal this quintet brought.
Adding more electro to the afternoon, Ana Sia was shooting out dance beats for those overlooking her creative style. Energy engulfing the stage with every sound projected from the mixes. This female has a sturdy background and passion for music. The outcome ultimately just makes you move. With her interactions and body language on stage, the attendees could feel the music vibrating from the roots of the sound. Every little gesture created a different affect, building and breaking down into beats nodding your head and shaking your body. A bit dub, mixed with roots of pop and mostly crunk electronic. The most highlighting about this performance was without a doubt the compassion this individual has towards the music she puts forth, inevitably making crowds sway and move.
Switching gears a bit, ALO or Animal Liberation Orchestra, took the stage with a more jam-pop style. Tranquil, entertaining and spirited, these fellas are just great to see together. They work very well off one another while on stage. A genuine appeal from spreading positivity in their tunes is apparent. The appearance of these four gentleman playing showed their passion instrumentally and lyrically. It was beautiful to hear and to see. Their focus was clear in perking up the audience and gather up smiles playing favorites like “Girl, I wanna lay you down” they had the crowd singing along. Calming, soft and subtle songs were intermixed in the set with jammy, mellow rock. Sharing the stage together each musician added a character and a unique method to their instruments. A perfect delight in the afternoon.
Family Groove Company took the stage for the last time at this years Summer Camp on Saturday. A compelling set list made it a ball for those taking to the shade under the Soulshine Tent. The closeness between the audience and the songs played was telepathic. Accompanied by Victor Wooten for a duration of the set. Throwing in a Medeski, Martin and Wood cover, the talents creating this band never cease to amaze. After three appearances during the weekend this set was the one to see, not just due to the shade either! A cover of the Grateful Dead's, “Bertha” brought the dance fever out. Overall this band had it going on this weekend, their energy was seen on stage as well as in the crowd enjoying the music for themselves.
For several years now a regular act at Summer Camp has been the exhilarating one man musical talents of Keller Williams. From the initial strums on his acoustic guitar the enlivened atmosphere surrounded you. Keller has a very innovative way of putting his music together, strumming rifts then looping them in collaboration with use of uncommon music making techniques. This man is breaking new grounds in individual live music performances. Jump starting the set with boosting progression and unreal instrumental talent. Moving into a fast tempo remix of “Staying Alive,” the crowd was moving and shaking right from the start. Adding classic KW favorites with “Freaker By the Speaker” and comical songs such as a “Rehab” cover. Cementing his love for this festival concluding with the song, “I Love California (And Summer Camp). The Moonshine stage was a shinning stage to be at during this time. Par usual this performance was a whimsical treat before some fellow Summer Camp familiars hit the stages.
Changing course to more night time dance party music brought on by Pretty Lights was perfect for the sunset. The progress in this music is undeniable. Swift down tempo electronica that isn't to intense yet soaks in nicely. Production by the artist, Derek Vincent, who is accompanied live by Cory Eberhard on drums. An artist in deed, the audience appeared to move completely in sync with the outward motion of the music. A wave of energy was apparent as the continuation of the set surpassed.
There are many electronic music contributors out there but Vincent seems to have a special feel for the atmosphere and desires of the crowd, pure intuition and compassion to get people flowing.
Moe has redefined the meaning of a jam-band. This group of musicians has formed together to create some of the most steady jams which has been put out. Playing together for years, the band consists of Rob Derhak, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Jim Loughlin and Chuck Garvey. Together they have put out masterly works of melodic inspiration. This festival now for ten years has celebrated this group and they showed their growth as a band throughout their appearances. Saturdays sets had additional favorites on stage including, Danny Barnes and Brendan Bayliss. The group raged opening the first set with “Akimbo” and adding variations of old and new the duration of their performance. The second set consisting of an opening with, “Dr. Graffenberg,” “32 Things” and concluding with, “Lazarus.” The Saturday display by these guys was very entertaining and gave reason behind their pure and dedicated following. Many have followed this band due to their craft and sharp corners which they seem to curve around. A polished act that left Moe.rons awaiting impatiently for their Sunday slot.
STS9 Late Night brought an incredible set only to the lucky guests who acquired the limited amount of late night tickets. STS9 treated all of those inside starting with back to back favorites, “This Us” into a bass filled “EHM.” Toning down from the electronic sounds of their music the band moved into a more instrumental favorite, “Rent.” A jazzy highlight of the bands talents. Keeping up with the instrumental direction “Move my Peeps”, a song that represents the old school Tribe of multiple influences transforming into one sound, almost like a mantra or trance. The crowd itself was mesmerized by the music but also by the lights, having Saxton Waller back on the lighting rig it was great to have an operator that knows the sounds and breakdowns of the songs, creating a backdrop of light. “It's great to have Saxton back, its been to long”, whispered through the crowd. Once again keeping with the flow of the instrumental style with a hint of electronic ambient sounds. They came right back at the crowd with “What is Love”. To many people the previous songs were a side of STS9 that they have not seen before and people were moved by the music. They continued with favorites including an incredible “Somesing” and a mind boggling “Moonsockets”. Sound Tribe Sector 9 ended the night in the most fashionable way possible with an encore performance of “Monkey Music.” Starting up with a dueling percussion solo between Drummer Zach Velmer and Bongo/percussionist Jeffree Lerner. Transforms into a tribal beat with David Murphy coming in contributing body moving and tranquil bass sounds. Hunter Brown ripped on his guitar collaborating with pianist David Phipps, who brought a climatic build-up to the song. Moving down into an electro-funk jam giving all the late night ragers within the barn the energy to keep on dancing. STS9 displayed an appealing array of songs showing all the great aspects of what Sound Tribe Sector 9 can be and showing a great new direction of STS9. They balanced all the great new and old songs together, decisively piecing the set-list together to create a story with climax's then dipped off into a hypnotic state.
Sunday May 30th Finalizing the days at Summer Camp with a jam packed line-up of music on Sunday was pure bliss for those dreading the flash back to reality come Monday morning. Sunday is always a test when it comes to the weekend with such an immense spreading of positive musical vibes. You never want it so end yet the heat and the over pumped endorphins tend to catch you by this time. Good thing that the festival schedule left some solid acts to excite on the last day of music.
Once again as the morning drifted in attempts to cool down, the music began early and the last day as SC was underway. In the early afternoon the luring strings of Railroad Earth caught your ears and drew you to the music. This New Jersey band captivated with their instrumentals and enchanted vocal flow kept the audience swaying the whole duration of their set. A humble stage presence immediately overtook the crowd. Swiftly they presented the first melodic chords of their tunes. Early on they wowed those present with tunes such as, “Been on Down this Road,” “Neath the Stars” along with “Bird in a House.” the set was upbeat, a dash of rock and jams that strung along through the rays of sunshine. lyrics which set you on top of the world, full hearted and pure. Continuing to keep the beat the set progressed playing “Bringing My Baby Back Home,” this one really got the crowd moving as dust stormed up in the hillside valley of the main stage. It was fascinating to see each member of the band musically appeared to be of one mind, working together adding perfected doses of strings and an added bonus with percussions. No matter how many times you see this band get together, every time is like a new with positive deliverance, extended movement and a smile worn the whole time.
A remarkable offering of instrumental talent took the main stage, The Avett Brothers took the crowd like a storm with their master strumming of strings. Very original with the use of instruments on stage, concentration mainly on the string sounds. Brothers, Seth and Scott Avett besides Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon collectively present folk music intermixed with American rock and a wee bit of twang as well. Harmonics brewed with awe-inspiring stage character drew attention to this quartet. This up in coming band is well worthy of hype and attention drawn to them. As their set dissipated the power and laid back presentation of their craft only grew.
Adding to the mishmash of continuous music, the improvisational duo of Jason Hann and Michael Travis hit the stage in their act EOTO. Meaning “End Of Time Observatory,” Eoto puts up a combination of electronic elements throughout their set. The Summer Camp crowd was enthralled as Hann motioned different percussion elements. Travis in addition conducting dramatic bass, guitar, keyboards and several other necessary sounds to the mix. Endless rhythm flowed from the stage the whole period they were allowed to bamboozle. The Campfire Stage was drawing a crowd after Eoto as the band, The Coop took stage. The flicker of mesmerizing lights colliding with steady instrumentals made this band a popular choice. The area surrounding the stage was packed, making it quite difficult to pass up this quartet's talent. Right away you notice the energy surging with the mix of jazz, blues, electronic elements, rock and jam. These guys add diversity with their passion in playing. Forcing you to sway along, the melodies are sweet and subtle. One of the most appealing qualities an artist can have is the joy stamped in their presence on stage, the populous of this band describes this completely. The unison and soul behind each beat is pure. This up and coming band certainly earned praise for their performance at the festival. Music consisted of band originals along with a cover of Radiohead's “National Anthem.” A band which has built up a following will continue to thrive with the incredibly music they put forth, this appearance was solid proof.
Making their final appearance on stage, Moe went out with a roar. The group has been at this festival for ten years! With fresh faces and dedicated followers all present the band praised those who came to celebrate and even those who were not present by having Al reading off letters from fans from afar. With appreciation stated before a musical breakthrough, “Thank you for the smiles, thank you for the love, thank you, thank you, thank you.” A party is what was created the last set of Moe on Sunday. Live painters shared their visual talent syncing in with the psychedelic jams that lingered to the crowd. Lights flashing past the members each one seemed committed to funk and adding the precise instrumentals needed. Closing out the night with climactic melodies, the appeased crowd went off to enjoy the last bit of festival life before reality hit the next morning.
Time certainly passed as the final evening dwindled away. Umphrey's McGeetook to the Red Barn to start the final run of late night shows. Eoto followed with an immense rage till the early morning giving those in for one last hoorah a fix. As the night ended drifting into Memorial Day, each attendee at Summer Camp had another memory of music to bring home. Melodies seemed to move in the forest as the field cleared and campers packed up, walking all their gear to the parking lot. This weekend had a lot of phenomenal appearances, collaborations, introductions and of course memorable moments indented. After Ten years of this festival there certainly was a celebration to recognize the power of talented bands and good people coming together to embrace the sweat and sunshine together.