On Thursday, Summer Camp Music Festival kicked off the 12th edition in fine fashion. The pre-party has come to be a showcase for Chicago bands, and yesterday featured Zmick, Van Ghost, Family Groove Company, Digital Tape Machine and Cornmeal, all from Chicago. Also, to end the day on a high note, Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico of moe. performed with a late set at the Campfire Stage with the group Floodwood, who’s music can be classified as “newgrass”. An even later set at the Soulshine tent was billed as Chicago Super Jam and featured members of Family Groove Company, Cornmeal, Old Shoe as well as Jaik Willis. This jam was scheduled to go until 3:00am, but I couldn’t make it that late.
This year, the layout of the festival has changed a little. It’s a little more spread out, and able to accommodate a larger crowd. One of the things that has made Summer Camp my favorite festival is the small size. This year they’re expecting about 20,000 fans, which about the same as last year. For me, that’s about the limit to keep the festival intimate. Last year, it was rainy and muddy, complete with tornado warnings. This year it’s hot, windy and dusty, I guess an improvement.
The admission process was much better this year that it was last year. Hampered by the weather, last year’s check-in was a nightmare. This year, it was quick and free of hassles. Good job Summer Camp. I hate starting off on a bad note.
Our musical day started off with Zmick, who was rocking it and were joined by Jaik Willis on stage, which racheted things up a notch. Van Ghost was up next, with Jen Hartswick and Natalie Cressman on horns and vocals. Last year, Van Ghost was a surprise favorite at Summer Camp, and building on the buzz created by the recent release of their EP, The Effect, they kept the momentum going. Continuing with the Chicago theme at the Jaegermeister Stage, Family Groove took the stage next. I think this is their seventh or eighth Summer Camp, so they’ve become an institution here. They’ve got a great fanbase, who were all out in force. About halfway through the set, they brought Allie Kral out to play a cover of Bennie and the Jets, which everyone loved.
After FGC, the group Digital Tape Machine came on. This band, made up of members from Umphrey’s McGee, Strange Arrangement, Liquid Soul, Land of Atlantis, and the Hue. Evening started to fall and the stage lights came on. Wrapping up the acts at the Jeagermeister (Starshine) stage was Cornmeal, with their bluegrass jam music.
The Thursday Pre-Party normally features a more intimate gathering at the Campfire stage. Last night it was Floodwood. Complete with mandolin, banjo, fiddle, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar, they played a modern form of bluegrass that was a nice compliment and wrap up of a great first day at Summer Camp for me. Tired, dirty and a little sunburned we called it an evening.