The Complete Festival Experience: Summer Camp 2012
- By Andrew Duch and Nick Rhodes
- Published on May 31, 2012
Review too long for you? Jump to the bands you care about most:
Brain Damaged Eggmen | Common | DJ Solo | Gaelic Storm |
Gogol Bordello | Gov’t Mule | Ha Ha The Moose | Lotus |
Michael Franti and Spearhead | moe. Day 1 | moe. Day 2 |
moe. Day 3 Acoustic Set | moe. Day 3 Night Set | Pretty Lights |
Primus | Shpongle | Strange Arrangement | Umphrey’s McGee Day 1 |
Umphrey’s McGee Day 2 | Umphrey’s McGee Day 3 |
Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio
With loads of bluegrass, jam and electronic music and some gypsy punk, Celtic rock and genre-bending side-projects thrown in for good measure, Summer Camp 2012 was undoubtedly a fully complete festival experience.
The familial festival perennially headlined by moe. and Umphrey’s McGee finds a way to reinvent itself year after year while still maintaining true to its roots. A big time festival with a small time intimacy is the kind of festival nirvana fans only dream about.
Until they get to Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Illinois that is.
The festival grounds were dry and dusty as we rode in early Friday afternoon – a stark and welcome difference from last year’s muddy affair. The sun beat down hard all weekend but a cool, inviting breeze kept things from being overbearing.
Day 1: Start wearing purple
A goofily performed “Timmy Tucker” was a highlight as well as a “Spine of a Dog > Buster” segment that was jammed out in classic moe. fashion.
|moe. - Photo Credit: Matt Tapia|
While moe. rocked their Moonshine Stage, local rockers Strange Arrangement and keyboardist Joe Hettinga were holding it down on the Starshine Stage. In a set that probably deserved a later slot, Hettinga was especially emotive as they ripped through a few tracks from their latest release, “Polygraph.”
Later on in the evening, the Sunshine Stage (and for all intents and purposes, the Main Stage), was graced by the Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio, which was a mellow and very groovy was to watch the sun crawl down the sky toward the horizon.
The stage set-up was impressively barren with three scraggily bearded acoustic strummers and nothing else.
Bob Weir often took the lead both musically and vocally, though he might have forgotten a lyric or two. Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes) and Jackie Greene were exceptional during Grateful Dead classics like “Uncle John’s Band” and “Not Fade Away.”
Umphrey’s McGee started their first of many sets that night strong with a “Gurgle > Second Self” opening segment, followed by fan-favorite “Pay The Snucka,” during which they referenced fellow festival performer Common to a raucous applause.
|Bob Weir - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
The virtuosic sextet ended the set with “Pay The Snucka” and their first night was in the books.
In between Umphrey’s sets was maybe the best performance of the festival in Gogol Bordello. The gypsy punk rockers took to the stage like a hurricane as lead man Eugene Hutz – with some stylishly well-coifed hair – commanded the crowd.
Each member of the band had a distinct personality (and nationality for that matter) with a sly violinist, in-your-face MC and brooding bassist all contributing to the musical show. It was equal parts chaotic and perfectly layered, zooming through songs like “Ultimate,” “Immigrant Punk,” “Wanderlust King” and a set-ending “Start Wearing Purple.”
Hutz truly is one of the most charismatic and wild lead men in music today. The schizophrenic performance was always just on the cusp of being cacophonous, but it maintained it’s melodic soul at all times.
|Primus - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
Les Claypool and Primus hit the stage just as Umphrey’s was ending their set. Ominous, weird, goofy and spooky, Primus is a band most people see as black and white – you either love them or hate them.
Their live performance is accompanied with two massive blow-up astronauts in the back of the stage with faces projecting on their helmets. Though jarring to some, it certainly added some more surrealism to the set.
Lotus began their Sunshine Stage set near midnight to a packed crowd that ate up every synth-laden beat. Highlights included a wild “It’s All Clear To Me Now” and a closing “Age of Experience.” It felt as though Lotus never stopped playing the entire set as their soundscapes enveloped the listeners. The set went by in a flash.
The brilliant, solid colored lights on the main stage dwarfed the band as they swirled around smoothly, engaging the audience.
|Photo Credit: Matt Tapis|
The audience hurled insults at the band and Derhak returned the favor, mumbling nonsense and teasing songs before stopping and cursing off the crowd. Apparently, this is the norm at a Moose show. And hardcore moe.rons eat it up.
The best part for those who didn’t get tickets to the late-nights was that you had the option to head to the Vibe Tent for some heavy-hitting DJs or check out the Campfire Stage for some finger-licking bluegrass tunes. The bluegrass felt like a down-home backyard party while the electronic womping felt like a grungy basement house party. Perfect for both fans indeed.
People of all preferences were satisfied and it’s a real commendation to festival organizers.
Day 2: Storm out of the gate
The second day started with Celtic rockers Gaelic Storm taking the Sunshine Stage around noon after some immigration troubles the day before. Though the crowd was small albeit respectable, the band handled the situation masterfully imploring them to participate and sing along in a very genuine manner. It’s rare to see an act get this so right.
Musically, it was fun, bright and ferocious at times. The percussionist definitely needed an ice bath after some of his solo segments – he was absolutely killing it on the drums. The entire band seemed extremely grateful to be playing and certainly happy to be there.
|Gaelic Storm - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
This was one of the sleeper highlights of the event and people were buzzing about it all afternoon.
Summer Camp’s token hip-hop act of the year was Common, who ran out and raced through a number of hits as he paced quickly back and forth on the stage. It was cool to hear “Go” and his verse in “Make Her Say,” but we could have done without the “fake phone calls,” random girl wiping his sweat and other goofy antics. Regardless, it was a fun afternoon set and a new experience for so many of the Summer Camp faithful. And that’s really what the festival is all about.
As the heat of Saturday afternoon was slowly subsiding, Gov’t Mule showered the audience with catchy guitar riffs and classic rock covers. The first half of the set saw Warren Haynes blissfully sear through Mule originals.
However, the highlight came in the second half of the set with a non-stop section that ran “Fallen Down > The Other One Jam > Hunger Strike > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Hunger Strike > When the Music's Over.” It was a unique section of music that featured Temple of Dog's most popular hit woven into classic rock songs by The Grateful Dead, Traffic and The Doors. The crowd danced feverishly as each new cover emerged.
|Common - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
moe.’s first set featured some subtle lighting during Warren Haynes’ “Happy Hour Hero” sit-in, until the closing “George” where all hell broke loose. Aside from vivid beaming lasers that cascaded over the crowd like a ceiling, there were multiple light installations on the very ends of the stage that further encompassed the crowd.
The lighting design seemed more as an attempt to add to the experience rather than highlight the music. The tuned spoke for themselves while the dancing patrons soaked in the massive rig. With lights that hung on an incline toward the audience, the stage had immense depth. It was the best lighting job of the weekend, including the Sunday electronic artists.
Umphrey’s second set was punctuated by a Rush cover in “Tom Sawyer” and an absolute monster ‘Triple Wide” where guitarist Jake Cinninger went on one of his progressive rampages playing note after note with such power and viciousness.
moe.’s second set ended with a “Plane Crash” encore that was not wholly unsurprising but marvelously executed.
|Umphrey's McGee - Photo Credit: Matt Tapia|
Rarely seen Umphrey’s and Disco Biscuits side-project Brain Damaged Eggmen hit the Red Barn for their Beatles/Pink Floyd tributes as Cinninger, Brendan Bayliss and Kris Myers sang songs like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Comfortably Numb” while Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner held down the bass and keys.
Day 3: Sunny with a chance of rage
Sunday was by far the hottest day of the festival and of course, Umphrey’s and moe. both had long afternoon sets in the sweltering heat. But fans flocked to the sets with water bottles and fans in hand ready to catch the last of the great music.
UM keyboardist Joel Cummins even tossed bottles out to the crowd in the middle of the performance, living up to the “old man,” dad-like ribbing he gets from his band mates.
|Umphrey's McGee - Photo Credit: Matt Tapia|
The encore and last Umphrey’s song of the weekend, “JaJunk” peaked hard at the end and the band’s Summer Camp 2012 run had come to an end.
moe. took a break from their usual perch on the Moonshine Stage to play the smaller Starshine for an acoustic set. A methodical “Lazarus” was slower and smoother than usual and Al Schnier ripped on the mandolin for a few tracks.
At the start of "Lies Lies Lies" he announced, "This song is dedicated to the prettiest girl at the festival."
|Gigantic Underground Conspiracy - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
Towards the end, Franti disappeared off to the side and returned a moment later to announce with genuine enthusiasm, "I just told my better half I want her to make me one of those," while pointing the beaming young girl. The young woman blushed as the crowd cheered on.
After some organic shredding from Derek Trucks, it was time for the electro portion of the evening. Through no fault of his own, Shpongle’s chilled-out electronic music was slated a bit too early and his visuals were too light to be seen. His music was a good precursor for the following raging Pretty Lights set.
Pretty Lights’ performance was the most crowded of the weekend and it did not disappoint. “High School Art Class” and “I Know The Truth” were pulsating and pounding masterpieces that displayed the producer’s keen ear for music and melding together beats, bass and samples.
|Photo Credit: Matt Tapia|
moe.’s final set of the festival opened with the quintessential “Rebubula” complete with subtle lasers that would become more intense as the night wore on. Followed by the bouncy “Threw It All Away,” the set was off to a racing start.
Throughout the set, the lights would zoom through every corner of the crowd in overwhelming fashion. It was truly a complete concert experience – a microcosm for the entire festival.
A new Al song in “ATL” was certainly a highlight as was the evolving “Puebla.” Becoming one of moe.’s most epic jam vehicles. An unusual backline-led drum outro led into “Tubing The River Styx > The Pit.”
Summer Camp had more than just something for everyone – it had something special for each and every attendee. Not one person left the grounds without at least one show lingering in the back of their mind.