Fresh And Familiar: Summer Camp 2011
- By Nick Rhodes
- Published on June 07, 2011
|Al Schnier of moe. - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
[Check out our full photo gallery from Summer Camp 2011.]
As dark and ominous clouds rolled in quickly Sunday morning bringing a brief but torrential downpour and hurricane strength winds that swept up anything that wasn’t staked firmly to the ground, one thought in my head reigned supreme: I don’t wish I were anywhere else.
Summer Camp is one of those festivals where you run a complete gamut of emotions. It’s new and exciting when you arrive, it’s familiar and calming when you’re there and it’s depressing as anything when you’re forced to leave.
|Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's McGee - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
[FIND complete lineup, ticketing information and analysis on our 2011 Festival Guide.]
Chillicothe, Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival, taking place from May 27 to 29 with a May 26 pre-party, is one of the preeminent festivals in the Midwest and by now, the country.
Facing stiff competition from the start of Phish’s summer tour in New York, Bisco Inferno in Colorado, DelFest in Maryland and Lightning in a Bottle in California, Summer Camp brought out its biggest crowd to date for three nights of moe., Umphrey’s and dozens of the best jam, electronica, bluegrass, rock and funk bands around.
Joining the Chicago and New York area rockers were Widespread Panic, STS9, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Bassnectar, The Avett Brothers, Keller Williams, Lotus and Yonder Mountain String Band.
|John Bell of Widespread Panic - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
[FIND more information about Summer Camp on the festival's website.]
Just about the only lowlight of the weekend was the mud, which was unforgiving but not nearly as inhibiting as it could have been. Though large puddles were created in the middle of the main stage areas, forcing most fans out of primo band-watching territory, paths were created and everyone accepted and embraced their dirty feet.
Even a fresh coat brought about by a short rainfall each morning couldn’t dampen Summer Camp as young and old, boys and girls alike traipsed through the wet dirt with youthful smiles on their faces.
|Summer Campers - Photo Credit: Mike Cavanagh|
Yes, there were moe.rons. Sure, there were Umphreaks and Spreadheads and even a few Bassheads scattered throughout. But most of all there were muddy Midwesterners looking to have a good time and listen to some good music.
Thursday started off fiery with Umphrey’s side-projects Ali Baba’s Tahini (with guitarist Jake Cinninger), Digital Tape Machine (with drummer Kris Meyers and keyboardist Joel Cummins) and 30db (with lead singer Brendan Bayliss and YMSB’s Jeff Austin) bookending the main stage and making for a unique night.
|Allie Kral of Cornmeal - Photo Credit: Celeste Valladares|
She’d have plenty of time to repeat the feat as they would play each day of the festival as well.
The music didn’t waste any time on Friday with an afternoon set from moe. kicking things off. The “Kyle’s Song > Kids” segment to end the set was a highlight with Jim Loughlin’s melodic percussion skills setting the tone for a gorgeous afternoon. Bayliss jumped in for the encore of “The Harder They Come” as guitarist Al Schnier signaled him cues while singing.
After another rocking Cornmeal set on the Sunshine Stage, the Moonshine Stage became the electronic music hub with Big Gigantic, Lotus and STS9 playing straight through the night.
All three brought out immense crowds and proceeded to get people moving with their organic and inorganic beats.
|Dom Lalli of Big Gigantic - Photo Credit: Celeste Valladares|
As the light further became darkness, Lotus took the stage and powered through some fan-favorites like “Spiritualize” and “Flower Sermon” before ending with a bouncy “Wax.” The last song left people aching for more as the synth-style beats lulled them before dropping into some intense guitar and drums by Mike Rempel and Mike Greenfield respectively, prompting bassist Jesse Miller to declare after the finale, “Wow, that flew by.”
[LISTEN to an audience recording of Lotus' Summer Camp show on Archive.org.]
Luckily for Lotus fans (or at least luckily for the lucky ones who got a hard-to-come-by ticket), they would play another set in the Red Barn on Saturday night.
|Zach Velmer of STS9 - Photo Credit: Celeste Valladares|
Umphrey’s would bring a surprise guest for their second set as Dom Lalli took the stage for a cover of Radiohead’s “National Anthem.” But the highlight was the encore of “The Triple Wide > 1348” where lighting designer Jeff Waful continued to shine with his “UM” rig. In typical Umphrey’s fashion, Cinninger took center stage cementing himself as one of the most amazing guitarists in the jam scene and a certifiable face-melter.
The first late-night of the festival was again moe.’s and they did not disappoint despite a late start and a few technical setbacks. Opening strong with “Dr. Graffenberg” and playing an epic, 20+ minute “Timmy Tucker,” moe. was there to jam and satisfy their old-school fans.
Saturday’s weather was more of the same – a bit rainy, a bit cloudy and very muddy.
|Luke Miller of Lotus - Photo Credit: Celeste Valladares|
Following Wiz was another artist who incorporates hip-hop albeit in a completely different way. Mash-up master Girl Talk came to the stage with his cavalcade of sweaty dancers including one who would eventually go topless at the behest of the males who surrounded her.
Complete with lackeys shooting toilet paper rolls with leaf blowers, Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis created a nonstop dance party by pressing a few buttons on his laptop, stripping off his clothes periodically and yelling some words of encouragement into the microphone. Though it never really went anywhere, the afternoon craziness was like watching some trashy reality TV – a guilty pleasure and highly addicting.
|Al Schnier of moe. - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
[FOLLOW Summer Camp on Facebook.]
Getting from stage to stage required a bit of navigating. The best way was through the wooded forest where the festival comedians were out in full force reveling in the increased foot traffic, yelling, “butt scratcher” and propositioning people for sexual favors and other nonsense.
Highlights for moe. included a “Crab Eyes” with each member standing in a line on the front of the stage with an iPad. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek shot at the electronic music that preceded and would succeed them on their stage.
Umphrey’s played a few new songs (“Puppet String,” “Forks” and a cover of “Live And Let Die” with Mad Dog’s Filthy Little Secret Horns) and some old-favorites (“Hajimemashite” and “JaJunk”) which kept people’s feet moving as they tried to pry them from the muddy ground.
|Huey Lewis and the rUMors - Photo Credit: Mike Cavanagh|
Due to some storm complications, Umphrey’s cut their solo afternoon set short and then became The rUMors, Huey Lewis’ brand new backing band.
When Huey Lewis hit the stage, everyone cheered raucously. How many of those people owned the “Sports” album? Probably very few. How many were born after it came out? Surely many.
But that didn’t stop people from going nuts every time Lewis blew into his harmonica. You could tell Cinninger and Bayliss loved sharing the stage with him, laughing as he asked the crowd if they were ready for the soul music. It was funky and fun and kept things interesting – just like a festival sit-in set should.
[DISCUSS Summer Camp and other festivals on our message boards.]
|Bela Fleck Sitting in with moe. - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
Jimmy Herring would take the helm a few hours later during a standard Widespread Panic festival set. Most fans agreed it wasn't anything out of the ordinary but still a relaxing way to close out the main stage at Summer Camp with the biggest crowd of the weekend.
STS9 closed out the festival with the last Red Barn late-night set, mustering up as much energy as they could from the groggy fans.
Guitarist Hunter Brown and drummer Zach Velmer dripped sweat as they bobbed their heads and tried to time wiping their scalps while keeping the beats. They ended with a just-debuted song “20 12” that had the feel of the STS9 of yore.
As people shuffled out of the barn lazily, a muddy Summer Camp officially ended and the familiar feeling dissipating as quickly as it had enveloped us. Until next year.
|moe. Late Night - Photo Credit: Sean Downey|
|Chuck Garvey of moe. - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
|Jeffree Lerner of STS9 - Photo Credit: Celeste Valladares|
|The Punch Brothers - Photo Credit: Sean Downey|
|Umphrey's McGee - Photo Credit: Andrew Duch|
|moe. - Photo Credit: Nick Rhodes|
What were your favorite moments of Summer Camp 2011? Let us know in the comments below.