Here’s the thing: I love North Coast. It’s the perfect book-end to the summer festival season, getting everyone out for one last rage before we retreat to our radiator-heated apartments waiting for Summer Camp again. Friday kicked off with a little snag in the way of a rain delay… in total, it about about 75 minutes of lost time, which isn’t that big of a deal. It did, however, mean that set times were changed and we had a lot more great bands overlapping with each other.
Gates are Back Open!
That said, major props to the North Coast team. They had those lines back open and moving like nothing had happened. Everyone was extremely friendly and accomodating, and they did a really great job of keeping things safe even in the muddy conditions. So – we were back at it. All scampers know, a little mud can’t hold us back. The pushed closing time back from 10 to 11 to make up for the loss (which was super cool).
The amazing thing about Union Park (for non-Chicagoans, this is also where Pitchfork is) is the fact that those stages are so close together, yet somehow the sound doesn’t bleed at all. The first thing to hit was Paper Diamond, which really got the crowd back on track. I was a first-timer for that, but it was really fantastic! There were some lovely hoopers in the back, trooping it through the mud. But what I really was waiting for was Disco Biscuits.
First I stopped by Passion Pit, because I’ve always loved the way they make their crowd feel like you’re sitting with them in a living room. Something about their ability to talk with the crowd and play with such subtleties even in a large open-air venue is pretty rare… you always feel like you’re right up front. They ended up playing the after-show with Alunageorge and Capital Cities at Concord Music Hall, and I hear it was just fantastic.
And then, it was Biscuit time. I scooted over as quickly as possible and wedged my way through the crowd to get as close as I could up on the side (yep, I was that girl). The energy in that crowd was just fantastic. You would have no idea that these thousands of folks had just stood in the pouring rain for an hour! The big takeaway from this set: lights. I had a view from the right side and it was absolutely mezmorizing, so I can’t imagine what it was like straight from the middle. For those playing at home, I highly recommend going couch tour tonight — they’re working through EventLive, and the quality of streaming is really impressive. They’ll be showing all of today (Saturday) and tomorrow’s shows here: https://www.evntlive.com/#!/event/1000510
And now it’s Saturday! It’s actually about 11:15 and after writing this, I’m heading back to the grounds for a huge day of music. Must-sees today include: Milk n Cookies (love those guys), El Ten Eleven (just saw ‘em in Portland in November, so stellar), Conspirator, Future Rock, Gramatik, My Boy Elroy, and – of course – Big Gigantic. It’s still raining outside, but who cares? It’s a big ‘ol day of music and we’re ready to rage.
Let’s start at the beginning of this epic night. After a weird Chicago summer of never being really that hot, until one point when it was insanely hot, we finally reached the best-ever-summer-weather. Tribe and Umphrey’s played this Saturday at FirstMerit Pavilion (Northerly Island). Fun fact for non-Chicagoans… Northerly Island is an island that used to be an airport. One day many years ago former Mayor Daley decided to tear it up in the middle of the night – pilots had no idea… one night there were bulldozers tearing up the runway and the next morning there were planes looking for somewhere else to land. God, I love Chicago.
So, the plan started to conceive that there would be a nature park and concert venue on Northerly Island. Now, these are the facts as I assume to be true (you can actually read about this here) – but at some point it was decreed that there couldn’t be any permanent physical structure on the island, so the entire stage and risers are created in compliance with this, and can be taken down any time. This year, what used to be simply the floor area + risers opened up to have an entire lawn area behind it, which wasn’t used for this show but was packed for Phish a few weeks ago. It’s a gorgeous venue, you have the lake behind you and the skyline in front of you, and on this perfectly beautiful night, there was no better place to be.
Photo credit: Jason “Chickenheadfan” Harper
Enough of the history lesson. STS9 went on at 7:00pm sharp, which for me was a little odd at first… I’d never seen Tribe that early in a night, while it was still light out, and I was still sober. Most of you Scampers must agree that it’s typically more of an “after midnight” experience. I loved experiencing it in this way… as more of an Umph fan myself, it really sold me on wanting to catch more STS9 exclusively. I have to particularly note the lights… of course, we all know that Umph is going to have an insane light show going on, but I must say that Tribe really was the stand-out! Their ability to create such a dynamic experience as the sun was setting was truly one of a kind. Stellar.
Set: This, Us > Squares & Cubes, Golden Gate, One A Day, Abcees, Vibyl, Simulator, Kabuki, Circus, Vapors, Be Nice, King Pharoah’s Tomb, Moon Socket, Scheme (confirmed @ http://www.thebarnpresents.com)
If I had to sum up Umphrey’s, I’d have to use the word “classic”. Not because they played a predictable set, but instead because of their Umph-like choices to mix classics & surprises in the perfect blend of excitement. Hitting the stage at 9:15, we knew they were only going to play one set, and boy did they make it worth it. As we moved from Bridgeless into Plunger the crowd really met that harmonic place of Umphrey’s love.
Speaking of, let’s have a sidebar about the crowd. Now, I had my cousin from Ohio in town, so I brought her and my sister along to the show. They’re great music lovers and were super excited, but probably would never have considered buying tickets on their own if I hadn’t made this the night’s plan. The quotes coming from an Umphrey’s virgin included “I can’t believe how nice this crowd is”, “Everyone is so friendly”, “I’ve never been to a concert this crowded where everyone was so happy!”. Good work, Umph fans… you always show a newcomer what it’s like to be a concert with a collective good vibe.
Let’s flash forward to the encore, because it warrants it’s own focus, particularly “Let’s Dance”. This was the 9th time they’ve played it, beginning with New Years Eve 2011 in St. Louis — it had never been played in Chicago. They brought up the boys from Tribe and kicked off the song, and the crowd went nuts. Everyone loves a good Umphrey’s dance party, and boy did we get one. I can’t imagine a better way to close out that night… Stasik absolutely killed it on that song. You could tell how much fun they were having on stage, so it was easy to mirror the energy. I give this night A+ for both STS9 and Umphrey’s… having a short amount of time to deal with given the 11pm hard stop in Chicago for outdoor venues, they more than made the journey worth our time.
Set: Le Blitz > Bridgeless > Plunger > Dear Lord > Plunger, No Diablo, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft -> Conduit, The Linear -> Bridgeless / Encore: 40′s Theme, Let’s Dance (confirmed @ http://www.thebarnpresents.com)
We did it! I’m so excited to be here back at Summer Camp, blogging from the back of the church.
The trip down from Chicago was particularly epic, because my crew decided to go all-out this year and rent an RV. It. Is. Awesome. We picked it up from the suburbs of Chicago, loaded our stuff in, and hit the road to Chillicothe. If you have the means to do the RV route, I highly recommend it.
After settling in, we walked over to Starshine to catch Cornmeal tearing it up for a super frisky crowd. We immediately ran into some old friends and started getting our groove on. After a quick break, we were back at it for Digital Tape Machine, and the party was in full-force. What a fantastic way to kick-off the festival… the crowd was huge, the poles were out, and the weather was perfect.
Now it’s time to kick off Friday! Really looking forward to some Brainchild, moe., Medeski and Yonder before kicking it into full gear for some Umphs! Signing off for the morning – see ya’ll out there!
If you’ve gone to Summer Camp (or any festival) before, you know there’s probably the person that’s a little too organized with the planning…. nice to meet you, that’s me. But this year, I didn’t send out my usual spreadsheet of packing reminders and to-do’s to our campsite – which is all boys – and it was both missed and requested! So, from your friendly over-organized CIT, here’s my comprehensive go-to packing list. I didn’t include food, since everyone does that a little differently… plus we have fantastic food vendors, and you should support them. Hope it helps you out!
Can you believe it’s almost here?! Getting ready for next weekend, let’s chat about a band you must see…
Maps & Atlases is based out of Chicago, and I had the opportunity to catch them this New Year’s Eve at Schubas in Lakeview. It was a blast. They even covered Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, and the place went nuts.
While being admittedly terrible at classifying music, I’d put them at folksy rock with a retro-vibe (seems legit, right?). Their latest album Beware and Be Grateful is a fantastic trip through soulful tunes mixed with upbeat dance grooves. Start with the song “Fever” and watch this beautiful video:
This past Saturday, the boys of Gomez (hailing from the UK) made a stop in Chicago during the US leg of their tour. In case you missed them at Summer Camp in 2009, Gomez is a five-piece British act consisting of Ben Ottewell (vocals, guitar), Tom Gray (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Paul Blackburn (bass, guitar), Olly Peacock (drums), and Ian Ball (vocals, guitar, harmonica). Fun fact: Gomez records most of their music in Chicago.
Source: Gomez Facebook page
Now, for non-Chicagoans, this will take a bit of explaining as they were headliners at the annual “Garden Walk” (yes, really).
Here are the basics of the garden walk: All day in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, people open their doors to their homes so you can walk around and see the gardens. It’s adorable. For those who don’t care that much about gardens (myself included) you simply go to the 3 blocks that are roped off for music, food, and booze. It’s a good old-fashioned Chicago street festival, and you get to see pretty amazing bands for 10 bucks.
Gomez went on right at 8pm sharp, and after seeing over 15 Gomez sets in my day, I’m not exaggerating when I say the setlist was the best I’d ever seen. Why? Well, Gomez is hopping on the user-submitted setlist train, and has been letting the fans pick the music all summer long. You can hop on their website before the show, pick 5 songs you want to see played, and submit. It looks like this:
To all those in Chicago who went on and submitted… great job. We were treated to songs I haven’t heard live in years – or ever – packed one after another in a set that truly showed the range of what these guys can do. It was pretty clear who the Gomez fans were in the audience… being a street fest, it was a mix of about 1000 people ranging in age and knowledge or interest in the band. But as the night picked up and the rare songs kept playing, there was a very clear set of 400-ish people that were are sharing the same amazing experience. A particularly heavy round-up of songs off Five Men in a Hut and Split the Difference proved that Chi-town has a strong tie to Gomez and their deep collection of amazing music.
Check ‘em out, Scampers. You have 2 more chances – Buffalo, NY tonight and Indy tomorrow, before they hop back across the pond and we wait for next year.
Did you know that Steve’s first experience with Strange Arrangement was at Summer Camp? After hearing their set and grabbing a summer sampler CD, he learned all the music on his own… when they were on a hunt for a new drummer, he was the man for the job!
Hear Steve & I chat about his experience joining Strange Arrangement, his take on the power of live music today, and what bands he wanted to catch last weekend. Don’t forget to catch guys in June at their Stranger Danger festival in Chicago.
Alright fellow campers, for those of us who have been here over the years, you’ll notice a lot of new stuff this year. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
RFID chips in your wristbands - this year we’re high-tech, and you’ll need to get scanned in every time you enter or exit the park (for VIP, every time you enter that section as well). Throughout Thursday, there were some congested lines as the staff were figuring them out… turns out, if your arm is too close to the person next to you, it has trouble reading them. So basically just don’t all shove your wrists together to get scanned. That said, I’ll have to assume this helps crack down on folks sneaking in for free – so, this will help keep out ticket prices down for the fair paying customers. Hooray!
The great Sunshine / Campsite switch – we knew this one was coming when the map was released, but the relocation of the Sunshine stage is a pretty big move. What I do like about it is the better sense of community when you’re walking from stage to stage. Rather than having campsites way out on the perimeter, more people can be in the heart of the action (even if you didn’t get a prized forest spot). Jury’s still out on what it will be like during shows though… I could see some pretty tough traffic moving from Moe @ Moonshine to Umphrey’s at Sunshine without the straight path through.
New camping area!
Information Boards! - this has already saved me at least 5 times this camp. As you’re walking through, look for the information boards with a big schedule posted, any workshops and activities (like Field Day), weather and other updates. These are also featuring “Missed Connections” boards (a la Craigslist)… did you catch eyes with a gorgeous hooper this weekend? Share a beer with a studly man and didn’t give your number? Summer Camp Missed Connections has you covered.
Camping Stage – what seemed in years past as a little tricky to find and a real small set up has legit stage quality this year. The camping stage has moved, they’ve gotten a great setup with a proper viewing area, and even some serious decorations. Check it out!
Here I am interviewing Vanessa Robinson about greening initiatives at Summer Camp. It’s a bit windy (as we all experienced on Thursday!) so here are her main tips:
- Sort your garbage into compost or recycling – it only takes 2 seconds!
- Visit the Soulshine tent every year to support the dozens of groups making a difference
- Play the scavenger hunt! It’s so easy and gives you access into a private concert