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
If I could quickly sum up Sunday’s experience it would be: dance party.
I peeled myself out of my tent around 9 (the latest I’d been able to sleep all weekend), got ready, and headed over to the Summer Camp offices to load up pictures and blog posts. When I got there, I found out that I’d been cleared to interview Michael Franti after his set that afternoon. I spent a few minutes freaking out with excitement, and got to work on prep.
Around 3 I met up with some buddies at moe.’s acoustic set on the Starshine Stage – so much fun! They kicked it off with St. Augustine, which is a favorite of mine, and the dance party began. At this point in the day, you could really tell that the heat index was well over 100 degrees, so a big thanks goes out to all you nice festies who were smart enough to bring Super Soakers to spray the crowd… we really appreciated it!
"I don't usually go to festivals, but when I do, I go to SUMMER CAMP!"
After moe., I took a short break to collect myself in time for the Franti interview, and headed over to his set. I spent about the first 3 songs in the VIP area (thinking I didn’t want to get too dirty or sweaty before meeting him), but quickly it became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen — dance party #2! We rushed to the middle of the crowd, kicked off our shoes, and got down to some amazing tunes. About halfway through, Franti popped up with a makeshift stage in the middle of the crowd, right near where we were standing. It could not have been more perfect; it was like out own little performance. That’s what I love about Franti – he brings people on stage, comes into the crowd, and generally makes every show feel like a community experience. After the set, I got my big interview, which will be posted on the site sometime this week… let’s just say, it was a dream come true and I am still smiling about it.
Next up, it was time for Pretty Lights. I’ve seen him before and although I’m a fan, we had planned just to stop for a little bit before moving over to Galactic. But once we were in the crowd, we knew we had to stay… dance party #3! Somehow, a group of people had managed to take over one of the golf carts and use it as a party platform… how this happened, I have no idea. But they looked like they were having a ball, so we joined in.
We walked over to Jane’s but stayed way in the back so we could scoot back to Moonshine quickly and catch moe.’s last set from up close. It was a perfect set and – as expected – dance party #4! We danced the night away sharing swigs from a bottle of Jameson and soaking in the last bits of Summer Camp… because, as always, it just went too fast.
Saturday morning the crowds began to rise, but I’d been up for hours thanks to sunrise kickball (see my other post on that!). I spent the morning writing and posting photos in the Summer Camp offices in the church, and by 1pm I was on my way…
First I headed over to the Starshine stage and stumbled upon a game of capture the flag for Field Day. Being a proud member of team Red and seeing that they were short some players, I jumped in to help. Unfortunately, the Red team was eliminated pretty early on when the Yellow team crept into our home base to get the flag… we’ll get ya next year, Yellow.
A few more steps, and I was at my first show of the day, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. Their bio lists them as a “post-punk soul band”, and I think that’s a really accurate description. JC Brooks himself has stage presence like nothing I’ve ever seen… in 90 degree heat and a full-on suit, he kept the crowds entertained and dancing – it was a great way to start the day!
Next up, I met up with some of my buddies at the VIP bar for burgers, margaritas, and playing some bags.
Gov’t Mule had a really solid set at Moonshine, and the dust was really raging with the dancing. I like Mule, but I love Umphrey’s, so I left a little early to get a good spot and be ready to rage. For me, I actually like the second set of Umphrey’s the most, and they’d pretty much stole my heart when I heard Rush’s Tom Sawyer start pelting through the field.
All day I’d been looking forward to Brain Damaged Eggmen late night in the Red Barn, and boy it did not disappoint. It was a non-stop dance party and such a happy crowd.
Walking home through the darkness, I stumbled upon this artist working on a mural outside of the Soulshine Tent, and was reminded once again why Summer Camp is the happiest place on earth…