Summer Camp Music Festival continues to be one of the most diverse and interesting festivals still operating today. In an era were events come and go Summer Camp has been a constant going strong for their thirteenth year. This year plays host to yet another incredible lineup that is sure to please any music fan. One of the nice things that the organizers of this festival do that is rarely talked about is the way they break up the performances. Any festival is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type experience, but oftentimes fans of specific genres of music are left with tough decisions on whether to see on show or the next. At Summer Camp sure there is some overlap as there are at all music festivals, but for the most part they try to make it easy. By having say a bluegrass band, an electronic act, a jam band, a local group all playing at the same time you can see the show you want without missing too many of your preferred sets. With six stages not to mention the VIP bar stage there is plenty to see and do at any given moment.
Many of the events that have gone on throughout the years are back again with a few new features that are sure to add to the experience. Favorites like The Kid’s Camp, Field Day, and The Make A Difference drives culminating with the Everyone Orchestra Performance are all back. New this year there will be a Masquerade troop featuring hoopers, fire throwers, dancers, and more. The members of the troop will be paired up with specific musicians to add a visual element to their live performances. Also Make A Difference is expanding by including a Live Art Gallery for live painters at the festival. These little touches and that fact that the organizers are always expanding on them are a big part of what makes Summer Camp such an amazing experience. Kyle Hess has been named the 2013 Summer Camp Counselor making him the third ever in a short but prestigious lineage. Both of the previous counselors and several CITs will be making it back along with an entirely new crop of CITs for 2013.
Musically the lineup is top notch. Of course Summer Camp staples moe. and Umphrey’s McGee will headline again this year, but there’s so much more. Fan favorites Family Groove Company, Cornmeal, Floodwood, Brainchild, and The Henhouse Prowlers will all be there to share in the groove again this year. Electronic fans will be happy to know Zed’s Dead, Big Gigantic, STS9, and Thievery Corporation are all on the bill for 2013. Personally I am most excited about the inclusion of Trey Anastasio Band, which continues the SCamp tradition of having a huge Sunday headliner.
Words To The Wise: Make sure you bring all the essentials for proper festival raging. Sunscreen and rubber boots are must haves, but also be sure to bring plenty of water and food. Check your gear before you get to the festival to make sure your tent is in proper festival condition. Get plenty of rest prior to Summer Camp as you will most likely get very little sleep over the four days. Know that you are driving into central Illinois and police presence will be high on the way in. They will have dogs and they will search you if you get pulled over. Illinois 55 was the preferred way in, but it seems that State Patrol is savvy to this and that was where they seem to be focusing their attention. As Bayliss pointed out last year during the UM soundcheck on Thursday, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Know your limits and know when to rest. It’s easy to get caught up the excitement of the weekend and the next thing you know you’re dehydrated and in no condition to continue the party anyway. The residents of Chillicothe love Summer Campers by the way. They know how much money we bring in and tend to want us to come back. I recommend stopping by a local restaurant on Monday on your way out. You’d be surprised at the warm reception you’ll receive. Also there is a shopping center just up the road from the festival grounds, so if you forget something it’s fairly easy to hop in your car and pick up some essentials. Finally be prepared for any an all weather. Anything from rain to a blazing sun is a possibility so being equipped with warm clothes as well as summer attire is smart.
Summer Camp is a chance for all types of music fans to come together and bask and the beauty and wonder of Three Sisters Park. New friendships will be made, amazing collaborations will happen, and music will fill the air. Be safe and enjoy the ride.
Check out the video here: http://youtu.be/0XuoazFvcJs
Leftover Salmon is a Colorado tradition. They are the source from which so much jam and bluegrass flows. String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and so many others would not be what they are today if it wasn’t for the trail blazed by Salmon on a cold night in Crested Butte over twenty years ago. After an incredible set at Summer Camp i figured it was time for an update from the mountain state. Leftover has gone through some transitions through the years. The passing of Mark Vann, the departure of Jeff Sipe and Bill McKay, the search for formidable replacement on banjo that ended with Andy Thorn have all had an effect on the band. They have persevered and their music is as vibrant as ever.
Their show at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins was completely sold out meaning tight quarters were the order of the night. I staked my spot Vince side on the rail. They took the stage just before 10 PM with a quick “Liza.”
Set I: Liza, Gulf Of Mexico, Voodoo Queen Marie, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Gold Hill Line, Sing Up To The Moon, Morning Sun, Highway Song, BooBoo*, You Can Find Some Other Man, Lonesome Johnny Blues**, Danger Man**
Set II: Gonna Have A Party, Here Comes The Night, Walking Shoes, Bend In The River, Light Behind The Rain, Riding On The L & N, The Other Side, Mr. Wrong**, Come On Baby**, Out In The Woods**, Railroad Blues**, River’s Rising
*W/ Friends on Drums
**W/ Johnny Hickman on Guitar, Harmonica, and Vocals
Big thanks to Rob O’Brien for taping and posting on Archive. http://archive.org/details/los2013-04-13.24bit
This show was a non-stop shredfest that showcased the new era of Leftover Salmon. The setlist is a mix of fresh and classic with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “Gulf Of Mexico,” which is basically an indictment of BP and the devastation they caused to the costal waters, was a nice touch. Their Zydeco was showing with “Voodoo Queen Marie,” but it was “Aquatic Hitchhiker” that made jaws drop. This instrumental song built so beautifully, relying heavily on Andy Thorn’s banjo. Andy really has revitalized this band in a big way and continues to keep the energy at peak level. “Gold Hill Line” was a quick, but passionate version with Drew on vocals before they invited a few friends to help with percussion on “BooBoo. “You Can Find Some Other Man” kept up their breakneck pace before they called their old friend Johnny Hickman to the stage. Hickman is from the alternative rock group Cracker and he along with David Lowery recorded bluegrass versions of their songs with Leftover Salmon performing as the backing band. The result was an album entitled O Cracker Where Art Thou?. Hickman is an accomplished guitarist with a rowdy, bluesy feel to his style. Much like what Bill McKay brought to the table, Hickman transformed Leftover Salmon into a rocking bar band. They blasted through two Cracker tunes, “Lonesome Johnny Blues” and “Danger Man” before taking a short set break.
Thirty minutes later the band and opened up round two with “Gonna Have A Party.” We were treated to a subtly stunning “Here Comes The Night,” before coming back to one of their newer songs, “Walking Shoes.” There seems to be a more tuned in consciousness in their lyrics than some of their early work. There is a maturity that only comes with being on the road for two decades and it is seeping into everything they do. Drew busted out his fiddle for “Bend In The River,” which is always a treat, but the highlight of the show was the Andy Thorn sung “Light Behind The Rain.” They slamgrassed us with “Riding On The L & N,” before Drew’ mandolin took the driver’s seat with the Salmon classic “The Other Side.” They invited Hickman back to the stage for a four-song run of both Cracker and Salmon tunes that left fans happy. The version of “Out In The Woods” was yet another highlight in show filled to the brim with high points. They closed the set with an absolute barnburner rendition of “River’s Rising” that showcased the evocative vocals of Mr. Emmitt. There is something about his voice that stays with you long after the amps have been put away for the night.
Leftover Salmon came back to the stage with a quick “Euphoria” and as quickly as it started it was over. This is the type of show that leaves you all bubbles and sunshine. The rain had begun to drizzle as the capacity crowd filtered out into the night. Exhausted smiles dotted the faces of the people as they wiped the sweat from their brows. It was a good night of Salmon and an energizing way to spend a Saturday evening in Fort Collins. For a band that has been on the road for so long it would be easy for them to become blasé as well. However LoS is always innovating, inviting guests, and generally leaving it all out on every stage they play. This a new dawn for this band and I for one am happy to be witnessing their rebirth.
Here is a video I shot and edited with MusicMarauders featuring Summer Camp veterans The Henhouse Prowlers. In case you don’t know HHP is a Bluegrass Powerhouse out of Chicago, Illinois. Their traditional tone and attention to solid picking has made them a cut above the rest. The video features a ten minute interview with the band and HHP performing a couple original songs. They also talk about their experience with Summer Camp and how the festival itself helped lead Dan to join the band. Take a look.
The final day of the year’s shortest month brought Fort Collins a little treat in form of Greensky Bluegrass performing with Ryan Montbleau Band at The Aggie. Both of these bands have graced the stages at Summer Camp several times over the years. I arrived early just as Montbleau was taking the stage with his eclectic sound brand of swing-infused rock and reggae. In fact RMB wove a rich musical tapestry over numerous genres. They opened with “Chariot.”
Set 1: Chariot (I Know), Hot Coffee In A Paper Cup, Inspired By No One, Dance, Dance, Dance, Songbird, Dead Set, I Can’t Wait
Ryan Montbleau is a name I’ve seen on festival lineups for years, but this was my first chance to see their live show. It was a bouncy fun way to start the night. “Songbird” was a fiery reggae track that blew the roof off the room. It was most definitely the highlight of a tightly packed opening set. My only criticism is that the performance barely reached the forty-five minute mark leaving many fans wanting more. They closed with a massive sign-along entitled “I Can’t Wait.” It was nice to finally see them live in my hometown.
Greensky took the stage shortly after and immediately doused the crowd with powerful string music performed with passion. Several of the fans assembled in the diverse audience informed me that they never miss them when they come to town. Whenever I see Greensky it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a snowy day. There is nothing more comfortable and clean than watching Greensky pick on a tune. Their set at the Aggie was a versatile demonstration of all that they do. Songs like “Cold Feet” found their way in the mix beautifully. They performed a version of the Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere,” that just made sense as a bluegrass number. Anders Beck continues to be a focal point on the stage with his smooth slide work on the Dobro guitar. Mike Bont holds back until the perfect moment to unleash his fury on the banjo. Mike Devol, looking like a bearded Ryan Seacrest, holds down the fort and gives the rest of the band room to solo. They continue to gel musically and play massive shows. They will be back to Colorado twice this summer, once at Telluride Bluegrass, and again at Red Rocks with Railroad Earth and Galactic. In fact their summer is jam-packed with big dates including Delfest, Electric Forest, Camp Euforia, Forecastle Festival, and Northwest String Summit. I think it’s safe to say that the good word of Greensky is spreading far and wide.
With the departure of Vince Herman to greener pastures in Oregon, the region has experienced a deficit in the random acts of music he would regularly bestow upon our community. He was a regular fixture in Ned, his former home, and down on The Front Range. It would be difficult not to find Vince Herman playing somewhere on any given weekend in Colorado. Now Vince is a commodity, so I made it point to head down to see Great American Taxi at the Aggie Theater. As fate would have it they were recording the entire run for an upcoming live album.
Up first were Bonnie And The Clydes, a six-piece country and rock outfit lead by Miss Bonnie Sims. They opened with “Dear Departed.”
Set 1: Dear Departed, My Love Will Keep, Lonely Love, Eye To Eye, Storm On Its Way, Rocky Mountain Town, Waltz For The Seasons, LA County, Man In Me, Darkside, Still House, Ophelia, Hold On Me
Relatively new to scene, Bonnie And The Clydes are an interesting addition to the already bountiful music of the Front Range. They are lead by firecracker Bonnie Sims, who belts it out as well as she plays a six string. She is flanked by a full band consisting of her husband Taylor Sims on electric guitar, Nancy Steinberger on fiddle, Michael Schenkleberg on bass, Chris Ramey on pedal steel, and Damon Smith on drums. Their renditions of Dylan’s “Man In Me” and The Band’s “Ophelia were spot on and really got the crowd moving. They had a rowdy tone that was a perfect fit for Great American Taxi.
Great American Taxi is the side project of Leftover Salmon front man Vince Herman. He has assembled an incredible lineup of musicians to fill out his group. In addition to Vince Taxi is Chad Staehly on keys, Jim Lewin on guitar, Brian Adams on bass, and Chris Sheldon on drums. They really seemed to have gelled since I saw them last summer. This show being part of the Snowball Tour it was the first time Vince has made it back since moving out of state. Honestly, it could have gone either way. They opened with their original “Standing All Alone.”
Set 1:Standing All Alone, Appalachian Soul, New Millennium Blues, Linning Track, Penny Arcade, Jack London, Twilight, Swamp Song, Going To Brownsville, Tough Job, Angel Dust, Poor House, Coming Home To You, Travlin’ Man, West L.A. Fadeaway, Little Liza Jane, Dirty Old Town, Instrumental, Reckless Habits, Cold Lonely Town, Great American Taxi, When I Die, Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow
Encore: Good Night To Boogie
For a Taxi fan this show has absolutely everything you could want in a live show. Their mix of bluegrass, Americana, and rock is so approachable it seems impossible not to have fun seeing them live. Songs like “Appalachian Soul” and “Poor House” address real issues in American society like the working conditions in the coal mining industry as well as the plight of the impoverished in this country. Great American Taxi really has evolved and it’s great to see them playing at this level. Their covers included everything from Leadbelly’s “Linning Track” to Ry Cooder’s “Going Down To Brownsville” to the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway.” It really was a fun and musically eclectic night. They closed the set with their version of the Flatt & Scruggs classic “Aint Gonna Work Tomorrow.” Great American Taxi encored with “Good Night To Boogie.” With the departure of Vince to Portlandia it’s even more important for him to come back to the Front Range with memorable shows. That is exactly what Great American Taxi accomplished on their swing through the Aggie. With the live recording coming out, it will be awesome to get a greatest hits album from such a solid run
For the majority of my posts I focus on bands that have played Summer Camp in the past. For this post I’d like to focus on a band that should play Summer Camp. The fact is that they are a midwestern bluegrass powerhouse, so it only makes sense for them to be at Summer Camp. That band is Trampled By Turtles.
Trampled By Turtles is a band I have been enamored with for quite some time. Despite my interest in their music and styling I was unable to catch them live, until just recently. They have a different approach to bluegrass in general. They are slampickers, playing a hard-hitting, at times startling method of bluegrass that shreds faster than some speed metal groups. They juxtapose this with some slower more traditional songs, but minced grass is their forte. Needless to say Trampled By Turtles has continued to gain popularity in Colorado, as they regularly return and almost always sell out their shows. Both nights at the Ogden were completely packed which made for tense maneuvering throughout the night.
I headed down early to see the opener honeyhoney. Other than checking out a somewhat odd music video, featuring a series of assassinations, I really knew nothing about them. Hailing from Los Angeles, honeyhoney originally formed as a duo consisting of Susanne Santo and Ben Jaffe before forming a full band. They seem to be treading a thin line between a Lucinda Williams(esque) singing and flat out alt-country. They also incorporated elements of folk and rock into their set, but during their show it wasn’t obvious that they were a great fit opening for Trampled By Turtles. Honeyhoney opened up the show around 9:15 with their original “Numb It” The clear highlight of the show was a full band sit-in from Trampled on the song from the aforementioned video, “Angel Of Death.” Their show was relatively slow given whom they were playing with, but overall honeyhoney demonstrated some solid musicianship and unique songwriting.
Trampled By Turtles took the stage for one long set around 10:30 PM. By this time the room was ass to elbow with everyone squeezing in snugly. They opened with a sweet rendition of “Alone.” From the beginning it was apparent that although they know traditional bluegrass they don’t let it define them. They are innovators and lovers of string music as they prove every time they take the stage. It wouldn’t take long for them to blast off and begin the night’s prerequisite shredding. I did notice that their songs individually lacked any sort of real dynamics. Most of their tunes start at one speed and continue at that pace until the last pluck. It appears to me that Trampled By Turtles builds tension and release through their setlists as opposed to within the context of their individual songs. It was definitely a different experience for say someone used to listening to the Grateful Dead. Their picking was solid no matter which tempo they set and I found my eyes were glued to the stage for much of the evening. A couple of covers came in the form of a bouncy “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys and “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. Both covers were unusual choices and executed very well. The setlist gave their fans a wide array of their repertoire. This little band from Minnesota has really made good, and they will continue to draw bigger audiences as word of their amazing style spreads. If you find yourself with the opportunity to see Trampled By Turtles in some small smoky room, go ahead, punch the ticket, and take the ride.
Saturday was stupid hot musically and temperature wise. I now understand why adventurous campers stay in the woods during the day. It was a different world in the trees. One dub step dude was dragging a stone tied to a string and talking to it telling “Stoney” to “watch out” for those behind him. While some people were fried, most slabbed on the 100SPF sunblock so as not to look like Joan Rivers turkey neck by the end of the festival. After lathering myself up I headed out in search of something cool.
I thought Afternoon Moon could help in the coolness area so I headed over to check out their Camping Stage set. The fellas from Chicago delivered in front of their “Mooners” despite the heat. Jordan and his brother Joe promised their fans this was one not to miss and I have to say they threw down. I spent a few songs cooling off under the canopy of the woods before going to check out Family Groove Company, the coolest band since Miles Davis peed his pants over on the Moonshine Stage.
Jordan Wilkow of Family Groove Company told the crowd basking in the sun in front of Moonshine Stage to stay hydrated and held up a beer. Janis “Ice” Wallin and Adam Lewis in unisoned choreography spun their guitars. The family got slightly larger as the band added a horn section for certain songs in the set Set highlights included originals in “White Picket Fence” and “A Misdemeanor’s Worth” and the band covering Wilco’s “I’m the Man Who Love’s You” and Tower of Power’s “Squib Cakes.”
That song must have got my girlfriend Liz and I hungry so after scarfing down some tasty Minglewood Fired Pizza we doused the red pepper flake flames with a few 312 brews and headed to check out ALO. This was my first time checking these guys out and I have to say it was nice to lay back on the lawn and groove to them. Since the “crowd was in the right mind” as ALO lead guitarist explained they played a special song about “Monkeys” dedicated to Phil Lesh. Transitioning into a long fast funky chunky monkey jam the band played a variety of lively classic tunes. The band closed with “Maria” and reminded us that we had a lot of good music coming up.
Gigantic Underground Conspiracy are a combination of musicians from Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee. I spotted Camp Counselor Maria Iriart taking in one of her three on stage sets as they played Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” This was foreshadowing of what was to come later in the Red Barn set for Brain Damaged Eggmen.
Over at the Soulshine Tent a private little chat with Chuck Garvey from moe. was taking place with Rock the Earth. He brought with him drummer Vinny Amico who talked about a variety of socially conscientious issues they worked on with Dave Matthews. They also talked bout how moe. was actively involved with humanitarian efforts with the Red Cross as well as donating to environmental charities through working with the Rain Forest Network.
Chuck also answered a few questions on song writing and he said at times it could take years to craft one before it was ready to unearth. He explained while it was “fun to play Led Zeppelin it was also nice to write” even though he’s extremely critical of his songs. Chuck and Vinny played a song written on an airplane with an alternate acoustic version of “Summer Women.” Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey’s McGee came up to answer a few questions as well. The tri-panel each told of their favorite places when not on the road. For most it was home. Chuck said Florida, Vinny the Adirondack Mountains, and Brendan his hometown of Chicago as he could have a zen moment having the city at his back looking out into the nothingness that was Lake Michigan. The best part of it all was that they closed it out with “Bell-Bottom Blues” by Eric Clapton with Chuck on lead vocals and Brendan singing background vocals. Don’t judge a band by its name is something we all remember when it comes to moe. and Umphrey’s McGee.
Next we headed to the Camping Stage and checked out our good friends Old Shoe play their inaugural Summer Camp. “Welcome Home” opened the set and lead into “Let Yourself In” as the sun fell behind the horizon. Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” was sandwiched in between “Joe’s Song” and “Days Rain Night.” Playing mostly original work off the bands last album Let Yourself In and a forthcoming unnamed release the sunset backdrop of the newly renovated stage was just what we needed to properly kick off the evening. We hung around for Midwest Hype who went on right after Old Shoe, and though we’ve seen our friends from Laporte/Muncie area plenty around Chicago were hit with a wonderful surprise when the fellas paid tribute to Adam Yauch aka MCA the recently departed Beastie Boy and musical pioneer.
Laying down on the grass for some Umphrey’s McGee covering Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” around 10:30pm was the perfect way to celebrate a job well done by the Shoe gang. The light show was spectacular but Liz and I had Red Barn late night passes to see Brain Damaged Eggmen. So we split off from the group and decided to meet up later at Hot Buttered Rum playing at the Campfire Stage.
Brain Damaged Eggmen in the Red Barn was epic. It wasn’t too crowded though it got a bit toasty towards the end of it. Giant beach balls were fisted skyward as glow sticks and elaborate light displays enhanced the surreal atmosphere. I love both Pink Floyd and the Beatles and Brendan Bayliss thanked everyone for letting them entertain this side project.
Setlist: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Another Brick in the Wall, Baby, Your a Rich Man >Obscured by Clowns>Tomorrow Never Knows, Have A Cigar> Breathe> Comfortably Numb>I Am the Walrus>Dark Side of the Moon.
We caught up with the Shoe Family for Hot Buttered Rum and were able to take in everything from “Like the French” to covers of the Grateful Dead’s “Round and Round” and Beatles “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Sitting by the Campfire around 4am I decided for the sake of not having too bloody of a Sunday it was probably best to hit the hay.
With Leftover Salmon making it back to Summer Camp this year I thought it would be good to give their new album a listen. Here is my review. Eight years in the making Leftover Salmon’s Aquatic Hitchhiker finally hit record stores last week. A truly original work of art this album is everything Salmon with absolutely no filler. Comprised of road-tested tracks as well as some new tunes. The impetus for all of can only be the addition of Andy Thorn to the lineup. The last year has seen some changes in Camp Salmon. The departure of Bill McKay and the addition of Thorn have given the band a clearer focus on the “Poly-Ethnic Cajun Slamgrass,” that is their hallmark. The opening tune entitled “Gulf of Mexico” is sung by Drew Emmitt and is reminiscent of his earlier work like “Valley Of The Full Moon.” It refers to the oil spill in the Gulf and shows how Salmon continues to be concerned with bigger issues. Martinez’s drums hit hard like an abandoned alarm clock left to rattle away while Drew’s vocals just soar. Vince gets funky on the road song, “Keep Driving.” You can almost picture him looking out the window of a tour bus with a notepad in hand writing the words down. “Liza” is one of my favorites that has made it into their new rotation; it’s a fun shanty love song that makes crowds bounce. Musically the title track “Aquatic Hitchhiker” is perhaps the most profound on the album, lead by Thorn’s banjo shredding and Drew’s violin. For several years after the passing of Mark Vann and the exodus of Noam Pikelny LoS seemed to be searching for someone to fill the void. I can honestly say that they have found the plug in Andy Thorn. The banjo is so essential to their sound that it is imperative to have a finger-flying shredder at the helm. Andy is just that. “Bayou Town” as it’s name insinuates is a down home zydeco-flavored strum. Greg Garrison’s bass finally finds the spotlight on “Sing Up to the Moon,” with Vince on vocals. In “Light Behind the Rain” Thorn steps up the microphone, it’s a track that he used to perform with Grant Farm. His smooth delivery is the perfect juxtaposition to Vince’s rowdiness and Emmitt’s towering voice. Leftover kicks back into high gear with the extra optimistic “Stop All Your Worrying.” Martinez gets out the brushes to Great American Taxiesque “Walking Shoes.” The Americana that Herman has been focusing on for several years certainly made it into the mix with this song. “Kentucky Skies” is a Scruggs flavored romp into the Salmon’s more traditional sound. “Gone For Long” feels like the days last cigarette while the album closing “Here Comes The Night” gets jazzy and a little lounge.
The mix of Aquatic Hitchhiker is just stellar. Recorded in both Colorado and Portland, it has a solid flow, both in music and texture. I highly recommend grabbing a copy, sitting down with a cold beer, and letting the night come.