A more perfect day could not have been planned for Summer Camp on Friday. Music lovers arose to the crispy, bluebird sky of central Illinois with a bright beautiful sun shinning down from above. As fans shook off the grogginess of Thursday’s pre-party they found that Summer Camp was beginning in earnest and the weather was perfect. The light rain of the prior day kept down the dust promising that attendees would not be blowing a Rorschach Test into their hankies. A light breeze blew across the fields making for a sweet balance of warm and cool as the day began. Chicago Summer Camp regulars Old Shoe got the music started with an 11 AM shotgun start.
This quintet is quintessential jam with an acoustic sensibility thrown in for good measure. As Matt Robinson donned his “Easy Scampin’” shirt it was clear that not only was Old Shoe ready to have fun, they were ready to play. This band has so much potential as their local fan base already knows, They are a blend of rock, funk, folk, and more, Old Shoe just seems to fit. As their name would insinuate there is a comfortable vibe that emulates from everything they do. Their hour-long set was a perfect way to officially start Friday at Summer Camp.
Just as Old Shoe was finishing up Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn band was getting warmed up on the Starshine Stage. These guys put the power in power trio. Their sound is reminiscent of a revving engine approaching the red line. They have a growl that would make a dire wolf question its masculinity. They opened with a roaring “That Train Song.”
Set 1: That Train Song, Something For Nothing, Easy Come Easy Go, Regular Ole’ Guitar> Peter Gun Theme, Big Blue Chevy ’72, You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Worn Out Shoes, Clap Your Hands, Devils Look Like Angels, Some of These Days> When the Saints Go Marching In, Glory Glory
The Rev. is as much of a storyteller as he is a rocker. Joined by his wife Breezy and drummer Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell, Reverend Peyton can rip on anything with a fret board. In fact during “Easy Come, Easy Go” he absolutely shredded on a cigar box guitar. I’ve never seen one let alone heard one sound like a Les Paul. Their hour on the stage went by far to quickly and ended with a rolling version of “Some Of These Days into a raucous version of “When The Saints Go Marching In” followed by a very untraditional take on “Glory, Glory.” Let’s just say it got spiritual.
Next up was Keller Williams in the VIP Lounge. This was the first year with an actual schedule set up for VIP, rather than just a few random sets throughout the weekend. Keller was running late, taking the stage a full twenty minutes after he was scheduled. The set began ceremoniously with an introduction from promoter and festival organizer Ian Goldberg. He is Jay’s son and basically runs the whole show. Keller began by saying, “I have no plan.” He performed an acoustic, loopless show, which is something I haven’t seen since 2005 at Summer Camp. Keller is always a sort of flow of conscience type show, but his loopless shows take it to another level. Strumming away we were treated to a set that was all K-Dub. The highlight was beautiful rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Eyes Of The World.” I would have stayed longer, but it was time for moe.
2013 Camp Counselor Kyle Hess gave the intro, which was short but sweet. Having stood in his shoes, it’s a lot of pressure to announce your heroes to 15,000 or so people. He did so marvelously. moe. opened their festival with a huge “Captain America” into “Recreational Chemistry.” This was the equivalent of throwing down the gauntlet as far as I’m concerned.
Set 1: Captain America> Recreational Chemistry, Deep This Time> Downward Facing Dog, Puebla> Ricky Marten> Seat Of My Pants, Okayalright
moe. is one of the few jambands that has never broken up, never taken an extended hiatus, and never left their fans in the lurch. It absolutely shows in their live performances. They simply grind and for that reason I’ve been a fan for well over a decade. Their guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey are so dialed in, watching them is like witnessing a two-headed shred monster. They toss each other lead and rhythm parts like hot potatoes shot from a grenade launcher. This was a classic jam-filled set with a massive “Okayalright” to close. With five more sets on the horizon they set the bar pretty high with this show filled to the brim with badassery.
The Wailers were up next on the Sunshine Stage. I’ve always been a bit confused by The Wailers , The Original Wailers and were the two diverged. The fact that Bunny Wailer is still alive and not a member of either band is enough to make me question the namesake. Originally The Wailers was comprised of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingston. Afterwards the band morphed into Bob Marley and The Wailers with Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother Cody Barrett on drums with the I Threes. Both of the Barretts were members of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s studio band The Upsetters. So basically Aston is the only real member of Bob’s band, but they continued performing after Bob’s death. They were lead by Koolant Brown on vocals who was like a bucket of jazzercise. His energy was infectious and his tone was spot on. The other notable member is Keith Sterling on keys who was also a part of The Upsetters among other Jamaican groups. They sounded solid with awesome versions of “Africa Unite” and “Stir It Up.” The highlight of their set was a mashup of “Waiting In Vain” with Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” As I was heading over to MMW I could hear them playing “I Shot The Sheriff” to an enthusiastic crowd.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood plays jazz with a jam mentality. It’s not so much about the groove because at times they go down the trail blazed by greats like Charlie Parker. Utilizing dissonance that to the untrained ear can be unsettling. However the fact is that MMW is capable of absolutely anything. Their most crowd-pleasing shows include funkiness, which was definitely present at points during their set at Summer Camp. They are simply one of the most incredible live acts touring today and it was a pleasure to see them on a beautiful day in central Illinois.
As Keller Williams ages his projects become more and more sophisticated. No longer is he content playing alone. The last few years have seen numerous projects spring from his mind. The latest is Keller Williams and The More Than A Little. This is his most soulful endeavor incorporating two female vocalists and a full band. They started the set with the song from which they take their name. K-Dub hit the stage in a black suit, smacking his talking drum and looking pretty suave. I would have to say the man won best dressed for Friday if not the entire fest. There was smoothness to this group and a focus on the funkier side of Keller. This is probably my favorite band that Keller has formed and I hope this group actually tours rather than being just a flash in the pan. This was also the most painful overlap of the day with Yonder Mountain String Band starting just a half hour after Keller, so shortly after it started, it was time to mosey.
Colorado bluegrass ambassadors Yonder Mountain String Band have been a hallmark of Summer Camp for years now. Their main stage set this year was chocked full of stringy goodness. They started with an energetic “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma” into “East Nashville Easter.”
Set 1: If You’re Ever in Oklahoma> East Nashville Easter> 40 Miles From Denver, 20 Eyes, Irondale, Pretty Daughter, Casualty, Kentucky Mandolin*, Dear Prudence*> Raleigh & Spencer*, Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown*
*w/ Roosevelt Collier on Pedal Steel
This set was a beautiful, rambunctious journey with one of my favorite bands. Jeff Austin’s face contorted as he wore the finish off his mandolin, by straight ripping it up. They invited Lee Boy, Roosevelt Collier to the stage to play the pedal steel with the band. This added a whole new dimension to their group. He wasn’t even on the official lineup, but he ended up being an artist at large of sorts playing around all weekend long. Their take on “Dear Prudence” with him was definitely memorable as was their set closing “Two Hits.”
Finally it was time for the main event with Umphrey’s McGee. Basically Summer Camp has become their home fest as they now share the bill with moe. They have such a dedicated following and are actually from the Midwest so it makes a lot of sense. They eased into a two set extravaganza with “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”
Set 1: There’s No Crying in Mexico > All in Time > Mantis Ghetts, Nothing Too Fancy> Ringo, Eat, Believe the Lie, Conduit, Comma Later > Nothing Too Fancy
Set 2: Puppet String > Plunger > All in Time, Sociable Jimmy, Bright Lights, Big City1, Glory> Plunger > Puppet String
*w/ Dom (Big Gigantic)
Umphrey’s is the most technical band in jam and this show demonstrated just that. The boys let us know that they are still Death Metal with “All In Time.” “Nothing Too Fancy” into “Ringo” was the climax of their first set and again raised the bar from a band that might as well be professional bar raisers. “Eat” actually had me a little frightened as again their Metal was showing, before the progressive “Believe The Lie” eased the tension. Umphrey’s is not an easy band to watch. They don’t just give it to you. They make their fans concentrate in a way that no other member of the jam community does. You have to work to understand what this band is doing. They are the opposite of dubstep in that regard. They ended their first set by going back into “Nothing Too Fancy.”
Their second set was bookended by “Puppet String” and included a sit in from Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli. It was a little more reserved than the blowout that was set one. “The Bright Lights, Big City” on which Lalli sat in was a definite highlight of a set full of technical turns and rage heavy jam. Umphrey’s is a big part of what makes Summer Camp so great and this was their night to blow it all out. They did so marvelously. During “Glory” they teased The Smashing Pumpkin’s “Rhinoceros” which got fans hopeful, but I’m glad they stuck to the script. This is one my favorite UM tunes and really demonstrates a different side of their sound. With a little bit of the theatrical moes came to the stage for the encore. The Umph boys gave them a look like, “We got this,” and proceeded to bust out a highly mechanical “Rebubula.” It was a nice touch to show the interconnectivity of these two groups at this particular festival.
After Umphrey’s I opted to nap it out for bit to be ready for the late night in the Red Barn with moe. and YMSB. I arrived at the Barn around 12:45 and made my way inside. The Barn is 400-person shell complete with lasers and a high ceiling. moe. opened with “Mar-Dema.”
Set 1: Mar-Dema > Kyle’s Song > Kids, In a Big Country, Wind it up > Sensory Deprivation Bank, lylelovit. > Waiting For The Punchline
Their hour and fifteen minute set left fans wishing they would play until the sun came up. This was classic moe. with a wonderful “Kyle’s Song” as well as a bust out on “Big Country” which hadn’t been played in 929 shows. Before playing “Sensory Deprivation Bank” Rob said, “This is the most downloaded song in the history of porn… it’s true.” I’m not sure if that’s actually a fact but it was absolutely huge. The set closing “Waiting For The Punchline” whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. This was solid moe. and a fun way to spend a late night.
After a stage swap that went a little too long Yonder took to the boards. They got going with a solid sandwich in the form of “New Horizons“ into “Blue Collar Blues” back into “New Horizons.”
Set 1: New Horizons > Blue Collar Blues > New Horizons, Left Me in a Hole, Fingerprint, My Gal, Steep Grade Sharp Curves > Gut Feeling/Slap your Mammy, New Deal Train, Another Day, Little Lover, Ten
Encore: Southern Flavor
Yonder took us on a late night bluegrass romp that saw classics flirting with a few new tunes. It was simply a great day of music and YMSB was the perfect end to it all playing well into the wee hours of the morning. Additional highlights of their set included “Let Me In A Hole,” “New Deal,” and “Ten.” They encored with an awesome “Southern Flavor.”
As I walked down the trail back to my tent the birds were beginning to chirp and I knew that Saturday would be coming all too soon. Summer Camp is non-stop run and if you do take a break you are going to miss something. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s always important to pace yourself, but it’s even more important to see as much live music as possible. Two down, two to go.
So through my first two days here at Summer Camp, I’ve come to realize the culture that exists here. Three Sisters Parks has become its own city, separate from the rest of Chillicothe, as well as the rest of society, where everyone here is here for the same reason – to celebrate life and enjoy the music having a great time. Yesterday I celebrated life with several fantastic concerts, spanning nearly 8 hours of music.
I started out my day waiting in line for Umphrey’s McGee’s Golden Ticket merch event. What this was is they were selling 600 bags of random merchandise, with 24 of those bags luckily including a “Golden Ticket,” redeeming the recipient with random great prizes from winning 2 tickets to every show to a year to an umVIP pass for the rest of the festival for an on-stage viewing experience, among other things. Unfortunately, I did not win a Golden Ticket, but still got a solid bag of merch goodies including a t-shirt and a coozie. Stasik was there taking pics with fans and I was able to snap one.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood was next for me. I’ve never listened to the psychedelic jazz trio before this show, and was blown away by their chemistry and flow in their music. They were all on the same key throughout the show and kept the crowd dancing throughout their set under the beautiful sun.
I took a break after MMW to grab some food and head over to the Sunshine Stage to catch the first set of Umphrey’s McGee. The crowd was raging along in full force as the full moon began to shine in the east as the sun set in the west. Closing the set with a sandwich of one of my all time favorites, Nothing too Fancy, I felt good about stage hopping over to check out Roster McCabe. As always, they did not disappoint as I danced along with the smaller but energetic crowd at the Camping Stage before heading back to catch the latter part of Umphrey’s second set. I’m disappointed to have missed Dominic Lalli sit in with them for Bright Lights, another of my favorite song, but they still killed it the second set, and encored with Rebubula. Yes, you read that right, Rebubla by moe. Truly an epic moment in UM history that will be talked about for years to come of Summer Camp Highlights. – Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hze_chSCO5U&feature=youtu.be
After Umphrey’s I headed to see Nahko & Medicine for the People at the Campfire Stage. Medicine had the vibes with them tonight as they packed in all the love for music in a tight hour long set, but only left us wanting more. For those unfamiliar with this band, they sound a lot like Michael Franti and Matisyahu. Nahko even sang a few verses of Matisyahu’s “One Day,” but instead changed the chorus to “Today,” representing his message of making the world a better place right now.
^Nahko & Medicine for the People
After Medicine, I caught the final half of Big Gigantic’s set over at the Sunshine, a show I’ve been ready for for quite some time. Big Gigantic’s fusion of jazz and dubstep is unlike any other band I’ve heard before, and they truly feed off the crowd’s relentless energy. I am absolutely stoked to see them again tonight for the late night. After Big G, I headed to the Barn to catch moe.’s late night set. The Red Barn is such an intimate venue, I was truly captivated by that feeling of everyone in there just loving the music so much, and could tell that moe. felt the same way; they were relaxed and just having a good time. Unfortunately I couldn’t last long enough to make it through Yonder Mountain, so I called it a night after moe.
Today, as crazy at it seems, looks to be even better than yesterday; the best part I’ve learned about Summer Camp is that the next day is better than the last. I’m looking to check out Victor Wooten & Friends at the VIP Lounge, (a very nice perk of being a CIT!), Thievery Corporation, 2 sets of Umphrey’s then moe., and a late night with STS9 and Big Gigantic.
Only one more week till Scamp time! Some acts that are a MUST see for me are Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn band late Thursday 1:30am – 3:00am at the Campfire stage and then 7 hours later at noon-1pm at the Starshine stage, be ready for a foot stompin’ good ol’ time! Medeski Martin and Wood Friday 4-5:15pm at the Moonshine stage (I’ve only seen the Wood brothers live, but never all 3!). Big Boi (from Outkast) Sunday 6:30-8:00pm at the Moonshine stage. I also want to catch the Summer Camp Masquerade Troupe winners since it was so awesome seeing their videos! On their page, it says the winners are performing for various artists at different times but most will be performing at 11pm Saturday in the Vibe Tent. If you haven’t checked out the winners, click HERE to view their awesome videos!
Also, I’m going to spend most of my time attending field day events at Summer Camp. Here’s a picture of me last year participating in dodge ball and being the only Yellow Team member left standing against the Purple Team. I’m not going to lie, that moment was a little scary.
My man Adam and I had such a blast participating last year that we want to try to attend EVERY even (if possible) this year and come out of it with a win for Yellow Team! Anyone remember Yellow Team’s only win last year?!?! Well if you don’t, here’s a picture of it
We only won male arm wrestling in 2012, but at least we know we’re strong! But this year, expect there to be more wins from Yellow Team. GO YELLOW TEAM! This is our year! Woo!
What I’m most excited about is spending time with my friends, meeting up with friends that I met up at Scamp last year, and celebrating my birthday again at Scamp!
Can’t wait to see ya at Scamp!