Camp Counselor Allyce Conjures Summer Camp Magick

 

(Image Courtesy of Tara Gracer)

 

2007: 19 years old- I dated a guy for one month. He cheated on me so we broke up on the winter solstice. He asked me to keep my ticket to see a band he liked, Umphrey’s McGee, with him and his friends. Our group stood Joel-side that night, my hands grasping that supportive rail for the first time. The lights and vibrations washed over me as I watched in awe. Nothing had ever struck my soul that way- instantly hooked. One month after that show on December 29th, 2007 we had a whoopsie and conceived our child, Jude. 

2009: We left 10 month old Jude with Grammy and Papa and went to Summer Camp. I didn’t know what to expect but knew I loved Umphrey’s, moe. and Keller Williams. 21 and very straight edge until the year prior, I could not believe what my Soul was tasting- sweet freedom. I was blown away by the beauty of the woods and all of the people inhabiting them. Every person was gorgeously unique. The trees danced in the breeze while distant music rang out from all directions.

2010: We went to one more Summer Camp together before parting ways. After moving back in with my parents in Indiana, I began to adventure out on my own into the world of psychedelic rock. I went to a few more Umphrey’s shows in 2010 before taking what would become a two year hiatus from live music altogether.

(An oldie from an unknown photographer)

2013: It was obvious something was missing from my life. Working my tail off had provided me enough money to treat my then-boyfriend (now husband) and four of our friends to the Brendan and Jake Acoustic Holiday Show at Park West and a Digital Tape Machine after-party, I even booked a SHITTY LIMO. There may have been a few rounds of Jamo for Jake and Bayliss (and Joel) too- we were in rare form to say the least. Thankfully, though obnoxiously, this got me back in UM mode… I had live music again… and a $350 bar tab. 

2014: My glorious return to Summer Camp! I was holding down space and setting up while Miranda and Alli were going through security with our second round of gear. There were three people near our site- friends of the people Miranda knew. Two of them were from ColoRADo. The other one, LoMo, was from Indiana- now living in CO. Umphrey’s was her favorite band. We instantly became friends and spent the entire weekend together. After the fest LoMo invited us to stay at her place when house hunting in CO. We took her up on it and we’ve lived in /Fort Collins ever since!

2015: I volunteered as a SCamp Soulshine Ambassador. It was the most rad volunteer position. My job was to walk around the festival with tickets and give one to anyone I saw doing a good deed. I met many amazing people. It was a dream to interact with the artists in Soulshine: Alicia Post, the coordinator of the art gallery in the Soulshine Tent, Alyssa Prince, my SCamp twin, and Efren Rebugio, along with Nick Algee, the coordinator of the SOULPATCH. The SOULPATCH has grown exponentially since then. The gorgeous expansion of both the space and the amount of people involved is inspiring.

2016: I had a difficult experience due to total sleep deprivation. The FOMO is real and it’s hard to stop yourself from staying up all night talking to all of the people, seeing all of the shows and feeling all of the feels, but sleep deprivation is a scary thing. I decided then that I wanted to start a non-profit organization focused on keeping people safe. More on that later.

2017: I went UMVIP and experienced a set in the church. Melody and Lamar, a couple I had met SCamping in 2015, got engaged! Tara Gracer took the photos for the meet and greet picnic- later in life she would go on to shoot Melody and Lamar’s wedding, my wedding and the birth of my child, Weston. Leaving the picnic Joel said to me, “Hey thanks for raging out there, I saw you up front!” I said, “Oh hell yeah, I’ve been raging the rail for 10 years.” It was then that Joel asked me what my name is and I will never forget how special I felt in that moment. Strutting as if I was a badass, I made my way back to the Camping Stage carrying 4 pints of beer and a stack of lunches for my friends (thank you, UMVIP picnic). Bayliss said happy birthday to LoMo during the Saturday night set- one of the greatest show moments of all time. This was also the pivotal SCamp where LoMo and I met Chad, and we all realized how much we love Aqueous.

(Image Courtesy of Tara Gracer)

2018: A crew seven of us including Chad and LoMo all bought VIP. Great choice. A few sets got rained out in the afternoon. The storm rolled in at the tail end of the Golden Ticket event and The Main Squeeze set was cancelled. Umphrey’s McGee wound up letting them play their during set break on the Sunshine Stage with the UM instruments! The Main Squeeze always kills it so it was really a special moment. Of course we got our rainbow that year too during an Umphrey’s set. That was also the weekend I tried to convince Aqueous to play my 2019 wedding. We were SO close to making it happen.

2019: I went with LoMo and her partner Max. We planned to meet up with photographer extraordinaire, Tara Gracer on lot Wednesday and proceeded to get ROWDY. I have never been so violently hung-over. We were first in line and Tara was sure to get a photo just before getting into the fest (sweaty, already threw up 4 times, recovering). We made it to so many killer sets since our group was paired down. LoMo and I got mimosas in the lounge every morning and ate Manolo’s empanadas every afternoon. Umphrey’s set got rained out after an epic first set on Saturday when they played the full Anchor Drops album. After a slight delay Aqueous was still able to squeeze in their VIP set. When I returned home from SCamp I conceived my second son, Weston. Then Dan and I got married!

(Image Courtesy of Tara Gracer)

2020: I was beyond butt-hurt that Scamp’s 20th would happen without me. Weston was born on February 26th and two weeks later, everything shut down. Silver linings- I didn’t miss anything! Tara, Camp Counselor Niki and I attended the drive-in Umphrey’s shows together that autumn. I had reminisced at the Atlanta Motor Speedway about my Uncle Jack and my dad taking me to races when I was young…  just to get the news when I landed in Colorado that he had died. There was much synchronicity around his passing. His death coincided with the week of Jake and Brendan’s acoustic drive in show, now dubbed Shitty Limo. I was able to attend with the very same girl-friends I took to Park West in 2013. A month later I started a show called Women Wine and Song- The Podcast. 2020 had been difficult- even aside from the pandemic. There were intense social topics that needed to be discussed and I’d help facilitate by showing people that these conversations can be had while maintaining respectful tones and open minds. 

2021: Fantastic human, Joe Marcinek, linked me up with so many women that I recorded 23 episodes in four fast months. At the end of April, our original Summer Camp family suffered a massive loss. Our young friend, Sebastian, the beacon, passed away unexpectedly. Tara and I sent it to the Umphrey’s Drive-In, Bridgeview IL for my 33rd birthday and our friend Melissa joined us at the Umphrey’s Pod Show, Pontiac MI two weeks later. I asked them to play “Andy’s Last Beer” for Sebastian (well, for us) and they delivered. 

In June I applied to be a Summer Camp Counselor. On Friday, June 18th, the first night of UM at Red Rocks, I found out that I made it to the final round in the Camp Counselor selection process, My next job would be to produce a piece of media for Summer Camp Music Festival and promote it. I had two weeks to bust my butt and get it done. I was on cloud nine after Doom Flamingo slayed Cervantes on Thursday and Umphrey’s was about to play Red Rocks that night. It felt like the whole Universe was conspiring to bring me as much awesome as possible.

Saturday afternoon I was getting ready to work at The Mishawaka Amphitheatre for the Lespecial show- skipping my first UM Red Rocks show since I’ve lived in CO. My friends Melissa and Zach were going to join me that night and we would be going to see Umphrey’s at Red Rocks the following day. Zach called me in the afternoon- I thought he was calling about concert logistics. Instead, through sobs, Zach informed me that our Sweet Melissa, his wife, had passed away while dog sitting that morning. This was a third sudden and extremely difficult loss for me in seven months. I drove through the canyon alone crying and screaming before parking at the Mish for the show we were supposed to enjoy together. Rawk Squad, a band of ladies who originally came together for my bachelorette party, still went to Red Rocks the next day and raged in honor of Melissa. It was one of the most difficult days of my entire life. The following two months would be filled to the brim with tears and breakdowns.

My project still needed to be completed, so despite my depression, I jumped on it. I decided to conduct interviews since I have experience with that medium. Mike Gantzer, Evan McPhadden, and Dave Loss of Aqueous and Tucker McClung of Cycles all agreed to talk with me. Another applicant, Sydney, had interviewed me for her own Camp Counselor Application Project! This all felt meant to be. I had carried Melissa with me so closely for the Camp Counselor selection process, I knew in my heart the job would be mine. This project brought me hope at a time where I couldn’t keep myself together doing the most menial of tasks. 

By the last week of July, we were contacted by the team. All of those years of being a self-proclaimed “nerd” and “super-fan” had finally paid off! I read the email aloud to Jude when I found out that our first challenge as Camp Counselors was to have the knowledge that we had been selected (Sydney was picked too!), and keep our mouths shut until Scamp announced. It was the hardest secret I have ever had to keep.  Within two weeks I found out I had become a Camp Counselor, Celebrated the life of a lost friend, and hit the road for SCamp20.

(Big Nerd featuring Eddy the Whale)

Tuesday: Planning for any trip is a stressful endeavor. Add a 12 year old and a one year old to the mix and you’ve got quite a complicated situation! We did our best tetris-ing to get all of our gear and bodies into my late Grandma’s Mercury Gran Marquis. We were on the road by 8pm and cruised through the night while the kids slept.  

Wednesday: We arrived on the festival grounds around 3pm after dropping my kids off with their grandparents. We were given our credentials after showing a negative covid test (just like a pregnancy test- always just a little nervous taking those things). When we went around to park in employee parking, I noticed that none other than Camp Counselor Robert was in the car right behind us! This year’s first taste of Summer Camp synchronicity. He helped us get our parking situation sorted out and then he even helped us get all of our gear in on a golf cart. This was already a very pleasant surprise seeing as we are used to lugging all of our crap in ourselves.  We had a Camp Counselor cookout followed by an exclusive viewing of the Summer Camp documentary that Camp Counselor Nicholas is creating. Normally with a “new employee” position I am terrified, anxious, worried I’ll be the weird one. Not with the Camp Counselors! We all love Summer Camp. We all love music. I have never felt so at home around a group of people I hadn’t spent real time with. It felt surreal to be inside the park on Wednesday considering I always arrive at SCamp on Wednesday night just to sleep in the dirt in line to get a good spot. 

Thursday: After setting up our GA camp we were able to mellow out all afternoon at the Campfire Stage. The first band we saw there was Undercover Organism. Some of the band members had been at the cookout the night before. After that it was The Textures. I had never seen them before but I was hooked right away seeing as they have a female lead singer, Kelsey. During that set I asked a group of 3 sitting by us if they wanted a polaroid. They were stoked to get one and they offered me a bevvie in return. While we were conversing, a random guy walked up to one of the women and asked if he could take a picture with her. Then it happened two more times. I finally leaned over to the other woman and asked if I should know who her friend was. I had gotten her name earlier- Paige, but then her friend explained that she was Paige Pierce, the best female frisbee golfer in the nation. They go to whatever music or festivals they can catch while they are on the road competing- such a unique perspective of what festival season looks like to a pro-frolfer. 

(Paige Pierce with SCampers)

When Float Like a Buffalo was finished sound-checking I saw Luke walking down the main path with his sax, jamming and wrangling people to the Campfire Stage. A random person ran up to Luke and asked him to play “Careless Whisper.” He went straight into it- so perfect. Thursday also graced us with an intimate Umphrey’s set followed by Doom Flamingo in the VIP Lounge. While taking a break at a picnic table, I was sitting there in my own world, until a woman behind me slammed her hand down and yelled “Semantics!” She happened to be a volunteer coordinator at the festival. That’s when she mentioned her boyfriend was playing Harvest Fest. Being good friends with the organizers of Harvest Fest, I asked her what band her boyfriend was in. She replied, “Funkinetic.” I yelled, “Shut the fuck up!” I then explained that the drummer of Funkinetic, Steve, and Sebastian, my friend that died in April (their original guitarist) were part of my Summer Camp family. This was the first glimpse of true SCamp magick. We bonded over a few rounds of “Never Have I Ever” before spending an hour together at Frick Frack Black Jack and getting into all sorts of silly shenanigans in that tent.

Friday: The day I was most nervous about. Our Camp Counselor meeting was at 12:30. Of course my phone was dead when I climbed out of my hammock. Hustling to the church to check the time, I ran into Camp Counselor Nick and he let me know it was only 9:30. We had plenty of time. We grabbed some coffee and then spent the morning at his site with Camp Counselor Derek. My first meeting as a Camp Counselor was enthralling- seeing the inner workings of my favorite place. Added bonus, the church was air conditioned. After the meeting we discovered that some fool had totally demolished my EZ up. They must have fallen off the steps of the church directly into one of the middle poles.

(Not my canopy, but suffered a similar fate)

We went to Moonshine first to welcome moe. to the festival. It was a bit chaotic because all of the rules are different during a pandemic. Camp Counselor Derek got to be on stage and announce, but as a precaution, the rest of the counselors and I watched from the pit. Derek hit it out of the park and the festival was now officially underway. I bopped over to the VIP lounge after the announcement to catch one of the most fun sets of the weekend for me, Emo Hour with The Floozies. Never in my life would I have realized how much I needed an Emo dance party if it weren’t for that moment.

I made my way over to the Starshine Stage. Punkadelic was playing. I had never heard of them before but they reminded me of Zappa and I enjoyed that set while chatting with TK from Doom Flamingo. Then AQUEOUS- hallelujah.  It had been over a year since I had seen them and they delivered the heat. It was one of my favorite Aqueous sets to date. Immediately following their set we went to record our sunset interview. Within minutes of pressing record, Andy Frasco showed up and we were already derailed. That’s the thing about Summer Camp, it’s a family reunion of sorts. You never know who you are going to see let alone when. Aqueous had just arrived on site a few hours before and hadn’t yet mingled with any of their musician friends. It had been almost two years between real-life visits for some of these SCamp artists. Once Frasco was out of the shot, the Mungion gents showed up! It made my night to be able to be there for all of those warm greetings. Friday was a dream for me with sets by Aqueous, Umphrey’s, Mungion, and more Aqueous (tough choice because Doom and Fate Nite were playing at the same time). Umphrey’s played “Nether” again (they had only played it once at Red Rocks until this point) bringing my stats to a perfect 2/2. Pretty freakin magickal. At the last Aqueous set in the VIP Lounge, I got to hang out up front with Justin from Mungion- we had bonded at Sebastian’s funeral but hadn’t seen each other since. During that set I also got to catch up with my friend Ashley, who is the president and founder of the non-profit organization GROOVESAFE. It was fabulous to see SCamp friends we’d been apart from for two years. 

Saturday: We had an excellent start with a Camp Counselor meeting at 12:30 followed by a Camp Counselor photo shoot with our lovely and talented Tara Gracer. The first set I went to was Andy Frasco, but only for the first song because my friends Audiodacity were playing at the Illumination stage. Audiodacity killed it and even Uncle Mike Gantzer showed up to hang for a little bit. It is such a fabulous feeling to see your friends crush their sets. When they were through I had a feeling Frasco would still be playing. That’s when I got another blast of Summer Camp Magick. When I got to the lawn of the Starshine Stage, Frasco was playing the only song of his I was really hoping to hear- Dancin Around My Grave. This tune came out shortly after Melissa passed away and she and Zach were actually supposed to be in the music video. It will always hold a very special place in my heart since Zach, his brother, his mother and I danced and sang along to that song three times(we needed it) at Melissa’s celebration of life. I was a total turd and finagled my way up to the rail. I needed to laugh and cry and scream the words to this song close enough to see Frasco and Kanika. It was a moment of grand catharsis. When the show ended I yelled up to the stage and asked for a setlist. A stagehand kindly gave me a straw hat with a setlist in it which I was stoked to be able to give to Zach when I would return to Colorado. 

(Audiodacity at the Illumination Stage) 

On Saturday night Umphrey’s played staggered with Billy Strings. Umphrey’s is my favorite band in the world (well-these days they’re tied with Aqueous), and those Saturday night shows just blew me away. My new friend, Kelly, let me play with her little finger puppet hands and it was funnier than I had expected. I got a reaction from Jake that night- and he never looks my way! After UM the whole rail crew went to Boombox for a bit and then rounded out the night with more Frick Frack Black Jack. 

Sunday: It came too soon as always and the big sads really snuck up on me. After a fabulous weekend, exiting was not on my agenda. I ran into my friend, Ali Jay, in the press pit at Sunshine and we did our best to help each other stay safe from the heat. She replenished my water and I gave her some sunscreen. We gently boogied in that hot August sun for what Bayliss dubbed, “the detox before you retox set.” I finally found Chad in the VIP viewing area after about 36 hours apart. What a great partner in crime. We were able to go separate ways, meet all sorts of people and have tons of fun before naturally gravitating back to each other. There was random debris (including tents) flying through the air inexplicably votexed on an otherwise stagnant day. A security guard came up to me during the set and asked where my finger puppet hands were- they had also found the tiny extremities hysterical. 

I was scheduled to interview musician and friend, Jason Gregory of Audiodacity. We talked about new music they have coming out (new album- Wild Card) and then he told me to check out a band I had never heard of before- Lawrence. Their set was incredible! The lead vocals are a brother and sister duo. They have horns, guitar and bass as well- the whole band is extremely talented. They asked if anyone knew *NSYNC. Of course my dorky ass bolted to the stage and shouted “NSYNC was my first concert!” They said, “*NSYNC was your first concert!? This one is dedicated to you!” Then they played “I Want You Back” (the song my friends and I choreographed a dance to for the 5th grade talent show). This is the type of magick I love the most. Totally obscure synchronicity. *NSYNC being played by a band at a hippie fest. Some Frasco chaos went down that set too, which of course was a great time. Ever heard of the Cha-Cha Slide? Yeah- it was hysterical. 

(Lawrence with Andy Frasco in the VIP Lounge)

I was able to catch my first ever Dopapod show where I was instantly made a fan, then we made our way over to support the CO homies, Cycles at the Campfire Stage. We saw the Lespecial dudes there too.  That’s when I helped talk an intoxicated woman into going to lay down after she told me she hadn’t slept at all yet. She had asked if I had an extra mask for the dust. I gave her a face covering and then she asked if she could sit with me. She wanted to know where to get water. Noticing she was totally lost I offered to walk with her to find her site. Remember how I said earlier that sleep deprivation is a real scary issue? This was indeed one of those moments. She finally mustered up the courage to walk back to her campsite to get some sleep. After Cycles we got to catch a smidge of Tipper and a touch of Ween (see what I did there?) before our final concert of the weekend- DEATH KINGS!

(Above mentioned Lespecial dudes)

Death Kings is an insane three-piece made up of Mikey from Turkuaz, Uncle Mike of Aqueous, and Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee. This was their debut set and we were ready for it. Stasik even had a microphone! I met Jay Blakesburg during this set and he was as sweet as could be. TK (Oukuo, Doom Flamingo) and I were able to talk again and took a selfie together. Kanika Moore (Doom Flamingo) was watching the show from stage left and then I saw Luke Beamand (Lespecial) show up before Death Kings brought him on stage for a song. Members from my favorite jam bands absolutely slaying that punk/metal life. There was moshing. There was headbanging. We hippies go hard!

I was granted permission by Uncle Mike to hand out some setlists and lyric sheets after the set before hiking over to the VIP Lounge for the epic closeout party. Outside of the tent Uncle Mike was talking with a friend of mine I had met at the Umphrey’s pod show in Michigan earlier this summer, Harper. We were chatting at a picnic table when Ryan Stasik showed up to tell Mike it was time to load-out. Then, Stasik looks me dead in the eyes, puts his fist out for a bump and says, “Hey, I love you!” My brain imploded while my mouth somehow responded, “I love you too, dude!” Uncle Mike got up to leave and he told me, “You killed it this weekend. This was a big weekend for you…” What the hell? My favorite musicians recognizing my efforts? I choked back tears. Summer Camp magick indeed. 

Frick Frack popped into my head because my golden ticket bag full of oddities needed to be gambled rather than lugging it back to CO… I made it for the very last hand of the weekend and won with 20 scoring me a top-hat with an Umphrey’s pin. We went to the pawn shop on the side of the casino to see if they’d take anything left in the bag. I scored the very last Summer Camp pin. In my haste, I left on the ground my rolling tray that Sweet Melissa had given to me for my birthday this May. Noticing it was missing immediately upon arriving at our site, I panicked. I was again on the verge of tears when I stuck my head in the pawn shop tent. The man working saw me, and he handed it to me right away. At that point I did cry. This truly felt like more magick to me because I thought this memento from Melissa was gone forever.  It was already 5:30 AM and it was time for a nap.

(Late night Frick Frack shenanigans)

Monday: We started packing up camp after some rest and took our first trip out to my car. That’s when we saw that I had a flat tire. I genuinely knew this was going to happen when I went to park my car on Wednesday. So many pokies! The rest of the day would involve finding a way to either fill up my tire, or change it. Our Camp Counselor’s golf cart was missing (having been “stolen” the night before) adding to the stress of the morning. When I finally had a moment to check my phone, I saw that I had received a text from my friend Ali Jay. She wrote, “We need a camp counselor!”. One of my favorite musicians had left his wallet at the Campfire Stage the night before and someone on-site still had it. I arranged for the exchange and when they arrived he had a signed drumstick, a signed setlist, and a t-shirt for me. Even after the festival was over, the Summer Camp Magick kept raining down.

While we were in the field waiting for AAA, I decided to walk around the now abandoned field looking for ground scores (as one does). It was then that I discovered a box FULL of merch from face coverings to t-shirts and sunglasses, to a Summer Camp fan (replacing the cheap one I had bought in 2019 that finally broke this weekend). There was also a whole case of redbull in the box which I desperately needed for the drive back. Even when the festival was finished and most people had gone home, little bursts of Summer Camp Magick provided. The last thing I found was a MAPS shirt which was about the coolest thing I have ever found- I have been reading their materials since 2016 when I had my difficult experience. I intend to use them as a resource when I start my own non-profit in honor of Sweet Melissa, The Hug. My in-laws arrived to the Summer Camp parking lot just minutes before AAA came to change my tire. Jude Weston, Gramma and Grampa all got to see my home-away-from-home even though we had planned to meet where we always do off of I-80 (just a bit more synchronicity). Then, as fast as it all began, it was over and we took to the road again for the last leg of our adventure, the 16 hour road trip back to Colorado. 

My adventures at Summer Camp are always magickal. It feels as if I am in exactly the right place in the Universe at exactly the right time. SCamp is the grittiest, dirtiest, wildest fun. I made it to at least 42 sets of incredible music over the weekend, busted my butt, got super sweaty, and met some truly wonderful people. I am incredibly thankful to have had this experience as a Camp Counselor. It astounds me that everything has come full-circle in such an epic way. Every year I say it and every year it’s true, “This was the best Summer Camp so far.” Are you prepared for what comes next?

Thanks for joining me! Can’t wait to be home again with all of you.

With love, Camp Counselor Allyce