Summer Camp Memories: Special Guests

(Image courtesy of

One of the most magical things about Summer Camp is the amazing headliners that they have brought in over the years. For 20 years, the central Illinois area has been able to experience and see national headlining acts that have rarely played such small towns. This aspect of the festival has often attracted fans from across the country to come and spend their Memorial Day weekend with us. 
While each year has had multiple headliners, this list was put together to showcase to our readers the incredible level of diversity in the bands and of the fans that the festival has united since the summer of 2001.

2001 Jerry Garcia Band featuring Melvin Seals 

The Jerry Garcia Band featuring Melvin Seals and John Kadlecik at Peoria Blues and Heritage Festival 😺⭐️
Posted by Summer Camp Music Festival on Friday, August 30, 2019

Jerry Garcia had a knack for bringing the fans together and creating an environment where the fans became family at his shows. Whether he was performing with the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band, or any number of the smaller bands that he was a part of did not matter. The JGB continues to spread this message and unite fans from a wide variety of backgrounds while playing many of the songs that Jerry Garcia himself wrote.

2002 Ekoostik Hookah

Ekoostik Hookah formed in 1991 and made their debut at Summer Camp Music Festival in 2002. The band is known for being innovative and eclectic. They have shared the stage over the years with many of the nation’s largest jam bands. Their performance at the 2nd annual Summer Camp is one that may veteran Summer Campers remember fondly. 

2003 Particle 

Having formed in 2000, Particle had only been together for 3 years when they first headlined the Summer Camp Music Festival. Particle’s ability to interweave the sounds of jazz, rock, funk, and electronica really pushed the limits and helped to usher in a new genre for jam bands that encouraged exploration and creativity that pushed the boundaries of what had been seen prior.

2004 Jazz Mandolin Project Featuring Jon Fishman 

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Today ¾ of the band Phish has graced the stages of Summer Camp. Most people who attend the festival and are Phish fans are unaware that it was actually drummer Jon Fishman who first played the festival back in 2004 with the Jazz Mandolin Project

2005 Michael Franti and Spearhead 

2005 actually marked the second Summer Camp where Michael Franti and Spearhead were headliners. They first appeared at Summer Camp in 2004. The band has maintained a relationship with Jay Goldberg Productions and has played the Peoria area at other venues associated with the festival as well. Franti even sat down with former camp counselor Abby Mager at 2012’s Summer Camp for an interview.

2006 Rusted Root 

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Rusted Root first hit the scenes in 1990 and have been amazing audiences with their eclectic sounds and performances ever since. Throughout the early 2000s Rusted Root played in the midwest frequently, but didn’t often make it to the central IL area so this was a true treat for the locals.

2007 Animal Liberation Orchestra 

ALO is a California-based band that is the epitome of the west coast music scene. Their music is innovative and unique and their concerts offer a transformative experience that is uniquely their own. ALO has performed on multiple occasions at Summer Camp including 2010 (the year this video is from).  

2008 The Roots 

The Roots are known by parents everywhere as the main houseband for the popular children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba!. They are also the house band for NBC’s The Tonight Show. The Roots are a very popular and innovative hip hop group that really showcase the expanding musical genres that Summer Camp has grown to include over the years. 

2009 Willie Nelson 

Willie Nelson is no stranger to central Illinois. As a young child, I can remember seeing Willie play at the Illinois State Fair and other events. Willie’s strong political voice and beloved music have stayed popular through several decades even growing to include a generation of younger fans.

2010 Gov’t Mule 

Gov’t Mule has been a headliner more than once in the past 20 years of Summer Camp. 2010 was their first Summer Camp performance, but they would go on to play in 2012 and 2017 as well. Anytime Gov’t Mule plays, they are sure to bring a crowd of fans to their feet. 

2011 Widespread Panic 

Widespread Panic is one of the most popular southern rock bands of our time. They have grown from humble beginnings in Athens, GA to selling out some of the largest stadiums in the country with their progressive spin on classic southern rock.

2012 Jane’s Addiction 

Since 1985 Jane’s Addiction has been playing to fans in the United States. Their performance at Summer Camp was the perfect addition that brought out the inner 90s child in many Summer Campers who had grown up listening to the band. 

2013 Trey Anastasio Band 

2013 was not the first year that TAB graced the Summer Camp stages. As a fan favorite, their performances at the festival have drawn large crowds and some fans were even drawn to the festival to hear Trey play.

2014 Zac Brown Band
The Zac Brown Band might not be the most obvious choice for Summer Camp. This goes to show the diverse nature that the festival has come to be known for. While considered a country band by most, the Zac Brown Band has been known to make their way around the jam band scene as well. 

2015 Steve Miller Band 

The Steve Miller Band got their start back in 1966, almost 50 years later they graced the Summer Camp stages and became one of the most remembered headliners. He drew a crowd of many different age groups that ranged from the young to the veteran. 

2016 Mudcrutch

Tom Petty’s rise to fame happened while he was playing with the Southern rock band Mudcrutch. The performance of Mudcrutch at Summer Camp is one that many Summer Campers will remember and cherish for years to come. Many of us grew up listening to Tom Petty and getting to see him live was something we all still look back on fondly.

2017 Primus

Les Claypool is known for his eclectic style and his funky bass skills. As the frontman of Primus, Claypool has continued to push the limits to give his fans a unique experience each and every time that he plays. Claypool has performed at Summer Camp with Primus (2012, 2014 & 2017), the Lennon Claypool Delirium (also 2017), and with his solo act (2007 & 2009). 

2018 Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band 

I am not an emotional person, but shooting Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band was one of the highlights of my life. As a fan of the Grateful Dead for more than 20 years at this point, it was so powerful to see him play the bass up close. I actually shed a few tears. Deadheads were thrilled at the chance to see Phil play on a Summer Camp stage.

2019 Blues Traveler 

Blues Traveler first jumped on the music scene back in 1983. As a band that has been around nearly as long as I have, I have to admit that I have owned quite a few cassettes and CDs back in the day. Seeing this classic perform at Summer Camp is something that few Summer Campers will forget, and is the main show that makes me wish that we had attended the festival in 2019.

“Summer Camp Music Festival: Special Guests” on Spotify

In addition to my own list, Camp Counselor Eric ( has also taken the time to curate this Spotify playlist for all of our “Special Guests” through the years featuring fifty songs and over four hours of music so be sure to follow along there for the full audio experience.
Summer Camp Music Festival has brought the central Illinois region some of the biggest music names and legends over the past 20 years and is sure to bring us more in the future. I hope you have enjoyed this visual tour back in time with me.
Bye for now, Camp Counselor Amanda