Twenty-one years of SCamp

(photo credit Robert K. Multimedia)

Two decades in, Summer Camp Music Festival remains a perennial favorite.

Here we are, already adjusting back to normal life after Summer Camp. After such a magical weekend, the glow takes a while to fade, but eventually you come back to earth; it happens every year. That doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about it though! As a first-year Summer Camp Counselor, it was my great pleasure to partake in my first full weekend at Three Sisters since 2017; as SCamp approached, I found myself looking back on my last weekend on site: The Disco Biscuits’ dazzling set on the Sunshine Stage, Railroad Earth and White Denim serenading the Moonshine Stage, and being on crutches (I fell near the Campfire Stage and very nearly broke my ankle). I’d sure love to tell you all about #SCamp22 (excluding Thursday night – I wasn’t able to make it until Friday morning).

First of all, the tunes; SCMF has something for everyone. Bluegrass, roots rock, hard-hitting EDM, folk, noodly jam bands, hip hop, and everything in between. The festival has come to be known for their diverse and electrifying lineup year after year, and this year was no different. Every artist I took in seemed to be at the top of their game; from STS9’s meteoric jamtronica to the expert interplay and dexterity of moe. (replete with Nate Wilson keys and flute, and guest guitarist Suke Cerulo during the continued convalescence of Chuck Garvey), the dulcet bluegrass of The Infamous Stringdusters, Doom Flamingo’s incredible Queen tribute set, Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes taking us on a trip down a collective memory lane, Here Come the Mummies were lascivious and horny as usual. Everywhere you turned there was something amazing happening; my only regret is that I can only be in one place at one time.

Aside from the music, as anyone who’s been to Summer Camp knows, the weather is always a wild card. This year might have been the most perfect SCamp weather I’ve ever experienced. The rain leading up to the weekend did cause some alarm, but it didn’t come close to the legendary 2013 mud bowl situation. Everything was dried out by Saturday and the temperature was perfect. Even on Sunday, in my experience usually the warmest day of the festival, the heat was tolerable and people were out and about having the time of their lives.

The superb weather served to enhance the inviting surroundings; the Illumination Woods, a delightful addition that I had not yet experienced, played host to a dazzling variety of music over the course of the festival. From indie jam bands to bass-heavy EDM to hip hop to backwoods folk, you could find it all in one spot that offered shade and a chance to rejuvenate. Artists like Booth Blues w/Anika Emily, Daily Bread, Lowdown Brass Band, and more kept people entertained all weekend. The whimsical decor enhanced the stage’s bright, vivacious atmosphere, and the creativity of SCampers was on full display; the woods were home to a multitude of campsites, some outrageous, some restive and quiet. The converging paths led out of the woods into a colorful tent city full of laughter and music. The vibrant scenery was the perfect backdrop for the eclectic weekend. 

Of course, no Summer Camp is complete without taking in the cuisine. Asian Sensation continued to deliver (a piping hot teriyaki chicken bowl kept me going all day on Sunday), and I tried several new spots over the weekend. Chester’s BBQ, Greasy Mother Cluckers and Two Buds One Joint Griddle all bear mentioning (and paired well with a nice ice coffee). Whether it was grilled cheese, fresh ice cream, fruits and veggies, kabobs, pizza, or something else entirely that tickled your taste buds, SCamp had you covered.

On top of everything else, this was my first year as a camp counselor. Not really knowing what to expect, I arrived for the first meeting on Friday and finally met my fellow counselors in person. As a new team member I mostly watched the interactions and tried to just soak it all in and learn how things worked. We discussed goals for the weekend, different ideas, festival coverage, artist interviews, and more. I had covered SCamp as a member of the press before but this was more involved and gave me a new appreciation for being a part of the whole situation.

A real highlight for me in my role as a counselor was getting to introduce my brother’s band, Booth Blues w/Anika Emily, onstage in the Illumination Woods on Saturday. My brother Tommy has seen me come home glowing after SCamp for years, so it was an absolute joy to get to announce his group’s set and then watch them make people dance in the Illumination Woods (Dancing Chris even made an appearance, so you know it was hot fire).

(photo credit Derek Chamberlain)

Saturday also brought two more treats for me as a new counselor; first off was another meeting with the entire crew to go over the weekend so far, and by this point I actually felt comfortable talking with some of my fellow counselors about what we had seen and captured. That evening, all of us as a group walked out on the Moonshine Stage where Counselor Sasha gave a heartfelt introduction of festival headliners moe. It was something else to be looking at the crowd from the stage rather than the other way around, and I am honored and grateful to be a part of the whole experience.

I was also lucky enough to sit in on an interview with Aqueous conducted by Counselor Allyce with Counselor Rob handling the video. I typically conduct interviews over the phone, so it was interesting to see how a video interview was done, the similarities and differences, and how to handle oneself on camera.

The counselor program is something I never really saw myself doing; I had heard about it in 2015 or so, but I’m generally uncomfortable talking about myself and I usually prefer to stay out of sight and interview artists; I really had to open up and be more extroverted. Luckily Counselor Rob pushed me just enough to apply, and I’m glad he did, as I enjoyed the heightened involvement with the festival, and can see myself really sinking my teeth into it in future years with more interviews, collaboration with other counselors, photography, whatever I can do (plus it comes with a sweet exclusive t-shirt).

No matter what you were looking for this past Memorial Day, #SCamp22 delivered. There’s a reason everyone I spoke with for my preview coverage of the festival this year (Ryan Stasik from Umphrey’s McGee, Chicago Farmer, Tommy Howie, Noah Larson, Tyler Wood, and Anika Nims from Booth Blues w/Anika Emily, Drew Emmitt from Leftover Salmon, Jake Luce of Kangaroo Court, Donti Allison and Chase Scott of Trouble Chasin’, and Justin Reckamp of Mungion) used descriptors like “home away from home” and “family reunion.” For many, it’s their one chance a year to see some of their closest friends, turn off from the real world (if only for a moment), and reset. That drive home Monday morning is always bittersweet; yes, you’re leaving the festival, but your mind is clear and your heart is full. Plus, you’re already looking forward to next year; I know I am. 

Camp Counselor Andrew, signing off for now.