Summer Camp 2010 Chillicothe, IL: Thursday

Article and Photos By Greg Molitor

Three Sisters Park – Chillicothe, Illinois

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I’ve come to expect the unexpected at music festivals. During my first three years attending Summer Camp, I saw everything one could imagine plus a few things I’d like to keep out of my imagination. Every year has been unique to itself and completely different than the year before. However, even though comparisons from year to year are impossible to make, there was a common thread that made all three years quite similar…I had the time of my life each year…! This year was the first year I was to cover the event rather than simply be a fan, so I had no idea what to expect. Remember, expect the unexpected…


After a 6 hour drive from Michigan, my fiancée Jessica and I arrived to the gate around noon and were directed to parking within 15 minutes. Last year’s issues with electronic ticketing, it was relieving to see the ticket taking process running smoothly this year. Once our vehicles were directed to the VIP lot, I split from the group to grab my Press Credentials and Upgrade Package at Will Call. Once I was in line, I had to wait about a half hour to get my wrist band. As I heard others complain about waiting in line, I thought to myself,” I’m not sure if the word ‘waiting’ applies to this music festival. If I’m waiting, I have the wrong attitude…”

Fortunately, moments later, my friend Jocelyn walked by and saved me from my own thoughts. She hung around for a bit and kept me company while I waited, and as we shot the breeze, I saw another face I recognized. I had only seen pictures from online, but the ‘Mayor of Moe.Down’ sign was the obvious tell…


It was Rex Thomson! Also a fellow Music Marauders staffer and photographer extraordinaire, Rex has the type of personality that screams ‘character’ instantly. Not only was he great to camp and chill with all weekend, but he taught me a ridiculous amount of tricks and techniques for photography. I’m looking forward to the next festival I’ll get to see him considering how much fun I had taking photos next to the guy. Rex ended up camping right next to us in VIP which was convenient for me to be constantly asking photography questions.

After we set up camp, I went to help my friend Tim setup his camp in the woods. This was his first Summer Camp which got me excited to see his reactions to the festival as a whole. By the time he finished setting up camp, I had to make my way to a short press meeting in the Church. Some workers explained a few minor details and let the press know of any available opportunities to work directly with artists themselves. The information provided was much appreciated, and I would have loved to stick around and chat, but there were shows being played that I needed to check out. The first band on my list to see was The Bridge…

The Bridge

The first performance I saw at Summer Camp 2010 was from The Bridge, an up-and-coming Roots Rock/Americana outfit from the Mid-Atlantic region. Through hard work and persistence, The Bridge has been receiving a great amount of publicity over the past two years. As a former Jam-in-the-Dam attendee, I was excited for the opportunity to see a rising act that played the festival previously this year. The Bridge had been on my radar for quite some time, and I was slightly worried my press meeting might cut into their time on stage. Thankfully, everything perfectly fell into place for me and I was able to make the beginning of their Thursday set.

When The Bridge began their set, I was expecting to take more interest in their sound than I actually did. The band had a strong crowd for an early act on Thursday, but as the set continued, I realized The Bridge wasn’t going to satisfy me like I had previously hoped. The musicianship displayed by each member was adequate, but their tunes were too generic and safe for my personal tastes. I kept having a reoccurring thought that I had heard these songs played in a previous life by some nameless band, and at the same time, kept hoping that any member would step up and show me why he plays what he does for his living. I need to see another Bridge show because my lack of interest at Summer Camp doesn’t mesh with the overall consensus of the enthused fans I’ve spoken with online. For The Bridge to play the blues-driven, roots-rock music they do, it requires artists who love making their voices and instrumentation heard while on stage. This set did not give me the impression that the band was completely behind what they were performing.


Family Groove Company

After visiting some friends at their wooded campsite, I made my way to the Starshine Stage, the same stage where The Bridge had performed a few minutes prior. Family Groove Company was the next act to take the stage. It is not often said, but their band name is an exact representation of what Family Groove Company is. After hearing a few songs, the family vibe was obvious. Their sound exuded a playful nature one would expect from a group of artists who were clearly comfortable, connected, and having a blast performing.


Family Groove Company has been a staple at Summer Camp over the past few years, and the band has gotten tighter and more confident each passing year. The music featured a vibrant pulse the band can legitimately call their own; with each member feeding off the other, the band pushed through a highly enjoyable set of syncopated blues and funk. No matter what situation the band found itself during the set, the band shared a willingness to do what was right for the music as a whole. Their collective goal was obvious… to keep the hips moving and the hippies spinning! Family Groove Company has become exactly that…a group of highly professional musicians who take what they do seriously. What makes them special, however, is the joy the band feels while playing together, constantly reminding us that, in life, family and groove should always come first.


Cornmeal

After Family Groove Company finished their set, the Starshine Stage slowly attracted its largest crowd of the day. Cornmeal, the Chicago-based jam-grass outfit, would be the final act performing on the Starshine Stage, which was the largest stage in operation for Thursday’s pre-party. I had seen Cornmeal a few times prior to this performance, and I have always enjoyed their shows. Normally I tend to prefer traditional bluegrass opposed to the rock-driven sounds of Cornmeal and their contemporaries, but I certainly enjoy a great show regardless. Much to what I was expecting, a great show is exactly what Cornmeal gave to everyone in attendance. The set was by far the most entertaining I had heard from the band, containing a level of energy throughout that would make most bands jealous with envy.


Because of their care and appreciation of the overall sound being presented, Cornmeal certainly has acquired a knack for knowing when and where to take a jam. None of Cornmeal’s members have world-class technical abilities with regards to playing their respective instruments. However, if musicians are ‘playing to play’ and are listening intently to each others‘contributions, any lack of virtuosity immediately becomes a non-issue. Their set was bluegrass heavy and featured a few incredible peaks of shear sonic brilliance. Whenever I had convinced myself the band couldn’t push their energy any higher, it would push past what I thought was previously possible. Moments such as this are why I love live music. On this night, Cornmeal played with a tempo and intensity I had not previously experience personally with the band. As the show finished, I thought to myself, “Now THAT’S how a bluegrass show should make you feel!” Cornmeal gave me the stiff kick-to-my-britches I desperately needed to keep my tired-self moving and motivated for the rest of the evening.


The Macpodz

The Macpodz was the first band featured in the Red Barn, Summer Camp’s late night venue. Although the Thursday late night show was included in the pre-party ticket, Friday through Sunday late nights cost $25 per night and were limited capacity. Each year, many Summer Camp attendees miss a chance to witness intimate performances from the scene’s biggest acts. The exclusivity created presents an unfortunate situation for all parties involved, but it is the reality all campers must deal with to the best of their abilities. Thursday, however, everyone was given the same opportunity to experience the Barn. A party always has a better feel if everyone feels welcome, and that’s the way things should always be.


At 25, I’ve seen more performances from The Macpodz than I can even count. While touring relentlessly the past four years, the jazz-influenced quintet from Ann Anbor has continually impressed audiences across America with their funky rhythms and unique melodies. I’ve had the privilege to watch the band’s sound develop over the years, and to their credit, they have undoubtedly earned the relative success they’ve achieved. Just having an opportunity to see them perform in a high profile setting such as this was rewarding in itself. As for their performance, the band didn’t bring their usual fire I expect from The Macpodz. It was still a fun dance party, but there was a missing explosiveness I was craving. This was easily the weaker of the two sets The Macpodz performed at Summer Camp, yet there is always something to be gained by shaking your ass with some old friends from the backyard.


30db

After the first late night show in the Barn, I headed outside to check out some music from 30db, a side project headed by front men Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey’s McGee) and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band). 30db’s sound is a significant departure from what one would expect from a Yonder Mountain String Band or Umphrey’s McGee concert. It’s encouraging to see the adventurous duo take time from their successful careers for the sole purpose of creating something fresh for everyone and themselves.


The Campfire Stage was packed with fans of all ages, many of whom appeared ecstatic over the mere opportunity to catch a 30db performance. Since they had only performed a few shows to date, the overwhelming majority who watched 30db saw the group for the first time at Summer Camp. Musically, there were multiple moments that showcased both Austin and Bayliss’ unique songwriting abilities. Both have an inherent ability to weave intricate but accessible instrumental parts around catchy melodic hooks. I found the music to be most pleasurable when the duo allowed their songs to stand tall and speak for themselves. A few selections were a bit too adventurous for what the show represented. Individually, each member had a few songs where he would slightly overreach in his playing, but this is understandable considering how new the music being performed actually was.


Although 30db is still in the experimental phase of its musical lifecycle, this remains perfectly valid and justifiable when considering the context of the group’s formation. It must be emotionally taxing to do what Bayliss and Austin are required to do in their respective main acts. Not only must they carry themselves confidently as individuals wherever their travels might lead them, but both, by having the title of ‘front man’ bestowed upon them for years, have become easy targets for those looking to attack something on a larger scale. When the dust clears and all is settled, every musician just wants to play some damn music in the end. In that regard, the creation and growth of 30db has been largely successful for both musicians involved.


Dumpstaphunk

I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open as early morning fatigue was finally taking its toll on mind, body, and spirit. Although fatigue was hitting me at full force, I absolutely had to be making my way back into the Barn for my weekend NOLA funk fix. This moment took forever to arrive, but finally our time had come to put it in the Dumpsta…



Dumpstaphunk followed The Macpodz as the next act to play in the Barn. Led by Ivan and Ian Neville, Dumpstaphunk is a five-piece funk/rock ensemble that fully represents the New Orleans style of making music. By soulfully infusing raw elements into more traditional sounds and textures, Dumpstaphunk has the ability to be much more versatile than their name would suggest. Staying awake for the late night proved to be my smart decision of the day as Dumpstaphunk brought the house down, built it back again, and then tore it down one more time just because they could. At points, the band created such a dirty textural wash of sound, I felt as if both my life and the surrounding world needed a solid ’cleaning’ immediately after the show….not because I wanted to be clean…I need to know just how dirty I can get before my stank starts to perma-stank.


Speaking of stank, Dumpstaphunk’s set was exactly the hot mess of stank I needed to help me wind down for the night. As an added bonus, Jake Cinninger (Umphrey’s McGee) joined the band for a few moments onstage, adding his signature staccato phrasing to Dumpstaphunk’s filthy grooves. In my fatigued but constantly delighted state, I prepared for the band to bring the funk all night. But much like anything else in life, the night had to end. After his set, I got an opportunity to thank Ivan Neville for the music he shares with us all. He was gracious, grateful, and seemed genuinely pleased by my appreciation. A humbling experience for me…this was a near perfect ending to a long but amazing day of music, life, and love. It also provided the proper motivation in order for me to drag my ass back to the campsite so I could do it all over again when the sun rose in a few hours.



www.summercampfestival.com

Comments

  1. Well now, holy spit! The boys got chops! Great words and awesome shots! And thanks for the kind words! Whenever I can help, I surely will!
    _Rex

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dude, Greg...

    Awesome job! I am impressed with the writing per usual, and the pictures... Good god, man. I have been doing this a while and you've passed me up in one attempt. I am humbled by your work.

    J-man

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey would you happen to have any shots from Dumpstaphunk when the girls were dancing on stage?! lol I got to go up there and i have yet to find a photo :(

    ReplyDelete
  4. Have a cheeseburger?

    ReplyDelete

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