Summer Camp Music Festival 2011: Day 1 & Day 2
May 27th - May 29th, 2011
Three Sisters Park - Chillicothe, IL
Words & Photos By Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)
Featuring one of the most talented and diverse line ups of artists for music festivals in 2011, Summer Camp Music Festival had much to offer those who made the trip to Chillicothe, Illinois. The four-day event was filled with incredible music, shared memories by many, and, unfortunately, enough mud to make you never want to see another raindrop in your life. Even with the rain and ground combining into the sloppiest mess of a situation I’d ever seen at a festival, the spirits of the campers were never broken, togetherness remained and the party raged on until Monday morning!
Thursday, May 26th:
It’s hard to beat the sensation of waking up to the thought of traveling to a music festival. Even though driving conditions were less than desirable during the 6-hour trip from Ann Arbor to Summer Camp, the final destination remained in the back of my optimistic mind. Through the rain and road construction I drove, finally pulling into Three Sisters Park at 2:00 PM. There were already thousands of campers at Summer Camp when I arrived, and after seeing the mass of folks in the lot, I was certain that the festival’s attendance records would be set during 2011’s event.
As I walked my gear to the campsite, there were plenty of familiar faces to stop and chat with. This was my 5th year of Summer Camp and it felt like home, a place where comfortability and celebration combine in the most perfect of settings. I set up camp in a familiar location with a few of my best friends: Jess, Brian, and Greg. After sharing a few laughs with them over beers, I made my way into the festival grounds for Thursday’s concerts.
Ali Baba’s Tahini, the first act I saw at Summer Camp 2011, was guitarist Jake Cinninger’s band previous to Umphrey’s Mcgee. The group’s output was surprisingly stunning and impressive beyond my expectations. Cininnger displayed the virtuosity one would expect from the ubertalented guitarist, but the rest of band held their own backing Umphrey’s lead axeman. Ali Baba’s Tahini brought a hard rock vibe with some lighthearted quirkiness that is undoubtedly Cinninger. The crowd dug what the band was laying down as this performance cemented my excitement for the days to come. It’s awfully easy to end the surroundings when there’s so much positive energy happening everywhere you look. I had arrived.
After some wandering, I landed at Cornmeal for the first couple songs of their set. The show began with a monster jam led by fiddler Allie Kral. As the music built to its peak, the crowd went absolutely apeshit with joy. One thing is for certain... folks LOVE Cornmeal! I dipped from Cornmeal early because I wanted to catch a majority of The Pimps of Joytime, a Brooklyn-based funk outfit. As I arrived to the stage where The Pimps of Joytime were playing, the atmosphere was the completely opposite of Cornmeal’s bluegrassin’.
The set was less jam-centric with more straight-ahead funk that had the booties shaking from the moment I arrived to the end of the set. The music gained my respect instantly as soulful guitarist / frontman Brian J implored me to get my shit together, dance like I meant it and party like there’s no tomorrow. Point taken. Wholly engaging, The Pimps of Joytime demanded a connection between band and crowd and threw down one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen in a long time. Dynamite to the braindome, it was.
Up next were the late night performances. In the Red Barn was the trio of Digital Tape Machine, Papadosio and Future Rock, and outside was 30db, the acoustic duo of guitarist Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey’s McGee) and mandolinist Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band). I spent the least amount of time at 30db’s set. Bayliss and Austin can hold their own on their respective instruments, no doubt, but I became bored with the songs quickly. Kudos to the two for having the courage to step outside of their comfort zone, but 30db wasn’t for me.
On the contrary, the three bands in the Red Barn brought the fire straight from the the crunch cooker Thursday night, leaving an incendiary trail of wow after each finished.
Chicago-based Digital Tape Machine started the late night party with a ridiculously overdriven set of in-your-face electro-melt that sent shivers down my spine more than once. The engine behind the filthy madness was Umphrey’s McGee drummer Kris Myers, a beast behind the kit whose powerful drumming floors me every time I watch him perform. The energy of this performance was out-of-control at times and didn’t let down until the last note was performed.
Papadosio followed and were even more impressive than Digital Tape Machine. I’ve seen these guys a ton, but never had I witnessed a set from them that was as incredible as what they brought to the barn. Percussively challenging and rhythmically dominant, Papadosio was throwing so many notes at the audience that I had to double check to make sure this was the same band that I was familiar with. This band is doing something fresh and entirely unique to the scene, and if they keep putting out what was laid down in the Red Bard Thursday night, Papadosio will be the next biggest thing on the jam band circuit.
The last act of the night was Future Rock as the rave scene took over the Red Barn. Although their music isn’t exactly complex or thought provoking, the tones are huge and the music is deeply visceral. For most of the set I stood back and watch the young audience get their jollies, an amusing sight for someone who isn’t keen on repetitive, loop oriented music. The bass was so thunderously loud that halfway through the set, I couldn’t help but get down to the brain candy myself. Around 4:30 AM I decided to call it a night, or at least that was the plan. There was mischief in the air that was calling my name, and I wandered the grounds for a bit before shacking up back at the home spot to do it again Friday.
Day 1 Photo Gallery
After waking up Friday, it quickly became time to see moe.’s first set at the Main Stage. Moe. is the act that draws me to Summer Camp these days, and although their Friday day sets are usually subdued and more mellow than the rest, this performance went above and beyond what I had come to expect from the band during this time slot. The selections of “Mexico” and “St. Augustine” were both heartfelt as the audience belted out the words to each during their entirety, such a cheerful start to the day’s music.
Luckily at the end of the moe. set, I ran into my good friend Shamarr who became my traveling companion / partner-in-rage for much of the weekend. Boombox played next on the Main Stage and was the most uninspiring, yawn-tastic set of music I caught all weekend. How they managed to pull a Main Stage set is beyond me.
We walked to see The Punch Brothers after leaving Boombox, shaking my head at what I had just seen. This was the first experience with The Punch Brothers, and it was nothing like what I thought it would be. Their set contained advanced songwriting that was bluegrass in nature but foreign to these ears. I only caught a few songs and was intrigued by what I saw. Walking away from the stage I thought to myself, “Wow, I really need to pick up some Punch Brothers albums and see what these guys are all about.”
As Shamarr and I left The Punch Brothers, we ran into her friends Tatiana and Travis and made our way back to the Main Stage for what we thought was going to be a Big Gigantic performance. Instead, De La Soul took the stage. Apparently the two had switched time slots and Big Gigantic would play afterwards. Taking the switch in stride, we posted up shop and watched De La Soul for a bit. The old-school hip-hoppers, taking the place of Cypress Hill who had canceled weeks beforehand, were enjoyable on some levels but musically couldn’t “take me there”. Much like The Pimps of Joytime, though, the two MCs demanded a good time out of the audience and got quite the response from the rambunctious crowd.
After a bit more wandering throughout the festival grounds, we eventually made our way back to the Main Stage for Big Gigantic’s postponed set. These guys killed it! Producer / saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salkin threw the crowd into a frenzy with their hip-hop based jamtronica. Keeping the crowd hype throughout their show with glitchy beats and creamy saxophone wails, the duo made some fine ass downtempo dance music that could even get this crotchety old bag-o-bones moving! If you like music that loosens the belts and makes the panties drop, this sexy set was perfect for gettin’ down for the cause.
Yonder Mountain String Band was next on the schedule, but we didn’t stay very long. The band seemed to be going through the motions and didn’t bring that sense of urgency I crave with bluegrass music. Don’t get me wrong... Yonder Mountain is a fun band to watch most of the time and the band has done tremendous work in the jam band scene. Their set on Friday just couldn’t hold my attention. After seeing Big Gigantic crush the Main Stage moments before, a drop-off in energy was inevitable regardless of who performed next.
Walking back to the Main Stage, I could hear smooth-sailing electro-jammers Lotus hitting their stride during the middle of “Spiritualize”. This collective has come a long way since their early years playing dive bars, and it’s great to see so many happy faces in their audience these days. You know what you’re going to get when you see Lotus, take it or leave it. The band didn’t hit the spot during all of their jams, but what they did consistently provide were danceable, uptempo grooves that as the sun dipped below the horizon, created the perfect segue from day to night.
After getting my Lotus fix, I headed over to Umphrey’s McGee to hear the familiar tones of the Chicagoland 6-piece. What once was my favorite band, Umphrey’s no longer does it for me like they used to. Of course it’s always fun to hear songs you know by heart, and Umphrey’s played a few that made me reflect on life’s journey thus far. “2nd Self” and “Mulche’s Odyssey” were played near the end the set, making me glad that I had stuck around.
During the Umphrey’s set, I popped over to catch some Paper Diamond, the DJ project of producer / bassist Alex B. When I arrived to the stage, there was another DJ in his place, weakly asking the crowd, “How y’all feelin’?”, in the most depressing manner I could’ve possibly imagined. I immediately turned around and headed back towards Umphrey’s, laughing hysterically to myself at the hilarious irony behind his inquiry to the audience.
Between Umphrey’s two sets, STS9 was closing down the Main Stage. I arrived to the STS9 to see a crowd full of life and excitement, making me wander around the Main Stage area to take in the sights and sounds of the folks who were getting down to Atlanta’s finest. STS9 sounded superb as they busted into “Instantly” as I walked up, and although they didn’t perform any jams that made the crowd go nuts, the music’s lush tones took my soul to a blissful place where only certain music can. This sense of nostalgia coupled with seeing bassist David Murphy back onstage where he belongs reminded me of how much I used to love this band. Pleasantly surprised once again, I was thrilled that STS9 could be a part of Summer Camp 2011.
I walked back to the campsite after STS9 to take a load off before the 2nd Umphrey’s set. At the site, Jess, Brian and Greg were chillin’, drinking some delicious sour beer Brian had brought. I enjoyed some tasty brew myself then headed back towards Umphrey’s. The 2nd set was better than the first, featuring a “1348” that opened and closed the set and a jam in “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” that was among the best of the weekend. People can say what they want about Umphrey’s music, but Jeff Waful is hands down the best light engineer in the business. It’s not even close. I found myself standing in amazement at his light show throughout most of the 2nd set.
Midway through the performance, I walked around the crowd, checking out the different cells of fire performances that were taking place. I love watching people work with fire. It’s type of artistic individualism that exemplifies my love for the scene. You’d have to be heartless to not be inspired by the sheer power of the fire and the beauty of what these dancers do with their craft.
After Umphrey’s McGee finished their 2nd set, I walked to the Red Barn to witness one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible to describe what moe.’s late night set early Saturday morning did to me, but I can honestly say it was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had at a concert. The band played perfectly to my state of being, collecting and distributing a slew of transcendent moments that flowed magically one after another throughout the set. The lyrics, the jams, the raw truthiness of the music... it all worked for me to the point of emotional overload.
When the band finished their set and left for the encore break, I broke down and cried for nearly 5 minutes; at the thought of how meaningful life can be if an individual truly sets his or her heart on their dreams, at the thought of how small I am in comparison to the size of the world, at the thought of how much I take for granted on a daily basis... this show was monumental, infinitely meaningful at that exact moment in time. I see a lot of shows, so many that I didn’t actually think this type of experience was even possible to attain from a single concert at this point of my life. Boy, I was wrong! Emotionally drained yet inexplicably refreshed, I left the Red Barn with a new head on my shoulders, ready to take on whatever Saturday presented me...
Day 2 Photo Gallery