Camp Euforia 7.12 - 7.13.13
Lone Tree, IA
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock
Audio By Tommy The Beard
I arrived Thursday prior to the start of Camp Euforia 2013 and set up my tent in Robert and Ritaville. Rob and Rita were, and continue to be, the honorary patriarchs of the musical scene in Iowa City. In college they could be found at most shows mingling with the students, music fans, and bar flies alike. They have always camped in the front lawn of the farm and that corner of the fest has since earned that prestigious moniker. The farm itself is a sprawling space of manicured grass and structures owned by festival promoter/founder Jerry Hotz. Together with Eric Quiner (former Euforquestra keyboardist) they have shepherded this event for ten years. Camp Euforia has resided here since the very beginning. Surrounded by three hundred and sixty degrees of corn and soybean fields that stretch to the horizon, this is truly an Iowa landscape. The improvements to the amenities and infrastructure from that first year are immediately apparent. Gone are the truck beds and dilapidated barn that served as the various stages in the beginning and in its place is a professional setup rivaling any festival digs in the Midwest. The second stage has been built in the second barn that ten years ago was a dirt-floored hazard. Now complete with it’s own sound and light rig, it is yet another bastion of music in this palatial panorama. They have a quaint spot set up in front of the barn for late night acoustic jamming. Perhaps the biggest improvement this year is the massive bar they constructed opposite of the shed stage and made from salvaged wood panels giving it that classic Iowa look. The vibe at Camp Euforia is one of an extended family reunion. Everyone looks somewhat familiar. For an ex-Iowa City-ian I had numerous reconnections throughout the fest.
An unexpected schedule change put Pert Near Sandstone on the main stage next. They have a solid brand of string music, which they have been diligently spreading across the country for several years now. Hailing from Minneapolis this quintet deserves to be recognized for their contribution to Midwest bluegrass. From their humble beginnings as a boozy pick session, Pert Near Sandstone has blossomed into a full-blown bluegrass experience. Their set at Camp Euforia was truly impressive and a great way to get the fest into full swing.
A funksplosion occurred in the form of Dumpstaphunk. This heavily anticipated act is brimming with talent, which includes Ian and Ivan Neville (heirs to the NOLA funk scene), Tony Hall, Nikki Glaspie, and Nick Daniels III. Nikki who is the most recent addition to the group is a monster on the kit and one who definitely commands attention. They eased into the show building their songs organically with lots of collaboration. It was like entering the Church of Funk and getting an hour and half sermon. They are one of, if not the best, funk band touring today and they sounded magnificent live. They primarily performed originals, however they closed out their time at Camp Euforia with an incredible version of “One Nation Under A Groove.”
Dumpstaphunk Live at Camp Euforia on July 12, 2013.
Dead Larry played an hour and fifteen minute set of vibrant rock before Euforquestra took to the stage with their original lineup. This was a reunion born out of necessity. Their current drummer Craig Babineau hyper extended his shoulder so they have had a rotating cast of percussionists filling in for him in his absence. Original drummer Jos Foley suggested getting Matt Grundstad, Ryan Moris-Jeter, and Eric Quiner back in the mix for a set of classic Euforquestra. What followed was the most heartwarming and compelling Euforquestra show in quite some time. For fans that have witnessed the growth of this group, this lineup was the most cohesive of its versions. The current lineup is solid but there is something utterly nostalgic and touching about seeing these seven back together again. Even many including myself. Their two-hour set was a nod to an earlier time with spectacular renditions of “Sea Miner,” “Penny,” and “Naive Melody.” They even referenced some of their early theme shows with “Life During Wartime” and a “Pure Imagination” jam from their Charlie and The Chocolate Factory show. They encored with a powerful “Tramba.”
The sun came up early, immediately turning my once shade covered tent into a burning furnace. I took it as an opportunity to get an early start and continued with my duties as the festival video producer. The music of the day started at 10:30 AM with coffee with the Grosso Family Band. Adam Grosso comes from a musical ilk and his family band included his brother and father on guitar and vocals, his mother on the upright bass, and Adam himself on kit. It really did feel like a spiritual family gathering as the Family Band went through a flurry of covers. Playing everything from The Beatles to traditional bluegrass, this Camp Euforia tradition was a welcomed start to the day. The highlight was a spot on version of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”
Maximilian Eubank played a solo acoustic set on the main stage. Max has been a member of the Euforia family since the beginning. He played a lot with Mike Tallman in their high school days and continues to perform live, mostly in Des Moines where he currently resides. His sound is a punch-you-in-the-face acoustic detonation. Utilizing hip-hop lyrical hooks combined with stunning strum-heavy guitar riffs, Max made for a great live experience. His set included an awesome version of Widespread Panic’s “Climb To Safety” as well as an impeccable mash up of his original “Chemical Imbalances” and Martin Sexton’s “Hallelujah.”
Recently off their performance at Summer Camp, Zeta June was on the lineup in the barn. They are a young group of musicians, with a heavy sound and a commanding stage presence. They did a massive cover of “Comfortably Numb” during their 60-minute slot. Des Moines favorites Mr. Baber’s Neighbors and The Solar String Band, which included Mike Tallman on mandolin, represented the first bluegrass band of the day. Tallman joined the band when he was 19 and continues to play with them from time to time. They focus on a traditional styling, with an original twist. Lead by Jeff Blanchard who looks like a grizzled vet from Ice Road Truckers. He was actually very nice and spoke eloquently about the music scene in Iowa and Camp Euphoria, which they have performed at numerous times. They are absolutely some astonishing homegrown Iowa pickers, so check them out if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.
Finally it was time for the heavily anticipated Greensky Bluegrass. These guys tour relentlessly. They basically made a pit stop at Camp Euforia after playing Red Rocks the previous evening and heading to Forecastle Music Festival in Kentucky for a Sunday night show. What band does that? They waded into the show with “Double Overtures.” Their set felt like going to an extended picking session around the campfire.
Greensky Bluegrass Live at Camp Euforia on July 13, 2013.
They regaled the audience with an almost silly version of John Hartford‘s “Steam Powered Aeroplane” again with Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal.
“It’s good to find brethren every once in a while… like the good, Midwestern, shit-talking, diesel drinking kind of people that Cornmeal are.” –Anders Beck
Greensky also did a bluegrass breakdown on String Cheese Incident’s “Can’t Stop Now,” before they closed with “Atlantic City.” Greenksky always pleases whenever they play live and I’m happy that they went the extra miles to perform at Camp Euforia.
The late night was filled with some rowdiness from That 1 Guy, Jaik Willis, and Tallgrass. The fans stayed up late and partied hard not wanting this great event to end. There was a combined energy of joy in the air as this special festival came to a close. It was like the end of a family reunion where no one really wants to go back to their day-to-day. Camp Euforia is unique to say the least and deserves to be recognized as such. In an era of cookie-cutter festivals Camp Euforia stands out in the crowd.
Stay tuned for the multitude of video I will be sharing on Camp Euforia’s Facebook page!
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