NYS Music Heads to the Midwest – A Recap of Summer Camp Music Festival, May 23-26, Part 2

This is Part 2 of ‘s coverage of Summer Camp Music Festival. Check out Part 1 here.

Saturday

And then, the rain started. For the better part of the next two days, Summer Camp would have a middle finger extended by Mother Nature across this small town in Central Illinois – quite literally, see below. While it was on and off, when it was on, it felt like the off switch was broken, so things slowed things down a bit. Still, even though Saturday brought more rain, there was also more top notch electronic music, highlighted by Conspirator’s early afternoon set. This Disco Biscuits side project has reached a new level with the addition of Chris Michetti on guitar and KJ Sawka on drums. They delivered their own unique, high octane brand of ‘untz’ through a light drizzle that seemed to be very well received.  Summer Camp has done an unbelievable job of integrating top notch electronica acts into a festival co-hosted by two of the premier jam bands in America.

Mother Nature’s Middle Finger, extended right over Summer Camp

The Moonshine stage also played host to two other notable electronica acts that afternoon.  Diplo, an American DJ who has skyrocketed to fame in the last few years, displayed his usual repertoire of engrossing beats and dubstep stylings, augmented by ladies invited on stage to twerk for a song or two, grinding to the defeaning bass while a 2-3,000+ crowd that was rabid like no other fist pumped throughout the set. The crowd collectively grooved furiously and wanting more, yet they didn’t have to wait long to get their wish as the legendary DJ duo Thievery Corporation were next up on this stage.  Although a bit more mellow in nature, this group uses mixes and samplings like no other to create unbelievable soundscapes that create an environment that’s both funky and ambient at the same time.  It was a true treat to finally see this act in person years after getting hooked on their releases like ‘The Mirror Conspiracy’ and ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’.

Meanwhile, on the Sunshine Stage, Cornmeal held its final show with Allie Kral on fiddle. Leaving the band amicably was bittersweet for many diehard fans of this quite multi-talented jamgrass group. After tearful words from band members, a speedy, foot-stomping “Hillbilly Ride” was churned out in the unique Cornmeal sound that is unmistakable, one that will be a slightly different moving forward, but still loved.

After some solid electronic music and bluegrass, it was time to get back to some rock as done by the festival’s co-hosts moe. and Umphrey’s McGee who would each play two sets.  Umphrey’s McGee led off their show with a stellar “Depth Charge” that seamlessly led into the classic “Hurt Bird Bath”.  Later in their opening set, they brought out the horn section from Mad Dog & His Filthy Little Secret which turned out to be stroke of genius as they transformed ‘Booth Love’ into a jazzier, funkier version that many seemed to appreciate.

UM’s second set opened with another phenomenal segue of two classics as “Wappy Sprayberry” got stretched out and turned into “Ocean Billy”.  The band took their time with each of these and it paid off as the Saturday night crowd ate this up.  For good measure, they also threw in a cover of the Beck hit “Debra”, performed a monster “Der Bluten Kat > Final Word > Der Bluten Kat” and brought the horns back up for a rousing “Bridgeless” encore.  Umphrey’s has become the master of infusing improvisational jams with elements of funk, metal and jazz and this weekend let them display their talents in a setting that truly seemed like home for them.

Before moe. took the stage Moonshine, Summer Camp promoters and musicians announced they were joining in the March Against Monsanto, a propitious moment as the worldwide March was going on around the world that weekend, tying a popular cause outside the festival atmosphere to a population that jubilantly supported the movement, one for the betterment of food and farmers around the world.

moe. then put on a set that blew the Moonshine Stage crowd away; even the most diehard fans were taken aback at the meaty choices given a full moe.-festival treatment. The debut of Rob Derhak’s “Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes” was well received by the crowd, while the hot trio of “The Faker > Hector’s Pillow > Plane Crash” polished off the first set, the last tune with Allie Kral sitting in on fiddle and finding new levels in the song to explore. Second set started with “Rain Shine” and the newer “Silver Sun” lasting nearly 20 minutes, before finally segueing into “Happy Hour Hero”, a song revered Upstaters and for those who made the trek west cheered enthusiastically to the line “A Saranac will do just fine.”.

But the true heat of this evening was felt in the five song segue of “McBain > George > Spine of a Dog > Buster > McBain”, where only “Spine of a Dog” gave you a chance to breathe amid the incredible selection of huge moe. numbers. An encore of Umphrey’s “In the Kitchen” capped the trade off of covers between the two bands, but this one had stank on it in the vein of moe, especially on the lines “The TVs on too much and I don’t ever think enough about the things that matter most, or what would make me old (like Joel).” If your mind wasn’t blown away already that weekend, moe. took care of it with their performance this evening.

One of the true treats of the weekend was the late night performance of Floodwood on the Campfire Stage.  This Upstate New York progressive string band displayed its version of Newgrass to a small but eager crowd on what was now early Sunday morning.  There was something refreshing about seeing venerable rock icons Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico giving it their all with Jason Barady, Mick Piccininni and Zachary Fleitz in such an intimate setting. They rolled through song after song with a vigor and enthusiasm that was palpable and even treated all to a multi-song encore as the skies slowly began to turn lighter. The band seemed truly blown away by the reception they were getting at this hour. Banjo player and fiddler Piccininni may have summed it up by best by saying, “I’ve been waiting for this night for a long time.”  It showed in their heartfelt performance that surely did upstate New York music proud.

Sunday

Waking up to a light rain storm meant it was time to pack up and get ready to leave later that day, but not before catching a trio of Upstate bands to start the day. Aqueous took to the Campfire Stage, playing “Bohemian Rhapsody > Warren in the Window> Bohemian Rhapsody” to the early risers. Timbre Coup made a huge sandwich out of “Arnold Schwarzenegger > June> Never There > Arnold Schwarzenegger” at the Camping Stage shortly after, then were followed by Project Weather Machine who shredded through a stellar “Sunset Soldiers”. Guitarist Dan Wafer was happy to be at Summer Camp, enjoying the chance to network and meet other musicians, a great opportunity for a young band. Shortly after the Upstate bands played, Brooklyn’s Tauk met up for an interview, where they expressed their appreciation for the more personal feel of the fest and the active crowd, creating an atmosphere where everyone wanted them to have as much fun as they could during the weekend. Stay tuned for our review of their latest album Homonculus, its an album of instrumental bliss.

Unfortunately, due to the continuous rain and inclement weather that turned Three Sisters Park into MudFest 2013, moe. was only able to play their opening afternoon set and not their final one later that evening.  This set was of the acoustic variety as Rob Derhak played on an acoustic bass the whole time.  As such, there were several numbers from their heavily acoustic album “Sticks and Stones” played including the title track itself.  Perhaps the highlight of the set was a rousing “Shoot First”, sung beautifully as always by Chuck Garvey, and after an extended jam, it was segued perfectly into ‘Bring You Down’.  This old school number was a treat to hear done in this acoustic style and was met with heavy applause and adulation at its completion.  ‘Tambourine’ and ‘Four’ closed out the set which no one at the time knew would be the band’s last of the weekend.  At this point, everyone just seemed to be hoping that the rain wouldn’t affect the appearance of one of the bigger acts appearing at Summer Camp, Trey Anastasio Band.

Prior to Anastasio’s headlining set that night, one more Upstate band was in order, that of Ithaca’s Jimkata, playing the Vibe Tent, with a excellent segue of “Die Digital> Lego Land” that had Peoria resident Erika Garcia remark “I ducked into a tent to get out of the rain & ended up dancing my ass off and finding a ridiculously awesome new band who I’ll seek out in the future.” Branching out into the Midwest is next for this venerable electronica infused rock band.

Trey Anastasio Band

The majority of the festival slugged through the ankle deep mud strewn streets to get to Sunshine Stage for Trey Anastasio Band, one act that few would think to miss. Opening with “First Tube” and “Mozambique”, it was in “Last Tube” that Trey broke free to explore the song, as he seems to be more prone to do at music festivals. Feisty versions of “Cayman Review” and “Drifting” brought a smile to the face of many, while the skies threatened in the distance – a show of lightening accompanied the lights on stage, but gave pause to those looking to end the night on a dry note. Thus, after a 30 minute encore break, the second set started but was cut short due to rain after only 20 minutes, at which point got to packing up the car once and for all and got on the road as the skies opened up something ungodly on the Midwest.

Driving out, we took our time getting home – taking our time during 15 hours across five states, before we land safely back home in the confines of the Northeast. Summer Camp truly put on a great show, one that rivals some of the top festivals of comparable size. If you’re adventurous and enjoy a wide array of music, or roll of the dice weather, you’ll find a fantastic festival in the Midwest with Summer Camp.