Summer Camp: Wet, Hot, Dreamy American Summer

It rained, it scorched, a few artists had to cancel due to travel issues, but that did not stop Summer Camp from being an absolute blast! A festival full of ups and downs but mostly a lot of awesome, jaw dropping moments of improvisation and collaboration, beauty, artistry, community, and fun.

Summer Camp, what a line up! Many sets of Umphrey’s Mcgee, moe., plus Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Lotus, STS9, Gramatik, Space Jesus, Papadosio, and so so many more! Unfortunately not all major acts performed due to various issues, some weather related – Space Jesus, Govinda, Blackstar, & Rebelution were some of the acts that were unable to perform.

moe. in full bubble mode.

The pre party did not look so promising on Wednesday night. In a nearby arcade bar in Peoria, just twenty minutes outside the festival, the sky was black and the lighting fierce. Tornado warnings broke up the chill vibe of the bar as it interrupted old hits like “Electric Feel” by MGMT.

But alas the rain stopped, as it always does. The sun came out and the patrons lined up at the entrance. God bless the express lane for media and the friendly folk who pointed out that media does not have to wait over an hour in the sun just to have their items inspected.

Umphrey’s McGee at the Sunshine stage. We’ll miss you, Jefferson Waful. (UM lighting designer to retire from touring at end of year).

Jay Blakesburg was directing the video team and filming patrons as they entered. The pre party featured some amazing acts like STS9, EOTO, Keller Williams, & Spafford, plus late night by Umphrey’s & Here Come The Mummies. Now that’s how you kick off a festival!

Spafford played an incredible “All In” as well as “The Reprise” amongst their shred-filled set. Umphrey’s Mcgee played some strong first sets including songs like “Andy’s Last Beer” and “Syncopated Strangers.” STS9’s ‘Axe The Cables’ set was filled with groove including a masterful “Mischief of a Sleepwalker” > “New Dawn New Day” > “Mischief of a Sleepwalker .”

Taz sits in with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Moonshine Stage.

Friday started off with Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. Now this kid can shred. “Fire on the Mountain” > “BlackBird” was phenomenal, heart touching, and ever so appropriate. Keller Williams’ Pettygrass with the Hillbenders was cancelled due to some lighting, a storm was coming that never came. Music is back on! moe., Exmag, Spafford, Karl Denson, Here Come The Mummies, Ghost Light (Tommy Hamilton still has the tape on his guitar from Shpongle Live Red Rocks!) and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were all happy to oblige.

Since Rebelution was cancelled, moe. & Pigeons Playing Ping Pong put together a set. At first it was moe. with Jeremy Schon, but what happened next was really impressive. While playing the same song (“Cissy Strut” by The Meters), members of moe. on stage switched with the Pigeons guys backstage, switching bands while maintaining the same jam ! Crazy impressive. Other songs played included “Get Back” by The Beatles, “Deal”, and “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones.

Aqueous at the Moonshine Stage.

Umphrey’s McGee performed Anchor Drops in its entirety during their evening set, filled with virtuoso shredding and improvisation.

Some heavy hitting bass music on Friday by Zeds Dead, Tokimonsta, Flux Pavilion was followed by Ryan Stasik’s side project Doom Flamingo at the Campfire Stage who are definitely an act worth seeing.

Mihali sits in with Big Gigantic at the Sunshine Stage.

Saturday looked very promising, especially during the epic Big Gigantic set with an unexpected sit in by Mihali of Twiddle. But alas, during Umphrey’s set, the rain came in and washed it all away, along with several sets including those of Space Jesus & Manic Focus.

Saturday also featured amazing performances by Chromeo Live, Cory Wong of Vulfpeck, Blues Traveler with a sit in Mihali of Twiddle and a separate one from Al Schnier of moe. , Andy Frasco with a sit in from Gumby himself! (by sit in what is meant is that Andy invited someone in a Gumby suit from the crowd to dance on stage as he shoved mushrooms in the costume’s mouth and finished Gumby off with his band members with an implied circle jerk).

Cory Wong at the Moonshine Stage.

So spirits were a little low Saturday night in the rain. Some major acts had gotten cancelled and the rain was not letting up. But indoor stages were still on! lespecial saved the day. Space Jesus did not get to play but he was rocking out to lespecial for the entirety of the set front row. With a little support from ‘his uncle,’ Luke Bemand and the lespecial boys crushed the late night Saturday set including the lespecial heavy hitter “Fruit Wolf Dance.” All those folks who may have been somewhere else were now packed and raging lespecial. Their tight, hard rock, danceable groove was perfect for this night. What better Primus song to play after a torrential rain storm… My name is mud!

lespecial at The Soulshine Tent.

Sunday funday. Never miss a Sunday show right? Chris Robinson Brotherhood was in the house, Oteil & Friends, Eric Krasno, Papadosio, The Werks, Ben Harper… the jam was strong with this day.

Aqueous put on a particularly solid set to kick off the day featuring a live debut of “APunk” by Vampire Weekend. Umphrey’s, bringing the heat after having one of their Saturday night sets rained out, included “Whitehouse Road” by Tyler Childers with a special sit in from Arlo McKinley and Allie Kral from Yonder Mountain String Band. Umphrey’s McGee closed up their set with “Outshined” by Soundgarden.

Neal Casal, Weedie Braimah, and Oteil Burbridge of Oteil & Friends at The Moonshine Stage.

Oteil & Krasno in the VIP Lounge was beautiful, featuring masterful renditions of Dead songs such as “Help On The Way.” Oteil & Friends featured Jeff Chimenti, Krasno, Neal Casal, Weedie Braimah, John Kimock, and Alfreda Gerald. Now that was a set filled with such tight, progressive jams. It really flowed, had a direction, and was sonically impressive.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood put on an incredible set with songs like “Rare Birds” and “Venus In Chrome” was played with precision and whole lot of energy.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood at the Sunshine Stage.

moe. busted out some live debut covers including “Rebell Yell” & “Turning Japanese.” This set featured masterful, psychedelic stage lighting complete with UV reacting bubbles!

“Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones was played at least twice that day by different bands, so that should tell you what kind of Sunday it was. A fun one. It was a Sunday Funday! Ben Harper & The Innocent Nocturnals proved to be intimate, full of masterful blues, and virtuoso musicianship including a Buddy Miles cover, “Them Changes.”

Ben Harper & The Innocent Nocturnals at the Sunshine Stage.

Lotus played a particularly awesome set, including a particularly groovey “Eats The light.” It flowed very well and people danced from the very first note until the end of the encore. Lotus is a nice happy medium between jam and electronica, where they can satisfy musical preferences of different tastes with the same song. Someone who loves to hear someone play guitar can appreciate their guitar playing, but someone who just wants to dance to a catchy beat can also do so at Lotus.

Summer Camp had some heavy hitting bass music to close out the festival featuring Gramatik, Squnto, & Borgore. Borgore dropped old classic dance songs that everyone knew like “Sandstorm.”

Mike Rempel of Lotus at the Sunshine Stage.

Overall, Summer Camp was a success! Thousands of strangers gathered to celebrate freedom, music, and art. Summer Camp is a magical place full of amazing people, incredible music, inspiring art, and a thriving community that is held together by the love of music.