For the last 12 years moe. and Umphrey’s McGee have hosted Summer Camp Music Festival, which many of us use to launch into the beautiful summer months. Everyone is treated to a wide variety of unique performances by some of our favorite musicians. Last year the rain wreaked havoc on entry times, performances, and just about everything else. While everyone well prepared this year for the rain; we were very fortunate to have almost none. The aggressive winds kept us cool throughout the day even with temperatures getting into the 90′s. The efforts of the Summer Camp volunteers and Green team were noticed all throughout the festival grounds as they kept us safe and encouraged the large crowd to be conscious of their impact on the environment.
I arrived mid-day on Thursday to find the pre-party in full swing with a great lineup of local (Greater Chicago area) bands. As I headed to Starshine stage to start off my festival, I was drawn to the sweet harmonies produced by the ever so talented Jennifer Hartswick accompanied by a psychedelic ensemble known as Van Ghost. Their newest album “The Domino Effect” due to release in mid-july, is full of classic rock swagger, generally optimistic lyrics with smooth vocal harmonies.
Continuing to showcase local acts, Family Groove Company took the Starshine stage and brought their own blend of funk and jazz into the ever-expanding minds of the crowd. Allie Kral joyously joined FGC on stage mid-way through their set to perform a classic cover of Bennie and the Jets. Next up is a favorite of mine, Digital Tape Machine a group comprising of members from Umphrey’s McGee, The Hue, Strange Arrangement, Land of Atlantis, and Liquid Soul. Cornmeal was up next at the Starshine/Jagermeister stage, they bring an intense bluegrass experience that is lead by the esquite Allie Kral. I headed over to Campfire Stage to find the sounds of Floodwood. A relatively new moe. side project with some members of Woodenspoon, that deliver a progressive sound dubbed “Newgrass.”
The breezy, dust filled thursday accompanied by the non-stop dance party set our expectations high for the rest of the weekend. moe. did not disappoint with their first day time set, opening with the staple, Not Coming Down > Wormwood and continued with Queen of Everything, Timmy Tucker, All Roads Lead to Home, Crab Eyes, and Buster. Next up on the Moonshine Stage, the one-man music machine Keller Williams, who brings his bare foot fun loving music to the bustling crowd. We then made the longest trek of the festival between the two main stages to see Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio. Bobby always puts on a great show and he did not disappoint, some highlights from the set were Truckin’, New Speedway Boogie, Uncle John’s Band and Mona.
The sun started to set beautifully behind the SunShine Stage and Umphrey’s McGee took to the stage. Starting with a super dancey Gurgle intro, they kicked off with a super 2nd Self, Pay The Snucka, Miami Virtue, Glory, 2×2, Ringo, Loose Ends, and Puppet Strings. The Sunshine stage and Starshine stage were the 2 stages closest togther and each stage featured some of my favorite bands all weekend. Lucky, Eoto was playing on this adjacent stage in between Umphrey McGee sets. Comprising of Michael Travis and Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident, Eoto is a perfect jam fusion of electronic rock and jazz mixed with technology to make seamless transitions of live loops and effects. Zebbler Berdovsky is responsible for the captivating visuals seen at every show, recently they have been touring with a 17 foot Lotus flower projection rig.
With the sun now fully set the 2nd Umphrey’s set had the full impact of an Umphrey’s McGee show complete with the lighting expertise of Jefferson Waful. A note for all those festival goers, if your holding a giant sign dead center in the crowd no one at the light and sound board can see the band very clearly, Be kind dont hold up signs. Coming out of this first real night time set with a massive Ocean Billy sandwiched with a Mulche’s Odyssey, Bright Lights, and Dump City. A highlight of the set of was a cover of Tool’s 46 & 2, one that they have only performed once before. To wrap up the first great set of Umphrey’s McGee they raged Day Nurse into an explosive Pay The Snucka Part 3.
At the closing note of Umphrey’s I was able to hop in a golf cart and for once quickly get to the moe stage for the first Primus set. Les Claypool masterful electronic bass blew through the crowd with swift precision. The best sit in of the festival, Bob Weir stepped in to close out the first primus set performing their take on the Grateful Dead’s, “ The Other One”. Later on that night, Claypool also graced the packed Red Barn for a late night event with the Dead Kenny G’s. With the second Les Claypool performance of the day came to close and we headed back to our hotel to go through pictures from the day.
Saturday kicked off with sunrise kickball hosted by the bodacious Ryan Stasik, of Umphrey’s McGee. While everyone who had been partying through the night stumbled onto the kickball field wearing what they had on the night before, Stasik strutted out with purpose as he wore a reversible blue and red kimono with black speedos underneath. After seeing Stasik kick the other team into oblivion with a 16-4 victory I was ready for some sleep in anticipation of the coming umVIP church BBQ.
For any umphreak this extra $150 was well worth a private extremely intimate set accompanied by free bbq, alcohol sponsored by 312 Brewery and special UM merch. This church held 100 people at capacity, at 2 pm the sun came out and turned this holy spot into a boiling room. This did not deter Umphrey’s McGee or any of the fans there to soak in the sweet acoustics of the church. They opened with Slacker > Booth Love with a Wizards Burial Ground, a fantastic John Scofield cover of A Go Go and finished off with Much Obliged.
After baking in the church I headed up to the Moonshine Stage for the dancy fun filled music of ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra). They treated us to tracks from their new album, “Sounds Like This”, one of my favorites Plastic Bubble, and closed out the set with the love song “Maria.” I made the trek back to Umphrey’s Stage to catch the smooth meaningful lyrics of rap sensation Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. better known as Common. His spontaneous lyrics, large stage presence, and concrete hip-hop brought up the excitement level of the entire crowd with each person holding on to every word dropped from his mouth.
A long walk back to the moe. stage and we were thrown into the dance party that is Gigantic Underground Conspiracy. This project consists of Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits / Conspirator), Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic), Chris Michetti (Conspirator / RAQ), and Ben Baruch (Underground Orchestra). The mixture of these great groups coming together deliver raging jams that transition between a wide range of electronic dance music.
The Umphrey’s stage was packed in anticipation for the face melting action that was sure to unfold. Umphrey’s McGee exploded with the rock heavy hit The Floor and launched into a monumental Bridgeless > Utopian Fur, August, 1348 > Bridgeless. I hung around the Umphrey’s stage for their next set which kicked off with Depth Charge, Hurt Bird Bath, Comma Later > Nothing Too fancy. The crowd erupted with excitement has the very familiar sounds of the Rush classic, Tom Sawyer was blasted into their eardrums. With Brendan Bayliss’s vocals mixed with Joel Cummins masterful hands on the keys and Kris Myers raging drums, this cover is one I am not soon to forget. They rounded out this blissful set with The Triple Wide > Hangover > 1348 and during the very short encore break Jerry Cummins( Joel’s father) stepped out side stage to cheer on the crowd. It was a treat to get to see his parents enjoying joel side all weekend. The brought the party back to full swing with an electrifying encore of All In Time. During this encore they went over to the Dark Side and dawned a variety of Star Wars masks, leading the pack was Darth Bayliss(Vader Mask) and Darth Pony(Darth Maul Mask).
Stepping into the Red Barn was like stumbling into a private little oasis complete with chilly A/C, a small raging crowd and very special performances. My first experience in the Red Barn this weekend was on Thursday night with the eclectic and visceral, Quixotic. Lead by founder Anthony Magliano, they create a fusion of visuals, aerial acrobatics, and sound that is breathtaking. Saturday night in the barn was what I was looking forward to the most all weekend with a very special performance by The Brain Damaged Eggmen. Experience them for the first time or relive the experience with the video below.
This masterful pairing of Jake Cinninger, Brendan Bayliss, and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee and Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of The Disco Biscuits let us experience the epic songs of The Beatles and Pink Floyd like never before. This momentous set started off with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with a special treat by Joel Cummins, who came out to sing the heart wrenching vocals of In The Flesh, and then the group quickly dropped into Another Brick in the Wall. Out of a fantastic jam they went into Fearless > Tomorrow Never Knows into Have a Cigar > Jam, Breathe, Hey Bullgog > Jam, Comfortably Numb, I am the Walrus > Jam and finished off the set with riveting Brain Damage / Eclipse. This was the third performance of the Brain Damaged Eggmen to date and it was the highlight of the festival for me. The Gigantic Underground Conspiracy took over the Red Barn stage and delivered an intense performance that had the barn raging until 4 am.
The final day of the festival is here and we have some great music in store for the last big hurrah. The day starts out with a daytime Umphrey’s McGee set opening with a smashing hit Domino Theory, off their newest album, Death By Stereo. Next up was the song Mail Package, the day before a fan had given Jake Cinninger an actual mail package containing the items so joyfully listed in the song. During this song the band opened the package and revealed a jar of mayonnaise, mental blinders(large sunglasses) and a blow up sex doll. The set continued to Great American, Jimmy Stewart with lyrics from 30db’s Cut The Cable and back into Great America, then the rest of the set was Phil’s Farm > Deeper, Partyin’ Peeps, a new untitled song, Booth Love > The Fussy Dutchman, Resolution, and the end to Phil’s Farm.
A daytime Red Barn show by Matt Butler’s Everyone Orchestra s exactly what this calm morning needs. This year’s participants range from bands such as moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Hot Buttered Rum, Van Ghost, Galactic and Dan Lebowitz of ALO. The Everyone Orchestra is made up of so many great musicians that come from such varied backgrounds and genres that when you stick them all together with one charismatic leader you never know what our in store for. Next we headed to see Shpongle presents the Masquerade, unfortunately the majority of the set was slotted before sunset and the effect of the amazing visuals were lost for most of the set. For the end of the set the crisp, robust, and fully textured graphics were stunningly projected onto the custom set designed debuted at the festival.
We have arrived at the Umphrey’s stage for the last time this weekend and it is to see one of the institutions in alternative rock, Jane’s Addiction. Frontman Perry Farrell is a music icon and the set was everything I expected and more. His great banter with the audience before each track tied together the moments like a intricate story. His vocals were crisp and when accompanied by Dave Navarro shredding on lead guitar every song came out a hit.
To wrap up my festival experience was moe.’s final night set on the Moonshine Stage. Opening the set with Rebubula and complete with an outstanding laser light show that filled the small valley of 15,000 people with exquisite light and emotion. Some other highlight songs from the set were ATL, a new original song by Al Schnier, Tubing The River Styx > The Pit and an encore of Head. The crowd left everything it had at this moe. stage and they could feel the undeniable truth that the festival coming to a close.
This year the stages were spread out more which lead to longer walks in between sets but ultimately gave the festival a more open feeling that was much needed. The weather was in our favor and held at hot and windy for most of the weekend, with this luck no performances were cancelled or moved. Each night grew more special than the last and the increasingly rare performance made each day more exciting than the next. We can only wait and see what the great additions there will be next year, but for now sit back, relax and re listen to your favorite sets from this glorious weekend.