Damp Camp, Swamp Camp, Puddle Fest and Mud Fest are just some of the nicknames given to this years Summer Camp Music Festival. Thousands of people traveled to Central Illinois from across America to experience a festival in it’s 13th year with a lineup that would make anyone’s jaw drop. For me, this would be my 3rd year making the short journey to the land of Chillicothe and I couldn’t have been more excited. As Wednesday night rolled around, I did some last minute shopping for Bloody Mary supplies, which is a festival necessity in my book. We packed up the car around midnight and set out on our journey. The roads were relatively empty until we pulled into the Chillicothe area where we saw at least 4 cars pulled over with cops going through their stuff. Fortunately, this was no one I knew, so we proceeded to the entrance. It was around 2:30 when we arrived to the parking lot party that was Summer Camp. Cars filled the parking lot as people walked up and down the isles drinking booze and socializing with old and new friends. At around 3am, people started lining up at the gate where you get your bags checked to enter the festival. It was very cold and rained all through out the morning, which made many people in the line unhappy campers. It was finally noon and the festival grounds opened. The great thing about Summer Camp is that you get to camp on the festival grounds and not by your car, but because of this you must arrive early to get good camping in the forest. After hours of sitting in the rain, dragging our camping supplies to our campsite and setting up camp; the misery was finally over. Summer Camp music festival has finally begun.
:: Thursday ::
I met up with a group of friends and started the night off with some drinks. The rain subsided and the grounds dried up, but man was it cold this night. Thankfully, for the “Thursday Pre-Party” we would spend most of our time in the Red Barn. The Red Barn is home to all the Summer Camp after parties, which are all ticketed events except Thursday. We arrived in the barn around 10:45 in order to catch all of Minnesota’s set. The 23 year old child of bass played a set filled with soaring synths and catchy melodies that had everyone in the barn dancing late into the night. Future Rock, the electronic rock trio from Chicago, had their usual time slot of closing out the barn this night. Equipped with their new light rig, Future Rock packed the barn playing heavy hitting dance rock.
:: Friday ::
I woke up around 11:30 on Friday morning to the sounds of campers starting off the first official day of Summer Camp. The weather was beautiful this day with a temperature of around 72° and sunny. This instantly put a smile on my face and got me motivated to shower, get ready and of course, start drinking. I found my friends camp site and we proceeded to enjoy the early afternoon with Bloody Marys. An hour went by and it was now time to head over to the Sunshine Stage to catch the reggae group, The Wailers. This five-man band, featuring original member Aston “Family Man” Barrett continues on the legacy of its founder, the late Bob Marley. We arrived at the stage, set up our chairs and kicked back to experience a set that looked like it came right out of the movies. The sun was shining, the blunts were being passed and love was in the air. Some of my favorite songs played were, “I Shot The Sheriff”, “One Love”, “So Much Trouble” and “Three Little Birds”. This was definitely one of the most magical and feel good sets of the day; a perfect start to Friday.
It was now time to head to the Starshine stage to catch Papadosio’s set. This was an early evening set and perfect choice of artist to whined down the day and welcome the night. Large, “Dia De Los Muertos” (Day of The Dead) like figures were in attendance, even a cut out of Stone Cold Steve Austin was there. Some highlights of their set were, “We Are Water,” “Cue” and “Method of Control,” which are all original tracks. Papadosio spoke on their march against Monsanto and the importance of growing your own food and sustainable living. As the sun set behind the stage, the crowd chanted, “NO GMO, NO GMO!”, as they danced to a groovy set that did not disappoint.
My friends and I made a quick pit stop at the campsite, stocked up on booze and made our way to the main stage, a.k.a the Moonshine stage. As you walk the path leading to the main stage, vendors line the side serving everything from tacos to drinks, as well as many specialty items. The stage sat at the bottom of a huge hill easily big enough to fit all the Summer Camp attendees if need be. Colorful art decorations hung above the pit of the main stage, which was unlike any of the other stages at the fest. Eoto, the duo consisting of Michael Travis and Jason Hann from The String Cheese Incident, were the first act to play a night set at the main stage. This electronic band is so special because all of the music is created live without any prerecorded loops, which creates a very different show every time. After seeing Eoto several times before, I expected the set to have more of a jam band feel to it, but I was far from right. The bass was bumping and the energy was high, probably the loudest I’ve heard the main stage since Bassnectar’s 2011 main stage set.
Video by HODJ Music
After getting completely weird to the likes of Eoto, it was now time to see one of my all time favorite groups, Big Gigantic. The duo from Boulder, Colorado consisting of Dominic Lalli on Sax and Jeremy Salken on drums are veterans in the Summer Camp Music Festival scene. However, they did not play last years Scamp as Big Gigantic, but the guys were still at the festival playing with other respective projects. As we walked up to the Sunshine stage, I noticed that they brought along their new light rig that they debuted on New Years Eve in Chicago. Big Gigantic was, without a doubt, ready to blow minds. The sax was smooth and groovy this night, while Jeremy kept the energy high on the drums. They debuted many new songs, including a mash up of “Let Me See Your Hips Swing” by Savage with their original track, “It’s Going Down”. Some highlights were, “Can I Get A..” by Jay-Z (Big Gigantic Remix), “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Big Gigantic Remix), and Big Gigantic’s remix of “Louder” by DJ Fresh (Doctor P & Flux Pavilion remix). The energy between the artist’s and the crowd was like no other, it even brought a girl next to me to tears. Plain and simple, Big Gigantic never disappoints.
Video by HODJ Music
:: Saturday ::
After enjoying a beautiful Friday, I woke up Saturday to a cold, rainy day. This was such a disappointment, but it wasn’t going to let it stop me from enjoying the lineup to come. I whipped out the rain boots, threw on multiple layers, grabbed my umbrella and trekked over to the main stage to start the day off with Conspirator. The band’s all star lineup consists of Mark Brownstein and Aron Magner, the bassist and keyboardist from the Disco Biscuits, Raq’s guitarist Chris Michetti, and KJ Sawka, former Pendulum drummer. Their sound is a perfect blend of jam and electronica making for a perfect piece in the Summer Camp puzzle.
Despite the continuous light rain, the crowd gathered in it’s masses for the headlining EDM act of the festival, Diplo. He quickly proved himself by turning a crowd of all walks of life into a gigantic dance party. Some of my favorite tracks played were, “Boy Oh Boy” by Diplo & GTA, “Bubble Butt” by Major Lazer and of course his hit “Express Yourself”, where he had girls from the crowd on stage to dance to his track, which has become a staple in his live set. Towards the end of his set list, he asked the crowd to get down low and on the count of three, jump. It was amazing to see a crowd so large follow his directions and explode with so much energy. Diplo definitely turnt up Summer Camp.
As the day went on the weather held up just enough to see acts such as GRiZ, Gramatik and Savoy put on equally amazing sets that had Summer Camp going wild. The most sought after late night ticket of the festival was the redbarn late night show featuring STS9 and the super group Big Grizmatik. In typical fashion, the guys of STS9 had the whole crowd grooving by playing original songs such as, “Rent”, “Abcess” and “Golden Gate”. It was nothing short of amazing, a perfect beginning for what was to come. It was now time for Big Grizmatik to take the stage. They started their set off with “Power” by Big Gigantic & GRiZ, but what made this rendition so special was a skillful guitar solo by Gramatik’s Guitarist, Eric Mendelson. Throughout the set, they hopped back and forth between each other’s songs tweaking them in a way that sounded like they were written for the super group from the beginning. Some highlights were, “Digital Liberation Is Mad Freedom” by Grizmatik, “Get ‘Em High” by Big Gigantic, “Smash The Funk” by GRiZ and “23 Flavors” by Gramatik. This set was history in the making and I’m sure with the amazing talents these five guys possess, you can expect more musical masterpieces in the future.
Video by HODJ Music
:: Sunday ::
The festival took a turn for the worst when the storms worsened and the mud became unbearable. The camp grounds turned into a muddy mess complete with multiple areas that almost looked like ponds. Mostly all the night shows were cancelled making for a sad ending to the festival. Overall, Summer Camp Music Festival does a great job bringing in the best talent, making sure all the attendees are safe and making the festival feel like home. I would highly recommend this intimate Central Illinois festival, I just just hope Mother Nature can take it easy next time.