Never have I ever experienced such an intimate festival between artists and fans like Summer Camp. Everyone joins as one to celebrate four days stacked with jam bands, blue grass, electronic and folk music filling the Chillicothe, Illinois summer air.
A cloud of dust floated around the festival grounds as the weather was hot, sunny and dry. Tents were pitched closely together and hammocks overlapped and climbed the forest to as high as 10 feet in the air. The energized festie-goers were of all ages and endlessly eager during every performance.
When the sun went down, Summer Camp became alive. The oddity of Primus blew me away Friday night. Bass-heavy songs and wonky singing enlightened the audience. Two inflated astronauts took over the stage while the San Francisco based band beamed at MoonShine stage. MoonShine is by far the best venue at the festival, with the stage at the bottom of a vast open hill shaped like a bowl. Music got weird and the audience got weirder.
The best surprise on Friday night was falling upon an LCD Soundsystem cover band around 2 a.m. Digital Tape Machine and Cosby Sweater teamed up to perform spot-on renditions to “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” Only about 40 people witnessed this brilliance, but those who did were singing along to every word with arms linked around one another in embrace.
Jump on over to the Jellyfish swings when you need to take a break from the crowds. The art installation lit up at night with a disco ball spinning in the middle and swings dangling from the 15’x15’ standing dome. The Jellyfish glowed crystal blue and sparkled at night. Couples swung together and friends spun from the spare fabrics attached at the top of the dome.
Music shook through the forest till 5 a.m. Friday night closed out with Beats Antique and Lotus in the RedBarn. (RedBarn is an enclosed stage inside a red barn. Go figure). The venue is great, but the only catches are the extra charges to get in and heavy security checks.
Saturday was HOT reaching the high 80’s, but under the sun felt almost 100. Dust stuck to sweaty skin and bandanas were tied around faces in order to breath. “Doses and Mimosas” flooded through the campgrounds mid-day as Cherub performed their addictive track.
Lotus brought everyone dancing to welcome Saturday night. As the show ended, the sun was down. Maintaining my jam band high, I spent the rest of the night bouncing from SunShine stage and MoonShine watching Umphrey’s McGee and Moe. till 2 a.m. To close off that night, I was rocked into a dreamy sleep while The Beatles echoed through the forest. Sun Stereo transformed into Sgt Pepper’s for a very special Beatles set. The enchanting repetition of “love” from “All You Need Is Love,” engulfed the campgrounds and was one of the most comforting ways to fall asleep.
Sunday morning started around noon. Food trucks selling coffee and breakfast had half hour lines as everyone looked defeated. “Cracked” was by far the best food truck serving delicious breakfast sandwiches on fresh caibatta bread. I got the “Goy Vey” (fried hard salami, bacon, hash browns and a fried egg with sweet-n-spice cream cheese). Add a side of tater tots and a $3 mimosa from the VIP Lounge bar and I’m having a perfect morning. For all you Bonnaroovians, you’ll be able to try Cracked as their truck will be there as well.
Driving up from Urbana, Illinois, Bones Jugs and Harmony got everyone’s feet moving with their combination of the tropical steel drum, upbeat xylophone and bluegrassy banjo. Their performance was just 10 feet to the right of the “Cracked” food truck. People scarfed down their sandwiches and high-fived the musicians while they performed.
Yonder Mountain String Band brought good-feelings to everyone that afternoon. MoonShine stage, yet again, was packed with hula-hoopers, decorative totems, dancers, couples, friends and everything in between. The sun streamed down reminding everyone the beauty of a Midwest summer.