The unofficial kick off to summer is Summer Camp Music Festival. After it’s 19th year Summer Camp has solidified its name as the premier festival in the Midwest and continues to grow. Having ten stages with music being played on them nearly twenty hours a day, Summer Camp has become a music festival buffet that has something for everyone. Who says you have to be a kid to go to camp?
The unofficial camp counselors of Summer Camp are the boys from Umphrey’s McGee. From stage time to organizing the festival’s kickball game, the band has earned all possible camp badges at this point. Their Friday night set showed why the band has come to the forefront of jam scene. Starting off with, “Maybe Someday” they let everyone know they are not afraid of heights. “All in Time” seemed to have a little extra magic sprinkled on it sounding like an anthem being played across the festival grounds. “Booth Love” had support from Ryan Zoldis and Eric “Benny” Bloom of Lettuce with all the juices flowing everyone ended set one in fourth gear with “Call to Arms”, from the infamous Sturgill Simpson.
There is a reason for breaks between sets and Umphrey’s proved it on Friday night. Second set started with “Ocean Billy” into “Remind Me”. It made way for an extra special “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” and in case anyone was questioning their existence the band put on a clinic with “Wappy Sprayberry”. Wappy allowed for a “Remind Me” recap and to end their second set “Den” showed grace with a sit in from Nigel Hall and put a closer to “All in Time”. The double encore of “Half Delayed” and “Partyin’ Peeps”allowed the crowd to wander off to other parts of the grounds ready to keep their party going.
Marco Benevento promoting his latest record Saturn, he tossed some to fans from his conducting bench on the Campfire stage. His high energy dance party set ended with “At the Show” and had you feeling refreshed from the feet up. Pink Talking Fish showcased in the Soulshine Tent top cuts from favorites like Phish, Floyd, and other legendary artists.
The sun brought the heat Saturday and welcomed everyone by showering them in a heavy dose of humidity. Saturday afternoon Mike Dillon’s Punk Rock Percussion Consortium brought an all-star cast of who’s who of folks who are really good at beating things with their hands. Matt Butler made an early and quick cameo before running off stage to play his afternoon set in the red barn. Those that didn’t mind the heat were rewarded with the unique sounds you do not get to hear during most sets. The rhythm came from to the stage and into the crowd by signs of nobody being able to stand still. From Dillon’s rapping to each all-star’s solo, the consortium was something to be treasured.
The O.G’s of indoor grow operations and medical marijuana rapping Cypress Hill came to the Moonshine stage to remind everyone to inhale and exhale. DJ Muggs and B- Real ran through all their hits spanning decades and before their set was over one would have thought it went from being sunny to cloudy with the amount of those in attendance paying homage to the legends on stage. Hits from the Bong maybe the favorite of many but they are just not as easy to get past security.
Whereas Umphrey’s are the camp counselors moe. runs the operations and logistics and without a doubt still carry the torch. Their Saturday night set showed everyone why Summer Camp is moe.’s playground. “Kids” brought out the inner youth within everyone within earshot while a jamming “Rebubula” and “Water” took everyone into set break. Set two started with a run of covers, “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotel, “Time” and “Breathe” by Pink Floyd. Everyone was wondering if it was going to be an all covers set until they followed with a raging “Plane Crash”. The boys ended the set with “Prestige Worldwide” and encored with yet another cover, this time it was Led Zeppelin’s, “Immigrant Song”.
Victor Wooten graced up with the best bass skills in all the land twice on Sunday. His first Sunday service was held on the Moonshine Stage and was accompanied by his friends Dennis Chambers and Bob Franceschini. The five time Grammy winner went through his decades of hits as well as the tracks the trio created as well. Later in the day Victor and even more friends put on the second Sunday service in the VIP tent. Throwing down a great cover of Herbie Handcock’s, “The Chameleon”, Victor helped show why Summer Camp is the one festival where upgrading to VIP is worth every penny. VIP campers have their own stage where the best acts of the weekend perform extra sets, bathrooms that are air conditioned, real showers, campsites in the best location, and your own bar make spending a little extra cash totally worth it. No other festival allows their VIP attendees to feel so much like royalty.
JJ Grey & Mofro brought Lochloosa to the Moonshine Stage and showed everyone not only are they some of the best dressed to ever walk on that stage but they also have the most soul. The heat did not seem to bother the men in suits at all and “Brighter Days” singled that they had gone to Summer Camp Music Festival. Closing out the set with the Beatles cover, “Hey Jude” was the perfect sing along song to send everyone off in high spirits to catch their next set on the list.
Phil Lesh & The Family Band played one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. “Alligator” started off first set and took it back to the early days. Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass helped the band out on “Cassidy”. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan was a nice cover to take everyone into the last song of the set “Dancing in the Streets” that had folks dancing into set break and wanting more.
As the sun was going down, “Shakedown Street” got everyone back in the poking mood and was a great way to start second set. The second set never slowed down and kept getting better, it was flawless and ended with the Neal Young cover, “Rockin in the Free World”. Just in case you didn’t get enough JJ Grey and his horns came out for the encore for, “In the Midnight Hour”.
It will be interesting to see how Summer Camp outdoes itself next year. This year had the weather and awesome variety of music. Hopefully next year you get to find out for yourself and get to do it in VIP luxury. The 19th Scamp was up their as one of the greats. Now we wait a year to see what they have in store for the 20th!