Festival Season

Previewing the Summer Camp Music Festival

TCD brings you a preview and Survival Guide to the Summer Camp Music Festival, just down the road in Chillicothe, Ill. from May 25 - 27.

By - May 11th, 2012 04:00 am

A side view of the gyrating audience saturated at Summer Camp’s Moonshine Stage.

Tired of streaming Coachella in your pajamas? Don’t have the time or patience to trek to Bonnaroo? Well grab your tent and pack a cooler because the festival experience is easier achieved than that.

An unofficial Summer Camp logo roasting in the afternoon sun.

As spring foliage regenerates in the Midwest each year, so does the Summer Camp Music Festival in rural Chillicothe, Ill. Three hours south of Milwaukee, this venue fuses energizing event productions with a calming pastoral landscape. Now entering its 11th year, the shindig draws annual migrations reaching 30,000 over Memorial Day weekend.

At it’s core, Summer Camp is a 96-hour outdoor party offering live music and art, camping, performer workshops, professional lectures, and a collection of regional vendors. For extreme under-agers, a kid’s camp offers arts and crafts as well as its own live performances.

There’s plenty to do, but the music remains most critical in 2012. Local bands voted into time slots supplement a mixed bag of established headliners. The final product is a sonic melting pot of the traditional and the modern, the comfortable and the strange.

What’s playing?

Getting into the groove hula-hoop style during a day set at the festivals main stage.

The Summer Camp playbill has mushroomed from a roots-oriented music series to a diverse summer festival. More than 100 artists play to audiences on five stages. Improvised rockers moe. and Umphrey’s McGee co-headline the weekend with three shows each.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Eclectic Rock fans will have a busy weekend as Jane’s Addiction, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Gov’t Mule are slated for headline shows. To mellow out, Bob Weir, Chris Robinson, and Jackie Greene team up for a one and done performance.

Electronic Dance Music has become a force in the festival landscape, and Summer Camp’s lineup delivers hugely popular acts Pretty Lights, Gigantic Underground Conspiracy, Gramatik, Zed’s Dead, and Lotus.

Brendan Baylis of Umphrey’s McGee performs on the Campfire stage at Summer Camp Music Festival.

Bluegrass and Roots acts are a perennial staple. This year will showcase rustic stylings from Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Cornmeal, Family Groove Company, and ALO.

Improvised Performances mesh elements from a spectrum of musical influences without the safety net of a set list. EOTO, Keller Williams, and Shpongle rely on electronic and traditional arrangements for their unrepeatable shows.

The truly bizarre is around for those who seek or simply happen upon it. Bands like Primus, Gogol Bordello and The Dead Kenny G’s should surprise and titillate.

Why go with events like Summerfest in our backyard?

Milwaukee lays claim to throwing the world’s largest music festival—a truly unique cultural experience. Imagining the customs of Summer Camp isn’t a huge stretch. Just replace the shirtless (typically drunk) biker dudes stumbling down paved pathways with glowstick tossing (typically stoned) bearded dudes rambling through forested paths.

Well, there’s a little more to it.

At Summer Camp, you’re surrounded by the same faces for four days it’s easy to make contact in passing, at a show, or over some festival faire. The weekend’s laid back atmosphere slices through social inadequacies, conversation and friendship come easy.

Another distinction is the outdoor element. Summer Campers are outside 99.9 percent of the weekend. Stages are erected amidst fields, meals enjoyed around a bonfire, and what sleep is had takes place in a tent under central Illinois skies. Mother Nature’s mood shifts with the wind so bring some extra socks because rain equals mud and mud equals a dirtier dance party.

Survival Guide

Lotus’ Luke Miller peers at the crowd through stage lights during an evening performance.

Your interest is peaked. You found Chillicothe on the map, finished circling must-sees, and dug out the lantern. Take it from those who’ve been there and remember these tidbits.

Be Lenient with Schedules: Overlapping sets are the bane of almost every music festival. Missing some acts entirely or hurriedly splitting time between favorites is a bit of a lose/lose. Don’t dwell on what could have been. Branch out to new acts and enjoy the collected experiences as they come.

Posse Up: Summer Camp is a better experience when shared. Mingling is the name of the game. With such a diverse collection of personalities it’s not hard to sync up. Keep your eyes peeled for fellow Sconnies, it’s an instant connection.

Travel Light: A grueling line into the grounds faces patrons before the weekend starts. Being strapped to gear for a few hours gets old so pack smart. Necessities include:

  • water
  • clothes for all weather
  • camping gear
  • toothpaste/brush, suncreen, hand sanitizer, toilet paper
  • snacks
  • cash (the ATM lines get long)

As Summer Camp alumni John Bell would say, “Traveling light is the only way to fly.”

The Summer Camp Music Festival takes place in Chillicothe, Ill. from May 25 – 27. Click here for more information.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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