Memorial Day Weekend is a time set to remember those that have sacrificed so much to give us the freedom to live our lives the way we wish. Every year for the past 16 years, there has been a festival that takes place down in central Illinois that has served as a haven for those young and old to relive their past summer vacations. Not all of us we’re sent off by our parents to summer camp, but the many that were sent off, still live with some of the best memories of their lives. These memories shaped the way they grew as an adult and some people even met their sweethearts at camp. Summer Camp Music Festival is no different. The memories captured in our hearts and minds at Summer Camp 2016 will live on with us for the rest of eternity.
This year marked the second Summer Camp that we have covered and just like last year we had a blast. The lineup and scheduling for this year was spot on. We were given a treat with some of the best bands and producers from around the world. My goal every year is to explore the grounds, and dive into the culture as much as possible. Exploring the grounds and discovering new bands or producers is the best thing about Summer Camp. They have always been the best all genre festival and they have been smashing it for 16 years. Back in 2010, I attended as VIP, and I was amazed at the organization of stage placement, and tent cities alike. This year was a bit different since I attended back in 2010. They moved the second main stage and added another couple of stages; one in the forest, and one next to the Vibe Tent.
When we first arrived we were greeted by 90 degree weather with little to no cloud cover. Standing in line to get our gear checked by security always takes a long time, but this year it seemed to go on forever. At least this year they decided to try and make lines instead of having a blob of people just pushing their way in to get through security. The only complaints that I had was the lack of security lines created, and no shade or cover at all. They only had about eight openings with one security guard checking bags for two lines. Now I know this isn’t a 50,000 person festival so I understand that you don’t need 16 lines for people to heard through, but only one guard per two lines is ridiculous. Also, with the heat pushing 90 degrees, with no wind, and no shade people were dropping like flies in the lines and there were zero medical staff around to help those with heat stroke. I personally witnessed four girls pass out due the the high heat, and luckily people are always nice and help those in need. It would be a great idea to add a bigger tent where they check bags/wagons to help with the overwhelming heat.
After entering the festival on Thursday life was great. It was still hot, but the sense of joy rushed through our veins after getting to our site and setting up our gear. We arrived around 9am and set up camp by 5pm. It was a long day to say the least. My skin still shows the hot death of that Thursday via nasty sunburn.
The pre-party on Thursday is the best day to attend the festival. The fact that the lines aren’t that long, and the musicians performing always bring their best stuff Thursday night even though most of them play another set throughout the weekend. Everyone is in a great mood because they made it past security and whatever liquor they snuck in will be consumed hard on the night of the pre-party.
The lineup this year was amazing, as I stated before however the Thursday pre-party was probably my favorite night of them all. We were treated with some amazing bands and producers that had the whole festival rocking hard. Greensky Bluegrass was clearly the best closer for the main stage. This was the first time for me seeing them perform, and they smashed it. They sound like a less poppy, but better version of Mumford and Sons. Their main vocalist Paul Hoffmann has the exact same voice as Marcus Mumford, with a little Southern Twang. Due to some scheduling issues we were treated with Break Science a bit earlier than expected. Break Science excellent as always, but the real hero of the Vibe Tent was the lighting designer. The vibe tent was absolutely perfect. Break Science opened up and right after they performed we were treated with some more live electronic EDM produced funk, with Troy Probst aka Filibusta. After just releasing his new album, Set Lasers to Funk, Vol. 2, he packed the tent and took everyone on a funkified ride throughout the night. His mixture of hip hop and funk is a perfect combination for this festival and I’m glad that they brought him back2back after winning The Untz Challenge a few years back. This guy plays the keytar, DJ’s, and also raps with his longtime friend and producer Goodness Gracious. Later that evening we were served a real treat with the beautiful and talent Mija took the stage at 2am, to play some nasty dubstep and trap beats for everyone. Manic Focus closed out and is always the best closer for the Vibe Tent.
Friday night is really the night when the festival is in full swing. Not everyone can make it out the the pre-party so Friday night the stages are packed and the camping grounds are crazier than the night before. Friday was a late start for me as we were up until 4am the night before. However I did catch another new band called The Nth Power. They threw down some funky jams to start the day off right. Later on I caught the first set of Umphrey’s Mcgee which is always great. Their Friday night sets are always way more chill than the Saturday night sets, and this year was no different. We decided to turn up and get ratchet with Excision on the main stage. He destroyed these kids so hard that a buddy of mine almost passed out on the walk back, and some kid jumped on stage during the set. I was sad to not see the security team actually tackle him. Later on we caught STS9 who always brings it hard when they perform at festivals. I caught them a few months ago in February on the last stop on their fall tour in Chicago, and that was amazing. This set started chill and finished strong with everyone’s favorite tune, “When the Dust Settles”. Literally the most perfect tune cause at the time it was raining and actually settling the dust.
Saturday is always a struggle. Two days and nights of partying, dancing, and prancing with friends that have turned into family takes a lot out of you. However, everyone knows that Saturday UM sets are the most killer of all the sets. Before UM rocked our faces off, we were treated with the best, most innovative duo, EOTO. If you don’t know EOTO and they play a festival you are attending you must see them live. EOTO usually has a late night set so they can set up their insane lasers and lights but due to some scheduling conflicts they played during the day. This doesn’t matter though because if you know EOTO like I do, morning, day or night they are bringing the face melters. After straight losing my mind to EOTO for an hour in the death heat we chilled until UM. The first set with was so rockin but it started to rain and they had to turn down for rain. Luckily, I was able to catch the end of Savoy, and their insane laser light show. It was blasting the trees nearby and from the campsite we were all getting down to one of the best live electronica bands. The second set was interrupted by a nasty storm which luckily missed the festival by a few miles, but we got a good heavy rain for an hour or so, followed by a single, then double, then triple rainbow to the south. Lighting cracking between the rainbows probably marked the best light show of the weekend, according to a few friends of mine. The second set of UM was the best set I have heard them play in at least a year. Normally, I would describe it to you but if you an UM fan, you know by now that the Saturday night Scamp sets are nothing but bangers all night.
Sunday at summer camp is what I like to refer to the day of the dead. Those that have made it all the way from Thursday morning to Sunday deserve a cookie having to then deal with all the single day ticket holders. I always forget that they sell single day tickets for Sunday then have some crazy bands playing for an extra 5,000 people to groove with. Starting the day out right with two cases of beer and drinking until 2pm to deal with all the extra craziness we went to see my new favorite band, The Main Squeeze. The Main Squeeze is produced by Randy Jackson, and is a mixture of soulful vocals, funk melodies, and mind ripping guitar solos. Their lead vocalist Corey Frye has one of the best voices I have ever heard in my life. These guys are destined for stardom. After getting squeezed we took a break from the music for a bit and headed over to the Soulshine Tent where Kyle Hollingsworth hosted a panel, “The Intersection between Beer and Music, with Goose Island Brewery.” They just sat and talked to the audience about how more and more musicians and bands are starting to brew their own beers with different breweries around the US. After the panel, we were treated with taste testing of Goose Island’s newest Sour Beer creation Halia. After talking with one of their brew masters for a bit they were packing up and we were given three full bottles of Gillian, Halia, and Madame Rose. Three beers from their vintage collection all costing around $28 MSRP each, at a festival for free. Can you say hashtag winning? After getting all that free beer we decided it was best to let our friends try it them out, so we headed back to camp to share the festivities. Sharing is caring people. We slowly walked around and viewed a few bands and came back for the dawg himself George Clinton and the Parliament Funk. I can now say that my life is almost complete. Last we saw Big Grizmatik. They played a few of their new releases and some unreleased stuff which was excellent. They also brought out George Clinton and we all sang, “We want the Funk.” However, I was hoping for more new unreleased tracks. You would think with three of the best funk/hip hop/electronica acts out there they would drop a new triple threat banger for everyone. I am hopeful that Griz, and Big Gigantic can come up with an album to beat out Gramatik’s newest album, Epigram. We tried to head over to the vibe tent on Sunday but due to all the extra people the tent was over flowing so we just chilled and listened from our campsite. Everyone I talked to said Emancipator was the best act all weekend at the Vibe Tent, so I was a little mad that I missed it.
This festival is always one of the best festivals to start your summer. Having so many genres with so many wonderful people and staff will always make Summer Camp Music Festival the best around. I will continue to keep coming back as long as they allow us to, because they always have the sickest lineups and the best culture for any festival I’ve attended.