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Summer Camp Music Festival Review
So… I know its been well over week since Summer Camp, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Let’s just dive right in, shall we?
Friday: At 6 in the morning, my friends came to wake me up to begin the tedious, six hour drive. What seemed like 20 minutes later, I miraculously woke up in Chillicothe, Illinois, thanks to the ability of an amazing friend of mine who drove the whole way while the rest of us slept. Thursday’s pre-party featured a bluegrass heavy lineup that was rumored to be excellent, but also featured DJ SOLO (a blindly-fast, high energy, drum n bass/drumstepper from Chicago…he played again late on Sunday, a truly fun set) and Stratus (a great electronic producer who I regret missing, and unfortunately didn’t play his scheduled Sunday set). By the time we arrived on Friday, the festival was already in full swing. We hitched a ride on one of the festival tractor that took us past tent-towns, and on our way to wherever we decided to set up camp. As we rode by the sounds of music and excitement rose, and the sun beat down preparing me for the heat and unescapable sunburn of the weekend to come.
Once camp was set up, I made a point of seeing Keller Williams, always a great feature of jammier festivals. Following that, I caught Weir, Robinson, and Greene Trio; it was somewhat awe inspiring, seeing three such influential and groundbreaking guitarists on stage together.
After Weir, Robinson, and Greene Trio, I went to BoomBox. I had heard of BoomBox, but never actually listened to them before, and while their set really only seemed to consist of 2 or 3 songs, I never lost interest. Each song evolved gradually but deliberately, until it had morphed into a completely new idea entirely. As soon as a new groove started to set in among the crowd, the duo elegantly started shifting the feel of the song into a new improvisation, and eventually back into the original one. Regardless, they never departed far from the original inspiration, which prevented the listener from losing the theme.
As a side, I certainly love electronic music, and Summer Camp had plenty to offer. Summer Camp did an especially great job in their balance of schedule. There was a moderation of electronic and non-electronic music at all times, which moved to more electronic at night (for the most part). The days started easy in chill atmosphere with good vibes, which was essential in the 90-degree sun (the bags of ice for sale at the “general stores” truly were a godsend), until it got cool enough for energy levels to rise in place of the heat. The “Vibetent” was kept raging late into the night every night, and the spattering of great quality, late night performers left not a moment of boredom. During the day temperatures soared into the 100-degree range.
So in that vein, as the sun left the sky and dark set in, the strobes and swirling colors emerged against the night sky. What better way to make the switch from Jam to Dance music than with EOTO. The tight-but-groovy 4-piece band has been bridging the gap between modern dance music and more traditional rock influences for quite some time now - they played a great set in the ebbing sun.
With that much jam influence in my day, I had to get a little bit of dancing in. Flinch (who you may have heard featured on the new 12th Planet EP, The End is Near, played a straight raunchy set, reworking dubstep classics and large amounts of his own material. I had seen him open for 12th Planet at The Magic Stick in Detroit earlier this year, and wasn’t too ecstatic about his set that night. However, he threw everything on the table and pulled out all the stops in what I found to be an incredibly energetic live performance.
To be honest, I was a little bit concerned at this point that Zeds Dead wouldn’t be able to follow such a brutally awesome set… I needn’t have been concerned. Despite having seen Zeds Dead with Omar Linx and Dillon Francis in Chicago in March of this year, I had a lot of fun at this show. I think from a musical standpoint, I may have liked it better without Omar Linx, just because my full attention was on the incredibly dramatic and electrifying sounds of Zeds Dead. While the set was certainly missing a piece of energy that has been a major part of the group’s recent success, the duo never missed a beat, keeping the crowd with them the whole time, even into an incredibly fast, dirty, extended, and fun drum and bass section towards the finish.
We closed the night with Lotus, who put on a great set that seemed to both reach back more towards their rock/pop influences, but also much farther out into realms of dance music that I hadn’t really heard from them before. If you haven’t seen them before, they are a truly live dance-band, and a must see for any festival or concertgoer. After that, it was off to bed on a yoga mat to get some shut-eye before the sun streamed into every inch of our tent, and temperatures started to soar above 90 degrees.
Saturday: Still very much in a daze from the night before, and reorienting myself to the mindset that comes with festival season, I decided to start the day with the sounds of Rebelution, a five-piece reggae band from Santa Monica. Following them were Orgone, a funky soul band from Los Angeles, both of which helped me ease into the day.
In my first post, I said that I was really pumped to see Minnesota live…I was not disappointed. The kid rocked a baseball shirt and one of the most ballin’ blonde jew-fros I have ever seen, and he was dropping some dope old-school rap over heavy bass and fat beats. The vibetent was straight vibing the whole time, and everyone was absolutely dancing their asses off. He played a great selection of original tracks, and kept the crowd and nerds such as myself happy by reworking pop tracks live. This set was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.
Gigantic Underground Conspiracy was an awesome show. A super-band of sorts, with members playing with other groups such as The Disco Biscuits and Big Gigantic, the unique mix of sounds that Gigantica Underground Conspiracy (and offshoot project of Conspirator) create is truly one of a kind. They will be all over the festival circuit, and have a substantial new take on making live electronic music. They’re an act worth checking out if you ever see their name on a lineup.
Gramatik then took the stage at vibetent. This was one of the artists that I was most looking forward to before Summer Camp, and they lived up to the hype. On stage with a live guitarist, the eastern European producer/DJ put on a true show, restructuring and reformulating both old and new tracks in his all original sets. He killed all of his songs from the #digitalfreedom EP. When I left the stage, I felt like I had been at a Pretty Lights show from back in the day when he had a live drummer. I am looking forward to seeing more of his sets as summer progresses.
By that time, the sun was low in the sky, and it was time to see some absolute filth. 12th Planet, of course, threw down a raucous set. His high energy songs and his stage precense and charisma make any 12th Planet show a great time, but I can only hear “Bass Cannon” and the Skrillex Remix of “Levels” so many times before I lose interest. 12th Planet went all out on his original songs, but when he dropped other artist’s tracks, he left something to be desired.
Sunday: The next morning, I figured it was more than imperative to catch an Umphree’s McGee set. I had seen them about four or five years back at the then Nokia Theater in New York City, but had been thoroughly disappointed. This time, I was actually pretty impressed. While the songs certainly had a somewhat dissonant and unnerving quality to them at times, the overall tightness and coordination the massive band exhibited made these musical offenses not only auditorially acceptable, but actually pretty damn good at times. The lighting effects were also impeccably synced with the music, and all together, it really was something to behold. I will definetly be trying to catch them again
Next we caught Greensky Bluegrass and Yonder Mountain String Band, deciding to keep it relatively low key and bluegrassy for the morning (a move that I, with my southern upbringing, certainly did not object to). Then shit got heavy.
In the blistering but ebbing sun, Figure dropped what was with really with no room for argument the filthiest set of the weekend. I had heard Figure and some of the other artist on his label a while back, and was really psyched to see him live. I was blown away. Check his site, http://imfigure.net/ , for free downloads, etc, and definitely catch him at your next festival, he’s hitting the circuit hard.
As night drew in, we caught Shpongle presents the Masquerade. I was completely enamored by his light show, absurdly coordinated syncing of lights to the music, and straight unearthly and unheard of sounds that flowed from his mixer – it was a “trippy” experience to say the least. Unfortunately, the sun was still in the sky, which made the lights notoriously hard to see (the artist apologized to the crowd), but all-in-all, he still killed it.
Pretty Lights might be the reason I started making electronic music. He certainly is the reason I use Ableton Live for my own personal production projects. In fact, my first Pretty Lights show back in 2009 (I’ve been to seven since) was for a long time, the best show I had ever seen in my life (until I saw Bassnectar). I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much out of Colorado producer – Derek Vincint Smith, but I was absolutely blown away.
He dropped some great classics (tore apart Finally Moving”), and threw down a fresh new version of all of his new tracks. This included “You Get High”, as well as some really slammin’ tracks I had never heard before (and I know pretty much every PL song). All in all, this was a great show, and I can’t wait to see him again throught the summer. He’s going to absolutely kill it at his pseudo-home in Red Rocks National Park in Colorado.
We caught an incredibly high energy set from DJ Solo while we waited for Vibesquad in the vibetent, and the wait was well worth it (don’t get me wrong, DJ Solo was awesome, but it was a little to fast for me in preparation for one of the underground dubstep greats.). The entire Vibesquad set was awesome, and I didn’t want it to end. He played great new and old tracks of his, and was basically live remixing anything he dropped of anyone else’s – the mark of a good DJ. According to his twitter, Vibesquad also happened to miss the deadline for artist check in, and apparently drove his car through the campsites to the vibetent without incident. Pretty badass, huh? Mad props, Vibesquad. And mad props Summer Camp for providing such great vibes and a memorable and fun festival experience. The only real regret I have is that 16 Bit apparently cancelled, which was depressing. Hopefully I can catch the UK duo at another point this summer, but in the mean time, Summer Camp put on a FANTASTIC event that I would recommend to anyone in the Midwest, or any crew willing to travel for a well-balanced music festival. That’s all for now! Peace and happy listening!