Can you believe it’s already been over a week since we all gathered at Three Sisters Park? Now that the dust has settled – or should I say the mud has caked and been chipped away – it’s time to reflect on yet another Summer Camp in the books.
For starters, let’s give a huge shoutout to all you crazy dedicated people who showed up on Wednesday night to
sleep party in line just to guarantee that prime camping spot. When my crew arrived on Thursday morning, you guys were already a few thousand strong. As one of your trusty Camp Counselors, I must admit that I got to skip out on that massive line and head in through the staff entrance. We all appreciate your dedication and love to see you all so pumped about the pre-party. You guys are troopers!
Having secured a sick spot nestled in the trees near the Camping Stage, I set out to discover some new bands on the first day. First up was Bad Dagger, who had the honor of kicking off the festival properly. A SCamp legend – Dancing Chris – was boogeying down hard in the front row, his energy infectious. The dude had half of his arm covered in festy wristbands, and I’m pretty sure he’s danced through every minute of them all!
The rest of my afternoon was spent bouncing around, catching a few songs of Rude Punch, Strange Mechanics, Grass Fed Mule, Family Groove Company, Melk, and Future Rock. In a few short hours, my ears were treated to reggae, bluegrass, rock, funk, and even a sick cover of “No Diggity.” Thursday may be dubbed a pre-party, but by the time the sun went down there were enough people there for it to be a full-fledged festival day. Once Twiddle hit the stage, the field in between the Starshine Stage and Vibe Tent was absolutely packed. I’ll admit to being a doubter – sorry guys, but no one is the next Phish – but these guys definitely impressed me and many others with their set.
One band that was high on my list going into SCamp was Spafford. Countless friends had told me not to skip out on their sets, and I figured if they’re good enough to open for Umphrey’s on an entire tour then the hype must be real. Their set blew me away, and I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for us moving forward.
Having traveled up for the festival from my new home base in Puerto Vallarta just a day earlier, my wife and I were both pretty exhausted. I managed to dig down deep and catch a third wind to groove at the Camping Electronic Stage with Wyllys and take in a couple of songs from Sun Stereo and JJ and Dre, but that was all she wrote for this old hippie. From the comfort of my tent, I did do a bit of sleep-dancing to the awesome cover band Crosseyed and Phishless.
As a first-time Camp Counselor, I was super stoked to join the other guys in welcoming moe. to the stage for the first of five sets. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for us. The sky opened up and gave everyone a free shower. As for us Counselors, we were forced to take shelter under the tent backstage and pound $1 beers while chatting over the rain. Not a terrible way to wait a storm out, I suppose.
Props to the hard-working Summer Camp crew for ensuring that the music got back on as quickly and safely as possible. Before too long, we were all dancing on the lawn again to Mike Gordon, who played a solid set with his solo band. Thanks to the river of mud that overtook most of the grounds, we decided to stay put as much as possible.
Friday night was spent doing The Claypool Lennon Delirium > Umphrey’s > Primus > Umphrey’s – a dream night of music for this guy. It wasn’t easy moving back and forth between the stages – I definitely almost lost a shoe a few times – but it sure was worth it. Some people went all in and surrendered to the elements, including the dude we have now deemed as “Mud Man” during UM’s set.
Speaking of mud, you just knew Primus had to play “My Name is Mud” for the thousands of us who were knee deep in it. Les Claypool never disappoints when he plays at SCamp, and this year was no exception. The man just oozes creativity, and it was definitely a treat to see him play alongside Sean Lennon.
In addition to the psychedelic visuals during the Primus set, the crowd was also treated to some sensory overload from the incredibly talented Flow Troupe. I can barely keep one hula hoop going, let alone four during a freaking Primus set. Way to go, guys.
After a brief trip back to camp to fill the cooler and scoop up the bits of our melted brains that we could find, we trudged back through the mud to catch the second half of Run the Jewels. Despite the turbulent times we live in, their positive message reminded us all how each and every one of us can make a difference in our communities and circles. Thanks to non-profit organizations like HeadCount, many people did in fact take steps in doing that over the weekend.
Without Red Barn tickets, we decided to flash back to our youth and join the sing-along in the Soulshine Tent to Green Day’s “Dookie.” Their ’94 tour in support of that album was my first ever rock & roll show, and something I’ll never forget. The guys from UM and Aqueous killed it and made for an excellent late-night party. Attempting to stay up for the sunrise kickball, we also caught some of Kyle Hollingsworth Band and even the sunrise sermon from Destructo. Sadly, the “act of God” we had all experienced earlier that day ensured that kickball would be cancelled this year. We’ll just have to hit it even harder in 2018, people!
Rolling out of our tent and scraping the mud off from the night before, we were all given the bad news – our community lost a legend with the passing of Gregg Allman. Throughout the rest of the weekend, the tributes would roll in from countless Summer Camp artists. Our afternoon kicked off the way any hot festival afternoon should – with a bit of bluegrass from The Infamous Stringdusters. The diversity of the SCamp lineup is amazing, as I was able to move from there over to Break Science for a completely different experience. Adam Deitch is an absolute machine on the drums and a pleasure to watch whether he’s crushing it alongside Borahm Lee or with his other band Lettuce.
Thanks to the stacked lineup and the mud, some tough decisions had to be made on Saturday. Unfortunately, missing The Wood Brothers was one of them for me. From the clips I’ve seen, it looks like they delivered a stellar performance as usual. Next up for me was my first experience with The Werks. They’re a Midwest jamband stalwart, and I can definitely see why they get to headline their own festival each August.
Given the day’s news, it made sense to get over to catch a bit of Gov’t Mule. Having played alongside Gregg in the Allman Brothers Band for years, it surely was an emotional outing for Warren Haynes. He led his bandmates through a ripping version of “Whipping Post” to pay tribute to his good friend, something Gregg surely would appreciate. From there we squished our way through the mud yet again to reach the packed Sunshine Stage for Pretty Lights Live. The lights were pretty on stage, alright, but they were even prettier in the sky.
Saturday night at Summer Camp for me means bouncing between the moe. and UM stages, seeing old friends and making new ones. As I wrote in my last post, SCamp is very much a homecoming for me, as I’m sure it is for many others. Despite the years and miles between us, it’s great to come back here on Memorial Day weekend and reunite with so many amazing people. And what a soundtrack we have to go along with it all!
For late night shenanigans, we joined the massive crowd stuffed in the Red Barn for another round of Pretty Lights. The live band definitely sounds much different to his earlier stuff, as it’s got a much more chilled out vibe. Dragging ass at 3AM on the third night of the festival, that was just fine with us.
The heat and crowd got to be a bit much for us, so we bowed out a bit early to catch the end of the Turkuaz set on the Campfire Stage. These guys are absolutely killing it, so make sure you hit their show if they come to a town near you. Our night turned into morning the way it should at SCamp – around the fire sharing beers and jokes with friends old and new.
I don’t usually go to church on Sundays, but UM brought us there by opening their last set with “Glory.” This has always been my favorite song of theirs, and it holds even more significance to me now after my wife walked down the aisle to it. It’s amazing the impact these bands have had on our lives, isn’t it?
For the first time all weekend, I finally pushed my way into the Vibe Tent to hear a bit of the Desert Dwellers. I’m not opposed to the untz – there was just way too much good music all weekend to see it all. As soon as that set finished, Electric Beethoven hit the stage for an all-improv set that the famous composer surely would have appreciated.
Few bands fill the Sunday afternoon slot better than Yonder Mountain String Band, and they delivered a perfect set for the time. It was my first time seeing them with Allie Kral, who has been a great addition to the band since their lineup shuffle a few years ago.
After a brief stop back at camp, we geared up for a huge night. First up was Trey Anastasio Band, who treated fans to a stacked 2-set show full of originals, a handful of Phish tunes, and a few choice covers. In between the sets, we caught moe. back on the Moonshine Stage, including the aforementioned Allie sitting in on a mind-melting “Opium.”
Few bands deliver late-night shows quite like The Disco Biscuits, so we were thrilled to see them added to the lineup and given an after-midnight set to wind things down. Despite having traveled all the way from Portland, ME after a 2-night run, the pioneers of trance-fusion brought their A-game (and their lazers, too). Long live Bisco!
Thanks to my fellow amazing Camp Counselors, my wife and I got tickets to check out Gramatik in the Red Barn for our last show of the weekend. There was much more room to groove than the night before, and we thoroughly enjoyed their set.
All in all, it was an unforgettable weekend full of friends, music, art, and yes, a little bit of mud. We showed up many thousand strong and built a community for an incredible four days. We trudged through the muck to see our favorite bands play the music that we love. We shared countless laughs at our campsites, reconnecting with old friends and making plenty of new ones. It was a beautiful weekend, and I’m once again honored to have been a part of it. Thanks to all the other Camp Counselors who welcomed me in with open arms, and thanks to all you amazing people I ran into over the weekend. See you next year, SCampers!
To relive some more of the magic, you can check out my recap videos and more at my site Grateful Gypsies.