Words and Photos by Nicholas Stock
The Summer Camp: On the Road Tour is a longstanding tradition that gives many up and coming musicians the opportunity to land a slot at the famed festival in Chillicothe. Some of these bands have gone on to regularly appear on the lineup. I have had the chance to check out this event several times since becoming a Camp Counselor in 2011. It’s a well-run affair with each band given around 45 minutes to impress the crowds. I’ve seen some groups go so far as to bus people to the show to stack the deck, although most of the support on this night seemed organic. The lineup was a mix of producers and live bands. The first three slots consisted of DJs starting with Dillon Redmond.
This energetic producer spread positive vibes throughout his set as he danced enthusiastically behind his stand. He had a bass-heavy sound that was enough to get the early supporters out to the dance floor. His set peaked with a sample of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” before going back into his own beats to close.
Next on the bill, Crimbrule treated us to his own set of produced tunes. His tracks took on a more spacey psychedelic tone with lots of unique samples and strong drops. It may be obvious to you, the reader, that I do not normally spend much time in the electronic scene. In fact, if you are familiar with my writing here on the Campfire it is clear that I’m more at home in the Jam and Bluegrass world. However, I have an open mind, and I was honestly interested in who was heading to Summer Camp this year. I went outside to get some air where a pair of young fans floated by inquiring who was performing for On the Road. After a brief exchange, they informed me that Aqueous was headlining at Hodi’s Half Note. So, much like a friend b-lining past you at the Sunshine stage on their way to see something awesome, we followed. I could not think of a more Summer Camp thing ever happening in Fort Collins prior to this.
I arrived at Hodi’s to catch the end of Justus League’s set. They put the power in power trio with high intensity jams, funky interludes and soulful vocals. The guitar work of Austin Johnson was front and center with one solo performed behind his head á la Jimi Hendrix. They soon finished and the famed four piece from Buffalo took the humble Hodi’s stage.
2017 will be the 5th time that Aqueous performs at Summer Camp making them bona fide veterans at this point. They have made a name for themselves through intricate compositions and disgustingly tight jams. They opened with a stellar “Eon Don.” I was up against the clock, but these cats were so good we stayed through “Timmy’s Blades” and “Dave’s Song” before retreating out the door with a happy nod to the bartender.
This was Summer Camp coming to my home of Fort Collins. Here I was racing between the two main stages of the Choice City to catch the end of the final DJ of the night Krushendo. When we shuffled back inside the Aggie there was an enthusiastic crowd getting down near the stage. Krushendo gave an utterly heartfelt thank you for all the support that got him to this event. He finished his set with his signature high impact but utterly smooth beats. After that performance, he deserved a slot in the Vibe Tent. However, we still had two more bands to go.
Write Minded is a hip hop infused funk band winding in elements of reggae and rock. Lead by vocalists Sam Mouton and Jesse Neth, Write Minded put on an animated and engaging performance. They were my pick to win the slot, but we would have to wait for one more band.
Before Amorphic Sort started the final set, I hopped on stage to welcome everyone and tell them a little about the festival. Whichever band they were supporting, it was obvious that many at the show were fans of Summer Camp. I spotted a couple of Scampers during the show and got them entered into the #SpotaSCamper contest. Make sure to wear your gear to the next show you never know when you could run into a Counselor. Amorphic Sort is an ethereal jam band more akin to Tortoise than Phish. They created rhythmic musical textures that felt more like soundscapes than your typical jamband. These tracks were intertwined with more straightforward rock songs. Overall I found them to be an interesting addition to the lineup.
It was time for the big reveal and after the votes were tallied Krushendo crushed the competition. He had one of the most enthusiastic crowds of the night and they voted giving him the slot at Summer Camp 2017. And that was all she wrote. As I headed back to my home, I had a huge smile on my face. Summer Camp came to Colorado in a very special way that night. I’m not sure anything like that will ever happen again, but I know one thing. I am really excited for Summer Camp 2017 now. See you in the woods.