This year, I’m giving gold stars to highlight the best of 2019. From food to sets, stages, and un-scheduled recreation, here is a recap of my favorite festival weekend.
Best Instrumental Set — Umphrey’s McGee
They say never miss a Sunday set- they’re right. Between getting rained out Saturday night and missing some of Friday’s set, I was definitely lacking some of the “Umph” that SCamp weekend typically brings. But the Sunday sun came in hot and the boys didn’t let us down. After crushing a 6-pack through our Flabongo beer-bong, the gents took stage and made our hearts sing. Three of the four songs I requested on Instagram made the setlist: “40s Theme” (to celebrate my 40th show), “The Silent Type” (for Chicago vibes), and the ever-glorious and heart-wrenching song “Glory”. We also loved the “Whitehouse Road” performance featuring Yonder Mountain’s Allie Cral & Arlo McKinley. Yes, we cried, and left the Sunshine Stage with our Rock hands up high feeling both blessed!
Best Hybrid Set — Gramatik
With over 10 years of “Bangerz”, this electro-funk and hip-hop leader reminded us just how much of an OG pro he is. Adam Stehr, his guitarist, lit up the crowd with fantastic fills and sonic solos that made our faces melt. And as ProbCause mentions on their track “Satoshi Nakamoto”, Gramatik definitely “left space for the horns” because that’s Balkan Bump’s “sh*t”. The three brought an intense mix of new and old sound to their set with trippy visuals and a fabulous rendition of “Learn About Something/Flippin’ the Script”. There is nothing like seeing a Summer Camp Gramatik set, and he definitely brought all the vibes to close out our Sunday night at Summer Camp 2019.
Best EDM Set- SoDown
Ethan Wright continues to amaze me. What really hit me was when he shared his story in the middle of his set, recalling his growth from playing at smaller stages, including the former Vibe Tent, the Grassroots Booth, and working his way up to Starshine Stage this year. The callout was humbling and reminded me of how hard these artists work to earn success (and how Grassroots has really been a part of the movement for many of them. Gold star for Grassroots, too!). With an incredible stage team who enhanced his high energy build-ups and heavy, heavy drops with lights, lasers, and stunning visuals, this set kept my friends and I jumping and vibing the entire time. Mad props, SoDown. You took my breath away.
Most Fun Set- Sunrise Kickball
While Sunrise Kickball isn’t on the official lineup or schedule, it sure as hell should be! Upon arrival at 5:45am, I was confused. An air guitar duo, later identified as “Cold Hot Dog”, was serenading a small crowd who were “warming up”. Bags of wine, bottles of margarita, and shots of Jameson were flowing heavily while an armed security guard pointed a water gun (supposedly fully-loaded with ketchup) towards anyone who stood too close to the performers. One gent donning an official-looking white suit with the Kickball logo on the back seemed to know what was up and when it was time to pick teams, I knew exactly where to stand. Eric Onesto, an Umphrey’s Super Fan, leading Kickball superstar and Captain, and this year’s MVP, got the ball rolling just after the sun peeked out above the woods. Anthony of MoonMats called the game on a megaphone while two teams played a rowdy and rather lit version of kickball. Other VIPs who partook in the sunrise game include members from Audioacity, Aqueous, stage production, and a surprising number of early risers/really late-night wooks. Ryan Stasik made an appearance after the 7th-inning-stretch and shared with me just how crazy of a tradition this game has been to Summer Camp Music Festival while I played Second Base. The game ended with Ryan Stasik himself awarding Onesto with the MVP Sunrise Kickball belt. I kept the ball for myself. I caught up with Eric Onesto back in Chicago weeks later to learn more about Sunrise Kickball’s origins. This is his story:
“I could not possibly have imagined the reverberations across the universe spawned from a chemically enhanced grade school game played at the break of dawn… but here we are. Long story short, Umphrey’s McGee has been in my life for the past 12 years; Summer Camp for the last 9. Mr. Ryan Fabbik Stasik was the genesis of Sunrise Kickball going back nearly a decade.I parlayed my past soccer experience into dominant performances on the diamond, coming up as victors with Ryan and 20 other wooks 3 years running. I decided to switch allegiances and captain a ravenous pack of SCamp zombies AGAINST Ryan. As fate would have it, we trounced Stasik and company.. Handing him his first ever loss. 12–4 if I can recall. Later that night Stasik admitted defeat in front of 10,000 people at the Sunshine stage, just before they encored with the first Umphrey’s song I heard, and coincidentally my favorite, Nothing too Fancy. And I quote, “I got my ass handed to me.” From then on, there was a mutual respect. Fast forward to last year, Ryan announced his retirement. We were kicking it backstage after the late Saturday set, and there he passed the torch in good faith. To keep this wook debauchery of the highest order going. Well, we kept it going. Jason Gregory’s team put up a valiant effort, but the hammer of fate struck again, and I scored the game winning walk off run to remain undeated. I fucking love Summer Camp. Cheers to the Goldbergs, Umphrey’s McGee and .moe for keeping this train rolling!” – Eric Onesto, SCamp Kickball Captain and 2019 MVP
Best Upcoming Artist- Illy Wonka
These SIU boys are new on the Illinois map but have been making big moves this year! The duo won the Summer Camp: On the Road contest to earn their official timeslot at Summer Camp, but stepped up to the CDJs at the Grassroots stage in the Forest and threw down a heavy set at 3pm on Friday. With over 55 fans headbangin’ and booty-shakin’ on the trailway, their sound echoed down the path as far as Shakedown Street. We’re super proud of these two and can’t wait to see what they’re up to next!
Most Interesting Set- Dizgo Band
This four-man hybrid band from Indianapolis is making big moves this year! I had interviewed the band prior to SCamp19 and was so excited to see how they bring jam and electronic music together to make a new, infused sound. I was not disappointed. Not only did this band perform officially for the fest, they hosted a renegade set at the Grassroots booth in the Forest on Sunday and they brought the heat!
Most Unique Set- Cofresi
Armed with two drum sticks and an electronic drum kit on top of the GoodBus parked right off the main street, Ben Cofresi let us have it. While chords and remixes played behind, he drummed beats, build-ups, and breakdowns that literally gave us chills. The bus was glowing from within and had visuals that lit up the sides and windows below. The music was so good, you wouldn’t have known anyone was playing live until you looked up or heard him call out from his mic “Summer Camp, let’s have some fun!”. I’ve really admired Cofresi’s originality as an artist filling the percussive gap in EDM and producing feel-good flips of some of the top songs of our generation.
Most Personal Set- ProbCause & The Palmer Squares
This stand-up rap/hip-hop producer from Chicago, Illinois is known for his collabs with artists such as Griz, Gramatik, Gibbz, Chance the Rapper, and tons more! But this artist just started a new project, Junkyard Samurai, with The Palmer Squares, another rap/hip-hop duo also based in Chicago. The trio has played shows in Denver, Miami, and are just starting out in the festival scene but have an incredible online presence with their newest album and high-quality music videos. After their Sunshine Stage set and an intimate interview with the Summer Camp media team, the trio met us at the Grassroots booth for a meet-and-greet and socialized with friends and fans alike.
Most Authentic Experience- Everything over at SOULPATCH!
Orion Organics had a display of bees with fresh honey to taste. Earth’n Fire Chorizo Bread literally walked me through making their famous all-natural breads with local, grain-free chorizo in their Earth Oven. From the watching the mushroom cloud of smoke billow out to the heating the stove with dried wood, they made the experience as interactive as you wanted! I was also super stoked to play Tic-Tac-Toe on a game board made from dried willow, twigs, and a stone playing board just around the corner. There was so much to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste over in this magical part of Summer Camp, please don’t miss out on all the great outdoors they bring to the middle of this fest!
My Most Missed Set- Big Gigantic
While I was working at the Grassroots booth and hosting a killer renegade set in the woods, I missed this duo doing their thing. With two friends at Sunshine to cover the set though, I feel like I didn’t miss out. The videos from their set were unreal! Vibes were high and the duo’s set was out of this world! While I heard mixed views about how Big G did, I don’t have one bad thing to say.
Most Challenging Set- Zeds Dead
Zeds Dead is most definitely two people… DC (Dylan) & Hooks (Zach). Although fans were confused when only one producer took the stage, the set went well. Hooks stood alone as the lights went up. With all the classics and an amazing visual set, it was hard to say this was disappointing. The setlist filled our Deadbeats cravings and left us excited for more Deadbeats shows this summer! Gold stars for Hooks for bringing his A-game and satisfying our ears Friday night!
Most Awesome Moment- Getting Engaged!
Summer Camp is known for hosting an annual wedding and a number of engagements throughout the weekend, but I had no idea it was in the cards for me that weekend! After the Sunday night VIP Party, I skipped over to Moonshine’s hill with my two best friends who were shooting for the festival, and my boyfriend who I met 10 years ago as freshmen in college. We all sat at the top of the hill, enjoying the sunrise and reflecting on our amazing weekend. Not moments later, he was on his knee saying my full name and asking me to marry him. I was shocked but of course, I said yes. We went back to my BFF’s RV for a bottle of champagne and then set off to pack up and head home. It was the most magical way to round out the best Summer Camp to date!