Cars filled in as the sun set and the stars illuminated Three Sisters Park in a small town known as Chillicothe, IL. As staff directed vehicles to form lines when they approached the entrance, strangers flung out of their vehicles into the arms of one another; greeting each other and preparing for a four-day extravaganza. You could hear the cases of beer ripping open and stereos bumping. Memorial Weekend was here, and the pre-party began in line Wednesday night when as fans began checking in for Summer Camp Music Festival 2017.
As the pre-party carried on, pros were stacking as many of their belongings as they could fit into a wagon that would haul things into the festival grounds later that evening. Newcomers had the unfortunate experience of carrying their belongings back and forth between the lot & camping. Guests ran for the entrance of the gate, only to sit for hours upon hours until it officially opened at noon the next day. Sleep was absolutely out of the question - the excitement at the thought of dancing amongst artists the next day was flowing through the bodies of many souls. Drinks were poured, strangers turned into neighbors, and neighbors morphed into friends. As 4:00 AM approached, you could look around and see people finally winding down. No one had boundaries, no one cared that they’d been sitting in the dirt for hours; they snuggled up to their best friend, their new friend, the love of their life, and they tried to doze off for the next few hours. For those awake, you could hear snoring coming from a few rows back, while crickets frolicked in the weeds adjacent to the line, and you could look up to see the big dipper shining brighter than ever.
Dawn was approaching and the sun was starting to beam into the eyelids of all the restless travelers. Grills were lit and the bloody mary’s poured. Breakfast burritos were thrown across the lines to people with growling stomachs and the smell of zing-zang was lingering. Before you knew it, fans were scanning wristbands and setting up camp. Campsite after campsite, you could hear polls being hammered into the ground, tarps unfolding to protect from rain, and most importantly the music spreading through the grounds.
Once guests were settled, the fun continued. To kick off the festival, Bad Dagger took the Camping Stage, being the first to perform with their highly energized tunes. Throughout the day people traveled across the event to the Starshine Stage, for a rattling rock n’ roll set from Future Rock, into the four-man group known as Twiddle. Festival-goers filled the grass with their twisting and turning of hoops, poi tossing, and wands circling. Manic Focus closed the first night with his magnificent production inside the Vibe Tent. As performances ended, the long hours of waiting in line caught up to many, and they were found swaying in the trees, nestled in their hammocks. Even while settling down, the excitement was still in the air and you could hear voices collaborating together to sing “Oh baby, you, you’ve got what I need.” At that moment in time, it was impossible not to fall asleep with a smile on your face.
Friday was the first actual day of the festival. As guests continued to pile into the campgrounds, the music carried on. Hooping and Yoga workshops took place in the Vibe Tent every morning while music fluttered across the stages. Around 2 p.m., as fans were dancing to the beat of Maddy O’ Neals new music inside the Vibe Tent, the clouds rolled in and lightning had struck. Sets were cut short and everyone ran to protection from the thunderstorm. Water washed away many of the campsites, causing music to be cut until about 5:00 PM. When everyone was finally able to make their way back outside, the grounds were a slip n’ slide of mud. Sandals turned into boots, tree branches became clothes lines, and beer was emptied from buckets so they could be used to scoop large amounts of water out of tents. However, no one let the rain stop the real madness, and the music continued. The mix of funk, hip-hop, rock, and jazz moved through the festival as TAUK performed their rhythms into the beginning of a Friday night sunset. Later that night, the legendary Umphrey's McGee took the stage for their first time of the weekend. Fans trucked through the mud to dance to the jam band for an hour and thirty-minute set, with lights beaming in every direction. American rock band Primus, all the way from San Francisco, once again rocked it out at the Moonshine stage just before the duo known as Zeds Dead had the crowd holding up their “Z.” In between sets, fans managed to grab a bite to eat at the mouth-watering spots Asian Sensation and Super Heady Tacos. Fans definitely didn’t miss out on the cold IPA’s being served at the stage bars, either. Carrying out Friday night, performers such as Run The Jewels, Rezz, and moe.EO shocked each crowd with incredible performances.
Following Friday, fans were still trucking through the mud. However, the sun was shining, belongings were drying, and the music was still going. Liquid Stranger, born and raised in Sweden, nearly had the rail in pieces when he let the bass drop. The sun was scorching hot, but it didn’t stop the fans from going crazy when he dropped "Space Jam." Other artists such as The Infamous Stringdusters, Break Science, The Wood Brothers, and The Floozies performed throughout the day, continuing to bring more energy into the crowd.
One of the most beautiful sets of the weekend took place Saturday night, as Pretty Lights Live gave a majestic performance during the most breathtaking sunset. As the pink and orange colors of the sky merged together, thousands of people danced away into the midst of the production of lights. Moe, Manic Focus, Umphrey’s McGee and Bleep Bloop followed throughout the stages a few hours after. Then there was the astonishing performance by EOTO, a duo who performs everything live using computers, controllers, mixers, and instruments all at once. Looking up into the crowd, you could see everyone dancing uncontrollably as totems swayed side to side. Saturday night's Red Barn event hosted a three hour set from Pretty Lights consisting of mixing, playing, and funky beats.
With maybe a total of fifteen hours of sleep the entire weekend, people were rolling out of their tents for the last day of adventure. Sunday brought performances from Yonder Mountain String Band, Desert Dwellers, Railroad Earth, Sunsquabi and the rapper himself, Waka Flocka. Over at moonshine thousands of people brought their grooviest moves to bust while Gramatik performed his one hour set bringing out special guests such as HeRobust. Closing the beautiful weekend artists such as Future Rock, The Disco Biscuits, HeRobust, and Ganja White Night went out with a bang.
Monday morning came quick and us scampers were sad we had all danced away the last four days so fast. From kicking up our legs in line to strolling through Cosmic Village to not smoking enough of those doobies, breaking our pockets at the vendors, and dancing among hundreds of artists- what a hell of a weekend.
We come to these festivals to break free from our everyday life, to love, to be loved, to experience, to dance, to live and Summer Camp once again delivered far beyond expectation. It's the reason many have come to call Summer Camp Music Festival home.
Cheers, until we all reunite under the moon that lights up the faces of so many scampers in a park full of rock n’ roll, funk, and love. Until next time!