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Summer Camp Music Festival 2011: Friday

Words & Photos by Tyler Sporer, Zlatko, Frazier, and Sydnei Slutsky
Videos by Frazier and Zlatko
Wyllys & The New York Hustlers Ensemble Photo by Brian Spady 

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Tyler’s Summer Camp 2011 arrival…

We arrived around 9:00 on Friday morning. After having driven by the festival grounds the night before, it felt like at least half of the Summer Camp population had beaten us to the punch. We were forced to park our car at what felt like a solid quarter-mile from the heart of the woods, which I knew was going to make our morning difficult. As much as I love the concept of woods-camping, the hassle involved with having to make multiple, painstaking trips from your vehicle to your campsite is aggravating in almost every way possible. At least this year we didn’t have to deal with the soul-sucking heat that was present in 2010. Karrin and I had nothing but the bare essentials, consolidated in the most efficient manner possible, and we still made three trips before all of our gear was in the woods. Nonetheless, you find solace in the fact that when you are finally finished with the move-in, you have 72 hours or so of mind-blowing music to look forward to. I can say with confidence, however, that if and when we choose to return to Summer Camp, our shit will most definitely be on wheels… either that or we’re going with VIP. After we set up camp and got some fuel in our tanks, the feeling finally sank in. We were here. We were ready. And that’s enough to let all of your worries fall by the wayside. Festivals, to me, are a total escape from reality. It’s complete immersion in a world that only exists within the confines of those particular grounds. With this escape comes a reversion back to the most simplistic elements that remain the essence of human existence: food, water, shelter, and live music.

Daedelus

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Daedelus braving the heat like everyone else

Zlatko begins his Friday morning…

After arriving late Thursday evening and only catching two sets from Future Rock and BoomBox, I woke up Friday morning feeling fresh and ready to get my festival experience off the ground. Daedelus was on my radar from the moment he got announced so I got there early and snagged a nice spot with the rest of my crew. After a night where the temperature dipped into the high 40’s, it felt really nice to be basking in the sun’s glorious sunshine. Things also heated up onstage rather quickly as Daedelus layed down a set full of fresh beats and new sounds I’d yet to hear from him up to that point. It was a good thing he brought a sweat rag so he could stay refreshed on stage because that thing was definitely used frequently throughout his hour-long performance. Looking at the line-up, he must’ve taken notice of other artists and tailored his set to the womp-obsessed audience in attendance this year. In the past I’ve seen him play shows that encompassed hip hop, elements of salsa, breakbeat, and many other electronic styles. The man has been around to say the least. And at Summer Camp, he unveiled another side of himself that I hadn’t seen or heard yet. Dropping beats that had a bouncey, glitchy, dubstep sound resonating throughout, he tore through an hour long set that put his mastery of the Monome on full display. Watching anyone work off a Monome always comes off as impressive to me as it is not the type of equipment you can just pick up and start killing it with. You definitely have to invest some time into it to learn your way around the device. His beats kept heads bouncing up and down and people were moving around enjoying themselves despite the swelter bearing down upon them. I was having a ball and then he took things to another level and surprised me with some samples from The Weeknd, Cut Copy, and James Blake towards the end. I love it when I hear DJs listening to the same music as me, it makes me feel even more connected to the rest the world. He ended things with a fantastic remix of The Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight, Tonight” and put a bold exclamation point on his set. Daedelus’ constant evolution and penchant for finding new sounds and styles always makes me go back for more. You just never know what you’re going to get.

moe.

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Chuck Garvey

Frazier cracks his eyes on Day 2 at Summer Camp…

I woke up with lofty goals for music consumption. Chicago locals 56 Hope Road were on at 11:00, then I had the choice between Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band or Daedelus at noon. But once I rolled over and read 12:15 on my phone, I realized that catching some daylight vibes from moe. would be my first major accomplishment of the day. I took the scenic route from VIP camping, through the Wook Trail, and came back around to the top of the Hill as the sound of “Puebla” was drifting up. I saw the debut of this tune at last year’s Summer Camp and I have to say, I really dig what they’ve done with it. This song has a natural brooding energy but during this daytime set it never got too dark and kept the energy strong.

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Al Schnier

But they threw me a curveball next when they played “St. Augustine.” I’d never heard this song live before, so when the lyrics hit me I suddenly felt like I was at a Christian Rock concert. Due to moe.’s generally twisted sensibility, I wondered halfheartedly if they were pulling an ICP on us. I mean, I don’t think I have anything to worry about… nonetheless, it left me with a weird feeling. But then they came back from the pulpit with a combo of “Mexico” and “Blue Jeans Pizza” that felt nice. These songs were solid for daytime moe. listening, it was decent music, but it just wasn’t doing much for me. I walked away after “Pizza” thinking that moe. really needs to be under the cover of darkness with lasers blasting through people’s domepieces to be as effective as they can be. They are the type of band that particularly excels in a certain environment, which is certainly acceptable, but I had my heart & mind set on catching every second of a band that absolutely kills every setting they enter. I headed back towards the Umphrey’s Stage to meet up with Tyler and Karrin so we could watch mutual favorite–and fellow Michiganders–Greensky Bluegrass.

Greensky Bluegrass

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Dave Bruzza

Tyler settles into a Greensky afternoon…

The time had come for my first festival set of the day, of the weekend, and of the summer for that matter. Excitement would be an understatement. I smiled from ear to ear thinking about how that set just so happened to be one of baddest bluegrass bands in all the land and EASILY one of my favorite live acts out there: Greensky Bluegrass. I can assure you that this wasn’t the calm before the storm; Greensky was the HURRICANE before the storm. By the time the “White Freightliner” came rolling in, this sea of strings was swelling and pulsating with energy, swallowing everything in its path. I was leaning hard into the wind, doing everything I could to stay on my feet while this barrage of notes came hissing by and pelting me in the face.

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Paul Hoffman

One of the great things about this band is that they can play any slot, during any time of day, and blow you out of the water no matter what the environment is. A lot of bands have this certain allure that makes their music attractive to say, a night time slot ONLY or a daytime slot ONLY. Not Greensky. These guys can heal your soul at 11:00 in the morning after a night of heavy drinking with heartfelt originals and carefully crafted songwriting, and then (as we would come to find out later that night) turn around and play a late night slot and morph into this twisted jam monster that steps on the word “genre” like a cigarette butt and spits in the face of “classification”. Light show or not, these guys jam in an otherworldly way and never deliver anything less than one hundred percent of their energy on stage. This set wasn’t anything different and left me itching for not only the band’s late night set at the Campfire Stage, but the onslaught of strings that would become the theme of my Summer Camp Friday.

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Ty and Karrin in the loop of a lovely hoopin’ girl

Lubriphonic

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Giles Corey

Following the amazing Greensky set–during which I had every bit as much fun as Tyler–I meandered over to the Campfire Stage to get down on the some of the funk that was dominating the day on this stage. Lubriphonic is a band that has taken me by storm and left me wanting more the last couple of times I saw them. And after missing them the day before, I made sure I caught at least some of their set in the middle of this jam-packed afternoon of music. I arrived during a very funky jam, led by the powerful slap-style bass of Pennal Johnson. My brain told me to keep moving but I hung around long enough to catch my favorite Lube song, “The Dopeman.” This jam was as intense as funk gets, as Giles Corey led the barrage with a sledgehammer riff which reminded me of something that Gov’t Mule (more specifically, Warren Haynes) might pound out. I reluctantly walked away after this powerhouse tune not knowing exactly where I’d end up next. Luckily I met up with Tyler again and we followed the sounds in the air over to one of the most beautiful sets of the entire weekend: Van Ghost.

Van Ghost

 

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Michael Harrison Berg

Tyler discovers Van Ghost…

After Greensky, we headed over to the Jager Stage to catch Chicago natives, Van Ghost. This was one of the more surprisingly amazing sets of music that I would come to experience over the course of the entire weekend. Not surprising in the sense that I expected it to be bad, just surprising in the sense that I had never seen these guys play before and for some incredibly strange reason, I had it in my head that they were a “folk” band (not that that’s a bad thing). Michael Harrison Berg had that true frontman persona in addition to a great voice and a tastefully raucous guitar.

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Grant Tye

Grant Tye added layers upon layers of these classic rock-driven, psychedelic guitar riffs to compliment Berg, and the female vocal/horn section led by the incredible sounding Jennifer Hartswick gave it a very multi-dimensional sound. The cherry on top was Cornmeal fiddler and Summer Camp All-Star, Allie Kral. This girl can play. She took this music to a whole new level and all in all, Van Ghost seemed to have an extremely cohesive chemistry that really helped the group stand out amidst an over-saturated market of similar sounding “Americana” acts. I really enjoyed this music and will certainly be heading out to see these guys the next opportunity I get.

De La Soul

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Zlatko hits up some hip-hop…

I got to the Moonshine stage a few minutes early and quickly learned that the set times got switched between Big Gigantic & De La Soul. This didn’t upset me because I had planned on catching both acts but I’m sure other festival goers could’ve found reasons to be upset if they arrived there without any warning. After seeing De La Soul both at North Coast Music Fest and this time around at Summer Camp, I came to the conclusion that it was pretty much the same show. And it hurts me to say that as they are some of my all-time favorites in hip hop but their live show didn’t cut it for me the second time around. At both shows, they cut the music and stop performing in the middle of a track to point someone out in the audience who wasn’t having fun or was doing something irrelevant. I understand that different artists like to have fun in various ways, but we’re not paying them to point out spunions to us. When De La Soul was actually performing, they did the standard classics we all know and love like “Potholes in My Lawn” and “Eye Know.” The set was still enjoyable overall but I ended up leaving early. I think I’ll take a pass next time at a festival if there is a conflict with another artist I enjoy. De La Soul didn’t have quite the same impressive impact on me as Big Gigantic would later on at the same stage…

Cornmeal

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Chris Gangi and Allie Kral

Tyler gets his daily serving of Cornmeal…

With the conclusion of Van Ghost, it was time for our daily dose of Cornmeal… an essential part of a balanced Summer Camp diet. I know that this band has been playing together for the better part of a decade now and that, being from Chicago, they have been playing Summer Camp for quite some time as well. In the short time that I have been in attendance, I think it would be safe to say that Cornmeal could easily join the ranks of Umphrey’s and moe. as being that absolute heart and soul of this festival. No matter what is going on, people drop what they are doing in order to come watch Cornmeal and there is absolutely NO question why. Jay Goldberg and Co. have to schedule this band outdoors in fear that Cornmeal will set the roof of the Red Barn ablaze and bring the whole thing down in a giant diabolic inferno. The energy put forth by this band is, in my honest opinion, unrivaled by any other group of musicians at this entire festival. The explosive nature of their improvisational jam segments in conjunction with superb timing, technical proficiency, and creativity, make for an unbelievable live show that is unique, stripped-down, and teeming with life.

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Kris Nowak

Guitarist Kris Nowak explores an entirely new realm of sounds by way of affected acoustic guitar and picks with extreme confidence and fluidity. He leans and bends and lifts his guitar up over his head releasing these raw, psychedelic sounding notes that come screaming out of its orifice like a crazed banshee. And then there is Allie, one of the most powerful, confident, and talented fiddle players that I have EVER seen. Her fingers run a blurry sprint across the strings of a fiddle that seems to have a mind of its own. At the climax of any heated Cornmeal jam, you will ALWAYS find Allie’s fiddle. It screams and howls at the crowd who all of the sudden resemble a hoard of Austin Powers fem-bots, their heads convulsing back and forth sporadically just waiting for Allie’s musical prowess to become so overwhelmingly intense that it literally blows your head off. I was sad to see this one end but fortunately for us, they serve Cornmeal on a daily basis here at Summer Camp.

Orgone

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Meanwhile, Zlatko finds some funk…

With the festival saturated with electronic acts more than ever this year, it was refreshing to see a funk band like Orgone on the bill. A friend of mine turned me onto these cats a few years back after catching one of their live shows on the West Coast and brought them home to share with all of us who hadn’t caught on yet. I would highly urge any music fan to go out and get their 2007 album The Killion Floor and bask in all its funky goodness. I saw Orgone throw down a filthy set at Lincoln Hall last August in front of only 100 people. Despite the low turnout, they played like there were thousands in the room watching. And Summer Camp was no exception.

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They came armed with a new lead female vocalist, who sounded fantastic by the way, and no one would’ve noticed a difference if they had never seen them before. Her sultry vocals were quite infectious and shaped the band’s overall sound when they weren’t blasting off into the land of improv. Speaking of their improvisational skills, holy cow! These guys really settled into their grooves naturally and once they got it going, it was over. Guitarist Sergio Rios escalated the music to new heights and had some great interplay with keyboardist Dan Hastie. While they were brewing up a storm on stage, the group’s percussion section helped elevate things even moreso. The energy would just continue to swell the louder rhythm section pounded on their skins. The ruckus these guys caused was quite enjoyable and I have a feeling they will be one of those bands that will move on from smaller stages to greener pastures.

Big Gigantic

 

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Frazier ends up at the main stage again…

I also caught parts of De La Soul, Cornmeal, and Orgone. De La Soul played the perfect type of hip-hop for the festival setting. Their beats were heavy-hitting, electronic backdrops that were perfect for dancing, even without lyrics. They were big on crowd interaction, as Zlatko mentioned, but it did indeed become too much of a focus for my liking. Cornmeal was on a tear on the big stage once again, and sent me away with the Rage Shivers as they absolutely annihilated a whacked-out, ultra-psychedelic version of “On The Road.” Now that is what Cornmeal is all about! And Orgone hit the spot for me as well, with their super cool brand of upbeat funk that wouldn’t let the smile leave my face. But all of this led to finally settling down for an entire set to catch one of my favorite electronic acts, Big Gigantic.

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Jeremy Salken

I met up with a group of friends near the top of the hill after raiding the photo pit and really got into the show. Big G has recently taken a sharp turn towards the womp, which has made them much more hit or miss for me. They mixed in some awesome remixes as usual (including a sick Biggie cut), but the focus was clearly on their entirely original material. My favorite part of the set was when they dropped in an effervescent track from the album Fire It Up. To me, the songs from this album are the true essence of this group. But there were certainly a number of new tunes as well, many of which were very good, but a few felt like they had too many cheap wobbles for my taste. By cheap I mean that in the greater context of those songs, the wobble bass had a small role and seemed somewhat out of place when it came out in small bursts. Overall, this set was very enjoyable and got my ass shaking, despite the fact that I was already feeling a bit tired from non-stop walking. I think I need to get one of those sweet off-road Segways next year…

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Zlatko also finds his way to Big Gigantic…

I’ve seen Big Gigantic close to ten times now and they always manage to bring the heat. It’s been really fun to watch these guys rise up through the scene and go from smaller side stages at festivals to main act status. Their afternoon set was nothing short of superb as they ran through mostly new material off of their newest album A Place Behind The Moon. The highlight of the set for me by far was their remix of Aloe Blacc’s underground hit “I Need A Dollar.” Dominic Lalli’s sexy sax licks transformed the laid back R&B tune into an electro scorcher and really put Big G’s strengths on display. I think they really excel when they open up their pockets of improvisation where Lalli can spit hot fire from his single-reed and have the audience in the palm of his hand. Not to be forgotten, Jeremy Salken’s jazz background really provides a strong backbone for the duo and his ability to switch up the rhythm makes these guys feel like a real band, not just an electronic/DJ act. I see only bigger and better things coming toward Big G in the coming years.

Yonder Mountain String Band

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Tyler digs up some more bluegrass…

As much as I would have loved to catch the Big Gigantic set, there is just never enough time in the world to see all of the music you want to see at a place like Summer Camp. The music, quite literally, never stops. We decided to stay close to home, get some food in us, and be back just in time for Yonder Mountain String Band. As we approached the stage, I heard the sounds of “Looking Back Over My Shoulder” and saw a whole MESS of people already getting into the swing of things.

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Jeff Austin
The smiles were contagious. THIS is why I love bluegrass music. With the exception of maybe a Dead-related show, you wont find a more blissful group of people. Pure happiness. I think there is something organic about stringed instruments that really resonate with the human psyche. Being able to visualize and understand the source of the music creates a familiarity with its origin. You see four people, each with a different instrument. Instruments that are different from one another in appearance, but very much the same in principal. You see them place a certain finger in a certain position and strike a certain string and you KNOW the result is going to be a very specific sound wave with a very specific frequency. It resonates with us. We aren’t talking about iPads here. We are talking about strings, about the creation of music versus the manipulation of it. I think humans can tell the difference, even if it happens sub-consciously.
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Yonder is one of those bands that play it like it is. No gimmicks. These guys are true veterans that have been around for over a decade. Even more impressive is the fact that they’ve had the same line-up since day one. The chemistry between these four musicians, these four best friends, is unquestionable. Jeff Austin is about as animated as they come and a pure joy to watch. The band was loving it, the crowd was loving it, and I was surely loving it. Hell, they even took the time to cover an old Todd Snider tune!

Lotus

 

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Luke Miller

Frazier wonders into some classic Lotus…

I fully intended on checking out Yonder but on my way over to that stage I got sidetracked by a hammock that was calling my name under the tent near the Soulshine Stage. The sweet bluegrass was perfectly audible for a minute and I felt like I could just chill there and listen to the whole set. But before long that dome near the vendors started playing some dubstep that completely drowned out Yonder. My dogs were aching and there was some campsite business to attend to, so I made the tough decision to head back for a while before Lotus.

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Jesse Miller

When I got back to the main stage, Lotus had already jumped into their set and were in full swing of one of my favorite songs, “Spiritualize.” To me, this song really embodies the free-flowing, ethereal groove that I have come to love from Lotus. The photo pit was nearly empty and treating me very well, so I stayed to rock out through two more of my favorite songs. The first was my favorite newish song, “Blacklight Sunflare,” and the second was my favorite overall song, “Flower Sermon.” I couldn’t have handpicked two better songs for which I could be in the pit to see. I was aloft in the sound for a good stretch of time, absolutely in love with the sounds I was hearing. I was stoked that Lotus was bringing the old school, floaty vibes with this set. The sun was dropping out of the sky and one of my favorite bands was on a roll. It couldn’t get much better at that moment in time… I walked away as another oldie, “Wax” was getting started and couldn’t have been happier with the song choices they made. I was incredibly stoked for the next night’s Barn show and expected more of the same amazing Lotus. But what I didn’t know at the time was that this Lotus would be nowhere to be found…

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Tyler also ends up at the Lotus set…

At the conclusion of Yonder, we headed over to the moe. stage to hear the flighty, electro-progressive rock tunes of Lotus who was already deep into their set by the time we got there. The crowd was impressive in size and as the sun finished it’s descent over Chillicothe, I became incredibly excited about the visual stimulation that was to follow. Despite the familiar sound of songs like “Spiritualize” and “Behind Midwest Storefronts”, I couldn’t help but feel like the band was lacking a certain ‘punch’ that I have seen them with so many times before. Although I didn’t get to see the whole set, it just seemed a bit lackadaisical and anti-climactic to me. Nonetheless, the crowd seemed to be pretty into it, the lights were getting better and better, and I couldn’t wait for the nighttime antics to get started. When the sun goes down, Summer Camp comes alive…

Umphrey’s McGee

 

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Jake Cinninger

Tyler finds his way to Umphrey’s…

By the time we posted up for the first Umphrey’s set of the weekend, total darkness was upon us, and you could feel the entire festival vibe beginning to gain momentum. The Jaws intro was cool, but  hardly original, and the band came bursting into Summer Camp with a confident “Prowler” that seemed to really set the tone for set one. I enjoyed this opening tune as it carried a ton of those jazzy, Zappa-esque time changes that are characteristic to so many great Umphrey’s songs. A series of heavy hitters with a fairly ominous tone, including a 20 minute, tension-building “Red Tape,” as well as a brief cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” in the middle of the searing metal of “Pay The Snucka.” This choice was obviously well recognized amongst this crowd of music lovers and was a direction that I have never heard UM take before.

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Brendan Bayliss

The band’s “7th member”, lighting designer Jefferson Waful, really began blowing the roof off the Sunshine Stage and solidified the fact that this was going to be a truly intense set. Jeff’s light work is second to none (except for maybe the lasers at the moe. stage) and has really come to define the entire Umphrey’s McGee live experience. In my honest opinion, the two go hand in hand and combine to form one of the most entertaining musical experiences that I have ever seen. These people are true professionals and deliver a show that is worth every penny. When the first set wrapped up with “Mulche’s Odyssey,” my eyes were peeled and my pulse was moving at a spectacular rate. Umphrey’s is one of those bands with enough talent and a big enough song repertoire to actually control the “theme” of an entire performance. They have many different “gears” if you will. This first set had been metallic to the core, and as fun as it had been to watch, it wasn’t my favorite brand of Umphrey’s.

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“UM” looming large above the stage

Frazier’s thoughts on Umphrey’s…

If you know anything about my history with CJS, you should know that I’m a straight-up Umphreak. This is my favorite band at Summer Camp every year and, frankly, it would take a serious amount of shit to sour me on any UM set at Summer Camp. Therefore, I could gush and go on & on about how awesome everything was. But I’m not gonna do that. All you need to know from this set is that the “Bulls On Parade” tease in the middle of that scorching “Snucka 3″ was the most intense piece of Umphrey’s I’ve ever witnessed live. I’ve always wanted to hear them do the “Bulls” thing, but to drop it into the already earth shattering metal-tronica of “Snucka 3″ was borderline psychopathic. This was my apex rage of the whole weekend. And it’s weird because the footage I got is fairly still, yet the entire time I was filming I felt as if I was jumping about 6 feet off the ground. I honestly have no idea how the video doesn’t look like I was rolling down a hill, because I was going insane. This jam was intense as all hell and it was the perfect microcosm of the first Umphrey’s set of the weekend.

STS9

 

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Frazier reluctantly leaves Umph to catch some old school Tribe…

I walked away from Umphrey’s as they were playing something I had no clue about. I thought to myself, “Well this is certainly a spicy little instrumental jam.” But what I didn’t know is that it was a super rare cover of Chick Corea & Al di Miola’s “Senor Mouse.” Had I known I would make it on time for STS9, I think I would have stayed through the end of this one. But I didn’t; I made it over the hill as Tribe was just getting into their opening song, “Abcees.” I haven’t liked this one much in the past, but for whatever reason, this version’s deeply haunting sound grabbed my attention and didn’t let go.

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The next song up was one I recognized as older but didn’t realize was “What Is Love?” until I got home. It continued to draw me in even further with a soft edge, dreamy sound that took my brain back to the “Flower Sermon” of a few hours earlier. But soon this song seemed to start to taper off, and for the first time I’ve ever heard, they utilized a very smooth & continuous segue into one of my favorites, “Rent.” The sharp hand drumming from Jeffree Lerner gave the song away in an instant and let me know I’d be dancing like a fool for the next eight minutes. Finally, I was seeing some progression and new tricks from Sound Tribe, and it couldn’t have made me happier. It was just about 25 minutes into the set and this was already the best Sound Tribe I’ve heard in years. I have honestly been getting further and further away from the Tribe Nut I started my jam/festival career as, but this set rekindled my fire in a huge way.

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Hunter Brown

They wondered through a “Be Nice” that had a similar eerie aura about it as “Abcees” but never strayed as far to the darkside. Next they dropped into another one of my favorites, “Instantly.” This one has been a monster in my eyes since the first time I heard it and this version was as fiery as ever. The best part about this song is getting to watch Hunter Brown hammer away on his sampler. The use of the sampler is one of the main distinguishing features of STS9 compared with the rest of the jamtronica scene. And when HB gets nasty on that thing… watch out. The end of the set brought some oldies and their newest banger to wrap things up. “Moonsocket” is among their oldest tracks and it has taken on a strong life in the live setting. The jams were loose and HB’s signature guitar noodling brought back many memories of my first year as a Tribe fan. “EHM” is a song that got lots of play before being included on the album Ad Explorata, so it’s one that feels older than it seems. It’s a heavy electro-rock ripper of a song that led nicely into Tribe’s latest single “Scheme.” I listened to the mp3 of this song before Camp and wasn’t really feeling it too much. But yet again, the live setting brought serious life out of this darkly electronic jam.

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David Murphy

As a long-time Sound Tribe fan who had fallen on hard times of late, I was simply blown away by this set. Not only was the music fantastic but it was really great to see David Murphy back on the stage after recieving treatment for cancer. The outward signs of his fight were there, but his influence on the music didn’t seem impacted at all. Thanks for kicking cancer’s ass Murph, keep up the awesome work!

Umphrey’s McGee (Round 2)

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The magic of Jefferson Waful

Tyler heads back for more Umph…

By the time the second set rolled around, you could tell that the gears had shifted. It was time for the late night show. “Jazz Odyssey” and “Preamble” served as an intriguing introduction to a more lighthearted and spirited Umphrey’s than we had seen in the previous set. Slower-paced tunes like “Higgins” came at very appropriate intervals throughout the set and provided a great change of pace to the high-octane music that can sometimes grow heavy on the ears. Melodic piano interludes and spaced out guitars kept me enraptured and I had that classic shit-eating grin that Umphrey’s is so often able to induce. Jake Cinninger remains one of my favorite musicians on the planet and as usual, the band as a whole was in total control of all emotional aspects of their performance.

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Layers upon layers of tension were constructed and then ultimately destroyed with breathtaking resolution. When the band attempted a brand new song, “Hourglass”, for the first time ever, I couldn’t help but feel as if they could have rehearsed this one a bit more before doing it live. I think Brendan dropped the ball on what was otherwise an extremely solid vocal performance and the entire song just struck the wrong chord with me. They did however follow up strong with “The Floor” before bringing out Dominic Lalli (of Big Gigantic) for a jazzed-up rendition of “National Anthem”. It was their first guest of the weekend and I couldn’t have been happier about the selection. This kid is no joke on the Saxophone and really lit up the stage in a huge way. I might not have realized it at the time, but when this set was all said and done, it would end up being my favorite of the Umphrey’s sets all weekend.

DJ Thibault

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Tibaut Bowman

Zlatko finds his Elysium, the Vibe Tent…

Tibaut Bowman has been quietly flying under the radar for the last year and half in the electronic music circuit splitting his time between his electro-rock outfit Auto Body and his solo project DJ Thibault (pronounced “tee-bo”). But after the explosive set he unleashed in the 312 Vibes Tent late Friday night, I have a feeling we’re all going to be seeing and hearing his name much more in the future. Making his Summer Camp debut, Thibault took the crowd for a blistering ride through electro land as he pummeled away with some hard-hitting, edgy beats. It was a late-night set, the kids came to dance, and dance they did! The set entered around his debut original single “Air Jaws,” which he released just before the festival. An electro-house tune with a patient build-up that hits you with slight jabs of synthesizer, this track builds up quite smoothly and after the first drop, the wall-of-sound widens ten fold! Thibault layered it with even fuzzier synth sounds than I had heard from the studio version. Live it sounded chaotic and frantic, and I mean that in the best possible way. I saw one kid in the front row holding his head right before the last drop like he almost couldn’t take it anymore. I know he’ll remember the name DJ Thibault after that performance. Whatever you do, make sure you check out DJ Thibault at Wicker Park Fest in July along with Digital Tape Machine, Ana Sia, Van Ghost, and many others.

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Frazier leaves Umph a little early to catch up on some electronica…

Oh how I wish I could see an entire Umphrey’s set! But the massive amount of amazing music at this year’s Summer Camp simply wouldn’t allow it. This time I got to peel out early to go see one of my absolute favorite electronic artists, DJ Thibault. As someone who loves heavy electronica, but tires easily of dubstep, Thibault is directly up my alley. This guys throws down the absolute heaviest sounds possible before crossing into dubstep territory. But instead of silly, twisted up rhythms, he throws all his mammoth sounds down to that dancefloor shredding ‘four to the floor’ beat. Whereas dubstep sounds like a robot being tossed into a wood chipper, Thibault sounds like a thousand robots being blasted at a wood chipper, but glancing off the side in a flash of sparks. It’s just a raw electro rager from start to finish. And I don’t know what got into this guy’s water but he creates some of the most abrupt & destructive drops I know of. Simply put, this guy is a monster and I fully expect him to blow up in a major way very soon.

Greensky Bluegrass (Round 2)

 

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Tyler finds one last dose of bluegrass…

Just when it felt like we were coming down off of the emotional wave that we had been riding all day and all night long, I came to the great realization that we had the privilege of picking up right where it all began with Greensky Bluegrass only this time at the Campfire Stage. Not only was I psyched about Greensky snagging the late, late night show, but I was also psyched about the orientation of the newly positioned Campfire stage. To think, you can actually see AND hear the music! What a concept! As I said before, Greensky is one of those bands who can blow you away no matter what time of day it is. The afternoon set had been phenomenal, and now it was time to see what was in store for the late night crowd. Even the band was unsure, admitting very early on that they were without a setlist. I appreciate a move like this… flying by the seat of your pants and just playing whatever feels right for that moment. The anticipation of not really knowing what was going to happen next, made it that much more exciting.

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I can’t say for sure what songs were played that night… a Paul Simon cover here, a “Tied Down to Michigan” there. But what I can tell you is that Greensky Bluegrass did indeed morph into the twisted jam monster that I warned you about. A solid light show provided the backdrop for a more affected, more psychedelic style of jamming that I think was intentionally left out of their daytime set. Amidst the heavy shades of blue and purple, you could make out genuine smiles plastered across the band members’ faces and the blur of Dave Bruzza’s fingers doing backflips across the neck of his Robinson guitar. Summer Camp was just getting warmed up and I was overwhelmed by the amount of great music I had witnessed, sandwiched in-between two mind-blowing opening and closing sets of Greensky Bluegrass. Honestly, what more could one ask for?

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Frazier also gets his fill at the Campfire Stage…

The Greensky set earlier in the day certainly kicked the tires, but now it was time to light the fires. As Tyler and I have mentioned a number of times now, GSBG absolutely dominates Late Nite slots and this set was possibly the best I’ve ever seen from them. The beginning of the set brought one of their staple songs to get the weird treatment, “Train Junkie.” This song came on easy but morphed into a swirling, psychedelic beast before my ears. I don’t know quite how they do it, but when they lock into these mindfuck jam sections, it’s like they have a hold of the puppet strings to my soul and they are just whipping it around in the air. This is spiritual music if I’ve ever heard it…

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Tyler mentioned the lack of a setlist and I have to echo just how incredible this ended up being. To watch them glide their way through a murky jam, only to land in a spur-of-the-moment cover of “After Midnight” was one of those magical moments that will stick with me for life. It was unreal and gave me the Jam Tingles all over. Another highlight was the cover of Paul Simon’s “Gumboots.” Paul Hoffman’s maniacal laughing to bookend the song was absolutely perfect for the moment and cemented the shit-munching grin on my face.

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Dave Bruzza

One of the best parts about this band is their sense of humor and easygoing stage presence. Some guy with a Peewee Herman-on-a-Stick rage toy snuck into the crowd and the band made good use of it by making us all cheer when someone on stage yelled “Peewee Herman on a Stick!” Then there were the subtle & goodhearted jabs at some other artists. At one point Anders Beck introduced himself as Chris Gangi (of Cornmeal) and pointed out that their drummer was… no one. Then someone brought up the subject of Bassnectar, which led into a rant about Paul Hoffman’s alter ego, Mandolin Nectar. This had me in stitches and only added to the all-out joy of this show. The entire set wound up focusing on that mind-altering sound that I have come to love from GSBG and had my head in the clouds for a good portion of the time. In other words, it was absolutely perfect. This set ended up being one of my two tippy-top favorite sets of Summer Camp 2011 and the absolute essence of what Greensky is capable of. Ladies and gentleman… this is no ordinary band; this is a truly remarkable musical creature.

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Anders Beck

Wyllys & The New York Hustler Ensemble 

 

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Photo Courtesy of © Spady Photography 2011

Meanwhile Zlatko was over at the 312 Vibe Tent…

My camera died during DJ Thibault’s set and unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture any pics of The Hustlers, but boy is their set still burned in my memory! Wyllys’ newest project features Mickey Kellerman (Future Rock) on keys with Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman rounding the group out on horns. I caught them this past February and was blown away by their fusion of disco house, hip hop, and jazz. This ensemble knows how to throw a great dance party and they really play well off each other. Wyllys came out on stage donned in all white and lead the group through an hour long set that took everyone on a ride through space and beyond. He was the one who made this machine move with his electro-funk disco house beats, but Kellerman’s synth lines really played well off the vinyl he was spinning and only took things to funkier heights. Hartswick and Cressman’s crisp horns added another dimension to their sound as their jazzy licks combined to add an extra bounce to people’s footsteps. I literally could not stop dancing from beginning to end as they crafted some great soundscapes to entertain us into the wee hours of the morning. Wyllys & The New York Hustler Ensemble was a real treat and I’m really glad we got to see them for no additional charge in the Vibe Tent rather than the hotbox known as The Barn.

IndigoSun at the secret Moon Party in the woods

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IndigoSun

Sydnei gets down in the deep woods…

For many people, late night tickets just weren’t in the cards for them this year. They sold out in record time, literally in under a minute. Fortunately there was a band, one frequently featured on this website, who covered all your late night needs free of charge. Beginning last year, Kyle Liss of IndigoSun had a brilliant idea to set up a guerilla stage in the woods for those with a keen ear to find, cleverly calling it the Moon Party. Much to his dismay, their bassist and drummer were not present for the inaugural secret stage throw down, so it was entirely improvisation with Lucas Ellman on sax, Kyle Liss on keys and some folks who brought their equipment on drums. But this year was different. Liss’s initial dream became better than any reality he could’ve ever dreamed up. Their set up included the full band, Liss’s computer, microphones, effects pedals, amplifiers and a giant IndigoSun banner behind them. All of this was topped off with mylar, a shiny, reflective material hung up around the stage that shot their lights in all kinds of wild kaleidoscopic patterns.

While waiting in line to get into the park on Thursday the IndigoFamily had already run into many friends from 2010 who remembered the homegrown jams and demanded to know when they were playing this year. So I’m sure it was delightful for the members of Indigo when they started playing around midnight on Friday and saw those wandering through the woods rapidly climbing over tents, bags, tree trunks and any other obstacles to get to the sweet, melodic sounds of IndigoSun. Friday’s set was filled with many IndigOriginals like “Atisha”, “Amethyst Temple”, and the incredible “Indigo Sunset>Io’s Emerald Cave>Welcome Home” medley that just melted people’s faces right off.

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Kyle Liss

There was even a guest appearance from Mike Greenfield of Lotus in the audience getting down alongside all the other wanderers. Indigo played for the next 3 hours as people drifted in and out of the makeshift stage wielding hand drums and absurd amounts of glow toys. This was only their third show with saxophonist Lucas Ellman reunited with the band after graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston and, despite this, it was one of the tightest sets they’ve ever played. The communication and focus of the group was on another level, riding the wave of the ecstatic and indescribable joy of seeing their dream of playing Summer Camp come to fruition. The band repeatedly announced that they would be playing at the same time every night, and to come back the following night with their friends, and that is exactly what everyone did.

View FRAZIER’S ENTIRE FRIDAY PHOTO SET here

View TYLER’S ENTIRE PHOTO SET here

View ZLATKO’S ENTIRE FRIDAY PHOTO SET here

3 years ago by in Festival Coverage , Live Music Coverage , Umphrey's McGee | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
About Frazier

Jeremy Frazier is the editor-in-chief of Soundfuse, an online magazine based in Chicago.