written by Alex Rowland
photos by Henry Africano
Summer festival season is upon us and I couldn’t have picked a better festival to kick off the year with than Summer Camp Music Festival. This festival’s lineup is the perfect mix of jam bands and EDM DJ’s, including a few of my personal favorites, that had the festival goers dancing all weekend long. I have heard great things about this festival over the past few years so I was excited to make my way to Illinois to check it out for myself! Summer Camp, you didn’t let me down!
Music Genre: Jam Bands, Funk, Rock, EDM, Rap, Bluegrass
Capacity: Medium (20k attendees)
Crowd Type: Hippies, Ravers, Jam Fans, and
Water Stations: Yes
For The First Timers – Summer Camp is located in Chillicothe, Illinois which is about two and a half hours Southwest of Chicago. The Chicago O’Hare International Airport would be the best option if you plan on flying in from out of state. To get from Chicago to Scamp you can either get a rental car at the airport or take the Amtrak to Bloomington, Illinois and then rent a car or take a cab. If you get there early enough, you can get lucky and find a spot in the woods. There are plenty of spots available for tents and pop up canopies. I preferred camping in the woods because all of the trees gave us plenty of shade from the sun and a ton of spots to put up a hammock.
A variety of food trucks were spread out along the main paths of the festival grounds. Tacos, Greek food, sushi, pizza, and hot dogs were just a few of the food options available. My personal favorite was a BBQ stand located near the Sunshine Stage and no festival is complete without an ice cold smoothie! There were roughly nine bars located throughout the festival grounds providing a variety of Goose Island and domestic beers as well as an assortment of liqueurs. If you’re not a big fan of alcohol, then you could stop at the Vitaminwater stand to grab a free drink or pick up a Five Hour Energy shot. There were also two big water stations near the main festival area where you could fill up some reusable water bottles. Scamp didn’t allow anyone to bring in any outside alcohol. However, you were allowed to bring in your own food and nonalcoholic beverages.
Summer Camp Music Fest was three days (four if you get the Thursday pre-party pass) stocked full of talented musicians from a variety of genres ranging from jam bands to funk, rock, rap, DJ sets, and bluegrass. Each day brought a new surprise and a lot of killer performances. Once the thunderstorm subsided on Friday, the music got started and didn’t slow down until the end of the weekend. Spafford, a jam band from Phoenix, AZ got the day started with a performance that got everyone moving. Dumpstaphunk and Twiddle kept the jam going and brought the funk. Zeds Dead closed out the night and put on a great set at the Moonshine Stage that left everyone wanting more.
Saturday brought even more talented performances to the Summer Camp stages. The duo behind Break Science got the day started and got the crowd moving and ready for a great day of music. The jam/progressive rock bands Aqueous and The Werks stole the show at the Starshine Stage while Pretty Lights Live helped bring down the sun and turn up the lights at the Sunshine Stage. Umphrey’s McGee helped bring an end to the day with fantastic back to back sets. Out of all the performances that took place on Saturday, the funk band Steady Flow surprised me the most. They brought a powerful funk rock performance with killer guitar solos and a solid sax and trumpet duo. They have definitely jumped up as one of my personal favorites!
Sunday brought a perfect end to what was one of my favorite festival experiences. Yonder Mountain String Band brought a touch bluegrass and Sunsquabi got everyone dancing early in the day. Gramatik was the best DJ of the day while The Disco Biscuits continued the jam into the night. Spankalicious was the biggest disappointment of the weekend when the DJ spent most of his set talking about his crew and how excited he was to be there instead of playing music. Festival goers got agitated and began yelling at the DJ and eventually a large number of people just walked away from the Vibe Tent. Out of all the performances that took place at Scamp, MOE’s back to back sets on Sunday night stole the day and possibly the entire weekend. Their slow build jam set and face melting light show capped off a weekend I will never forget! They definitely earned their title of Kings of Summer Camp and showed why they’ve been the headliner for the past seventeen years.
Things To Do:
There were a number of field day activities scheduled throughout the weekend. However, after the thunderstorm a lot of these events were canceled or postponed due to the muddy conditions. These activities included tug-o-war, kickball, dodgeball, and more! Other than the field day activities, there were a variety of guest speakers and workshops to participate in that took place in the Soulshine Tent. A finger painting art class, glass making 101 class, as well as cooking, hooping, and dancing classes we among the many classes offered. Along with the events offered in the Soulshine Tent, there was an area set up to teach people about permaculture and urban gardening techniques. Summer Camp also offers some art galleries showing off some talented local artists work!
VIP or Nah?:
If you’re trying to decide if you should upgrade to VIP or not I’ll give you some advice. DO IT! If you upgrade your ticket to VIP you get a lot of different benefits that general admission does not. First and most importantly, the VIP upgrade gives you access to the late night shows in the Red Barn (pending on the upgrade you purchased) and the VIP Lounge. Those shows alone are worth it. On top of access to the private sets, you have the opportunity to take a shower and use a private restroom. After spending the day walking through a lot of mud and standing in the warm sun, I wished I had a shower to rinse off in. The porta potties at Summer Camp weren’t the worst that I’ve seen at a festival, but by no means were they the cleanest I’ve seen. The VIP upgrade also offers access to the Thursday pre-party, special food & drink offers, special merchandise, VIP viewing areas, and opportunities to meet some of the bands that were there.
What Makes This Festival Different?:
There are a couple things about this festival that make it stand out from other festivals across the country. The first thing that stood out to me was Scamps focus on recycling and composting your waste. Summer Camp offers almost twenty areas where you can dispose of your recycling, compost, and landfill trash. There was also a large on site waste sorting center for all of the trash. As soon as you walked threw the main entrance people were passing out garbage bags and walking around picking up trash and cigarette butts. Scamp also requires all of their vendors and bars to use compostable or recyclable materials. This helped the festival grounds stay trash free throughout the weekend. Another thing that sets Summer Camp apart is the variety of carnival rides available to ride including a ferris wheel that lets you overlook the festival grounds!