Festival Preview: Summer Camp Music Festival

Sean Hersch on May 25, 2017


There may not be a lot of ways to have fun in the corn and soy bean fields of central Illinois, but Summer Camp Music Festival has definitely cracked the code by running one of the most jam-oriented festivals in the midwest.

The festival is annually hosted by moe. and Umphrey’s Mcgee who’ve been claiming their midwest thrones at Three Sisters Park on Memorial Day weekend, May 26 through 28, since 2001.

This year Summer Camp boasts acts like the Disco Biscuits, Primus, and none other than Trey Anastasio Band coming in for two full sets to round it out. Zeds Dead and Pretty Lights Live are some lovely additions as well. Any cultured jam fan will look at that and immediately ask, “Oysterhead reunion set? Mike Gordon will be there, what are the odds he steps out with Trey or vice-versa?” Slim to none, but who are we to say?

On top of all of that, the supporting acts include the entire horde of the millennial generation of jam including Twiddle, Aqueous, Tauk, The Werks, Spafford, EGi and Sunsquabi. The majority of the future of jam family will be in attendance, which will curate a really special atmosphere and will hopefully inspire some supporting act sit-ins throughout the weekend.

If that’s not enough, don’t forget there are always a slew of secret sets, like last year’s Griz and Dominic Lalli’s DJ set by the Moonshine stage, or the Henhouse Prowlers playing in the middle of the night on shakedown street. What is guaranteed this year is a Green Day Dookie album tribute hosted by Ryan Stasik and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee and Aqueous’ Mike Gantzer.

One of the unique sides of Summer Camp, aside from the integrated stage and camping, are the Red Barn late night shows. That’s where the magic happens, like Tauking McGee playing Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom,” which ended with a ceremonial smashing of their bass guitars. This year the Red Barn will be graced with the presence of Tauking McGee [Tauk and Umphrey’s McGee collaboration set] on Thursday, moe.EO and Eoto on Friday, Pretty Lights on Saturday, and The Floozies and Gramatik will be closing out the festival on Sunday.

The full lineup has been announced, but the festival will add lower tier names as the festival dates approach. There is an official pre-party that kicks the weekend off on Thursday May 25, which will include Nahko and Medicine for the People, Keller Williams’ Kwahtro, Aqueous, Manic Focus, and a whole bunch of up and coming supporting acts.

Aside from one of the strongest Midwest festival lineups, Summer Camp is also a great place for small festival vibe in a big festival setting. Considering the fact that if you were born when this festival started, you could be legal to drive today. The longevity of this festival means a longevity in the fan base, with classic appearances by Uncle Randy, the Mayor of Summer Camp, and that one drunk guy with the acoustic guitar by the campfire every night. If you find yourself there, strap in for a rocky cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.”


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