Summer Camp Music Festival: A Music Addict's Best Fix
I have a problem. It’s not a joke. I am addicted to music. I have been a victim to this addiction since 1987, maybe earlier. That was my first live music experience. My addiction to music has affected me adversely in the following ways: uncontrollable smiles, a feeling of connection to everyone around me, and a sense of synchronicity with harmony and syncopation within my everyday surroundings.
I arrived at Summer Camp 2012 at Three Sisters Park in central Illinois Thursday night to fill my need for Digital Tape Machine. I heard they raged last year’s pre-party. I never got a chance to see them over the course of this entire past year. I knew I had to do whatever necessary because I have seen a lot of Strange Arrangement and a lot of Umphrey’s McGee shows. I suffer from increased tolerance to music. I find I need new and more music to get the same effect. I spend hours talking about and listening to music.
The Thursday night Pre-Party show was perfect with the powerful winds blowing through. Illinois has the greatest crowds in the world. This was a homecoming beacon of a show for the Windy City. Winds with reverb were whistling through the fields. I loved hearing people ask each other where they were from, as though suburbs were different from Peoria, was different than Iowa was different than Chicago. It was a regional display with Colorado representing on stage and by flag. Glowsticks looked like a Vermont flag? Light sabers spelled out words in the sky…welcome.
So there I was looking up from the bottom of a Summer Camp pre-party Thursday. The thing about music is that all the boundaries disappear. I don’t know where I’m from or where you belong, except to say that you take a left at the purple peace sign flag. Digital Tape Machine was cranking out thick jams. It had the kicks to keep the night ticking and keep it kewl into the evening. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There are no known deaths from music but I don’t want to become just another statistic. I rilly felt like the beginning and the ends of the Digital Tape Machine set were strong and in the middle, it just rode on. A creative collective of high energy messy mixed up rage on stage screeching metal melancholy. Digital Tape Machine is an all star game of thrones throwing down one style at a time in a beautiful gumbo of electronic synthesized sizes of music. At times it wasn’t a vehicle but that was the point of a pre-party. Tonight we celebrate not going anywhere. Let it be loud, I’m a music addict and I’m proud.
Friday was nothing short of a stellar day of super sunny hawt music. I woke up ready to rage but found I got ahead of myself. It was happening to me again! The schedules on the stages didn’t fit my pattern of rage-ness. Last year I missed De La Soul. This year after Yoga I had to choose between Gaelic Storm, my surprise hit favorite from last year, and Strange Arrangement, my sweethearts of soul. Turns out Gaelic Storm was rescheduled and I didn’t check the message board until Saturday. Then I was forced to choose between The Giving Tree Band and Leftover Salmon. I was manic with musiclust and followed the sound that gave me a huge hot blister on my feet at the retreat beside the polygraph machine. New Strange Arrangement tunes included Offer and along for the ride came covers and classics like my favorite Chuck Town tune Bed Bugs.
Fueled with musical love, I wanted everyone to come dance with me. I get pushy and I shove things in people’s hand when music consumes me like this. Forgive me as I want to dance more than talk but then again, conversations are the stuff that changes the world. I was sparked up and running overheated thru what was a great couple hours of folk funk. The Giving Tree Band went on at the Starshine Stage where Strange Arrangement had just finished up. I was able to wrangle about when the Brown Eyed Women cover tune would be played and off to Leftover Salmon I ran. I fully intended to try to magically teleport myself back to the other side of the field for that mouthwatering mistress of a song. What a great concept to cover, not to neglect the great original songwriting of The Giving Tree Band. I wanted to be in both places at once. It was a tough choice but seeing the Nederland friends is more pressing as a priority.
Leftover Salmon was reminiscent of why renewing cycles of my craving for music keep reoccurring. It is the life cycle. It is the absolute death and rebirth of every living thing. Gulf of Mexico opener, like the water coming to the shore was flowing through my veins. I tried to rehabilitate myself from my addiction once very seriously. I lived without electricity and no running water. Turns out, even with no radio or way to play music, it still plays on repeat in my head. The stations change with peculiar vacillations and even when the music in my head did finally quiet down, the beat of my heart got louder. The set was very flattering to Andy Thorn, 6 string banjo boy with brass brazen licks to lay down the poly ethnic slam grass. It couldn’t be better.
In the midst of my bluegrass binge, our camp was filling up. Faces of my beloved Summer Camp family flashed between the spinning and dancing. Thrills and power chords filled the air as manifestations of music appeared. Full bodies of love and light were surfacing. Was it all a dream?
Bob Weir must have permeated the water sources. They tapped into Truckin’, West L.A. Fadeaway, I've Been All Around This World, Uncle John’s Band and Not Fade Away. I’ve been drinking Nalgene after Nalgene due to the heat but I’m spinning harder and harder. The Weir, Robinson, Greene Trio on stage singing Deep Elem Blues went so low and the vibration so deep, I’m sure the notes have sunk into the water sources. When they bust out with an Iko Iko, the crowd seemed to do all the work for them. Music had affected the entire Sunshine Stage populace. I listened to the ground but the sounds still radiated above and around me too. Must. Have. More. Music. Bob Weir playing Masterpiece, listening to the masters, feeling the matured mellow sounds of a funked out establishment, I slowly crept into an Umph, a tri-Umph-ant sunset.
To try and explain how Umphrey’s McGee has changed the scene is ineffectual. You just have to go. You have to see and witness the show to know. These guys aren’t begging for your attention but they will certainly not be ignored. Their golden ticket and Chicago roots pervades from coast to coast. The lights and the energy are plump. The Trump Tower of Summer Camp has just moved in. What is responsible for prolly one third of the Summer Campers is the Umph Love for life.
While drinking the kool-aid, I missed Jason Hann’s talk on Music & the Drug Policy Reform. I was in the middle of a massive music binge. I feel bad for missing out on what he had to say regarding drugs. I sometimes forget that our scene is falsely accused of being drugged out losers. I am guilty of not participating enough in using my voice on the political forefront. I did 2 stints of AmeriCorps and sometimes I forgive myself for not being active because of how active I once was. However, that is not a good excuse. I need to create a better balance and make causes a constant in my life. Dedicated, I headed over to EOTO at the Starshine Stage.
The End Of Time Orchestra (EOTO) was melting faces with their live improvisation. Their crowd was beautiful and full of life. Opposite their slot was Gogol Bordello, boasting some sexy slinging in the mosh pit of love. Skirts and pantaloons were flipping over at Preservation Hall Jazz Band. From corner to corner of this 400 acre conservation easement, music addicts were gorging on gobs of glorious tunes. At the precipice, Primus pumped out precursors like Over the Falls while bringing back Gogol Bordello to to the stage. Then, oh then! Then… There was Les Claypool with the fool on the hill Bob Weir busting out The Other One. I could die. I would die a happy fulfilled lady.
What happened? How long was I gone? I woke up and it was Saturday morning already, time to stretch, get my yerba mate mug, and lift the sunshade for some David Gans at the redefined Camping Stage. Maybe shade would keep me from blacking out today. Mother Nature provides all that you need when loosing yourself in a massive music coma. I awoke grateful and liquidated in a juicy mood for some solo adoration. I believe that Gawd in all his or her glory provides an angel when you need them most. At David Gans I met a new friend that led me thru the secret underground railroad of Summer Camp. David provided the soundtrack for my new friendship. Brokedown Palace broke down my walls; I stopped dancing and started sharing parts of myself. Terrapin Station donated the placement for talking about why we are here. How the tunes never stopped rocking. I feel like a wall of sound, partly not productive but mostly a fun idea. Gans was looping a lush sound in the sweetest of shade spots available to Scamp and I was drooling over new ideas new favorites and fun talks of fruitful beginnings.
Away I was whiskey-ed back into the Sun for heat, hooting and hollering. My guardian angel set me before the Brooklyn based Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds. Who knew such N’Awlins funk could come from the urban swamps? I am usually sobered up by the sounds of harmonica. I dabble a bit myself in an A, C and G harp. Sometimes I stand up straight enough to pay attention to new methods. Not this time. I found myself in full head throb bob craze phase with the sweet sounds of a cousin duo answering between a kit drum set and soulful sounds on the lead vocals. The full nine piece band produced a tidal wave of cool singing air with sugar coated grins on the lyrics. This little lady, Sister Sparrow, was in her full glory like Ethel Merman in a synchronized swimming routine. Pretty sure she kicked a lil soft splash of soul on my face. It was a marvelous set that displaced my haste for Gaelic Storm. I found a new Summer Camp favorite.
From there, I melted into the mold of searching high and low for new music. My guardian has dropped me off at the fence for Tauk. (Short for Montauk) New York based instrumental grooves soothed my burning skin and dehydrated tongue. It was nice to release the need for talking again and drift back safely into a sound that can carry me thru this long hot flatland Saturday. As Leo Tolstoy said, “Music is love in search of a voice.” The collaborations were heating up the land; I could feel the pulse and hot flashes of the Gigantic Underground Conspiracy coming from the Moonshine stage.
I could barely make it thru the flying dust and trust that I would make it through alive, so I opted for Anders Osborne. Having heard him on the Sirius XM Jam Station, I was wondering what the face behind the licks looked like. What a face it was! He emanated pure rock and roll with his 3 piece band that were all on overtime duty. Working hard for his art, he seemed to transcend the audience’s connection. He connected, yet flew high above it. The bassist, Carl Dufrene was giving it to the audience and they were lapping it up like kittens taking milk from a saucer. The performance was power packed and definitely one that left me wanting more. I would love to see Anders in a real amphitheatre, boasting big sound and more time for a set list spanning his long lasting career. Standing in shock and sunburn, I slid into the Lumineers Campfire Stage set.
Simple. The Lumineers’ music required no understanding of music. They simply jumped right into the crowd’s face and sang their Hey Ho and Stubborn Love tunes that are rocking the background of every commercial and TV show you may not even be watching. That simple Bobby Weir juice of a song, well loved and enthusiastically put out to the audience, was still afflicting me. They were playing the music not their instruments. They were keeping this body afloat on the love of music alone. Life is the music, love is the song… and on I floated to the camping stage as I walked towards the west.
I’ve seen Old Shoe a few times. The family vibe and funk train had left the station so I hurried over to get a front row seat with the Shoe Family. It was the latter half of this old bones’ Scamp experience. I needed reinforcements of my family to keep me going. The manifestations of faces were flowering in full effect now. Like a rose and a gardenia and a daisy and a hibiscus, there was a garden full of beautiful faces both front row, back row, and on stage. These guys connect with their audience. They played the title track off their latest album, Let Yourself In. Janis Wallin was trying to let herself in to guest spot on their Stevie Wonder cover of Sir Duke. That is a funny story. Ask them about it when you go check these guys out.
Sunday Morning I awoke refreshed but bruised from 3 days binge already well underway. My mind was fine but my body was ready for a shower. I skipped over stretching to stick myself in a box of rain that costs $3. That is the best $3 I spent that weekend. It’s hard to reach and clean your toes but eventually you get restless and just get it done. In regards to the dirt and sweat, Plato said it best, “people are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you to grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” I was free of the stifling dirt and ready to get my fix growing.
I started my day fresh and clean, ready to go catch Chicago Farmer. His sets have been gaining stride with just enough swagger to keep the desire to perspire alive. Last year his set was at this very Campfire Stage and his banter with the crowd was engaging, informing and enlightening. This year he captured the folk loving folks’ hearts when he closed out his set by pulling out a laptop computer. He pressed a few buttons and a pretty decent drum beat was picking up. It was a dub step beat like the twang of a door stopper. It reached its predictable oomp oomp ooooomph! And that is when Chicago Farmer had pumped up the crowd in anticipation of the blast beat. He announced to the crowd, “A little something I’ve been working on…” He rose up his Louisville Slugger and came down on the laptop computer. His wife captured a great dub STOP ending video, check it out.
All this idealism and all this music, I was ready to feed the beast that is my own need and behavior altering addiction. Clearly, dub step drives this musician to the brink of losing all control. I wanted to follow his example. It was time to lose control. I was raging with vitamin D overload and ready for some Sunday reinforcements. The Midwest boys of Greensky Bluegrass were willing to oblige. My addiction was stronger than the environmental factors. After raising their arms in conquest over the conditions of the heat and dust, the band laughed at the feeling of responsibility that lies before them. All these addicts begging for a fix, they needed to supply the demand or be destroyed in the devouring fans hands.
The wah-wahs of dehydration made for a feeling of a whip cream can as my heart swelled in a fever pitch for some Greensky. The moonshine stage was hot and getting hotter. Anders Beck on the edge announced that his left foot was getting burned as he was giving his all. It was nice to know that were truly were “united in sunshine”. Hang on everybody, we’re gonna get thru this together. This is the challenging fun that a music addict knows they will be faced with. You can relapse and just watch live streaming from your at home computers. You can give up and just play the album on repeat or you could endure and absorb all this vitamin jam.
“I look forward to this opportunity to be united in sunshine.” Paul Hoffman, Greensky Bluegrass
The final 12 hours of Scamp music were buzzing and full of senior year shared suffering. There were sound waves coming at us for these final rays of sunshine. It’s that part of the festival where everyone realizes the clock is counting down, make the most of it! It’s that part when the love abounds and the final hours bring cook-outs and sharing with anyone who may find themselves at a disadvantage. “Here, have some of my…” is the most abundant phrase at the phase of the game. Headlining that love feeling was Michael Franti.
I have never seen Franti before. He was introduced to me many years back when I moved to Colorado. My friend told me that listening to Franti would help me to better fit in with the locals there. She said Franti was “Colorado kid approved.” I’m not sure exactly what that was supposed to mean but I did feel that Colorado Kind love at his set. There is that joy and exuberance of life and love and well, “all the freaky people make the beauty of the world!” I was embraced by fellow music addicts that pushed me and my big ol camera up to the front. They respected and appreciated the need to capture this moment in time. Franti has never played Summer Camp before. Then I fell to the back of the crowd captivated by the energy gushing off the stage. Just to be here and to live in the moment was all encompassing. Like a celestial being that follows you thru the field I was shocked to turn around and feel that high spirited voice coming from right behind me! It was a bubble lifting me and everyone there. The music literally lifted us up to stage level.
I cried twice during that set. I can’t believe I have never seen him before. Shame on me for ever believing that I know what a sell-out is. Sure, his music is in car commercials, but the Lumineers music is in commercials too. The artists struggle to earn a dime, who am I to say that they don’t absolutely deserve it? I would pay the price of a Roger Waters ticket for some Franti. I would take my kids to a Franti show. Phenomenal. I would take my mother to a Franti show. I think even a 70 year old woman would giggle and smile. At the very least she would taste the music and tell me what she thought.
That was the kind of set that reminds me of what I get back from music. People may think I am a failure because of my music addiction but I don’t agree. I feel emotion, love and joy. I have a cathartic release that I can’t get from anywhere else. I have this whole family of loving friends that sing and dance along with me. People that don’t love music the way I do may never understand. Only 8 hours left to be greedy Reedy, gotta keep going. Thank Gawd for festival sets and the new music they bring. High fives and laughter drove me forward to rail ride for Rubblebucket.
The Vibe Tent housed the Rubblebucket party. Breaking down the 4th wall, the Vibe Tent was a perfect set up for a Rubblebucket show. Kalmia was ready to rage; the boys were sound checking and ready to chase the checkered flag to victory. We raged Rubblebucket and I saw a ghost from my college days. I heard a story of a friend that has crossed over. While I should have been sad, I was here. I was talking with my friend that lives over 1000 miles away and we were reliving all of Rick’s crazy memories. Viva la Rick and we hugged. Embracing over the reunification and loss of a friend was cyclical and wholesome and I then I started a whole new cycle when I got to show off Rubblebucket.
Summer Camp has a lot of choices, I was glad my Summer Camp friend Andy chose to experience this band on my recommendation. He loved them. I think it rilly made a great impression on him when I was throwing myself at the front of the stage and Kalmia ended up coming out into the audience right beside us! Alex was playing trumpet and crowd surfing. The inside of the tent was steaming up so she came out to grab fresh air, high five my boyfriend and let me take her picture. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Kalmia is one of my favorite ladies in the entire music scene today. She exudes talent and is just pure FUN.
After the stellar Pretty Lights' Pink Floyd mix mastered remixed regenerated version of Breathe set concluded, the cloak of night had ensconced us all. From new superstar to a staple superstar and inspiration, Jane’s Addiction took the Sunshine Stage. Perry Farrell has always advocated for music Addicts everywhere. In a 1990 interview on 120 minutes, sitting next to Steven Perkins, Farrell mentioned that trying to suppress music would only add fuel to the fire.
“Let me tell you something, what will happen is people will get even more hostile, and they’ll become even more vicious, because of the fact that they’re being suppressed.” –Perry Farrell
After a bit of conflict about Jane’s Addiction from the younger Summer Campers, Goldberg released an official statement this year. “Jane’s Addiction were true innovators in the world of Rock and Roll.” Talking about Lollapalooza, Goldberg states, “that first experience of seeing a festival with great music as the draw, but also using that setting as a platform to bring discussion of the days important social, political, and environmental issues is largely what inspired me to want to create a festival of mine own to continue that dialogue.” How fortunate Chicago is to have been deemed the only place for Lollapalooza to continue that tradition. I couldn’t think of a better city to continue thriving on my musical needs. Perry Farrell on stage was a true performer. I talk about high energy, young energy, and old soul energy with other performers…but Perry Farrell is a TRUE performer. They played the favorite hits of the 90’s and new Jane’s Addiction tunes. When they came out on stage he announced, “Summer Camp! You know why we’re here?! Just because!” So began the set of grunge raucous mine all mutha fuggin mine music. Eat your own heart out, spit it out and keep on crushing it. Dirty Girl was meshed in between some skinny prick nose jokes and gulps out of Farrell’s wine bottle. The swinging ladies on stage kept the beat along with me as Farrell wet willy’d the on stage video camera. Navarro was giving his cock pose while Farrell did his Jesus Christ pose and the crowd learned without a doubt what rock n roll was all about.
The hour and a half set spent me spun me undone me and my young soul. I have always wanted to see Jane’s Addiction. I can’t cross it off my list now though. Now I need an indoor soul splitting show. I need more. We must remember that they are NOT fans of the glow sticks. Walking past the Vibe Tent I stopped to pause at the natural moonlight shining down over this massive tent filled with people. Safe at night with late night shows raging around you, I hope you sleep. I hope that in a 3 day festival you can learn to sleep and pace yourself. For in the dark of night, amongst the wookie woods and the fireworks is where the wild things are. If you don’t know yourself well enough you could get hurt. You could push yourself a little too far if you don’t retreat to the safety of your air mattress, car, or even under the stars but make sure it’s beside the people you know and trust.
There just isn’t enough time to spend with the ones I love. Summer Camp is my time to binge. There are all these beautiful flowers out there that I want to live closer to; Scamp is our chance to live down the street from each other. Scamp is our chance to be two tents away for an uninterrupted weekend of bliss and bonding. The bouquet of bonding in harmony gives me joy enough to shut off the overload of worried thoughts and indulge all my senses. The group that bonds together over music tends to keep you safe in life. As we wander down our individual paths, some friends won’t be coming out as often. Some paths lead to a different direction. Some of my Scamp family didn’t make it out this year. It as if that absence becomes a person in it of itself. In the wake of not having them here, I thought so much about it that they actually were here. I transported their energy in my heart and released it here in the field as I danced.
Some people were here but in the binge of music I only casually brushed by them. I understand we all have crazy schedules and unrelenting music habits, workshops we want to go to, and chores we must accomplish. I hope, however, that in my eyes, when our gaze met just for that brief hello, that you knew how much I care about and love you. I love where the road takes you and I especially love when our roads meet.
“Death does not stop true love; it only delays it for awhile.” The Princess Bride
The last chance of Summer Camp 2012 to catch moe. was a necessity. With moe., I am breathing and living and feeling xylophones, guitars, moonstone, morning star, saxophone, and circular loving and living. The family party celebrated Bob Brown’s 150th moe. show. That is true love. They relaxed me out of a roll n roll knot and set my soul to Buster while bouncing glow sticks and do-si-doting with my neighbors. No more tossing and tumbling the tremors of thoughts in my head. Breath in, Breath out. Summer Camp has foiled my attempts for relapse of a music free life. I’m okay with that. Happy Hour Heroes can keep me drug and alcohol free, Yodeladies will keep me and my femininity safe, but can they stop me from overdosing on music?
Not if Greensky Bluegrass has anything to do with it. This Must Be the band put Sugar on my Tongue as I walked by. The sweet sounds of the Beastie Boys were jamming from the Campfire Stage. Finally a little homage to the late, great, MCA was played for the first time this weekend. So much music, there is never enough time. It was 2:30am and Greensky brought the Survivors Club together for a final meeting of the music addicts 12 step program. I got a Greensky version of Second that Emotion and finally my favorite, I’d Probably Kill You. I was blissfully aware that is was time to retreat to my tent and sweet dream myself into what it would take to return to a world without music first.
My compass for a better life will always keep me coming back to music festivals. Try as I may, exposure to music is innate and something deep inside me. From grunge to gabble to graceful, I may never grow up. Trying to walk my path as a balanced music addict is hard. I hope you understand and find my addiction to be something you can learn to love. Thank You Summer Camp. I will aspire to guide and counsel others as you have done for 12 precious years. Always remember, one show at a time my friends. One show at a time. :)