Tag Archives: Summer Camp Music Festival

Summer Camp Music Festival 2012: Musical Highlights

Summer Camp 2012

This was our first year at Summer Camp, and there were a bunch of bands I was excited to see. So my expectations were high. I got to see most of the bands on my list, and all that I did see were as good or better than I was expecting. But, Christ… the heat? Almost unbearable. It practically drained the life from me. But, once again, I was saved by rock n roll… plus some new strategies for staying cool when you’re spending entire days out in unshaded, 90+ degree heat. Here are some of the bands and artists that made Summer Camp a special musical experience for me.

Keller Williams, Friday, May 25, Moonshine Stage, 2:45 – 3:45
Keller Williams Summer Camp 2012

Keller Williams is a one man show, like no other. He plays guitar, bass, and brings digital programming and loops into the mix, including layers of harmony vocals he’s built in advance. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen him play. He’s incredibly interesting to watch – especially considering it’s just one dude, and he doesn’t even bite a bat’s head off or anything to keep the crowd entertained.

You can listen to the whole set over at the Live Music Archive by clicking the link above. My two personal favorites were “Freaker By The Speaker” and “Doobie In My Pocket”, both of which I’ve seen him play before. They both brought smiles to my face.

It was during Keller’s set that our strategy for staying cool and properly enjoying the festival came together. Which is odd, because we’ve done this before. My theory is that the sheer number of stages threw us off. There were just so many fuckin’ stages at this festival. In fact, it’s one of the things Summer Camp promotes – how many bands and how many stages they have. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. Way too much movement required.

In any event, our strategy became: Whenever we decamped and headed for a stage, we brought our lawn chairs, a small cooler, our camera gear, and set up camp at every stage, before the show we were there to see. Then I would head up to the photo pit, take a few shots, while Sab kept the new base camp under control. So we didn’t exactly do this for Keller, but we found the shadiest spot to kick it, far back from the stage, but still with good sight lines and audio coverage. [More photos of Keller Williams at Summer Camp]

Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio, Friday, May 25, Sunshine Stage, 5:00 – 6:15
Weir, Robinson, Greene Trio at Summer Camp 2012

Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. And the should-be-more-famous Jackie Greene. Now touring together as an acoustic trio. I hadn’t seen them together before, so they were high on my list of bands to see. They started things off with “Truckin'”, a common and loved show starter for the Grateful Dead and the bands that have come after – Furthur, RatDog, Phil and Friends, etc.

The rest of the set – all hour and a half – was a mix of songs that I would have killed to see at a Ratdog or Furthur. “West LA Fadeaway” was one of the highlights for me. They creep into the song. On “When I Paint My Masterpiece”,  Greene plays mandolin. Outstanding.

The idea for the trio likely grew out of the Furthur and Friends show for Phil’s 70th birthday, which saw Greene and Robinson joining Furthur to amp up the celebration. In fact, I saw them do New Speedway Boogie at both shows. An acoustic Boogie was a treat. Jackie Greene is the multi instrumentalist in the band. In addition to rhythm and lead guitar, he plays mandolin and the occasional harmonica. Weir and Robinson stick to acoustic guitar. And, obviously, they all do vocals – harmonies on the choruses, and they mostly take turns on singing the verses. This one is also available on the Live Music Archive (link above). [More photos of Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio at Summer Camp]

MathGames, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 12:00 – 1:00
MathGames at Summer Camp 2012

I’d seen MathGames once before. The first time was at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They had Ray White with them then, and they covered Frank Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights”. They had the same uniforms on – some sort of white coveralls that couldn’t have been comfortable to be playing in the Chillicothe heat. My son had his tonsils out the other day, and now I’m pretty sure they’re wearing the same thing my son’s mom wore to observe the beginning of the surgery – at least until the boy was sedated. Anyway, maybe one of them is a surgeon in his day job?

I don’t know quite how to classify MathGames’ music. There’s jazz in there, a hefty dose of progressive rock, minus the choruses and verses.  Space age jazz rock? No, four words is too many… Space jazz? Not quite right, either. I give up. For now, I’ll just describe the band. Fareed Haque is the driving force behind the band. He’s a unique and respected jazz guitar player, steeped in the 80s jazz fusion, and now a music professor in Illinois. Two younger Chicago musicians making up the rhythm section – Alex Austin on bass, and Greg Fundis on drums. And a new, permanent (?) addition to the band, Jesse Clayton on keyboards, coming to the band from Ann Arbor’s own Macpodz.

The good news is that I found a video of MathGames at Summer Camp. Prepare yourself for some, um, space prog…? Yeah, that doesn’t work either. Just watch the video!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJdFnAQPlX8&w=560&h=315]

[More photos of MathGames at Summer Camp]

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 1:30 – 2:30
JC Brooks at Summer Camp 2012

For both MathGames and JC Brooks, we managed to score the best seats in the house. A gracious beer vendor had set up a sun shelter, and since no one was using it, we set up camp there for a couple of hours. The chairs, the beer cooler, etc. Plus shade in the noonday sun. Which was brutal! Brutal, I say!

But it was all worth it. Brooks is a charismatic frontman, and The Uptown Sound is a tight, accomplished band. Brooks has some stories to tell, and he weaves them through the songs in their set list. “I Got High”, for example.

Their Wilco cover – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is outstanding. They turn the song in a completely different direction.  And it was the song I was really looking forward to hearing (we highlighted a version in our Summer Camp Music Sampler, you might recall). JC and the band funk it up a bit, and JC pulls the heartache in the song fully to the surface (the Wilco version hides it behind a lot of thrashing guitar riffs and noise).

Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of their set, which is very frustrating. They have a liberal taping policy, so I kind of expected it out there. No YouTube videos, either! They are a band you’ll want to see if they come to your neck of the woods. [More photos of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Summer Camp]

Common, Saturday, May 26, Sunshine Stage, 4:15 – 5:15
Common at Summer Camp 2012

Common was at the top of my list of bands to see. I don’t get to see enough live hip hop, and I thought a festival would be the perfect environment for it. And I’ve been a huge fan of Common’s since I saw him with Kanye West on the Dave Chappelle show. His new record, The Believer/The Dreamer, is great. He played a few songs from that, but otherwise wove through catalogue highlights from the last 10 years or so of his work. He had a drummer, a keyboard player, and a DJ on stage with him.

Common used the length of the stage to engage the audience and drive his verses home. And the crowd loved him! There were enough hardcore Common fans to pack the stage area, from the soundboard forward. I was amazed at all the people spitting out the verses with Common, too. I mean, I know parts of verses from the Common records I have. But even if I knew them by heart, I don’t think I could get my mouth to move that fast, and if I did, I’d run out of breath before I got through a single verse. But it was really cool to see the crowd rocking with Common like that. I vote for more hip hop artists at festivals.

PS: Towards the end of the set, he said “lookout for the new album, coming soon” and he rattles off some of the people involved, starting off with Kanye West. Which could be good.

Another bonus from the YouTubes. Here’s Common doing a freestyle over a slice of the beat for “Otis” from Watch The Throne.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egRXPUbl9Ok&w=560&h=315]

[More photos of Common at Summer Camp]

Anders Osborne, Saturday, May 26, Campfire Stage, 5:00 – 6:00
Anders Osborne at Summer Camp 2012

I’d only heard of Anders Osborne recently, via Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and their work together recreating The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers. So I didn’t know any of his solo work going in, but the Sticky Fingers work impressed me enough that I circled him on my festival schedule. I’m glad I did, because he was the best discovery of the festival for me.

Osborne played right after Common over at the Campfire Stage, so we had to decamp and move quickly to catch his set. What we heard was just great rock n roll. Well crafted songs writ large by a three piece band, with extended soloing over a rugged rock n roll terrain. Neil Young through the filter of New Orleans. Sort of. What was interesting is that he just released a new album at the beginning of May – Black Eye Galaxy – and he didn’t play a single song from it. Just one song from his album before that, American Patchwork. The song was “I Got Your Heart”, my personal favorite from that album (which I bought, along with the new one, when I got back from Summer Camp). He introduced it this way:

“Alright. Here’s a little song I wrote for my wife when I was in rehab last.”

Lucky for us, someone captured a few songs from their set on video, and posted it to YouTube. Here’s one, for the song “Burning On The Inside”. About 4:20 into the clip, Osborne starts playing this riff that builds into a nice solo, with good support from Eric Bolivar (drums) and Carl Dufrene (bass).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI2AqRQ7W20&w=560&h=315]

[More photos of Anders Osborne at Summer Camp]

Summer Camp Music Festival: MP3 Sampler

Summer Camp Music Festival

This summer, we’re sending a GLONO crew to camp out and cover at least three music festivals. The first will be the 12th annual Summer Camp Music Festival, in Chillicothe, IL over Memorial Day Weekend (All Good and Hoxeyville are also on the list).

The line up for Summer Camp is really exciting. Over 100 bands over three days, across five different stages. Jane’s Addiction and Common are the two artists I’m most excited about. Unfortunately, neither artist currently lets their fans tape shows and upload them to the Live Music Archive (LMA). However, a lot of other bands playing at Summer Camp do let their fans tape shows and upload them to the LMA. In honor of Summer Camp, we’ve selected 13 songs – a baker’s dozen – from the LMA by these artists for your enjoyment. Each song is another reason you should consider going to Summer Camp (if you haven’t signed up already…). So bake away, my friends. Bake away, and give the tracks below a listen.

1. Cornmeal – “Slip Slidin’ Away”. Great Paul Simon song. “I know a man / He lives in my home town / He wears his passion for his woman like a thorny crown.” I’ve always loved that verse. Full show: March 14, 2012 – WOW Hall, Eugene, OR

2. Fareed Haque & MathGames (Feat. Ray White) – “City of Tiny Lights”. This is a great audience recording of a smoking version of “City of Tiny Lights”. Ray White used to sing this song with the Zappa band, and reprises that role here. His vocals are still amazing. They do “Pusherman” at this show, too, with White on vocals. Full show: April 8, 2011 – Quixote’s True Blue, Denver, CO

3. G. Love & Special Sauce – “Back of the Bus”. I remember these guys from back in the day, when I was a kid, and their hot-at-the-time single, “Cold Beverage”. It looks like they’ve continued recording since then, and have become a staple on the festival circuit. And G. Love is down with the Live Music Archive. Full show: February 29, 2012 – Domino Room, Bend, OR

4. Greensky Bluegrass – “Handguns”. I’ve linked to covers by Greensky before. This is the first original I’ve linked to, which is also the title track to their latest record, Handguns. Full show: March 31, 2012 – Asheville Music Hall, Asheville, NC

5. JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. A really interesting interpretation of this Wilco track. The rest of show is good, too. Very excited about seeing these guys (full disclosure: bass player is the brother of a good friend). Full show: March 27, 2012 – The Mint, Los Angeles, CA

6. Keller Williams – “Uncle Disney”. Keller is like no other. Always a great set from Keller when I see him. Full show: April 7, 2012 – Gondola Plaza, Steamboat Springs, CO

7. Lotus – “Disappear in a Blood Red Sky”. Wow. Really digging this band. Excited to see them play. Full show: March 16, 2012 – Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL

8. Michael Franti & Spearhead – “Hello Bonjour”. This track is from their 2006 record Yell Fire. It’s one of the better quality Franti audience recordings I came across, too. Full show: June 4, 2011 – Mountain Jam VII, Hunter, NY

9. moe. – “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'”. Interesting cover of this Rolling Stone classic. moe. will be playing three shows at the festvial. Full show: March 25, 2012 – La Salumeria della Musica, Milan, IT

10. The Ragbirds – “Romanian Train Song”. These guys are from Ann Arbor. They’re like gypsy rock or something. A unique sound. They just released their 4th album early this year, and we’ll be seeing them at Hoxeyville this summer, too. March 23, 2012 – The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI

11. Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars – “I’m Not a Fool”. Never heard of these guys before, but based on this song alone, they should play a great set. This song is from one of the three shows they have on Live Music Archive right now. Coincidentally, it’s from 4/20 last year. Full show: April 20, 2011 – Crosstown Station, Kansas City, MO

12. Umphrey’s McGee – “Reelin’ in the Years”. One of my all time favorite songs, by one of my all time favorite bands. Have Fagen and Becker ever written/released a bad song? Answer: No. Umphrey’s will also be doing three shows at the festival. Full show: January 7, 2012 – Revolution Live, Fort Lauderdale, FL

13. Yonder Mountain String Band – “After Midnight”. Yes, that “After Midnight”. The one written by J.J. Cale, and made famous by Eric Clapton. Bluegrassified here without losing its edge. Full Show: April 4, 2012 – The Lyric, Oxford, MS