2012 Summer Camp – Where Musical Memories Are Made

Summer Camp 2012 - remember that one time, at band camp?
by Sal Serio
April 2012

Aerial photo of Summer Camp 2011 - photo by Jason Kaczorowski

Aerial photo of Summer Camp 2011
photo by Jason Kaczorowski

Ah, Summer Camp. Two words that kickstart memories of canoe races, archery, roasting marshmallows, painting t-shirts… hula hoops, glow sticks, and Jane’s Addiction. Wait, what?! Those last three don’t sound like the summer camp you remember? Then you must not have been to the Summer Camp Music Festival!

Now in it’s 12th season, Summer Camp is the brainchild of Jay Goldberg Events, JAM Productions, and the bands moe. and Umphrey’s McGee. Taking place near the Illinois River on Memorial Day weekend just outside the sleepy rural burg of Chillicothe, Illinois, this three day festival features an exceptional line-up of bands and artists from multiple genres, plus more fun activities than you can shake a tambourine at. In fact, it’s near impossible to take it all in!

What makes Summer Camp unique compared to many other multiple day camping/music festivals is the accessibility factor. Unlike Bonnaroo, you can walk from one end of the festival grounds to the other in about 15 minutes. So, if there’s a time slot where three of your favorite bands are playing at the same time, the industrious camper could actually take in some of all three sets, and not burn themselves out in the endeavor! Add into this the numerous musician workshops, environmental education opportunities, arts and crafts sessions, non-profits, and yum-yum-yummy food vendors, and you’ve got a weekend to mark on your calendar every year!

Speaking of the environment, a super cool and inspirational aspect of Summer Camp is obvious in their greening and recycling initiatives. This event is truly taking action to reduce it’s carbon footprint. Every year the Green Team volunteers help to keep the site clean and try to eliminate the impact that the festival has on Mother Earth. Color coded recycling, compost, and landfill bins are conveniently located throughout the grounds, and the festival organizers require all vendors to use compostable materials.

The electricity at Summer Camp is powered by generators which use a fuel called B20, a mix of 20% biodiesel, as compared to the previous standard of merely 5%. The festival’s organizers worked in cooperation with Caterpillar to approve the B20 mixture, and as a result, B20 fuel can now be used anywhere Caterpillar generators are providing electrical power!

Summer Camp partners with the Green Mountain Energy Company to calculate and track it’s carbon dioxide emissions, from the electricity used, to travel fuels, and onsite vehicle and generator emissions. After the 2011 event it was determined that their greening efforts resulted in offsetting approximately 265 metric tons of CO2, equivalent to not driving 650,000 miles, or recycling over 1.4 million aluminum cans!

While all this is indeed heart warming and exciting, of course it is the music and promise of a fun party that keeps the festival growing from year to year. This year’s headliners include three nights of moe. and Umphrey’s McGee, plus Jane’s Addiction, Primus, Bob Weir/Chris Robinson/Jackie Greene Trio, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Common, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Galactic, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Pretty Lights, to name but a few! Right there, you’ve got hard rock, funk, techno, hip hop, bluegrass, r&b, folk, reggae, and jams galore, not to mention the wealth of talent that will playing some of the side stages. Indeed, this reporter’s perspective from being a “Summer Camper” since 2005, is that a ton of exciting up and coming bands can be found on the smaller sites like the Camping Stage. In year’s past, I caught amazing sets by Cornmeal, Miles Nielsen, Fat Maw Rooney, Alan Vasquez, and Public Property on the smallest of the five stages. Heck, Chicago’s excellent hyperspeed jammy bluegrass outfit Cornmeal are now one of the biggest draws of the weekend, and you can guarantee that fiddle whiz Allie Kral will be sitting in with as many bands as she can possibly fit into her schedule.

There’s still a homegrown intimate feeling to Summer Camp as well, even though it’s grown to over 15,000 attendees. In year’s past I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with members of moe., Particle, Cornmeal, and whoever else may be wandering around the grounds. With so much talent packed into a few days, even the band members want to get out and check out the other sets and various happenings!

One thing to clue you in to, which to some may be letting the cat out of the bag (but really it’s common knowledge) is that it makes sense to show up early by attending the Thursday Pre-Party. What’s that? A pre-party I say? You heard me right. For all practical purposes, this is a four day event even though it’s advertised as three. The prime campsites go to the early birds, and Thursday is now as happening as the rest of the weekend. Another thing to be aware of is that you’ll need to transport your camping gear from the field where you’ll park, to the festival grounds, and this can involve some physical exertion. I’d recommend investing in a wagon or some other wheeled device to pull your coolers, tents, chairs, and whatnot in to the grounds. It’s a little bit of a hike from the parking area to the campsites, and you’ll also need to go through a security checkpoint where the friendly staff checks for contraband. Beer and alcohol is sold onsite, so don’t try to sneak it in, you hear? I’m just sayin’!

So those are the facts, and any other details (including where to purchase tickets) can be found at summercampfestival.com – to me, this is “the” musical event of the year, and the 2012 line-up is extraordinary! Don’t forget your warmer clothes, rain gear, and rubbers! You never know what kind of weather the Midwest has in store for late May. See you by the soundboard!

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