Summer Camp Music Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary last weekend at Chillicothe, Illinois' Three Sisters Park. The Midwest electronic and jam gathering was initially postponed from 2020 to 2021, then later rescheduled its annual Memorial Day celebration to mid-August. Despite the high temperatures and relentless humidity, the festival saw its highest attendance to date, bringing 25,000 Scampers to get down to sets by GRiZ, Tipper, STS9, REZZ, The Floozies, CloZee, Emancipator, Boogie T and more throughout its four-day event.
While some music festivals cater to a specific genre and community of fans, Summer Camp Music Festival understands there's a big overlap between live music fans and genres of music. While the festival is centered in jamband roots and is hosted by Umphrey’s McGee and moe., organizers acknowledge the diverse set of sound and foster an environment of community and music discovery.
"Our motto is if it’s good, genre doesn’t matter," a member of Summer Camp Music Festival's management team told EDM.com. "We can have Willie Nelson and Skrillex on the same festival and know that our fans will appreciate it. Our goal is to create a community of music lovers, and we hope all who come will check out new music and continue to get turned on to things they may not have otherwise been exposed to."
And discover we did. With its sparkling 20th celebration, Summer Camp Music Festival blended music communities together across nine stages for a fiery weekend full of top-notch music.
Thursday, August 19th: Music As Blazing As The Illinois Sun
While the Thursday Pre-Party was supposed to help spread out the arrival and check-in process for attendees, most of the day was spent in car parking lines and security checkpoints for hours under the blazing sun. Those who were lucky enough to get in on time snagged all the limited shaded woods camping spots while others set up camps in the festival's notably hot fields, whether it be in a tent or more comfortable RV.
The setting sun welcomed all the Pre-Party attendees to venture out for the first dose of music for the weekend. Electronic duo GoodSex spun some genre-spanning tracks on the Starshine stage at 6PM while Lettuce kicked off the Sunshine Stage.
The six-piece group Biomassive set up an impressive performance over on the Campfire Stage, perfectly pairing the electronic and rock communities together by transitioning through melodic, danceable jams with funky sub bass textures.
A cooler but humid evening saw a fierce set by DOGMA, before The Floozies played their first of three funky electro sets of the weekend. Summer Camp veteran Manic Focus lit up Starshine for a classic DJ set, cycling through fiery remixes of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music” while also interpolating teases of Rage Against The Machine’s “Testify” and Phish’s “Tweezer” to send attendees off after a solid first night.
Friday, August 20th: Bluegrass and Bass
Friday’s shining sun awoke the pre-party attendees up bright and early to start the day as thousands more arrived onsite for the official start of the festival. Handpan, yoga, and holistic medicine, mushroom, and glass blowing workshops set up an insightful and immersive experience over in the Soulshine Lounge and SOULPATCH.
While Break Science had to cancel their midday set due to a COVID-19 exposure from a member of the duo, the group's Borahm Lee teamed up with Manic Focus for a special Manic Science set over on the Starshine Stage.
The two collaborated brilliantly, blending sonic elements from their respective projects to conjure up some bass magic. The two were even able to rework a sample of Pretty Lights’ “I Can See It In Your Face” and debut an original track.
Electronic and jamband fans saw conflicting overlapping sets during the early evening as The Floozies took back the Sunshine Stage at 5PM just before Buffalo, New York rockers Aqueous played out the Starshine Stage.
Thankfully, live electronic trio Chachuba helped make the decision a little easier as they headlined The GoodBus, the festival’s newest stage addition. Nestled in the Illumination Woods, Chachuba fueled the crowd surrounding the school bus-themed stage with their heavy and melodic guitar riffs, swirling synths, and funky rhythms. While The GoodBus served as a special woods retreat for the weekend, not even 200 feet away was the Illumination Stage that had bleeding bass and sound on overlapping set times.
A picturesque sunset set up the perfect scene for radiating bass on the Campfire Stage thanks to Boogie T.rio while Emancipator wove sonic melodies through the crowd on the Starshine Stage. Accompanied by live violinist, Lapa, the “sleeping giant of the electronic music world” eased over his 60-minute set with an upbeat sunset vibe chock full of ambient melodies in “Chiefin,” “Goodness,” “Baraku” and the 9 Theory collab “Tangerine Sour.”
“[Performing onstage again] is like being underwater for two years and taking a huge breath of fresh air," Emancipator told EDM.com after his set. "It feels exhilarating to play music and vibe with fans again on a big festival stage. I feel incredibly grateful to be here and it feels good knowing that after all this time that people and the music are still here."
Changing pace, Denver-based producer Maddy O’Neal heated up the Starshine stage just several minutes after 9PM. Placed in the center of a three-tier projector stage, O’Neal interwove her upbeat basslines into catchy remixed lyrics. Her upbeat, hip-hop, and rhythm-based tempos highlighted her respected influence from Pretty Lights as she played through “Bangtown” and the CloZee collab “Zest Please.” Her turntable scratching rendered her a highlight of the weekend.
After checking out some acts on the various stages, it was evident that one of Friday night’s main headliners included string picker, Billy Strings. While the bluegrass musician isn’t quite in the electronic realm, Strings is the perfect example of the festival’s vision to merge music communities together to get down to what would be one of the most impressive sets of the weekend. Playing two sets back-to-back on the Moonshine stage, Strings summoned musical madness, merging bluegrass, electronic, and jam together for a Friday night throwdown.
The Grammy Award-winning musician’s second set opener “All Fall Down” mesmerized the crowd into a trance thanks to standing bass player Royal Masat's deep bass grooves and Strings' looping lyrics, similar to that of a psyche-trance show. Throughout his two sets, Strings played an electric acoustic guitar that further deepened the connection between genres among the stage’s psychedelic visuals. Through fiddle drops and roaring guitar melodies over heavy basslines, his performance was one of the best of the weekend.
On the other side of the festival, Boogie T and REZZ threw down spacey bass anthems before a special CloZee and LSDREAM performance was summoned on the Starshine Stage. Originally scheduled as an exclusive Red Barn show but rescheduled on a public stage, the two producers effortlessly mixed off each other’s own unique sound for a show-stopping performance. The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” and David Bowie’s “Fame” got quite the dubstep remix while Eiffel 65’s “Blue” received a fun inverted melody breakdown.
Although it was only an hourlong set, LSDREAM slipped in a song debut called “Moon Legs,” transporting attendees into a hyperspace rescue expedition and “dropping some science on these motherf*ckers” with historical space radio recordings, hyper-pitched synths, and filthy bass drops. CloZee eased up the scene with some light and airy harmonic melodies, ending the set on a reflective note with Supertask’s “Healing.”
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Over on the Sunshine Stage, Subtronics hosted thousands of fans for a round of heavy bass drops from 2 to 3AM. The late-night power hour was complete full of originals, a Ganja White Night remix, and a 10-minute drum & bass sequence.
Saturday, August 21st: Let The Games Begin
What's summer camp without a little fun and games? Saturday’s shenanigans got moving in the early afternoon with the 10th anniversary Field Day games. Dozens of Scampers competed to win the team championship title against tug-o-war, giant twister, dodgeball, and an eating contest. Those who weren't quite the MVP found solace from the cloudier skies until SunSquabi brought a large crowd at 3PM.
The funky scene full of electro twists and synths jived up the mood to carry us into the evening with a Boombox set at 6PM on the Starshine stage. The duo layed down some soulful house and funk tracks during their live instrumental performance.
It wasn't until STS9's Saturday sunset set that truly showcased the beauty of the weekend. Gathering nearly 5,000 Scampers to the Sunshine Stage at 7:30PM, the Summer Camp alumni five-piece jam electronica group played a nine-song set over 90 minutes perfectly paired to the setting sun. The scene took attendees on a sonic journey from day to night, kicked off with a hard and heavy “Menacer," while the group sequenced into an extended 12-minute jazzy rendition of “Wika Chikana." The darkening sky lead to a sultry jam in “Dusk" and “Big Basin” before the sparkling synths of “Kamuy” rounded out the band’s performance.
Ending just in time for the start of Marvel Years’ set on the Starshine Stage at 9PM, the glitch-hop producer lit up the far side of the festival with a remix of The Who’s classic rock track “Eminence Front.” Merging electronic and rock sonic spectrums, his hourlong set got a large crowd dancing to his original tracks and fun remixes as a full moon started to rise over the horizon.
Lit up by the full moon, the Illumination Woods housed 21-year-old producer Chomppa as he sent goosebumps down our spine with his chilling basslines among the florescent psychedelic forest landscape. Just minutes after, you could hear Manic Focus take to the Starshine Stage not too far away for his final set of the weekend, this time equipped with his live drummer and guitarist. The trio served as another key element of the festival's mission to blend genres together as they surged through renditions of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” and a new song, which included a distorted David Attenborough intro banter.
CloZee placed the cherry on top of Saturday night with her enchanting late-night spectacle over on the Sunshine Stage. Her set carried the crowd until 2AM with her worldly and tribal bass drops, complete with her Apashe remix "Majesty" and a fun dubstep remix of Lenny Kravitz’ “American Woman."
Sunday, August 22nd: Never Miss A Sunday Show
Amid the ongoing heat for four consecutive days, Summer Camp attendees woke up with the attitude of “never miss a Sunday show” and prevailed through the sun. Day time sets by bluegrass icons Keller Williams and Yonder Mountain String Band brought fans out into the Sunday sunshine for boot stompin’ sets while others sought out shaded hammocks in the Illumination Woods with acoustic guitarist Daniel Rodriguez.
The evening quickly arrived just as Dopapod took to the Starshine Stage at 6PM. The genre-blending electro groove quartet got the crowd dancing to their set opener “Trapper Keeper” as keyboardist Eli Winderman set up a frenzied dance party with digitalized laser key melodies.
As the sun went down, the anticipation for Sunday night's headlining sets with live scratching producer Tipper and hard rock band Ween were high.
Tipper's musicianship and live production is definitely respected, but his small visual backdrop portraying his iconic psychedelic-merging visuals and low energy in the crowd can't be left unsaid. His live scratching is nearly unmatched in today’s live electronic performances, but his lack of stage presence and interaction with the crowd resulted in a wildly overhyped and sub-par set at best.
Detox Unit thankfully revived the vibe with his stunning set at the Starshine Stage at 10:15 just before Cofresi lit up the Illumination Stage at 11PM. Pushing the boundaries of his music performance, Cofresi radiated energy from the wooded stage with his live drumming and mixed elements of live instrumental horns and hip-hop. The set showcased his versatile sound with his well-received remixes of The Chordettes “Mr. Sandman” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” before slipping in some smooth jazz elements. His musicianship and energy onstage highlighted Cofresi as one of the best non-headlining sets of the weekend.
Nearby, G Jones took over the Sunday headlining closing set on the Starshine Stage that was originally booked for Shpongle. While he knew some festival attendees were disappointed with the reschedule, his fiery bass drops and warped rhythms took fans on a midnight ride that definitely made up for it.
Closing out the 20th celebration was none other than electro-funk producer GRiZ. With Sunday’s total attendance dominating 25,000 people, GRiZ’s set was the biggest and brightest of the weekend. Pride flags and rainbow-themed attire flooded the Sunshine Stage for what would be an insane funk fusion dance party. The producer serenaded the crowd with his sultry saxophone playing over soulful funk bass waves, and even brought out double horn players and powerhouse rapper Chrishira Perrier for celebratory performances of “Juicy,” “I Like That,” and “Rainbow Brain.”
As a Summer Camp Music Festival favorite, GRiZ treated fans to a new song equipped with wompy bass and kaleidoscopic lasers. The crowd emanated with love as the producer chanted “Show love, spread love” to end the festival in high spirits.
High off of the love and community spirits, the Illumination Woods served as the late-night spot for a lot of the festival attendees for a quiet come-down retreat. While some found solace in the psychedelic-adorned woods, others continued the party at the festival’s first ever Frick Frack Blackjack cash-less casino for some late-night gambling.
“We are so proud of the family of supporters we have built over the years who continue to get the experience that is Summer Camp Music Festival and all it brings,” the festival's management team told EDM.com. “The love and support of the artists, fans, and staff that have all put so much into this event over the years is what truly makes it special.”
Check out our full gallery from the 20th anniversary Summer Camp Music Festival below, courtesy of Alpine Music Photo.