Summer Camp Spotlight: Old Shoe

Summer Camp Spotlight: Old Shoe

The Midwest is home to a unique group of musicians. Some of the hardest working, kindest people I’ve met are the artists who crisscross the nation, face the unknown, and bring their music to a whole new audience. They’re living the dream, as far as I’m concerned. These people brighten our lives every day, and they’ve managed to carve out a piece of history for themselves in the annals of American song.

One such band is a group I’ve been seeing since 2012: Old Shoe (Matt Robinson – guitar, vocals, Paul Priest – guitar vocals, Dan Huber – bass, vocals, Joe Day – keys, vocals, Greg Fundis - drums, vocals). In the time I’ve seen them, they’ve gone from fledgling bar band regulars to a full-on musical force, taking their tour across the country to Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, and a little bit of everywhere in between (and sometimes farther away!). They’ve put together their own festival (the renowned Shoe Fest, held every Labor Day weekend in Manteno), and they have become mainstays at powerhouse fests such as Summer Camp and Wakarusa (RIP) among others, expanding their sound from barroom singalongs and funky-tonk jams to fully realized ethereal extended improvisation.

In addition, Old Shoe has shown their devotion to their craft by learning and performing in their entirety two of the most beloved studio albums in jam band culture: the Dead’s Terrapin Station and Phish’s Story of the Ghost, at the past two Shoe Fests. It takes an immense amount of rehearsal and diligence to pull off something like that, and I’ll never forget my brother’s face watching them play at his first festival.

Along that same line, one of the best things about an Old Shoe show is being there, seeing new fans with their jaws dropped, asking each other “Is this Old Shoe?!”. The way the Chicago five-piece moves effortlessly from straight up country to Delta blues, into delicate folk that bends and twists into surging electric jams, is absolutely hypnotic.

As I mentioned earlier, Old Shoe have a reputation for being generous, kind-hearted people, and nowhere is this more evident than the way they share their stage. Previous guests have included Chicago Farmer, Allie Kral, the Lowdown Brass Band, and many, many others. The Shoe boys like to see their friends succeed, and they seem to be of the opinion that when everyone has fun together, everyone wins. It’s really something to see when they get going.

These elements all come together to create a singular portrait of Midwest music: soulful, expansive, moody, thoughtful, bombastic, patient, bouncy, dirty. Their songs get stuck in your head, their shows electrify, and their crowd is excellent.

Next festival you’re at and you see Old Shoe on the bill, make sure they’re one of your must-sees for the weekend. These boys are not to be missed.

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