So I realize it's only January, and it's a little early to start thinking about May when we still have the dreary Illinois winter to look forward to. But on Memorial Day weekend, a community of people from all over the country make a pilgrimage to Three
Sisters Park in Chillicothe for three days of sizzling music of every genre under the sun: Summer Camp Music Festival. I went
for the first time last year, and since the day I got back I've been counting the days to return to that campground.
The excitement of Summer Camp is palpable from the moment you get in the car to head to the park. The anticipation once you get parked in the rows and rows of vehicles is at a fever pitch as people struggle with their tents and bags, wanting more than anything to drop them and sprint for the stages to meet up with friends from previous years. Music is playing on the loudspeakers before the shows start, and you stop for some great food on the way to find a campsite through the tent city. You start to see the decor get weird as
you get further in, and you get that feeling deep in your chest, when you feel the connection with everyone and know what the weekend
ahead holds. The wait is almost over....
Fast forward one hour, and the music has exploded out over the campground. The sheer variety is enough to satisfy fans of any style of music. The first round of artists was announced a little over a month ago, and aside from headliners moe. and Umphrey's McGee (3 days of each, that alone could be its own festival), the Summer Camp lineup includes but is not limited to two full sets from the deliciously experimental Trey Anastasio Band, Keller Williams' acoustic jazzfunk, the electro-jazz duo Big Gigantic, returning jam-tronica juggernauts STS9, and up-and-coming jam-band powerhouse Old Shoe. This lineup alone has secured the attention of the Summer Camp faithful, and the buzz is starting to build up steam on the Summer Camp Facebook page.
Honestly, I thought getting my ticket would calm me down, because at least now I know that I'm going for sure, but it really only made it worse waiting for it. Just the thought of walking past the Red Barn into the campground gives me chills. I think about when the sun starts to set on Friday night, when Umphrey's McGee takes the stage and the crowd starts to get strange, wonderful, and electric. You wander through the night guided by the music through the trees and a thousand lights of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And the music never stops. Other artists on the bill include bluegrass legends Cornmeal, purveyors of the funk Lettuce, the laid-back yet intense swagger of Family Groove Company, perennial facemelters Brainchild, and the whiskey-soaked, lightning fast stomp of Yonder Mountain String Band. With over 60 more artists still to be announced, you can be sure it'll leave no music fan unhappy.
So again, I realize it's only January. There's a long time until that magical weekend, the kickoff of festival season. Last year blew me away, and this year, whether it's a dust bowl or mud up to our knees, already has me chomping at the bit.