Chicago’s Summer Camp festival


text: Alex Gavin

Well folks here we are, the budding beginnings of May. The birds are a-chirping, flowers be blooming and throngs of homeless people have surfaced from their winter hideouts to occupy the streets once again. Remnants of human cocoons line the boulevard as patios pack with people laughing, brunchers brunching. Seasons are changing, and I am not talking about winter to spring. Hell no. We are jumping from indoor-venue time to straight up Festival Season.

Can’t you smell it in the air? The dewy grass, glistening sunscreen residue and clouds of marijuana smoke. Pure magic. It is proven science that birds don’t return from the south just to avoid the cold. They migrate back to snack on leftover funnel cake morsels and listen to some damn music.

Don’t you question God’s plan. It’s Festival Season.

For the Julian calendar enthusiasts out there dedicated to the traditional winter-spring-summer-fall paradigm, here is some history:

Festival Season is the special time of year when people shed the creature comforts of their apartments to flood the world’s rural towns for an extended period of general ballyhooing. Humans go at it raw, and outside of the occasional hotel-esque RV and portable shower unit, it’s just a variety of  people getting together to make a memory.

If you’ve never experienced a four-day bender in a middle-of-nowhere-place to enjoy a few bands you love and twenty more that you’ll learn to, please do yourself a favor and do so. Everyone could use better stories.

One of the season’s earliest and most promising attractions of 2012’s Festivus goes down Memorial Day weekend in Chillicothe, IL. Yes – Chillicothe is the actual name of the town. It’s a place destined for music festival stardom since settlers decided: “Hey, let’s name it Chillicothe.” Obvious “chill” puns be damned, the festival is called Summer Camp, and even though it takes place a few weeks before the solstice (May 25-27, 2012), the name rings true in its reality.

For a four-day Memorial Day weekend of unknown pleasures, thousands of people flock upon central Illinois to camp in the fields of Middle America. I can’t think of a better way to memorialize defenders of our personal freedom than forgoing personal hygiene for 72 hours in a celebration of all things worth celebrating. Here’s to you Grandpa! Thanks for storming that beach.

But as we all know, this type of freedom isn’t free. Admission will run you about 200 bucks (tickets available here), but we guarantee it will be well worth it.

Summer Camp is an annual party anchored by four nights of headlining performances from longtime kings of the jam scene, Umphree’s McGee and more. Think of it as your childhood summer camp, but some girls have armpit hair and you have to be careful not to take the bunk acid.

Outside of the headliners, the rest of the lineup is pretty much a beautiful toss up. Summer Camp does an excellent job of incorporating a consistent yet diverse slice of today’s scene.

A lot of times music festivals pigeonhole themselves by catering to one particular genre, and even though it can definitely be qualified as a jam-heavy experience, the likes of Common and Janes Addiction round out the edges of a particularly enigmatic lineup.

There are almost too many bands to go into, so we will just cut to the chase by sharing our expected plan of attack:

Thursday: Spare Parts, Cornmeal, Team Bayside High, Future Rock

Friday: Keller Williams, Leftover Salmon, Ozomatli, BoomBox, Gogol Bordello, Primus, Lotus

Saturday: 12th Planet, Gov’t Mule, Zeds Dead, Umphrey’s McGee (2nd set), moe.

Sunday: AraabMuzik, Victor Wooten, Pretty Lights, Jane’s AddictionQuarter

You can see the full schedule below here.

For first-time goers to an event like this, don’t go in looking like a rookie. From your friends at Quip, here are some Survival Tips:

  • There will be times throughout the weekend when the band will ask you if you’re ready to rock. There is only one answer: “YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” Any other response and you’ll just feel like an idiot.
  • 99% of people are awesome. 1% are assholes. Lock up your tent.
  • Drug dealers could be undercover cops. Just avoid that altogether.
  • Your cellphone won’t work 90% of the time. Think about that before you leave camp.
  • Through the course of the weekend, someone around you will pass out. This is your time to be a hero. Go for it.
  • Don’t feed the hippies.
  • Bottled water will be more valuable than Aztec gold.


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