Summer Camp Music Festival 2008 – Part 1


DAY I – 05/22 – 05/23

I sit in the wake of the Flaming Lips performance at 11:30 p.m., sheltered by the shadows and silhouettes of the passing Summer Camp patrons on my tent. The first day has been quite the experience with many stories to tell. The village that is Summer Camp has proven to have a will and testament that is going to solider on through any rain or storm.

We entered the camp ground around six in the evening on Thursday and the first mental note I ingested came from the organization of parking. Because this festival is so much smaller in attendees in comparison to larger festivals like Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN or 10k Lakes in Detroit Lakes, MN, the cohesive manner in which everything is ran is quite outstanding. The years of experience from past Summer Camps have helped more considerably than I give credit, but thus far, the crew seem to be handling everything well.

Unlike Langerado 2008 and Wakarusa, you do not park next to your vehicle. For that reason, the immediate organization of cars has helped immensely, with more than enough decorative signs to aid the new festival attendee. I must share, if you want the first inside scoop it would be for me to say ARRIVE ON THE FIRST DAY! Due to our Thursday arrival, we found a (thus far) great camping spot, although Mr. Landsman’s tent is filling with water. Oh yes…

The community awoke to an ongoing steady stream of rain; however, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, always giving proof to what a gentleman and showman he is, promptly preformed his sound check at about 11 this morning. Amidst the showers, the band persevered in playing a Zeppelin cover to a crowd of about 100 dedicated fans, baron festival market and tents hidden in the recess shade of trees.

We emerged from our tent to an enthusiastic romp on the Camping stage, The Vessel tearing through the air that was now free of rain. I made sure to pay steady attention to the Summer Camp Festies that were making the first entry into the campground. During the morning, the Trolley circled on continual 10-minute clockwork and with the rain clear the service ran faster.

Walking through the land, after a 12 hour-long rain, I began taking note of the Greeness Factor! The port-o-johns by 2 had already been through a much needed cleaning, and the dirty bodies fresh of morning rain or previous night mud wrestling, were taking good advantage of the available $3 showers and nicely spaced rest areas.

moe., although on Friday afternoon, is considered the official festival opener and at 1:30 p.m., the House Band did not disappoint, playing to the hardcore fan base that has supported their growth not just here, but at moe.Down and through their nationwide tour consistency.

The Lee Boys, hitting the Sunshine stage at 3, did not fail in reviving the Holy Ghost. With Roosevelt…Rosie… slappin that damn slide guitar with a wrist sass like Robert Randolph or any gospel trained heavy slider for the matter, the band delivered their usual sing along lyrics based over standard blues and funk riffs. The energy and charisma the Lee Boys posses is what makes them an enduring festival favorite.

Only drifting to Tea Leaf Green for a moment to catch the well energized and nicely attended space after the moe. crowd left their garbage, I returned to see the Avett Brothers do what I consider one of the most outstanding festival performances ever. The Avett Brothers quartet is made up of an upright bass, cello, banjo and guitar (occasional drum when Seth Avett switches instruments). The vocal harmonies delivered by both Seth and Scott were nothing short of beautiful and rich with grit, grime and soul. A throwback, reminiscent of coal miners or old railroad, American songbook tunes from a period gramophone, the Avett Brothers revive a spirit and authenticity that many festival goers were not prepared for, but were sure happy they found. Passion, family pride and a profound understanding of musical composition can be the only foundation for the experience taken during an Avett performance. The modern vocals with wailing shout that places you in an Irish pub without the fighting, makes this band a solid force to be reckoned.

We marched our way over to STS9 at the Moonshine stage and as usual the boys were bumping. I was not at all worried but interested to dance and flow with a STS9 set that was only an hour and a half, but that makes no difference especially when profound moments happen. At exactly 6:46 p.m., during the conclusion of a song and uproar of scream and shouting, the gloomy, overcast clouds of the day broke to reveal the warmth and countenance of the sun above a perfect moment.

With the overwhelming variety of new music that is generally considered roots when categorized, the 7:00 p.m. set of Girl Talk on the Sunshine stage proved to be the break everyone didn’t know they needed. Bending samples from artists ranging from M.I.A. and Kia over loops from songs like Snoop Dogg’s 07 anthem “Sensual Seduction [Eruption],” Girl Talk (real name Gregg Gillis) made a smashing nationwide debut has the hottest DJ to see. The audience was strong wall to wall with dance, smiles and excitement for overall Top 40. I am sure older residents of the festival scene might not have been happy with hearing Jay-Z at a festival that celebrates almost the counterculture of mainstream music; nonetheless, it does have a place with many reasons supporting why we consider that echelons of music Pop-ular.

Day II -05/24

As the sun made the ascension above the horizon, the electric blue sky warmly embraced the festival with not a visible cloud in sight. The energy of the people, renewed with a better night sleep undisturbed by weather and the dried festival roads that held feet hostage in a muddy bind, allowed the take off of Day II to be effortless.

Honoring the beautiful sun crisp air first were the bass thumping progressions from Janis of the Family Groove Company. With the sun riding high over our heads at 1:00 p.m., FGC was the first indicator that ‘every-ting was gunna be alright!’ Reviving the funk initiated by the Lee Boys almost 22 hours prior, FGC melded the shoe sliding goodness of James Brown with a nasty keyboard and guitar continuum that was fed by band members Adam Lewis and Jordan Wilkow. I would love to see this band jam with RFW’s Hometown Gem band The Macpodz. With the addition of our hometown trumpeter and xylophonist, some sweet retro dance possibilities could occur.

I ran into an old friend by the name of Busy Bill/Dolla Billa/However You Will/Da Real Deal, an old Festie that has toured alongside the greats of the jam scene like Trey Anastasio, Umphrey’s McGee and many more. Finding out he would be raging near the Sunshine stage, I decided to meander over to see what Lotus would be talking about post FGC set. As usual – Lotus delivered a powerful line up of tunes although I do prefer them under the shade of night. It is then that I think the lights and ambiance can really place you in the frame of mind to indulge upon the live experience of this band.

We gathered footage of the fantastic, vocally charged Blind Melon set and didn’t get the G. Love & Special Sauce performance we were hoping for. We have seen Mr. Love and band more than a combined 10 times; however, this performance was overall weak in charge and lacked the spontaneity and freshness of some of his others. It could have been much worse, but overall – solid.

Outside of the two sets of moe., the Must See sets of Saturday lived up to hype. The anticipated performance by The Roots definitely changed my mind about the band, reassuring me that they are capable of crowd pleasing, confident and enduring performances in contrast to the … that was Langerado 2008. O.A.R. held up to being the fan favorite talk has built them to become. Like 311, this group simply knows how to run a show, beginning to end, alternating between the appropriate amount of audience chat and instrumental jamming.

Day III – 05/25

And so we face… the final curtain. The festival has been memorable and as we wrap our extensive coverage of this year Summer Camp 2008, the gloomy clouds of mischievous weather loom over our heads, making sure we walk with tact and care. I like to think of it as an omen to come that somehow is reinforcing that we enjoy each moment of pleasant nature around us.

Backyard Tire Fire was our first performance in attendance and the band pulled the hidden residents of the festival from their tents. Beginning with upbeat, older tunes, the band didn’t initially showcase Ed Andersons songwriting or vocals, but their musical ability to not wane so much as country, roots music, but a modern blues based ensemble that has added personal inflections of southern rock and folk with their melodies.

The Macpodz were the next set to see, making us proud to be representing our great state of Michigan. Pulling many songs from their smash album Genius Food For Superheroes, they brought down the house with their signature flute and vocals on “You Got Me.” A rather mild jam session occurred when they brought on horns from Lynch to accompany a tune, but something didn’t seem to right about our MI trumpeter in the Podz. We feel he did not rise to the challenge everyone else seemed to charismatically live up too.

Catching the tale end of Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, we eagerly sat on our tired bones and awaited the entry of our final hyped performance of the day (other than moe. of course) – George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Having witnessed the power of George and family, I can assure you that the funk was indeed brought. With all the off-record quality I cannot share with you ;-)

As Clinton’s performance continued, the sun broke through the morning overcast and illuminated the grass and Festies with the sunshine we were craving on our final day together. The temperatures steadily were on the rise and many took advantage of the time to buy band paraphernalia or indulge in the ice cream available for purchase from several vendors. By the final set of moe., the entire congregation came together under the star speckled sky of night and held each other for the last commune of Summer Camp 2008.

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