Over the years, Summer Camp Music Festival has acted like a camp counselor, watching attendees, artists, and even Three Sisters Park itself grow from summer to summer. Artists that began with daytime sets under the hot Chillicothe, IL sun at the Campfire Stage have risen through the ranks to become weekend headliners. With that long history of growth in mind, we decided to take a look back with the measuring stick and remember how far some of our favorite acts have come ahead of the 21st edition of Summer Camp Music Festival, back at its regular Memorial Day weekend home of May 27th–29th, 2022 [get tickets].
Before they played nightly headlining sets at the Sunshine Stage, Umphrey’s McGee started out as just another band on the lineup when making its SCamp debut in 2003. It was love at first fest, however, as Umphrey’s has returned to every Summer Camp since. Throughout the band’s 18-year history at the festival, it has played host to sit-ins by everyone from Taj Mahal to Gene Ween to Huey Lewis, who all came to pay their respects to the festival co-hosts.
In addition to serving beside moe. as the CEOs—Chief Entertainment Officers—Umphrey’s acts as a pillar of the festival. Ryan Stasik has been seen bright and early, organizing a massive kickball game at dawn for those early risers or late ragers. The bassist also chose last year’s Summer Camp as the place to debut his new punk/metal trio Death Kings with guitarist Mike Gantzer (Aqueous) and drummer Mikey Carruba (formerly of Turkuaz).
Let’s look back at Umphrey’s McGee’s rich SCamp history with selections from 2009, 2013, 2017, and last year.
5/23/09 – Set Two
“She Caught The Katy” (Blues Brothers) w/ Taj Mahal – 5/24/13
“In The Flesh” > “Another Brick In The Wall Part One” (Pink Floyd) – 5/26/17
8/21/21 – Set Two
Death Kings – “96 Quite Bitter Beings” (CKY) –8/22/21
[Video: Fuzzy Dunlop]
On the young buck side of the totem pole, there’s Aqueous, the other jam band from Buffalo, NY that isn’t moe. Since making its Summer Camp debut in 2014, the quartet has come back every year, returning bigger and better each time. From daytime sets over at the former Camping Stage to late-night throwdowns, Aqueous has rolled with all of the changes that Three Sisters has thrown at it. The band’s longstanding commitment to Summer Camp has not gone unnoticed either, as Aqueous has earned nods from hosts Vinnie Amico (moe.) and Joel Cummins (Umphrey’s McGee) who have dropped by to show their support.
Watch Aqueous develop with these clips from the band’s 2014 debut, a 2016 set, a guest-filled Steely Dan cover from 2017, a late-night Oysterhead cover from 2018, and a tribute to The Smashing Pumpkins from this past summer’s sunset performance.
“Eon Don” > “Timmy Blades” – 5/25/14
“Kitty Chaser (Explosions)” > “Origami” – 5/27/16
[Video: Instrumental Motion]
“Kid Charlemagne” (Steely Dan) w/ Vinne Amico, Joel Cummins – 5/25/17
“Pseudo Suicide” (Oysterhead) – 5/25/18
“Cherub Rock” (Smashing Pumpkins) – 8/20/21
[Video: Fuzzy Dunlop]
One of Summer Camp’s oldest and dearest friends is barefooted troubadour Keller Williams. Since headlining the second SCamp in 2002 alongside moe., ekoostik hookah, and Jazz Mandolin Project, Keller has missed the festival only once (in 2008). But it’s not just his near-perfect attendance record that makes Williams a can’t-miss set at the festival, it’s the way he is always trying out something new and exciting.
From greeting the early afternoon sun with his Grateful Grass to igniting feverish dance parties with KWahtro, Keller Williams has a set in store to start any party. Summer Camp has hosted special Pettygrass tributes to the late Tom Petty featuring Keller and The Hillbenders, as well as old-school throwback performances from WMDs, with Keller, Keith Moseley (The String Cheese Incident), Gibb Droll (Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers), and Jeff Sipe (Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit). Whether performing solo or with a whole group of friends, Keller always has something new in store for Summer Camp, including last year’s debut of his new KellerSquabi collaboration with liquid funk trio SunSquabi.
Check out a selection of Keller Williams clips including a 2009 solo set, his 2013 More Than A Little performance with special guests Victor Wooten and Jake Cinninger, a 2015 Grateful Grass show, and a 2017 late-night KWahtro cover of Joe Walsh‘s “Life’s Been Good”.
“Best Feeling” – 5/22/09
More Than A Little w/ Jake Cinninger, Victor Wooten – “West L.A. Fadeaway” (Grateful Dead) – 5/24/13
[Video: Toby Fairchild]
More Than A Litte w/ Victor Wooten – “More Than A Little” – 5/24/13
Grateful Grass w/ The Infamous Stringdusters – “Bertha” (Grateful Dead) – 5/22/15
KWahtro – “Life’s Been Good” (Joe Walsh) – 5/25/17
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
Though Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has performed only once at Summer Camp—in 2015—the band’s individual members have deep roots at the festival. The connection stretches back to 2004 when the Benevento/Russo Duo played at the third edition of the festival. Fast forward three years and singer/guitarist Tom Hamilton made his debut with Brothers Past. Hamilton boasts the most extensive Summer Camp resume, as he returned in 2014, 2015, and 2016 with his band American Babies.
The same year that JRAD made its debut, Marco Benevento returned with his solo outfit for a set and even got a little extra time on the Moonshine Stage when he joined moe. on a 23-minute “Meat”. Benevento would return again for another solo set in 2018. Bassist Dave Dreiwitz also made a trip to Three Sisters this past year for a gig with that other band he’s in, Ween. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead will make its long-awaited return to Summer Camp Music Festival this year.
Check out JRAD’s scattered Summer Camp history with these clips from its 2015 debut as well as performances from American Babies, moe. with Marco, and Ween.
American Babies – “West L.A. Fadeaway” (Grateful Dead) – 5/23/15
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” (Grateful Dead) – 5/23/15
moe. w/ Marco Benevento – “Meat” – 5/23/15
Ween – “The Grobe” – 8/22/21
[Video: The Stallion Mang]
This year, STS9 will join the esteemed Summer Camp Music Festival ten-timers club. It’s a lot like the Saturday Night Live ten-timers club, but instead of hanging out with Steve Martin and Martin Short, you can chill out with Keller Williams and Ryan Stasik. Since making its debut at the festival in 2008, the livetronica staple has made Summer Camp a regular stop. The group even released a concert film of its 2011 set, appropriately titled Live at the Summer Camp Music Festival.
In 2014 when bassist Alana Rocklin joined STS9, the band’s connection to Summer Camp grew even deeper. Rocklin revealed that this coming edition of the festival will mark her 21st time performing at the event, going all the way back to when she played the very first Summer Camp with her band The All Rectangle. Over the years, she has put on bass clinics with Victor Wooten and played with a variety of acts, but alongside STS9 she is a permanent party-starting fixture once the sun goes down over Chillicothe.
Check out videos from STS9’s extensive Summer Camp history including sets from 2008, 2011, 2013, 2019, and 2021, as well as a clip of Alana participating in Wooten’s 2013 bass clinic.
5/25/08 – Full Set
[Video: Scott Brown]
5/27/11 – Full Set
[Video: J Mar]
“March” – 5/24/13
Victor Wooten & Friends – 5/25/13
[Video: DaDave Production]
Axe The Cables – 5/23/19 – Full Set
“The Rabble” – 8/21/21
Honorable Mention: The Campfire Stage
Welcoming in happy SCampers every year is The Campfire Stage, where up-and-coming artists have made their bones for decades now. The stage directly in front of the main festival gate carries an inherent power and has been known to catapult a career or two. The Avett Brothers got their start on The Campfire Stage before returning to play the Moonshine amphitheater in 2010, 2011, and 2013. Countless other acts have ascended from the humble stage, including Summer Camp regulars Big Gigantic as well as The Lumineers.
Today The Campfire Stage serves as a proving ground for dozens of bands to win over new fans every year. Let’s take a look back at some of its prominent alumni, as well as some recent performers from 2021.
The Avett Brothers – “Shame” – 5/23/08
[Video: Jon Griffin]
The Avett Brothers – “Laundy Room” – 5/29/11
[Video: Steven Holmes]
Big Gigantic – 5/27/11 – Full Set
The Lumineers – “Ho Hey” – 5/26/12
Kitchen Dwellers – “Drowning Again”, “Broken Cage” – 8/20/21
The Werks – “Moonset”, “Duck Farm” – 8/21/21
lespecial – “The Vessel” > “Repeater”, “Machine Elf”, “Fruit Wolf Dance”, “Jackwise” (w/ Kris Myers) – 8/22/21
Summer Camp Music Festival returns to Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL May 27th–29th. Tickets are on sale here. Scroll down for the full lineup.