Summer has officially arrived! With Memorial Day weekend legitimately underway, and music lovers, freaks, hippies, and lovers of good times can rejoice at the commencement of the 19th-annual Summer Camp Music Festival. In the middle of Illinois, the town of Chillicothe welcomes all, as the event’s festivities began in earnest last night. Those who could make the annual trek to Three Sisters Park are in for an amazing weekend.
Summer Camp’s Thursday pre-party is a chance for folks to arrive a day early, set up camp, and enjoy a portion of the music that is offered at the festival. Despite the two main stages not opening up until today, there was no lack of entertainment to be found, though the vibe was undoubtedly more chill and relaxed than the rest of the weekend.
One of the earlier performances came from Crosseyed & Phishless, a band that covers Phish covers. “Boogie on Reggae Woman” and “2001” really got the crowd going, and “Fluffhead” teases abounded in “Loving Cup”, making one think that maybe, just maybe, the band was going to play a Phish original. Their set ended with a uniquely placed “Brain Damage” that segued into a “Divided Sky” outro jam.
Later in the evening, Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident and his solo band took to the Campfire Stage. As is perfectly common at festivals, Hollingsworth wasted no time in inviting up guests to join him. His set started with String Cheese Incident percussionist and EOTO chieftain Jason Hann for the first few songs. It really seemed like both relished the opportunity to play with each other in a different setting other than Cheese. However, that wasn’t the only collaboration in the set. Before even setting foot on stage, one could hear a twangy acoustic being added to the mix, and out walked guitar virtuoso Keller Williams. The band proceeded to play a phenomenal rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider”, making for a great end to the set.
For Umphrey’s McGee fans, Summer Camp is the definitive UM festival. Always headlining, this year gave another reason for Umphreaks to be happy—for the first time, Umphrey’s played the Thursday night pre-party, meaning that Summer Camp 2018 would feature four days of UM. In addition to playing a special umVIP set for a very small and exclusive group of fans, the group also graced the Red Barn for a late-night set. Condensing a single set into a two-hour window is never easy, but they did so successfully last night without sacrificing any improvisational quality. A fun “North Route”/”Slacker” combo opened followed by a “Professor Wormbog” that had both the “zoom-zoom ziyahs” and a brief jam. Toward the end of the set, one of their jam vehicles, “Blue Echo”, did not disappoint and led into a rousing sing-a-long of fan favorite, “Hajimemashite.” As encore, Umphrey’s played a monster “Resolution” before ending with a version of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” that put an exclamation point on their late-night set.
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee | Summer Camp | Three Sisters Park | Chillicothe, IL | 5/24/2018
Set: North Route > Slacker, Professor Wormbog, The Linear > Stinko’s Ascension, Out Of Order, Example 1, Looks > Blue Echo > Hajimemashite
Encore: Resolution, Let’s Dance
Leaving the Red Barn, one encountered the foot-stompin’ bluegrass of Yonder Mountain String Band—or “Yonder Mountain Sausage Party,” as the band declared themselves for the night. The band was playing without violinist Alie Kral, mentioning that they were hopeful she’d join them for their set today. Their version of “Black Sheep” from the album of the same name was one of their highlights.
Ultimately, one of the most unique performances at Summer Camp so far this year has to be Nailed It!!, the Nine Inch Nails cover band featuring an eclectic mix of musicians including Ryan Stasik and Jake Cinninger of Umphrey’s, Jason Huber of Cherub, Eliot Lipp, and Brock Bowling and Matt Harris of Zoogma. The industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails is something not heard too often at Three Sisters Park, but for those fans of the band, this one-time collaboration was quite enjoyable. Just seeing UM guitarist Jake Cinninger lacking his normal baseball hat and, instead, wearing all black—including a black wig—was quite an experience.
Overall the Thursday Pre-Party was a great way to begin the festival and the weekend. There is plenty more of good music to follow over the next three days.
[Video: Summer Camp Music Festival]
Check out the gallery below, courtesy of photographer Keith Griner.