With plenty of people still filing into Three Sisters Park for Summer Camp Music Festival on Friday, the event’s first full day demonstrated how this has become one of the most popular festivals of the season. From great music to eclectic weather to friendly vibes, Friday at Summer Camp Music Festival delivered all the fans hoped for to get the weekend underway in earnest.

One of the first sets of the day was Keller & the Keels. Featuring the husband/wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel and the shoeless guitarist Keller, the three went through a varied repertoire, covering Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper” and touching upon Williams’ staple “Freaker by the Speaker” before ending with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

As the last notes of the Pink Floyd classic still hung in the air, moe.’s daytime set opened with the first hits of Dark Side of the Moon classic, “Breathe”. The resident Summer Camp host band’s day set was fun and included a slinky “Wormwood”. They have left plenty of music left on the table for the rest of the weekend.

Kyle Hollingsworth had an amazing set in the VIP tent, including an energetic version of the Garcia/Hunter number “Deal” at the beginning of his set. After that point, Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins took the stage alongside Hollingsworth, a collaboration that was supposed to happen in April but never came to fruition. Cummins pulled up a tiny stool on the small stage and sat next to Hollingsworth behind his keyboard. Mixing the String Cheese Incident with the Umphrey’s McGee, their first song together was a danceable mashup of Cheese’s “Pack It In” and UM’s “Soul Food”. The two also played a funky version of “Bright Lights Big City”.

By this time, the sky was becoming darker and one could hear the crackle of thunder in the distance. Before long, the rain began to fall. Despite the fact that it was a gentle and soothing rain, all the stages were suspended, presumably as a safety measure against possible lightning. Wisconsin Americana-folk-bluegrass act Horseshoes & Hand Grenades were perhaps the only scheduled musicians still playing by 3 pm. The band was already a couple songs into their set and had a difficult time stopping—guitarist Adam Greuel was so entranced in his own music that it took a solid two minutes for him to open his eyes and see several production staffers signaling him to end the music and exit the stage. While the band acquiesced to both terms, after unplugging their instruments they simply descended the stage and played under a canopy tent conveniently located ten feet to the side of the stage. The audience followed suit and moved ten feet over, listening even more intently—and cheering more loudly—when the group continued the music without any amplification. The band’s “Ripple” and “Country Roads” covers were warmly welcomed by the crowd.

The start of Twiddle’s set was delayed due to the weather. Perhaps because of the rain, they were moved back perhaps roughly 20 feet from the front of the stage when they finally did begin, creating a notice distance between band and crowd. Nonetheless, they were still able to tear off great renditions of “Jamflowman”, “Frankenfoote”, and “Lost in the Cold”, the latter featuring the particularly meaningful and appropriate lyric, “I’m gonna dance in the rain, and lay out in the sunshine.” Twiddle fans were allowed to do both during their set.

Keyboardist John Medeski’s Mad Skillet was another interesting conglomeration of musical influences that culminated in a fun daytime set. By the time Umphrey’s McGee’s first set of the day approached, a sunshower was sprinkling the grounds, leaving a beautiful double rainbow directly over the eastern side of the festival site. Umphrey’s made sure to match mother nature’s beauty with a first set that contained a great, though unfinished “All In Time” and a “Triple Wide” that had the entire Sunshine Stage audience moving hard. The band brought up the horns from LettuceEric “Benny” Bloom and Ryan Zoidis—for a silky “Booth Love” followed by a raucous cover of Sturgill Simpson‘s “Call To Arms”. Watch fan-shot footage below:

Umphrey’s McGee w/ Lettuce Horns – “Call To Arms” (Sturgill Simpson cover)


Their second set opened with an improv-heavy“Ocean Billy”, and contained a great “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” segueing into “Wappy Sprayberry”, the latter receiving some raindrops that Jefferson Waful made sure to catch majestically in his piercing streaks of light. Instrumental “Den” was trance-y and featured an additional Lettuce sit-in—this time from Nigel Hall—before the set ended with the backend of the “All In Time” they began in their first set.

The late night sets were plentiful on Friday night. After midnight, it got even weirder. Spafford laid down a set in the VIP tent that saw people spilling out the sides of the canopy. Packed to the brim, the band opened their set with a lengthy “It’s a Bunch” that just didn’t want to end. Across the way, Marco Benevento played a set at the Campfire Stage, his entire set serving as one big, exciting highlight. The JRAD keyboardist is a true showman, and his set may have been one of the best of the day.

Even later, musical opportunities were still virtually limitless. Aqueous raged an exploratory 2 am set back at the campfire set, Pink Talking Fish paid their tributes to three of the most influential groups in the scene, and The Werks jammed out an amazing version of The Who’s “Eminence Front” which came to an ending at 4 am sharp, signaling the end of scheduled music for the night. Two more days to go and there is still plenty of good times ahead. Summer Camp still going strong.

Of course, there it’s impossible to catch everyone at a festival of this size, but the lineup extended well beyond the bands listed above, including sets from Lettuce, Pigeons Playing Ping PongYonder Mountain String BandCon BrioOrgan FreemanTipperSlightly Stoopid,

Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from Summer Camp’s second day via Phierce Photo by Keith G.