Three Sisters Park was filled with art and music as trotters flocked to the Midwest for three days of Summer Camp Music Festival.
Central Illinois’ Three Sisters Park was filled with art and music as scampers flocked to the Midwest for three days of Summer camp music Festival. For the first time since the pandemic, the festival returned to its legendary Memorial Day weekend dates, and the weather was pretty good. As the weather warmed, the anticipation of returning to the field to find out what the summer camp staff had in store also increased. and just like that, we entered what many call “home”.
This was my second trip to summer camp, my first year being last year. The festival offered a feeling of freedom, calm and simplicity that initiated my return. Driving from Chicago, a dozen members of my group were among the very first to enter the field Thursday for the pre-party. With some of the group being six year veterans, we got the much sought after “bridge camping spot”. The bridge is an elevated area in the woods that has allowed us to set up a “renegade” space for music – not to mention it’s also an admirable meeting place.
The weather was a bit unpredictable to kick off the pre-party as the rain made the pitch muddy throughout the day. It can happen at any festival, so it’s always very important to bring rain boots. Fortunately, the rain stopped before Friday, when regular ticket holders were allowed onto the pitch. There were a few cars stuck, but since most campsites are in the woods, we had mostly dry land to pitch our remaining tents. By noon Saturday the sun had dried off most of the mud and we were back to work dancing.
Apart from the slight setback of mud, the festival continued to operate as usual and all the vendors were in full effect!
However, some things we noticed right off the bat were the lack of easily accessible water points and bathrooms. All weekend, we only saw two areas to get water, and they were the center of the party. The water stations were hard to identify as drinking water stations – they were just nozzles sticking out of a plank of wood, and many Scampers bathed in the water. Also, if you were camping in Georgia in the woods, the closest bathrooms were way beyond the campfire stadium. They were at the back of the motorhome, about a half mile walk.
We kicked off summer camp by cruising through the mud to the first Canabliss Scamp located on the Illumination stage.
NIGHT, mersivand Zed is dead followed this first set of canabliss for a bass-heavy Friday night. The vibes were immaculate as we hopped from stage to stage to experience an array of diverse stage builds and sound designs. We also went through the deep STS9 ready to get a little groovy at the Moonshine Stage before we head elsewhere for the evening.
The set that really blew my mind that night was Mersiv at the Starshine Stage.
The scene mersiv played was clearly designed for bass music, and due to the diverse crowds that summer camp brings, there was plenty of room to dance! After Mersiv we headed to Zeds Dead at Sunshine but it was a bit disappointing as the mud was so bad you had to vacuum your boots every few minutes to avoid getting stuck. This step in particular also seemed to have sound projection issues. You could barely hear the music if you were behind the sound booth. I admire the festival for bringing an array of electronic music, but not all stages are designed to handle that amount of bass.
Saturday was a day of exploration through a tent filled with artwork for sale by abstract artists and hot merchandise.
Saturday I spent my early afternoon strolling through the destinationless park and came across some of the most beautiful abstract art I have ever seen. The Soulshine tent provided a space for local artists to display and sell their art. I connected with a few of the artists and bought a few custom stickers to take home. Some of these artists include Pat Marek, Kelsey Bethand Catherine Williams of Ryn Vision.
Next, I headed to the merchandising tent, where a member of our party grabbed an STS9 holographic poster and a summer camp coozie. The merchandising was some of the best I’ve seen so far this year. There was something for each of your favorite artists, plus a huge selection of SCamp-branded merchandise. One of my favorite items was the Summer Camp 2022 t-shirt which was dyed purple and printed with super bright blue text making them impossible to miss.
The day continued with an adventurous walk through a market of vendors and striking scenery.
A village of vendors stretched out to the Sunshine Stage, giving us the feeling of being in a convenience store. It was super nice to walk a streamlined path with vendors on either side offering lots of different items for sale. I saw a pashmina that only cost ten dollars and waited to go through all the vendors to buy it, but by the time I went back to buy it it was gone – it was quite a heartbreaking moment .
In the evening we started our fixed program with WAVEDASH at the Illumination stage, followed by Big Gigantic, Kasboand Jason Leech. It was my first time seeing Jason Leech perform, and the set turned out to be one of the best candidates for one of the best sets I’ve seen. Jason was on the Campfire stage, but his set was so amazing it felt like we were on the main stage. His use of piano, keytar and synthesizers drove the crowd crazy and made us cringe.
Sunday was a beautiful 85 degree sunny day which started with McGee of Umphrey to a daring 1 p.m. set.
The weather was hot and muggy, but so was the music day. The woods were an escape for the afternoon hours after Umphrey as there was a constant breeze and plenty of shade. What really stood out at summer camp was that unofficial vendors were allowed to set up their tables in the woods. This gave an even more ‘at home’ feel to the camping part of the festival and paved the way for many new authentic connections.
As the hottest hours of the day passed, we headed to the Sunshine stage for a killer Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony To display. It took me back to when Three 6 Mafia happened in 2021, and it was another memorable blast from the past. From there, we headed to the Starshine stage to grab a slice of Spicy Pie and a frozen margarita before getting ready for the rest of the night. I haven’t seen the famous Spicy Pie food vendor at a festival since before 2020, and it has never looked better.
Sunday was also a night for festival goers who enjoy a range of dance music.
After sunset, Cherub kicked off our first set on the Starshine stage with post-disco and 80s funk. The vibes then were pristine as Maddy O’Neal took the stage, followed by a versatile bass-centric set from SoDown. The night didn’t end there; Manic Focus took over the Starshine stage, followed by the first of two sets that night by Daily bread. Torn between Daily Bread and Janstenwe made the collective decision to migrate to the Illumination stage for the bass maestro set. Ravenscoon then closed the night for us with a set that really illuminated the stage of enlightenment and let our souls shine brighter than ever.
Being part of such a remarkable festival as Summer Camp was really grounding.
Many festivals give their attendees a sense of escape from reality, but summer camp is extra special in that it feels like a breath of fresh air. The weekend at a festival that felt like a home away from home was the perfect way to kick off the summer with a bang. Being in the middle of nowhere in Illinois while being surrounded by inspiring and artistic individuals was incredibly humbling.
After concluding another year of summer camp, I left with a heart full of gratitude and peaceful energy. It is perhaps the only festival that I do not leave feeling drained but rather renewed. With their 21st year coming to an end, I can’t wait to go back and see what next year has in store.
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