Smile Politely

Why Summer Camp Music Festival will survive

What goes up must come down, bubbles included. And the music festival bubble has, for the most part, burst.

Langerado, the mid-March Floridian fest that kicked off the entire summer festival season, was canceled due to “sluggish ticket sales and lack of corporate sponsorship,” despite a strong roster and what seemed to be a decent amount of planned attendees. Its lineup not only shared some of the same headlining acts at this weekend’s Summer Camp Music Festival (produced out of Pekin-based Urbana offices of Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment) — Umphrey’s McGee, Les Claypool, Keller Williams, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood — but paired closely with the jam-centric feel of our favorite Illinoisian musical weekend.

Despite the fact that the former bit the dust, and the latter will cause my grocery cart to be filled with hot dogs, cheese whiz and Triscuts later this evening, there is no doubt that Summer Camp, the one that the older kids play at, will survive.

It’s been two years since I’ve dragged my translucently pale self to the tiny town of Chillicothe, Ill., but while others trips were marred with anxiety over Porta-Potties and journalistic coverage-induced stress, I’m beyond excited to go to Summer Camp Music Festival this year. And, while some of that elation might be because I’m covering it for this fantastic website as opposed to a student-run weekly that shall not be named, I can’t help but think that part of it is just because I’ve been to bad festivals, and now know how phenomenally good this one is.

Sure, it waxes more “cheating boyfriend crawling back home” than poetic, but it’s true. Bonnaroo has never even been an option (walking for a half-hour back to my tent in the middle of the night? No thanks) and last year’s unbelievably oversold Lollapalooza made the enormous mess and waste of three days’ time completely eclipse any line-up worth smiling about. Though people pencil in Pitchfork and Lolla and the rest of them into their summer schedules, for me, it doesn’t matter how big a roster is or who’s playing if you can’t even hear or see the show — something that’s never the case at Summer Camp.

I’ve always felt a certain pull towards this festival in particular, and it’s really just because it has it all. Big enough for camping yet small enough that you’re relatively close to everything, the crowd size is downright perfect. It allows for shows to be completely visible and food lines to be accessible, yet there are still enough people to make cutting through the tent city in the trees a wide-eyed escape. With fantastic acts that don’t play this area too often (MSMW, particularly), and a mix of diverse, entertaining acts that actually make rap, bluegrass and mashed-up Girl Talk tunes at the same festival completely cohesive, I’m unable to credit Perry Farrell’s snoozefest with any praise, when a fest this well-planned and fan-friendly is mere hours away. I’ll pass on the others in favor of my favorite: give me cheese fries, give me my tent, and give me Summer Camp.

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