By Colin Reef
From its humble beginnings at The Cove in Gore, VA, Camp Barefoot has sustained its reputation as the Big Little Festival. Five years ago, a small group of music lovers came together to create something special, and they succeeded. Last weekend, Camp Barefoot celebrated its 5th year with a ground-breaking line-up complete with nothing short of an extremely cohesive vibe.
If you’ve never heard of Camp Barefoot, strangely enough, this is a good thing. Hidden deep in the forests of Bartow, WV, CB hosts one of the livetronica, jam, and funk scene’s best kept secrets. With less than 3000 in attendance, the festival fosters a close-knit and intimate setting on far less than a square mile of land. But don’t panic, Barefoot is home to all the amenities of today’s giant festivals, but with one major difference: proximity. Say goodbye to 45 minute journeys from camp to music, or bathrooms, or water. This proximity allows for a greater deal of spontaneity, having not the need to pack for a day trip to see your favorite acts. Plenty of forest is available for those seeking shade, while those UV hounds can enjoy the sun in other areas. The main stage area consisted of two alternating stages, and a backwoods stages as well, all in perfect walking distance.
The weather was, for the most part, beautiful. The daytime hours stayed around 80 degrees while the nights grew a tad chilly, perfect for deep cozy slumber. Some light rain came early Friday morning, but held out until Sunday morning.
In the early afternoon on Saturday, Scott McLain, producer of Camp Barefoot 5 and owner of Stanlee Ventures, sat down with us to spill his guts about the festival and the culture that inhabited the countryside over the weekend. Scott has spent his life working in the live music industry and has carried more than a few jobs pertaining to music festivals. “I always wanted to do it on my own,” he said. His aim for Camp Barefoot was to create a hybrid festival to marry a grassroots feel with a large scale get-down, all under the umbrella of music appreciation. “It’s not really to come out here and party. You can party anywhere you want, right? But you’ve got to come out here and really want to break down the music in general because, to me, the biggest thing to get away from stress in this world is to listen to music. What’s better than listening to music to make you feel better?”
Scott and his family and friends work 320 days out of the year to deliver this remedy, at a heavy cost. He reminded us of the financial burden that it placed not only on his team but all who take part in enjoying the festival. His crew began with close to nothing, but has been together for years promoting their name and holding showcase events to drive up interest in Camp Barefoot. “We’re so grateful to have regional bands from Richmond, from all over Virginia and North Carolina, to support us. You can’t rely on ticket sales because the cost to put on an event is overwhelming. We’ve got such a close-knit family and we work so hard.” Scott told us how over the course of a year the team corresponds over the phone until they can finally unite for ten days on site to throw Camp Barefoot and enjoy the fruits of their labor together. “I’ll say it over and over. I cannot do this without my friends,” he said.
Plans are in effect for Camp Barefoot 6 next summer along with another great, yet secret, line-up. Keep an ear out for new bands to hit the scene, as CB is a springboard for developing musicians. “I really look at this festival, in a way, as a marketing tool for independent bands. It’s a stepping stone to, not only get known, but it’s a resume builder. We all know in this world how competitive it is. If you don’t have a foot in the door, if can take years to get where you want to be”.
Camp Barefoot benefits far more than bands, artists, and fans, but the community as well. “This town is really struggling, so we’re all about wanting to give back because they help us”. Scott and Stanlee Ventures are in the process of building a shelter for the Humane Society, and allowing the local fire department to food vend to help build an addition to their station. Further, there’s talk of adding an additional day to the festival, a Sunday bluegrass day, which would be open to the public as a means for spreading the love to those who need it more than they do.
Over the years Camp Barefoot has played host to a sonic smorgasbord of talent, and this year was no different—just longer. With the addition of the Wednesday Pre-Party, CB5 was able to invite only a small number of VIPs for a super exclusive get-down. Gracing the stage Wednesday night in front of a mere 150 people was Future Rock. Each member sporting his own set of synths and looping equipment, FR kicked off the weekend with a high intensity, slightly goofy, and very danceable rock show. Standing in an archaic rock star pose, bassist Felix Moreno reminded the crowd of the bands namesake—a rock band from the future. Groove after groove, Future Rock put its unique set of sounds on a silver platter for the lucky Pre-Partiers.
As party people poured in through the gates Thursday morning, sights were set on the upcoming late-night performance of Orchard Lounge. A great day of jam and funk had prepared the masses for a sonic quest at the hands of Ben Silver, and Spencer and Bethany Lokken, who took turns spinning a mind-bending set of their so-called space disco. From bass-blasting house and techno beats to downtempo chill-out grooves, Orchard Lounge stood as the festival’s only main stage DJ set. Taking on this role, these three imaginative minds provided a look into a vibe that would seem out of place if it wasn’t 5am at the outset.
Following a rainy Friday morning, the line-up at Camp Barefoot began to heat up. At 5pm, Zoogma went at it on the Instant Mustache Stage, nestled in the shady woods in the rear of the festival grounds. Here they combined the diversity and style of a live DJ with full and abundant sound of a five-piece band. The timing of this set was impeccable. After a day of rock and low-key jam, Zoogma was the spark needed to launch the crowd into the fully wired music of the nighttime sets, and set the stage for one of the livetronica scene’s heaviest hitters.
Papadosio, which played two sets during the weekend, blew the crowd out of the water with a new and improved chemistry amongst the five members. Starting out with their traditional jam feel, Papadosio soon transformed in a powerful electro-trance sound that had the crowd holding on for dear, sweet, beautiful life. This recent gusto was most apparent with their performance of “Unparalyzer” and “Snorkle,” which made all in attendance aware of the great distance they’ve come even in the last year.
Shortly after the unfortunate cancellation of The Malah’s 2:30 am set, The New Deal took main stage for what was to be one of the final shows of its existence as a band. This fact created a somewhat somber vibe that was soon stifled by an impressive, powerhouse set. Reverent fans joined together to witness the triumphant exit of one of today’s greats. Among the many juicy tracks they played was the all-mighty “VL Tone,” which sent the crowd into a frenzied stir of electronic bliss. In all the confusion the bass dropped out and gave way to a beat-box session that finally allowed the crowd to catch their breath. Their ability to control the tempo and command a killer dance party through seamless transitions assured all who took part that The New Deal was a force to be forever respected. Towards the end of the set they announced rumors of a possible New Years Eve show in Baltimore, so don’t fret, you can still make it out to a New Deal show.
Saturday boasted another great schedule all culminating in a second Papadosio set; this time in the wee hours of the morning. The energy from the Friday set was still quite apparent, as chatter circulated about the kick-ass set and the late-night adventure to come. Without letdown, Papadosio made sure to impress the now doubled crowd at the Homegrown Music Network stage with an even more electronic set. It goes without saying that Camp Barefoot 5 was a huge weekend for Papadosio, as they squashed any possible doubt while surpassing expectations.
Camp Barefoot 5 featured a full schedule of up-and-coming and world class acts that culminated in a community of music lovers out there for each other. The weekend went off without a hitch due to amazing cooperation between volunteers, staff, venders, bands and fans. The overall feel of the festival was extremely comfortable. The amount of people there who came for the love of music alone was driving force of this tranquility. Centered around the powerful force of music, 3000 people became friends and shared in something truly unique and coveted. Sights are set towards Camp Barefoot 6 in the hopes of uniting them all once again in the forests of West Virginia.
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