Story by Matt Baudo, Natty Morrison, and Anand Harsh
Photos by Matt Baudo
Every year we head off to Summer Camp, and every year we report back on the weather. It would be bad journalism if we avoided the topic that’s on everybody’s mind. When you’re the leader of the pack, the first Midwest festival to kick off the season in the schizophrenic month of May, you’re going to butt heads with Mother Nature—that’s just how it goes. As chilly and rainy as last year may have been, this past Memorial Day weekend in Chillicothe, IL was a scorcher. With temperatures fluctuating near 90 degrees, and heat indices near 114 (so said the transistor radio blasting from the corn dog vendors), the four-day festival of jam and electronic music sweat out all the beer and toxins from the winter season, and shook off any doubters that summer was indeed nigh.
With headliners from the jam and rock world like moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Primus, Jane’s Addiction, and Govt. Mule laying claim to their loyal fans, the electronic music community rose up once again in force, claiming half the spots on the lineup with acts like Pretty Lights
, Zeds Dead
, 12th Planet
, and more. Jam and EDM sometimes make strange bedfellows, but no one was sleeping anyway, so who cares? This endless fight will continue ad nauseum certainly for the rest of the summer, and more than likely for decades to come.
was a name that seemed to be on the lips of everyone at Summer Camp. A lot of that had to do with his enormous late-night set Thursday night. Foregoing the ever-popular dubstep/electro sound that most DJs stuck by this weekend, SOLO decided to put together an all rock set, where he dropped gems like the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” the theme song to “The Office,” and Mr. Bungle’s frenetic “Goodbye Sober Day.” He also closed out his set with an all-audience sing-along to Ween’s “Blarney Stone,” which tugs at the heartstrings of all Ween fans, hearkening the sad news which would follow just days later.
Late-night sets from LoBounce
peppered throughout the festival, including one on Thursday night, were much anticipated by the high percentage of Chicagoans who comprise the attendees. LoBounce made his name with his patented “drippy bass” sound, mixing crunk-ed out hip hop beats with wobble-tastic LFOs that never reached beyond their means or slipped into the growing realms of brostep and electro. But, at a festival where he was surrounded by such sounds, LoBounce figured out a way to deftly combine his world with theirs, allowing his spacey take on bass music to permeate through the hard drops and YAW basslines that ravenous late-night attendees so badly wanted to hear. It’s good to see such a young artist throwing genre distinctions to the wind so early in his career. Here’s hoping he keeps growing at the rate he is.
In the blazing sun of the early afternoon on Friday, Spankalicious
took to the sheltered coolness of the Camping Stage in the heart of the woods. As he is wont to do, Kevin Moore shared some words of wisdom about not trying to exert oneself at the outset of the festival with too many drugs, too much sun, and not enough water. A warning about the perils of bunk acid and the friendliness of cops gave way to a 2-minute commercial about TheUntz.com (thank you), and some of the most psychedelic sounds of the weekend. Staying far away from the grinding dubstep which would follow that night and much of the weekend, the liquidy bounce of Spankalicious was a welcome respite for fans of the headier side of the bass movement.
Boombox got things started electronica-wise late Friday afternoon with a disco set on the Starshine stage. Intensely groove-laden with not too much in the way of Zion Godchaux on guitar, the short BB set felt like more of a late-night rager than a late afternoon party starter. Nevertheless, the noticeable lack of “jamminess” was not missed by the young and vibrant crowd which kept gathering steam throughout the proceedings. It’s encouraging to see laid-back music still has a place in the bass-hungry crowd of today’s festival scene.
The LA producer turned EDM shogun Flinch took over the 312 Vibe Tent Friday evening displaying a spectrum of electronic stylings. The show weaved through pounding drum and bass beats to fluid synth offerings. The audience tried to give back what they got vibrating the earth between the collective feet. The most fanatic one in the tent though was Adam Glassco himself. With a minimal light production Glassco's on-stage energy radiated the brightest as he went sweat drop for sweat drop with everyone in the room. And, as you'd imagine, everyone went nuts when he dropped his most collaboration with friend and labelmate 12th Planet, the remix of "Youth Blood" by Little Jinder.
Wick-it the Instigator
really made a statement in the Vibe Tent Friday evening. After dropping some knowledge and charming the crowd at the TheUntz.com’s EDM Workshop in the Church, Andrew Owsley hustled over to the tent to bring his patented hip-hop flavored and bass-ridden mash-ups to an eager fan base, many of whom had never witnessed the affable DJ in person before. As expected, he kicked out some intense jams full of the early 90’s Death Row familia fans expect. Nothing short of a genius behind the decks, Owsley—through sheer brute force of years of gigging—has a mastery nearly unmatched in crafting a set that ebbs and flows and keeps folks on their toes.
Around sundown on Friday EOTO took to the newly resituated Starshine Stage dishing out their trademark improvised dubstep. While the duo of Travis and Hann didn’t pack their mind melting 3D lotus set up they brought plenty of bass bombs and synth wobbles to keep the sun blazed audience satisfied. As reigning Best Live Dubstep Act (2012 North American Dubstep Music Awards) few can be surprised at the group’s uncanny ability to deliver a once in a lifetime performance each time they set up. Regardless EOTO just plain murders their sets striking awe and amazement into even the most seasoned bass faces in the crowd.
Zeds Dead split the age range of Summer Camp clean in half. While the older heads made their way to the main stage for Primus, the younguns fled to the Starshine stage for the favorite sons of Toronto on Friday night. The duo’s dubstep remixes having become legendary in the viral age of blogomania, it was surprising to hear a lot more electro and moombahton coming out of the speakers—though everyone must grow and adapt. Even more surprising was the lack of punishing intensity. Sensing the crowd had been on their feet in the hot sun all day, and knowing they still had a full weekend of festivities to attend, perhaps Zeds Dead was more prone to lay in the cut and provide a deep groove for its fans, rather than blow them away at the outset.
Watching Lotus last year was a breath of fresh air; a livetronica band unafraid to rock? It must have been too good to be true. This year’s Friday night set found the jam/electro group trading in huge builds and wordless choruses for floaty melodies and colorfully woven compositions. Lotus is a band that understands patience and space, often letting their jams stretch out until all five members lock into a loose-fitting groove. But unlike most of their jam contemporaries, Lotus pulls from post-rock influences like Tortoise or Explosions in the Sky, a wise choice as it lends their music an emotionally-evocative vibe that other bands can’t match.
It took a while for Lotus to garner their following. Their breed of live instrumental electronic music sucks in an audience moving through musical soundscapes as mesmerizing as they are complex. Their Summer Camp set was riddled with split second tone and timing changes. Ace-in-the-hole Luke Miller championed guitar riffs throughout the show singing eyebrows well past the sound booth. As a unit the boys from Lotus put on a clinic of what super tight, methodic jamtronica should sound like. Coupled with their ever-expanding light production Lotus has become a special kind of force performing at the same level as STS9 or The New Deal.
Once a simple stagehand for Umphrey’s McGee, Wade Wilby, aka Wyllys
, has quickly gained his reputation as the king of late-night throwdowns. His retro-sound is a mix of disco, house and funk, and when he’s playing with his New York Hustler Ensemble, you know it’s going to be a good time. But upon entering the sweatbox that the Vibe Tent had become Friday night, most fans were taken aback to see none other than Brendan Bayliss, guitarist from Umphrey’s playing alongside him and his horn section. And by “taken aback” we mean “super excited.” But the highlight of his set came not from Bayliss’ spidery attack on the fretboard, but from a new rap song the group had come up with. As Wyllys dropped old-school diss rhymes, he looked dead into the crowd and began the chorus: “Fuck you dubstep, I’m coming for your money! / Fuck you Pretty Lights, I’m coming for your money!” As sweaty fans cheered him on, the irony in the air was almost as thick as clouds of bass that had been pumping from the tent for hours. And, in a lot of ways, that’s the key to Wyllys’ success: in a world where it seems like it’s dubstep or nothing, he’s one of the guys providing another option, and a fun one at that, too.
How do you define super group in the EDM world? Three words; Gigantic Underground Conspiracy. Featuring members of Conspirator
, Big Gigantic
, Underground Orchestra, and the Disco Biscuits
the group is a melting pot of sound—scratch that it’s closer to a boiling vat of acid of sound. The group deals in a largely unpioneered world of jamtronica calling on a range of influences from their collective backgrounds. Playing to a packed Moonshine Stage Saturday afternoon the only thing hotter than the dusty confines of Three Sisters Park was the set GUC broke off. RIDICULOUS! The guys had the sun burnt masses gyrating from the opening chord until the end. Bassist Marc Brownstein was throwing down some of his most inspired playing in months, and it was all certainly due to The Untz hat from Grassroots he was sporting on stage. Don’t even try to deny it. Serving as the de facto bridge (along with Lotus) between jam and electronic dance music, Gigantic Underground Conspiracy got people from all walks of life down. While we weren't privy to the latenight show in the red barn, one scenester described it with a cemented grin Sunday morning, “They made sound brownies for my ears.”
12th Planet has one of the scariest voices of any DJ in the scene. And it’s a voice you hear a lot, as he loves to grab the mic and bark instructions to the audience during his set. And trust us, when you hear that gravelly, weed-coated voice scream, “GET THE FUCK UP,” you’d have to be a brave man to consider doing otherwise. But when he’s not frightening wussy fans, 12th Planet is busy dropping massive bass tracks and breaks. Though he spins a heavy amount of dubstep, he’s an artist who trained himself in the demanding world of drum and bass, where fast tempos mean less time to get set and get mixed. His speed is fascinating, and during his Saturday evening set it seemed like there was a new surprise around every corner. He’s also got an adept sense of song choice, and plays only the best bass music one could hope for. But it doesn’t mean you won’t have nightmares about that voice...
The rotating roster of dubstep acts that took over the Vibe Tent from 11pm-4am on Saturday night was curated by the fine folks at Chalice Dubs and their annual masquerade. Apart from DJ SOLO, each act or DJ was simply pounding out the hardest, nastiest bass in their arsenal, from Miss Amphetamine to Minnesota. Earlier in the day, Christian Bauhofer displayed some of the purple tactics which have given rise to his Minnesota brand, but as the night progressed, he went harder and deeper. The weak and weary sun-baked fans dug in and partied until their legs gave way. Midnight Conspiracy closed out the night with a set nearly identical to the one they had brought to the Starshine Stage almost exactly 12 hours earlier in the day. Quite a spectacle of bass for an entire day at SCamp.
Colorado native Derek Vincent Smith better known as Pretty Lights can do no wrong in 2012. PL is slotted to headline numerous festivals this summer and if the Sunday night Summer Camp set is any indication, audiences are in for a raging season. Thousands of sleep deprived, dirt covered humans beings gave their last electrolytes to the sounds of one man in front of a LED cityscape. Derek has as much fun as anyone conjuring screams and fist pumps from the crowd to compliment his own. The set resonated funk and electronica meshed with heavy drums and bass producing organic sonic layers. Crowd favorite “Hot Like Sauce” brought the massive audience boiling over. Later in the evening, PL plowed through a breakbeat, bass-laden version of Pink Floyd’s “Time” that would have Roger Water’s screaming uncle. If you couldn’t make it to the late night show this was the way to end the weekend right.
Did we get to everything? No. What about Gramatik? What about VibeSquaD? Yes, we could go on and on about the fantastic EDM acts at Summer Camp, but it would try your patience and ours. It’s a damn long summer, and SCamp is the first in a long line of major festivals taking place this season. We’re grinning ear-to-ear just thinking about all the treats that await. Be patient, we’ll get it all in this summer. It’s a test, but we’re in it to win it.
More photos and the full recording of the EDM Workshop hosted by Anand Harsh of The Untz Podcast will be coming out soon--Summer Camp isn't over yet!