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Summer Camp Music Festival, Chillicothe, IL – 5/22 – 24

Memorial Day to most means a three-day weekend, barbeques and time with family and friends. But for about 15,000 people, it means its time to return to Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Illinois, for three, or four, days and nights of great music at the Summer Camp Festival.
Anchored by moe. and Umphreys McGee, who played five sets a piece, this years festival had an impressively eclectic line-up with several A-list names. Festival mainstay Keller Williams returned after an absence last year, Buckethead and Les Claypool came to represent all things weird and avant-garde, Medeski, Martin and Wood treated fans to a set with jazz guitar extraordinaire John Scofield and the Easy Star All-Stars brought the reggae. To top off the line-up was American Chicano rockers Los Lobos, hip-hop veterans Method Man and Redman and country legend and pop culture icon Willie Nelson.
With a jam-packed line-up, sets overlapped more than in previous years, especially between the Moonshine and Sunshine Stages, Summer Camps main stages. This often meant either missing the end of a set to catch the beginning of another set or vice-versa. However, even with overlaps, it was still possible to catch part of each major performer, which guaranteed a crucial element of every music festivalnonstop rocking.

Baltimores The Bridge kicked things off at 11 a.m. Friday morning with a booty shaking set of their funky, soulful blend of blues. Although the crowd was minuscule when the set started, a couple hundred people were dancing into the afternoon by the time things wrapped up. What undoubtedly reeled a lot of people in was when Kenny Liner (pictured on the left) showcased his beatboxing skills on the instrumental Drop the Beat.

Eager fans await their first taste of moe. early Friday afternoon. For the second year in a row, moe. kicked off the main stage music rather than headlining Friday night. Not only does this give Umphreys McGee a chance to be the main stage headliner on Friday, but it brings a lot more early birds to the festival. This was evident from a crammed Thursday night late show, which featured Future Rock and Lotus, and campsites crowded as early as Thursday evening.

Al Schnier of moe. belts out the lyrics to America, Fuck Yeah, from Team America: World Police, which was as much a sing-a-long as it was a performance. moe.s first set of the weekend was a jam-heavy performance that included Not Coming Down, Akimbo, which featured some epic guitar and percussion trade-offs, a particularly hard-rocking Seat of My Pants and a cover of Widespread Panics Space Wrangler.

Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe plays djembe during the bands Friday afternoon set. The instrumental quintet, which plays a variety of West African instruments in addition to the djembe, took several trips to Mail, Guinea and the Ivory Coast to hone their sound, making them one of the more atypical acts of Summer Camp.

That 1 Guy, one of the weekends one-man bands, plays the magic pipe, a homemade, electronically rigged pair of steel pipeseach housing a stringthat has buttons which trigger a variety of uniquely weird sound effects. He also played the magic boot, a cowboy boot that has been rigged to amplify the sounds from drumming on its sole. Akin to his one-of-a-kind instruments are equally bizarre album and song titles; the song Buttmachine, from The Moon is Disgusting got the crowd roaring.

Buckethead melted Summer Campers faces with 90 minutes of lightning-fast shredding guitar. Having recently ditched the KFC bucket, Buckethead was sporting a white bucket on top of his white mask, which had sweat pouring out the bottom of it throughout the set, and wore a blue jumpsuit. He played most of the show solo with a backing track behind him, but played his last few songs with That 1 Guy. Known for being quite the entertainer, he did the robot while playing and between songs he played with nunchucks and gave audience members childrens toys.

Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, turned the Sunshine Stage into a dance party, inviting about 40 people on stage with him like he did last year. Known for his mash-ups that often bring very different songs together, such as the Jackson 5s ABC and Queens Bohemian Rhapsody on What Its All About, Girl Talk is becoming one of the most talked about acts at Summer Camp.

Umphreys McGees Jake Cinninger rocks out during UMs first set on Friday night. The band, which hadnt played out in three weeks, made up for the brief absence with thunderous jams that allowed Cinninger and fellow guitarist Brendan Bayliss to show-off their guitar playing abilities. The first set included UM staples such as 40s Theme, Ocean Billy, Believe the Lie and Mantis Turn and Run.

Method Man, along with partner in crime Redman, played on the Sunshine Stage in between Umphreys McGees two sets. The energetic duo bounced around the stage, performing songs that dug back to their early days as Wu-Tang Clan members, as well as songs from Blackout! 2, which was released the Tuesday before Summer Camp. They even paid tribute to the late Wu-Tang member Ol Dirty Bastard.

Umphreys McGees second set kept the rocking going with a cover of The Whos Baba ORiley, which featured Allie Kral of Cornmeal on fiddle. Ocean Billy was finished in this set, which closed with the epic title track from Mantis.

Although Summer Camp is anchored by moe. and Umphreys McGee, Keller Williams is just as much of a mainstay, having performed at seven of the nine festivals. Although it was his first time not on the main stage, it made no difference as one would have observed an innumerable amount of smiling, giddy fans who awaited the start of his set. This year, he did a set with his full one-man-jamband rig, running through fan favorites like You Are What You Eat, and awesomely random covers like Crackers Teen Angst.

Les Claypools performance focused primarily on his March release, Of Fungi and Foe, which contains material from the Mushroom Men game and the Pig Hunt motion picture. His band included Fancy Band drummer Paulo Baldi, longtime Claypool percussionist Mike Dillon, and cellist Sam Bass, all of whom wore matching tuxedos and masks.

Les Claypool popped up again on the Sunshine Stage for Mulches Odyssey during Umphreys McGees first Saturday night set, steering the band into a percussive guitar jam.

Chuck Garvey takes a solo during moe.s first headlining set of the weekend on Saturday, which included stand-out versions of Wind it Up and Big World. Although moe. and Umphreys sets alternated and slightly overlapped, festival-goers seemed to have no trouble catching both bands, as seen by the mass exodus from stage to stage when sets ended.

Felix Pastorius, who Ryan Stasik called his new favorite bass player, sat in for Bright Lights during Umphreys second set. He is the son of the late Jaco Pastorius, one of the most influential bassists of all time. The set included a mash-up of Metallicas Sad But True and the Gorillazs Clint Eastwood, the latter of which featured vocals from Stasik, an almost unheard of occurrence. The band used fireworks during several songs, but they were particularly appropriate during the heavy metal sounds of Wizard Burial Ground, which ended the set.

Vinnie Amico, along with percussionist Jim Loughlin, were able to strut their stuff during moe.s second Saturday set, which featured a percussion jam with Nick Ayers of The Macpodz, who played Friday afternoon on the Starshine Stage.

Keller Williams closed out the Saturday late night show as part of Sexy Bitches, which also featured, Al Schnier, Rob Derhak and Vinnie Amico of moe. and Joel Cummins of Umphreys McGee. Dressed in red shirts, the band played a laid-back set of very open jams that focused on Williams songs such as Celebrate Your Youth and Breathe and covers such as The Rolling Stones Miss You and the Grateful Deads Thats it for the Other One.

EOTO brought the electronic/trance vibe to Summer Camp along with bands like Lotus and Bassnectar. EOTO, which consists of Jason Hann and Michael Travis of the String Cheese Incident, plays all of their shows completely improvised. Hovering over their audience is a four-leaf clover, which not only added some flair to the main stage, but provided spots of shade on blazing hot days.

Easy Star All-Stars Ras I Ray grooves to sounds of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the latest classic album the band turned into a reggae masterpiece. Easy Star All-Stars, the only main stage reggae act, played songs from Sgt. Pepper and Radiodread, the bands reggae version of Radioheads OK Computer, opting to save Dub Side of the Moon for their late night set.

Umphreys McGee closed out the weekend with an acoustic set. The band hardly toned it down, though, as evidenced by Brendan Bayliss guitar solo-face. The set included Umphreys staples such as Hangover, Resolution and August and a cover of Led Zeppelins Thats the Way.

John Scofield and Billy Martin were feeling it during Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Woods hour and fifteen minute set of jazz improvisation. The band played as if it had always been a four-piece, with everyone grooving together and organically building free-form jams. John Scofield, who often led the pack, has this amazing ability to make every wrong note sound right, which fit right in with MMWs often dissonant acid jazz sounds.

At 76, Willie Nelsons still got it. For an hour and a half, he sang nothing but his classic country hits, including Still is Still Moving to Me, which was given the reggae treatment by Toots and The Maytals on True Love in 2005. Backed by bass, piano, harmonica and two percussionists, Willie sounded on point, far from being a novelty act. Using Trigger, his classical guitar that has a hole in it from decades of playing with a pick, Willie soloed as well as he did when he was half his age, or even younger.

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