Cabin Fever Campout, East Peoria Event Center, East Peoria, IL – 2/11-13
Rusted Root – photo by Norman Sands
Traveling to a music festival in February goes against the status quo, but Cabin Fever Campout provided a lineup that could wake festivarians from their winter slumber. Wrested out of hibernation, music lovers were greeted by a well-executed event in a large indoor facility with a camping area, two stages of music and even a vendor’s row.
Old Shoe is the first band playing the Fire on the Mountain stage Friday evening. Burning a hole through the fabric of the jam scene, Old Shoe has been on a meteoric rise since hosting their own festival, Shoe Fest, last summer. It’s easy to understand why they’re getting better and better gigs when you see one of their sets. From Paul Priest’s silky riffs to Joe Day’s wailing vocals and whirling keys, their sound is absolutely infectious. Priest and guitarist Matt Robinson harmonize extremely well on vocals for many of the bands originals. They captured Warren Haynes’ “Soul Shine” like a ship in a bottle and shook the cabin with their own “Day Rains Night.”
Continuing the folky feel of Cabin Fever Friday lineup, Split Lip Rayfield furnished the Fire on the Mountain stage with their unique take on bluegrass: edgy Americana that almost jumps clear across to punk. Jeff Eaton’s thumping on his gas tank bass provides the essence of a kick drum while he’s generating solid bass lines.
The camping area at Cabin Fever is a 30,000 square foot event hall with a concave roof. Sound travels very well in the wide open space. Late night drum circle renditions of Blind Melon’s “No Rain” and Edward Sharp’s “Home” could be heard clearly anywhere in the room.
Central Illinois local talent Insignificant String Band plays bluegrass music with an electric bass rig. Corey Orr’s bass really amps up the folk approach of the quartet. The band plays a song about special cookies, and patrons of Cabin Fever were able to approach the stage and enjoy sugar cookies emblazoned with the compound that enhances the treats in the song.
Also hailing from the midsection of the Land of Lincoln, Afternoon Moon’s jams will take you into lunar orbit. Twins Josh and Jordan Daniels were literally born to play together, manning guitar and keys respectively. Recent addition Louie Giacobbe provides the solid presence on bass that this progressive jam outfit has been looking for. Joining Afternoon Moon on saxophone, Bridget Bourke provided an extra dose of funk with her potent lungs as the band covered Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”
The configuration of Cabin Fever featured two directly opposing stages. Their times were perfectly offset; as one set concluded, a massive steel garage door would give way to the room which housed the other stage, allowing the festival’s attendees to quickly traverse the membrane between the two music halls. Following Afternoon Moon, that large accordion threshold gave way to Indigo Sun.
Lucas Ellman takes charge and leads Indigo Sun with jazzy lines on saxophone and wind synth. His melodies are enhanced by the stylings of Kyle Liss on keys and synth. The band’s powerful essence grows off the precise beats offered up by drummer Steve Florian and the grooves of bassist Mike Cantella.
Jaik Willis is a travelling crooner who is unafraid to push his vocal cords to the limits of human vocalisation. Playing a song about Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms brought thoughts of Hunter Thompson throwing a party to mind. While in his own words his “guitar was mad at the weather,” Jaik’s playing cast aside the notion of the sudden cold snap outside.
Thinner Teed’s set was sparking with energy. You could tell from the Animal Muppet sitting on the kick drum that these guys have an eccentric mind-set on stage. Their covers of The Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” gives the festival an 80’s dance feel while their originals prominently feature Brad Richter and Evan Schuit’s powerful guitar playing. Thinner Teed premiered a new song written about Where’s Ronny, an exuberant Midwest festival-goer.
Blending reggae, rock and funk influences, Art of Ill Fusion has a fresh feel for jam music. Dee Mill is the enigmatic leader of the group. Dee proudly introduced new members The Kid, playing his first show with Art of Ill Fusion on drums, and Mick on keys, whose rig includes a rare two-tiered Roland VK-77 draw bar organ. This band takes its cues from Bob Marley and Jerry Garcia, paying homage to the latter with a soulful rendition of “Candyman.”
Surging on to the scene, Strange Arrangement marks one of the stronger presences at the indoor music festival. Joe Hettinga has a formidable arsenal of keyboards surrounding him while Kevin Barry’s seven string bass allows him to provide a solid, smooth low end. The musical marriage of Hettinga and guitarist Jim Conry’s leads dance a funky boogie over Barry’s synergy with drummer Steve Sinde. Their lyrics take you on a journey only paralleled by the sojourn of their hooks and grooves. Brainchild’s Roy Ponce made an appearance and traded licks with Conry, setting the room on fire.
Mike Glabicki and Rusted Root marched on stage with the drums already providing a holistic rhythm. The beauty of the simplicity in the band’s melodies washes over the music room of Cabin Fever as the open with “Martyr.” Whether yielding an acoustic or a Fender telecaster, Glabicki’s style finds a perfect harmony with the electric guitar playing of Colter Harper. Glabicki plays his acoustics through a Mesa-Boogie amplifier, providing a very unique, crunchy tone for an instrument of a mellower disposition.
Liz Berlin brings a great diversity of talent to Rusted Root. Not only does her voice help to define the band’s signature sound, she also contributes by playing percussive instruments such as a talking drum or gourd. After playing “Back To The Earth,” Glabicki turns his attention to their surroundings and says, “This is what I imagine all festivals will be like on the moon.” Playing the first verse of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Rusted Root blossoms into a powerful “Cat Turned Blue.” Following their performance, percussionist Preach Freedom moved to the floor in front of the stage and led a fan infused drum circle.
Taking up the late night cause, The Coop is part of a growing trend towards individuals in a band performing on multiple instruments. Lead guitarist Danny Biggins performs with a keyboard to his right and bassist Cason Trager has a table with synthesizers and a laptop. Even with his bandmates tickling ivory keys, Joe Re’s talents exude a strong lead command. The Coop effectively combines traditional rock music instrumentation with electronic music’s new gadgets and provides a high energy experience perfectly suited to the earliest hours of the morning.
Brandishing their own form of funk, Brainchild pairs the dual guitar leads of Roy Ponce and Jake Schultz with Brandon Mooberry’s robust bass lines. Ponce’s phrasing cuts through the air like a fresh razor. During their first set on Friday, Brainchild performed the Rebel Alliance theme from Star Wars, honing the good guy anthem to their own sound.
The Chicago Farmer has a friendly sound that puts folks at ease. He sings about everyday life and funny occurrences, ad-libbing to sing about the moment at hand when it’s called for. Some songs he performs standing, others seated, but all with a harmonica secured around his neck. Cody Deikhoff’s right hand technique is really sharp, providing depth to his rhythmic strumming.
Known for their spot-on duplication of the music of the Grateful Dead, the Dark Star Orchestra brought their act to East Peoria to close out the second annual Cabin Fever Campout. Playing with one drummer and a simple keyboard set up of an electric piano, they hark back to a mid-seventies performance at the convention center. Kevin Rosen’s bass lines provided a commanding basis for the rest of his bandmates.
Setting an early start for the festival season, Cabin Fever warms up the short days and long nights of winter with energetic music and a friendly community. While it was impossible to tell if it was day or night in the cavernous confines, the music provided a beacon of hope that summer would return again soon.