Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Camp

So this weekend was my fourth Summer Camp, and what may end up being my last.

For those who don't know what Summer Camp is, it's a 3-day music/camping festival in Chillicothe, just north of Peoria.  Five (or more) stages with bands switching in and out from 11am until 1am Friday until Sunday, and sometimes more concerts after that until 3am or later.  You camp out in a field (or if you get there early enough, in the woods), wake up in the morning, go to concerts all day, and then crash in the tent whenever you decide sleep becomes a high enough priority to override whatever concerts are left.

This year was pretty amazing, even though going in I wasn't too excited for many of the bands.  Bela Fleck, the Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, and a few others were on my radar, as were the usual suspects like moe. and Umphrey's McGee.  This year was certainly notable, however, for the weather.

The last few years have been relatively dry.  Last year was so dry, hot, and cloudless that the main areas that people walk through had a few inches of sand-like fine dust covering them.  And of course, when you get a few thousand people leaving a concert at the same time walking through that dust, it all ends up in the air... and in your nose.

A few years before, we had what was essentially perfect weather - rain before we got there (but not too much) to keep the dust down, and then sunny all weekend.  Other than a mud pit for the first concert of the weekend, it was ideal - no dust, no mud, and a few clouds here and there to keep it cool.  Sun most of the time, and a slight breeze to keep you cool.

This year was not so kind to us.  When we arrived, it was beautiful - sunny, a cool breeze, and some clouds here and there for shade.  But within a few hours, it had gotten cold enough that we decided to don long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts to keep warm, even though the sun hadn't gone down.  Not that you could tell, as the wind had picked up and blown complete cloud cover over us.  That night was actually pretty cold, and I slept with almost all the clothes I had with me on my body, and inside my (brand new) sleeping bag.

And the ground... well, saying it was muddy is an understatement.  I had not ever in my life been in a mud-pit like this one before this weekend.  It stormed pretty hard last week, which left things a little wet already.  It also rained a few times on Friday and Saturday, though not too hard, but enough to keep things from drying off.  Add on top of this approximately 10,000 people wandering through the same six-foot wide gate, and tractors pulling wagons chugging their way through the mud, and the roads and paths were completely torn up and muddy even before Sunday rolled around.

And then there was Sunday.  Sunday, which the weatherman had said on Friday would be sunny and clear.  Sunday, which started out cloudy, and only got worse from there.  Around 11:30 or noon (just after the first concerts started), the wind picked up, and the rain started coming.  And man did it rain.  They made an announcement from one of the stages that concerts were currently postponed, and to take shelter "in your cars or tents."  We decided to wait it out in the tent because, c'mon, it can't be that bad if they think you'll be fine in your tent.  Right?

Well, it might not have been, if we had a better camping spot and better gear.  As it was, our rainfly was missing one part which held it away from the door, we had tied it down with some string to improvise, and the tent was a little lopsided for it.  Most of the rain that hit the front of the tent drained directly to the zipper on the door and came straight into the tent, the seam on the top of the rainfly leaked water straight through the mesh and onto our heads, and our tarp pooled water underneath the tent, which then seeped through underneath us.

Granted, the tent didn't blow away as it likely would have had we not been sitting in it, so there's that.  But about halfway through, we decided to put on our rain gear, wrap up some stuff in plastic bags, and try to get it out to the car before it got too (much more) wet.  Of course, as soon as we did that, the rain died down, and we ended up walking the mile or more to the car with raingear on looking like idiots.

And once the rain stopped, the mud... oh man the mud.  I took off my sandals and walked barefoot, because I was afraid I would lose a sandal and not get it back.  There were literally shoes strewn around in the mud that people had decided were not worth going back for.  There was a solid base underneath for the most part, but on top there was anywhere from one to five inches of... I don't even know how to describe it.  It wasn't liquid, because you could leave a footprint in it, but it molded around your foot and didn't support any weight.  I would have taken a picture, but I was too afraid of my camera getting some of that junk on it.

I guess I saw some bands at Summer Camp too... I'll put a full list below.  And I've got a few other thoughts about Summer Camp that I'll probably post before I leave too.  Oh, and since I brought my new camera with and took some pictures, here ya go:

 Main Stage on the first day

 Secondary stage at night

 Some light up hula-hoops.

Fire Twirler
Laser light show during one of the moe. sets.

Fire twirler at the other stage (this is one of my favorite pictures from the weekend)

More fire twirling, longer exposure

Trippy picture.  I love how this turned out, even though it was 100% unintentional.  I mean, yeah... I totally was trying for a picture like this...

The suits that created the last picture.

Just for the heck of it, here's the bands I saw at Summer camp (going off the schedule I still have).  Eric will probably correct me on a few of these, but here's what I remember so far.

  • moe.'s opening set
  • Miles Nielson & the Rusted Hearts (Rick Nielson's son)
  • Punch Brothers
  • The Mother Hips (briefly)
  • Yonder Mountain String Band (from the tent)
  • STS9
  • Umphrey's McGee (2 sets)
  • Rebirth Brass Band (from the tent)
  • Slightly Stoopid
  • Ashes to Immortality
  • Keller Williams
  • Umphrey's McGee (2 sets)
  • moe. (2 sets)
  • Huey Lewis with Umphrey's McGee
  • Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Widespread Panic (from the tent)
  • Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
  • Bassnectar
  • moe. (2 epic sets)

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