Photo by Norman Sands

The forecast put temperature over 90º every day at Chillicothe, IL for the Summer Camp Music Festival. The lineup for the festival’s 12th installment was hotter than the air over the course of the holiday weekend. Host bands moe. and Umphrey’s McGee were joined by first time Summer Camp performers Jane’s Addiction, Primus and Bob Weir to provide an unparalleled start to the summer of 2012.

The Thursday night pre-party had a strong Chicago flavor, with the City of Big Shoulders being the nearest major market to Chillicothe. Family Groove Company, playing the Starshine Stage, welcomed Allie Kral for a sit-in, while warming up the night for Digital Tape Machine and Allie’s band Cornmeal. After Cornmeal closed down the Starshine Stage, festival goers in the know made their way to the Soulshine tent for a Thursday late-night jam hosted by Old Shoe and Zmick. The starting lineup for the jam consisted of Janis Wallin and Mattias Blanck of Family Groove Company, Matt Robinson, Paul Priest and Joe Day of Old Shoe and Brad Miller of Zmick. Opening with Gov’t Mule’s “Soulshine,” the Chicago super group invited Wavy Dave of Cornmeal to play The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek.” At one point in the jam, members of Cornmeal, Family Groove Company, Old Shoe, Zmick, Henhouse Prowlers, Strange Arrangement and Sexfist shared the stage passing solos around.

moe. opened the festival’s main stage, the Moonshine Stage, shortly after noon on Friday. Al Schnier stayed around for Keller Williams’ set and joined the intrepid solo performer for Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.” Leftover Salmon prepped the crowd at the Sunshine Stage for one of the weekend’s most anticipated moments.

Steeped in Grateful Dead and Furthur tradition, the Weir, Robinson and Greene Acoustic Trio made their second appearance ever to a great deal of anticipation. Opening with “Truckin’,” it was as if the trio invited Scampers to pull up a seat for their camping trip jam. Like friends making taking a load off after a day of fishing and hiking, the band passed the songs back and forth with a sharing spirit. At the conclusion of the final tune, “Not Fade Away,” Bob Weir had his companions pulled back and stopped playing to let the crowd continue the tune unassisted, before the three singers took a bow.

Gogol Bordello’s set at the Moonshine Stage was an exploration of applying eastern European flavors to a contemporary musical performance. Les Claypool thought it would be a good idea for Gogol Bordello to stick around and invited the group to add their abstract nature to Primus’ deranged sound. Throughout their set, Primus found the type of improvisational moments that electrify spectators. Bob Weir later joined Claypool’s trio as they crafted their rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “The Other One.” Primus’ current drummer, Jay Lane, is a member of Bobby’s RatDog and was at home playing the song.

David Gans played an early set at the Camping Stage on Saturday. The Dead Hour host is as talented a musician as he is a radio personality. Across the park, Fareed Haque & MathGames practiced their trigonometry and algebra with the folks of the Starshine Stage. Greg Fundis’ work on the drum kit was pretty much unsurpassed by another drummer the whole weekend while Fareed’s renowned talent paved a path of stellar exploration.

A trio of Chicago area acts opposed each other at 1:30 PM on the Saturday schedule. Afternoon Moon brought their heavy hitting blues rock to the Camping Stage, while the Henhouse Prowlers let the bluegrass flow at the Soulshine Tent, and Family Groove Company brought the funk to the Moonshine Stage. This was the latter band’s second set of the weekend, this time featuring a three-piece horn section, which perfectly accented songs like “Tutear.” The players in Family Groove Company know each other so well that their soulful funk was perfectly executed to the Moonshine crowd.

The Camping Stage played host to a bevy of Midwest talent later in the afternoon on Saturday, including Chester Brown, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, Old Shoe and Midwest Hype. Hippo played a high energy set full of silky jams. Hosting Shoe Fest in September, Old Shoe really knows how to work a festival crowd to a frenzy and didn’t disappoint in Chillicothe.

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