Photo by Norman Sands

Gov’t Mule returned to Summer Camp after taking 2011 off. There was magic in the air when Warren Haynes and crew slipped into “Dear Mr. Fantasy” while playing “Hunger Strike.” Topping that moment, Mule closed out their time at the Moonshine stage playing a 20 minute “When the Music’s Over” which hauntingly broadcast the soul of Jim Morrison to the Summer Camp crowd.

Umphrey’s McGee and moe. traded off on a pair of sets Saturday night. Umphrey’s manned the Sunshine Stage while moe. played on the same Moonshine Stage they’ve been featured on for years. A matured Umphrey’s McGee has found more space between the changes in their songs to allow an increasingly intricate tapestry of jams to grow out of their sound over the past few years. The band played wearing Star Wars Clone Trooper masks that bassist Ryan Stasik acquired at Target earlier that night.

The Moonshine Stage’s concert bowl was full for moe. as the band’s set exhibited a blend of melodic rock phrasings. One of many highlights took place when Warren Haynes emerged from the wings of the stage and found a comfortable spot between Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier for “Happy Hour Hero.”

Meanwhile, the Bluegrass Sessions were under way at the Soulshine Tent. Hosted by Chicago’s Sexfist, the quintet performed a tasteful mix of originals and staples in a traditional bluegrass style. Cornmeal’s bassist Chris Gangi joined the fun on mandolin. Janis Wallin of Family Groove Company played an electric bass counterbalancing the playing of Sexfist’s Bradley Longwood on the upright bass.

A piece of Summer Camp history occurred at the Campfire Stage early in the afternoon on Sunday. Chicago Farmer is a solo acoustic guitarist with a clear sense of humor coming through in his lyrics. His style made it seem out of the ordinary when towards the end of his set he pulled out a laptop and started playing dubstep. His crowd was confused until he pulled out a Louisville Slugger, wound up and smashed the laptop until the music stopped. With a bow he departed the stage and the crowd went wild.

Greensky Bluegrass’ kicked of the Moonshine Stage for the final day of the festival. The group’s finesse with their acoustic instruments painted a tapestry that added a tint of yellow to Sunday’s cloudless sky. Continuing the bluegrass theme, Devil Makes Three played songs about, what else, the devil. Sporting a much smaller lineup than Greensky’s seven players, the three guys in Devil Makes Three parlay a more traditional approach to the Americana genre.

One of Sunday’s highlights was the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s premiere at the annual Chillicothe festival. Susan Tedeschi’s soulful croon could not have been complemented better than it was by her husband, the unflappable Derek Trucks, and the licks he caressed from his Gibson SG. The band’s all-star lineup features the very best of southern rock, including Derek’s Allman Brothers bandmate Oteil Burbridge.
Having concluded five consecutive years of performing at Summer Camp with his band, The Peacemakers, in 2007, this year marked Oteil’s return as he carried the low end for the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Derek is recognized as one of the best living guitarist in any genre, and the same can be said of Victor Wooten in regards to the bass. The high caliber of these two performers presented a difficult decision for festival goers as Wooten and his band played the Starshine Stage at the same time Tedeschi Trucks Band was on the Moonshine Stage. The current configuration of Victor’s band humbles the bassist while letting his talents shine.

Fusing New Orleans funk with hip-hop, Galactic further enhanced their powerful sound with some special guests. Fellow Big Easy players the Dirty Dozen Brass Band added their talents throughout Galactic’s set. A cover of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” brought the energy levels in the crowd to a fervor, and the set closing performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” left the festival panting right before Sunday’s headliner.

Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” delighted longtime fans of the band. The alternative rock titans were not an act you would expect to find at a festival like Summer Camp, however this was a groundbreaking year for the Midwest festival. Jane’s Addiction helped establish Summer Camp Music Festival as an event that is not afraid to try new things and clearly has its sights set on growth in its second decade. Perry Farrell’s troupe opened thousands of young minds to a musical movement that helped spawn the modern festival scene.

As Sunday night got late, the entertainment didn’t slow down at all. This Must Be The Band projected the music of the Talking Heads to a Soulshine Tent overflowing with people grooving to the new age sounds. Changing the configuration of TMBTB’s line-up, Charles Otto lead his family of musicians into a set of Daft Punk’s music, performing under the name DJ noDJ, which left the Soulshine tent floored at four in the morning. Greensky Bluegrass played well into the night at the Campfire Stage following their 11 hour set break, and the Kalamazoo product had a sharper edge in their improvisations with the sun hiding behind the horizon. Retreating from the Campfire Stage, a Scamper could hear the nectar of IndigoSun’s jams undulating across vendor’s row. Deep in the wood, their funk jazz grooves oozed with the aspect of electronic performance that can captivate an audience. They fought the end of Summer Camp Music Festival with the trees at their backs. The variety of music to choose from wasn’t compromised at any point over the course of the four day weekend, right up until it was time to break camp and go home.

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