A gathering of Chicago-lands positive music, people and art together for a weekend of positive vibes at the peak of summer was Whippersnap Music Festival. In the wooded northwest region of Illinois, Earlville's Stonehouse park hosted the event. The festival turned the campground into a jamming weekend with more than thirty bands on two stages. Bands included many from the Chicago music scene; Terrapin Flyer with Tom Constanten of the Grateful Dead, Family Groove Company, Barefoot Fred, The Coop, Cosmic Railroad, Thinner Teed, Roster McCabe, Brainchild, This Must Be The Band, Fresh Hops, Herbert Wiser and many more. The campground was covered in a blanket of trees, a thumping barn, a frisbee golf course, a lake to swim in and the perk of having electrical outlets. The music and other features of this festival made it unique and positive draw.
Friday July 15th
The first day of the festival began in the mid afternoon as the crowd flocked to the stages for the first bands. With Steve Barnes opening things up there was a heightened groove in the mood of those who could arrive early Friday. Moving into more music, Sean Sheil hit the Outdoors stage. Sheil's music brought a mellow vibe weaning into the festival with the acoustic skills. The afternoon was speeding along as the funk continued flowing. Dr. Ed and Friends took to the afternoon heat on the outdoors stage to bring on a reggae funky jam music with numerous up tempo tunes. The instruments on stage were mesmerizing to watch as they produced a flow of beats. As afternoon transformed into early evening, attendees were arriving more and more to fill up the dance areas around the stages.
Jump starting a night vibe was Soup in the party barn bringing some of Milwaukee's rock vibes to the festival. The barn was literally a rage with lights flashing and illuminating the structure. Lights were put on by the skills of Kyle Keagan who has a way of turning any stage into a visual work of art.
Old Shoe began to bring the soundtrack for the sunset with a folk feel. The first day was off to a fantastic and gripping start as some of the headlining sets were about to start.
Cosmic Railroad delivered a jam session on the outdoors stage as the night was on the way to a groove. Performing many renditions of rocking tunes of the Grateful Dead, Phish and other jam bands. Vibrating the fields with gripping rifts and catching favorites that started the evening on a positive note.
The bug spray was flowing along with the tunes as the first night of the festival began over the shadow of the full moon. With the moon lifting over the small lake on the grounds and over the weeping willow, Family Groove Company set an incredible mood for the surroundings. With a bass line kicking in to begin the set, the funky jam rock this band projects is captivating. Erupting the open field with psychedelic lights and swaying melodies. You couldn't help but shake it. Sharing many of the bands original music combined with covers of other musical artists. Performing songs from Medeski, Martin and Wood, Buffalo Springfield's “ Stop Children What's that Sound”, Led Zeppelin's “Ocean,” along with several others. Having some guest appearances to add additional talents to the stage was Jaik Willis for a song . The populous of the band sets such a personality, Janis Wallin on bass and vocals, Jordan Wilkow on keys and vocals, Mattias Blanck on drums as well as Adam Lewis on guitar. The band produced a collection of more than just dancable tunes to get the Whippersnap crowd, always offering a great variety of music and a massive amount of talent. This performance from Family Groove Company was a great start to night time performances and an impressive two set show was one of the main highlights of the weekend.
One attribute to this festival was the organization and ability to put the schedule together in a positive way to where there is always music playing somewhere! Thinner Teed kept the music bumping after FGC took off the stage. The barn literally was glowing through the trees as the lights synchronized with the music. As the Chicago based band raged with a bluegrass, electro mix of music. These guys on stage really knew how to move a crowd. With original songs and even a rendition of the pink panther theme, the music was full of energy and very technical jams in between the chorus's, build-ups and break downs, all of this made it a very fun show to see, perfect for late night rockers. As they took the night to the next level, music kept going and in the midsummers night on a full moon.
As the early morning was drifting by the dance beats began to pick up. The Herbert Wiser Band took to the barn to literally make a musical dance party. Electronic flare was belted out as the music moved those who stood by. The funky elements mixed with the tempo changes made this show gripping. Covering songs like the Band's “Ophelia” along with some of their own tunes, the music was flowing till early midmorning and closed out the barn stage till the next morning. With music continuing till the break of dawn on the Late night stage there was beats to keep you going till the new days light.
Saturday July 16th
The second and final day at the festival brought true appreciation for the Chicago music scene and the location of Stonehouse park. As the sun beat down to begin the day, sweltering rays that came down on the mid- July made it a rocky morning. Music began right at the peak heat at noon. Before rocking out to the start of the beats there were several extracurriculars that brought a heightened vibe to the fest. Activities including a yoga session, Kung-Fu or Tai-Chi were put together to waken up spirits and stretch after a long night of dancing. The first bands kicked off with the mellow jams of Tonal Carnaval and Fifth World. This only kicked off a long day filled with monumental music and moving those in the Midwest surrounding.
Lake Shore Vibe took to the stage during high noon on the Outdoors Stage. Progressive and cascading with jams the early day was begun with a hot sun and hot melodies to move the crowds. Recently taking in a new guitarist and pianist, it gave a band a great contrast to the melodies, now with two guitarist being able to feed off each other and the keys to add some great ambient sounds and all around great balance. Covers including songs by Santana as well as some of the band's original tracks. The music just kept you moving even if it was from stage to stage there was the scenery of the park to take in.
A Chicago based band called Genome took to the stage next. Jamming, Jivey, livening with every addition of sound. The instrumentals come together with power and positivity behind them. The guys on stage were full of smiles and ready to rock even with the sun whipping them with its rays. Energy was felt in the crowd who braced the heat to engage in the jams. Front man Kyle Madsen knew how to add a jazz influenced melodies with the saxophone along with the added sounds of the trombone by Xavier Galdon. Performing songs with smooth introductions moving into up tempo medians and gripping build ups. The percussion sounds added a stunning tap to the other instruments by knowledgeable instrumentalist, Drew Littell. Guitarist, Igor Voltchenko ripes his fingers on the instrument enticing the crowd. Other members spicing up the already hot day include Patrick Dinnen on bass and Asif Wilson on keys. The band showed its gratitude for the attendees that came to listen even if it was from a distance in the shade, they also gave thanks to the organizers of a homely festival of loved Chicago music.
Taking shelter from the summer weather in the Party Barn was the band Afternoon Moon. Original talents put together a rock infused jam session. Each instrument was developing a soothing additional layer of psychedelic goodness. With twin brothers fronting this band, they played off each other knowing one step ahead of time what the other brother was going to do. The day was moving along at a musically positive way.
Adding to the schedule was a Super Jam pinches and dashes of each band joined together on stage. Different bands added members to accompany many talents on one stage. Barefoot Fred, The Coop, Genome and many others were populating the stage. This represented an amazing collection of people that brought this festival to being. The crowd was hooked as every new jam brought out a new addition to the stage and the improvisation skills of this session showed the commutative of talents .
A performance that always has a gripping way to his stage presence was Jaik Willis. Outspoken, with political and topical issues this artists sends reminders of a present day, Bob Dylan when on the stage. Acoustic Guitar and unique sound in vocals creates music that to many have been moving and heart gripping. Your soul seems to open up a bit when Jaik begins to speak on today issues and person experience. Harmony flowed from the stage with the vocals Jaik outbursts. The tone of his set was perfect though this musician seemed to be a highlight to not only his own set but his accompaniment to many other bands over the weekend.
Flashing us back to the classics was a theme over this festival as This Must Be the Band a Talking Heads cover band came out. Energy and captivation that the Talking Heads held. Front man has same stare and awkward mannerisms as David Burnes, it’s a little freaky yet gripping. A Variety of covers of psychotically grasping music and lyrics that live on through bands like this. Stunning feminism in the band with bassist and backup vocals. “Girlfriend,” Psycho Killers” Drew little brings out his percussionist skills for a few numbers. As the moon rose the beats seemed to grow into the closing of their set and the jump start to the evening filled with a continuation of music.
Taking the evening set was Bonzo Turks. Funky, jazz, rock melodies were formed from the musicians of this suburban Chicago band. A highlight of the set was the ability to share the stage. Jaik Willis came in raging an electric side to his talents that showed a different side of this musician. Performing Medeski Martin and Wood cover expressed their love for smooth combinations of instrumentals. It was a fabulous set just teasing for the rest of the nights music.
Terrapin Flyer with Tom Constanten sent shivers through the attendees. With music that brewed deep with added droplets of sounds melted off of the addition of Tom Constanten's fingers. The spirit of the Grateful Dead was felt as the music literally never stopped. The band has a way of keeping the crowd moving. With covers of numerous beloved GD and other songs. Coming out with a thumping version of “Shakedown Street,” vibrations were rocking the small hilled area that was on the festival grounds. “Mister Charlie” was a swirling sensation to get the mood up. Sweeping their style of classics continued with, “The Harder they Come,” drifting into,” The Music Never Stopped,” transfixing the crowd with a version of,” When I Paint my Masterpiece.” With the set flowing by there were additions to catch the ears of those who were ready to hang loose. The music was heightened towards to final stretch of the set. With the songs, “Scarlet Begonias,” transitioning into, ”Fire on the Mountain,” then bringing a smile to the ladies faces with the number, “Woman are Smarter.” Concluding the set the band kicked off a jam with, ”Eyes of the World,” then topping it off with the party theme of Saturday night, ”One More Saturday Night.”
Barefoot Fred came out to a roar from the attendees for this gathering came together in many ways because of a few of this bands members. Enthusiasm and support was overflowing from the crowd as the progressive chords began. The music was a production of rapid movements on the members instruments. Band members each had their own personality and style they stirred in to the tunes. With some songs spun into their own version to bring in the party and other originals from the band off their LP, Worship the Sun. These guys are just a positive vibration. The groove and shaking of your hips can’t be prevented as the music was thumping. Sections of the band include the bass player, Kevin Cisner, keyboardist, Tony Kahn, Shane Lavigne on percussion, Ryan Stevens on guitar and Brendan O'Donnell on drum kit. Enthusiasm for this whole festival was wrapped up into this bands set. Their collective music and community feel that brought together the crowd in front of the stage also helped to embrace the powerfully moving members of the bands who make and build positive memories in the plains of the Midwest. Barefoot Fred just brings carefree sensations into your mind and move through your body when they are on the stage. A true positive to the night was this bands performance in the party barn and truly bringing a party.
The Coop had new thrills as the highlight of their set. Funky beats came from the three musicians on stage. Laser lights connected to the bumping rhythms thanks to Kyle Keagan in a perfected manner. There is something about these guys on stage together that gets your heart beating and your body swaying. A climbing band only getting higher with the transformation of newly put together songs. Cason Trager, Jacob Barinholtz and Danny Biggins seem to be related with the synchronized skills that come together during their set. This performance was one that closed out the festival for many who raged the whole weekend and through the heat, it was icing on the cake and gave you a natural success feeling as their set dwindled along with the night.
Over the weekend in the smack dab middle of July the music was more hot than the temperature and the positive energy that flowed from Whippersnap Music Festival. The weekend created memories that would bring attendees back year after year. A big thanks goes out to Stonehouse park and Shane Lavigne of Barefoot Fred for organizing and succeeding at a beautiful and sensationally positive event. The moments that were created this year were timeless for those who came out to get in on the Midwest music vibes. With the first year being such a beautiful creation and nothing but love for its grounds at Stonehouse park, those who put on the festival and of course the great music, next year is sure to bring in something bigger and broader to flock in more to appreciate the festival music scene.