The Summer Camp Pre-Party kicked off yesterday with a bang, definitely not a wimper. The weather was nice, a little cool and no rain. However, there was a little evidence of previous showers; small puddles and a little mud. Checking in at the festival was super easy, and very well organized. They seem to improve this process every year, and it makes a big difference. There’s nothing worse than getting jerked around as soon as you arrive. Yesterday was a great first impression.
Our first musical foray was Umphrey’s sound check at the Sunshine Stage. This was unscheduled, but as we were standing in the Merch Tent catching up with John Derhak, Summer Camp’s “Merch Man”, we heard the familiar intro to 1348. We trotted on over to the stage to listen (remember is still only Thursday and we were still moving quickly). We got a little taste of things to come this weekend.
Next up was a band from Champagne-Urbana, IL named Sun Stereo at the Starshine Stage. They bought a jazzy, funky vibe. The lead singer looked like a cross between Aladdin and the ringmaster from the circus. We wandered over to the Campfire Stage and caught a couple songs from Crosby Sweater, which featured Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s on the keys.
Following Crosby Sweater, over on the Starshine Stage was Family Groove Company. FGC has become a Summer Camp mainstay, in their eighth or ninth year. And, they always play on the Thursday Pre-Party, which I think is great because they really set the tone for the weekend to come. They did not fail to impress. Plus, the icing on the musical cake was Allie Kral of Cornmeal sitting in. Allie had recently announced that she would be leaving Cornmeal, so this year’s Summer Camp is going to be her farewell from that bluegrass quintet. She did a great tune with FGC, and then the band closed with a cover of Tom Petty’s American Girl.
OK, now things were rocking. Cornmeal was up next on the Starshine Stage and overlapping that set was Caravan of Thieves at the Campfire Stage. I opted for the Caravan. They brought their Gypsy Swing music, playing a great, sing-along version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. After this set, we headed back over to the Starshine Stage and caught some of the beginning of Digital Tape Machine, featuring Joel Cummins and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee. They play an edgy blend of electronic, progressive, house music, with a lot of drums and bass. After about a half hour we were ready to call it a day. Gotta make sure you’re rested and ready to rage for the official opening day of Summer Camp.
I’d like to include Summer Camp food recommendations in my daily recaps. Yesterday we really enjoyed the empanadas at Manolo’s. I can say that the San Telmo Carne and the Inferno Chicken Empanadas really hit the spot. Great flavor and very convienient for eating while you’re walking. That’s a big plus at a music festival. The price is right at $2.50 per empanada. I also enjoyed the Teriyaki Chicken with Lo Mein noodles at the Asian Sensation booth. Usually they serve the Teriyaki Chicken with rice, but get it with the noodles. You won’t be disappointed. And don’t miss the Coffee Wagon when you need that caffeine boost. They’ve got a great double-shot of espresso for $2.50.