Summer Camp Music Festival Review

If you grew up going away each year after school, you might know it as Summer Camp.

But if you’re from the Midwest and you love good music, community and dancing in the dust, you’d know it as Scamp.

Quiet Thursday morning pre-arrival in the woods

The days are finally longer, the trees lusciously green, and Memorial Day weekend signals the biggest annual summer kickoff party in Illinois.

Outside the quaint but vibrant community of Peoria amidst the rolling farm hills, thousands of people gathered from across the country to attend possibly the most memorable event in the history of Scamp’s 22 years of running. 

It’s not often that you can go from seeing Willie Nelson and his family performing one stage to watching Boogie T and Mastadon throw down heavy hitters, all in one night. Not to mention a theatrical performance by Vulfpeck, a massive crowd for Excision, plenty of gluten supporting Daily Bread, and other enigmatic performances by Maddy O’Neal, Manic Focus, Ganja White Night, The Floozies, Late Night Radio, Kumarion, BUKU and The Sponges– just to name a few. 

Sunset after Willie Nelson & Family

But Scamp is a special place, and that much is clear for anyone who takes a walk in Illumination Woods at night or stops by for some healing from the garden at Soul Patch. As a first time Scamper and first time volunteer as a garden host, I was truly blown away by the immediately welcoming and inviting energy from everyone to relax, enjoy the community, and be exactly who you are. Whether it was being serenaded by hand-pan and guitar in daily yoga, making recycled art, taking a sound bath or playing in the jellyfish jungle gym, the music and jubilee seeped into every square inch of the weekend.

Since 2001, Summer Camp has long been held as one of the most diverse and dynamic festivals, bringing jam band and EDM fans of all ages together under the same stages. However, shortly before the event took place this year, festival founders shared that this would be the last year scampers would see the event on such a big scale. In the future, it will become a redefined camping and music event.

Illumination Woods Art
Medicine Wheel and Garden

From the moment gates opened on Thursday, the atmosphere had a palpable split energy to it– there were some who languished at the fact they had not heard this was the festival’s “last year”, while others felt excited and hopeful about changes, and some fully intended to make the most out of this experience. 

My time at Scamp was filled to the brim with positive interactions, radical kindness from strangers, inclusivity and support, genuine connection and of course, music that brings together people from all backgrounds. I enjoyed acoustic jam sets from headliners Moe and Umphrey’s McGee but also found myself loving underground electronic artists like The Tripp Brothers, 20Twenty, and Manthom Phenace. A highlight for me was catching the Stop Light Observations, which are a small but mighty foursome I’d been following for years and finally got to see command the stage with their ethereal vocals, funkadelic melodies, and deep groves. 

There are so many memories I’ll never forget from this weekend. Fun shenanigans like walking an invisible dog on a leash, shooting hoops in the crowd, trading trinkets with strangers, eating more fruit than I thought possible with my bare hands… Then there were also the people that took care of me after I fell out of my hammock, the ones that left gifts on my yoga mat, and those that gave away free polaroids and festival cards. Not to mention all the workshops and programming that gave me hope for the future, trust in my community, and inspiration to bring this grounded and conscious intention to more event spaces. 

Soul Patch at Night

I found that the heart of the festival was rooted in SOUL PATCH, the only permanent part of Summer Camp’s set up that stays partially intact year round. Here, people were able to interact with immersive art, explore the fairy garden, sit in for workshops/discussions and connect to community. In an otherwise at times intense and overwhelming setting, Soul Patch offered the opportunity to slow down and re-connect.  

Being a garden host, I was able to interact with a variety of individuals with diverse ranges in interests and experience. Through these differences though, I noticed that the one commonality we all shared was our openness to new experiences and curiosity for learning more. There was a unique ability to speak with authenticity, listen with intention, and connect with new ideas and minds that shift your perspective. 

Growing your roots here will surely lead to blossoms of the mind and heart, and if you come in with kindness and an open mind you might just experience a radical connection.  

Thank you Summer Camp, and Thank you SOUL PATCH!

Restoration Station
Creation Station
Happiness grows with Soul Patch <3