Smile Politely

The essence of Summer Camp continues at Solshine Reverie

An archway made of intertwined branches and twigs forms the entrance to a festival area. Large, colorful letters spelling "SOLSHINE" are attached to the arch. The letters are designed with vibrant patterns in shades of yellow, purple, green, and blue. Decorative elements, including a crescent moon and mushrooms with psychedelic colors, adorn the base of the arch. The archway is set in a wooded area with tall trees, and people are walking in the background, giving a festive and inviting atmosphere. The image is vibrant and captures the essence of an outdoor, nature-inspired festival.
Brett Bergen

Last year, I had the chance to speak with Ian Goldberg before the final Summer Camp Music Festival. He revealed that it would be the last iteration of the festival as it had come to be known, which was a bit disheartening for someone who hadn’t experienced it yet. Determined to soak in the festival’s essence, I decided to attend and I’m delighted that I had.

Last year, Goldberg mentioned the economic challenges of organizing music festivals, and how difficult it had become to sustain music festivals like Summer Camp. Solshine Reverie aimed to scale back while preserving the incredible vibe that had defined Summer Camp for over two decades.

Despite the changes, music remained the heart and soul of Solshine Reverie. The festival’s lineup was streamlined to focus primarily on jam bands and EDM artists, with a small mix of hip-hop, reggae, rock, and folk/bluegrass thrown in to round it out.

Jam bands are the backbone of Solshine Reverie. This year’s lineup boasted some of the most renowned jam bands globally, including Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, and Goose. Though moe. was scheduled, they had to cancel unexpectedly. The jam band community, however, didn’t miss a beat. A few bands agreed to play extra sets, and the hole created by the departure of moe. was filled quickly. 

A large crowd gathered in front of an outdoor stage with a red-roofed structure. The stage is set for a performance, with many people seated on the grass and others standing. The crowd is diverse, with many people wearing casual and festival attire.
Umphries Mc Gee; Photo by Derrick Philips

The festival’s EDM lineup was equally impressive, with both traditional DJs and artists incorporating live instruments into their electronic dance music, like STS9. Nighttime shows were a sensory delight, with lights and lasers creating a spectacular display that reached the surrounding trees. Although Deadmau5 had to cancel his 3 a.m. set on the last day of the festival, the EDM scene thrived with acts like Big Gigantic, Slander, Sunquabi, and University of Illinois alumnus John Summit.

The final musical segment encompassed hip-hop, reggae, rock, and folk/bluegrass, primarily showcasing local talent alongside a few national touring acts. This diversity allowed for a rich tapestry of sounds that catered to a wide range of musical tastes.

Despite the new name, the spirit of Summer Camp was alive and well. Attendees greeted each other with familiar phrases like “Happy Scamping” or “Have a great Scamp.” Changes were apparent, such as the reduction in stages and amenities, consistent with Goldberg’s vision for a more manageable festival. The fewer stages meant less music, but the quality of performances more than made up for it, plus fewer difficult choices when building your schedule on the app.

A person with long blond hair wearing a brightly colored tie-dye t-shirt, red pants, and a baseball cap with a psychedelic design. They have multiple bracelets on both arms, a long beaded necklace, and are wearing reflective green sunglasses. The scene is outdoors with other festival-goers in the background.
Dancing Man at Solshine Reverie; Photo by Derrick Philips

Friday morning and early afternoon brought some threatening storms, as did Sunday, but the spirits of the festival-goers remained high. The incredibly positive vibe that has always defined these festivals persisted throughout the weekend. The overall atmosphere was one of trust and camaraderie, and while there may have been some rare bad apples, strangers became friends and family for nearly five days.

People seemed to shed their worldly worries, engaging in positive conversations and random acts of kindness. I might not look like the most approachable guy, but several people came up to me, striking up conversations or offering small tokens of goodwill. Volunteers, like Daniel and Colin who I had the pleasure of getting to know over the course of the festival, worked their shifts with smiles and wished everyone “Have a great Scamp,” reflecting the event’s positive energy.

Thursday, is officially a “pre-party” day, but it’s crucial to attend for securing a good camping spot. Arriving three hours before gates opened, I was still behind a sizable contingent. After a slow start, the line at the gate started moving, and the hunt for a home to get me through the next four nights was on. After setting up my tent in a shaded area, I headed to Kenny’s Westside Pub Stage to catch Sitrus Sol, the band that won the Canopy Club’s battle of the bands to play here at the festival. Despite a modest crowd, their performance was tight, and it was especially heartening to see other local artists who showed up to support them.

Multiple performers on stage. One is wearing a black t-shirt with "Half House Studios" on it, khaki shorts, and a yellow bandana. Another performer is in a colorful tie-dye tank top and ripped jeans. Additional members are in the background with various casual attire.
Half House; Photo by Derrick Philips

Later in the afternoon, I caught the local hip hop collective Half House. Their set was a high-energy affair, drawing a growing crowd with their dynamic performance. As Mousepad announced, “Yeah, we’re rappers. You’re gonna hear some rap.” The group’s energetic performance had everyone moving, and their beats, produced by Whiptrip6 and Mousepad, kept the crowd engaged.

Day two brought intense storms in the morning, leading festival-goers to seek cover. I ducked into the VIP tent, which probably wasn’t the safest place but kept me dry for a bit. Once the all-clear was given, I headed to see Urbana’s own Carrie Sue and the Woodburners. Despite the festival running late due to the weather, their performance drew people out of their tents, captivated by Carrie Chandler’s powerful voice.

Carrie Sue and the Woodburners, comprised of Carrie Chandler (lead vocals/guitar), Cody Jensen (mandolin/vocals), and Charlie Harris (upright bass/vocals), used a single old-timey-looking mic that blended their voices perfectly. Their set included originals like “Don’t,” “Stepping Stones,” and “New Kind of Blue,” and a few covers. After their performance, Chandler immediately left for another gig in St. Louis and Jensen and Harris had to pull double-duty with another localish band in less than two hours.

A band performing on stage. The guitarist on the left has long hair and a long beard, wearing a colorful patterned shirt and striped pants. The lead singer in the center is playing an acoustic guitar, wearing a light blue shirt and a brown hat. A drummer is in the background.
Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes; Photo by Derrick Philips

That band was Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes. The crowd and myself enjoyed a rousing set from them in the early afternoon at the Campfire Stage. Their folk and Americana music felt like a rock show, with Jake Willis’s guitar work adding a definite edge. Chicago Farmer (Cody Diekhoff), had the crowd in the palm of his hands, sharing stories and eliciting laughter from the audience. Their set was one of my favorites, thanks to the strong bond between the band and the crowd during the set, and the sheer amount of people dancing. After one particular song, Diekhoff remarked “There’s more words in that 10 minute song than you will hear in any other 10 minute song all weekend.”

The Solshine Reverie field days, a former Summer Camp tradition of feats of strength and talent, added to the fun. Teams competed in various events, with Half House members joining the purple team for tug-of-war, losing only in the championship round. It was great to see everyone having fun, reminiscent of summer camps when we were young.

I caught the local hip-hop duo Trouble Chasin‘ at the Kenny’s Westside Stage. Sandman Slim and Chase Baby delivered an electrifying set, showcasing their tight delivery and impressive beats. Their performance drew a large crowd, and I learned that they have new music on the way, including solo projects from each member. I’m excited to see what they come up with next.

Two performers on stage. One is wearing a "THE BLUE COLLAR" t-shirt and singing into a microphone. The performer in the background is wearing a large straw hat and a colorful shirt,. They are both illuminated by stage lights.
Trouble Chasin’; Photo by Derrick Philips

On the fourth day, I enjoyed a bonus set of Chicago Farmer in the VIP tent, featuring him and guitarist Willis, with a few special guests. It was heartening to see a full tent for Dierhoff.

My last local act was Emily How at Kenny’s Westside Bar Stage. The set started mellow but drew in the crowd as it progressed. She’s a young artist growing into her own as a songwriter and performer, and her versatility is evident in her music. I think she’s a rocker through and through, but her versatility as a musician and songwriter casts a wide net of genres her music could fit perfectly into. 

Overall, the reduction in stages and bands didn’t detract from the experience. I was just as busy and exhausted as last year, and the positive vibes of Solshine Reverie remained undiminished. This festival continues to be a cornerstone of Central Illinois music culture, and I hope it thrives for years to come.

Three musicians singing into a shared microphone, close together. One is holding a guitar and wearing a denim shirt, another is in a dark hoodie and a wide-brimmed hat playing a double bass, and the third is wearing a patterned dress and a denim jacket, also holding a guitar.
Carrie Sue and the Woodburners; Photo by Derrick Philips
Three musicians singing into a shared microphone, close together. One is holding a guitar and wearing a denim shirt, another is in a dark hoodie and a wide-brimmed hat playing a double bass, and the third is wearing a patterned dress and a denim jacket, also holding a guitar.
Carrie Sue and the Woodburners; Photo by Derrick Philips
A close-up of a performer wearing a black t-shirt with "Half House Studios" written on it, a yellow bandana around the neck, and a crochet bucket hat with a sunflower design. Another performer with long hair and sunglasses is visible in the background, wearing a colorful shirt.
Half House; Photo by Derrick Philips
A group of performers on stage, with purple lighting illuminating the scene. One performer in a black t-shirt and khaki shorts is holding a microphone and wearing sunglasses. Another performer is in a sleeveless white shirt with a "Warrior" design and white pants. Other group members are visible in the background.
Half House; Photo by Derrick Philips
A man wearing a tie-dye overall shorts and a light blue t-shirt is dancing. He has a beard and is wearing a brown hat. Next to him is a person in a black t-shirt and shorts, with a purple bandana tied around their neck. Other festival attendees are seen in the background.
Solshine Reverie; Photo by Derrick Philips
A close-up of a musician playing a bass guitar, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a colorful patterned shirt over a green t-shirt. The musician has long hair and a beard.
Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes; Photo by Derrick Philips
A musician sitting at a keyboard with a microphone, wearing sunglasses, a denim shirt, and jeans. Several guitars are visible in the background.
Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes; Photo by Derrick Philips
A group of six people posing together outdoors at a festival. They are all wearing casual and festival attire, including bandanas, hats, and sunglasses. They are making various hand gestures and smiling at the camera. The background shows a grassy area with other festival-goers and tents.
Half House; Photo by Derrick Philips
A performer singing into a microphone on stage. He is wearing a large straw hat, a colorful floral shirt with a pattern, and white pants. The stage backdrop partially reads "PEORIA" and "KENNY'S". The scene is illuminated by stage lights and smoke.
Trouble Chasin’; Photo by Derrick Philips
A close-up of a performer with a beard and glasses, singing into a microphone. He is wearing a black t-shirt with "THE BLUE COLLAR" written on it and a gold necklace. He has a bracelet on his wrist and is holding the microphone with both hands.
Trouble Chasin’; Photo by Derrick Philips
A musician with long hair and sunglasses is singing into a microphone and playing a yellow electric guitar. He is wearing a purple tie-dye t-shirt with a vibrant design and blue jeans.
Sitrus Sol; Photo by Derrick Philips
A musician wearing sunglasses, a white t-shirt with a design, and gray shorts is playing an electric guitar on stage. There's a keyboard on the stand in front of him.
Sitrus Sol; Photo by Derrick Philips
A close-up of a female musician singing into a microphone while playing a guitar. She is wearing a red top with floral designs and blue denim shorts. The background shows stage lights and part of a banner that reads "SIDE".
Emily How; Photo by Derrick Philips
A band performing on stage. The lead singer is in the center, wearing a red top, blue denim shorts, and playing a guitar while singing into a microphone. To her left, a guitarist in a striped shirt and jeans is playing an electric guitar. A drummer in a white shirt is in the background, and another musician in a white shirt and jeans is playing a bass guitar on the right. The backdrop reads "KENNY'S WESTSIDE WHERE".
Emily How; Photo by Derrick Philips

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