Four Sets in 19 Hours: A Musician Look Back at Summer Camp
Hot Buttered Rum’s Nat Keefe remembers an intense stretch at the Summer Camp Music Festival. Keefe may not be on stage quite so often often over the coming days but Hot Buttered Rum has an active summer tour itinerary.
SATURDAY May 26
12:45am. (Pacific Time Zone) Hot Buttered Rum finishes the last notes of a three-song encore to a packed house at the Hopmonk in Sebastopol, CA. (“Genie’s Loose” “Way Back When” > “Lovelight.”) There are so many old friends there that I don’t want to leave. However, I pack up my Toyota Matrix and drive the 1 hour home to San Francisco. Erik Yates comes with me to spend the night on my couch and get a ride to the airport.
2:25am. My head hits the pillow.
4:10am. Alarm goes off. It seems like the most unlikely thing to be here, in this bed, with this strange sound. A few moments ago I’d been flying through a Utah redrock landscape in my subconscious, tasting nectar from cactus flowers. Now I feel like a premature baby with organs that don’t work. I get my ass in gear, and Erik and I get out the door.
7:12am. After the usual bustle of lines and security, the five members of Hot Buttered Rum are on an airplane and taxiing to the runway. I’ve been called the best sleeper in HBR — I can sleep anywhere — and I promptly fall asleep in my seat.
1pm. (Central Time Zone) The jolt of landing at Chicago O’Hare wakes me from more flying and more nectar. Did I drool on my neighbor? This is not something to worry about. I check for my phone and my wallet and get off the plane.
1:52pm. Erik goes and gets the rental van and meets the rest of Hot Buttered Rum with a pile of gear at the baggage claim curbside. We load up and drive south.
5:22pm. Nearing Chilicothe, IL, the site of Summer Camp, we have to make a decision. Do we go to the festival and join the informal bluegrass jam session we were invited to by Cornmeal, or go catch a nap the hotel? We have only one van so it has to be a group decision. We decide to go to hotel — ouch — I love stuff like that. But we have to prioritize energy for the 2:30am set. We go to hotel, I eat an early dinner, change my guitar strings, begin the setlist, and sleep for an hour.
10pm. Arrive on Summer Camp site. So huge. So ridiculous. Masses of cars and flesh and dust. I think of the first festivals I went to before I had a professional reason to be there. I was a little lonely without a girlfriend or a band or a way to get beer, but man those were fun… We park the van next to the stage and touch base with our front-of-house sound engineer Andy Whilden, who flew in the the day before and is already there setting things up.
11pm. News of the SF Giants’ loss to the Marlins in Miami spreads through the band. I feel my testosterone level dip.
11:30pm. Soundcheck. Soooo good to have Andy here. The stage sounds good, he’s a great “doer of things,” and it’s wonderful to have a younger guy in the band to heckle. I throw my guitar in the van and go walk around the festival with Lucas.
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