The standard morning camp reveille was replaced with car horns on the 405 as I made my way down to Queen Mary Park in Long Beach for the ALT 98.7 Summer Camp. The Sunday afternoon event had the beautiful outdoor setting of a music festival, mixed with the hurried pace of a standard radio show. I put on my camp uniform (patterned short-sleeve button down), grabbed a nice cold cup of bug juice (IPA) and began to meet my “counselors” for the day.
The first half of the day served as a nice round-robin of up-and-coming counselors mixed with local favorites. Where the band was from coupled with a performance of their favorite song & dance move seemed to be the ice breaker for most. Superorganism kicked off the festivities, playing fan favorites “Something for your M.I.N.D.” and the radio hit “Everybody Wants to Be Famous”. For a band that looks like they could have been campers themselves, they displayed a great mix of maturity and energized stage presence to win over some new fans.
Up next was LA locals Lovelytheband who tried to appeal to the hipper, older campers with a bass-heavy version of Ginuwine’s “Pony”. After what seemed like only minutes, the rotating stage turned once again to reveal the next group of dance counselors, Jungle. The disco/funk/soul collective took the stage and delivered an amazing (albeit too short) set including old favorites and a few tracks off their upcoming sophomore album, For Ever, due out September 14.
ALT sweethearts AJR and Judah & The Lion provided a 1-2 punch of energy to the crowd that was now quickly filling in. The on-stage theatrics of AJR front man Jack Met along with the fence-rattling bass whipped the crowd into the first real frenzy of the day.
As dusk settled on Queen Mary Park, it was time for the Senior Counselors to show Summer Camp why they’ve stuck around. The campers in front of me decided it was prime time for a snack of the fungal variety, and with CHVRCHES, Death Cab for Cutie and ODESZA still to come, I couldn’t disagree.
CHVRCHES could have taught a summer-long class on synths and how to use them, but we settled for a solid performance and the longest set of the day so far (still only 50 minutes). Death Cab for Cutie showcased some of the new songs off their upcoming album, Thank You For Today, dropping this Friday, August 17. Taking a quick look around, the grounds were officially packed for the day’s final set, ODESZA.
While admittedly a slight departure from the overall sound of the day, nothing was going to stop ODESZA from making the most of their hour-long set. Ethereal originals and Porter Robinson remixes – everything was on the table for their set that sounded like a soundtrack to an intergalactic vacation. The horn section, drumline and guest vocalists took all in attendance on a musical trip far, far away.
While the site is slightly awkward to get to, ALT 98.7 provided free shuttles from downtown Long Beach right to the festival entrance making it a breeze. The only thing that bothered me about the layout was the VIP Viewing area for the stage took up about half the total field. Nice in theory, but when the majority of VIPs are radio contest winners and friends of the station who don’t show up till later, it leaves gaping holes in the crowd and an awkward look from the stage.
Summer Camp was anchored this year around great performances from the whole lineup. Sure some were only 25 minutes long, but these campers came for a taste of some of the best bands on the road right now, and that’s just what they got. Now we head home, put the pictures of camp up on our bedrooms walls and wait for next year.