107.7 The End’s Summer Camp 2017
Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

After a killer experience and amazing bands at 107.7 The End’s “Summer Camp” last year, it was hard to imagine how they might top it this year. Once again, though, our local alt-radio kings managed to pull together a lineup of the hottest recent artists for a two-day festival worth looking forward to all year long.  

Last minute headliner dropouts at Sasquatch! and a shaky inaugural year for Upstream were a rough start for Seattle festivals this year, and unfortunately not even Summer Camp was immune. As daily lineups were released, fans quickly noticed Sundara Karma missing from the schedule, which the station simply responded was “out of their control.” The morning of day two of the festival, it was announced that Beth Ditto, a notable local act scheduled to play a mid-day set, was too ill to perform, leaving the station in a scramble to fill her spot day of (spoiler alert: it all turned out great in the end).

As with The End’s December mini-festival, “Deck the Hall Ball,” the first slot of the afternoon is dedicated to a local act. Day one’s locals were one of my favorites: The Fame Riot, who’ve been putting in their dues playing local lineups and early time slots at bigger festivals for years. With “Heart Stray” on 107.7, their name carried a glimpse of familiarity to the Summer Camp crowd, though only a small – and lucky – crowd showed up early enough to catch them.

TFR is comprised of two brothers, Shazam Watkins on vocals/keyboard and Liz Scarlett on lead vocals/guitar, backed by a band to fill in the sound. Going a different direction than the typical Seattle garage-rock, these guys have one hell of a glam-pop set. Their thrift store-esque style was seemingly random and incredibly colorful, making it impossible to take your eyes off of them as they energetically ran around the stage (and the crowd) gaining loads of new fans.

Next up, Magic Giant returned to the stage after their Capitol Hill Block Party set less than a month ago. Filling in after Sundara Karma’s disappointing dropout from the lineup, I was ready to be unimpressed; especially since MG are an indie group that leans a little more folk. I was proven wrong in about 30 seconds though, as these guys put on an incredible performance. Day one kept building towards greatness as MG played their warm, happy songs with huge smiles and an energy that never faded. Laying back on loving fans along the front, laying on the stage, and big drum breaks left everyone laughing and joyful long after their set.

Taking a turn in the other direction, MISSIO took over with their electro-trap music, proudly bringing out the 14-year-old boy in every crowd member. The duo had a bit of an odd set, but somehow it fit perfectly in the day. Some songs followed a more conventional path with lyrics about heavy topics like drug addiction, while others got the crowd hyped with meaningless lyrics like “killing Darth Vader with my motherfuckin’ kick drum,” all shouted passionately from slightly confused fans.

Geared a little more towards the older side of the crowd and the parents sunbathing on the lawn, Minus the Bear was next to take the stage with their classic alternative sound. While everyone clearly respected the music and recognized the obvious talent of the group, the set was in a bit of an odd spot amongst newer bands geared towards the younger festival crowd. Nonetheless though, Minus the Bear put on an impressive performance, and pretty much the entire crowd clicked in when “Last Kiss,” a frequent 107.7 track, was played.

Switching back to the electronic side of the spectrum, Bob Moses stepped up to play their hazy, summery, atmospheric tracks. In contrast to almost every other set of the weekend, the duo’s performance felt more like one long close-your-eyes-and-float-along set than a collection of individual tracks.

If you’ve listened to 107.7 in the last several months, you’ve probably heard either “Blood in the Cut” or “High Enough,” the two most popular tracks from Summer Camp’s next performer. As I’m in love with K.Flay’s Life as a Dog album and have only heard good things about her live performance, she was easily one of my most anticipated artists of the weekend, and she lived up to all my hopes. The first self-proclaimed “emo kid” of the weekend, her lyrics tend to carry darker themes, an interesting dynamic with her feminine voice and quirky comments between songs (mostly about the discovery that there’s a city here called Kirkland, just like the Costco brand). With her catchy tracks and a performance to match, K.Flay’s set is sure to be a big hit when she returns with Imagine Dragons later this year.

Our next emo kid of the afternoon, and the last before the headliners, was Bishop Briggs, a Summer Camp legend returning for another killer performance. Last year, as her track “River” was climbing the charts, Briggs played an early set at Summer Camp that left everyone in awe. With a much later time slot this year, she brought in the biggest crowd of the weekend, loads of fans proudly shouting along, many with their hair tied up in tight space buns like her signature style.

Finally, Metric headlined the night with an interesting turn of events. As Briggs left the stage, much of the crowd seemed to follow. Despite the smaller crowd, Metric had a really impressive set. With echoey alt-rock sounds, the music sounds a little reminiscent of 2000’s stuff, but with an updated tinge that makes it fit. Those who decided to stay quickly had their phones out as lead singer Emily Haines returned to the stage with a neon yellow cape that blew around behind her, glowing in the backlights on stage, creating the perfect scene.

Day two began with Dude York, a local garage-rock group growing in recent popularity. They were pretty fun, bringing in a recklessly raw sound that quickly gained the respect of the crowd.

Now here’s where Summer Camp ran into a hitch. Originally, SWMRS was scheduled to play next, followed by Beth Ditto. But Twitter notifications signalled that due to Ditto’s sudden illness, The End called on day one breakout act The Fame Riot to return for a second set. Seemingly elated by the proposal, TFR blessed the crowd with yet another amazing performance, giving new faces a chance to see their style. While they played many of the same tracks, their set remained effortlessly entertaining, especially when they toned down the pompous stage act for one a little more real and humble, a refreshing glimpse at the band.

Then it was time for California rockers, SWMRS. Among handfuls of sunny little indie groups that weekend, SWMRS took the crowd a bit by surprise with a set that leaned a little more pop-punk than banjo happy. Listening to their studio recordings after the show, they nearly sound like a completely different band. The live performance was pretty aggressively wild, while their album is drastically more tame.

While the music was great and a load of fun, the thing I liked most about these guys is how 100% genuinely themselves they were. This came to light the moment lead singer Cole Becker stepped on stage rocking a navy blue polka dot dress. Most of the crowd didn’t blink twice, but one of my favorite moments occurred as an older woman stepped closer to the stage to see him. After squinting for a moment, she turned to her friend slightly confused and said “he’s wearing a dress…?” She followed that quickly and lovingly by an enthusiastic, “I LOVE IT!!” before she and her friend ran up to the stage to dance along with the crowd of teenagers.

SWMRS topped off their set with more punk jams, eventually getting the crowd to make a pretty weak circle pit, something I doubt most of the crowd has ever seen before.

Pretty far from the pop-punk set, LP took the stage confidently as she drew in the crowd. Her set was bare boned—no fancy tricks, no exuberant clothing, no crazy dancing—just her singing happily with the crowd.

Next up to hop back on the indie/alternative bandwagon for the afternoon was Sir Sly, the group I was most looking forward to on day two. Even with only two albums released, these guys have changed their sound around a fair amount. The debut, You Haunt Me, takes an atmospheric, dark, dreamy approach to alternative music. Their latest release Don’t You Worry, Honey, leans a little more synth-heavy as they settle into a slightly more experimental sound. The new album carries a serious amount of weight on its own. Emotional lyrics, and a rollercoaster of emotions throughout, it’s truly a wonderful work of art.

As the band stepped up on stage though, lead singer Landon Johnson explained a little of the meaning behind the new album. He told the crowd about recent struggles with his faith, going through a divorce, and losing his mother to brain cancer, all trying events that really shaped the album. This explanation made a world of difference for their performance. It gave tracks like “Altar” and “Change” a new weight, and made their performance my day two favorite by far. Much praise for these guys, they desperately need to return to the PNW very soon for their own headline show (preferably where they just play their whole discography in it’s entirety).

As we settled into the final stretch of Summer Camp 2017, New Politics was not about to let anyone dip out. Their set can be described as simply insane. When you’ve got an energetic drummer and guitarist it’s always fun time, but when you top that with a lead singer who is also a breakdancer, things get pretty wild. From dance breaks to wild flips and jumps, way too much could be missed in a blink, let alone if you dared to look away.

Music wise, New Politics shaped up with some fun dance tracks including “Harlem,” the banger I’m pretty sure nearly everyone forgot about after 2013.

Andrew McMahon seems to pop up around here all the time. After playing with Panic! at the Disco and Weezer in the same venue last summer and at The Neptune earlier this year, McMahon was back yet again to inspire the crowd with some of the most uplifting songs you’ve ever heard. I’ve seen him a few times and one of the incredible things about his set is you always leave it feeling like a part of something so much bigger. Maybe it’s his cancer survivor story, maybe it’s the parachute he throws in the crowd, maybe it’s him dancing with fans, but whatever it is, his set is always an incredibly loving time.

Last year, Summer Camp ended with everyone losing their breath jumping along to “My Body” with Young the Giant. This year The End did things a little differently, instead closing Sunday with Vance Joy, an acoustic singer-songwriter. The set wasn’t boring, but it certainly wasn’t a huge party to end the weekend, more of a soft lullaby bringing everyone down from the high of the afternoon.

After fighting through some struggles, 107.7 The End once again pulled through for Seattle alternative fans with a festival to die for. Sporting acts from all different sides of the spectrum, the two day spectacular was well rounded and incredibly well done, only shaping up for an even better run next year.

Review and photos by Lulu Dawson

107.7 The End Summer Camp 2017