Camp Suds music festival was frozen fun in Cottage Grove

todayNovember 2, 2023 2

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COTTAGE GROVE – Musicians and music fanatics gathered under last weekend’s full moon, despite the freezing temperatures, to celebrate Halloween, dance to dynamic bands, and some even slept under the stars.

Camp Suds: v1.5 – which was held at Western Oregon Exposition from Friday, Oct. 27-Sunday, Oct. 29  – was the Eugene-based band Spunj’s second time organizing and headlining this music festival. The band explained that labeling this year’s festival as version 1.5 was a silly joke referencing “The Lion King” franchise, which opted to call its second movie “The Lion King 1 1⁄2.”

It was difficult for Spunj guitarist and vocalist Josh Harris to describe his Eugene-based band’s genre in any way other than saying: “Our music is a cosmic gumbo” – which is a fitting way to explain the different bands which played at the festival, too. Camp Suds: v1.5 had everything from “jam bands,” which played music with a psychedelic rock influence, to bluegrass bands, to electronic DJs.

“The festival is an amalgamation of all the Northwest bands,” said Daniel Underkofler, Spunj’s keyboardist and vocalist from Connecticut. “We’ve been touring the Pacific Northwest for the past four years, so we’ve built up a good Rolodex of band friends.”

Token Jackson – songwriter and guitar player for Token Rhymes, known as Eugene’s Grateful Dead cover band – said he was “just happy that we were available this year.”

“We love all these kids. We’re all friends,” Jackson said about the members of Spunj. “It was really fun to be part of this, and I’m very grateful we got invited.”

David Richards – Spunj’s vocalist, bassist, and saxophonist – grew up in Cottage Grove and said he hopes more Grovers were in attendance for Camp Suds’s second year.

The festival was full of Spunj’s friends – and not just on stage.

Camp Suds attendees Kevin Peterson and Brendan Softcheck – dressed in a rainbow unicorn onesie and a Pikachu onesie, respectively – drove down from Washington to camp at Western Oregon Exposition for the weekend to get the full Camp Suds experience.

“Our friends are all playing, and getting stinky brings people together,” Peterson said.

This was Peterson’s first year attending Camp Suds, but he mentioned that he and Softcheck have seen Spunj perform in three different states – Washington, Oregon, and Colorado – signifying their loyalty to the band.

(Left) Brendan Softcheck and Kevin Peterson attended Camp Suds v1.5 to see Spunj perform and enjoy a weekend of camping. (AMANDA LUREY / THE CHRONICLE)

Vendor Melanie Smith – a friend of the Spunj members as well as founder and owner of Fire Lit Clay: a handmade ceramics company based in Portland – said the moon added to the event’s ambiance. The ethereal glow from above seemed to be a morale booster for many festival-goers throughout the late evenings.

“The moon is super special. It’s so beautiful,” Smith said. “It’s really brightening up the whole night. You can just feel the energy here.”Tickets were listed at $75 for the whole weekend at Camp Suds: v1.5. Richards said “a good number of people” instinctively bought tickets – without even knowing the festival’s lineup.

The band has not yet calculated its earnings from the weekend.

There were many changes made to Camp Suds this year.

For starters, the lineup was almost completely different. Out of the 14 acts that took the stage, only four were part of last year’s festival: Spunj, Man on TV, The Muddy Souls, and Wood, which was previously known as Resonance.

A new addition to the weekend were the Olympics-inspired series of camp games. The 28 players were split into four teams – one team per member of Spunj – and competed in games like: a three-legged egg and spoon race and an “epic” game of Jenga, according to Underkofler.

But the main difference was the weekend the festival fell on and the weather that came with it.

Last year’s festival was in the summer and was affected by wildfire smoke and ominously cloudy skies rather than this year’s biting wind and frozen fingers. Although Camp Suds provided a sufficient amount of outdoor heaters and campfires, the weather was undeniably hard to bear for some who opted to head back to their cars or campsites for a quick reprieve from the piercing cold.

Spunj capitalized on the Halloween spirit by assigning themes for each day bands were playing and decorating with carved pumpkins and spider webs.

Friday’s theme was “COLORS.” Some people donned monochrome looks while others tackled the rainbow, wearing tie-dye. Saturday’s theme was “CLASSIC HALLOWEEN.” Costumes varied from comfortable onesies to clothes which showcased a niche joke, but some people pulled out all the stops, wearing costumes that may not have agreed with the sharp air.

As headliners, Spunj played for three hours both Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., respectively. The band incorporated the themes into each of its sets, which Spunj drummer and vocalist Sage McCommas said was a highlight of his weekend.

(Left to right) Joseph Cook, Abi Lowther, Bee Brush, and Lucas Brush said they were enjoying the festival’s music and energy. (AMANDA LUREY / THE CHRONICLE)

On Oct. 27, Spunj referenced colors through its song choices – like “Amber” by 311 and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. The next night, Spunj added Halloween-related songs to its setlist, including “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads and “Werewolves of Londo” by Warren Zevon.Spunj said this will likely be the only weekend Camp Suds is held on Halloweekend. The festival is projected to revert back to a weekend slot over the summer for 2024, although it is not officially scheduled yet, and Spunj is hoping to get sponsors to cover part of the cost of putting on the weekend festival.

“It’s an entirely homegrown effort by the four of us and the funds that we can raise by being on tour,” Harris said. “We’re feeling really, really good at actually generating a profit this year, which in the second year of throwing an event, is definitely something to be proud of.”

Spunj, as a collective, emphasized how amazing it is to put together a festival that allows their friends to come together and create memories. 

“There really is a thriving music community in the Northwest, and we are very lucky to be part of it,” Underkofler said. “It just feels very validating to have an event that can draw so many of our friends from all over the Northwest who share the same interest and passion.”

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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