When I first heard about an outdoor music fest in Earlville, IL called “Stompkee,” I pictured shirtless guys in combat boots mid-air, but about to stomp on some kimchee in the woods. Kind of like Michael Flatley from Riverdance, but bald and on steroids.
But no, no, Stompkee is the name of the street near where the fest was originally held, in the District of Cornfieldia, where people would walk around all naked and wild — so I heard from one veteran Stompkee-ite. The fact that it was more “commercial” this year, its sixth year (they posted the event on Facebook, made a website, etc) supposedly caused some people to not attend. But 100 acres of camping, swimming and fishing in DeKalb County hardly seemed commercial for a city girl like me, coming from the Lolla-Land of Chicago. We camped underneath a willow tree, listened to DJ beats deep into the night by a campfire that bordered on a bonfire, and were woken up at 6am by people drunkboarding on the wooden skate ramp next to us.
The days were lazy, and the four stages — including a Barn Stage — were spread out, so you got not only a dose of scenery but a shot of exercise. We’d hear meanderings of Phish covers, but then catch a newer rap group at the hip-hop stage right by us. We wandered the grounds, got healthy grub from the House Cafe tent, and crappy grub (and bug spray) from the camp store. We diddled on the graffiti wall, before a more professional crew from my Humboldt Park neighborhood took it over, and met a guy who had some eye-poppin’ eyeball glasses. His girlfriend — minus her pink hair — reminded me of another girl I met who sported tattoos of the two members of Insane Clown Posse, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, on her thighs. She was real nice, just like every other Juggalo I’ve ever met. Scout’s honor.
The grounds were beautiful, at a place called Stonehouse Park, which also hosts events like Octoberfest, weddings — and combat-recreation events like RISING, “a live action game putting you into the heart of the zombie apocalypse.” We didn’t see any zombies, but there was body painting. And while I didn’t see anyone stomping on kimchee at Stompkee, I did see combat boots — worn by a military-type guy, believe it or not, recruiting for one of the staged battle events. I’ll just say that having a guy with a fake gun unexpectedly creep up on you at night while you’re zoning in on a campfire is a little freaky, hmmm? That was only to be topped by him demonstrating how to load it and talking about what they do to make it spark like it’s really shooting bullets. I videotaped part of his explanation for your viewing pleasure.
One band that really caught my attention was a group from Chicago called thuMp (yep, I kept their spelling, not to be confused with the other trip-hop/soul band Thump…just kidding). No but seriously, they’re amazing. Their sound makes me feel like I’m bumping down the streets of Harlem in the 1970s, inspired and ready to live life. You can listen here. I like that their bio reads: “We’re influenced by everything from rice bread to hip-hop.” Ha ha, rice bread.