Britt Adair expands her summer punk festival

Last year, the now-defunct venue Vandals was home to the inaugural Summer Kamp Fest — a three-day punk blowout featuring more than 30 local and regional acts. Britt Adair, then the booker at Vandals, was the principal Summer Kamp Fest organizer, and she had every intention of making it a recurring event.

But Vandals shuttered in March, and Adair had to find an alternative route. This time, instead of three nights on the same stage, she has spread the bands among different locations. This second Summer Kamp Fest kicks off Friday, August 14, at MiniBar, and continues Saturday at Harling’s Upstairs before closing Sunday with an all-ages set at FOKL Center.

I chatted with Adair about the evolution of the fest and how she plans to keep it alive.

The Pitch: How did Summer Kamp Fest get started?

Adair: Summer Kamp Fest got started by me being inspired by all the other festivals in Kansas City. Last year, Vandals was getting on its feet, and it was kind of a home for punk rock. I had approached my business partner at that time, [former Vandals manager] Michelle Wyssman, about getting more out-of-town bands to play shows there. And when Vandals closed, I kind of felt defeated. But then I felt like there are so many awesome, active
venues in Kansas City, why not see if they were interested? And I’m really excited to see that everyone wants to see a Summer Kamp Fest III and IV and beyond.

How has Summer Kamp Fest changed from last year?

This year, it’s in three different locations — in part because Vandals closed. It’s going to be three nights, one at MiniBar, one at Harling’s and the final night at FOKL, which will be all-ages. The bands are pretty much all different, with the exception of a couple that played last year.

I try to keep it as DIY as possible, with the sponsors being small and local and the venues being really low-key. I’ve been approaching it differently than last year in that sense. We’re also making the sets shorter and having less bands play every night. I think next year, when I plan it, I’ll try to have more all-ages venues involved.

What sets Summer Kamp apart from other festivals, including the punk-oriented Center of the City Fest?

I feel like Summer Kamp Fest is going to be the grittiest festival that you can go to. I mean gritty in the sense that it’s very no-frills, and the festival is just $5 to get in. It’s a quick way to see a bunch of bands that are kind of unknown, since a lot of the bands that are touring and playing Summer Kamp Fest are a little under-the-radar. Center of the City is a fest that brings in a lot of local bands, and it’s really, really awesome, but I wanted to get more out-of-town bands in. A lot of these bands just pass through town and play house shows, so for some people it’ll be a chance to hear some of them for the first time.

There are around 24 bands playing this year, and about half are out-of-towners, coming from Minneapolis, Texas, Arkansas, all over. It’s hard to get bands to come here from the coasts, but I think that’ll be another goal for next year.

It seems like it would be difficult to get bands that are used to playing house shows on their own schedule to commit to something like Summer Kamp Fest.

Well, as far as booking that many bands in one weekend, approaching them with enough notice means they were able to build tours around the event. And I feel like the punk-rock and rock-and-roll scene has gotten so good in Kansas City in the last five years that musicians do really want to come here and play.

Organizing this whole thing sounds like a thankless labor of love. Why is it important to you?

Last year, being the first year, was terrifying. I didn’t know if people would show up or even care, but when I did see people coming through the door, excited to be there and wanting to hear the bands, I just felt like I had to keep it going. I don’t make any money on this festival. I’m doing this for fun and so that everyone can have a good time. It’s really for the good of the scene.

I feel like it’s important for Summer Kamp Fest to exist because I want the bands that play to know that they have a home here. It’s comforting to know that there are other annual festivals in other cities, that they happen year after year — it makes you feel grounded. There are some bands that you’ll only see at festivals. In some ways, it’s like a family reunion. That’s what I want to happen here.

Another reason why I book it is because I want to put women in the front, because I am a feminist and I try to take the time to connect other women in the music scene. There are a lot of female performers this year at Summer Kamp Fest, and that’s a continuous goal — to bring more women into punk rock and rock and roll. I don’t want Riot Grrrl ideas to become a thing of the past. It almost feels like a mission for me, and this fest is a big extension of that.

Categories: Music