Back in 2004, Iowa-City based funk/reggae act Euforquestra decided to put on an event as a way of showing its appreciation for its fans. Consisting of seven bands that first year, the small, local festival was dubbed Camp Euforia and took place on a farm just outside the little town of Lone Tree.
“It was kind of a shot in the dark when we decided to do it,” said Euforquestra guitarist Mike Tallman. “We thought, ‘This would be really cool if it worked out,’ and it did.”
The idea was such a rousing success that the band
decided to make it an annual event, and Camp Euforia has grown in scope nearly every year since. Very much a labor of love for the band, Camp Euforia’s early years saw Euforquestra’s members being extremely hands on.
“When it started, we were doing everything ourselves to the point that we were personally running around parking cars and helping people get camping set up, right until we took the stage,” Tallman said.
Now Camp Euforia has a full-time planning committee, and Tallman says the process of putting the next event together has become a year-round endeavor.
“It’s really like nine months of planning,” he said. “Everything builds up to the festival, then we do a recap meeting afterward to kind of talk about what went well and what we’d like to change for next year. Then we might take about a month off before we get right back into it.”
While the band has taken a much more hands-off approach in more recent years (they will no longer park your car), Euforquestra still headlines every festival and hand-picks the bands that will play each year. Tallman said they get several requests to play every year, but unsolicited submissions often go by the wayside since the band already has such a long wish list of bands they know and would like to play with.
For as popular as the event has grown during the years, however, it came close to not happening at all.
“We had the plan to throw the party the first year and were really ambitious about the whole thing,” Tallman explained. “We’d started putting the plans in place without even actually having a venue lined up. A lot of the places that we wanted to try kind of fell through.”
One of the bands that Euforquestra had asked to play the first Camp was an Iowa City act called The Glitch. One of The Glitch’s members was renting a home from local farmer Jerry Hotz and suggested that they approach him about playing on his property.
“We went out and walked around the farm and talked about where everything could go, and Jerry agreed to do it, right then and there,” Tallman recalled. “He hadn’t even heard us play — he just liked the idea.”
That first meeting led to a collaboration that has continued, as the event returns to Hotz’s farm every summer. Over the years, Hotz has improved the barn that houses the indoor stage and added a new electrical system and built a bar, all of which have made Camp Euforia a better-run, more pleasurable experience. And while Camp Euphoria is an increasingly well-run machine that requires less and less daily input from Euforquestra itself, the band members do not see a day when it won’t be a big part of its lives.
“We love it,” Tallman said. “It’s the centerpiece of our summer. It’s a gradual process, the way that the festival has developed, and we still enjoy the hell out of it.” CV