There are those who believe the sanctity of wild places should not be polluted with man made sound waves, that Mother Nature herself provides the best soundtrack to any adventure outside. Well, some of us think those hippies can sit on it. I’m not saying that you need to blast death metal from speaker stacks the size of skyscrapers. But in my world some groovin’, head bobbin’ tunes make a campfire just a little bit radder. Camping is great, but dancing in the woods with your friends is even better.
Lord Huron – “Meet Me in the Woods”
Haunting lyrics and a driving, classic Americana shuffle push every Lord Huron tune. “Meet me in the Woods” possesses foot-stompin’, hand clappin’ vibes and sing-along harmonies. This a great way start to any campout, especially if you’re just off the river or completed a long ski tour and in need of a warm up before the fire gets roaring. Dance the cold away.
Ryan Joseph Anderson – “When the Bees Went Mad”
RJA has a knack for combining his blues-rock Chicago upbringing with Nashville inspired swooning hillbilly swing. His signature smooth electric guitar and the infallible rhythm of drummer Barn Darlington mix with a dancy organ. Grab your partner and twist with the fire’s ascending embers.
Go Long Mule – “Albion”
This tune begins with a slow 20-second lure before it explodes with pulsing electric guitar, organ, and drums. Sound a little familiar? It should. Ryan Joseph Anderson and Barn Darlington are the leaders of this disbanded crew. GLM, we miss you and the sweaty dance floor of your concerts. Crank the volume and pretend this band never broke up.
Beck – “Blue Moon”
I mean, it’s Beck. He’s a musical genius. “Blue Moon” is one of his best tunes off 2015’s Album of the Year, Morning Phase. When it’s playing, you just can’t help being transported to your most sacred outdoor locales. For that reason, it’s probably a good idea to play it while you’re actually outside.
The Right Now – “Nobody”
Full disclosure, this is my brother’s band. Hold on! This band is how he provides a roof and food for his children. This is not a practice once a year in an old garage, open mic side project. They’re a damn good Chicago R&B band, one of the best ever. This tune will make you slow dance and might just see you and your significant other retiring to your tent early for a little, ahem, alone time.
Crow Moses – Two Lone Wolves
This song sounds like the mountains. Plucky guitar and the crystal clear singing of Mike Musikanto float this tune into the clouds, while the thumping drums anchor it to earth. Play it on the car ride while driving shuttle, put it on at the end of the adventure while the fire coughs its last breath, just put it on. You’re welcome.
Bon Iver – “Holocene”
And now for all of the tears, Bon Iver everyone. There are just so many emotions in this song. The slow syncopated guitar, Bon Iver’s overdubbed ghostly voice, the marching drums; everything combines as a spear to hit you right in the frothy center of the feels. Throw another log on the fire and tell everyone the smoke made your eyes water.
The Preatures – “Somebody’s Talking”
Okay, buck up, buttercup. Let’s groove. From the opening guitar string pluck and pop of the drums, you know this tune came to boogie. “Somebody’s Talking” has a hip shimmying bass line and a super catchy chorus. This’ll make you 80s dance like the main character in a John Hughes movie.
The War on Drugs – “Red Eyes”
Continue that Reagan Rock-esque step touch dancing with “Red Eyes.” The War on Drugs sounds like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen’s synthed out love child, in the best possible way. There’s just no way you can stand still when this tune comes on. Extra points here for the best ever use of the bass saxophone. Where have all the sax’s gone? Seriously.
Bruce Hornsby and The Range – “Mandolin Rain”
I have loved this song since childhood and it has followed me everywhere. I once had a spiritual experience dancing to this tune while the man-myth-legend, Bruce effing Hornsby, performed at Telluride’s Bluegrass Fest. He rocked out an 8-minute version and followed it up with a 15-minute version of “The Way It Is.” No matter what, as soon as this tune comes on, I smile, stop what I’m doing, and belt it out. And I dance, so should you.