I went for an audition to appear on Deal or No Deal (that weird box picking game on Channel 4) a few weeks ago. Yes I know...I have no shame. It took two years to get to the audition stage. There were around 150 of us on my day. This soon got whittled down to 50 or so, including my good self. Hurrah! I think I may have been a little too much for them though...to be fair I’m a little too much for myself some days...hence, no doubt, the No Deal email that’s just appeared in my inbox. Oh well, what would I do with £250,000 anyway eh? What’s this got to do with a review of Summer Camp’s gig? Good point. Actually, there is a link. Some of their stuff practically drips with regret and resentment (Better Off Without You springs instantly to mind)...which pretty much sums up what it feels like to be rejected by a gameshow that only requires the ability to pick a number from 1 to 22. Ha!
Anyway, casting aside...well...being cast aside by the diminutive Mr Edmunds and co, first up tonight Fixers, whose summertime west coast pop confection would lighten anyone’s mood.
Kicking off a lively set with Crystals, a spanking hybrid of XTC/Foals and...to my ears at least Kings Of Leon’s Bucket song...this Oxford 5 piece move through their set gradually revealing their secret weapon, the kind of harmonies that Brian Wilson would give up his sandbox for. Impressive.
Allegedly formed by accident after a one off collaboration most of Summer Camp’s songs are richly nostalgic (for anyone over the age of 35 at least), with a distinct touch of classic 80’s alt-pop in the mix. In case we were in any doubt about this each song tonight was accompanied by a projected back drop which mainly featured truly seminal 80’s movies...Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club...ahhhhh...I had to fight the urge to start backcombing my hair and slipping on a pair of pixie boots.
In front of this cinematic time machine the Camp, aka Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, unleashed one giddy pop thrill after another, plucking bitter sweet gems from their frankly essential debut album, Welcome To Condale. They make a great pair, Warmsley’s slightly nerdy music boffin persona and Sankey as the more confident, almost vampy at times, bitter pop princess. Wandering over to Jeremy during one number she ran her fingers through his hair before turning sharply and walking away. It’s just one of a number of subtle moves that she pulls out the bag and it comes as no surprise to learn that she did an MA in Classical Acting (yes...Classical Acting...forsooth) before jacking that all in for journalism and then, finally, a shot at pop stardom. Smart move.
If you’re a pop slut (I am) the songs are a joy. It’s like they’ve discovered the 80’s pop genome and are now busily creating an army of super songs. I Want You, Down, Better Off Without You...if John Hughes was still alive his films would be packed full of Summer Camp tracks. Pleasingly they seem to be upping their game with the new stuff too. The disco pop of We’ll Always Be Together and the OMD meets Bronski Beat of Life both hint at perhaps a more synth based direction. Awesome.
Not content to keep their distance Jeremy and Elizabeth went walkabout through the crowd singing and playing acoustically in one of those hairs on the back of the neck moments when it stops being a mere performance and instead becomes an experience.
Later on Elizabeth noticed one girl enthusiastically singing away to Better Off Without You and even invited her up on stage to share the microphone.
Bless. They’re not the first band to do this stuff but it’s all too rare. Happily the audience loved ‘em right back and, despite Elizabeth protesting that they don’t get the demand for encores normally, her and Jeremy ditched the microphones once more for a groin tingling beautiful acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere. Somehow I reckon it’s not the first encore they’ll be doing on this tour...
Pictures courtesy of the lovely Shakeypix