Few could contest that Summer Camp’s debut record Welcome To Condale is completely and utterly lovable. What I didn’t expect was that Summer Camp’s live show would be even more charming and lovable than their recorded output. The first support act, Making Waves, were unannounced and took to the stage with no fanfare or introduction. Their grandiose, reverb drenched music seemed destined for greater things than the small, fairly unresponsive crowd that had already gathered. Their sound could be described as lush, soaring or cacophonous, and they balanced experimental noise and pop hooks in a way that Kevin Shields use to do so expertly, or in a way that Animal Collective have mastered with their most recent album.
The second support act, Secret Rivals, are a little less suited to the atmosphere and feeling of the evening. Recorded, they have a joyous, heart-on-sleeve feeling that Johnny Foreigner or early Los Campesinos! has, but live they sounded a little too punk for pop, a little too pop for punk. They certainly won over some fans however, and the crowd response was very positive and enthusiastic for a little known support act in a setting as cool as the Jericho Tavern.
Then, out of nowhere, Summer Camp started their set, acoustically, from the middle of the crowd. They opened with the first track on Welcome To Condale, ‘Better Off Without You’, the most immediate, poppy example of their John Hughes influenced, nostalgic sound. It is immediately clear that Elizabeth Sankey’s beautiful vocals and commanding stage presence are enough to illicit a collective swoon from every male (and female) in the audience, and that Jeremy Warmsley is nothing short of a brilliant musician (his solo recorded output is certainly evidence of this).
More or less all of Welcome To Condale is covered in the set, including a delicate, stripped back acoustic version of ‘Losing My Mind’, the recorded version of which features stuttering hip hop drums and washes of synthesizers. This simplistic version allowed the melancholy lyrics and showy vocal interplay between the two to stand out more than on the album. The set’s sound is beefed up by impressive drumming from William Bowerman, known for his work with La Roux, as well as with his own instrumental math rock outfit Brontide, lending Summer Camp’s sometimes synthetic, electronic sound some unexpected power.
Much like their album, which is all about creating a unified, all encompassing mood and feeling, Summer Camp’s set feels flowing, natural and fun, with songs blending together without becoming indistinct or sounding the same. It is safe to say anyone who left the Jericho Tavern without a smile on their face is well and truly dead inside.