Summercamp Festival nestled in neatly with a bustling Liverpool Bank Holiday, Getintothis’ Mike Townsend, Emma Walsh and Sean Bradbury got the deckchairs out and tied their knotted hankies.
Cast under the Liverpool International Music Festival umbrella, Summercamp Festival promises a ‘village fete meets bloc party’ among the spacious setting of Camp and Furnace.
It must have been no short order to arrange Summercamp, given that across the rest of the city thousands of other acts were looking to tear up myriad venues.
But credit where it’s due, Summercamp still managed to successfully jot down a wide array of heavy-hitting names into its booking ledger; Martha Wainwright, Ghostpoet, Steve Mason, Mount Kimbie and many others were all present and correct.
The gorgeous weather and high pedestrian traffic that engulfed Liverpool could only serve to pique interest in the whole circus.
Of course, life being what it is (if we may condense Sartre, “nauseous”) not everything went to plan.
A couple of cancellations and a number of reshufflings served to cause a certain amount of confusion and frustration, but Summercamp ultimately provided the knockout punches where it mattered: on stage.
Mount Kimbie at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
During our interview with them earlier this year, Mount Kimbie‘s Dominic Maker spoke in detail about the duo’s new live show, suggesting that alongside their second album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth they have moved on from the awkward bedroom producers into a live juggernaut.
The addition of drummer Andy Ramsey is the driving force behind this transformation, allowing Maker and Kai Campos to concentrate on the timbre and resonance of their songs, safe in the knowledge that the beat is being maintained elsewhere.
Opening with Carbonated, arguably the most iconic song UK electronic music has produced in the last ten years, a healthily populated Furnace pulsates with that mesmerizing beat and looping reverb snare, slowly leading us towards an intoxicating, erratic finale of stabbed vocal samples and a trickle of raindrops.
Slow and Made To Stray, two highlights from Cold Spring…, have an almost post-rock feel to them, traversing a tightrope of textures before Campos and Maker’s vocals creep towards the climax.
Mayor seems like its drawn the set to a close before Kampos erupts into a virtuoso MPC routine, delivering the final blow in this explosive, exhilarating performance.
The frailty of their recorded material is replaced by a robust, almost hostile energy tonight, and fuck is it exciting.
Joy Formidable at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
There are only three of The Joy Formidable but the way their powerpop noise engulfs the big room, you could be forgiven for thinking half of their native Wales was on stage.
Their performance takes off with Cholla and refuses to come back down. Ritzy Bryan’s wild eyed interactions with the crowd were one of the highlights when Getintothis caught the band at the Kazimier back in January.
While they are clearly less appreciable in a larger venue, the three-piece’s raucous riffing and boundless energy keep the Furnace’s home fires burning.
Back at Camp, Eagulls were soaring at a moody and effortless full throttle, driven by thunderous bass and thrashing twin guitars. Frontman George Mitchell’s skeletal howl falls somewhere on the register between Jarvis Cocker and Sid Vicious, delivered with an irresistible Northern snarl.
There are no solos and no bullshit here, just a blistering and breathless garage punk assault.
Martha Wainwright brought huge vocals to the Camp stage sweeping over bright chords accompanied by an authoritative left foot stomp.
Her heady mix of indignation and heartfelt tenderness – and that trademark breathy yelp – make for an endearing live spectacle even if some of the material is a little samey.
She combated festival chatter adeptly with both rousing swells of volume and captivating fingerpicked subtlety.
Her set was cut slightly short with what seemed to be a sudden rush of illness, one (possibly) eagle-eyed and (certainly) addled Summercamper assuring those around him that she is pregnant.
Spectrals at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
There was plenty of action to be had earlier in the day, of course.
Three late developing sixth-formers claiming to be Yorkshire’s Spectrals look to utilise the energy that youth brings but Karaoke and A Heartbeat Behind fall on the wrong side of The Fratellis, as Louis Jones’ usually deliberate vocals wander aimlessly with no real purpose or resolution.
There is simplicity to their Wichita debut Sob Story, which translates into that sort of meat and potatoes charm that British rock music is often celebrated for.
Today though, the monophonic guitar lines and two-dimensional structures sound very detached and well, oddly disaffecting.
Maybe it’s the setting; people are either at the bar tasting some deep country ale or consoling their children foaming at the mouth because of the noise.
Courteous head nodding is about the close the rest of us get to dancing, as Jones commends the kids at the festival with a sarcasm that dodges the beaming parents. Most bands would struggle to engage a crowd this disinterested.
Or maybe the chicken came before the egg – we’re not sure.
London three piece We Were Evergreen have emerged favorably from the capital’s post-Noah and The Whale wave of folktronica bands.
Used derogatorily or not, the word “twee” has forced itself beneath the narrative of this promising young act, and as male/female vocal counterpoint and ukulele solos litter their debut singles, you’d be a brave man to play them with your windows down.
Today though, there is an impressive energy about their performance, as throbbing synths and a weighty bass drum propel the ‘tronica’ parts of Leeway and Baby Blue into prominence, transforming them into animated, energetic triumphs.
Merchandise at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
Florida post-punks Merchandise are the best booking of the weekend, with the prospect of their 80s tinged mope-rock mini album Totale Nite in a live setting promising to be a spectacle.
Draped in black and sporting almost opaque Wayfarers, front man Carson Cox bravely trudges on amidst a cacophony of derivative sniggers.
Stereophonics on Jools Holland this ain’t though, turning the Furnace into a dust bowl and rattling through the likes of Who Are You? and I’ll Be Gone with the kind of confidence it took Johnny Cash sacks full of amphetamines to muster.
This ferocious and ludicrously self-assured set culminates in Anxiety’s Door and oh man; what a song.
This is best-of-the-year stuff and the sort of tune that defines careers, with the eerily familiar She Sells Sanctuary programmed rhythm and plaintive, overdrive lead guitar drenching Cox’s distant wail in a mighty wall of sound.
Thanks to Merchandise’s performance, Summercamp Festival was the recipient of an early heady and potent shot in the arm.
The Staves have gathered somewhat of a cult following here in Liverpool, with several celebrated support slots and Jessica Stavely-Taylor, one third of the trio of sisters, studying at our very own LIPA.
Vocally it’s gorgeous, with watertight harmonies humbly sitting on top of what are actually, very simple and traditional folk songs.
Lads are hugging their girlfriends from behind; teenage girls are filming every moment from the iPhones with tears streaming down their face, as the whole performance proceeds with that sort of shallow, nauseating over-sentimentality that has plagued mainstream UK music recently.
Nu-folk seems to have nestled between a place where the aesthetic of emotion and actual human emotion can mean the same thing. This is detached to the point where it isn’t even escapism; it’s just distant.
Maybe we’re being too cynical, but we did just pay £8 for a cheeseburger so life seems a bit dark at the moment.
The Camp and Furnace feels beaten on day two of Summercamp Festival.
Footsteps have to be peeled off the floor, the smell of stale beer fills the air and barmen hunch tiredly over the beer taps with a look of forlorn overshadowed only by the hungover parents.
Considering the sheer scale of scheduling chops and changes over the course of the Summercamp weekend it was something of a relief to turn up and find the right band on the right stage at the right time.
Any other weekend that level of reshuffling might have been the nail in the coffin, but this is the August Bank Holiday weekend! This is Summercamp! The sun’s shining, there’s music and beer and boss pies! A little optimism, if you will. Please? Just say you’ll try at least.
Delphic at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
Delphic felt like a real festival showstopper, looking like silhouettes bouncing in and out of drifts of dry ice and strobe to their dance-pop sound. They transform the Furnace into a different place with a sonic volt of high energy and a fit-inducing light show.
Ghostpoet’s reputation precedes him and his appearance at Summercamp, after a fantastic Liverpool show earlier this year, comes with a certain caveat of hype. Could he match expectations?
Turns out he could and he did, even exceeding it with so much cool and confidence it’s no surprise why he’s sauntered onto centre stage of the British hip hop scene.
His stream-of-consciousness lyrics flow with a sleepy kind of charm, accompanied by a hypnotic wave of beats and subtle hints of orchestral strings lulling the Furnace crowd into easy submission.
The series of unfortunate events which led to his switching days was Saturday’s great loss and Sunday’s festival highlight.
Steve Mason at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
Steve Mason bounds on stage and despite Axl Rose levels of punctuality, is received warmly by one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
Waving unapologetically and flanked by a bassist that makes Seasick Steve look like Mitt Romney, he launches into Lost and Found and Am I Just a Man with remarkably clean vocals for a guy with paint down his jeans.
Drawing largely from his excellent 2010 effort Boys Outside, it is the slower numbers that stand out, with the title track and All Come Down morphing into flag-waving, Joshua Tree-sized ballads.
Fire! is introduced alongside a wince-inducing delve into political rhetoric, as Mason implores the audience to get rid of all political parties and try their hands at anarchy.
Forgetting the fact that the only logical next step for a society after anarchy is dictatorship, this is hardly Luther King at The Lincoln Memorial, and this song like many on the difficult Monkey Minds In the Devil’s Time lacks the vulnerability and softness of his earlier material as the performance begins to lull.
Time constraints mean that there is no time for any Beta Band, as Mason swiftly exits with a triumphant fist pump amidst a wail of cheers from the audience (unless you are a High Fidelity fan).
Earlier, another slew of bands had plied their trade.
Wave Machines are up there with the city’s best right now, nominated for the GIT Award earlier this year and picking up a healthy national following.
Tim Bruzon’s mischievous falsetto on I Hold Loneliness and the excellent Ill Fit meanders across woozy, unsteady hooks, turning up the heat on this humid Sunday afternoon.
With Getintothis being something of a cynical so and so ourselves, we have the utmost love and respect for Ed Harcourt’s sharp tongued lyrics and ivory tickling melodies.
Anyone who emulates the likes of Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits is alright in our book, and having served his time on the gigging circuit without any real commercial success, Harcourt is just the right kind of bitter.
He masterfully balances poetic yet snidey social commentaries with all the glamorous drama of a grand piano, but lean too far into the melodrama and you risk making a bit of a knob of yourself.
Harcourt achieved this when he theatrically stopped everything mid-song because of interfering noise from the next room.
With an album of the year under their belt, there is a palpable excitement preceding Dutch Uncles arrival on the Furnace stage.
Fester and Bellio plod along wickedly, with an industrial beat and noodling synths effectively underpinning Duncan Wallis’ convincing shriek.
Flexxin, an undisputed champion of this year’s summer anthem sweepstakes, confidently builds on impish strings and acupunctural textures to turn into a heart-racing masterpiece.
Switching back to Camp and a folkier atmosphere, Benjamin Francis Leftwich (BFL) took to the stage with his distinctive dreamy lyrics and wheezy, almost asthmatic style of singing which is both at once exhausting and invigorating.
The early evening atmosphere suited BFL’s unique style perfectly, lifting the audience into a celestial mood with his breathless vocals while keeping their feet securely on the floor with toe-tapping acoustic flourishes on the guitar.
Looking around it’s hard not to think the event criminally underattended, but it turns out that’s perfect for BFL as frustrated with the acoustics, he goes unplugged and settles himself on the ground among the audience for the last four songs.
It creates a very suitable ‘Kumbaiah around the campfire’ atmosphere for the Summercamp crowd.
A little more confident off-stage, Leftwich shows a more of himself to his intimate audience, smiling at singalongs to Atlas Hands and Pictures, surely a lovely way to end his tour.
Ending the set with grateful thanks to his accommodating crowd and special mention to Darren, his sound engineer who had flown in from Ireland especially, and who must have felt like a prize twat sitting off stage while Leftwich went unplugged.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich at Summercamp, Camp and Furnace
James Rand’s Lunar Modular eventually grace the Camp stage with their presence following what appears to be a crash course in rocket science.
The set wanders slowly for much of the opening ten minutes, as synth crescendos threaten to penetrate the humid, slow motion theatrics.
Patience is rewarded in abundance though, as a chunkier bass and delicate dub delay swells into a climax bursting with color and energy almost to the point of collapse.
It still can’t fill the room, however, and as audience members start to drop at an alarming rate you can’t help feel there’s a sense of anti-climax in the air – particularly as it’s just gone 11.30pm and there is still three hours left of DJs to get through.
By the time Ewan Pearson takes to the Furnace stage at midnight, the situation reaches farcical levels.
Getintothis has been a solitary audience member only once before, but that was due to a wrong turning at the Edinburgh Fringe and a severe lack of any friends whatsoever.
As Pearson flicks between analogue acid-flecked leads and eerie base pounces, Getinothis is literally the last man standing, dancing awkwardly and fondling in our pocket for some kind of mind-altering substance we know isn’t there to transport us from this horrible scene.
Look, this is a guy capable of filling Room One at The Warehouse Project, so you do have to ask yourself how this all went so wrong.
Perhaps it’s the branding, as Summercamp marketed themselves at the over thirties as some kind of upmarket alternative to the events unfolding elsewhere in the city.
The strong bill of electronic acts largely only capture the attention of a younger generation though, who want more from their festivals than ale tasting and craft fairs and who certainly aren’t used to paying £50 for the trouble.
Despite being part of the Liverpool International Music Festival, Summercamp organisers appeared to distance themselves from it.
Greenland Street felt like a gated community, striving to replicate the kind of organic passion and local pride that the events at Sefton Park seemed to have created quite naturally.
Taking into consideration that tickets for Sound City and Field Day are £35 and £45 respectively, it’s hard to believe that the organisers thought they were justifying the prices based on the lineup alone, so it was fair to assume (and what they themselves suggested) that the music would be supplemented by various exciting food and arts based events.
They were certainly unlucky with all the artist cancellations and rescheduling, but by pricing the event so expensively, Summercamp set a high standard and rightly exposed themselves to criticism when things didn’t run smoothly.
Liverpool International Music Festival seems to have been a success, standing as a testament to this city’s fierce pride and passion for music.
Summercamp might not have been regarded as such an unequivocal success as its immediate contemporaries, but there were more than enough bright spots to contend with the obvious disappointments.
There may be a number of obvious factors involved, but at times there is no accounting for attendance. Another crack of the whip is what might be needed here.
As Jim Morrison said in Wayne’s World 2, “book them and they will come”.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth and Chris Everett.
Further reading on Getintothis::
Liverpool International Music Festival 2013: its Liverpool Stage feat Tea Street Band, All We Are, GhostChant and more: Sefton Park, Liverpool.
Liverpool International Music Festival 2013: What Getintothis learnt.
Liverpool music 2013: Highs, lows and best of year so far
Liverpool’s gig calendar 2013: Guide to essential gigs not to miss the rest of this year
FestEVOL Part One featuring The Tea Street Band, All We Are, Loved Ones, Dogshow, Bird, Dark Horses, The Sundowners, Clang Boom Steam and more: The Kazimier, Liverpool
FestEVOL Part Two feat Outfit, Baltic Fleet, By The Sea, Young Fathers, Wet Nuns, Ady Suleiman & more: The Kazimier, Liverpool