Following some protracted work permit ‘negotiations’, BC Camplight finally arrived in Liverpool and left Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald in a state of puzzled delight.
BC Camplight finally took to the stage at Leaf after something of a delay. The gig was booked for March last year, but had to be pulled when he ran into some ‘difficulities’, meaning he had to make a trip back to the US, in favour of Manchester, where he’d relocated, in a bid to either grow his music and get clean and healthy, or the other, much darker option. His descent into substance abuse and homelessness in Philadelphia, forced the move, but like so many before him, the experiences have fed into his work, and that’s absolutely a good thing.
One thing’s certain, there’s a lot of darkness in his work, the last album, last year’s Bella Union album, How To Die In The North, carries all the requisite issues of a man who’s seen his absolute rock bottom. Loss, fear, disappointment and hurt all raised their heads in this set of fascinating and puzzling songs. There’s a rich irony not to be missed here. For a man who has faced head-on the demons that many of us fear, and put them into an album with that title may well have saved his own life in the process.
He’s a formidable presence, musically, lyrically, and physically, and his writing champions the cause of just about every genre, every style. From the subtlety and fragility of the Dennis Wilson flavoured Just Because I Love You to the heavier neo-psych moments in You Should’ve Gone To School, Camplight‘s super-powered falsetto vocals reaching through the beauty in so many of his melodies.
It’s an almost schizophrenic psychedelia, barrelling from light to shade and back again in the space of a few bars, the dynamic leaps and drops, while at times are puzzling, seeming so unnaturally natural its bewildering and at times breathtaking. It shouldn’t work, but it does. One moment Billy Joel-style piano balladeering, the next fuzz-laden, lead-heavy, scratchy funk riffs, then back again.
It takes an accomplished band of musicians, with a shared love of the scatterbomb writing style that Camplight enjoys so much to keep up with these rapid fire changes, and that’s exactly what he brings with him, a tight band of freak brothers and sister, adding layers to layers, creating spaces in all the right places. Taking it ‘out there’ must be fairly liberating for them, bringing chance after chance for abandoning the rule book, and adding spontaneity for the sake of itself.
Grim Cinema is a highlight, here delivered as a power-driven throb of a song like a runaway train, building from the pounding piano opening line, and rallying through squealing guitars and keys, it’s a race to the end, and an utter thrill to be immersed in. His final glory, the last song, a heavy reworking of Harry Nillson‘s Jump Into The Fire. Another furious stomp, raging through the changes and dragging itself kicking and screaming to four or five false endings. We leave, thankful for Manchester, and its part in saving this intriguing, innovative performer.
In typical Harvest Sun fashion, the support acts were perfectly chosen and well positioned, coming, as they did, in the shape of A Lovely War and Tom Low. Sean Keogh‘s A Lovely War project, here performed solo is a quintessential English idea. Armed with his trademark 80s keyboard sounds and an iPad, he sat centre stage, and delivered a set of wonderfully wonky and individual pop songs, working his way through winding melodies and lyrically reminiscent of the homely poetry of Ray Davies or Morrissey‘s Smiths work. He’s a real talent, Sean Keogh, and we’ll undoubtedly hear more. Soon, we hope.
Tom Low‘s set, like his recent show on the Tall Ship stage at Sound City, focussed around his Phone EP and found us wrapped in its intricately put together harmonies, and warm melody. He grows ever more confident, ever more assured within the context of working with the band, and the regular gigging is clearly delivering results. New song Blue Wave takes a slightly heavier feel, all bass chords and sugar coated vocals, this was another accomplished set by an ever improving, growing artist.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody