Campfire Trails is being promoted as a festival. In the sense that three-day passes are available, this description is not entirely inaccurate. Unlike most festivals, however, there will be a noticeable lack of mud, tents and makeshift bathroom facilities.
All Tomorrow’s Parties appears to have opened doors for multi-band events that favour comfort over the great outdoors. Campfire Trails takes place over three nights at London’s rather magnificent art deco Troxy theatre, now firmly established as one of the capital’s best mid-sized music venues. It appears to have been named with a small hint of irony.
The line-up is a little strange, alternately adventurous and conservative, drawing together some strong word-of-mouth acts from both sides of the Atlantic. The opening and closing nights offer a platform to an intriguing variety of American acts, whilst the middle day places two highly acclaimed British acts at the top of the bill.
The show opens with the delightful Appalachian vocal harmonies of the all female Mountain Man, whose Made In The Harbour album is one of the largely unheralded delights of 2010. The energy and vitality of White Rabbits (yet another Brooklyn band), complete with instrument swapping and, potentially, some radical cover versions, should provide some excitement, whilst the quirky, idiosyncratic anti-folk of former Mouldy Peach Adam Green will showcase the more unconventional side of songwriting. Headlining are The Felice Brothers, the literate, dry-throated group beloved of certain Americana-loving monthly music magazine readers.
The festival’s second day boasts an ambitious and fascinating three act line-up. Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic‘s music, although located within a broad indie-rock spectrum, is evocative and difficult to categorise, while Fanfarlo sometimes come across as London’s answer to the Arcade Fire in the way they layer unconventional instrumentation over insistent indie-rock templates. The highlight of the second night will surely be Mercury-nominated headliners Wild Beasts. With Hayden Thorpe’s extraordinary counter-tenor voice and love of lascivious language placed over majestic, chiming guitars, the group take familiar British indie-pop elements and place them in an original and theatrical setting.
The final night promises something entirely different, but equally special. Old Crow Medicine Show will provide a set of robust, rumbustious bluegrass, effortlessly merging the traditional and the contemporary. Supporting them in a mouth-watering double bill will be Dave Rawlings Machine. Rawlings is a subtle, sophisticated songwriter with a delightfully understated voice and a wonderfully light touch on the acoustic guitar.
The line-up and purpose of Campfire Trails is defiantly strange. Is it attempting to find common ground between American roots acts and indie-rock? Or is it simply celebrating diversity and quality? Perhaps it is taking some of the ethos of smaller, independent festivals such as Green Man and End Of The Road and transferring them to an urban, indoor venue environment. It’s by no means an unwelcome move.
We have a pair of three-day passes for Campfire Trails to give away. For a chance to win them email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and phone number by noon Wednesday 15th September.