Live Music + Gig Reviews

Summer Camp @ Green Door Store, Brighton

19 November 2011

Brighton’s Green Door Store is small but perfectly-formed, a tangle of industrial metal, whitewashed walls and eerie, free-standing door-frames huddling under the railway station like a crime-scene. Glowing signs above the toilet doors warn of lasers strafing the rooms inside, whilst newly-etched graffiti mourns the loss of Daybreak’s hosts. It’s a beguiling and gleefully incongruous jumble of reference points, much like tonight’s headliners: Summer Camp are here playing the final date on their UK tour, and it’s unlikely they’ll be in a room this size again.

Much the same can be said of Theme Park, whose rise to prominence has been speedier than a roller-coaster but far more deserving of the attention. Generally theme parks are horrible: overhyped, soulless expanses roamed by packs of salivating pubescents and dead-eyed staff – a ruthless false jollity hanging in the air like anthrax. But, unlike this metaphor, there’s nothing forced about the London five-piece’s performance, their Talking Heads-cum-Metronomy indie hooks coming across as effortless, the band’s onstage delight sincere. Sure, there’s bound to a be a backlash to the hype somewhen soon, but for now critical faculties come a very distant second to simply letting your limbs follow their impulse and the sweat fill the air.

Summer Camp’s set is pretty much typified by their entrance, just acoustic guitar and naked vocals as they amble towards the stage from the back of the room, the crowd parting like Old Testament waves. It’s low-key and sweetly ramshackle – they’ve gotten through almost a verse of Better Off Without You before the house PA goes down – but utterly charming, somehow naive and audacious all at once. They ride this line throughout, blending pretty flawless musicianship with a kind of wild-eyed innocence, from singer Elizabeth Sankey holding up a song so she can put her shoes back on to their entirely unamplified take on Losing My Mind, doubtless carefully rehearsed but seeming joyously spontaneous regardless.

It’s surprising, actually, how far a band that started out assuming the identity of seven Swedish friends can seem so free of affectation. By rights their trappings should irritate, from guitar/synth/vocal guy Jeremy Warmsley’s hipster glasses to the ceaseless cycle of John Hughes movies beamed onto the wall behind, yet, bizarrely, nothing seems contrived. Sure, their sound has its influences, and consciously so, from the ’80’s guitar line of Brian Krakow to the strafing electronics of Nobody Knows You and standout set-closer I Want You, but the duo – plus live drummer – weave these disparate elements into something new, sunshine-hued yet flecked with menace. Yet perhaps the greatest testament to their performance is that they manage to have whole scenes from Dirty Dancing looming over the crowd without inducing any vomit at all. Seriously, take a moment to let that sink in: Summer Camp are an antidote to Patrick Swayze dancing.

Highlights? It’s easier to go with the lowpoints. Lowpoints? There are none. Maybe the sound being ever so slightly muddy in parts. The slight reliance on samples and loops, perhaps. But by god that’s really scrabbling in the dirt for flaws, and really – what’s the point? Gig of the year? Pretty damn close, that’s for sure.

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Summer Camp – Bad Love
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