Summer Camp emerges on the teeny stage of the Jericho Tavern to a sea of expectant and enthusiastic students. The secretive, ambiguous boy/girl duo commence with a quiet and subdued, un-miced ditty of quiet vocals and a ropey acoustic guitar. However, just when the audience starts to think that something might be awry – that there might be issues with the sound etc., a full, rich and thick backing track explodes through the empty space, supported by fully miced vocals, guitar and drums. The wealth of timbres that Summer Camp are known for – distorted, mashed up guitars, a wide variety of synths and a diverse array of samples – reverberate joyously around, making the group sound much larger and bigger than the youthful, wispy man and woman (plus drummer) that are physically present on stage.
This utilisation of the backing track works really well. Sometimes live performances with a tape accompaniment can feel a bit like stale karaoke, but not so with Summer Camp. The backing track adds a huge amount of value, working with the band as a unit to create a consummate performance. It also conveys the sounds of the original recordings well. A performance without the track would have been very stripped-down, and purposefully different to what their audience are used to hearing from the group.
Having said that, there are difference between the band live and the band on record. Live Summer Camp feel less archaic and throwback. On disk you cannot ignore the band’s surf rock meets C-86 influences, but live, the obvious lo-fi quality is to an extent lost – not necessarily a bad thing as it lends the music a fresher, more contemporary quality.
The band provide a very upbeat, positive performance, full of charisma and commitment. There is a natural enjoyment and revelry in their music is clearly evident, as is the close relationship between the two performers. Jeremy Warmsley, who sings and plays the many guitars and synths present throughout the performance has a pleasant, subtle coyness about him, and he is clearly a talented musician with a good voice. Pulling focus, however is his accomplice Elizabeth Sankey, who offers a sultry and unabashed vocal performance. Not dissimilar in style to a less flamboyantly made up Karen O, Sankey is unashamedly yet subdued sexy, with a stage presence that is filled with alluring, provocative flourishes.
The band swoop between upbeat, lo-fi pop numbers and sombre, bluesy tracks. Whilst the more effervescent items are very popular with this young crowd, for me the dark tracks are just as successful artistically, as they give Sankey the opportunity to fully express her fantastic voice, which can have a rich, jazzy quality. These alternative tracks also have a denser character, and feel like a more harsh assault on the senses, which is always a feat.
Summer Camp have provided their audience tonight with a consummate and diverse performance, which is something a little out of the ordinary, both in general terms and in regard to what we are all used to hearing of the band on their album/EP. The audience are left wanting, and one feels this burgeoning band still have a huge amount of undercover talent still to offer.