“Summercamp? Never heard of it.” I was used to this. In the two weeks I knew such a thing existed, I didn’t meet a single soul planning to go along. Boo them – this was a seriously impressive event.
It’s not what you think, baby. There’s no camping at Summercamp, for instance. The name is more likely inspired by host venue Camp and Furnace, a dressed up warehouse space in the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool’s answer to a New York Meatpacking District. That, or the fact a name like Summercamp has broad appeal for a festival trying wholeheartedly to tap that hipster parent market (I’m looking at you, cool mum, with your turned-up jeans and edgy under threes).
There’s a log fire, but we’re not toasting marshmallows here. It doesn’t rain, there are no ghost stories, and the only baked beans in sight are swimming in the Fire and Salt BBQ Co’s treacle sauce. Fancy. Let’s do away with chronology then, as a festival like Summercamp might. Instead, here are the things I loved most about this laidback two-day delight:
"If you like us, we're called Fair Ohs. If not, we're the Spectrals," cries lead singer of the former mid-set, waving to drummer of the latter stood in the crowd. I catch the retort, that no one is reviewing them anyway. It’s pure coincidence I don't love Spectral's Summercamp showing. Let’s move on.
Mount Kimbie make the kind of shuddering bass that set those little hairs on your arms shaking. Sure, you can enjoy this music anywhere, but what I like about seeing these two play live is that they don't look at all like their sound.
Delphic give an expectedly slick performance, despite some kind of technical issue early on. All weekend we see artists gesturing side stage to have their levels upped, or in the case of The Staves apologetically downed. One sister wants the other lower, admitting the request sounds cruel. Summercamp is full of these intimate and funny moments.
Frenchies We Were Evergreen show they truly are, playing older tracks like ‘Baby Blue’ with new verve. I sip peach beer (from the real ale stand, of course) and can’t help smiling as I notice all three of the bands’ left feet tapping in unison. It’s a change of pace when they all take to the drums, and I’m shocked to learn their debut album is still forthcoming; it’s hard to look at so much talent.
Reasons to Dance
All weekend, there are beats at the street festival outside. Punters sun themselves, drink up and chow down to afro orchestra, local folk and, come dusk on Sunday, 80s DJ mashups featuring weirdly fun tracks like Paul McCartney’s ‘Temporary Secretary’.
Of course, no one wants to dance after watching Duncan Wallis front Manchester outfit Dutch Uncles. My fashion photographer friend agrees – in a peachy long sleeve denim shirt and single sleeper earring, the singer rocks 90s dad. Nuanced against drum, bass, keys and not one but two electric guitars, his vibrato is arresting. I’m reminded of a book, too, A Visit from the Goon Squad, when the band delivers a moment of pure pause: “You can hold my hand/ I feel it… girl.” A cover of Grace Jones’ ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, and I’m hooked.
I picture Ghostpoet’s wardrobe as a wall of textures and stylish as fuck, but invariably black. He’s dressed head to toe in the stuff, sunglasses too, and it’s a relief when he warms up a bit and ditches a few layers. With an album titled Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, I expected gritty, but I want to block my ears, or cry, or both, so frank and personal are tracks like ‘Survive It’.
The repetition will be too much for some, the ha ha hahs and the lii lii liines. But this is rap after all, and though sinister, the music is also inherently playful. I suspect he’s repeating things because he likes the way they sound or feel.
Another storyteller, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, gives an equalling surprising performance, albeit in a very different way. Not happy with his onstage acoustics, he takes his set list to the floor and invites the crowd to sit on the ground beside him; it’s the first time all weekend my legs get dirty. His voice is raspy, his songs sad, so you have to be in that sort of mood really, but crouched on a would-be forest floor it’s the perfect time for it.
Should this foxy little urban festival return in 2014, I hope it’s in more or less the exact same mode. And keep an eye out – this deserves a crowd.