We had a total blast last weekend! Camp is an independent music festival where most of the bands are camping with everyone else. There is a big freezing cold lagoon where the pool parties rocked each afternoon. Most of the musicians you have never heard of before (except the ones who are your flatmate’s girlfriend’s band, for example), but you always come away with a huge list of new bands to follow, and a couple of sweet band t-shirts, if you’re lucky.
I saw, and made notes on, around 30 bands over the 3 days, so I shall give you but the highlights only.
Thursday night: pre-party tantrums
Not officially part of the camp program, Thursday night is a bit of an impromptu party night and this one was pretty bloody fun. Dan Deacon hit the decks, oh wait, I mean his iPhone, and was killing it with 90s dance hits. All was going blissfully until one too many people requested a song (I heard the phrase “can’t you play something actually good, not ironic?”) and Mr Deacon threw his toys right out of the cot. “I’m just some guy from America, playing some music on his phone, man”. He diva’d off the stage, presumably to have his ego massaged for 8 or 10 beats and back he came, gut proudly erect, ready to play a few more TLC numbers before bedtime.
Improv rapping based on the ‘hilarious’ suggestions from the crowd takes a certain calibre of rap talent and confidence. Thankfully Megalex was incredibly quick and finding rhymes mid rap and managed to be funny and clever at the same time. I especially enjoyed this shout-out mid song: “oh hi Carmel! I haven’t seen you in ages!”. Yussss. Off to a good start.
Wintercoats ★★★★ 1/2
The first of many one-person acts at camp, and the first show we saw at the Forest stage (yeah, it’s in the forest, totally lush), Wintercoats was just lovely, in a haunting, eerie kind of way. Combining looped violin parts with a pretty deep bass and 80s emo vocals, he was absolutely engaging. The cover of ‘No Scrubs’ clinched it- the way he performed it, one might think Scrubs were ghouls coming for your baby sister in the night. No scrubs, please! For the love of god, no scrubs…
Assassins 88 ★★★★
The drummer sings with a tiny microphone duct taped to his face. I stumbled upon this band in the Noisy Room (so descriptive) and I was in that tipsy state, and it was some kind of alchemy. Melodic, garage rock at its best with little 60s touches, this was the only rock’n’roll at camp that really got me. By the way, did you know the Sonics are playing in Auckland next month? Bamm!
Sexy Merlin ★★★★★
Totally psychedelic spooky drummerboy from Toronto. At times a pretty ghostly feel, Mr Merlin’s deep melodramatic vocals kept the crowds a shakin’ and a screamin’ with the help of those tropical beats. Got the t-shirt.
Full disclosure; Sexy Merlin is my boyfriend’s brother. Ok, I’m biased. Wanna know a cool story? I emailed Blink (camp organiser) when I was still living in Canada and told him about Sexy Merlin and ages later he was like ‘Yeah! He rules, let’s get him over here!’. So awesome! Extra credit goes to the lady friend of Mr Merlin who made from scratch the most original, magical and comfortable t-shirts in the merch tent. They sold out so if you have one, you be lucky!
Gutter Parties ★★★★
Shoegaze pop with, at times a bit of a calypso feel. Very nice indeed.
Spring Break ★★★1/2
Hilarious 80s synth pair in matching lilac shirts. Got naked during set. Completely circumnavigated the lagoon during their set.
Jon Lemmon ★★★
Pretty uplifting dance/power ballads. There is hope in dancing to electronic anthems in a forest. Right?
Terrible Truths ★★★★
Australian band that includes the woman from Rites Wild (for the record, I gave that one ★★★). Very much enjoyed this dreamy shoegaze set from the banks of the lagoon defrosting after a dip.
Brian Borcherdt ★★★★1/2
Another Canadian (also in bands Holy Fuck and Dusted), Brian’s set was a testament to the well written song. Oh it helps that he has that lovely gravelly voice, he can play and yeah he is charming as hell, but god those songs were beautiful. Accompanied, at times, by fellow talented Torontonians Sexy Merlin on drums and Anna Edwards on guitar, these understated sets (he played twice over the weekend) were true highlights of camp.
Oh just a little downbeat electro r’n’b to get you through the day. Distorted vocals, a dreamy ethereal feel took this music way way far away from the expected. Beautiful set with the sun setting behind the hill.
Kirin J. Callinan ★★★
Super eccentric throaty voiced creeper. His drama filled act dragged a little but he is included this highlights list as he had excellent personal style: black gloves, big weird sweater, little shorts, John Waters sneer. A bit of a fruitloop, and gosh don’t we need more of these?
If you wonder why my scores are pretty high, I didn’t want to harp on about the bands I wasn’t really into. So negative! Don’t waste your time reading about bands that are a snooze, waste your time looking these ones up instead!