Los Campesinos!, I Blame Co Co, Summer Camp, Blue Roses
For those of us who have ever been to an Everton or Liverpool home game, you'll know exactly where this venue is. In amongst rapidly changing 'urban renewal', lies Liverpool's Stanley Park, wedged between Goodison and Anfield. It's gone through its own renewal, only a couple of years ago the conservatory was a wreck. It's magnificent now, and with it's bandstand, a brilliant setting for something that was always going to be intimate, with only 500 tickets available. Say what you like about corporate business, as Gareth Campesinos very good-naturedly joked later on, but fair do's to Top Shop for getting behind Teenage Cancer Trust in putting on these Bandstand gigs. There's plenty of ways of spending your corporate dollar and this one gets my vote.
There was a lot more than the bands, the day was set up as a picnic in the park. They sold food, a top selection of fairy cakes and ready made picnics. There was face painting, roller skate hire and a proper little sports day making it all a charming afternoon out. There was proper emphasis on what was the day was about, raising awareness of cancer amongst teenagers. There were even people going around handing out dabs of sun cream, given that that skin cancer is growing most rapidly amongst young people. Ironic then that I was caught out and ended up going home with sunburn! Good cause or not it was the excellent lineup that drew my attention and got me there today.
Everyone today was getting half hour sets. First up was 'Blue Roses', the band name for Yorkshire girl Laura Groves. Laura really is a musician's musician who I've seen once before when she was supporting St. Vincent. She started off solo on the bandstand, filling the air with rolling piano. An early standout of of the Blue Roses set was 'First Frost Night' which saw Laura switching to guitar with delightful vocal trips and leaps. She was then joined onstage by Josh adding a little more depth to the sound, although in truth it was hardly needed. Beautiful stuff and well worth getting there early for.
In the intervals between sets we there were DJ sets by Abi Harding of the Zutons and Candie Payne who, just happens to be the sister of one of the selfsame band, so it was a bit of a family affair. Candie and Abi were having an absolute gas, dancing on stage and playing everything from the Clash, via Ike and Tina to Biz Markie. I think there might have been drink involved.
The whole event was anchored by TV presenter Miquita Oliver, who spent as much time encouraging people to have a laugh on the sports field, and taking part of herself in sack and egg and spoon races as she did introducing bands. Good sport in both senses.
Next band up were 'Summer Camp', consisting of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey. One of the best moments of the day was when Miquita asked them on full Tannoy if they were 'a couple'. They murmured assent, and a relieved Miquita blurted out ' that could have been awkward!'. Given the sometimes tempestuous nature of love lives in bands, it might have been just as well to check first, but all turned out right and romantic. They were a new band to me and I enjoyed their boy/girl close harmonies accompanied only by one big fat acoustic guitar. Elizabeth introduced one song 'Treat Me Right' as being about 'boys that cheat', and then displaying much the same subtlety as Miquita asked if there were any in the audience. Not content to leave it at that she singled out one poor lad, accused him of looking away and stated for the record that he "looked guilty". I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at his house later on! She also tempted fate horribly. By now there were people whizzing around on rented rollerskates and she demanded to know if anyone had fallen over and hurt themselves 'yet'. Luckily I think the first aid crews were relatively untroubled all day. 'Summer Camp' get my vote as second most difficult band to Google after 'Girls'. They rounded off their set by quite frankly begging, or should I say asking nicely if any of the audience would bring them some of the delicious cupcakes. Bless her soul, one young lady did so just in time to present them to Jeremy and Elizabeth as they made their way off the bandstand.
After another bit of Abi and Candie madness came band number three 'I Blame Coco', young Ms Eliot P Sumner and her rather accomplished band. Coco looks all grown up on her myspace, she's 19 but today looked about 12, the impression no doubt aided by her Seven Dwarves sweatshirt. She looked a trifle frozen in her shorts, not helped by the band stand being the only place not in the sun. She might have been cold but she was also the coolest rock'n'roll thing on two legs today, despite plenty of Lost Boys clones to provide competition. They were a five piece band, with two acoustic guitars upfront, one of them wielded by Coco herself. Compared to the recorded stuff, this was a very obviously unplugged version. Set opener 'Self Machine' in it's electric version fair kicks along, whereas today had a much more relaxed vibe. This is a review of the live act, but I've got to say I've listened to the album version of that track a few times since Saturday and it is getting its insistent hooks into me. Coco has a distinctive voice, dusky, you could easily imagine her singing blues or soul, and she also has a very distinctive phrasing style. I hate to say it, but the only other person I've heard that particular intonation is her dad. She has probably had that comparison made once or twice, so apologies for being tediously obvious, and it's probably as much to do with how she speaks than a deliberate musical style. They did a great reinvention of 'The Chain' as well as more that I am sure will surface on the debut album which is out soon. She's on her way to finding her own 'voice', always difficult when your father is a Woody or a John or a Gordon. If you get the chance I would well recommend checking her out without the preconceptions that I obviously suffer from.
I Blame Coco played
Turn Your Back On Love
In Spirit Golden
Only Love / Caesar
Final act were the big draw for me at least today, 'Los Campesinos', or at least four eighths of them and with their tambourine left behind in Cardiff along with the rest of the band. There was an excellent moment when they were setting up and the DJ set was still running, so we were treated to the sight of Candie and Abi Zuton dancing dementedly behind the somewhat studious grouping of Gareth, Kim, Tom and Harriet. Do they all really have the same surname and is it really Campesinos? I had a moment's wonder at them only turning up with half the band. In truth it suited the relaxed day and intimate audience down to the ground. With all due respect to the ones left at home, there seemed little lost apart from the 'all together now' vocals that marks out some of their output. I've not seen them live before and was really looking forward to their lyrics. Maybe I'm just an easily flattered sucker but I really get enjoyment from their bookish and literate words, and I was not disappointed in the slightest with the live experience. They didn't have a written down running order, Gareth told us they were just going to play what they could do justice to with the stripped down band. They were audibly having little discussions about what to play next, in the event a lot of it coming from 'Romance Is Boring' but with some old faves in there as well. I just loved their jangly and lilting sound, definitely a 'must see again'. In between deciding whether he really could play '101' to such a patently young audience (answer=yes) Gareth treated us to some of his own messages, an affectionately irreverent exhortation to support TopShop because "it's getting rough on the High Street and Urban Outfitters are springing up everywhere" segueing into "wear sunscreen, and, err, rubber up!". Seriously, they are a superb and deeply lyrical band, the story told in 'The Sea Is A Good Place' stops me every time. They've got a summer full of festivals so do yourself a favour if you get half a chance.
Los Campesinos played -
Letters From Me To Charlotte,
We Are All Accelerated Readers,
Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1,
Death To Los Campesinos!
Straight in at 101
The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future
More information on what the day was about at http://www.teenagecancertrust.org/
Bigger photo set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/38617244@N04/sets/72157624319379400/show/