Summer Camp @ Jericho Tavern, Oxford 15.11.11

The first signs of Summer Camp were of a band who preferred to let their identities take the backseat to their carefully constructed brand of retro-loving chamber pop, hiding themselves behind dated teen movie samples, yellowing found images and vocal-masking production. Whilst sounding brilliant on record, its charm came through distance and faded memory, a quality perhaps hard to find in the small surroundings of Oxford’s Jericho Tavern. But Summer Camp have returned on their debut album with a stronger and more direct sound perhaps more suited to a live show.

Nov 15th, 2011 at Jericho Tavern, Oxford / By Robert Stockill
Summer Camp @ Jericho Tavern, Oxford 15.11.11 Starting with an acoustic rendition of new album opener ‘Better Off Without You’ from within the audience, from the off this was a band who were at ease with the crowd. As Elizabeth Sankey once again left the stage and joined the audience to perform Youth EP's 'Veronica Sawyer’, there was the sweet irony of her singing ‘I lost all my friends’ whilst being the centre of feverishly admiring fans, jumping at her every slight movement. Jeremy Warmsley seemed content to play the more static and supportive role, gracefully moving between keyboards and guitars to recreate their characteristic pop touches. At the points when they did come into contact with each other, the crucial chemistry between Sankey and Warmsley showed itself as if they seemed as happy at times to sing to each other and leave the audience behind. This was particularly clear when they turned off the amps for a tender acoustic version of ‘Losing My Mind’.

The duo was only supplemented by live drums, and whilst some of the breadth was lost from the recordings what was left was more focussed, putting Elizabeth Sankey’s vocals at centre stage, and luckily that was a very comfortable position for them to be in. Sankey proved herself as an attention grabbing performer, with enough unpredictability to keep the audience on their toes, remaining the stomping and petulant girl who's gonna cry 'cause it's her party. And when the band did shift out of the concise pop, they showed they could pull off heavier moments, particularly with the powerful finish of ‘I Want You’.

If any doubt remained of Summer Camp’s leanings, throughout the gig projections of choice movie cuts truly laid their retrophilic tendencies bare. From the expected teen movie Brat Pack sequences to older selections, the music often gave the mute subjects on the screen a strange, hectic feel. The finale of Sankey raising her fist with The Breakfast Club’s Bender was a truly fitting end to their nostalgic tour though, and a lovely moment of self-consciousness. Summer Camp were completely charming, performing without the introversion that could have been expected, and yet still managed to maintain the rich and distinctive style which has always made them so fascinating.