I sit in a booth at the back of the dimly litBottlenecklistening to the rain storm I drove through pepper the window with cold drops. I’m readingThe Believerand wondering if coming to Lawrence three hours before the doors are set to open will pay off. If not, I’ll leave without an interview, lugging my recording equipment back to my car before the show starts. That doesn’t really matter, though, since either way, I get to see Camera Obscura.
As I read, I witness several people come in and buy tickets for the show. “Why isn’t this show sold out?” I wonder to myself. If I remember correctly, the show in St. Louis was sold out two days in advance of the fabulous Scots’ arrival in the Show Me State.
After, perhaps, an hour or so, members of one of the most luminescent pop bands in the world begin to trickle inside from their tour bus to start soundchecking. Tracyanne Campbell stands center stage, shielding her eyes from a bright light, electric guitar at the ready. She begins to strum it gently before fully announcing her presence, hitting a pedal and allowing the distortion to move in waves around the nearly empty club. As the soundcheck continues and the levels are adjusted, she takes a quick step back from a floor monitor, which is feeding back at her like a striking snake.
To Campbell’s right, as always, Carey Lander stands behind her organ, red hair peeking out of a blue hoodie. One might almost mistake her for aKU fan, were it not for her Scottish accent. After Campbell’s sound check is complete, Lander begins hers and the Bottleneck is transformed, from a dingy rock club, into a shiny church of pop.
Lander’s keyboard fills the Bottleneck with a happy, almost holy sound. For the duration of her soundcheck I forget that it’s grey and cold and raining outside. The neon signs advertising cheap, domestic beer become stained glass windows, with sun streaming through them. The handful of patrons playing billiards are the congregation, though they seem not to notice the revival they’re unwittingly a part of. It is difficult not to smile.
When individual soundchecks are complete, the full band begins playing parts of French Navy, Razzle Dazzle Rose, Tears for Affairs and Come Back Margaret. The sounds of customers playing pool and video games are swallowed whole by the band playing The Sweetest Thing. They seem to have fun during the soundcheck, and the music they play has me completely forgetting I have to go back into the wet, metallic Kansas weather to eat dinner.
After a Guinness and pizza atRudy’s Pizzaria (and the requisite trips to theLove Garden andDusty Bookshelf) I return to the Bottleneck, a little before eight, and order a double Gin & tonic. They’re playing some band over the PA that is doing its best to rip off theFiery Furnacesand it’s kind of giving me a headache. (Well, that or the massive amount of caffeine I’ve ingested since waking up at five in the morning.) The aspirin I took earlier is having little to no effect. I take a seat on the bleachers, set up just opposite the stage, and I’m almost anonymous in the semi-darkness. I gently sip my drink and notice that the club is nearly as empty as it was when I left it earlier, before the sun had set.
Things pick up around eight-thirty, as a crowd of people with unkempt beards, ironic mustaches and vintage Adidas track jackets descend upon the Bottleneck. A very young kid next to me says “If they play Alaska, I’m going to go insane.” I know the likelihood of that happening is not good. Alaska is a B-side on the Merge Records CD single for If Looks Could Kill. I, however, understand where he’s coming from and think to myself, “Kid, if they play San Francisco Song, I’m going to go insane.” (San Francisco Song being a b-side on the Elephant Records CD single for Keep It Clean.)
Opening actPrincetonplay bouncing, jangly pop and sound a little like a mix between LunaandMiracle Legion, with Joy Division-esque keyboards. Kind of a happy-ish shoegaze, I guess. They played a song called Night Winds which, for some reason, reminded me of the theme toLove Boat. Tim, the trumpeter/auxiliary percussionist from Camera Obscura joined Princeton for their final two songs.
After Princeton’s set my role as journalist is done. I keep track of the songs played for asetlist post, but now I’m just enjoying the show. My headache is gone.
Camera Obscura’s set was amazing, of course, and I urge anyone in the cities left on this leg of their US tour to check them out. You will not be disappointed. The band hung around after the set to talk to fans and sign autographs, which is awesome, yet hardly surprising.
Someone took video of The Sweetest Thing at the Lawrence show. (Thanks!)
I was able to interview drummer Lee Thomson, and that interview will air Friday duringBacon in the Morning. (Why don’t drummers get interviewed more?) He introduced me to a term I’d never heard before,“twee”, which, it seems, is a kind of indie or indie pop. I think I probably didn’t know that because, one, until recently, most of the music I listened to was punk rock and, two, the sub genres of sub genres thing gets a little confusing after a while so, anymore, I usually just put music into two categories: “good” and “bad.” To quoteDetroit Rock City, “Good tunes is good tunes.”
Camera Obscura is most definitely good tunes.
This is your brain on Hogs.