Thursday, 17 February 2011

Summer Camp @ Clarks, Regent Street

Let's face it, if any band are going to be at home in a shoe shop it's going to be Summer Camp. Aside from maybe a library or a boutique selling artisan bread and cutesy handmade jewellery, there couldn't be more of a perfect fit for their twee and dreamy sound than to be surrounded by floral desert boots and the smell of vintage leather.

The sense of whimsy and longed for childhood dreams created by their music is only added to by the fact that the last time most of us were in Clarks was when we were buying our school shoes. Branches of Clarks have a particular smell, and as we're ushered in off Regent Street it all comes flooding back: the parental anger as you begged for a pair of trainers that lit up as you walked, the disappointment at the 'sensible' black leather shoes that were your fate, and, best of all, that electric machine that measured the size of your feet with the metal bar. There was something so exciting about that moment you thought it was going to crush your toes, and the joy you felt when you'd gone up half a size. Sigh.

This acoustic set from Summer Camp forms part of a Clarks Originals concert series in partnership with Clash magazine. It's free, plus there are some discounts on shoes that mean while you watch you can also browse for your size fives – although naturally everyone is too polite and pays rapt attention to the group. There are only about twenty of us squashed into the upstairs display area, many of whom are bemused tourists dragged in by an eager man handing out flyers. This, coupled with years of being told to behave properly in shoe shops, means that there's a slightly stilted atmosphere. Polite clapping follows each song, but it all feels a bit strange.

Despite this, Summer Camp put on an extremely polished show. While no one could accuse them of being rock and roll, tonight's lack of squelchy synth-work means that their sound is a lot more raw than expected. Despite wearing adorable animal jumpers, there's a lack of innocence to their live sound which just doesn't come across on the EP.

Tall and imposing, Jeremy Warmsley strums violently at the guitar and almost makes it sound like a classical model. The vocals are also tighter and sound less sleepy than they do on record. Elizabeth Sankey especially has a prowling quality to her voice that makes much more of an impact in the close quarters of the shop. In half an hour they manage to rattle through much of their 'Young' EP, but the fact that it's so stripped back means the songs are barely recognisable and are often the better for it. Everyone loves synths, but there's something about this back to basics approach that really suits their style. Possibly it's the fact that Warmsley has folk pedigree, but taking their lo-fi sound to its logical conclusion makes the songs seem fresher and means they're far more resonant.

The set's newbies also benefit from this more rough and ready style. A frankly terrifying highlight is 'I Want You' in which Sankey let's us know in a growling huntress tone of voice that if she wanted us, she could have us. And then she'd bind our feet together so that we couldn't escape. Even Warmsley looks a little bit scared. Let's hope she at least buys him a nice pair of brogues.

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