A last minute decision can often lead to surprising consequences. A pleasant, if not mildly overcast day (31/5/16) had turned to light rain and the attraction of a lazy evening endlessly flicking through deadbeat channels seemed to be on the cards when the mobile phone rings, it’s my bud Derek with an offer of a ticket for a BC Camplight gig at The Louisiana, Bristol. There is an acceptance that neither of us is fluent in the work of BC Camplight and as Derek puts it, “it’s worth a punt.” Derek had sought, unsuccessfully to see BC Camplight last year, but circumstances had conspired to have the gig cancelled. BC Camplight is the moniker of American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Christinzio. Originally from New Jersey, Christinzio allegedly relocated to Manchester, following the advice of a fan on social media. In early 2015 Christinzio overstayed his visa permissions due to a leg injury and was made to leave the UK, resulting in the cancellation of his band’s summer tour which was to include performances at the Green Man and End of the Road festivals and an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland.
Tonight’s venue the Louis is one of those endearing venues with a knack of promoting bands on their ascendancy or providing the platform for artists who are quite content to remain below the radar appealing to a network of diehard fans who are equally content to hold onto their secret. Old gig posters are evidence of past glories, Amy Whitehouse, Florance and the Machine, Coldplay, Kasabian, Muse, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon to name a few have trod the boards of its 140 capacity. The audience is literally standing in your face with private conversations between songs easily being picked by the performing artists and turned into amusing rounds of audience participation.
Drinks in hand we make our way up the creaking wooden staircase. Tonight’s support is provided by Grace Lightman whose performance, band, and overall delivery is solid. An intriguing mixture of low-tempo soul and jazz with a hint (and I’m sure I’m not the first to this point out) of Kate Bush lingering in the air. The set is well received and with each song Lightman grows in confidence and seems to shake off the nerves. BC Lamplight takes to the stage in rather a shambolic method. Christinzio immediately informs the audience that he is receiving electric shocks from the keyboard, which is confirmed by the sound engineer that this is due to the “cheap gear” the group is using. It is also easy to detect that most, if not all the band, are the less for wear from their London gig, which turned into an extended birthday party for Christinzio at a student’s flat. The first song is interrupted by individual band members seeking alterations to instruments and sound. Even Christinzio is seen to be crawling under his keyboards adjusting wire, with shouts emerging, along with the occasional electric shock. The sound is not brilliant, but the character of a gifted artist and band is ingrained in the ability to manoeuvre around obstacles, even if most are self-made obstacles. BC Camplight does this with ease given the depth of talent on the stage, along with the rich material at their disposal. A fair chunk of the songs tonight I later learn are harvested from the band’s latest album ‘How to Die in the North.’
Performance wise I can hear an array of influences from Springsteen, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. Derek identifies Harry Nilsson influences. They are all there mashed up in chaotic beauty. Whilst an assortment of booze is exchanged between band members Christinzio announces to the audience that he is staying in the local Travel Lodge. Room 26, “if some young adventurer is interested in a little post sordid birthday celebration.” A male member of the audience shouts out, “what if my wife finds out.” Christinzio replies without missing a beat, “Did I say room 30.” Overall a gem of a gig and if you get the opportunity to witness BC Camplight live I suggest you take it.