The first ever Summercamp Festival debuted at Liverpool’s trendy Camp and Furnace venue. Summercamp promised a weekend of food, music and cultural enlightenment for all ages. With a broad range of activities ranging from exciting acts, innovative food exhibitions, family events and late night DJs, there was something for everyone.
Before attending I had worried whether the timing and price of Summercamp might have hampered the fledgling festival. After all, Bank Holiday punters had the option of the free Liverpool International Music Festival’s concerts taking place across the city. Fortunately, Summercamp’s organisers, with their eclectic range of events, succeeded in convincing enough people to try something a little off the beaten path.
The festival’s quirky and off beat nature was the perfect fit for the mixed crowd of students, food fanatics, older hippies and families enjoying a day out. The festival’s family nature was most felt in the day time. The events varied from children’s cookery classes, face painting and lantern making workshops. The result was a lot of happy looking children and parents. For those without children there was the excellent food on offer at the Street Food Market, a laid back atmosphere and the Bank Holiday sun.
The festival’s organisers must be congratulated for putting together an impressive lineup performing in an impressive venue. From the kitsch Press Office caravan, the temporary grass and the tree lined warehouse in which the likes of Dutch Uncles, Mount Kimbie and GhostPoet performed, everything just worked.
Although the crowd was on the small side, there was definitely enough people present to have a good time. Summercamp goers were treated to a swaggering performance from Pitchfork darlings Merchandise. The Tampa trio impressed, at times it felt like frontman Carson Cox was channelling the spirit of Billy Idol with a snarling performance in a gig that would be a precursor to their slot the next day at the Reading Festival.
A short while later, everyone was allowed to mellow at Summercamp’s second stage, the more chilled out Camp Stage. An achingly beautiful, thought provoking set from songstress Martha Wainwright seemed to resonate with the crowd.
At night the stage was set for an incredible performance from indie punk rockers, The Joy Formidable. The Welsh trio’s second album, Wolf’s Law is widely expected to be the group’s breakthrough album. It was easy to see why, a mixture of strong song writing and a confident, accomplished delivery culminating in a really enjoyable set. The Joy Formidable’s ferocious performance energised the previously reserved crowd into late night revellers ready to enjoy Summercamp’s late night DJ’s until the wee hours.
For those who managed to wake up, Sunday also had plenty of treats in store. The day saw a mixed bag of acts, each with their own approach of dealing with a modest, laid back crowd. The energetic Liverpool group Wave Machines opted to let their music do the talking. In a laconic fashion, the group’s lead singer kept the crowd informed of the mood each song would create before each song. The list included happy, sad, moody and the intrinsically British ‘cautiously optimistic. Their lively set saw the group constantly chop and change instruments between songs and was much appreciated by the shoe gazing crowd. It was also nice to see Wave Machine mixing with the crowd and enjoying the other acts with their family and friends, a tribute to the relaxed communal atmosphere created by Summercamp’s organisers.
Former Mercury Prize nominee GhostPoet took a different approach in his inspired set. Ghost Poet simply oozed confidence and charisma. Within one song he asked, no, told the crowd to move to the front and dance, the crowd willing obliged. With this the mood transformed as the crowd swayed and danced with gusto to Ghost Poet’s unique blend of rap/spoken word played against a strong R&B section.
Later on in the Camp Stage, Benjamin Francis Leftwich deployed a different tact when attempting to connect with his audience. During the first five songs, the singer seemed concerned by the room’s acoustics and urged the crowd to stick with him. Towards the end of his set he left the stage and urged the crowd to sit with him on the floor to enjoy the final set of his tour in a late night, round-the-campfire style set. It was a nice touch, all present left with the well received act with a sense that they had been treated to something very special by an artist with a big future ahead of him.
Overall, Summercamp was a major success but there is still room for improvement. The atmosphere, venue and acts were phenomenal; however, the at times modest crowd did not pay testimony to the reputation of the acts attending and the quality of their performances. However, with positive word of mouth from those who went and perhaps a savvier date selection next year from the otherwise faultless organisers, Summercamp Festival could become a much anticipated city tradition.