Concert Review: Caamp @ 9:30 Club (1/31/20)

Caamp on CBS This Morning
Caamp on CBS This Morning (Photo from FB @CaampBoys)

With a giant domesticated bear logo as the backdrop, soon-to-be folk legends Caamp set about giving the sold out 9:30 Club adventurers a truly pleasing evening of folk offerings.

Caamp is a folk rock trio from Columbus, Ohio. Performing were Taylor Meier (lead vocals, guitar, drums and trucker hat), Evan Westfall (banjo, guitar, drums and percussion), Matt Vinson (bass and guitar), and a fourth member joining on keyboards for this show. Taylor and Evan met at summer camp in middle school, therefore the band name checks out. Taylor introduced Matt to the audience at one point as Aquaman’s brother. (Pro Tip: He does have a passing resemblance to Jason Momoa. Checks out.)

This was their second sold out performance in DC, this one an early show on Friday, January 31st, making us bend our concert-going habits to arrive on time. Those that did were rewarded with an opening set by Angela Perley and her band, also from Columbus, playing enjoyable country and indie rock songs. (Pro Tip: She will also perform at Hill Country DC on February 21st.)

Caamp kicked off the evening with “No Sleep”, which included positive vibes and lyrics about a denim jacket and a bolo tie, and discovering new love.

The bear logo in the background brought some life to the theme of nature. Along with the giant bear itself with a seat on its back, the logo reminded one of a merit badge you might earn for successfully experiencing Caamp in concert. I’d sew it on something and wear it. Underneath Taylor’s feet and his microphone stand and tuner sprawled a giant cowhide doubling as a rug, probably not visible to the swarm of people swaying on the floor. The amps at the back of the stage looked like relics borrowed from the set of the bunker on the TV show Lost. A homey environment to get comfortable in and unwind over a few folk songs.

Soon after came “Autumn Leaves”, a graceful entry, and helped highlight Taylor’s yearning lyrics, and often throaty vocals, and treated us to an extended guitar interlude.

“Vagabond” starts melancholy, the stringed instruments liberally plucked, but just when the too short song seems over, the music and Taylor’s voice ramp up for a big finish. The crowd also liberally shouted recognition with the first notes, a fan favorite perhaps, and now among my favorites from the evening.

Their second full-length album, By and By (via Mom + Pop Music), was released in 2019, and they spent some time unwrapping it, performing six songs from the album of the 16 total they played for us. They also peppered in six songs from Boys (their 2016 album), and a brand new song at the end of the set, “Officer of Love”, a funky slow burn, that was an entirely too pleasant, and left us blissfully mellow.

Midway through, “Books” provided an opportunity for Evan to escape from behind the drum set in the corner, and push up to the front of the stage with his trusty banjo and a spry mood. The whole song makes you feeel good, with lyrics touting the sweet memories of a fateful road trip leading to love.

“Wunderbar” (and really all of Caamp’s songs) is about love and regret, but ends with a very poignant chorus, ‘Love and grace is what we need’. It struck me as an important reminder that simple things mean a lot.

“Peach Fuzz”, a single from By and By, wants you to reminisce on the nervousness and excitement of adolescent love, and I still can’t shake how the guitar hook reminds one of Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha”.

Caamp came back for their encore with “Going to the Country”, and added a cowboy hat to the band (attached to the guitar player from Angela Perley’s band). Taylor also took a turn at the drum set, outside the comfort of his rug, belting into a microphone set-up like an Erector set. The song drives like classic rock, something CCR might play while roasting marshmallows around a caampfire*. The guitar riffs pick up at the end, and it went on and on and on…

When we could finally wake from the mellow trance, and the natural high induced by live music, we left the 9:30 Club, the night still young, seeking ways to continue our folk buzz, and listen to more airy Caamp songs.

Pick up a copy of By and By, and don’t sleep on tickets next time Caamp comes through DC. Both shows sold out quickly!

No Sleep
Just Wonderin
Autumn Leaves
Penny, Heads Up
So Long, Honey
I Keep Going
Wolf Song
Hey Joe
Common Man
Peach Fuzz
Officer of Love

Going to the Country

* Puns. They are fun, and you know you waant them. In fact, we all deserve them.

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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