BC Camplight


Half way through proceedings – a sweaty, sleazy gorgeous romp of a night – and Brian Christinzio takes off his lounge lizard jacket to reveal a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I’m in a weird place now’. You and me both, mate. You want to try standing here by the stage, as a geographically dislocated, musically fixated singer-songwriter takes a packed Gorilla by the hand and leads this crowd/chimp hybrid on a guided tour of his last two albums and the contents of his head.

It’s the musical equivalent of having a good root around the upturned bin of someone’s psyche. As well as the prescient sentiment of an XL T-shirt, ‘I’m in a Weird Place Now’ is also a track from BC Camplight’s recently released sophomore album for Bella Union, Deportation Blues. (There were two earlier albums from Brian’s previous life stateside but they are only obliquely referenced). It’s hard to say where Brian’s weird place is. Perhaps a room, perhaps it’s more a feeling, perhaps it’s the light of a campfire or perhaps even more geographically specific. Brian was part of the Philadelphia scene that gave the world folk like Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs. Relocating to Manchester, this undoubtedly sensitive artist has faced deportation twice. When his US visa initially expired, he had to relocate to Italy until the Christinzio heritage came good with an Italian passport. Then – almost as soon as he gets back to Manchester – boom… Brexit. (And I know how he feels. I was once unceremoniously slung out of Russia… and I‘d only been there half an hour).

But we’re all together tonight, in this most moist of rooms, at the business end of Whitworth Street West. I’m in my favoured position – side of the stage, near the action, near the tasty beverages. I haven’t seen BC Camplight since a gig at The Ruby Lounge nearly a year ago and things have expanded. There’s a lot of bodies to get on one stage… so many, in fact, that the horn section are in the control room, only visible through a hatch, as though they might start frisbeeing freshly baked pizzas at any moment.

BC Camplight is a large presence, in every which way of the word. He wears gold bling better than Mr T and looks like he just rolled out of a trailer park directly en route to a Hollywood premiere. A kind of frayed elegance that opens doors to both trailers and VIP lounges. When he sits at the piano you’re reminded of Elton John; when he opens his mouth it’s Brian Wilson, as though our Brian also has a sandpit concealed underneath the piano. ‘We just have time for one more,’ he says as he takes his seat. He hasn’t started the first song yet.

When he does, we’re straight into the new long player, the appropriately named Deportation Blues. The titular track that kicks off the album also kicks off the gig, followed by ‘I’m In A Weird Place Now’, citing a good place where artist and audience can bond. Tracks also follow from 2015’s How To Die In The North, including ‘You Should’ve Gone To School’, the gorgeous ‘Just Because I Love You’ (written JBILY on the set list this journalist snaps on the stage… BC loves an extended title) and ‘Thieves In Antigua’. I have lived and loved HTDITN since its release, when a friend bought it for me. Deportation Blues is still in a state of ‘settling’, finding its place in my heart. It’s good, for sure, but there are clashes and craziness that are, no doubt purposefully, unsettling: the fractured shape-shifting tempo of ‘Am I Dead?’, the downright sleazy shadows of ‘Hell of Pennsylvania’. For a mellifluous and melodic singer, Brian does disharmony with aplomb. There are songs about his dog. Songs called things like ‘Am I Dead Yet?’ This is a singer-songwriter whose songs are desperately honest, sonic postcards from a troubled heart.

Between songs, Brian promises he’ll keep it light, then straightaway adds, “Isn’t it weird that we’re all going to die?” What’s the opposite of easy listening, because this is where we’re at tonight, and that… that weird place of Brian’s… is an OK place to be. Who wants The Lighthouse Family, anyway? Who wants anything in life easy?

Brian leaves us with ‘I’m Desperate’ but soon after joins us in the bar. I’m already talking to ex-members of his band, trying to get more of a fix on the fire of the camplight. What Brian sees in the “something about Manchester town”. Because we’re all in this weird place now. Weird, wonky, utterly wonderful.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…