BC Camplight

BC Camplight


Brian Christinzio has one hand on the neck of his guitar and the other up a puppet’s ass.  Although BC himself provides the high pitched voice of the puppet, he is even then undermined by his cloth nemesis, who calls him on his insecurities about his age, teases him about his place as an artist on the Bella Union record label, about how John Grant has had hits. He drinks red wine straight from the bottle.  Brian, not the puppet.  It is but one kink in a wonky evening blessed with many multifarious kinks.

BC Camplight – Brian’s more musical alter ego – is hidden behind beard, dark glasses and soft floppy hat. It’s something of a disguise, a security blanket, and yet when we meet backstage all that comes off are the glasses.  It’s a subtle but important distinction.  A native of Philadelphia and one time keyboard player with Kurt Vile, and War on Drugs, Brian always enjoyed the baggy swagger of life in this city and on little more than a whim and a Tweet, moved here.   Only, a leg injury meant he overstayed his visa and got a little bit deported.  I can emphathise.  I once had a similar misunderstanding in Moscow which led to my ejection, at gun point, from that fair country.  And it was brutal timing for Brian. ‘That was the whole last record,’ he groans, in a make shift green room backstage that, in truth, is more grey than green.  ‘Like, we cancelled Jools Holland, End of the Road, god knows, everything.’ But Brian had a plan. As his old man is Italian, he decamped to the land of his fathers.  Pretty sweet deal, any reasonable person may think, but Brian baulked at the notion:  ‘I had to live In Italy and pretend that I wanted to be there,’ he says, dreaming only of life amongst the low-slung infectious chaos of Manchester. ‘Now I’m sort of in no man’s land but just writing and testing out the new songs.  For now… depending on Brexit.’

Brian’s imagination is a pretty interesting place to hang out.  Once part of that Philly Indy set-up, BC is not really about scenes.  He is pretty much is a scene.  A genre of one.  Although having said that, last album How To Die in the North sits rather comfortably within the Bella Union stable of dislocated artists, where ‘psy’ might stand for ‘psy’chology rather than ‘psy’chedellia. Strangely at ease with the anxiety and mental pressures that at times consume him, it is these selfsame anxieties that power his creativity. ‘I’m the Larry David of indie-rock,’ Brian chuckles, with some justification, somewhat at odds with life, slightly unhooked from the prosaic restrictions and ramifications of reality: ‘I don’t draw that much from music, at least consciously.  I spend most of my time hating music… I don’t have a record player, I don’t have a CD player…  I don’t really know what iTunes is. I have a really tough time listening to music leisurely.’

It’s as though his music is a kind of self-prescribed therapy.  Processing by producing.  ‘It happens so quickly,’ says Brian, as though lying back on a psychiatrist’s couch. ‘I go into the studio and I go into this weird fucking place and I do all these songs and then I come out and I don’t remember doing any of it.’  If producing is analysis, maybe performance provides the requisite prescription for self-medication: ‘Tonight I’m trying to tackle a lot of my fears. A couple of the songs tonight I’m going to play on guitar. And I’ve never played guitar on stage before ever in my entire life.  Not once.’  Brian pauses briefly before adding, self deprecatingly, ‘so that’s going to be awful.’

It’s not, of course.  Far from it.  After a warm up from fellow Bella Union act – the wonderfully be-tasched Pavo Pavo – Brian steps onto the stage and, glasses back on, BC launches straight into an amusing aside about how his entrance was all messed up, as if starting out on the wrong foot was somehow the only way this was going to work. On ‘Thieves in Antigua’ his voice is absolute 21st century Brian Wilson, deep harmonies provided by what could be Beach Boys were, as Ian Brown so usefully pointed out, Manchester had a beach.  Two of the best tracks from HTDITN. ‘Just Because I Love You’ and the urbane bass gristle of ‘Should Have Gone to School’, feature early on and the venue section of Ruby Lounge swells with a mix of fans, and what look to be the genuinely concerned.

Like the album, the set is ragged, shaggy and completely devoid of cohesion, much as Brian intended, at times nodding towards Beck, perhaps The Pixies, but usually nothing more than BC Camplight himself, and that’s more than enough for tonight.  Dressed in black he is at like a louche, slovenly Blues Brother, as predicted strapping on a guitar for several tracks – more protection, disguise – although equally predictably that does not go smoothly.  All the songs sound different and not all of them hit home, for sure.  Sometimes the end of songs sound different to their middle. And the middle from the beginning.  Songs suddenly change tempo, then everything might stop, then fire up again. HTDITN is about as far removed from a concept album as it is possible to get.  Or rather, perhaps it is the listener’s job to add the concept, the cohesion, to connect the disjointed elements of the soundtrack of Brian’s imagination.  We are all on the edge of something: myself, the crowd, the friends that got me into BC Camplight, the 20 students I have brought with me in a minibus from the Music Journalism degree at the University of Chester.  It’s a roadtrip to the edge.  ‘Happy Christmas!’ says Brian, towards the end of the show.  It’s mid-November.

For BC Camplight, music, it seems, forms a release; melodies are a salve, songs a salvation.  ‘Lay Me On The Floor’ Is just wonderfully wonky, for instance.  Then the set ends in a riotous rendering of George Harrison’s own angst ridden ‘Wah-Wah’ and it signs the night off beautifully.  Between songs BC recalls how he would sit in Philly and think ‘If only I could move to U.K. and live my life there – especially Manchester – all my problems will go away. And that’s true!’  Let’s hope so.   Let’s hope Brexit doesn’t refer to the EXIT of BR-ian. We want Brian in this city.  Fuck it, we need him.  Here’s to the strange, unhinged and always melodic life of Brian.  BC was here.

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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…