The story of Brian Christinzio, or BC Camplight, or in his own words “the guy who blew it”, is a romantic tale of redemption. After modest success with his first two albums in 2005 and 2007, Christenzio hit the bottle hard. Presumably after watching Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, he relocated from Philadelphia to Manchester in 2011, reputedly to slowly drink himself to death in everyone’s favourite boozing hole, The Castle Hotel. But instead of finding a hooker with a heart of gold like Cage did in Vegas, Christenzio found himself a band. They’ve just released an outstanding album, How To Die In The North, which they played from start to finish for their set at Gorilla, embracing Christenzio’s creative rebirth and break from the past by eschewing all of his old material.
Given the backstory, it’s tempting to view the music through a prism of pain and catharsis and play tiny violins instead of applauding, but BC is far too self-deprecating, eccentric and downright fun for all that. The set bursts with ideas: wonderfully overwrought ballads (‘Why Doesn’t Anybody Fall In Love Anymore’), pimped-out slow burners (‘Just Because I Love You’), and staggering psych-pop (‘You Should’ve Gone To School’), all topped off with Christenzio’s bittersweet, Brian Wilson-esque vocals. Reader, I command you to YouTube ‘You Should’ve Gone To School’ – it’s a track you can rely on in those moments at parties when you get control of the music and you’re psyched but then you panic because every song you’ve ever known suddenly disappears from memory. (Recommending a YouTube search seemed more realistic than the absurd suggestion of buying the CD.)
The atmosphere BC Camplight creates is as disorienting as the schizophrenic setlist; dry ice billows off the stage and into the crowd, and the periodic blindness caused by the fog seems to fine tune the hearing senses (this is presumably the source of Stevie Wonder’s genius). Even without the help of fine-tuning-fog, the rich clamour stirred up by Christenzio’s five-piece band is marshmallowy candy to the ears. The bass and percussion are laid down with mettle and funk, leaving plenty of wriggle room for all manner of accessories – trumpets, strings, honky-tonk piano, a cowbell (of course), and some welcome backing harmonies.
If, like me, you would like to meet BC Camplight, perhaps become his friend, and then harass him until he lets you join his band, then your best bet is to hang out at the Castle Hotel, because I hear he goes there a lot.