CAMERA OBSCURA with AGENT RIBBONS

Venue: Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver
Date: Friday 5 June 2009
Reviewed by Lauren Eldridge
Rating: Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarEmpty Star

Camera Obscura, a band I know next-to-nothing about, was a leap-of-faith concert on my part. I had no idea who was opening for them, and only knew one song: “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken.” Needless to say, it is a song I love very much. One description on their MySpace page is “melodramatic pop,” and this is probably as accurate a description as any. It is very hard to put a finger on the style of Camera Obscura, since the tunes can be so uplifting and hopeful while the lyrics can be quite sad and melancholy.

Camera ObscuraLead by Traceyanne Campbell on vocals and guitar (who looked like she needed a hug), Camera Obscura can entrance with their intriguing combination of sweet and sad. Carey Lander was also a great addition on piano, organ and occasional vocals, adding a layer that cannot be underrated. Gavin Dunbar and Kenny McKeeve are older members of the band (on bass and guitar, respectively), and their talents are easily recognizable in their steadfast skill, almost the anchors of the group as it sways in its melodramatic trance. Their percussion section, plus the use of a trumpet, was additional seasoning on music that is borderline eclectic while maintaining a mellow, acoustic sound.

A storybook band called Agent Ribbons opened for Camera Obscura. They are from Sacramento and I will quote from another review of theirs (found on their MySpace): “Victorian punk… reminiscent of The White Stripes lost in Alice’s Wonderland.” Perhaps it is their clothes, or their hair, or their attitude, but Agent Ribbons is a fairy-tale band that sings about a plethora of random topics. One song was about cats (which coincidentally was preceded by another song about cats only the night before, from the opening band for Handsome Furs, still nameless).

Agent RibbonsNo matter the subject, Agent Ribbons was a perky, eccentric band of three girls who have the guts to look and play the way they want. I admire their confidence, which afforded them their stage presence, and find myself wishing I could dress like them and not stand out like a sore thumb. Natalie’s singing voice was much better than her speaking voice, but their cute quips about their day made for great punctuation between their even cuter songs.

The reason this concert fell below four stars had nothing to do with the bands or the crowd, but the sound at the Commodore. Perhaps I was too close to the stage, but the lyrics were inaudible and the music mere sound. Camera Obscura and Agent Ribbons could probably have fit their fans into Richard’s on Richards and given us more bang for our buck, but I won’t fault them for trying. Hey Camera Obscura, I’m ready to be heartbroken!

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