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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Camp A Low Hum

A band is playing a set at 1.30pm on the third and final day of Camp A Low Hum. The venue is the festival’s cramped “Noisy Room”, which has dangerously low ceilings, and mattresses nailed to all four walls in true 1980s punk rock style. This is their second set of the festival, and it soon becomes apparent that three days of non-stop partying, sun, alcohol and substance abuse have gotten to them.

The room is so hot that all four members are coated in sweat by the end of the first song. By the chorus of the second song the drummer’s timekeeping has become noticeably erratic. Midway through the third song the singer’s b-string breaks in half, but he somehow manages to battle through this setback and begins the fourth song, mumbling some sardonic remark into the microphone as he hits another chord.

Unfortunately, the drummer’s concentration lapses once more, and the last strands of the singer’s patience snap apart just as suddenly as the fibers of his guitar string had moments earlier.

The singer is Marcus Hobbs, he wears a battered Death from Above t-shirt, and his band is the East Brunswick All Girls Choir, a veteran Australian group who once opened for the Rolling Stones in the 1990s. In this moment of chaos, inspiration seizes Marcus, and grabbing an undersized acoustic guitar he undergoes an unexpected transformation into Camp A Low Hum’s very own pied piper. Striking a chord for effect, Marcus darts out of the Noisy Room, starts singing a song about ballsacks and leads everyone down to the campsite’s nearby lagoon.

But this wasn’t just any lagoon! On the second day of Camp this lagoon had been the setting of a 1990s style pool party, hosted by Blink and DJ ELF and featuring summer tracks, enough exposed pale skin to attract an army of moths, and the largest spontaneous whirlpool ever created. By the third day the lagoon has turned into a coffee-coloured mess, but the temperature is so high that there are still 50 or so swimmers crazy enough trying to cool off in its dubious waters.

Once our procession reaches the lagoon, the swimmers and our congregation stand transfixed, while Marcus and the rest of East Brunswick put down their instruments and jump in, one after another. Our minds boggle momentarily. What has just happened? Are there really eels in the lagoon? Then, collectively, we realize that the set is over. I think it might have been about 15 minutes long.

Returning to the comfort of my own tent, a whiskey soda and the company of friends, both old and two days new, help me come to grips with reality again. I lean back to try and get a little more shade onto my face, and in doing so, feel some kind of object pressed up against the small of my back. Perplexed, I pull it out, and found myself holding a small, newspaper wrapped package. Written on one side in felt-tip pen are the words: RANDOM PRESENT DROP.

Grinning, I display my prize to the other occupants of my tent, and then proceed to unwrap it. Inside I find a pack of four finger-tip laser beams, each a different colour. Red, white, blue and green. Score! I’m back in wonderland, this is non-stop! A Disasteradio dance party in the woods later that evening provides the perfect opportunity to use the lasers, frighten some cicadas and generally just go insane.


Feeling slightly exhausted, but still exuberant from our 80’s disco antics, a friend and I decide to head back to our tent for some more liquor. As we stumble through the dark we hear a tambourine being played in a shaky 4/4 rhythm. Turning, we introduce ourselves, and within 15 minutes I find myself doing backups on an impromptu cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Can I Kick It?’. Somebody else joins in on a flute. This moment is but one of many personal highlights from camp, a moment that was easily as fun as the Finn family band’s (Liam, Neil and Elroy) surprise two hour performance of songs like ‘I Got You’ and ‘I See Red’ a few hours earlier on the main stage.

And that, in my personal opinion, is the essence of Camp A Low Hum. It is a testament to Ian Jorgensen’s impeccable taste, hard work and grand small-scale vision that a lucky group of less than 1,000 of us are able to experience such a wonderful blend of local talent at such close hand, and in so inclusive a fashion. Wilberforces killed the main stage to an audience of 50; Neil Finn killed the main stage to an audience of 500.

My camping neighbours from Hamilton helped me set up my tent in the middle of the night. Darren Keen from Nebraska hates Bright Eyes even more than I do, and he actually wrote a song about it! It was awesome! Bang! Bang! Eche! are off to the USA! Bonaparte wears a bear costume! The Ruby Suns played at SFBH last week! With El Guincho! Okay, so there wasn’t a conga line like at Camp, but still! Fucking sweet dude!


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Comments (2)

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  1. Moomama says:

    ow man where does this happen I am so coming

  2. Tegan says:

    I met so many people at Camp that hated Bright Eyes more than I did :D
    Nice little review, twas awesome.

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