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Coachella 2010: Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell dedicates song to volcano-stranded UK bands

April 17, 2010 |  5:58 pm


A bikini-clad tan girl, a hot Southern California archetype of worry-free youth, was walking between Coachella's Gobi and Mojave tents. It was 3 p.m. and she was headed to see Camera Obscura. She was walking with a few girlfriends, casually. Then, abruptly, she stopped and pointed at a spot on the ground. "This is where we were dancing last night!" she said, and it sounded as though she'd just stumbled across the scene of a miracle. "Right here."

These moments are why we're here: to make a little history, see a miracle or two, experience something that leaves a psychic mark. You can witness these moments all over the place -- people lost inside a rhythm, singing along, riding that secret tunnel between voice and heart where emotions spill out unobstructed by ego.

During Camera Obscura's set in the Mojave tent, people stared at singer Tracyanne Campbell as she offered the bittersweet refrain of the band's expert pop song "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken." One middle-aged woman, well-manicured and wearing a massive diamond ring, stood backstage, eyes closed, singing along, pampered on the outside but lost inside a lament: "Hey, Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken, 'cause I can’t see further than my own nose at this moment." A ragged, handsome teen with expertly mussed hair sang the words too.

Camera Obscura makes classic songs in the Brill Building and Phil Spector tradition, tight verse-chorus-verse constructs anchored by humming organ, trumpet, and lots of Wall of Sound rhythms. Except they're Scottish, so the songs have an Anglo accent. It's music that's easy and fun to sing along to, but still feels a little torn around the edges.

Campbell, wearing a flower-print dress and big sunglasses, then made an announcement: "A lot of bands from the UK couldn't make it to Coachella, so we want to dedicate this song to them." The song was "Let's Get Out of this Country." They jumped into the ditty and the audience joined in:

We'll pick berries and recline
Let's hit the road, dear friend of mine
Wave goodbye to our thankless jobs
We'll drive for miles, maybe never turn off ...

It was a beautiful moment in the tent, so many people enjoying a simple song.

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Camera Obscura performs at Coachella on Saturday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times