Aftermath is always interested in how the residents of Houston represent our fair city when a touring act with any sort of notoriety comes through town. Houstonians don't always have the best reputation as concert-goers, whether it's because we talk too much during any given band's set or stand around waiting to be impressed, refusing to engage with the band up there pouring its heart into things. Thankfully, it seems that actual fans of music showed up (on a Sunday night!) to see Camera Obscura weave its special brand of Glaswegian pop. We estimate that about 150 people showed up to the Studio Room at Warehouse Live - and not only were they on their best behavior, but they were generally animated for the entire evening, complete with smiles, singing along to the songs and a bit of dancing in some quarters. Hailing from Austin by way of Sacramento, Calif., Agent Ribbons (above) opened up the show, performing a curiously engaging sort of no-frills '50s and '60s pop. This trio of ladies combined bare-bones drumming and a theatrical violinist with a demonstrative lead singer and her nearly distortionless surf-guitar lines to create a sound that called to mind a mix of Neko Case-esque torch songs, suitably campy Regina Spektor-styled vocals, and Vivian Girls-inspired lo-fi rock. Donning attire straight out of the closets of the Mad Men secretaries, the group wasn't afraid to show the imperfections and raw edge to its pop meets spaghetti-western aesthetic.
Though - surprise, surprise! - the crowd was appropriately attentive to the opening act, it was obvious that everyone was there to hear Tracyanne Campbell and her Camera Obscura compadres. Coming to the stage in outfits right out of a '80s business conference, the sextet launched into a stellar 15-song set, one primarily comprised of tracks from 2009's excellent My Maudlin Career and 2006's heralded Let's Get Out Of This Country.
The group didn't talk much outside of the requisite "Thank you" in response to crowd applause, but it didn't need to, as hipsters, hippies and assorted couples across the demographic spectrum all enjoyed a great night of shimmering, pretty pop songs that were impressive in tone, feel, and execution.
Thus, though the band has drawn regular and favorable comparisons to Belle & Sebastian for its entire career, Camera Obscura has risen from being merely a moody younger sibling to being a full-fledged pop peer that should start receiving the notoriety it's due.
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And it seemed, at least on this breezy Sunday night, that there are plenty of people in Houston who are definitely appreciative of everything that this group is doing.