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Pretty Precision: An Ode to Camera Obscura


Somewhere, maybe at this very moment, there is a woman or a young girl locked in her bedroom, lying face up on a small bed, falling through an abyss of fear of loss of love, listening to Camera Obscura. The voice of another lonely girl fills every chamber of her anxious mind; her heartbreak is officially understood.

On Saturday night at Blue Moose Taphouse, Tracyanne Campbell brought the restrained, pristine pop of Camera Obscura to a packed house via the Mission Creek Music Festival. Her crystalline vocals rose and fell over a crowd that could not help but sway back. Her five cohorts on keyboards, guitars, trumpet, and drums, backed her like a puzzle that you just clicked the last piece into.

Coming to Iowa City via Glasgow, the band showed that this is how a performance is properly done. It had a sincere, masters-recital quality that I found utterly charming. Campbell looked up at the ceiling when she sang, porcelain and plaintive. The trumpet expertly soared; the keys tinkled like bells. Every note was precisely in its place.

Photo by Matt Butler

Camera Obscura was my reward for an, um, dramatic week of attending Mission Creek shows. This was my music … neat, clear, sunny, yet acknowledging dark odds. Songs like coming of age novellas crescendoing, rising to an achingly anticipated finish. All wore their Sunday best. The ladies retained their poised, churchy demeanor, sipping punch and looking out of windows, and the gentlemen bobbed their heads and loosened their ties, and gradually we all got deeper into the wedding party.

Travelling from soundscape to soundscape throughout the week, Camera Obscura was a happy, easy place to land. A reward for a festival well-done and a mind well-rocked—the shiny red cherry on top. Their encore set ended with “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” an upbeat favorite with a rising trumpet-solo conclusion that rang in our ears long after the audience stopped cheering. This was some luscious ear candy, make no mistake.

We all got schooled. I turned around halfway through the set to see Jordon, from Iowa City punk act Beast Wars, perched on a hand rail like a statue­­ — so committed, leaning forward and absorbing.

Band of twins Princeton, perhaps the handsomest band on earth, opened the show, in matching plaid shirts and earnestness.


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