Author: Monica Ruppert
I was utterly surprised by the emotional experience that was CAAMP at the Frequency. Made up of childhood friends Evan Westfall on banjo and harmony vocals, and Taylor Meier on guitar and lead vocals, the folk duo describes themselves on Twitter as “Ohio boys making beautiful noise.” And oh, how beautiful their noise is.
The CAAMP pair met in high school, but started writing songs together in 2012 and released their self-titled, debut album in March of 2016. So far, the album has been streamed over 2.5 million times on Spotify and features the track, “Ohio,” which rose to #4 on Spotify’s US Viral chart. Influences such as Ray LaMontague, Trampled by Turtles and even Bon Iver can be heard in the raw, raspy vocals of Meier, and the rich, bluesy banjo-mastery of Westfall.
As I walked to the theater on that damp, “Misty” (pun intended), Sunday evening, it felt like the universe was setting the scene perfectly for the band whose warm, honest lyrics and moving melodies could seep right into your bones and take away the chill of even the gloomiest Wisconsin night. Upon entering the theater, I was enveloped by the soft glow of twinkle lights and soulful crooning of CAAMP’s opener, The Wonderfool. Comprised of solo, singer-songwriter Matt Vinson, The Wonderfool also hails from Ohio, begging to ask the question, “What is that state feeding these kids??”
Vinson’s rich, smooth guitar-playing felt like an acoustic dream, mesmerizing the crowd as if we were sitting around a campfire on a beach somewhere, bobbing our heads and swaying along. His voice elicits similarities to Amos Lee, Brett Dennen, and The Head and the Heart, if the Head and the Heart were 10 years younger and just one guy. After finishing his last song, the crowd began cheering for an encore, to which Vinson responded,“I don’t think I’m allowed to do that…” Thankfully he threw the rules out the window and treated the audience to one last song, called “Don’t Think” – a crowd pleaser from his similarly titled 2015 album. If their applause was any indication, I’d say the encore was much appreciated. If you think this guy sounds like he was good, then hang tight for the rest of the review.
The boys of CAAMP had been watching The Wonderfool in the crowd, much to the surprise of the audience when the two jumped right on stage following Vinson. To be completely honest, they actually looked more like characters from Workaholics, with their matching trucker hats and modest mustaches, than the band that makes my heart actually ache from beautiful, honest lyrics. Meier’s raw, raspy vocals convey a vulnerability and desperation that many feel at one point or another, but are afraid to vocalize. This emotion came through in songs like “Misty” and “So Long, Honey,” with Meier closing his eyes in contemplation, as if picturing the exact moment he was singing about and translating it back to us via song.
The strong friendship of the duo also added an element of shared understanding and bonding between the crowd and CAAMP. During “Iffy,” Meier actually had to take a break mid-vocals to get some water and Westfall jumped in without knowing all of the lyrics to cover him. As the crowd cheered in support as they figured their way back to the lyrics, the pair laughed and exchanged a look that only best friends know. The brotherhood between the two of them, combined with the intimacy of the Frequency Theater itself, made us feel that we, too, knew what that look meant. The crowd continued to cheer because it felt that their success and enjoyment of the evening was bound up in ours – for that night, we were all a part of CAAMP. How’s that for way-to-deep-for-a-concert thoughts?
They rounded off the last third of the show with lively tracks like “See the World” and a new tune called “Hey Joe” from their soon-to-be new album that is currently being produced by their good friend, The Wonderfool. Their harmonies on this new jam were so ethereally beautiful, I honestly could have mistaken the boys for a two-member, hipster acappella group from Portland. They followed with a magical cover of The Head and the Heart’s “Lost in my Mind,” in which Vinson from The Wonderfool came back up for to rock Charity Rose Thielen’s harmonies. There was a lot of head bobbing between the three of them on that stage, but I’m pretty sure it was contagious because as I looked around, the crowd was doing the same.
They ended their show with the “first gold tune [they] ever wrote,” according to Meier, “26.” Although I loved the bright, plucky banjo and earnestness of 20-something lyrics, the inner feminist in me also found them a smidge stereotypical in lines like, “You stay home with the kids, I’ll bring the bacon home to you.” I mean, that’s great if she wants to stay home and all, but did he ask her about that? What if she wants to bring home the bacon?! Or what if she doesn’t even eat bacon?? Did he think about what she wants as his equal partner in life?! Okay, rant over. It was still a cute portrayal in parts of the uncertainty of life and love in your 20s, and I’m happy to see the evolution of them as artists with their newer, more self-aware and vulnerable lyrics.
They thanked Madison for being so kind and “ended the show,” but of course it’s never that easy for a band like CAAMP to end without hearing “encore!” One generous crowd member even added to the persuasion by cheering “If you do another, I’ll buy you a drink!” to which Meier responded, “And I’m gonna let you…” As the gentle guitar and ethereal banjo start to swell during the very final encore, “All the Debts I Owe,” tears embarrassingly start to form in my eyes and I think to myself, “WHY is this band not bigger.” This thought is then followed immediately by “You know what, actually thank the universe that this band is not bigger today, so that I can have this oddly beautiful experience of getting choked up by myself at a concert (sad!), not even 10 feet away from the stage showcasing the magic of CAAMP.” I mean it was either that, or the realization that I’m just really single. Either way, thanks for the feelings, CAAMP. I’ll be listening to you on long, solo car rides and rainy nights for quite some time.