Caamp showers San Francisco in flannel love

Maisy Menzies/Staff

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Driving cross-country down a barren highway while the dipping sun gives way to a lavender haze, or sitting around a bonfire as the flames lick the night sky sending embers dancing like fireflies — these are the spaces Caamp’s music is meant to occupy. But Monday night, the Fillmore in San Francisco served as the perfect wandering home to the languid strums of this Ohioan trio’s “By and By” tour. 

In the tight space of the venue, a body of fans clad in flannel and cowboy hats looked toward the effervescent stage as if it were the northern star guiding them home. Stepping into that light, Caamp entered in fitting contradiction to the divine grandiosity of the stage: denim jeans and country button-downs all around. 

Caamp made that stage look like it was made for them. Eyes shaded by a trucker cap, lead singer Taylor Meier rested his arms on his electric guitar as he crooned the lyrics to “Peach Fuzz.” As his cradled drawl floated through the microphone, the raspy harmony of this love-riddled camp song mixed coolly with Evan Westfall’s soft textural percussion. 

Performing “Autumn Leaves,” Meier’s tiptoe wailing, crackling with desperate lust, was empowered by the building rhythms produced by Westfall. Every song Caamp played put the intrinsic and unspoken sonic connection between childhood friends Westfall and Meier on a much-deserved pedestal, just barely letting the audience in on an intimacy spanning a lifetime. 

While the group was dedicated to highlighting songs off its latest album ”By and By,” performing songs off its older albums and EPs was where Caamp really shined. The special property of Caamp’s performances of songs like “Misty” and “So Cool” was the effortless cadence that carried every lyric. There was nothing rehearsed about this; playing the saloon jams and midnight ballads that brought Caamp out of coffee shops and into the mainstream folk scene seemed to be natural instinct. And it was that ease and calm the crowd was most contented by. 

The audience hooted wildly as Meier and Matt Vinson strummed the familiar opening notes of “Vagabond.” An eager hush simmered through the venue as the delicate acoustics of “Books” spilled from the amplifiers. And with an encore performance of “All the Debts I Owe,” Meier’s scratching vocal jolts giving way to whispered harmonies — and nothing felt more certain than the fact that Caamp has set itself aside as one of the best groups in the folk genre today. 

For the most part, Caamp’s performance presented less like a concert and more like a singalong with a group of friends in the great outdoors. Under the shimmer of chandeliers, Caamp invited the crowd to a night under the stars, brimming with mellifluous lullabies, aching guitar screeches and the nostalgic twang of a banjo. 

For one night — and one night only — San Francisco was just another member of the band. 

Maisy Menzies covers television. Contact her at [email protected].