For the past 6 years I’ve been attending; what I would say, is my favourite festival in the land. A festival that has helped bands get their feet off the blocks, such as Mogwai, Maximo Park, The Klaxons and has seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, Noah & The Whale, Adele and Florence & The Machine turn from pretty much, nobodies into world famous superstars. It’s also had it’s musical icons, like The Buzzcocks, Echo & The Bunnymen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and The Charlatans to name a few.
Yet I digress, When I mention The Camden Crawl to people, most have never heard of it!
Hands up, who likes the crawl?
The Camden Crawl started in the mid-nineties as a one-day event . It sadly died out after a few years but was revived like a phoenix from the flames in 2005 and quickly gained notoriety as one of the best alternative festivals in the UK. In 2007 it became a 2 day event with more bands being added to the bill and subsequently more venues.
The ODD few may argue that this year’s crawl had lost it’s allure somewhat due to the lack of so called big names.
But for me and I’m sure I can speak for thousands that the crawl has never been about the bigwigs, it’s about the up and coming, and surely that’s gotta be exciting enough? If you disagree and you don’t think Death In Vegas, The Futureheads, The Cribs and Alabama 3 are worthy headliners …then start queuing for the X-Factor road show damn it!
My girlfriend and I arrived in Camden around 2pm to collect our wristbands from Camden Gardens – the wristband collection site seems to change each year. Why? I don’t know!
Anyway, we met a group of friends at a near by, trendy pub to discuss our plan of action for the day. If you go to the crawl in a group, it’s unlikely you’ll stay in that group throughout the event. I’m sure you’ll have your different tastes, so you’ll probably want to split from time to time and perhaps regroup later. There’s nothing to worry about, as The Camden Crawl caters for all, whether it be the genre of music, comedy or even film and theatre!
Time check: It’s 2:45pm
We’re late for our first port of call, Dingus Khan performing at the Lock Tavern. Now, I really wanted to see this band as I really love the video for their rip-roaring, punk assault on the eardrums, How Do You Like Me Know? I also hear that they sometimes have 3 drummers and an electric ukulele ..now come on, what’s not to like?
Unfortunately we arrive just as they start their final song which was a subdued, folkish affair, not the screamager, Stooges-esque mayhem I was expecting. Still, it sounded good and proves this 5 piece from Essex have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Not wanting to miss the next act on our ambiguous list, Race Horses; we head down to St. Michael’s. As the name may suggest, St. Michael’s is a church and the appropriate setting for some acoustic wizardry from this Welsh Gorky’s style band. The church was also playing host to a record and poster fair, so the Horses’ scatty pop was the perfect accompaniment whilst browsing over some vinyl bargains. The band played in a side chapel area in front of no more than 50 people, so this was quite a treat to feel part of an intimate crowd. The band played a joyous half hour set which featured their excellent new single, Mates. I’ve wanted to see this band for a couple of years now and they certainly delivered on my expectations!
After the gig and hobnobbing with Mon-Chan from Japanese, art-rockers, Bo Ningen (who seemed to also enjoy the show), we moseyed on over to The Wheelbarrow, mainly to catch up with some friends. It just so happened that the band Hares were playing in the background. Sadly, I didn’t pay much attention to them, but they did in fact sound pretty good. I took a glance at them and thought the name Hares must have been some kinda wordplay as the lead singer was sporting a massive blonde hair-do. We had a bite to eat and glanced at our watches.
7pm: We headed over to a bar that was completely new to me, the ultra cool, Abbey Tavern to catch part of the set by Zuin Zuin Egui, as the band I really wanted to see were still sound checking over the road. If afro-beat fused with jazz-rock and plenty of percussion is your thang, then I urge you to catch this lot at some time.
As much as I’d liked to have stayed, I really wanted to see Boy Friend who were a hop, skip and a jump away at Heroes. Heroes is a dark, rough around the edges venue with rock paraphernalia scattered around, including an amazing photo of Siouxsie Sioux in the gents toilets. I’d previously checked out the Texan, female dreamy popsters on the net and found their music to be totally provocative and engaging.
The band were already half hour late and then that half hour escalated to an hour. This was a bit annoying as we did wanna catch more bands on our tight schedule. It turns out they were have problems with the mike. Guttingly, we had to jump ship and move on. So Boy Friend, if you happen to read this, I’m coming for ya at some later stage!
Time now, 8.05pm:
We’re now at The Monarch to witness a band which I suspect Boy Friend might have sounded a little like. This band being Echo Lake, a synth pop duo from London whom by the sounds of things, have been listening to too many St.Etienne and The Cocteau Twins records. Although clearly talented, a kinda time and place type of band in my opinion.
It’s time to see Veronica Falls (pictured above) the band that I was most eager to see after experiencing their amazing set when they played The Camden Crawl in 2010. The band fuse a hint of goth with jangly guitars and 60’s style psychedelia. Their songs, Found Love In a Graveyard, Beachy Head and new single, My Heart Beats are quality songs with a capital Q. This band not only sound great but they look incredibly cool too. If you’re a shoegaze fan like myself, this little lot are gonna make your head spin!
Time check, 10:10pm.
Not wanting to miss our next highly anticipated act (who would start in 5 minutes) we jump in a taxi to make the short journey back to The Abbey Tavern to get a load of the late frontman of The Blockheads’ son – Baxter Dury. We get there just as Baxter and his band are just putting the final touches to their sound check. Let me first say, this guy looks amazing, without a doubt, the most debonair gentleman in Camden tonight! The man looks like Bond dressed in a grey slim-fit, tailored suit with a white shirt and tie, enough to give George Clooney a run for his money.
You look around at the small crowd and it’s evident that the guys wanna be him and the women wanna …well, you catch my drift! Appearances aside; does he sound any good? Oh, indeed he does. Obviously there’s tinges of his dad in his vocals but doubt there’s much escaping that. He also sounds a little bit like Damon Albarn at his most melancholy. Equally, Dury adds his own niche and a few songs in thoughts of his dad’s work disintegrate and Baxter Dury is well and truly a talent to behold.
The music is a stripped back, jazz/blues concoction resembling 60’s French pop with cheeky organ melodies layered with Cockney tones. There’s great banter between him and his band, and with his nods to the crowd and occasional drifting to the keyboard, this man certainly knows how to put on a show.
We stroll on over to Dingwalls for our final show of the evening.
12:00am: Eugene McGuinness (pictured above) is about to take centre stage. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this young Londoner. He recently collaborated with Miles Kane and Alex Turner and yet this guy is not a household name. His first record came out in 2007 to much acclaim but failed to make an impact on the charts. This to me is mind boggling compared to all the junk that’s in the charts.
Why isn’t he a world-wide success?
The crowd are transfixed on McGuinness who looks like the love-child of a young Al Pacino and Tim Roth with Elvis-esque demeanor and a slight Manc swagger. McGuinness treats us to songs from his recent album The Invitation to the Voyage with much appreciation coming from the audience. He plays an absolute blinding cover of Ian Brown’s Dolphins Were Monkeys, and dare I say it, was better than the original by the stone Roses’ frontman.
Later he goes into his latest single, Shotgun and pardon the pun, was a sure fire winner!
We end the evening partying over at The Black Cap. Okay, I say partying, some of us were actually sleeping.
3:00am: Off home to bed.
Next Page, Camden Crawl 2012, Day 2 ….