Camden Rocked!

Camden Rocked!

by jessicajolly / Jun 20, 2016 / 0 comments
Saturday, 4 June 2016

Camden has long been the heartbeat of the UK Rock N Roll scene, the place to which young punks from all over the country flock to see or become their favourite band. CAMDEN ROCKS has turnted the spirit of the loitering teenage rock kid into a day-long summer festival. For those who who don't enjoy the dance music that has taken over the festival circuit and are looking for an alternative to Reading and Leeds, CAMDEN ROCKS is your spiritual home. A bit of hardcore, plenty of punk, lots of metal, some jangle rock, new acts, old timers, homegrown bands and international offerings, the festival will fill whatever your rock n roll heart desires. At £35 a ticket, it's the festival season's biggest bargain as well.

There were over 200 acts on the bill, making it impossible to see everything, or even most, of what was on offer. With lots of obscure bands on the lineup, there was a lot of new music to be discovered. That's the beauty. Here are just a few of the the highlights we caught during our Saturday in the borough, in no particular order:

The Men Who Will Not Be Named for Nothing
I love this band. I watched 10 minutes of them in the pouring rain at last years Secret Garden Party, and my jaw hit the mud. The Men have just returned home after a tour of the United States, where their atheist steampunk pirate music was met with mixed reactions. In very top form, the band performed their theatrical metal tunes about Not Haunted Houses and Sea Monsters to an enraptured audience of devoted fans. It may sound like camp, but it's not. The Men Who Will Not Be Named for Nothing are a fine set of musicians creating their own brand of weirdness.

Skimming over the 15:00 selection of acts, we chose to see these guys because the band name evoked The Velvet Underground. Sisteray delivered a set of tunes somewhat Velvety, a bit Smiths-ish, though more evocative of the 2000s disciples of both of the groups, such as The Strokes and The Hives. It's catchy. It's fun and rough. The high-energy set was occasionally out of synch, with a drummer that sped up with each song, but that was part of the charm. The vocals were so clear and captivating it made up for any hiccup in instrumentation. With just a bit of polish, these young lads could be a driving force of new British garage rock.

Evil Scarecrow
It's risky to put a costume screamo band on stage at 1pm on a Saturday, but Evil Scarecrow's fans decided to risk seeing the sunlight. That risk definitely payed off. Their early showtime set the party tempo for the day, what with a highly theatrical show that featured robots and party poppers. It's comedy metal with an emphasis on the metal. The only people who would not enjoy an Evil Scarecrow gig are people who don't enjoy having fun.

The popular London hardcore group did two sets at Camden Rocks this year, and I reckon about 9,000 calories were burned by the two frontmen between both shows. We caught the 17:15 performance at The Underworld, where the band made good use of the low ceilings by crawling amongst the lighting fixtures like a bunch of heavy metal spider monkeys. The coffin-like venue blacked out any hint of daylight and suited the band perfectly. Half the crowd was thrashing about, a quarter of the crowd was laughing, and a quarter had no idea what to do with themselves. At first I found myself in the latter, then couldn't help but be swept up into the mayhem.

Billy Bragg
A few disgruntled audience members mumbled after the show “it's Camden Rocks not Camden Talks” but the Bard of Barking has spent most of the last decade espousing his political beliefs and only writing a bit of new material, so a diatribe about Europe and recent Hillsborough ruling was to be expected. Punk has always been partly about politics, so I feel a bit of socialist ranting is required in such a festival. Billy's few new tunes were more folky than rocky and don't quite have the unique zing of his early numbers, but he's got so many brilliant old tunes that his sets are never without a few beautiful moments.

The Cribs
The headliners have a fervent fan base in the UK, and it's no surprise why. The only thing I find surprising is they aren't as internationally renowned as they should be. This high-energy punk act has been putting out fantastic music for over 10 years, and the dedicated audience could sing along to all of it. Here's the setlist of 12 tight numbers. My only complaint is that they couldn't play longer.

Our Bovine Public
Come On, Be a No-One 

Hey Scenesters! 

Cheat on Me 

Different Angle 

Back to the Bolthole 

We Were Aborted 

City of Bugs 

It Was Only Love 

I'm a Realist 

Mirror Kissers 

Men's Needs 

Pink Snow

Camden Rocks takes place in 20 different venues over a 1 mile radius, from the tiny pubs such as Hawley Arms, to the big venues like The Electric Ballroom. I really enjoyed the variety of genres that were presented and the variety of atmospheres. If you are looking for big showy bands to dance to, or pub acts that you can chat with your friends about, you've got both. If you want to experience all of the above, there are a few logistical issues with the festival that make it difficult to see everything. The streets were not closed to traffic, making it quite a mission to get from one venue to another. Sometimes you miss an act you love that's way on the other side of Camden and end up listening to some new band instead. While finding new music is one of the best parts of festival-going, a more thorough description of each act would make the risk taking a bit more fruitful. But these are minor quibbles, Camden Rocks is overall a fantastic city-based music fest, where there is lots of fun to be had and new favorites to uncover.

Rating out of 11: