Camden Rocks is back once more to showcase the best Indie music the festivals organizer Chris McCormackcan find. The festival is the current version of what used to be The Camden Crawl only with far better organization than the Crawl used to have.
We got to Camden nice and early as we wanted to see The Ramonas who were on first at The Dublin Castle but as we walked up Parkway we found a huge long queue to get in, we managed to get into the pub as they started playing but could only hear them through the open door to the gig room as more and more people squeezed into the very over capacity venue we managed to just about get to the doorway as the place seemed to be going nuts for the heavily Ramones inspired female punk they play.
Of the songs that we got to more or less hear properly the best two for me were The Daily Fail and the set closing First World Problems, I’d have loved to have been in the room to hear this set as it should have been heard. By the time the set finished people were still queuing down Parkway trying to get in to hear The Ramonas who really should have been on a far bigger stage.
We then strolled down to The Lyttleton Arms opposite Koko to see Sarah Vista who was playing as a trio rather than her usual five piece. Sarah plays mainly Western rather than country with a good emphasis on dark tales that works as a good showcase for Jeff Mead on twin neck guitar and lap steel.
I love the almost Spaghetti Western style Get 3 Coffins Ready and the dark tale that was Madam Moustache that had some great lap steel on it as well as some good twangy double bass. By the time they closed with I Wish You Hell the pub was pretty packed and everyone seemed to really enjoy it, just remember not to upset Sarah Vista as she’ll take her revenge by writing a song about it.
Next up after a stroll back up Camden High Street to The Underworld were Brigade who are back playing together again after a few years away and have a new ep out, Now I don’t remember them from the first time round so came into this with fresh ears and have to say was pretty impressed with the bands intense almost Emo Nu rock. They reminded me of both Architects but without the screamo element and Pacific Ocean Fire if anyone remembers them.
They really went for it and brought plenty of intensity to really get the place going well the best song of the set for me was Slow Dives & Alibi’s and they are certainly a band worth seeing this time around if you get the chance.
We then went up to The Stables Market and into Fest which is the venue that used to be Proud Camden to see Echobelly who are back again. Now unfortunately the new owners of the venue haven’t dealt with any of the venues legendary poor acoustics and also had the most clueless soundman around who when Echobelly finally came on 20 minutes late failed to get any vocals in the front of house mix for the first song and a half and they didn’t sound decent until two and a half songs in.
That meant that you had more chance of hearing fans singing along to Car Fiction than you did of hearing Sonya Madan’s vocals, they were also missing key member Debbie Smith who for me was always one of the big reasons for seeing them live first time round.
They never seemed to recover from the shaky start and probably need a good few more shows to be road tightened and worth seeing as well as playing more of the old classics and less of the new songs. Like many other people we walked away before the end of the set.
We got intoThe Electric Ballroom just before The Professionals came on to play the best set we heard all day they just took things up a level or three and new Guitarist Chris McCormack who also organized Camden Rocks is a perfect fit for the band.
I loved the version of Join The Professionals early in the set that got the whole place going, they had a great attitude with drummer Paul Cook not only playing great but throwing in some great one liners between songs. Going Going Gone had some really cool spikey guitar and current singer Tom Spencer really sounded great.
The set was a good mix of old and new material and they really do know how to Kick Down The Doors as the song would have it and they left the stage after a great version of One, Two, Three that just made me wish I’d seen them sooner.
We then had a bit of a food break before going into Dingwalls in time to see Raveneye who were a bit of a random choice, they also managed to be the only band we saw all day who had a majority female audience and it was easy to see why they were attracted to this rather exciting three piece almost ‘cock rock’ band.
From the start they really worked the room they were very visual and Love You On the Inside went down a treat as did the song where the guitarist got onto the shoulders of the bass player and they played the solos in the audience I think that was on Hey Hey Yeah it was a real high spot. They got good and angry on new song You Lieabout the current state of the world proving they have a good variety of material.
Raveneye really were one of the discoveries of the day and really need to be seen live even if they don’t sound like you think they might.
We stayed in Dingwalls for The Urban Voodoo Machine the band I’ve seen most times of anyone on the bill at this festival and who are touring to celebrate the bands new best of 15 Shots From The Urban Voodoo Machine as ever they put on a stonking great live show coming on as usual to The Theme From Urban Voodoo Machine a tune we heard one busker on Camden High Street play every time we walked past him all day long! How much did the band pay him to do that?
From there we had the normal musical rollercoaster of swapped instruments and general hi-jinks as the current nine piece line up blasted through Camden classic Cheers For The Tears about rumours of singer Paul-Ronney Angels early demise in Camden Lock. The bands twin drummers really brought out the pathos inThe Orphans Lament.While everyone sang along gospel style to Help Me Jesus yes it was time for a testimonial.
As ever Love Song 666 went down a treat with all sorts of onstage shenanigans including Joe Whitney playing I think 3 different instruments during it including his washboard before they closed the short set with Goodbye To Another Year that was another great sing along and they left us all wanting a lot more.
We then tried to get into PIL but as expected it was very much over capacity so instead we went into the newly refurbished The Good Mixer to see our last 2 bands of the day the first of which was the female trio Berries who reminded me in places of Absolute Grey but I need to see them in a venue with a proper stage as in this rammed to the rafters pub it was impossible to see them. The best song of their set was Waiting they seem to have plenty of potential and I want to see them again once they have had a chance to play a good few more gigs to really gel and get things right, even now they are a pretty exciting new young band.
The last band of the night were the glitter bespattered trio Bugeye who really sound like the sorts of bands that have often emerged from The Good Mixer over the years (No they don’t sound like Blur or Oasis but lots of the other indie bands that used the pub as a base) with cool female vocals and slightly cheeky lyrics that worked a treat on Disco Dancer I also really liked the bands Bag Of Blues that is just snarky enough. They finished with the wonderfully appropriate Closing Time that was just the right song to finish a really great days music with.
Camden Rocks Festival various venues 2nd June 2018. Featuring Ramonas, Sarah Vista, Brigade, Echobelly, The Professionals, Raveneye, The Urban Voodoo Machine, Berries, Bugeye. Live Review by Simon Philips and Photography by Simon Partington