As glorious spring sunshine brings hordes of shoppers to Camden’s markets and food stalls and drinkers to its canal-side and beer gardens, the streets are already heaving. Thousands of fans are here for a two-day live music binge taking place up and down the town, at stages big and small, inside and out… basically everywhere.
Camden Crawl is in its 10th year, and having won Best Metropolitan Festival at the UK Festival Awards last year, it has a lot to live up to. With a fold-out event schedule that looks more like a mind-boggling board game, there’s no shortage of anything to do, at any time; in fact, the pressure is on from the starting whistle to make the most of it –an overwhelming task.
It’s no secret that popular gigs quickly reach capacity and leave many hopelessly queuing outside. However, Camden Crawl is more about discovering bands you didn’t know existed in venues you’ve never been to. This is a nice idea in theory, but spread across so many stages and right across town, this requires some strict dedication, research and geographical prowess, which takes the edge off the fun; especially when it is such a nice day outside.
Steve Lamacq’s night at Dublin Castle seems a reliable place to get on the trail of new music, with Various Cruelties (5/10) listed as being influenced by Arcade Fire and Motown artists, however they register far wide of either mark and sound more like early Arctic Monkeys during a flat performance.
John & Jehn (7/10) quickly restore hope at the fantastic Bull & Gate pub venue, with their shoegazey, new-wave pop. They are engaging performers, with Jehn particularly intense on stage.
Odd Future (8/10) inevitably steal the headlines, with the much-hyped US rappers inciting a stage invasion, to the dismay of security guards who are verbally abused throughout. The Red Bull Bedroom Jam outdoor stage is packed and goes mental when Tyler, The Creator emerges in his trademark green balaclava. There are circle pits from the start as they perform ‘Yonkers’ from ten-foot high monitors, with Hodgy Beats eventually jumping into the crowd, only to call them “pussies” for not catching him. Odd Future have landed in the UK and there’s no stopping them.
At the lavish Kentish Town Forum, Miles Kane (8/10) showcases his upcoming album, with some excellent 60s inspired garage and psych-rock. Relishing being the focal point, he shows off some great moves in an explosive performance.
Killing Joke (9/10) top the bill at the Electric Ballroom and are devastating. Lights flash relentlessly while they play their booming, industrial post-punk and frontman Jaz Coleman is static at the front, glaring out at the modest crowd as a handful of hardcore fans try their best to start a mosh pit.
In immeasurable contrast, Cloud Control (7/10) over at Dingwalls, are like a mouthful of Rainbow Drops, playing sugary, colourful, quirky indie-pop with plenty of ooh’s and aah’s, using their boy/girl vocal dynamic well. At their best they reach The Smiths’ shiny pop moments.
Razorlight (6/10) close the festival to a packed out Electric Ballroom with a set full of hit singles that see the sweaty, drunk crowd sing along, dance, fall over and make tits of themselves. The band play ‘Golden Touch’, ‘In The Morning’ and ‘Somewhere Else’ and seem to enjoy performing, remaining energetic throughout, but their dated indie-rock is still difficult to get excited about.
While Gaymer’s Camden Crawl 2011 provides an extensive programme of new acts, it isn’t easy getting your money’s worth. It can be a gamble in terms of what fans get to see, especially with the inevitable queues and some of the venues (including two of the biggest, The Forum and Koko) are a long way apart, which limits choices further. But where you may miss something you wanted to see, you could end up finding something even better.