Camden Crawl 2008
N1 gets on its knees
The traditional blue skies and sunshine seem to have been omitted from this year's bill as the country's top emerging
acts try their luck along the golden streets of London with record labels and DJs parading their latest discoveries across
around 30 of NW1's venues.
From the dirtily regal Koko to the dark sloping Dingwalls, via the stylish Lock Tavern, almost every boozer, club and bar in the borough houses around four acts an evening over two nights, allowing the keen and current music lovers to discover the bands they'll be listening to for the rest of 2008.
Thecocknbullkid kicks off proceedings at the 'Adventures Close To Home' party in the Cuban Bar. The ruffled British RnB starlet's sound is refreshing and sticks a safe distance from Timbaland's grubby mitts, instead angling herself in the electro-dubbed sounds of the fashionable Santogold and MIA. Though she does feel a little lightweight compared to her peers she holds herself, especially during the acutely executed, synth based cover of Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer' under the watchful eye of her Metronomy producers.
Switching venues we stomp down to Mornington Crescent to the Purple Turtle to join the long queue twisting from the door, filled with a rather inebriated crowd excitedly waiting for Let's Wrestle. Florence and The Machine can be heard finishing her set in The Crescent with her bluesy drawl ringing out through a cover of Beirut's 'Postcards From Italy' as we wait patiently to get enter the Artrocker showcase.
On record, Let's Wrestle sound like Franz Ferdinand exploring Television Personalities' back catalogue, but live the half-hearted ramshackle noise which makes them so endearing on wax is replaced by tighter indie pop twiddings that don't feel half as catchy. The rather pedestrian hoards wait and shout for the trio's signature tune 'Let’s Wrestle'. Of course they leave it for their final track but when it does kick in the room erupts and fans are still screaming the addictive "Lets wrestle, lets fuckin' wrestle" chorus all the way up to Chalk Farm.
We leave to find our final act of the evening but the venues housing The Fratellis and Wiley's both have mandatory tailback that the bigger names inevitably draw. We catch wind that Metronomy are DJing in the Lock Tavern and try our luck at the door. Actually we push to the front of the queue and head straight to the top bar for some beats and a boogie with other Crawlers, including Pop Idol winner Will Young. An hour of sweaty shape shaking ensues until McDonalds and the final tube woo us back to our beds to revitalise for Saturday's soiree.
With the music not starting until nearly 7pm the Crawl allows its revellers to enjoy music related revelry with comedy, music quizzes and short films tantalising the more cultured palate. But unfortunately, like most of the shows, there are more queues than a Scrabble set with some places not allowing any more festival-goers through the door. As a remedy, we christen the afternoon with Guinness, pool and Jeff Stening in the Hope and Anchor, soaking up the atmosphere which feels just as stomach tickling as any of it’s outdoor rivals.
However unlike traditional festivals you're not allowed to drink outside. The local constabulary are not only kind enough to remind us of this, but they also feel obliged to show us how to pour our drink away. But at least Article 16 (or whatever numeral they tagged to the draconian law) means we got our plastic cups returned.
The Wave Pictures are our first musical pit stop on Saturday in NW1, who start to a half-empty bar with the bassist's brother drunkenly enjoying the acoustic soft-rockers. The three-piece's lead singer, Dave Tattersall, not only sounds like Brett Anderson but, at times, he has his poetic knack of the Suede frontman as well. At others he doesn't: "Christen a new tomato," a particular example of his warbling misjudgment. Musically the band are tied to three-chord Starsailor-eque tunes but it works elegantly on the timidly beautiful 'Now You Are Pregnant', which the band finish with after a request from the crowd.
Down at the steep sloped and dingy Dingwalls Norwegian chanteuse Ida Maria has packed in a full house to hear her gravel-voiced raucous pop. Backed by a reputation of chaotic and mayhem-fuelled live shows the star seems a little reserved tonight. The throat burning 'Stella' is rapturously received before she finishes with the chucky pop hit 'Oh My God' which does allow a sweaty Maria to dive in (and quickly back out) of the smiling crowd.
After several Metronomy 'spots' over the weekend, it feels fitting that we decided to finish the Crawl in the pokey Black Cap watching the electronic trio. The lights aren't low enough to fully enjoy their glowing t-shirts but their Prodigy-cum-808 State acid rave is strong enough to perform on it's own without the gimmicky clothes. The delight of Metronomy is they don’t take themselves too seriously, with cheesy dance moves accompanying their Lego-anthem-dance music.
We move to Koko to complete the weekend with Buttoned Down Disco DJs thumping out cheesy classics Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' and some Guns n Roses et cetra until the very early hours of the morning. After all the new bands we’ve checked out this weekend, the musical familiarity, albeit being student anthems, is a singalong delight.
Through the queues and queues of scensters Camden Crawl is actually a festival buzzing with anticipative atmosphere and a feeling of delight with every new band we encompass. Despite the price tag outweighing the number of bands it's physically possible to see (about 5 a day), the festival can feel like an overpriced gig, if it wasn't for the unity of the welcoming crowd it attracts. It looks like Camden has been on fire twice this year.