The 2009 edition of Camden Crawl may be one of the finest yet, but there are a few creases to iron out yet argues Daniel Fahey.
Overall – 7/10
This year, now its fifth, the Camden Crawl has made a few subtle tweaks that will, if kept, propel the festival into the big time. Most notably organisers decided to add the historic and newly refurbished Roundhouse to its venue roster, which gives the festival a more obvious ‘main stage’ and allows the likes of Kasabian and Yeah Yeah Yeahs to be televised. However fans wishing to watch any of the Roundhouse gigs are asked to queue for an additional wristband on top of the festival pass they’ve already lined up to get. And for a festival that’s already optimised by queues, this seems almost inexcusable. Surely selecting which headliner to see when tickets are bought is fairer and more plausible? The scheme also unfortunately means that those waiting for the evening show are likely to miss some of the opening acts.
However, the festival’s strengths lie elsewhere, mainly in the breadth of musical talent on show. It’s remarkable that Camden Crawl is able to boast emerging acts of such quality, while some bigger festivals fail to produce anything of such sustenance with a full programme of established artists. The glorious spring weather certainly adds to the jollity and revelry of the weekend and the daytime quizzes, poetry, film and comedy extend the experience for those who want something more than simply bands and booze.
The on-going evolution of the event also sees the addition of a reduced and alcohol-free version of the festival, called X-Crawl, debut over the weekend. The mini-fest gives 14-18 year olds the chance to watch some of the bands that are playing the main event including Eugene McGuiness, Howling Bells and Pulled Apart By Horses in a selection of local venues. If organisers continue to develop the event in a similar fashion, Camden Crawl could become the most important London festival there is on offer, especially if they were able to secure pedestrianisation for the two days.
Getting there and back – 7/10
Getting to London’s Camden is easy; three Northern Line tube stations (Mornington Crescent, Camden Town, Chalk Farm) all serve the main thoroughfare, while a multitude of bus routes allow access from further a field. However if festival-goers wish to stay and enjoy any of the after parties until the end, the underground network closes before 1am leaving fans to get night buses and taxis home.
Site – 6/10
The event takes over 40 venues around Camden borough, which give the festival its character and identity. Festival-goers can be found anywhere from the newly refurbished Roundhouse and the trusty and rusty Koko theatre to the sticky floored Enterprise and any number of impromptu shows on the streets. However, unlike your run of the mill festivals, drinking along the main thoroughfare is prohibited and police officers are prone to tipping away that pint you just spent £3.50 on. Elsewhere The Monarch (former lifeless cheap bar Man In The Moon) benefited from a facelift, Barfly looked fresh after being given a lick of paint outside – thankfully not in - and Winehouse’s local, The Hawley Arms is back in action following last year’s fire.
Atmosphere – 7/10
Encouraged, no doubt, by strong spring sunshine and driven by daytime drinking, festival-goers over the weekend were relaxed, friendly and chatty. The busy streets of Camden, home of countless indie Dick Whittingtons and the discarded gig leaflet, had the buzz of excitable fans that’s usually found in the campsites of outdoor festivals following the headliners. There’s moshing to be found at the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kasabian, hushed silence at the likes of Alessi’s Ark and dirty dancing at Westwood – no real lager louts or thugs running the party atmosphere, but there is a great Irish beggar that tells jokes for money outside Jazz Café.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 8/10
What people wouldn’t give to be as cool as Karen O. The frontwoman of the New York punks did little more than hold different poses during the band’s headline set and she still got huge cheers from the crowd. Musically the performance was startling; the new material gave off a dancier resonance that’s not found on record, while old classics like ‘Gold Lion’ still remained crowd pleasers. From the new album both ‘Zero’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ were welcomed like rarely performed gems, while an ethereal version of ‘Maps’ was the standalone highlight.
Kasabian – 8/10
With a largely underwhelming second album (albeit two singles) and the early glimpses of their third sounding like it might follow suit, you have to ask how much longer Kasabian can live off of their self-titled debut? Quite some time it would seem after this performance. Big mouth lead singer Tom Meighan is as boisterous as ever and hits like ‘Clubfoot’, ‘Empire’ and ‘Shoot The Runner’ during the short set are aggressively thunderous. The only disappointment is Meighan’s clobber – a light grey, star emblazoned shirt anyone?
Crazy Cousinz – 7/10
With the line-up predominantly indie based, this DJ duo offer an alternative snapshot of an emerging dance scene. A mixture of high tempo dancehall beats, chopped with garage b-lines and classic vocals made sure that the party continued into the early hours of Saturday morning. Cuts of ‘Show Me Love’ as well as their own ‘Funky Anthem’ set the Jazz Café alight and look set to burn dancefloors up and down the country soon.
Hockey – 6/10
With news spreading of The Enemy’s cancellation, Hockey played to a fairly sparse crowd but those who chose to watch something else certainly missed out. The American five-piece mix 80’s indulgence with disco rhythms and a dash of country music with lead single and set sing-a-long ‘Too Fake’ proving their finest moment of the performance.
Gold Teeth – 6/10
Stuffed onto a very small Barfly stage, Gold Teeth’s energetic calypso ska proves just slightly too boisterous for the flaying microphone that hits the floor as frontman Joe de Costa jumps in the crowd for the addictive summer anthem ‘Everybody’. A few dodgy lyrics aside, these could make a very serious assault on the summer circuit in the next few years.
The View – 4/10
Plaudits to the band for managing to get through an entire set this time, but Dundee’s post-Libertines garage boys may’ve been swallowed by the swash of the indie wave that hit the UK in the early 2000s. ‘5Rebeccas’ and ‘Superstar Tradesman’ stand out as thrash pop, but they are hardly going to be remembered in a few years time, while the boys’ ‘performance’ (generally just standing on stage) is as lacklustre as the set itself.
Drums Of Death – 4/10
Face paint, a DJ doth not make. Despite his Halloween make-up, which looks a lot like a panda, the highly anticipated set from this emerging Scottish producer is nothing but frightfully poor. His chunky cuts of b-line bashed against heavy crashing electro leaves little to write home about.
The Enemy – 0/10
Fans who did the extra legwork and waited to get a wristband for the Coventry trio were left disappointed when they pulled the gig at the last minute due to singer Tom Clarke suffering from a sore throat.
Another queue please Carol
With queuing a British institution, this festival would never work anywhere else in the world, but for every person patiently waiting 10 minutes to watch a band there was always someone trying to push in at the front. Embarrassing when you get caught isn’t it?
They promised secret shows around the town, but their gig (to the tune of ‘Our House’) “in the middle of the street,” - Inverness Street to be exact – was the most ska-tastic.
Just short of making the queues disappear, magicians entertaining the lines of people waiting for shows were wizard. A very special mention must go to the trickster who removed a man’s watch without him noticing – great work.