Camden Crawl 2012 review

'Still a great choice for the gig-goer who wants more'

Photographer:Michael Cox

Chris Eustace, Rebecca Laurence - 07 May 2012

When you’re hosting your festival in an area where you’re never more than a heartbeat away from a pub or gig venue, it should all be pretty easy. And so it was with Camden Crawl 2012. Focusing even more this year on new acts, and keeping the bigger ones to a few intriguing returns, may mean a few less people, but it also means less queues, making the prospect of two days of what basically amounts to ADHD gigging even more attractive.

A varied Saturday afternoon line-up saw several venues devoted to comedy, with Phil Kay and Andrew Maxwell among the performers, plus slots for both Hip-Hop Karaoke and Hip-Hop Shakespeare, and even hula hoop dancing performances and lessons.

There were even more bands to be found for earlycomers too, with Peace (7.5/10) kicking things off at the Abbey Tavern, updating the baggy sound for 2012 with nods to Foals and Vampire Weekend, while on the Red Bull Stage, Benny Banks (7.5/10) and Lady Leshurr (8/10) offered appropriately energetic glimpses into two potential UK hip-hop next-big-things.

Clearly James Geard of Sissy And The Blisters’ (8/10) is not a man lacking in energy either. Despite looking glad to back on stage as the evening began, it didn’t stop him from careering off into the crowd on several occasions at The Enterprise. A twice-speed version of the Pixies’ ‘Here Comes Your Man’ and their own ‘Let Her Go’ and ‘We Are The Others’ were buffeted by impressive new songs which suggests their time away was well-spent.

Before them, it was one-in, one-out for Melodica, Melody And Me (8/10), and they set about charming the assembled throng with delicate, charming folk tunes and even a Charango solo, having fun with a stretched out ‘Plunge’ catching out their new fans with a false ending.

Swedish boy wonder, Simian Ghost's (8/10) Sebastian Arnström cut a slight, bespeckled figure amidst the dry ice and pink lights of Camden's Electric Ballroom while creating some epic, melancholic pop soundscapes.

Over at Dingwalls, Theme Park’s (8.5/10) bouncy set was even brighter than guitarist Marcus Haughton’s shirt (no mean feat), with a sultry ‘Wax’ and next single ‘Jamaica’ proving irresistible. A driving ‘Two Hours’ added some depth to the danceability as they finished in style.

Multi-talented, ‘Bashful’ mixtape purveyor, Kwes (8/10) had the Black Cap stage grooving along to the subtly miserable love songs from his recent ‘Meantime’ EP.

The Futureheads (8/10) treated Koko to their winning new acapella and acoustic set-up, or, as singer Barry Hyde joked, “the Mackem Bluegrass Versions.” Those not looking for the standard indie hits package were rewarded by the likes of trad drinking song ‘The Old Dun Cow’, with a hearty crowd singalong to go with the band’s own compulsive harmonies, while stripped back versions of ‘Decent Days And Nights’, 'The Beginning Of The Twist’ and ‘Hounds Of Love’ took care of the rest.

Sway (8/10) made sure his midnight Jazz Café attendees didn’t flag with a relentless call-and-response campaign, and masterful hip-hop-pop tracks like ‘F Ur Ex’ and 'Mercedes Benz’, looking impressed as the crowd passed his impromptu old-school rap quiz ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ before he sent them home happy with recent hits ‘Still Speeding’ and ‘Level Up’.

Sunday kicked off as St Michael’s Church hosted the Crawlternative Expo, with vinyl, gig posters, comic books and fanzines on sale, and the chance for festivalgoers to contribute to a ‘zine themselves. The perma-impressive Dutch Uncles (8/10) and promisingly fuzzy newcomers Toy (7.5/10) were among the acts performing in the intimate surroundings too.

The SB:TV showcase at the Electric Ballroom meant Crawlers could get to know the rapid-fire talents of Scrufizzer (8/10), who must have a decent chance of joining the lkes of Dizzee, Tinie and Wretch at the top of the charts with a few more tunes to match his undoubted charisma.

Kids In Glass Houses (7/10) came up against a somewhat subdued crowd for the matinee slot at Koko, with singer Aled Phillips pulling out all the stops to try and elicit a response. A charged-up ‘Animals’ and soaring ‘Give Me What I Want’ salvaged things for them in the end.

Fred Macpherson had an eventful evening as Spector (8/10) were next on at Koko, first pretending to be in Glasvegas, then joking that they’d pulled out, and taking a slightly undignified tumble while leading his own band through tunes precision-tooled for the indie disco, with ‘Celestine’ and ‘Chevy Thunder’ working the audience up into a frenzy.

The actual Glasvegas (8.5/10), meanwhile, look to be getting back on track after a difficult 2011, with a set full of power and emotion. ‘Flowers & Football Tops’, new track ‘If’, ‘Lots Sometimes’ and a final ‘Daddy’s Gone’ all stating the case that, whatever’s gone on recently, it’s far from over for them. 

South Londoners, Bastille (8.5/10) filled up The Wheelbarrow with fans of their Lynch-inspired but radio-friendly synth-hits-in-the-making, while ending on a crowd pleaser of epic proportions, Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’.

It was a case of saving the best for (pretty much) last though, as back at Koko, a blistering set from The Cribs (9/10) put everything else in the shade. With a new album out in the morning, the Jarmans set about showcasing the likes of ‘Chi-Town’, ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ and ‘Glitters Like Gold’ from it, without skimping on the classics, with ‘I’m A Realist’, ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Mirror Kissers’ dispatched early, then ‘Another Number’ and 'Men’s Needs’ setting up a grandstand finish, as an earsplitting ‘City Of Bugs’ rounded things off with a wall of squealing feedback. 

While this year’s Crawl lacked that one seismic new act that Odd Future provided them with last year, it actually meant that there was a round of impressive performances to savour rather than one dwarfing them all. Also, with barely any problems in getting in to see even the biggest acts, it might be time to retire those ‘Camden Queue’ jibes that still resurface every so often.

With the daytime line-up getting more ambitious, it was a shame to see the Red Bull outdoor stage in such a small place this time around, but that’s a minor quibble about an event that, with so many venues so close together, is still a great choice for the gig-goer who wants to see so much more.


Click here for our full Camden Crawl coverage.


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