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Camden Crawl 2012: Day 2 – Ben’s Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

There’s something unnerving about turning up to day two of any festival showered, with clean pants on and without the obligatory dried coating of mud. It lacks a sense of escapism, but such is the nature of the modern urban festival scene. Camden Crawl 2012 has so far proved itself to be far removed from these trappings and with today’s line up holding just as much promise as Saturday’s, alongside the odd wild card, it’s time to knock back the last of the Alka-seltzer and hop on the Northern Line for 13 more hours of sound, kicking off with Brighton’s own Tall Ships back at the Wheelbarrow.

It may be that they are reminiscent of such a recent revolution on our great spinning top – counting bands as recent as Battles and Minus the Bear among their contemporaries – that it feels like they’ve been around for years. With this subconscious respect for a band’s longevity that has yet to play itself out, it raises question marks as to why Tall Ships have been given the first slot in one of the smallest venues at the Crawl. Luckily, human nature is as predictable as this nautically minded indie three piece are talented, and the tide rises until the crowd touches the back wall in wide eyed appreciation. The sound is soaked in reverb; the bass is metronomic whilst the drums fly off machine gun paradiddles, back to their dynamic roost.

Evidently, hardcore survivors Rolo Tomassi miss the memo regarding ‘Action on Hearing Loss’ that is pasted across posters, pens, lanyards and loudspeakers, all the way down Camden Road. Koko lights up like the ungodly opener to a Luddite horror spectacular, with an incendiary mix of confusion and beauty played out across instruments subservient to the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ synth and blood curdling hardcore wail. Singer Eva Spence ducks and weaves in an interpretive coil as they blast through tracks such as ‘Takes You’, announcing their return to the studio next month with possible single ‘Romancer’, and finishing with the classic ‘Party Wounds’.

General crowd pleasers Kids in Glass Houses fail to fully ignite as they kick off in the wake of Rolo Tomassi’s set at Koko. There’s something not to be trusted about Welsh bands singing in American accents (cough…Lostprophets), and the crowd seem largely disinterested in this Kerrang! friendly brand of alt-punk, much to the annoyance of frontman Aled Phillips, who cries out for some kind of response. They start with the fist pumping single ‘Sunshine’ and (ironically) ‘The Best is Yet to Come’, before moving on to material from their 2011 album release ‘In Gold Blood’. At the front there are signs of life (mainly from people not old enough to be at the bar) that are seized on as Phillips plunges into the crowd after one stalwart female fan. But, looking like the opening scene from School of Rock, the majority of a baffled crowd parts. It’s a shame for such a critically acclaimed live act to endure a performance where both the crowd and the band have noticeably different expectations from one another.

At the far end of Camden, the hotly tipped art rockers Cymbals take to the stage at the Monarch and, in gluttonous royal fashion, the place is bursting at the seams. There are echoes of Talking Heads and Devo in the plucky syncopation of this sunny East London three-piece, with a Kraftwerk synth and smattering of regional charm. There’s just enough time to catch tracks ‘I Don’t Know Why You Bother’, the infectiously harmonised ‘Summer Escaping’ and ‘Jane’ (the closest this smiling trio will get to a ballad), before the trudge back to Electric Ballroom for some more up-and-comers, Dog Is Dead.

The boys from West Bridgford mix folk tinged indie with anthemic rhythms that, fused with panning lasers and backlit cloud of dry ice, temporarily render the Electric Ballroom otherworldly and limitless. Unlike your typical folk harmony of light intertwining melodies, there is a choral, almost Gregorian simplicity as all five members pitch in on tracks ‘Hands Down’ and ‘River Jordan’. Debut single ‘Glockenspiel Song’ is forged from the Arcade Fire mould, with a brave but complimentary return for the much maligned saxophone, and is received rapturously by the on looking crowd. Having gained national coverage on Huw Stephens’ Radio 1 show, as well as supporting acts such as OK Go and Bombay Bicycle Club (not to mention a cameo on Skins), the band are set for a hectic festival season and should not be missed.

Upstairs at the Enterprise, Zun Zun Egui (pictured at top) form a cheeky interlude before the pinnacle of the night’s proceedings. It may be the claustrophobic setting of this damp attic; the lyrics in English, French, Creole, Japanese and pure nonsense; or the frantic pace with which they kick off, but you can’t help imagining some kind of back story. Were these the Bob Dylans of mariachi, exiled for the electronic hoodoo they now embrace? Or, perhaps they learnt to play as a means to infiltrate a South American drug cartel? The reality – I’m sure – is far more sensible (springing by chance from the Bristolian avante garde scene), but there is an undeniable sense of mystery to this up tempo, energetic four-piece. With a capacity of no more than 100, the modestly gathered crowd are infected with rhythm from the complex sweet picked arpeggios and male/female call and response between guitarist Kushal Gaya, and Yoshino Shigihara on keyboards.

And finally, back in the cavernous surroundings of the Electric Ballroom it’s time for post-rock conquistadors And So I Watch You From Afar to call time on Camden Crawl 2012 with bombastic attack of instrumental progressive metal. As the boys from Belfast blast in to their opener there is the first whiff of an old school mosh, before the crowd begins to settle and chant their riffs as if they were lyrics. There is raw energy to this five piece; stabbing electronic connections like a Tesla Coil to their dedicated fan base on the final night of their tour. Almost fully silhouetted by a blood red glow, they dive in to tracks ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’ and ‘Set Guitars to Kill’ in triumphant style as word inevitably spreads and the crowd begins to swell. There is something in ASIWYFA that will always desire to be of niche appeal. But, with the room filling ever quicker and compatriots This Will Destroy You and Explosions in the Sky also in the ascendency, it seems that for the moment the fan base they are so thankful for will continue to grow. There is some truth in their track title, ‘A Little Solidarity Goes a Long Way’.

So, there it is. A festival of convenience with an eclectic line up that showcases the benchmark of music today. The skill though, is in keeping that and sense of escapism and adventure that are so integral to the rite of passage that is the ‘festival experience’, but so often lacking at inner city events. Camden Crawl 2012 shows that while the geography of Camden has arguably changed for the worse in recent years; in the tapestry of attics, back rooms, regency theatres and great halls of the borough’s iconic venues, there is still an abstract quality that is spawning our collective musical future.

 

Camden Crawl 2012: Day 2 – Luke’s Roundup

 
By on Monday, 21st May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

It’s a much slower, hazier start in NW1 today – very much the morning after the night before. But as hard as the hangover may be, London gig-goers crawl on regardless. Sunday starts slightly later than the festivities taking place yesterday, but there’s still a wealth of new acts to discover without letting the on/off showers dampen spirits.

Yet again draught is being poured and shots slammed at the Wheelbarrow as the alternative rockers Tall Ships (pictured at top) take to the stage. There’s a certain buzz in the air as the pub is full from the front to the back before the Brighton trio play a single note…and then the party begins. Launching into a flurry of crunchy riffs, catchy choruses and colossal instrumentals, the indie-tinged three-piece turn one of the smallest venues on the Crawl into their own personal haven. Regardless of what comes out of the speakers during the next half hour, the crowd will lap it up purely based on the beautiful display of quality musicianship. No three chord songs for these boys, it’s a curious but wholly beneficial mash of grunge, post-rock and even a church organ that are played with such passionate gusto the audience are left captivated and enthralled with one of UK’s hottest prospects.

After John Kennedy’s offerings yesterday, XFM are again hosting bands at Koko (today curated by Ian Camfield) but the sound is much heavier. Sheffield’s mathy synth punks Rolo Tomassi enter the realm for a fury-fuelled barrage of screams, electronics and cymbal crashes. Don’t let the angelic demeanour of songstress Eva Spence fool you, though, as her vocal cords hide an unholy force. The guttural snarls and growls emanating from Spence’s tiny frame are just as mesmerising as they are terrifying. Throwing herself around the stage like a demented music box ballerina, the energy on stage can be felt up in the gods. Teasing in elements of doom with ‘Mr. Crowley’ style keys and a disjointed metal breakdown, it’s the beautifully chaotic ‘Party Wounds’ that lifts Rolo Tomassi up and beyond the ‘just another hardcore band’ tag. Stay tuned for the new album.

Outside the heaven’s are contemplating opening but that doesn’t stop 100-ish people venturing to Camden Gardens to witness a band on the cusp of breaking the scene. Akin to Enter Shikari and ‘There Is A Hell…’ era Bring Me The Horizon, Crossfaith look and act the most rock ‘n’ roll of any band at the festival. Hurtling around at 100 mph with Cheshire cat smiles and constant air-grabbing, these Japanese noiseniks are so proficient at their craft it’s a wonder why other bands bother at all. It takes a metal cover of The Prodigy‘s ‘Omen’ to win over the doubters, but once Kenta Koie opens his lungs the focus is solely positive. Ending their metalcore-meets-synth set on ‘Stars Faded In Slow Motion’ the weary crowd is trapped in a crazed mess of windmilling, air-kicking and shape throwing as Crossfaith crowdsurf their way to victory, claiming yet more fans in a journey to mainstream success.

Back at the Wheelbarrow is a local hero. The some-time one man band Beans on Toast is serving up his irreverent social commentaries. In a stark contrast to festival tradition, Beans on Toast aka Jay arrives on stage 5 minutes early treating his loyal fanbase to his upbeat, acoustic tales. Currently in residence at the Wheelbarrow every Tuesday, the cramped pub is packed tighter than a rush hour tube with eager fans queueing out the door. Opening on the crowd-pleasing ‘MDMAmazing’ Jay’s positive stance on drugs is no secret, and neither is his dislike for the Conservative government. He begins ‘I Shot Tupac Shakur and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt’ (an anti-Cameron ode containing the words “Hug a fucking hoodie, and he’ll punch you in the face”) before stopping mid-way – a trait that continues throughout the set. In tribute to his favourite Beastie Boy MCA, Jay leads his band and the crowd in a rendition of ‘Fight For Your Right to Party’ that ends abruptly but keeps the mood high and smiles wide. After a much-craved encore of ‘Rainy Day’ the throngs of music lovers pour back into the streets of Camden for the home stretch of the Crawl.

Down at the bottom end of Camden High Street, the stage at the Purple Turtle is warm for bands at the heavier end of the spectrum. Leeds noisemongers Hawk Eyes are smashing their way through a metric fuckton of metal to a deafened crowd. Hawk Eyes however are an acquired taste (a girl wrote the word ‘Shit!’ on my notepad) and sadly, the crowd thins toward the end of the performance that sees the hardcore-tinged rockers lean on newer material including ‘Kiss This’ and ‘You Deserve A Medal’. Unfortunately despite a stellar performance that sees frontman Paul Astick set up his mic stand in the middle of the crowd and scream bloody murder, there’s a general feeling of ‘meh’ amongst the onlookers.

There’s a lonely mic stand in front of an empty ballroom. A prophetic image and one that can be used for the entire post-rock scene. Tonight, though, the Belfast bruisers And So I Watch You From Afar over half-fill the historic venue with their Mastodon meets This Will Destroy You instrumentals. The supercharged three-piece send wave after wave of hooks and grooves until Camden is drowning in sound. It’s heavy but wholly structured and nothing is out of place, even the tangential breakdowns are a rhythmical masterpiece. Calling on material from their debut LP and latest album ‘Gangs’ the mathy ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’ and ‘7 Billion People All Alive at Once’ form the most magnificent soundscape of the entire weekend. Come back soon, boys.

Bringing this year’s Crawl to an end are the new masters of metal, Black Moth. Drawing on Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper for influence, the Leeds four-piece have received praise from the likes of Metal Hammer and Artrocker for their groove-laden rawk. Taking elements of Steppenwolf and Motörhead for a slight biker vibe, Black Moth are the new band in metal. It’s stripped back, dirgy, punky and there are no gimmicks. It’s just a four metalheads on stage in band tees and jeans playing some fantastic music that will see the Moth soar ever higher this year. Frontwoman Harriet Hyde stands firmly at the front with her Debbie Harry-esque vocals flowing out of the speakers and into the minds of the metal masses who have appeared out of nowhere.

As the feedback rings out into the Purple Turtle, Camden can rest easy until next year. There’s been over 100 performances in the space of 48 hours in a small corner of town and as the night buses start to fill with tired, drunk faces, the music capital of London has proved again that festivals aren’t about sitting in fields: they’re about music.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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