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Camden Rocks 2014 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 13th June 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Camden Rocks‘ mission? To raise the studded standard for the borough’s rock heritage, past and present. Two hundred fifty bands across 20 venues and infinite beer pumps is a heady combination for just over half a day’s entertainment, especially when the bands are mindful of competing to be remembered in the same breath as the district’s forerunners, from The Rolling Stones to The Ramones. But, who might use one of these cider-soaked stages to write themselves into Camden folklore? No matter how big the band, this historically eclectic setting means all bets are off.

The Underworld is transformed into something in between Frankenstein’s lair and Dexter’s lab for the on-rushing psychofest that is Hounds. (Read my interview with Olly Burden of the band here.) Adorned only in sterile white, the throbbing lights and monotone hum of their entrance creates a sense of mechanised power fused with intriguing unease that would continue throughout the set. Trivial sound trouble aside, a track list including the likes of ‘Stigmata’ and standout tune ‘The Witch is Dead’ ensure a powerful reception for the boys from the countryside.

Sonic Boom Six, by comparison, is kid’s TV. The lighting engineer back above ground at The Electric Ballroom turns the contrast up to maximum as the predominantly suited and booted troupe from Manchester – fronted by the anomalously naked Laila Khan – has the day’s largest venue bouncing to their unique reggae/rock/hip hop crossover. ‘Drop the Bass and Pick it Up’, ‘Piggy in the Middle’ and ‘All In’ are undoubtedly floor-fillers, but there is an element of style over substance in their scramble to cover every genre and aesthetic within half an hour. It’s a small world, after all.

A quick licking by The Howling‘s resident axe man The Rev, and it’s off down to Purple Turtle for the force of nature that is Palm Reader. This is not a gig. This is a tumultuous, chest-thumping display of disenchanted machismo: a charmingly anarchic right of passage requiring limitless energy, plus a promoter willing to pick up the tab once the dust and debris has settled. Towards the heavy end of the South’s resurgent punk nouveau riche, to call them abrasive would be an insulting underestimation. With bassist Josh Redrup in the crowd and singer Josh McKeown emitting some kind of primal scream, it hardly matters which track they were playing (although ‘Spineless’ and ‘Uncomfortably Lucid’ somehow stood out in the malaise), and signing off “let’s get a beer or something” could not be a more welcome sentiment.

Managing to avoid the pitfalls of Sonic Boom Six despite their penchant for eyeliner and a statement fringe, the choreography of Fearless Vampire Killers feels somehow more sincere. A product of the My Chemical Romance era, the five boys from Beccles are theatrical in both dress and attitude, spitting water and multi-layered vocals across the youngest crowd of the day. A smattering of tracks from 2012’s ‘Militia of the Lost’, alongside a curious cover of Wham!‘s ‘Club Tropicana’, is clearly a release after the relative confinement of an acoustic set earlier in the day.

There’s only one way to describe the next band: ‘Shit Just Got Real’. Fittingly, this is already a song title from their debut album ‘You’re Listening to The Hell. Starting off as a smarmy joke at the expense of the hardcore scene, the band’s modus operandi is to instigate moments of raw, self absorbed aggression. Appropriately, the first act of their set at The Black Heart is a man with a deadpan look nonchalantly chucking his pint into the anonymous singer’s face from point blank range in an almost silent room.

Needless to say, it only spurs them on to incite more carnage through the likes of ‘These Butters Bitches’, ‘Groovehammer’, ‘Everybody Dies’ and ‘Hanneman’ – dedicated to the late Slayer shred machine. It could be their unique aesthetic – the guitarists play on just four strings between them and their merch tag is ‘…You Dick’ – that seems to unite the crowd in an anarchic union bound only by the uniqueness of their reactions. In any case, a joke about similarity has come to encompass a definition of individuality.

Rap metal maestros Hacktivist (pictured at top) openly admit that theirs is an act to be witnesses live before it can be fully comprehended. (Read my interview with Ben Marvin and J Hurley this way.) Chastised on occasion by elements of both the hip hop and metal scenes, their model doesn’t include a Chester Bennington or Fred Durst to bridge the gap like their noughties forerunners. This is more for the UK purists. With a thick smattering of London grime vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley machine gun out syllables that hit the crowd consciousness square between the eyes.

It also becomes evident who The Hell had sold their strings to, as the band’s Korn-esque rhythm section wove through the likes of ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and Jay-Z‘s ‘Niggas in Paris’ on their six-string bass and eight-string guitar. Onlookers tear the place apart metal-style, and trying to envisage this same set getting an identical reaction amongst a room full of hip hop fans is tough, but that shouldn’t detract from a massive performance by the boys that have clearly been welcomed in to this scene with horns raised.

What organiser Chris McCormack have achieved in this year’s edition is quite possibly the most biggest buzz you can get in Camden for £25. And, as just a short walk amongst the shady characters around Camden Lock will tell you, there are plenty of ways to get your kicks in this borough.

 

Interview: Ben Marvin and J Hurley of Hacktivist at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 11th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

With a name like Hacktivist, an interview with some kind of 21st century incarnation of HAL 9000 would have sufficed. Instead, vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley spurn the monotone passive aggression to offer a colourful account of their rise to prominence, their unique rap/metal crossover style and and their love for the borough that is the heartland for London’s alternative scene at this year’s Camden Rocks festival.

So, obviously the theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
Ben Marvin: Very important, man! It brings everyone together – a lot of bands that have done festivals and tours together all getting to mingle. It’s good for the fans because they get to split and choose who to see and at what venue and stuff. But, yeah, really cool.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
J Hurley: I love coming to Camden and playing music. Every time. Obviously it’s the heart of music for London. I’ve always enjoyed playing here. The crowd’s always crazy – everyone’s always crazy! Every time we play it’s always energetic and just… crazy!
BM: It’s always a good vide in Camden. Good Chinese too.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
JH: Underworld. But, I went to see Yelawolf at The Electric Ballroom, and that was awesome.

What is it about the Underworld that keeps drawing you back?
JH: It’s nice and dark and dingy and low…
BM: It’s a grimy venue, but it’s a big grimy venue. So, it’s the best of both worlds. Your on top of the crowd; it’s really intimate, small stage. There’s a lot of injuries take place. Ticks all the boxes.

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
BM: I say both. Both have their qualities. I think we’re yet to play a festival or gig that we haven’t enjoyed. There’s pros to playing urban festivals. We played a lot of festivals last year where the bill’s were all over the place with the artists that were playing. So, we love doing shit like that. But, at the same time we’ve played stuff like Fieldview, which was kind of like a hippy fest so we were really out of place there. And, that was a proper ‘sit down on the grass’ kind of thing – and even that fucking went off. So, I think all festivals are good.

Sticking with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
JH: For me, my brother kept coming home with loads of drum n bass/rave tapes. It wasn’t even called drum n bass then! It was just ‘rave’ music to me. And, then I used to listen to the tapes and sing along to them, and then one day I just thought I might as well make my own lyrics. Rather than singing their stuff, I’ll just write my own. That was when I was young. I was probably about 14-15 when that started happening, and then when I got to 16 I thought “Right, I’m going to write lyrics now”. From then, that was it.

So, lyrically, who are your main influences?
JH: I’ve got a log of influences, like Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Pharrell Williams, P Money, I like Eminem
BM: Obviously, J’s not from the rock scene. I kind of wheeled him in a few years back, and ever since then I’ve been getting him in to metal. Then, about a year later, that’s when we started Hacktivist. I’ve been in metal (there or thereabouts) bands since I was 14, so me and J I guess got in to the music scene at the same time but from different angles. I mean, I’ve always been involved in the rock scene, so we kind of met in the middle and created Hacktivist.

How’s the reception been to your unique brand of crossover?
JH: They’re loving it. The reception’s been amazing – the reception’s been better than I thought. Every gig’s been like “woah!” – people singing along. Even when we went to Russia, there were people singing along to every single word of the lyrics. I just thought “wow!”, it blew me away, man.
BM: We’re definitely a ‘love or hate’ band. I think when we started, there was a lot of controversy about what we were doing for some reason; because we don’t fit in to a certain category or whatever. We never tried to be a certain thing anyway. It was just an experiment. We never realised we would even be a band. I think, over the course of time, even the haters are slowly moving over because – a lot of people who hear us, don’t like us. They come and see us live, and they come and speak to us and are like: “I never really got you guys, but now I get it”. It takes a while. I mean, I was the same when I was a kid and first heard Slipknot, I was like: “What the fuck is this shit?” – this is when I first started getting into the rock music and stuff. And, you know what, I listened to the album 2 or 3 times on loop and something just clicked. From then I was into heavy music. I can understand why people would automatically take a dislike to us, but overall I think the reception’s been way better than we could have ever dreamed of, man. It’s just going up and up!

Stay tuned for more of Ben’s coverage of Camden Rocks coming soon.

 

Great Escape 2013: John’s Day 2 Evening Roundup

 
By on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

An American Diner hot dog and a chat with the lovely Nina Nesbitt was my treat for the interval between bands on Day 2 of the Great Escape 2013 as I ventured across the Brighton seaside for some rock and roll at Concorde 2, courtesy of Arcane Roots, Marmozets and to a far, far lesser extent, Hacktivist.

Following the release of their debut record ‘Blood and Chemistry’, Arcane Roots have built upon their already formidable stock, gained through endless touring and promotion to become a hearty prospect on any billing. The record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ itself is fantastic, and is chocka block with the kind of anthemic rock music that Arcane Roots are powering out at the moment.

Live at Concorde 2, the guitars are absolutely huge and frontman Andrew Groves and bassist Adam Burton throw themselves about the stage with such force, it’s a miracle that by the end of the 30-minute set that they haven’t collided in anger. Central to the showcase is Groves’ tremendous vocal range, with his piercing falsettos and screeches reaching the ceiling of Concorde 2 before plummeting down to meet us in the pit.

Slow is anthemic in its inception and it’s obvious that this festival season you’re going to hear a lot of it. Maybe not as much as Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, but still, you can’t miss it. It’s huge. The entire set though proves a testament to how the band is destined for a massive 2013 and onwards. The songs are brilliantly constructed, and the three-piece pull those off with ease in the live arena, adding a beautiful bedlam to the proceedings. (9/10)

Marmozets offer up a less refined platter than Arcane Roots. Their music is very raw, with cutting riffs galore. Frontwoman Becca MacIntyre is not cut from the clichéd Hayley Williams or Florence and the Machine cloth that every female focal point is lambasted with these days, instead she hails from the relatively new school of Eva Spence. The kind of madam, who is not to be f****d with, if you get my drift?

While the rest of the band look no older than 16, they shred away through a set littered with wonky time signatures and shrieks. It’s a brilliant kind of catastrophe on stage as the band do look like they met 5 minutes before, but the music more than compensates as belting tune, after belting tune is produced by the five piece who have been garnering some more than favourable reviews from the associated rock press. (8/10)

Now after two brilliant sets of proper rock ‘n’ roll I was presented with the nu-metal sludgery of Hacktivist. A truly vile and awful band that genuinely upset me. Their cover of ‘Niggas in Paris’ by Jay-Z was frankly offensive and their nu-metal bile was aggressive and at times frankly just rude. No grace, no charm and arguably one of the worst bands I have ever seen live. Nothing more to say really, except that anyone saying nu-metal belongs in 2002-ish clearly hasn’t heard Hacktivist and realised that even Limp Bizkit had more going for them than this group. (0/10)

It didn’t get better from there sadly, as I ventured to The Loft for something a little lower key. Instead I was greeted by the tuneless aural assault that was The Weatherbirds. To give the lads credit, they are young and obviously were nervous, but it was a set of monotony, where each song blended seamlessly and regrettably, dully into the last. Luckily, it was only 15 minutes long. (3/10)

To close the night at The Loft were Nightworkers, a band who sported hairstyles from a variety of genres and generations. We had a faux Robert Smith on lead guitar and Huggy Bear’s English cousin on bass, fronted by a veritable Jim Morrison/Tom Meighan collaboration in the form of Jack Moullin. The songs are there, first and foremost, as a live outfit they are really tight regardless of whether their keyboard player Joe Haberfield is available.

Going back to the Meighan comparison though, Nightworkers have everything about them to emulate the Leicester-born, heirs to Oasis’ throne. Frontman Moullin is confidence personified and the lad-rock swagger is there in abundance throughout their short set. It’s all about boozing, broken romance and a bit more of the former and the crowd respond with a minor stage invasion, to which the band reacted well, by joining in the party on stage. (8/10)

After a break to catch my breath after the chaotic scenes at The Loft, it was off to arguably the biggest spectacle at The Great Escape 2013: the return of Klaxons. Now, I never got the fuss about Klaxons when they were first about, sure one of their members is fornicating with Keira Knightley and she’s swanning about Brighton and yeah, 2006’s ‘Myths of the Near Future’ was a top album. But 2009’s ‘Surfing the Void’ was utter bile, bar ‘Echoes’, so why the fuss? The whole ‘inspiring a genre’ is something I don’t buy into at all. However, with an opportunity to catch what the hassle was all about was one I couldn’t resist.

What I was met with was a slap in the face, as the synth-driven awesomeness of ‘Atlantis to Interzone’ hit me smack bang in the face. The set began at that pace and there were no signs of it ceasing, as the new songs which everyone was anticipating fitted seamlessly, into a set of Klaxons at their poncho wearing best.

Five new songs in total were what we were treated to, and if that is the quality that we should be expecting from their third record, then I am definitely in for a telling off. Thanks for proving me wrong, Klaxons. Now do something more awesome. I dare ya! (9/10)

To end the night, it was to somewhere a little more low-key than the Corn Exchange, the Green Door Store, where Canadian rock band The Balconies were closing the evening’s shenanigans. The sound was the opposite of low-key though, as frontwoman Jacquie Neville gyrated and gesticulated about the petit stage. The disappointment was that the band’s bass and guitar monitors were sadly far too loud and drowned out Jacquie’s voice, which on record for the Canadian outfit is the finest part.

However her energy and the sheer brutality of some of the songs were enough to limp along the set, for an extremely LOUD end to day 2 in Brighton. (5/10)

 
 
 

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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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