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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.

 

2000 Trees Festival 2012 Roundup: Day 1

 
By on Tuesday, 24th July 2012 at 2:04 pm
 

How fitting it is for a music festival that prides itself on promoting the best of British, for it to rain. And not just the odd light shower, tropical monsoons that haven’t been seen since Noah swept across Cheltenham, turning a once grassy field into six inches of sludge. But that doesn’t matter because we’re British and we soldier on regardless. But it is handy there’s a tent stage to hide in…

Opening the biggest tent at 2000 Trees, dubbed The Cave, are the hardcore hooligans Crooks. Kickstarting a midday mud mosh to a half-full crowd of dazed onlookers, still zonked after the night before, their energetic and raucous half hour is a glorious display of Polar.-esque hardcore with the odd Rinoa post-metal rhythm. As local lads to the festival, they appear genuinely humbled to receive such support at this time of day, but things are just getting started.

It’s an atmosphere of anticipation and sadness before run, WALK! take to the stage. For the past few years they’ve been steadily carving a name for themselves on the UK circuit and achieved cult status amongst the general gig-going public. But now, on the cusp of releasing their long-awaited debut album ‘Health’, the dynamic duo are calling it a day. The Cave is still filling as the noisy two-piece start blasting out their brash, anarchic indie-metal (if there is such a thing), with little time for crowd interaction. Matt Copley’s vocals are secondary to the rhythm section that rages on forcefully, engulfing everyone like an amorphous blob of sound. Elements of Lightning Bolt and Fuck Buttons are thrashed out chaotically, igniting the first circle pit of the day, as run, WALK! finish seemingly as soon as they’d begun. A quick hug between the two signal the end. A sad situation.

Thankfully the sun has finally started shining to try and lift the mood. The Main Stage area is a waterlogged patch of overgrown grass, steadily being trampled by thousands of pairs of wellies. Leicester instrumental outfit Maybeshewill are no strangers to 2000 Trees, and their fans are falling in line to watch the five-piece (complete with two extra members on strings) deliver a satisfying helping of post-rock with a side order of power. Alternating between the grandiose and the frantic, Maybeshewill’s rolling waves of sound wash over the captivated audience who are gradually becoming stuck in the mud. ‘Not for Want of Trying’ is the crowning moment of the performance as 2000 Trees erupts in a state of rage, screaming the words to the infamous “mad as hell” speech in ‘Network’.

Turning this madness into radness are the Mancunian skankers Sonic Boom Six. With the magnetic Laila K peering out into the ever-growing sea of punks and partiers, SB6 are the ultimate festival band – nothing but bangers and mash-ups. Dropping the likes of ‘For the Kids of the Multiculture’ and ‘Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang!’, it’s the mini-covers that excite Cheltenham the most. Throwing in samples of Lily Allen and Jessie J add to the poptastic, school disco vibe but flowing into ‘Poison’ by the Prodigy during ‘Virus’ receives a monumental response from ravers young and old. Although it’s the well-placed rendition of Wyclef Jean featuring The Rock’s ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ that puts huge smiles on the faces of everyone within a certain age bracket.

Slowing things down later in the afternoon are TGTF favourites Dry The River. Since finding fame earlier this year with debut album ‘Shallow Bed’, the folky fivesome live up to the hype. Opening on ‘No Rest’, the bodies amassing at the Main Stage are pouring their hearts into the passionate choral lines while Peter Liddle and Matt Taylor’s beautiful dual falsetto soars majestically into the surrounding fields. Forcing as many tracks into their set as possible, including ‘Bible Belt’ and ‘History Book’, the sun-drenched revellers soak up the emotive, acoustic melodies that Britain does so well.

Back in The Cave, the only American at a British music festival is doing his best to destroy the tent from the inside. Former Alexisonfire vocalist Wade MacNeil joined Gallows last year after Frank Carter’s departure, to a mixed reaction. But the previous worries can be set aside after tonight’s visceral attack of hardcore horror. After opening on ‘Misery’, Wade launches himself into a huge puddle of mud, covering himself from head to toe – spreading it all over the stage and front row. Steph Carter plays a much more integral part of the vocals nowdays, commanding the more ‘Londony’ sections that Wade simply couldn’t pull off convincingly. Gallows, though, are still Gallows. Inked up punks who love nothing more than to scream and smash their way through every gig until every bead of sweat has hit the floor. Spitting and snarling through ‘True Colours’, ‘Death Voices’ and ‘Abandon Ship’ amongst other favourites, even a cover of Minor Threat‘s ‘Seeing Red’, new track ‘Last June’ opens the floor to a veritable rat’s nest of turmoil. Welcome to the family, Wade.

Gallows’ punishing display has cracked the clouds wide open and the rain is tumbling down ferociously. But in the comfort of The Cave, Pulled Apart By Horses (pictured at top) are headlining to a capacity crowd. The Leeds-based maulers have become a mainstream success since their last appearance at 2000 Trees, drawing over a thousand people into the intimate sweatbox. Lashing their way through ‘The Crapsons’, ‘V.E.N.O.M.’ and new release ‘Bromance Ain’t Dead’. The constant crowd surges toward the front crush the die-hard fans at the front who show no signs of stopping stripping their throats raw. ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’ energises the pit to maddening levels and ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ lifts the volume to deafening levels inside the big blue home of metal. PABH are noticeably grateful for the reception they receive tonight, especially as festival mainstays 65daysofstatic are currently demolishing the Main Stage. They’ve come a long way from clubs in Leeds to headlining a tent at Britain’s foremost new music festival – a testament to their longevity at the front of the new breed of rock ‘n roll.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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