One day. Twelve venues. Over 100 bands. Two reviewers to cover it all. We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task by any stretch but hey, we like a challenge, especially one which involves listening to some good music. For the 2013 Camden Rocks Festival, Kazza and I decided that we’d try and cover as much ground as we could although there were a few bands that both of us wanted to see who we agreed we’d meet up for. So when it came to writing this review, we decided the best way to do it would be in an hour-by-hour diary format with both us reviewing whichever band we happened to be watching at the time. Let’s take it from the top then, shall we?…
ANDY: First dilemma of the day – do we go and see the Mercy House at the Barfly or newcomers the Dedwardians at the Monarch? Well, actually, not that big a dilemma – having finally heard the MH album the other week, I have to say I wasn’t too fond of it so the Monarch it is. Right choice as well as it turns out because I think it’s safe to say that the Dedwardians are a band we’ll be hearing a lot more from as this year goes on. Fronted by ex-Glitterati man Paul Gautrey, there’s definitely a nod to the glam swagger of his old group but added into the mix is a fever-pitch brand of fired-up rockabilly that recalls the Jim Jones Revue. Keep an eye on this lot, they may well be on to something…
KAZZA: What he said! Although no such dilemma for me, after missing their first couple of gigs I was ALWAYS gonna make a beeline for Dedwardians and they were definitely worth the wait to catch ‘em – one of the highlights of the day in my humble opinion.
ANDY: While Kazza decided she was going to stay up at the north end of Camden, I made the long trek down to Mornington Crescent (actually that’s a fib, I took the tube down two stops from Chalk Farm) to set foot in the Purple Turtle for the first time in many moons. It’s a bit weird to see the associated vampires and zombies of the Dogbones in broad daylight but they don’t seem to be any less ferocious for being on so early, bludgeoning their way through songs like “Hey Chihuahua” and the angry anti-industry rant that is “Give Us A Kiss” with the usual energy. A good set as always.
KAZZA: While he went gallivanting all over Camden, I headed straight for the Barfly and pretty much stayed put there for the next few bands. First up were Claytown Troupe – featuring Phil Martini (ex Tokyo Dragon/Quireboy) on drum duties (he pops up all over the show that lad!). For those not in the know, Claytown Troupe were an alt-rock band who were first kicking around in the late 80s, reforming again in the mid 2000s after a turn at Whitby Goth Fest. Today they turn in a solid enough set but there’s nothing hugely standout about it, and they don’t draw the biggest of crowds, I think even back in their heyday they got a bit lost among some of the bigger names around at the time, and the grunge emergence of that era, I guess because there was nothing to set them apart.
ANDY: Back to more familiar surroundings for me with a wander up the road to the Black Heart for the recently reformed Smoking Hearts. While I generally don’t go in for the more shouty end of punk, I have to say I was impressed with these guys who plough through their set with an impressive ferocity but manage to keep their tunes on the right side of memorable to keep the audience listening. They also take the time out to engage in some banter with the audience (especially regarding a recent nightmare gig of theirs in Watford) and it makes for a good engaging set. Definitely a band I’d happily go and see again.
KAZZA: Meanwhile, still back at the Barfly (not a cunning plan to save me feet, honest!) next up is Dingus Khan. Who are, in a word: silly! But in SUCH a good way! Maybe in hindsight it’s the look and the stage antics that I’m remembering a little more than the tunes, but hey, they’re a band with a sense of humour that put a smile on your face and who doesn’t like a bit of that? Picture 7 guys (with three drummers – oh and two bass players) all in white boiler suits, with a lead singer in a rather fetching navy granny nightie. Whilst being much more straight up indie-rock than bands like Evil Scarecrow, they still kinda reminded me of them in a way, purely for the fun factor. All in all, definitely a band I’d go see again.
ANDY: With the Yo-Yo’s set fast approaching, I only end up catching some of Voodoo Vegas‘ set at the Monarch but what I hear I definitely enjoy. The first band I’ve seen today to properly pack out a venue, these Bournemouth rockers definitely seem to be enjoying themselves up on stage without trying to act too much like arrogant pillocks the way some bands of this genre do and it makes for a good atmosphere as the crowd definitely seem to be getting into songs like “King Without A Crown”. Something tells me these guys are on the way to bigger things at this rate…
KAZZA: Yep, you guessed it, I’m still at the Barfly! Lazy much? New Device are up next and despite having a fairly impressive pedigree (they opened High Voltage fest and have supported Bon Jovi), there’s something about them that I find it hard to get on board with – yes, they have fairly listenable tunes. They don’t make me want to run out screaming “Dear God, my ears, my ears!” Could I hum one of said tunes the day after seeing them? Probably not. It’s a problem I seem to have with a lot of these Classic Rock Mag touted bands, there isn’t enough there to hook me, so I’m quite prepared to accept the fact that it’s GOOD music, it’s just not my particular cuppa tea.
The wanderer finally returns from his travels, there’s no way either of us are missing the next band, so we head straight down the front for . . .
ANDY: The Yo-Yo’s then. Despite suffering from a bad case of sound gremlins and a late start due to guitarist Tom only arriving at the venue a few minutes before they were due on (“Makes a change it being someone else rather than me!” jokes Danny McCormack from the stage), they still put on a storming set and get a great reception from the packed-out crowd at the Barfly. Apparently, the group were due to be joined by Danny’s former Wildhearts bandmate Jef Streatfield on guitar but he’s away in Russia (“some people’ll do anything to get out of gigging with us!” jokes Tom) meaning Nick from New Device ends up standing in and does a decent job. Songs like “You Got Me Out Of My Mind”, “Home From Home” and the frenetic “Keep On Keepin’ On” still sound fantastic after all these years while Danny and Tom remain two of the more charismatic frontmen you’ll see on the circuit. Do we dare dream that a third Yo-Yo’s album might be in the offing? Hey, stranger things have happened…
ANDY: Confession time – there weren’t really any bands in the 7pm slot who took our fancy so we nipped out for some much-needed food before heading into central Camden and the Good Mixer to catch Electric River. Yet again, the Kent rockers prove exactly why they’ve got the tag of being one of the brightest hopes on the rock scene as they get the tiny venue well and truly up and on its feet with effortlessly catchy tunes like “Hold Your Nerve”, “This Garden Will Grow” and “Keep The Engine Burning”. Currently they’re holed away in the studio putting the finishing touches to their new album which is due in the autumn – on this evidence, it’s gonna be a blinder.
KAZZA: Again, can’t add much here, Andy’s said it all – a brilliant set from Kent’s finest, they seem to go down an absolute storm with the crowd.
ANDY: While Kazza has headed off to a packed-out Barfly for Therapy?, I find myself up at the very north end of Camden and the Enterprise to see the Deadcuts play to two dozen or so people. Quite honestly, it seems like a real shame because those who weren’t there actually missed a pretty damn good set. Featuring the not inconsiderable talents of Mark McCarthy from the Wonder Stuff on bass, ex-Skuzzies man Jerome Alexandre on guitar and former Senseless Things frontman Mark Keds on vocals, they put in an engaging half hour set of scuzzed-up psychedelia which has a definite hint of the Jesus & Mary Chain about it – never a bad thing in my book. Songs like the frenetic “Pray For Jail” and the more sinister “Duskchasers” definitely mark them out as ones to watch and they get a hearty recommendation from me.
KAZZA: Yep, back to the good old Barfly for me (if it wasn’t for Electric River you wouldn’t have got me out of there all day!) and I manage to just catch the end of Glen Matlock‘s set – the audience were loving it, particularly the set closing cover of ‘All or Nothing’, one of my favourite Small Faces numbers.
But the band I’m really here to see (I’ve been hoping all day I’d make it in before it hit capacity) are Therapy? And boy do they not disappoint! I nab a spot right at the front, which may have been a rookie mistake at a Therapy? gig as I’m soon being crushed to death against the stage – but what a way to go! A quick one-two of ‘Isolation’ and ‘Stories’ kicks proceedings off, whipping the crowd up into a right old frenzy, and sending this wuss off to the side after a while for fear of actual leg-crushage. With so many classics, it’s going to be a tough job to keep everyone happy in the time they’ve got allotted, but the setlist is one of the best I’ve seen, a great mix of the classics and the newer stuff like ‘Living in the Shadow Of The Terrible Thing’. A nice calm and sedate *ahem* runthrough of ‘Screamager’ and ‘Potato Junkie’ bring things crashing and burning to a glorious close. By which point Andy has returned to scrape me up off the sweaty floor and pour me onto the last train home, knackered but happy.
To sum up . . . good work Camden Rocks, good work. . . Again, please?
Words by Andy Close and Kazza, photos by Trudi Knight/Kazza. Photos by Trudi Knight in the Gallery – check em out. www.camdenrocksfestival.com