LIVE: Camden Rocks 2014, London 31/05/2014 – Part 2/2
Reviews by Nicola Cooper, Andy Close, Tom Mimnagh, Greig Clifford, Louise Delahunty and Rhiannon Lane. All photos by Greig Clifford.
Straight out of Aberdeen, Scotland the Xcerts are a melodic rock band who have been creating quite a buzz since signing for X-tra Mile, home of acts like Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, Frank Turner, and Chris T-T.
Unfortunately for The Xcerts, they had the dubious ‘honour’ of going on directly before Ginger Wildheart, meaning that much of the audience who had pitched up at The Jazz Café were merely killing time prior to Ginger, and paying little attention to what was happening on stage. Xcerts are perhaps a more indie skewed band than much of what was on offer at Camden Rocks, and that showed in their performance here. They provided a solid distorted guitar sound, with upbeat vocals and an enjoyable, if not overly radio friendly sound which is sure to take the band far. Lead singer Murray McLeod has an excellent voice, which combined with catchy choruses and pop guitar riffs make them a band, who on the strength of their showing here should go on to big things. (TM)
First ever visit for me to that dreaded hipster den the Hawley Arms but I’m here for a good reason, to see the Deadcuts and they don’t disappoint. With a set that veers from spooked out Mary Chain psychedelia one minute to pure punk fury the next, it seems that Mark Keds and co are out to make a statement with this band and if their soon-to-be-released debut album can capture this energy then it should be well worth a listen. (AC)
As soon as Ginger Wildheart was announced for Camden Rocks, we made catching his set at the Jazz Café a priority for the day. The always innovative stalwart of the British independent music scene, is fresh off the launch of his newest venture, an old school fan club updated for the digital age, providing members with new songs, demos, podcasts and general Ginger content on a monthly basis. So with the overwhelming success of this, plus his recent touring stints with The Wildhearts, I knew Ginger was bound to be on fine form, and he did not disappoint.
Playing as part of a three man acoustic set up with Chris Catalyst (surely the busiest man at Camden Rocks playing no less than 3 sets) and Micko Larkin (played with Ginger in Courtney Love’s touring band), the man who Dom Lawson affectionately refers to as ‘our Lord and Saviour’ had the rabid crowd hanging on his every word right form the off. Well actually, from before the off, as the crowd decided to participate in his sound check, much to the amusement of everyone involved. When they did get going, the set was an excellent mix of old Wildhearts songs, including staples like Sick of Drugs, and I Wanna Go where the People Go, and 29X the Pain as well as more obscure material such as Girls are Better Than Boys, from the debut (and sadly only) Silver Ginger 5 album, Black Leather Mojo, interspersed with material from all over his colossal back catalogue including tracks from his ground-breaking Pledge album 555%.
There is a reason why Ginger is such an enduring figure, and why his audience is so die-hard in their love for all his projects, he is a charismatic stage presence, and is one of the most underrated and undervalued song writers in recent music history. While he may not have headlined Camden Rocks in the traditional sense of being on last, judging by the masses of people turned away at the door, and the capacity crowd at the Jazz café, Ginger is who the people came to see, and as always they will have left (as we did) with a sense of having got their money’s worth and seen one of the best live acts on the circuit. (TM)
Acoustic TV aka Tony Wright from Terrorvision was in fine voice for his acoustic set at Dingwalls. It’s safe to say that this is Terrorvision as you’ve never heard them before but songs like “Dog Chewed The Handle” and “3 Wishes” (plus the inevitable finale of “Tequila”) work undeniably well in these surroundings. We also get a couple of new songs from Tony’s upcoming solo album which bode well for when it sees the light of day next month. All in all, good stuff. (AC)
One of the most exciting bands announced for Camden Rocks was Dinosaur Pile-Up, coming off the release of their second album, Growing Pains and with a growing reputation, I was certain this would be an opportune moment to see them announce themselves by blowing the roof off of the Electric Ballroom. Sadly, at the Electric Ballroom this was not the case.
There was nothing wrong with Dinosaur Pile-up’s set particularly, they were musically sound, playing an excellent mix of songs from their first two albums, even opening with the crowd pleasing Arizona Waiting. However, there was a lack of dynamism and energy to this show, which somewhat took away from the live experience. I felt the band seemed underwhelming in a live setting, and while they were technically proficient, it seemed somewhat sterile. Hopefully this is just a one off, and won’t deter me from seeing them again, but if I was catching them by chance, or having not heard any of their material, I would not have left their set with such a desire. Disappointing. (TM)
One of the most bizarre moments of Camden Rocks was provided by Watford based outfit, The Hell. Not to be confused with the numerous other bands who have taken similar names, The Hell have been stirring up a whirlwind of hype, and controversy with their unconventional approach. Having missed the first song of their set due to travelling between venues, I was greeted by the sight of a group of sweaty men, in bandanas rocking out without their shirts on in front of a heaving, baying mob, as they screamed obscenities at their audience between songs. A surreal site as you could hop to see.
From a musical perspective The Hell are excellent, big screaming vocals, and tracks that hammer although the way through. They are a band who really put in a shift during their performance bouncing around the stage, and into the audience frequently. However, there is something in the presentation of The Hell that is somewhat unsettling for me, be it the bandanas, the overly militant exterior, or vaguely infantile use of profanity towards the audience. I appreciate its part of the gimmick, but for me it seems unnecessary and actually serves to undermine what is in reality a very well rounded, well exciting band. (TM)
Free shots, dancing in underpants and a deep sea diver. If you missed Zoax (click for more photos) at The Black Cap then these are some of the unexpected occurrences you missed out on, as well as one of the most energetic, passionate and hilarious performances of the day. Starting the set off with a beautiful albeit soft intro to lull you into a false sense of security, I heard someone remark behind me “it’s about to get loud, isn’t it?” Correct. There’s nothing timid and mild about this band. Track to check out: “Burn It To The Ground”. (RL)
It was a welcome return to a festival stage for headlining band The Subways (click for more photos). Starting the set with a jump from the drum-riser and ending it with a jump into the crowd guitarist and lead singer Billy Lunn (along with the energy rush of Charlotte Cooper on bass and hard hitting Josh Morgan behind the drums) gave The Electric Ballroom a show to remember. Camden Rocks and the Electric Ballroom was treated to a set of rock standards no festival should be without, including of course the iconic “Rock & Roll Queen”, sung mostly by the rammed crowd. There was also a glimpse to the future of the band with new song “My Heart Is Pumping To A Brand New Beat” looking set to become another firm live favourite. (GC)
Calling All Cars had a bit of a tough fight with crowd numbers for their festival slot. All headliners at the bigger stages were in full flow and at the other end of Camden, they had the task of holding up the rock near Chalk Farm. They were the chance band of the festival and one to keep your peepers on. Bags of energy, killer tunes but just an awkward spot on the bill for them. We highly recommend that you catch them on their own bill for a full on, high energy rock show. (NC)
While festival goers were spoiled for choice in terms of the many headliners across all of the venues at Camden Rocks, a small committed group assembled in the tiny confines of The Black Heart to see a band that have been creating a real buzz, and after their performance here it is easy to see why. God Damn (click for more pics) (not to be confused with the French stoner metal band of the same name) are a two piece from the Midlands whose music spans a wide variety of genres, mastering the tropes of all of them, while never moving away from the distinctive sound that makes them so unique.
The power, and intricacy of their music, especially on “Heavy Money”, and equally on “Shoe Prints in the dust”, is astounding. Frontman Thomas Edward has an incredibly unique voice which resonates every crevice of the room, and every pore of every audience member, combining a heavy vocal rasp, with a contrasting soulfulness that haunts with every line, not to mention a grungy, sludgy guitar sound that bigger bands have tried and failed to achieve. Drummer Ash Weaver is a ball of energy, keeping time in a metronomic fashion, but with a sense of raw passion and power, as well as that wild eyed crazy look that all the great percussionists have.
God Damn’s performance at Camden Rocks was intense, immense, and a revelation. They went from a band I was curious to see, to a band I now feel compelled to watch live at the next available opportunity. See them now while they are still playing tiny venues in Camden, because surely a band of this calibre will be on a much bigger stage, sooner rather than later. (TM)
The final two sets at the Enterprise felt like watching a family reunion. Cumbrian rockers, Colt 45 and Kent based soul punks, Electric River are touring mates and the immense love and respect for each other was very apparent. It’s such a wonderful thing when bands make that almost brotherly connection and it made for a wonderful atmosphere to close the festival for us.
Energetic three piece Colt 45, played to a decently filled room at the Enterprise. Their gritty, angsty rock tones charged by gravelly vocals show they have a definite ear for a decent hook and chorus. They got bodies moving and the floor wobbling somewhat (see Electric River’s review for the full ‘cakewalk’ effect). This band are on to a good thing and with slots at Download and Kendal Calling on the horizon, others think so too. Snag yourself a copy of their new album “The Tide is Turning” at the end of July. (NC)
Our final set at Camden Rocks was Electric River who were on the verge of releasing their new album “The Faith & Patience” and fresh from a UK tour with LIT.
Bearing in mind that the gig room of the Enterprise is up a steep, narrow staircase on the first level, the floor felt like a trampoline. It was the most unsafe I have ever felt at a gig but at the same time, the sheer thrill of being part of such a receptive crowd in a tiny sweatbox of a room was one of those fabulous moments in life where everything felt right. Their set was just full of infectious joy and emotion.
Tracks that made the set were the likes of “Calling Out”, “Hold Your Nerve”, “Keep The Engine Burning”, a hat tipper to those keeping the music scene alive and singalong favourite, “Chorus of Fire”. Electric River are something special and extremely tight live. They are a band that deserve to keep making music they love and hopefully with the sheer quality of material heard from “The Faith & Patience” during this set, there’s no danger of them stopping any time soon. (NC)
Apart from an amp issue earlier in the day at Dingwalls which resulted in a few unhappy bands and punters (to CR credit, it was a supply issue), Camden Rocks has firmly established its place as one of the most exciting, welcoming and value for money festivals in the UK. By the end of the day, feet were hurting but experiencing great acts, up close and personal made the day very memorable. Early bird tickets are on sale now at only ₤25 from www.camdenrocks.com