LIVE: Camden Rocks 2016 – Camden Town, London 04/06/16

Now an established feature on the summer festival circuit, especially for unsigned bands, Camden Rocks was back again this year on Saturday 4th June, and bigger than ever!

We sent Tom Mimnagh, Steve Brixey and Andy Close to review, with Shaun Neary on photo duty.

It’s testament to just how big an event Camden Rocks has become over the past few years that even at midday, The Black Heart is rammed for JOANovARC. The ladies certainly don’t fail to deliver Camden with a suitable wakeup call; set opener Live Rock ‘n’ Roll rumbles along on a Motorhead sized groove and turns the temperature up in the already sauna like venue. What follows is a short, high energy set full of OTT guitars and anthemic tunes. New single White Trash channels Joan Jett in her prime and prompts some audience participation, before an unexpected cover of Purple Rain provides an early lighters in the air moment. A great start to the day (SB).

There’s a moment during the one o’clock set at Belushi’s when the thick curtain covering the window is accidentally brushed aside to let the sun in and the two girls onstage react as if they are about to spontaneously combust. As indications for the kind of music The Pearl Harts make go, this is as good as any. While their sound is rooted in the blues, this is something far darker and more interesting than your typical White Stripes fare. Samples, loops and an unholy amount of noise all add to The Pearl Harts hypnotic effect on songs like Go Hard, while frontwoman Kirsty is effortlessly compelling as the pair tear through a visceral set. A real find and a highlight of the day. Expect big things from The Pearl Harts (SB).

I dunno whether they’re all just adrenalized by the prospect of capturing a few extra floating followers in the primordial soup of the early afternoon crowds, but one common factor for the bands in the first few slots today seems to be that they’re playing out of their skins. Like Joanovarc earlier, The DeRellas are a band who I’d previously had down as being more mid-card fodder, but again similar to JoA earlier, they absolutely knock it out of the park this afternoon. Put it down to Captain Sensible lookalike new frontman Stevie adding a new burst of attitude to the line-up, or just the stars just happening to align at the right time, but watching them tear through She’s A Pistol and Freakshow with a ferocious energy that recalls their spiritual forebears The Ramones, I can happily say hand on heart that this is by some way the best live showing I think I’ve ever seen from them. Nice one guys (AC).

Despite their relatively early slot on the bill, at 1.30pm Evil Scarecrow took the stage in a packed Electric Ballroom to rapturous cheers. Within the first five minutes, they had captivated everyone in the audience with their anarchic blend of science fiction imagery and hilarious heavy metal stylings. The band sounded great on this sort of stage, and really made the Electric Ballroom their own. However, the thing that makes an Evil Scarecrow show so special is the level of audience participation, and in this one show, they featured a ‘War March’ which was definitely not a conga line, giving out party poppers to the crowd in lieu of having pyrotechnics, the computer game-esque dance to End Level Boss, as well as the inevitable scuttling for the finale Crabulon. That would all be entertaining enough, but the fact they delivered on stage from a musical perspective too makes them easily one of the highlights of Camden Rocks 2016 (TM).

Known for their high energy pop-punk, Brawlers have been thrilling crowds up and down the country with their spirited performances full of catchy numbers and buckets of sweat for some time now. As such, I was excited to see them for the first time at Camden Rocks, especially in a small venue like Dingwalls. The band were musically very tight, and lead singer Harry Johns vocals were absolutely on point, although I would have like to have seen a set list featuring a few more of the catchier numbers from their debut album Romantic Errors of Our Youth. However, what they did do was very well done, and the packed Dingwalls was in a state of frenzy, which goes to show they are obviously doing something right, and clearly have a big future (TM).

After 20 minutes of being crammed into a massively overfull Cuban for Ginger’s set, it quickly became apparent that I had two choices – one, pass out from heatstroke or two, find a less packed venue. And so it is that a quick wander across to the other side of Camden Market leads me to the 55 Bar for Matty James’s set. For those unaware of his work so far, he’s a troubadour from Northern Ireland whose output is very similar to fellow Ulsterman Ricky Warwick, and he puts on a good showing today with songs from his new album The Road To No Town such as Win Or Lose and Sticks And Stones going down well in this stripped-down environment with a nice cold beer for company (AC).

There are certain bands that you can guarantee will use an appearance at a festival like Camden Rocks to put on a supremely polished performance with every note spot on and everything directed at you with the precision of a pin missile. And then there are The Peckham Cowboys. As usual, Marc Eden rallies his troops into battle in a manner that can best be described as “full on shambles” with South London Thing and She Do The Twist And Twirl crashing through in a tirade of what can best be described as complete and utter chaos. And let’s face it, that’s part of this band’s very unique charm, and we wouldn’t have ’em any other way (AC).

A quick wander up the ramp to Proud for me to catch The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, freshly back on these shores after a month-long jaunt across the States. It says a lot about the quality of this band that even though they’re only on album number three, this afternoon’s set feels like almost a greatest hits affair, with a headbanging frenzy during Margate Fhtagn, the lurching Gin Song and the sinister This House Is Not Haunted going down well to a packed venue. The supremely catchy Brunel which finishes the set off is just the cherry on the cake here, and you suspect that next time it won’t be a surprise to catch them selling out an even bigger venue than this one (AC).

Role Models and Camden just go together, like Jack Daniels and coke. With The Good Mixer rammed and the band in celebratory mood, this afternoon was always going to go well. An enthusiastic crowd are treated to a glorious set of ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll played with easy charm, and favourites like Lie For Today and Saturday Night Sailor are greeted like old drinking buddies. The new tunes sound every bit as good too, with tracks from second album Forest Lawn going down a storm, despite only being made available for pledgers to download the day prior. A frantic rendition of This Eventually Leads Nowhere brings a great set to a joyous conclusion. Cheers, boys (SB).

Having only formed within the last year, and having only released a couple of tracks, it could have been a concern for some bands to find themselves on as big a stage as Camden Rocks. However, Chapter And Verse simply took on such a challenge with aplomb, and passed that test with flying colours. With a big riffy guitar sound that filled every inch of the Monarch’s fairly open space, as the set went on they were able to draw in an increasingly large crowd with every track they played. Although a band still finding their feet, it’s clear based on this performance that Chapter And Verse have a big future, and although they have only been together for a short time they have clearly gelled musically already, as proved by their closing effort Slave, which had the crowd jumping as they finished their set. Definitely a band to keep an eye on in the very near future (TM).

When you go to watch Heck live, it’s less about finding a good spot to watch the gig and more about finding an easily defendable position. Needless to say in The Underworld today, nowhere is safe as the band formerly known as Baby Godzilla unleash typically unhinged versions of Powerboat Disaster and Good As Dead to a suitably frenzied response from those brave enough to be in attendance. Christ, they are everywhere; on the balconies, hanging upside down from columns, in the crowd, on top of the crowd. There is no telling how long they will be able to maintain this level of intensity, but right now? Heck are the most exciting live act on the planet (SB).

In the intimate, sweltering confines of The Black Heart’s upstairs room, The St Pierre Snake Invasion took to the stage and launched into a roaring set in front of the assembled throng. Singer Damien was up front from the outset that he was feeling a little worse for wear (including an amusing anecdote about vomiting into a washing machine), but had he not mentioned it, I’m not sure it would have been noticed, as the band smashed their way through classics like If the Only Way is Essex you can Kill Me Now, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Talbot, and Rock N Roll Workshops, as well as a couple of new tracks, including live favourite Idiot’s Guide to Music which has fast become one of their most ferocious live numbers. While it was short and sweet, this was another hallmark set from one of the UK’s most exciting live acts (TM).

The plan was to go across to the Monarch to catch The Amorettes, but unlike our photo wizard Shaun, muggins here decided to grab a bite to eat and arrived at the venue to find the queue snaking halfway down Camden High Street. So instead, it’s back to the Cuban for Deadcuts, who can definitely lay claim to being the most intense band of the day thus far with the tunes from their debut such as DK and Pray For Jail being joined by newies like Summon The Witches, which definitely have a newfound doomy Joy Division feel to them with the walls of guitars and Mark Keds’ sandpaper raw vocals combining well. It’s all a promising sign for their upcoming second album due out later this year, and has left me keen to hear what they come up with next (AC).

Having already performed twice earlier in the day, Ginger Wildheart’s third set of his marathon day at Camden Rocks came at the Proud Gallery, with a band comprised of regular contributors Toshi and Ai. Although he looked exhausted, Ginger put on a fantastic set, showcasing some lesser heard material from his solo albums, including fan-favourite This is Only a Problem from Valor Del Corazon, and Strange New Year from the 555% album. Never one to ignore his fans, after the repeated joking suggestions of one audience member the band also launched into an impromptu semi-acoustic rendition of The Wildhearts’ classic Suckerpunch. This was an excellent set, with a crowd who were hooked on Ginger’s every word (as is usually the case with his rabidly loyal fan base), which made for an amazing atmosphere and one of the big highlights of the day (TM).

I have to be honest, by this point I’ve been on my feet and imbibing in numerous Camden venues for over eight hours, so it’s probably a good thing that Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind are the last band I’m down to cover today. A very different proposition from his previous outfit The Jim Jones Revue, they peddle a lurching seasick blues-rock reminiscent of Nick Cave or maybe The Cramps in their more sinister moments. It all makes for a bewitching half hour of listening, with current single Aldecide being the pick of a good bunch. Roll on the debut album (AC).

Hot on the heels of Ginger Wildheart’s final set of the evening, it was time for another member of the Wildhearts family Danny McCormack to take to the stage with his new band, The Main Grains. Having recently launched their debut EP, they were treated to a sizeable crowd at Proud. The band are an odd mix, somewhere between punk and sleazy rock, and certainly have elements that would not have seemed out of place in Danny’s previous gigs with The Wildhearts, or The Yo-Yos. It became clear from the outset that Danny is still growing into the role as frontman of the band, but he performed brilliantly here, and his Geordie patter went down a treat with the audience. The set consisted mostly of songs from the new album, but a cracking cover of Teenage Kicks, as well as Yo-Yos classic Keeping On Keeping On rounded out an excellent performance overall (TM).

For many, Black Spiders’ set at Proud will be the final band in a day full of great music, great company and far too many drinks. The sons of the north certainly provide a fitting finale. Stay Down gets the crowd going with its middle finger in the air “fuck you and this one horse town” refrain, setting the tone nicely for a set packed with brilliantly unsubtle ballsy rock behemoths like Teenage Knife Gang and Just Like A Woman. After 45 minutes of showmanship, humour and massive, massive riffs, Kiss Tried To Kill Me brings proceedings to a suitably epic conclusion. Camden, consider yourself well and truly rocked (SB).

Camden Rocks 2016 was a blast, we had a great day, and if you were there, we hope you did too. See you all again next year!