Festival Preview – Camden Rocks 2018

Camden Rocks has been a bit of a regular fixture for us at Pure Rawk over the last five or six years, and has continued to grow at a frankly phenomenal rate. June 2nd sees the whole thing kicking off again and rest assured there’ll be a few of us from the team milling about. But with 25 venues and over 200 bands playing on the day, the big problem here is which ones are worth checking out? Never fear – Pure Rawk is here with our guide to some of the bands we think are worth catching on the day.

Looking at the major bands playing the big venues, if your correspondent tries to get in to the Electric Ballroom at any point, it’ll probably be to see PIL. Although John Lydon’s outfit can occasionally drift into outright unlistenability, their last two albums definitely had some decent moments on them and, let’s be honest, as long as they play Rise, Public Image, This Is Not A Love Song and Don’t Ask Me, I’ll be happy enough.

Slightly further down the bill, Pop Will Eat Itself have been on a pretty good run since returning to action around the turn of the decade with both of their post-reunion efforts New Noise Designed By A Sadist and Anti-Nasty Party being well worth a listen. With a mix of these plus the old favourites, they should be well worth catching.

Although to these ears, The Professionals‘ comeback album last year didn’t quite feel like it was all it could have been, they still pack a solid punch live as anyone who witnessed them at The Wildhearts’ For Sorry’s Sake comeback gig in Wakefield a few months ago will testify. And in 1-2-3, they’ve still got one of the all time classic punk ‘n’ roll numbers.

Those who were at Warehouse 23 on that night will notice a couple of other familiar bands on the bill as well – Sonic Boom Six have been going from strength to strength in recent years, and have grown into a ferociously tight and explosive dub-punk group, as anyone who heard their The F Bomb album a couple of years back will testify. Likewise, while retro rock bands may be ten a penny nowadays, Massive Wagons are definitely one of the better ones of the breed, and should be a safe bet for those seeking old school rock ‘n’ roll thrills on the day.

Fancy something a bit more left field? The Urban Voodoo Machine are always a good live act and I’ve yet to see a show where they’ve disappointed. With four albums of bourbon soaked gypsy blues bop ‘n’ stroll now under their collective belts, they’ve built up a killer back catalogue of songs to choose from, and should be one of the bands of the day.

We were worrying a couple of years back that The Amorettes had lost their way a bit, but this year’s Born To Break album has seen them righting their course with a sleek set of Runaways/Suzi Quatro influences glam rock. If they can channel that into their always high energy live show, then they should be well worth going out of your way to see.

For sugar-sweet pop-punk kicks, it really doesn’t get much better than Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors, and their fast-growing reputation shows that the general public is starting to cotton on to the fact. Having seen them live on their recent tour, they should be one of the main bands on your watch list for the day. Their support act from said tour The Main Grains will also be playing on the day, bringing their enjoyably scuzzed up take on punk ‘n’ roll to the Camden masses. Always a good high-energy live band, they should definitely be high on your viewing list as well.

As well as Grains frontman Danny McCormack, there’s a few other members of the extended Wildhearts family cropping up on the various Camden Rocks bills. Lupus Dei consist of Ginger’s former Hey! Hello! bandmates Rev and Toshi, and if their demo is anything to go by, expect a high-octane mix of punk scuzziness and fired up riffs. Likewise, Fierce Ideas also feature another Hey! Hello! expat in Victoria Liedtke along with Tropical Contact frontman Ben Janet and the Eureka Machines duo of Davros and Pete. Their two singles so far have marked them out as a promising band, and they’ve been a good live proposition on the previous times I’ve seen them as well.

Moving to slightly darker territory, it’s no secret that we here at Pure Rawk are big Saint Agnes fans and their mix of goth rock and swampy blues rhythms always makes for an excellently bewitching live show. With an album hopefully due to appear in 2018, it may well be your last chance to catch this band on the small venue circuit before they go supernova.

The festival also sees a couple of familiar faces out on the road with their new bands. Fresh from a successful Pledgemusic campaign, former Black Spiders frontman Pete Spiby will be out with his new group Pete Spiby and The Beat-Alls while country rockers Sarah Vista and The Henchmen feature one-time pop-punk should’ve-been and former Viva Le Pink frontwoman Kiria treading a new country path which, as those who’ve heard her singles so far will attest, she’s doing to good effect.

Healthy Junkies are always a good solid live band with a mix of punk energy and riotgrrl sensibilities, and The Ramonas impressed those of us who saw them at last year’s Croydon Rocks festival with a mix of their own material (as evidenced on their First World Problems album last year) and the expected Bruddas covers.

There it is then – hopefully a good starter guide in terms of bands to check out on the day. But don’t just take our word for it – honestly, the best advice I can give as a veteran of a few Camden Rocks festivals is that the best bands are often the ones that you discover while randomly wandering around, and it may well be that when we do the review of this thing there will be a few new bands that you’ll hear us raving about for the first time (certainly, I’ve heard good things about The KutHands Off Gretel and Tequila Mockingbyrd). So check the schedules out, plot your own path and above all, enjoy the day! We’ll see you at the bar.