Meet the man who made the Camden Rocks Festival

  • Rock & Pop
Meet the man who made the Camden Rocks Festival


Thu, 10/03/2016 - 12:00


Camden Rocks festival founder Chris McCormack
Camden Rocks festival founder Chris McCormack
10 March, 2016

CAMDEN Rocks festival founder Chris McCormack is tireless. Not only was he a rock star in his own right as guitarist for 1990s band Three Colours Red (among others), but he has dedicated his more recent years to promoting bands at Jubilee and Camden Rocks presents at Barfly, a night he runs with The Libertines’ Carl Barat and curating guest DJs for Camden Rocks Club at Underworld. 

On top of this, he has grown Camden’s initially modest Camden Rocks festival into an industry destination.

“I started with only five venues in 2009 with a 1500 capacity,” he says. “Now we use over 20 venues and a 7,000 capacity. It now covers the whole of Camden Town. The level of bands playing has improved considerably too as it’s become more established.”

With Billy Bragg, Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, Carl Barat & The Jackals, Young Guns, InMe already announced for this year’s June 4 line-up and many more to be announced, the £35 ticket price – one wristband, 20 venues, 200 acts – sounds reasonable.

As ever, Chris is busy behind the scenes rustling up the best of his music contacts to ensure this is a top rock, punk and indie festival and a platform for up-and-coming acts as well as the headline-grabbing established bands. His ambition has been to turn it into a UK version of SXSW, attracting industry insiders to scout the best new talent.

“We had something like 700 industry attend in 2015 and I know bands got record deals, management and booking agents from the event,” says Chris. “It’s a great platform for any new band hoping to get to the next level. I’ve had quite a few industry guys I know tell me they found bands they’re working with from playing Camden Rocks Festival. Using the festival to help new bands is a huge priority for me.”

And Chris is wise enough to the game to fix things so the industry types are ready to pay attention. “I close the industry guest list early so people have to get down and see the bands playing the early part of the day,” he says. “I do everything I can to ensure they get as much out of it as possible.”

He doesn’t like to pigeonhole the festival too much but places an emphasis on it representing good guitar bands.

“The festival is basically a massive gathering for guitar bands of all genres, old and new – over 1,000 musicians / 200+ bands all showing what they have to offer,” he says. 

“People will always love loud guitars and I try to book the best high energy guitar bands I can find. I don’t care whether a band are supposed to be rock, indie, metal or punk, I just care that they make a good noise, have good songs and entertain people…There’s this great new band called M o s e s who are going to be the ones to watch this year. I saw them last week at Jubilee and they were mind-blowing, really exciting live with great songs.”

The inclusion of Billy Bragg, announced last week, should be an insightful addition. He will be at Proud Camden in conversation with Daniel Rachel, author of Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters, about his new lyric book A Lover Sings, including songs and a Q&A in his appearance.

In terms of what’s new for this year, Chris says: “I’m trying to sort an outdoor stage but we’ll have to see what’s possible. With so many changes going on in Camden this generally makes things more difficult…We’ve added the Dublin Castle which I’ve always wanted to include as it’s somewhere I started off playing when I was a kid and it has a great heritage. We’ve also added The Forge on Delancy street which is a great little venue and Be at One. A few have changed names – The Crowndale, which used to be The Purple Turtle, and Bloc Bar which used to be the Stillery.”

Although he had hoped to include the Jazz Café, it seems the venue won’t be ready in time for this year’s festival, he says.

“Camden is one of the few places that can do something to this scale,” says Chris. “I actually have a couple more venues than I had last time round so although a few places have closed down there’s a few more opened up. I don’t know anywhere else that could host 20+ stages in such a small area.”

Don’t expect to catch Chris onstage somewhere with his guitar. “I’m not playing these days as I’m busy trying different things out and enjoying it. I feel like I’ve done that now, spent most of my life on a tour bus,” he says. “I may DJ one of the after shows though. I still enjoy that after a few drinks.”

Although not giving anything away, he did hint that there may be some unexpected appearances on the day. “There could be a few interesting things happening but I can’t talk about it as the whole point is that these things are a surprise and adds to the day.”

All the hard work has helped this particular city festival grow while many others have struggled in the highly saturated and competitive music calendar.

“I’m really proud of what the festival has become and how quickly is grown,” Chris says. “It’s something bands really want to play and gives new, up-and-coming bands a platform to push forward and hopefully get to the next level.” 

• Camden Rocks Festival is on Saturday June 4. £35 ticket price – one wristband, 20 venues, 200 acts. Get tickets from 

Camden Rocks line-up so far…

Carl Barat & The Jackals, rising UK rockers Creeper, original Sex Pistols Glen Matlock, CC Smugglers, Tellison, singer-songwriter and left-wing activist Billy Bragg, Gun, Zoax, The Hell, Youth Club, VUKOVI, Goldray, Reigning Days, Wearing Scars, AvaGrace, Francobollo, The Hyena Kill, The Pearl Harts, Anita Chellamah Band (The Cherry Bombz ), JPNSGRLS, Faers, S.E.X, Staring Out The Sun, Shea, Alive With Eyes, Young Guns, We Are The Ocean, InMe, Ginger Wildheart, Norma Jean, Evil Scarecrow, New Years Day, SikTh plus The Godfathers, The Virginmarys, The Qemists, Warrior Soul, Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind, Queen Kwong, Forever Never, As Lions, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, The Dirty Youth, Shvpes, Black Foxxes, Freeze The Atlantic, Asylums, The Main Grains, Lounge Kittens, The Carnabys, Press To Meco, Continents, Shields, Fathoms, Blood Youth, Scholars, Ashesto­angels, Dorje, Cold In Berlin, Samoans, Bare Knuckle Parade, Nibbinz, The Dirty Thrills, Create To Inspire, Witterquick, The Tuts, Lock, Moses, Counting Days, The Ghost Riders In The Sky, Roxanne De Bastion, The Derellas, Black Casino & The Ghost, The RPMs, Hands Off Gretel, Bad Sign, Thunder On The Left, Role Models, Mercutio, Critics, Chinese Missy, False-Heads, The King’s Parade, Louise Distras, Leisure Tank, Suzie Stapleton, Hoodoo Daze, Falling Knives and Matty James.

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