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Review of Camden Rocks 2016
Review of Camden Rocks 2016
Fri, 10/06/2016 - 11:06
Published:09 June, 2016
CAMDEN Rocks is comfortably growing into its skin.
Founded in 2006 with a capacity of just 1,500, this year’s festival, which unfolded on Saturday, was more put-together than ever, expanding to a 7,000-strong capacity and creating a festival buzz around Camden not seen for some time.
The guitar may very well have been at the heart of the festival’s programming but, as we witnessed throughout the day, there was no end to the variety such an instrument inspires, manifested in many different ways by the varied line-up: Billy Bragg educated us, played a few songs and dispensed with impatient hecklers with a few choice words; two-piece The Graveltones evoked a bit of a Led Zep vibe, at times conjuring up sounds way greater than the sum of their parts; and Glen Matlock led a more gentle punk nostalgia set, softened by his country shirt and gentle acoustics.
And, during the few lulls in performances, there was plenty of time to play the most Camden game of all: Band or Fan – can you spot the difference? Read on to see what our reviewers made of the day.
By David Triggs
SKY Valley Mistress bill themselves as “the best thing you’ve never heard” and, after hearing them, you realise it’s more than just a snappy soundbite. It’s so busy upstairs at The Hawley Arms, an overworked barman calls for more staff – “we need another body up here!” – just before the Blackburn four-piece begin their blistering set. They’re like a 21st-century Led Zep, with Grace Slick (singer Kayley Davies) on vocals. They even have a song called Dirty Blonde Blues. What’s not to love?
At the other end of the sonic spectrum is Roxanne de Bastion. The Berlin-born singer-songwriter is on enchanting form at BrewDog, an acoustic guitar and bass player all she needs. Ending with Red and White Blood Cells, she coaxes the audience into helping her sing the catchy call-and-response chorus.
A noisy few who headed to Billy Bragg at Proud clearly hadn’t read the show’s posters properly. Despite this being billed as an “in conversation” question-and-answer session with Bragg and author Daniel Rachel about the singer’s new book, A Lover Sings, many vocal fans were not happy, calling for less conversation and a lot more music. But Billy and Daniel stuck gamely to the planned format, with the Bard of Barking forced to deal with a few early hecklers (“boring!” and “play some songs!”, the most commonly-heard cries). Bragg was as engaging as ever, covering everything from the art of songwriting to Max Miller and the EU referendum, throwing in a few songs for good measure – including a defiant Scousers Never Buy The Sun and Handyman Blues, a gem from 2013’s Tooth and Nail album. By the end, Billy was preaching to the converted, leaving us with an a cappella version of The Internationale. Even a security guard at the side of the stage (not previously a fan) was won over. “Not many musicians could stand up there and do what he’s just done,” he said. High praise, and fully justified.
Jim Jones formed new band, The Righteous Mind, just five days after playing a farewell show with the Jim Jones Revue. Things got very dark very quickly in those five days. The Righteous Mind are an eerie, menacing beast of a band – casting their spell over the audience at the Cuban, with Jones’s raging, howling vocals as strong as ever.
Over at The Forge, a greying Glen Matlock took to the stage with just an acoustic guitar – enough to confuse one middle-aged woman who asked: “Is this Billy Bragg?” It’s proof that not all Camden Rocks punters are as clued up as they should be, as we’re in the presence of punk royalty here. Matlock’s strong set of solo material is topped off with Monkees B-side Stepping Stone – covered by his old band The Sex Pistols – and Pretty Vacant, which is enough to send everyone home happy.
By Róisín Gad el Rab
WE passed The Graveltones’ drummer Mikey Sorbello in Proud just before the band took to the stage. While the mountainous Sorbello’s drums survived the onslaught of his vicious blues-rock beats, his drumsticks fared worse. We watched him destroy stick after stick, each disintegrating like matchsticks under his incredible might, without skipping a single beat. Frontman Jimmy O is at his best when his voice leaves comfortable ranges and heads into the rock opera stratosphere.
Camden Rocks festival founder Chris McCormack loved youthful M O S E S so much, he became their manager, and it’s clear to see why. After a day of gigs from bands of varying popularity, M O S E S stepped up the energy at The Black Heart, stirring up the crowd with their hook-laden tunes – and response-demanding choruses. Frontman Victor Moses has the face and voice of a 15-year-old, on a higher wavelength than you might expect but seems to take control of the room nonetheless. The rest of the band are equally accomplished, with admirable shredding skills from South Korean guitarist Juno Chang. In a very short time, the venue’s empty room was full, a mosh-pit brewing at the front, and ending with a mass sing-a-long conducted by the heavy-fringed singer, towering over the crowds.
An unusual change of pace at The Forge as Glen Matlock was followed by CC Smugglers, who turned up with quaint hats, harmonica and double bass to stir up a barn dance. While the jovial troupe inspired a bout of country dancing, one onlooker was heard to moan, “they’re like a better-looking version of Mumford and Sons – the worst thing I’ve ever heard”. The rest of the crowd seemed to diagree, caught up in the up-tempo rustic vibes, gee-ed up by singer Richie Prynne. It was a shame about the bright lights of The Forge, which unfortunately made the set feel more like a school assembly performance than a Camden Rocks gig.
By Mark Hourahane
LONDON-based all-female basement rock band The Kut kicked off proceedings at The Crowndale. Singer Maha delivered smooth verses merging effortlessly into raspy screaming choruses, reminiscent of Courtney Love. The modest crowd were hesitant to comply with her requests to come forward and dance – perhaps fair enough given the early hour, instead preferring to politely nod along with the music, cheering energetically after each song.
Leather jackets and long hair unified Londoners Damn Dice’s image at Electric Ballroom. Much like the look, their sound was Eighties metal, whilst still remaining accessible to those with more tame tastes thanks to a hard rock influence. Alex’s powerful lead vocals have a unique sound, somewhat akin to Ozzy, strengthened by solid harmonies and lyrics you can actually hear. The reasonably large audience – for an opening act – went crazy over the blistering guitar solos. Heel, another rock band hailing from London, played the genre in its broadest sense and came out with their own unique blend. Singer Margarita capably delivers anything from dreamy vocals for pop tunes, through angsty alternative numbers to belting out harder stuff, accompanied by some scorching guitar solos, and was definitely one of the strongest female vocalists of the festival. It was a surprise that Dingwalls wasn’t packed out for this one – those who weren’t there missed out on a treat.
The Good Mixer was packed for London hard-rock band Staring Out the Sun, (pictured above) with people spilling down the corridor to catch a glimpse, and others content to listen appreciatively from the front bar. They played a strong set, full of chunky riffs that take you back to the emergence of American acts like Papa Roach and Incubus in the early 2000s.
Bristol-based band One Man Boycott’s pop-punk-rock was a welcome contrast to the heavier fare seen in the preceding hour. Frontman Joe’s clean-cut vocals blended well with catchy riffs, performed to a modest crowd. They got a well-deserved packed room at Proud.
The Hawley Arms’ upstairs room was so full of people wanting to see indie-punk band BlackWaters, we had to listen from outside. Much like Arctic Monkeys, the vocals tended to have a spoken/sung quality, giving a distinctive sound.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Matty James’s blend of folk, country and classic Rock ’n’ Roll filled out the upstairs room at Fifty Five Bar right to the top of the stairs. His deep voice, at times raspy, was perhaps not the most melodic, but lent itself well to a raw, gritty feel and a surprisingly compelling performance in a swelteringly venue.
Glaswegian rockers Gun cranked it up to 11 at Electric Ballroom. Youngsters and those who probably saw the band in their heyday went wild to an electric set. After splitting up nearly 20 years ago, the slightly tweaked line-up sounded every bit as good as they did back then, with songs from their latest album every bit as good as their classic material. A simply stunning show – one of the highlights of Camden Rocks.
The Underworld was operating on a one-in, one-out policy with a queue outside of fans eager to catch Essex band InMe. Every bit as good as they were at the peak of their career in the early 2000s, they had the crowd going wild with an ear-shattering set.
Former Wildhearts frontman Ginger played no less than three gigs throughout the day. He played an impressive acoustic set at The Forge with an Asian backing band, filled with classic Wildhearts tunes, a novel twist on some familiar sounds. Ginger is still very much on top form.
The Carnabys put on a solid set at The Forge. Ranging from somewhat middle-of-the-road jangly guitar pop-rock to heavier material, their youthful energy and use of the stage space made for a good performance. Clean vocals and catchy tunes would no doubt sound good on the radio, but they’re a band you need to catch live for the full effect.
Baby-faced deVience singer Giovanni looked more like a model than a hard-rock band frontman, sporting coiffed hair and a leopard print vest at The Good Mixer. Still, his vocals were impressively strong, along with some great guitar riffs reminiscent of Buckcherry. A blinding stand-out performance of the afternoon.
Southampton-based female trio The Lounge Kittens were one of the must-catch bands of the day. The queue to see the covers band with a lounge style at Fifty Five was immense. The set included their cover of Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, which has amassed nearly half-a-million YouTube views. With perfect harmonies they were a real pleasure to watch.
I saw Macclesfield three-piece Virginmarys support Ash in their early days and was blown away. The queue to see them at Barfly was down the street. Their performance was breathtaking and full of energy. Watching Danny drum is like watching Animal from The Muppets. The crowd went wild. Another highlight.
Essex band Forever Never’s melodic metal was very popular at The Monarch, prompting a loud sing-a-long with their cover of John Farnham’s You’re the Voice. Yet another great performance.
Carl Barat (pictured, below) was on top form at Electric Ballroom with band The Jackals. The audience loved it, an impressive set.
It was hot, packed, sweat was flying everywhere and it was LOUD as American metalcore band Norma Jean, (pictured, below) who hail from Georgia, took to the stage at Barfly. The crowd and band were headbanging. There was hair all over the place – so much hair! After enjoying a few songs, we beat a hasty retreat, passing the doorman running up the stairs with a panicked look on his face. The manager asked if she should be concerned. Wet told her they’re tearing the place up
There was a good turn-out at the Good Mixer for ska-punk pop singer Millie Manders and The Shutup. With infectious tunes, particularly ukulele-driven Hole in Your Chest, Millie often draws from life experiences (usually anger!) in her writing.
By Peter Stone
SOUTH Wales hardcore rockers Continents gave a blistering opening set at Barfly. Playing in front of a full house, the onslaught of ferocious vocals from Phil Cross and fast guitar work set the scene for a memorable day.
Playing the more intimate stage at Dingwalls, London “Brit-rock” band Odd Rival put out a thumping 40-minute set with brothers Patrick (vocals, bass) and Chris (vocals, guitar) working their magic in front of some amazing drum work. The small but enthusiastic gathering in front of the stage helped them feel very much at home. Shades of The Stone Roses are very much apparent but they definitely have their own identity.
Heavy electronica, Tech metal, rock meets drum ’n’ bass, call it what you like, but this unusual mix works very well, as The Algorithm proved. Punters at the packed Underworld soon warmed to the unrelenting curtain of sound that is the brainchild of French musician Remi Gallego. Fast drums and synths lent an almost dance feel to this ear-bleedingly loud set.
If any band were meant to play The Cuban then it is surely the Anita Chellamah Band. Their blend of Latino bluesy rock went down a storm, with the crowd drawn to the raunchy sounds of Anita’s sultry vocals. Close your eyes and you could have been in a backstreet bar in Manila.
Tucked away upstairs at the Fifty Five, talented artists Sarah De Warren (keys) and Meredith Baker (guitar), played a mix of country/soul, complementing each other perfectly. Each gave a solo performance before dueting. Sarah, originally from Dorset, was soulful, while American guitarist Meredith brought a southern county/country vibe.
Reckless Love are glam-rock at its finest, and Olli Herman and the rest of the band didn’t disappoint at Electric Ballroom – 100 per cent pure rock ’n’ roll fun. These guys not only look the part but sound amazing. If you could morph Def Leopard, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Van Halen and Whitesnake into one band, then this would be the result. Full of energy, they whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their full-on stadium anthem sound. With long, catchy guitar solos, penetrating vocals and endless stage energy, it was like Camden had been transported momentarily back to the Eighties...
All photos, courtesy of Mark Hourihane.