The best laid plans and all that… last year we tried to cover as many bands as we possibly could but due to the inevitable logistical problems that Camden Rocks delivers, we managed just a percentage of what was on offer. This year was to prove the same, with even more difficulties unique to this special day thrown in for good measure.
Words: Steve Göldby, John Oakley
Photos: Sean Cameron
Camden used to be the heartbeat of alternative London, a boiling pot of punk, Metal, indie and all things non-mainstream that thrived and bounced with the energy of a culture that was more than alive and spawned legends aplenty but those days are gone now and like Carnaby Street before it, the spirit of Camden seems to be, at best, changing.
Camden Rocks is a wonderful idea that brings together over twenty small and medium sized venues all offering a complete day of live music. Every type of band imaginable is on offer and your £30 ticket gets you into every participating venue, any time you want. Queues permitting of course, and that was the big problem with this year’s event.
As Ginger Wildheart was the star turn of last year’s event, playing to a packed out Jazz Cafe, it remains a mystery as to why the organisers placed him in the smaller Proud Gallery at an earlier time than last year. Even with the magical press wristband, I was forced to miss one of the acts I had most looked forward to. Someone needs to brief the door staff properly next time.
John, perhaps a little better organised and more forceful, did a bit better at the same venue…
Dirty Thrills kick off proceedings in Proud, a barn style art gallery by day but today a rather nice space for a bill filled with sleazy and hard rocking bands. However with £5 tiny bottles of Becks, and HILARIOUSLY dubious queuing practices, rip off Camden is living up to its reputation.
On to the bands: Dirty Thrills prove they are a bunch of funky good time, jumpy hipsters and get the crowd off to an early bounce!
They have a vibe not unlike Rival Sons, if that floats your boat. Plenty of energy and quirk and a good start to the day. They certainly attract a good crowd to start, but this room never fails to be full all day.
After some fresh air and cheaper beer by the Camden Lock Canal we go back in for The Amorettes and it’s got flipping packed in Proud!
The MetalTalk darlings ply their Girlschool inspired trade well and with synchronised headbanging and plenty of energy they are more polished than the last time I caught them, at The Steelhouse Festival, and they’re loving their place in the sun and take Camden by storm.
They certainly grab the bull by the horns and indeed their Planet Rock approved single of the same name goes down rather well. Second band of the day, and the quality has gone up immeasurably. Take cover, these girls mean business. Job well done ladies.
And well done John for getting into Proud while I had been schmoozing in the press area with Gun and Skindred. No naughty stories to report though as both acts were still to play and were not indulging in anything stronger than fizzy pop before their performance. Things just ain’t what they used to be.
So I had a wander back down the High Street to The Electric Ballroom to catch a band who were down on my “should check out” list – Wolverhampton’s two piece, God Damn.
Fresh from supporting the Foo Fighters in Manchester earlier in the week, these boys are on form and boy, are they noisy. There’s no bass, just drums and guitars with vocals and it’s cranked up massively and the numerically reasonable gathering love it. Debut album ‘Vultures’, which is out now, could make some waves if the live performance is anything to go by and you should definitely check the duo out if you get chance.
While I was having my skull pounded on by God Damn, John was mellowing out a little at the other end of town.
Slowing things down at the Jazz cafe with Broken Witt Rebels providing a rather groovetastic styling. There’s plenty of energy and heavy riffage and plenty of bass. It’s rather huge, and Luke Davis has a rather natty chap image.
The Brummie charm of the singer, Danny Core, goes down well with the travelling fans. There’s plenty of banter, although I just couldn’t get Adrian Chiles out of my head for some reason. They’ll be back here next week if you’re free and they’re highly recommended.
Their latest EP, ‘Howling’, has some interesting themes and clearly a 50s southern blues rock feel. They are all ex Uni boys, have been going for two years and are now breaking out of the Midlands. Fair play to them – this was a highly competent set. Great venue too.
Off next to the Purple Turtle for Sons Of Icarus of whom the elders amongst us thought they had a Led Zeppelin vibe with a modern twist although the singer had a hipster Camdenite look which belied his powerful Plant inspired voice. It’s a real shame the Turtle is closing but we’ll still have the Reading original, if you fancy a quick trip down the M4.
In the Enterprise, a walk away in Chalk Farm, the bands play in a tiny room upstairs, so rickety and packed the floor bounces up and down to the music. The band on at the time must have felt like they stole London for their set. We felt we were going to end up falling through to the bar downstairs and would need a decent Range Rover to get us out.
We must have missed each other as unable to muster the patience to negotiate the queue, I found an alternative way in (don’t ask) and managed to catch the last part of original Sex Pistols bass player Glenn Matlock’s performance and witnessed him doing a fabulous acoustic version of ‘Pretty Vacant’.
I’m still miffed that I couldn’t get in to Proud to see Ginger but I had the consolation of knowing the mighty Lawnmower Deth were soon to kick off at the Underworld and rather surprisingly, it was easy to manoeuvre in there as it was full but not bursting at the seams and the Mower boys put on one magnificent performance that would have cheered anyone up.
Any band who can do a fourty-one second song called ‘Egg Sandwich’ get my vote any day of the week but I’m afraid I haven’t had time to study the lyrics yet so I can’t delve too deep into the philosophy of the meaning behind this track.
Mr Sumo also made an appearance, as did the notorious LD stage divers, one of whom provided the funniest moment of the day for me personally. He (or should that be “she” – I’m honestly not totally sure) followed the procession up to the stage and confident of a comfortable landing into the arms of comrades, dived head first into the throng below who upon realising that this person was of the plus size variety, promptly parted like the Red Sea but not quick enough.
They were taken out, about fifteen of them altogether, and they lay there on the floor, like skittles in a bowling alley, scattered by a far heavier and more powerful bowling ball. Hilarious, unless you were one of the fifteen who were taken out.
Lawnmower Deth were briliant and as I waited for what I expected to be the highlight of the day for me, I spotted my colleague John in the Underworld crowd. So what follows now is a double review of The Dictators NYC.
Over to John first…
Down to The Underworld, we see hot and sweaty Lawnmower Deth fans exiting as we go in. It must have been rammed for them! I’m in for The Dictators NYC.
I’ve never come across this band before and am only slightly aware of the legacy, but aware of the connection with former Manowar man Ross The Boss on guitar.
Well – I’m a convert. Punk legend Manitoba has real charisma and wins the crowd over with tall tales and New Yoik chutzpah. It’s party rock all the way with hits such as ‘Party Starts Now’, ‘Next Big Thing’ and ‘Attitude’. For ‘Avenue A’, Manitoba professes his love of London, yet bemoans the wealthy developers changing the culture of big cities. From the loss of CBGBs in the Bowery, to themes that are affecting London too. Culturally today this perhaps is very important, but I’ve never seen Camden busier than today.
Manitoba’s mission to save rock n’ roll is working by their very presence on today’s bill. A great show, an awesome set, The Dictators shift the quality of today’s band up a gear. I’ll be downloading their back catalogue from iTunes tomorrow!
Most people in the Underworld didn’t realise that they were seeing the very roots of a lot of what they are hearing today. A lot of these songs were written in the 70s and the band are considered to be the starting point for American punk rock and they absolutely blitzed The Underworld this Saturday evening.
It’s no secret that here at MetalTalk we are massive Manowar fans and obviously Ross The Boss was a major attraction and it was great to see him play to a full house in London after several projects in recent years that not yet quite made it to full fruition.
He’s clearly enjoying himself as well, as is frontman Richard Manitoba who delights in telling the crowd all about his 48-year-old wife, bar in New York City and lifestyle travelling the globe playing rock n’ roll. The songs are more than good enough to do the talking but Manitoba sees fit to big himself up when he doesn’t actually need to.
The Dictators won a lot of new fans over today and as expected, were definitely the highlight of the day. Maybe they will save rock n’ roll after all…
A respite was required after that so it’s over to John again…
Back up to Proud, and as the wide choice of headliners thins out the queues, it’s easier to get in for some good old jumping around to Ramones classics and his own material. This is Richie Ramone’s second set, as we’ve already missed a shorter ‘Ramones only’ set in the Electric Ballroom. 1234, hey ho, let’s go! New York Punk is dominating today… great fun.
Micheal Monroe finishes our evening in the Proud Barn, with a quick run through his ‘Horns And Halos’ tour set highlights that set ablaze the Islington Academy last year. Glam Metal’s answer to Goldie Hawn throws his mike stand, serenades us with sax and sass and leaves a worn out but happy bunch of glamsters to contemplate ‘Dead, Jail Or Rock And Roll’ on the train home.
Camden Rocks achieved packed venues, a range of bands with consistently large audiences to give them all great exposure all day and quality music for a great day out.
Have a browse through our gallery to see the bands in action.