Cloud Control close a successful first day at Camden Crawl

Camden Crawl review

published: Fri 6th May 2011


Saturday 30th April to Sunday 1st May 2011
venues in Camden, London, NW1 0NE, England MAP
2-day pass £63.50, or £39.50 for either day
last updated: Wed 6th Apr 2011

Just when you thought the streets of Camden Town couldn't get any trendier, along comes the Camden Crawl to convince you otherwise. The annual bash sees dozens of established acts, hot new contenders and undiscovered talents jostling for your attention across this distinctly alternative patch of north London, with over 40 pubs, bars, clubs and venues crammed to the gills with a veritable explosion of live music. All this, and you don't even have to brave the rite of passage that is the festival portaloo.

Upon arrival, eFestivals is drawn wide-eyed to the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage, only to be greeted by the searing cacophony of hairy Bristolians Turbowolf. For a moment it seems like we've unwittingly entered a timewarp back to a forgotten era when the shirts were loud and the music even more so, as a barrage of gloriously heavy riffs blares from the stage. I've only just had breakfast - surely it's a bit early for all this? The band clearly don't agree, churning out some raucous garage rawk bravado akin to QOTSA and The Datsuns. Sadly, I only catch the last few songs and some added instrument abuse at the end, but it makes for a winning start.

Suitably pepped-up, it's on to The Hawley Arms (infamous for being Amy Winehouse's old haunt before she went a bit mental) for some musical lucky dip. The schedule has evidently gone a bit skewiff, and it's not clear who's on next. In the interlude I have a brief chinwag with a couple of Camden locals, who impart the somewhat bizarre scoop that the daughter of birdwatching sultan Bill Oddie is taking part in the Crawl this weekend, fronting the band Bones.

Of course, it would have to take something pretty good to top that revelation, but thankfully the next act are up to the job. A three piece that deals in enjoyably straightforward, feral blues rock, it's not until the blonde-maned singer/guitarist mutters "We're The Corsair" towards the end of their set that I know who I'm watching. Some masterful, sludgy guitaring ushers in the roaring 'Tongue Against My Teeth', their frontman's furious glare contrasting with the drummer's enormous smile as she works the skins. The room may be relatively empty, but The Corsair still work up a storm, proving to be one of the weekend's hidden gems. Somebody give these people a bigger crowd.

The Corsair
Next up, The King Blues (see full review) rip it up on the Red Bull stage, readily punching out some rowdy, crowd-pleasing punk pop.

Fastforward a few hours later, and within the dimly-lit, cavernous interior of the Jazz Café, efestivals comes face to face with the easy-going flow and deep lyrical manouevres of DELS (view interview). Flanked by two keyboardists (one of whom is also a member of Mikachu And The Shapes), the MC wastes no time in snaring the crowd's attention with his new debut album's lead single 'Gob'. Poised on stage, he conducts his rhymes with precise hand movements, and is a hypnotic presence. The brilliantly loopy 'Trump a Lump' follows, a riot of percussion and oddball keyboard that suddenly morphs into a brooding, steel-drum backed reflection at the halfway mark. Further on, some dirty sub-bass and strong drumming gets the crowd moving for 'Eating Clouds', before the electro throb and playful retrospect of 'Shapeshift' brings the tempo up a notch. It's all certainly a welcome departure from the guitar-heavy crop that's featured so far, and is an early highlight of the festival.

East Londoners Dry The River are an entirely different proposition, a collective of guitar and violin-sporting scruffs with tattoos galore and an even more impressive bundle of rough-hewn, folk-tinted harmonies. I've never heard of this lot, but they're pretty stunning live, and their lead urchin gets a big thumbs up for looking the spit of underrated Brit actor Mackenzie Crook, best known as Gareth from The Office. Veering between the gentle and the brutal, the band's best offerings, such as 'New Ceremony', have a softer edge with some genuinely beautiful, yearning vocals. Some outsized lollipop drum sticks appear for 'Bible Belt', which has a Fleet Foxes vibe that diverges into some vocal harmonies oddly reminiscent of The Maccabees. The finale is quite amazing, and it all amounts to a very enjoyable, unexpected treat.

Heading over the road to the slightly seedy Camden Rock, I take in indie-as-you-like five piece Wild Palms – they're missing a guitarist this evening as well as being beset by sound problems, and unfortunately it adds up to an unconvincing performance. Initially indistinguishable from a million other vaguely dancey guitar bands, second song 'Draw In Light' picks things up slightly with a Cure-alike bassline and strong vocal hook, while 'To The Lighthouse' brings some nice falsetto voicework to the fray. However, while they gradually improve as the set progresses, Wild Palms somehow don't feel fully gelled as a band tonight, ultimately failing to make a decent impression.

After all this excitement, perhaps it's time for a nighttime walk, and as the next band on my list is performing at Annies, a glitzy boozer well on the way to Kentish Town, that's exactly what happens. Those Dancing Days are an all-girl troupe from Sweden, and make the journey wholly worthwhile. Bathed in purple light and looking like they've come straight out of the high school from 80s teen classic The Breakfast Club, their effortlessly gorgeous pop has the audience in raptures from the moment they take the stage. The tunes are undoubtedly sugary, but have more than enough sass to save them from being twee. What's more, they're loving every minute of it; it's without question one of the best shows I see this weekend.

A quick dip into the Barfly to catch Coventry's own Ghostpoet turns out to be futile – there's a knot of punters blocking any view of the stage, such is the demand for this artist's brilliant brand of idiosyncratic hip hop.

All is not lost, however; back near the hub of Camden Town tube, Aussie stargazers Cloud Control have a late slot at the Jazz Café. Maybe all that walking has gone to my head, but from the first instance they put in a truly captivating performance, filled with exquisite boy/girl harmonies and a distinctively psychedelic flavour. It's in turns soothing and hugely entertaining, and is a genuinely special end to a successful first day.
review by: Nick Hagan

photos by: Nick Hagan

Saturday 30th April to Sunday 1st May 2011
venues in Camden, London, NW1 0NE, England MAP
2-day pass £63.50, or £39.50 for either day
last updated: Wed 6th Apr 2011

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