Camden Crawl, Camden, London – April 24th & 25th 2009
Sunshine, spilt beer and an electric energy hit the pavements of North London over the weekend, as the Camden Crawl swept up everyone in its path in a magical musical tour. The annual city festival served up 150 acts in 40 venues over two thrilling days that sawMadness touring on their very own bus, love swilling around the Camden streets and the weather gods rewarding our enthusiasm with a splash of summer in the city. Armed with our Crawl passes, we roamed the sonorant streets and crashed as many gigs as we could in search of musical resurrection…
First up on Friday, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs oozed the spirit of rawk as they swaggered onto the stage, their razor-sharp rhythms and Karen O’s swooping vocals swathing The Roundhouse with a suitably glitzy early evening glow. Polished rock perfection with a few synths from their recent album It’s Blitz! thrown in, the New York foursome command your attention and although there wasn’t much banter between songs, Karen O instilled every note with an edgy frisson and flicked her kaftan around with assured elegance.
For gig two, we sprinted along Chalk Farm Road to Camden stalwart Dingwalls and caught the set of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, a rockabilly/swing/blues trio of siblings from north London. Being it was their manor, they looked at home as they belted our their gutsy numbers, do-wopping and rock ‘n’ rolling through their set to the delight of the crowd, who lindy-hopped in time when they could prise their feet from the sticky floor. Two sisters and a brother with their parents on guitar and double bass, the family affair was something to behold whichColdplay readily agree with as they’ve signed them as support for their summer tour.
Great things have also been written about Hockey (above), a four-piece from Portland in the US of A. They strode on stage to be greeted by a half-empty Roundhouse, but still rocked the venue down to its bones with their brand of witty, red-hot glitter-slapped indie. Singer Ben Grubin wore his customary green headband and wasn’t afraid to wrap the mic wire around himself extravagantly, before extricating himself carefully, all the while not missing a single beat. ThinkThe Killers/The Strokes infused with the spirit of Jake Spears and you’re halfway there – this lot are going to be HUGE.
We also tried to see the ska-punk outfit The King Blues at Barfly, but failed – the queue outside was nothing compared to the queue inside. So we had a Gaymers cider, heard their set through a wall and raced off to catch VV Brown at the Cuban Bar, also rammed, and also, alas, running ahead of schedule. We arrived to see a glammed-up VV exiting the stage and happily posing for pictures with fans outside. By all accounts, she rocked it too.
Down at the Earl of Camden things were also getting crowded for the arrival of the Filthy Dukes. A pumped up audience were enthralled by the dance-ravaged group, whose storming set took over the bar and left lead singer Tim Lawton a sweaty but smiling mess as he led the masses in a choreographed fist-pumping session to accompany the beats. Towels were applied to their dripping brows as they thanked the crowd and took a break before their next gig four hours down the road. We stopped by The Monarch to catch The Joy Formidable but alas they, like The Enemy, had pulled out last-minute. Our final stop was the Black Cap for Smash & Grab vs Cherry Cola, the queue for which stretched far down the street.
Our first Camden Crawl left us exhausted, exhilarated and totally geared up for the coming festival season. We saw some artists conquer, some taking their first steps and some springing into stardom: if you weren’t there this year, make sure you are for 2010.