Camden Crawl, Camden, London – May 1st & 2nd
This year’s Camden Crawl was a tale of two weather fronts: Saturday was drenched & steaming while Sunday was fractious, chilly and wind-battered. To those crawlers walking round all weekend in shorts and T-shirt – admit, you were freezing, right? However, the plus side of the Crawl is that it’s mainly indoors. So yes, the roof terraces were empty, but the music was still loud and ever-present and the floors were still stuck solid with beer and euphoria by the end of each day. Over 40 venues and a slew of acts – where to start?
We kicked off Saturday at Belushi’s, a small space that housed Graffiti 6. Singer Jamie Scott and his cohorts plied the crowd with their brand of blue-eyed soul and funk that cherry-picks from bygone eras. Pick of the bunch was opener Stone In My Heart, but the group’s summery vibe and blissed-out vocal harmonies meant the whole set delivered and revived the damp crowd. After half an hour they were done, so we were thrust back out into the rain and over the road for veteran punk-rocker Billy Childish who did the business with his mash-up of styles and his eye-catching military attire – the queue of battered brollies that snaked around the Blues Kitchen throughout his set highlighted his enduring popularity.
Next we spun a coin that landed on the Jazz Cafe and Best Coast, a garage-rock trio from LA who were heavy on the black eyeliner and boasted a drummer in fishnets. Short, sharp shocks of fuzzy guitars and reverb-heavy vocals were their bag – we stuck it out for 20 minutes, then abandoned to catch the end of New Young Pony Club’s set at the Electric Ballroom which was sizzling with energy, dangerous is such a wet climate. Jubilant after their performance, we legged it to KoKo to catch Teenage Fanclub – glorious venue, huge crowd and seasoned performers they may be, but they had nothing on the raw and edgy gig being hosted by Ms Dynamite at Dingwalls, where old-school garage was the order of the day as she demanded the crowd to jump, show and check, check. Niomi Daily, we’ve missed you.
Sunday dawned and amazingly, it was still raining – but now with added chill and wind-factor. We layered up and headed out, arriving in time to catch some hip-hop karaoke at the Buck’s Head which was rammed with wannabe Warren Gs; and to witness the tour de force that is Rolo Tomassi at the Redbull Bedroom Jam Arena – dark and shouty, it shredded the hangover effortlessly. Then it was time for Gaggle at the Electric Ballroom, a choir of 20-odd women dressed in ribbons and fruit who filled the cavernous room with their meaty, chaotic chanting set over dark, bassy beats. “I like cigarettes” chanted one; “But I like nicotine patches more” chanted five in response. Bold, creative, genius, it finished early so we caught the end of Eliza Doolittle doing her pop thing at the Cuban Bar – big voice, tiny frame.
The rain had stopped – finally – by the time we got to the Black Cap for the hot ticket of Chew Lips, who were terrifically excited to be there and had glittered-up faces to prove it. Their set of 80s-infused pop had the occasional killer hook and if the crowd singing along to every word was anything to go by, they could be success-bound pretty soon. From a packed Black Cap, fresh air was welcome as we strode up the road and round the corner to the Earl Of Camden for the bare-footed Emily Barker, a folk storm from Western Australia whose set was an absolute joy of fiddles, arch storytelling and crisp harmonies – none more so than when she invited Dom Coyote on stage for a rollicking duet that got the whole pub bouncing. Energised, we headed to the Dublin Castle for yet another pint of Gaymers and Babybird, them of You’re Gorgeous fame who refused to play their monster hit – how terribly precious. Despite that though, they delivered a tight, rock-pop set and singer Stephen Jones still has a seasoned warmth to his voice, even if he came across as a complete eejit. Still, you can’t have everything can you?
Camden Crawl 2010 – a total triumph, despite the weather. I’m writing this on Monday and the sun’s out. Typical, eh?