Camden Crawl – Live Review

Camden Crawl, London, April 30th-May 1st

An uber-windy Camden Town ignited the 2011 festival season this weekend, with acts old and new being thrown into the Crawl tombola and spat out around 50 venues across Camden and Kentish Town. Hot tips, stalwarts, comedy and crowds all mingled to create a buzzing 48 hours in North London where we witnessed rappers, rockers, fiddles and joie de vive as the Gaymers-addled masses soaked up a weekend of new music while still bathing in a lake of post-royal-wedding euphoria…

We started Saturday in the late afternoon sunshine, taking in Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead at The Roundhouse Terrace’s Summer Sundae stage. As the wind rattled the stage, the five-piece pulled out a set of quirky pop that had the audience rapt, replete with harmonies Mumford & Sons would have been proud of. It was a recurring theme of the weekend – this year, everyone wanted to be Mumford & Sons, apart from the hotly tipped LA rap collective Odd Future who just wanted to incite a riot.

Next was a bus to The Forum – too far from the main circuit by the way, festival organisers – to see Frankie & the Heartstrings, an indie quintet who’ve clearly read their ‘How To Be Boys With Guitars’ pop stars’ manual. They twanged, lead singer Frankie Francis checked his hair every other minute and it was hard to dislike them, but equally difficult to love them. Saturday also took in French rock’n’roll electro with John And Jehn (above) at The Bull & Gate (“Are you still happy about your fucking wedding?” quipped John in his gallic slur); Keith Lemon lookalike Benjamin Folke Thomas who luckily sounded more like Dylan; and finished up with Those Dancing Days, an all-female fivesome with big hair and huge hooks that had Annie’s Bar yelping for more.

The sun and wind were still fighting as Sunday slapped Saturday into last week and we arrived rested to take in some afternoon delights. Lux Lisbon shone in a cramped Camden Eye on the busking stage, the three-piece proving rawk lives. Meanwhile, on the Roundhouse Terrace Young Dreams conjured up some summer symphonies, followed by a windswept Beth Jeans Houghton whose voice pirouetted with aplomb.

The evening pounced and Giggs had the crowd jumping at the Electric Ballroom even though it was only 6.45, the Peckham MC telling everyone to roll a fat one for his final song. Peggy Sue failed to get going, but over at the Jazz Cafe Marques Toliver fiddled and auto-harped his way into the crowd’s hearts with his classical/soul mash-up proving easy on the ear. When he exited stage left, we ran up the road to hear CocknBullKid (above) wow a packed Dublin Castle with her modern pop and stellar coral stillettos; before catching an empty C2 bus back to The Forum to see The Lemonheads churn out a frenetic set of hits – you know more Lemonheads song than you think. All that was left then was to head back to the Electric Ballroom for Razorlight’s closing show and a few more Gaymer’s to complete the night. Camden Crawl: done. Bring on the rest of 2011.

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