Monday, 14 May 2012

Camden Crawl 2012

Camden Crawl
Saturday 5th May

Camden Crawl has always been a favourite of the musical calendar as it regularly mixes both signed and unsigned bands together on the same billing as well as giving them equal time to grab new fans and show what they’re made of to a willing audience and passing trade. Whether it’s the latest flavour of the month or last weeks heroes trying to make a come back to push their new album it’s not to be missed.

Looking through the line up, I did at first feel that there were too many bands I’d never heard of and the task of trying to find the next big thing within a tapestry of mediocrity did seem a challenge. The day started slowly with Loverproof who seemed to meander along papering over the cracks of well-worn indie clich├ęs. They were followed by Shuga who although had a nice patchwork of ideas were let down repeatedly by the execution and lack of musicianship. Not that musical dexterity and individual chops are the be all and end all for music but if you are going to write and compose in that style it may be a good idea to get someone on board that can play the pieces correctly time after time.

Continuing my merry way up through Camden I passed many venues and after witnessing a few more uninspiring sets I wandered into the Camden Lock just as Electricity in our Homes were kicking off. The line up is classic in formation and includes the typical bass, drums, guitar and vocals in a Talking Heads style. The uber clean guitar played dry as a bone and with plenty of spank helped with the presentation of the songs. However, it was the drummer, especially, that was keeping the crowd bopping with machine gun like fills and off beat dance rhythms, nice stuff.

The first band that upped the game and were on form from the first song were Hatcham Social (also at the Camden Lock) their set, compiled of a nice mix of new and old songs including the fan favourite “Crocodile” from their 2009 album ‘You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil’ as well as the recent single ‘Like an Animal’. It seemed that we’d finally begun to pick up momentum, what would be next?

On the whole Camden Crawl throughout the years has been a chance to see big bands in small settings as well as your mates band who have managed to get a spot in one of the smaller venues, there are really so many bands that you may not have heard of that it’s very much hit and miss for a lot of the newer acts. The Hawley Arms has always been a great standby and haven for rock and roll so when in doubt heading there is always a good decision. The Vex were listed as playing next and from the rumblings on the circuit of late it seemed that checking them out would be a wise decision indeed. From the first notes of the set I can honestly say I was knocked out, no atmospheric build up or “ladies and gentlemen blah, blah” intro, not even a casual Ramones style “1, 2, 3, 4!” it seemed that almost telepathically the band entered the stage plugged in and BAM! Turned to 10 in the blink of an eye and didn’t let up until the last song…

With the swagger of the Clash and the Queens of the Stone Age (but with underlying SKA/funk chops on hand ready to be thrown in mid flow) The Vex are definitely one to watch, and for other bands on the circuit, one to fear! There were wide eyed musicians in the audience as well as those at the side of the stage tuning up ready to go on next that looked like the game had been lifted and a new plan needed to be formed if they were going to continue with their original ideas and indie form. The music itself was immediate and strong from the start, songs such as ‘Invictus’ and ‘The Revolutionaries’ showed both the power in the band with the thundering drumming from Joshua Boulton as well as well crafted chorus’s and hooks (especially in the latter with Josh Schwegler (guitar/vocals) and Jack O’Shea (guitar/vocals) sharing the microphone a’la Peter/Carl).

Day one finished off with The Futureheads at KOKO (see interview below). Performing tracks from their recently released ‘Rant’ album the acapella arrangements of both new and older songs from their repertoire went down well the majority of the time although there were rumbles of misunderstanding from casual fans that had crammed into the venue expecting a standard indie show. The set itself was an exercise in peaks and troughs and on more than one occasion the crowd started to get restless as pure acapella songs were introduced. As well as the harmonies and vocals some songs were also embellished with classic instruments such as banjo, acoustic guitar, cello and mandolin which added an atmosphere of a beer soaked Irish pub and managed to transform the crowd almost immediately. Songs such as ‘The Keeper’, ‘The Old Dun Cow’ and the now classic ‘Hounds of Love’ got the biggest cheers of the night although the excellent version of ‘Acapella’ by Kelis with the amazing almost beat box synth pattern from Ross Millard and Jaff left many with their mouths wide open. On the whole today’s bands have been a mixed bag with highs and low’s throughout, although considering the nature of the event it only further proves that the life blood of new music is still alive and well if sometimes buried beneath the layers of predictability gap year bands.

All attached images are strictly © Beki Cowey / Bekitakespictures (2012) and are licensed to Chris Lancaster for one-time online use in conjunction with futureheads interview. Further use is not permitted without prior consent, and unauthorised use in any media is prohibited.

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