Camden Rocks, London
June 3 2017
Reporting team: All words/images, unless otherwise stated, by Richard O'Hagan, Steve Willcox, Linn Branson
Continuing our coverage of the day's sets taking place across the 25 venues.
As the warm afternoon moves into early evening, the venues gradually start to get hotter, sweatier, and filled with punters ready to start on their evening's music intake.
Carl Barat & The Jackals made a somewhat early appearance at Koko, for their 45-minute set of sweaty rock blasts. Leather jacketed Barat wore the rock star persona well, despite that he must have been sweltering to run through a set which included the Libertines' 'Death On The Stairs' and 'I Get Along' as well as Dirty Pretty Things' 'Bang Bang You're Dead'.
Carl Barat & The Jackals
Credit: Jack Webb
The buzz about Brighton band The RPMs who play at Dingwalls Canalside has gradually been building, and having just released their new EP 'Agents Of Change' looks set to increase. Their set of instantly catchy tunes with a great hooks and basslines, goes down well with those in the room as well as those taking in the sun outside.
Never having heard of Damn Dice, who played at The Monarch in the early evening, it was probably a given what genre they might fit into when four of the five are decked in black leather jackets, one sports a Motorhead tee, and all have copious amounts of hair down to their waists (almost). Yes, folks, it's heavy metal here, and while to give them credit they do put everything into their set and obviously have their fans, it was all a bit too....well, heavy. One of their guitarists had a trick of taking a slug of drink and then spurting it out in bursts like a fountain, which he proceeded to do throughout.
Back at Dingwalls Canalside, Yonaka - another Brighton band - show why they've been snapped up by Hometown Records. The four-piece, whose music spans pop/garage rock, have a watchable frontwoman who throws shapes like Madonna on a good day with a lovely clear voice that shoots through the rest of the band's instruments on songs such as 'Ignorance', 'Run' and new single 'Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya'. Actually from where this reviewer was standing, yes, yes, I would.
The mighty Empire left almost everyone else who followed them at The Crowndale trailing in their wake, largely due to charismatic frontman Joe Green. There are some acts who like to break down stereotypes gently. Green goes at them with a sledgehammer. Rock bands aren’t supposed to have singers this camp, this much fun, this soulful. He’s got the crowd eating from the palm of his hands within seconds. He teases them. He teases his bandmates. He struts along the bar and then rides back to the stage of an audience member’s shoulders. He orders possibly the least rock and roll drink you can imagine, a gin and tonic. He’s everything that a rock frontman shouldn’t be and he’s utterly fucking brilliant at it.
Down at the Fiddlers Elbow, the London-based Anglo-Swede femme rockers The Franklys are filling up the venue with their garage rock touched of with shades of Americana blues thrown in around Jennifer Ahlkvist's commanding vocals.
Reverend & The Makers
Credit: David Clucas
Reverend & The Makers seem to largely keep the crowd brought in by Carl Barat when they take to Koko's stage after them, and fill any spare spaces with more besides of their own stalwart fans. Jon McClure is a well-experienced frontman snd when he promises to knock your socks off with his set, you can bet he will - and does. Through the likes of 'Bassline', the standard Makers number 'Heavyweight Champion...' and 'Silence Is Talking', to 'Too Tough To Die', from the Sheffielders' forthcoming album, all pull the crowd into a riotous bouncing mosh.
You know before you even get in the room that The Blinders at Camden Assembly are going to have no trouble in drawing in punters. Playing impressive shows around the country, today is not to dissappoint either. Frontman Tom Haywood comes out like Michael Stipe on a hallucinogenic trip, a painted black eyemask adorning his face and 'Labour' written across his bare upper torso, they kick off with the iconic 'Gotta Get Through' with Charlie McGough's bass kicking the hell out the speakers. You can feel the floor physically move with the crowd moshing in the middle as they go through 'Romana Flowers', 'ICB Blues' and 'Brutus'. One of the 'must see' bands of 2017.
If there was one venue which a band really didn’t want to draw at this festival, it was possibly the Pack and Carriage, stuck out at the arse end of the High Street and so far from the main attractions that no band was drawing any size of crowd. This was a particular shame in the case of Our Propaganda, who seemed to be having more fun in their 7.30pm slot than any other band had all day. Frontman Jack Denton not only takes the trouble to engage with what audience there is, but possesses a fine rock/blues voice that really carries the bands churning, almost frenetic music. It is a shame when a broken snare drum brings proceedings to a premature end. On all fronts, this was a band which deserved better.
Max Raptor might have suffered from coming on next at The Crowndale after Empire, or perhaps was just suffering from this being their second show of the day, as some of the spark and energy that we usually associate with Wil Ray & Co seemed to be missing. Yes, it was a very polished performance, but you’d expect that from a band who are now a decade old. We were hoping for a little bit more, to be honest.
Little Indie favourites White Room also suffered from the Winnicott's poor sound. Their 8pm slot ought to have been a chance to showcase their eclectic take on indie psych-pop as well as a lot of new songs, but instead Jake Smallwood’s vocals were totally lost whilst Tristram Sava’s keys at times seemed to overpower everything, though they bravely battled through songs such as 'Stole The IV' and ‘Take Me Away’ with their trippy guitar riffs, and showed their calibre. The appalling sound quality didn't seem to bother one rather sprightly 70-year-old gentleman out front who, fully in the zone, proceeded to air guitar his way through the whole thing.
Koko is once again rammed for The Coral to take to the stage, with an expectant audience ready for James Skelly and his crew. From opener 'Chasing The Tail', the band have never sounded so good. 'Jaqueline', 'Pass It On', and firm favourite 'In the Morning' all fuel an uplifting set, before closing with 'Dreaming Of You', to end one of the best shows of the day.
The Damned at Electric Ballroom for some always going to be a hot pick. Perhaps mainly for those who had been there in their 70s punk heyday, but 40 years on with a keyboard player it is well, about as punk as knitting your own socks. The typical punk crowds seem to love their heroes' somewhat theatrical performance. They can still deliver a great sound, certainly, but in 2017 they are maybe more relevant to an older generation.
London four-piece Rumble Fish were the penultimate act at the legendary Camden venue The Good Mixer. Singer Izaak probably needs to work on his delivery a little, but a tight rhythm section and some frenetic tunes won over both fans and regulars alike, culminating in Izaak joining in a frantic mosh as the closing number spiralled to an end.
As the heavens opened onto Camden High Street bringing a pelting shower of humid rain, Guildford's indie punk teens BlackWaters were determined to 'let the good times roll' as bassist Ollie Franklin hit a string break on the start of the second number of their Belushi's set. Vocalist Max Tanner held on with whistling and keeping the flow going, while tech busily set about restringing. In our interview preview, they had mentioned that guitarist Dave Carpenter 'might get naked' on the night. As it was, young Dave held onto his dignity but not much else of his clothing, as to much audience amusement, he de-clothed down to just his Calvin Klein boxers and socks before they'd hardly got started. The four then ravaged their way through their 'So Far Out' debut single Brexit number 'Down', to end a massive heap on top of the drums.
And as a last farewell to Camden Rocks 2017, who was it who rocked the Little Indie's personal Camden day?
Linn: Oh, Avalanche Party, for sure. I still can't get over how good they were, and what a mesmerising frontman Jordan is. Yungblud, who I absolutely adore - he gives you feel-good vibes watching him - and although I preferred their Great Escape set, Weirds were still highly watchable - and a little bit scary!
Richard: Empire were by far the best act of the day. Not only is their music just different, but the level of showmanship was far and away above anything else I saw. Second favourite is a very close call. Secret Cameras put on an extremely professional show, on the other hand, Our Propaganda were four guys just starting out who were totally lost in the sheer fun of making music and who really wanted to make sure that their audience shared in that fun with them.
Steve: M O S E S acted like they deserved to be there. Just the audience love alone was enough for me to know they ought to be in my top two. The Blinders with that energy they create, physically, mentally and somewhat spiritually, brings the essence of punk back to Camden that has been sorely lacking these past years. I also caught a band called Rival Karma, whose laid-back rock edge and banter with the crowd really brought things alive. They're currently in the studio with Razorlight producer Sam Miller, so will be interesting to hear more of them.
Camden Rocks :: Live Review - Part 1