- Tue, 2010-05-11 15:02
Camden Crawl is the original urban festival. Running for over a decade, each year it brings together around forty Camden Town venues, hosting comedy, arts & crafts, poetry & literature, pop quizzes, and above all, music. One small wristband allows you to binge on this cocktail of treats to your heart’s content, the only catch being that the programme of events isn’t revealed until the day.
I Like Music ran from venue to venue, trying desperately to take in all of the musical goodness on offer. Read part one of our festival diary…
Day One: Saturday May 1st 2010
4.15 Lock Tavern – Hank Dogs
Husband and wife duo Hank Dogs kick my festival off with their delicately melancholic sound. Both playing acoustic guitars, they share vocal duties, their sound occupying the more traditional end of folk, similar to the likes of Alela Diane. They’ve obviously been doing this for a long time, and are laid-back and passionate in equal measure. Engaging stuff.
4.45 Bar Uno – Pneumatic & Sloth
Hip-hop promoters Hoochinoo have taken over Bar Uno for the afternoon, and I catch poet/rapper Pneumatic and beat-maker Sloth’s set. Pneumatic opens and closes proceedings with a cappella pieces, demonstrating his impressive lyrical talents. The main body of the set consists of Pneumatic delivering concise social commentary over a mixture of pre-made and live beats, the latter of which Sloth creates on his sampler. It’s Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobious Pip without the polished sheen.
All the artists get paid the same. Everything is equal billing. They don't get to choose which venues they play. Everyone has the same catering, everyone has the same rider. It's all about big artists coming to support the new artists, doing it for the fun of it and everyone coming together because of a love for music and art. Lisa Paulon - Festival Founder
5.30 Spread Eagle – Little Glitches
Hand-picked by Andy Ross, the man who signed Blur and Idlewild and two years ago introduced Mumford & Sons to the Crawl, Little Glitches play folk roots, lent a 60s pop edge by the inclusion of a Rhodes piano. With the heavens having just opened and torrential rain pouring down, the combination of the soundtrack and the scene outside is somehow quintessentially English.
6.30 The Enterprise – Kurran and the Wolfnotes
I’ve definitely chosen the wrong time to go from one end of the Crawl to the other, but despite the rain I pass a portable sound-system that has attracted a mini road-side rave as I make the dash. Safely in the shelter of the Enterprise I enjoy the Americana-infused indie of Kurran and the Wolfnotes. Swinging from slow-burning to high-energy, occasionally stripping all of the instruments out to leave just finely-crafted vocal harmonies, and largely singing songs about the vagaries of young love, they deliver a sufficiently compelling set that an encore is demanded. They claim it’s their first, but it seems hard to believe.
"I get good nerves, a little bit of anxiety mixed with a hell of a lot of excitement. I think you need that, being complacent would be boring! I always end up pacing around, talking to people, but it's a good energy to have! Performing new songs feels a lot better for me now. It's nice to get infront of a new crowd. In my own right, the show tonight is the biggest so far!" Professor Green, The Roundhouse
7.45 Dingwalls – Samuel & The Dragon
Heading back down the road, I pass just as the mini-rave is being moved on by a large number of un-amused policemen. Where’s their festival spirit? A little later, Samuel emerges onto the large, bare stage of Dingwalls, adorned in what looks like a lion’s mane constructed from shattered pieces of mirror. His Dragon, meanwhile, (/DJ) huddles over a laptop at the back of the stage, somewhat less conspicuously. Considering Samuel’s outfit, the very minimal light show that barely illuminates him seems an odd choice. His combination of glitchy beats and crooning is met with a somewhat bemused, but by no means negative, response.
8.50 Roadside Rave
Unwilling to concede defeat, the mini-rave is back, this time on the other side of the road. A couple of guys wearing white boiler-suits work the crowd with megaphones as a third oversees the music. I decide it would be churlish not to indulge a little, but no sooner have I joined in than a horde of bouncers appear as if from nowhere, and once more break up the party. As people scatter we’re surreptitiously told that it’s being filmed for something called Thank F#*k It’s Friday, but no more details are forthcoming.
9.00 Cuban Bar – Stricken City
Bathed in blue and red light, Striken City look a little other-wordly as they play swirling, effects-heavy indie-pop. In his black polo-neck and thick-rimmed glasses, guitarist Iain looks like he’s walked straight out of an ‘80s new wave band, while beautiful frontwoman Rebekah Raa, singing from behind her Korg keyboard in bare feet and armed with a pineapple-shaped maraca, does indeed cut a striking figure. It’s hard to tear myself away, but there's so much more to be seen!
9.25 Jazz Café – Best Coast
Fuzzy, shoegaze pop is making quite a resurgence at the moment, and Best Coast are among the blogosphere’s favourite purveyors. It’s easy to see why with this series of wistful yet energetic, lo-fi love songs. When I’m With You is a particular highlight, and when it moves from its lackadaisical intro to a Ramones bounce in the main body of the song, the already bobbing crowd break into full-on dancing.
"We get about 40 minutes. We'll do some quiet ones, but mainly the full band ones. You have to look at the venue, the audience too. Tonight will be a more band-y sound, we're going on just before Teenage Fanclub, so...! You don't get to control anything at festivals. The experience can spin off in to a completely different thing! It can be quite scary, although people at festivals seem to enjoy whatever! One reason people go to festivals is for that unique experience, for something a little more haphazzard!" Smoke Fairies, 1234 at Gaymers KOKO
10.15 Jazz Café – Slow Club
The level of excitement is high as Slow Club emerge, and immediately their charisma and enthusiasm reward the expectant audience. Halfway through their highly energetic set of romping, folk’n’roll the stage is invaded by a particularly avid fan, who dives into the crowd, surfs around the room on the sea of uplifted arms before returning to plant a massive kiss right on Charles’ mouth, declare his love, and stagger off to reclaim his drink. It’s a perfect gestural summary of the feeling in the room.
"It went pretty interesting! The crowd were pretty into punk and rock. First they were looking at me like...er...we don't know? I kind of laughed in my head like a'eet, you'll see after a couple of minutes! The third song in they started moving closer. The fourth song in, they were jumping, then singing back the words! When we rehearsed for Camden Crawl it had to be more about getting people interested. I'm not known here, it was a good challenge!" Let's Go To War, Red Bull Bedroom Jam Arena, Hawley Crescent
10.50 Dingwalls – Ms Dynamite
Rushing through the still-pouring rain I just make it back to Dingwalls in time to see the last couple of songs from Ms Dynamite. Primarily driven to investigate by a sense of curiosity, my decision is vindicated by the tail-end of what has clearly been an exhilarating show. The atmosphere in the venue is intense as the grimy jungle beats incite a riotous response, and Ms Dynamite prowls back and forth on the stage, playing with a crowd that she has eating out of her hands. What little I see leaves me craving much more!
12.00 Jazz Café – Summer Camp
In the period between Slow Club finishing and Summer Camp starting, the Jazz Café has emptied out a fair amount, though still remains buzzing. The nostalgic, synth-laden pop of Jeremy Warmsley’s new band is charming and well-crafted. The band are clearly enjoying themselves, and the onlookers respond well, but the music hints at the potential to completely absorb an audience, so I decide I must see them again at a smaller, more intimate venue.
With day one over and a pleasingly wide variety of musical delights taken in, day two can't come quickly enough. Check back soon for part two...