Throwing the migratory concept of the multi-venue multi-gig idea out of the window, due to a weird combination of the organisers timetable programming and our own summer festival schedule which gives opportunities to see certain artists at numerous events and therefore not necessarily this weekend in London, our whole second day of the Camden Crawl is spent in the bunting dressed Wheelbarrow pub. Camden Crawl ? More like Camden Stationary.
As the music and alcohol flows a constant stream of bladder-stressed punters are found pushing their way towards the front, for the location of the toilets is like a space planners entry into the Carbuncle Cup, being located behind the stage. It’s as if the audience are doing a constant conga through the crowd.
The first half of the day is presented by This Is Fake DIY and as you’d expect, what you get is the more alternative, d-i-y shouty end of the indie spectrum, conga toilet dancing probably wasn’t on their agenda.
3 piece Tall Ships start with big sonics. There’s looped rifferama, huge multi-layered soundscapes and floor banging that could start an earthquake. Neil Diamond once sang ‘What A Beautiful Noise’. Maybe he had Tall Ships in mind.
Next is one of This Is Fake DIY’s own family; the preposterously named The Victorian English Gentlemans Club. Their set list is scrawled roughly on a huge sheet behind the stage. There’s a horny aggression about them, with moments when individual members look like they’re about to lose it completely with an experimental self-induced orgasm. Thankfully they keep it under control albeit with telephones used as microphones, sawing violins, oppressive drums and guttural noise.
The audience thins out a little before Evans the Death start their female fronted indie jangles. The band don’t look as if they’re enjoying themselves, but then not every form of music has to invoke a cheese-laden smile. Lo-Fi torch song You’re Joking is fairly endearing, the band stripping away the fuzz for something a little more naked with Katherine's female Morrissey mournfulness taking center stage.
Remember when indie bands actually sold records? Johnny Foreigner do. “You must be what’s left of the record industry, pleased to meet you,” Alexei, their indie to the core (he’s even wearing a Wedding Present T-shirt) vocalist starts. It’s followed by “This song is off our new album, didn’t anyone actually buy our new album?” “This song is from when we used to be famous,” is another one. Starting your set with off-microphone singing in a room full of people halfway through a day of all-day drinking probably isn’t the best way to get heard; the chatter wins this one. However Johnny Foreigner punch back with a raucous and glorious racket once amplified. Soon the whole audience looks like one amorphous nodding dog as sweat drips from Alexei’s brow. They might not be selling many records, but their ferociously good live show still trades excitement.
After a short break the second half of the day commences with Kyla La Grange. Kyla may be a slight figure on stage but her raspy unforced vocal has some balls behind it and she needs that to deal with the now ever increasing drunks. A dirty look from La Grange at some p*ssed lads who are standing right at the front with their backs to her talking says a lot about what La Grange is thinking, but she’s much politer than much of her ‘audience’ to say anything more. It’s a shame because her widescreen country / folk /rock sound typified by the frowning Vampire Smile is at times spine-tingling with its crescendos and hushed intimacies.
Any criticisms about music festivals being badly organised and running late are put to bed by Beans On Toast who comes on five minutes early, hashes up the first song and finally gets going bang on time. There are old songs (MDM Amazing), new songs (Dry War), a new band that sound like the Pogues gone wrong in a good way and a truncated cover version of the Beastie Boys (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) all delivered with Beans gravel voiced wit and humour. For Dry War he explains that he started writing a song about the drought but it started raining every day since “so I put some stuff about war in it to make it relevant.”
There’s an influx of (mainly female) younger audience members in the front rows for Bastille. Vocalist Dan Smith sports a haircut last seen on Tom Bailey of the Thomson Twins, the euphoria dial gets turned up several notches and suddenly the drunks seem to disappear as the room takes on a new level of vibrancy. It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes. It’s easy to see why after a few years of plugging away solo with little return Smith and his band are now collecting the dividends. Songs such as Flaws, Laura Palmer and Overjoyed are compelling and have developed a life of their own – a rapturous and dramatic three quarters of an hour of pop music.
Burger King hats, leopard print, hotpants, stupid shades, bouncing (lots of), calls for ‘make some noise’, mates of Kanye (Mr Hudson), a bird watchers daughter (Rosie Oddie) and a collection of songs that sound like every best guilty pleasures compilation you’ve never bought finish the evening off, all courtesy of BIGkids, whose second set of the day they declare to be much better than the first. What they do is dumb-fun, fans of classic rock and indie will not be amused, but frankly this was a much better party than beard / cock stroking over a Beach House B-Side.
Hear a collection of songs from some of the bands in this review below.
Bastille - Flaws
Tall Ships - T=0
BIGkids - Superhero