Rampaging Camden streets where the Camden dirt becomes celebrity gold, the allure of rags to riches gleams like traces of stardust in a translucent baggie.
Winefaced junkie icons suck their cheeks from Banksyesque sidings, and crushed plastic mingles with flyers to choke the sewers that soon will run blue with teenage sick.
Through all this, black boot weights swing on the ends of frayed denim as hordes of rockers converge to make a music festival in the black heart of North London. Bursting at the seams with music, loud singing, thousands of sun reddened faces radiate a celebratory message. The message: ‘I’m in London’s music epicentre and I’ve been touched by the camaraderie of rock’.
Truth be told I was drunk. And let’s admit it, so was everyone else. But that fluid embrace is part of the Camden Rocks festival itself and for each band there is a different tributary toward whatever end they see coming.
Wandering around the eighteen or so venues, here’s what caught Trebuchet’s connubial eye.
For the kids The Dirty Youth are where it’s at. A mid-level melodic-metal band just crackling with cartoonish good looks and hummable hooks. Each confident tour and hip video shows a band dedicated to extending their album sales. I’m a bit sniffy about such solidly commercial rock but then, admittedly, I’m old. Loved by coloured hair kids The Dirty Youth are happy to leave older denim-clad classicists and poncey art-metal beard strokers (yours truly) a bit bewildered, but, cards on the table, I could easily listen to ‘fight’ again (and again).
Strength to strength they’re a better band than they were two months ago, they seem to live, breathe and passionately grow with each tour. We won’t see them become The Swans, Meshuggah or Sikth but on the strength of their Camden Rocks performance they’ll have won more fans who just want to have fun.
Beasts are quickly inking a reputation as a tight live unit. Channeling rage and release is hardly a new formula but the Beasts sound is unusual in it’s weirdly off kilter grunge darkness. Live they’re visceral, heartfelt, and a bit druggy, which has a much missed old school charm. Why aren’t more bands obviously on drugs any more? Everyone is so clean and boring. Not Beasts, they’re animals, natch.
LTNT – An underground act with a grungey loud party vibe. Wild tight flannel anthems of rebellion, body hair and abandon. Having only seen them in perform in a studio, could they cut it live? Apparently so. Grungesque three pieces are in vogue at the moment but LTNT’s variation give them an edge. Each song sounds different; anthemic but with proggy tinges, men stay for the heavy Kyuss grooves. The Camden Rocks set was balls-on-the-floor heavy that got in and out fast. I would have liked a few more spaced jams. As it was, LTNT were earth shaking rather than solar system leaving.
There is a lot to like here but they’re still in the pack (front of) rather than breaking new ground. It’s feels like early early days for LTNT so namedroppers are encouraged to get in early, as the band will expand in the next six months to new vistas and (with luck) heights.
Outside the Coma – Best band of the festival. Five stars, two hands, a lost voice and a beating heart. This band is underground epic, from their Sikth pedigree, OTC (not Officer Training Corps) are out and away the most inspirational band of the weekend. Digital-tech metal with incredible dynamics and heart pounding grooves. Halle-fucking-lujah.
Effortlessly brutal, with tasteful guitar asides that never overwork the sonic balance. The mixture of female and male voices make this band effortlessly real, incredible live and perhaps even important. How stark is it to be in the presence of something new and forward thinking in UK music? Very. Watching Outside the Coma is to become part of a progression of music that stomps on the industry, album sales, cover photos, and everything that separates people that love music from that creative brilliance that is too often buried.
The Empire never ended and few bands stand up for open eyes. This is a band to love, make your own, patch up, and revere. Supporting Dir En Grey on the latest tour worries me that they’re going to corridor themselves into the heartfelt embrace of niche specialists, when actually they’re just bloody amazing. [Gush mode off].
Red House Glory, from the heights of OTCX come as indie outsiders that blow everyone away – raucous shoegaze in the midst of debauchery. Sweet relief. A po-faced discovery of sentiment but a revelation all the same. Angular and infectious, rebellious and devoutly musical. A band to watch and see again on their own, undiluted by random crowds and infinite beers and old friends returning from Porlock.
Skindred – Camden Rocks’ official 2015 big band getting down with the righteous on the small Underworld stage. Overshadowed slightly by fresh news of the Dub War reunion, Skindred poured their reggae punk into the room until sweat dripped from the ceiling. Benji and crew have a gleeful and uncontrived weirdness that captivates. What is it? Integrity? Authenticity? The novelty of a mixed race band from predominantly white Wales?
It gets a bit murky thinking what it is about the band that makes them relatable heroes. Aren’t we all a bit of this and that? Outside the analysis the love that people feel for the band is chummy and evangelical.
Conclusion – impossible to see everything. Red House Glory and Outside the Coma are incredible discoveries that buoy the soul. You can judge a festival by how much lose yourself in the music and Camden got me there. In the same vein, the festival attracts ALL of the London based bookers and promoters, so for new bands this is an important opportunity to wow the London crowd of experts, musicians and bloggers. A place where the memorable prevail. Everyone tries hard to better the last band.
For the punter, music played within this primeval competition sounds a little more aggressive, emphatic, and purposeful.
35 minutes, add beer and repeat. Perfection.
London based writer and photographer whose work has graced the grimy pages of most UK music publications. Marshmallowed with age he dreams of touring the Cairngorms and writing romantic prose about semantic pathways. As it is, until that cliché he is this one.