Words and Pictures: TG
Whilst my colleague’s viewpoint on who to watch may have been shaped by a mix of known current acts and nostalgia, I on the other hand love Camden Rocks for the opportunity to discover new music. Significant time and effort was taken to identify the bands to see this year and this was my final selection:
Wolf Cellar – Fiddler’s Elbow
First gig of the day and at a venue that is a fair trot from the Old Camden High Street so a bit of a mission to get there. Despite that, Rachel Atkins (vocalist or ‘Singing shit’ as it says on their FB page) gave it her all and you would not have known that the festival had just kicked off. By the end of the set, the venue had filled up a bit and even with all of us moving a fair bit, it always makes me a little sad when you have a quality band playing to maybe not the number of people they should be.
Having said that, at least for this gig there was room to move and it was great to see Rachel and the guys strutting their stuff because even with the small amount of people there, they still gave it their all and thankfully moved and jumped around the stage (unlike some other bands I can think of which is soo boring to watch). This currently unsigned 5 piece from London are a cool Rock/alternative band and Rachel’s vocals are superb ranging from her strong vocals to her screaming like a banshee, it hits all the right spots for me as a 90’s/Noughties child.
They played their new single ‘Body and Heart’ which came out on 25th May (you can catch the video on YouTube) which seemed to be enjoyed by the crowd and is hopefully part of an upcoming album they appear to be working on. They also played a number of other tracks including ‘Noughts and Crosses’ from 2016 which is one of my favourite tracks anyway with its strong riffs from Dan Yates and Matt Jennings on guitar and the drums from Adam Creamer so as this is the first time I have seen them live, it kept me happy.
As is always the way with Camden Rocks – because there are so many venues for this festival, what inevitably happens is that two bands you want to see, are on one after the other but at different ends of the festival so I had to reluctantly leave a little early but I will be keeping an eye out in the hope of catching them at a future venue soon.
Witching Season – Belushis
Apparently a 3 piece from London (there were definitely 4 people on stage but hey more the merrier) who play alternative rock and describe their sound as ‘Music from beyond the apocalypse’, I can hear Kyuss/QOTSA here especially the 2013 album …Like Clockwork. I am a big fan of these dark heavy sounds and singer Tom Reynolds’ vocals feel like they are slowly enveloping me in a dark, warm, molasses like cocoon of no hope and when his voice changes to that rough, gruff sound – yep this is definitely my thing. I will have to say it again but this all reminds me of Josh Homme but I just want more – this is a very good thing.
Belushis is a great venue but for a 12:30 gig at a place that is not right next door to The Underworld or tube station, they had a good crowd who were very into it. I had decided to go see them after looking at their bio and seeing their influences which I can hear but their songs are original and I know I was not the only one there who was into their sound.
With Tom also providing the powerful guitar sounds and with brothers Wayne Summers on drums and Gary Summers on Bass, the whole crowd got into this so quickly and I was made happy when their track ‘The Healer’ from their album Celosia was played. That distinctive riff just appeals to me so much – it is so deep but heavy and it hits me hard – like in the chest – and pulls me down into this world of dystopia and with the hard hitting drums, this has made me intend to get their debut album and I am now eagerly awaiting the release of the second one. I need more and hopefully there will be some more live dates soon because I will be there.
Vex Red – KOKO
So I arrived at KOKO for the venue’s first gig of the day and was pretty empty which of course made sense but it gave me a little time to get myself together to see Vex Red.
Vex Red are a 5 piece band that hail from London and this will be the first time I have seen them play. To be honest, I don’t think I had a preconception of what they would be like but I have been watching the video for ‘Burn This Place’ from their first album on repeat which is a very stylized video for a very atmospheric song and after seeing the whole show, they managed to transmit this over to their live performance. Maybe it’s the lighting in KOKO but it really suited them and somehow, I think a gig by them in one of the other Camden venues would not have worked so well. I feel like this a stadium band in the making.
They weren’t bouncing and jumping around the stage or falling to their knees on the floor playing their instruments (possibly difficult for a drummer but I would like to see that one day) but their music doesn’t really need all that and probably would ruin the performances of the tracks. The songs they have written and recorded are not normally the sort of songs I listen to. I am not keen on heavily produced tracks and always tend to like them feeling raw which usually means debut albums but for Vex Red, this just works. It simply does and it translates perfectly over to the stage.
The band played and just let their voices and instruments do the talking and to be honest, the light show helped. When my favourite song, the title track from ‘Burn This Place’ came on, I felt like everyone in the crowd almost stopped and let this track wash over them. Yep it felt that intense.
At this point, I turned around to see the crowd and Vex Red had managed to fill it pretty much up. This is not a gig like maybe one of the other bands I saw today with moshing and pushing and jumping but then maybe they were more focused on enjoying the music rather than need to leap about and get rid of angry energy – who knows but I did come out of the gig feeling totally chilled and that this show was definitely a bargain for anyone who came and would be worth the Camden Rocks tickets on their own.
They will next be playing Robert Smith’s Meltdown at Southbank Centre on June 19th and there may have been a mention of a string quartet (Santiago Quartet) accompanying them so I feel a trip down to the riverside in London is coming up.
Toffees – Dingwalls Canalside
Dingwalls Canalside is so cute, its lovely and there is a great view too on a hot summer’s day but wow, as much as I like it, I would have preferred to see the Toffees in a bigger venue. It was small but it was far too crammed and for a band whose music just makes you start jumping about and dancing (seriously I can not emphasise how much you need to move when they start playing), it made for an interesting challenge. Dingwalls (much loved venue) Canalside is cool especially for a photographer but with such a fun band, when Rachael Nelson managed to throw a shape with her lead guitar by falling on her knees and playing in an absolutely packed but teenie place, I was seriously impressed. i knew that this was one band I was going to follow from now until the end of time and as someone who was there to also take photographs – this is a difficult task when trying to take a perfect shot of Rachel while also trying to dance to their sublime tracks and also not knock any of the dancing bodies next to me.
Apart from their music, this is a very entertaining band to watch. Piers Nolan, with those smooth vocals, is a very funny guy and not only did he keep us entertained with his singing and playing, his banter could be a show in itself. The drummer, however, Tyro Alli, is adorable and killer on the drums with those groovy beats and seeing that happy smile on his face and on his bandmates just let you know that they were having a blast. So was I!!
The tracks they played are very catchy with some seriously bouncy guitar sounds from Rachel and then along comes Piers singing ‘Not Gonna Stop Tonight’ check it out on their YouTue channel – telling us a story about the fun we are all having and our plans for tonight. Possibly student tales but we all remember those days (for those of us who may have left that behind a (cough) short while ago so again, its all about life and how good it can be. Of course this isn’t the case for all the tracks. If you look at ‘Caught In The Rhythm’, it has a much mellower feel.
I need to see them again with more room to dance but with the fun and energy this 4 piece band give out, I truly believe this is a band to watch out for.
The Rising Souls – Crescent Coffee
I have followed The Rising Souls ever since a friend of mine brought back a video he took of them playing an acoustic set in Cambridge but I have never seen them live. I am so glad I did. It always felt like they just stayed in the North of the country (well they are Scottish) though I am probably wrong but now I see them playing everywhere across the country as well as in European shows and ta-dah! They are finally in London and I can go see them!!!! I was not disappointed.
This is an act of bluesy but dare I say it, ballsy rock and they had started when I walked in (too many gigs) but oh my god, the impact of that song on me was instant – I wiggled my booty which when you are also trying to set up the lighting on your camera as well as work out where to take the first shot, it can be challenging. Damn you Rising Souls! Bringing it back to the music and with the introduction of their new bandmember Oscar de la Cruz, they played a set to the Crescent Coffee’s audience that deserved to be longer. ‘Roulette Roulette’ was the preview video on the Camden Rocks Artist Previews and is one of my favourite tracks of theirs. The crowd (seemed to be a lot of us females for some reason) were just as into this as I was and you could tell the band were enjoying the feedback they were getting from the crowd and it just had such a feelgood feeling about it – I left that gig a happy little rock chick.
One last thing – they are still unsigned. What the hell? I don’t understand how with such talent and so many good songs to their names, they are still unsigned – labels sort this out! Me? I shall be waiting patiently for their next gig down South though they are at Ramblin’ Man and Stone Free Festival within the next few months so check them out if you are there.
Hactivist – The Underworld.
There is something about the Underworld that I love – feeling like I am in the depths of hell with the red lighting and the heat and the sweaty bodies yet I feel like I have come home, got into my jimjams to then put on a mellow album to listen to…
By relaxing I obviously mean jumping about like a maniac with everyone else and trying not to end up on the floor squished but isn’t that how everyone chills out? I have never seen this band before and I do not really know why as this ticks so many boxes for me. I love rapcore and metal but I also love Grime which is a weird one maybe but I think that style of rapping mixes so much better with metal than American sytle rapping. This band tackles so many different topics and stories that aren’t fluffy, happy hair metal type of lyrics but the truth as they see it delivered in powerful , metal riffs, the rapping from J Hurley and then Jot Maxi’s vocals, who is part of the band since last year.
I managed to stick it out with the crowd in the moshing pit for as long as I could but after coming to the conclusion that I had the next band coming up soon, I decided to head back to the safety at the back and enjoy the rest of their set. With their first album ‘Outside the Box’ having been out since 2016 and now a supposed second album being worked on with the inclusion of Jot Maxi, we have more to look forward to with this band.
Sikth – Underworld
I knew that I had to cover one of the headline shows at Camden Rocks as part of reviewing the festival so for me, of course, the only choice was SikTh (apparently it is shouty music to some friends of mine) but I love the energy and aggression of the music and how the vocals of Mikee Goodman and Joe Rosser harmonise (yes I mean harmonise) BUT how do you categorise them and should we? Judging by the packed out crowd and the mix of, dare I say it, young and old, I don’t think you can!! I have seen it printed in places that it is progressive metal which I can agree with but all I know is that as soon as they came on, the crowd were heaving. I tried to slip past people with my camera (lessons learnt there) but the sheer number of people packed into Underworld and all moshing the hell out of the songs, I nearly came a cropper a few times (secretly that is all part of the fun).
Once I had retreated to the safety of the back and a comfy seat (soz), then I felt I could appreciate their show even more so. They are such a team and when you think of their splitting up some years back and only reforming in 2014 to play Download, I feel that they did the right thing. They were such a tight band at Camden Rocks and all played off each other brilliantly. Mikee kept walking off the stage which felt like he was giving Joe room to be perform though maybe he was just getting a drink but hey it still looked good.
After the line up change with Justin Hill leaving and Joe coming in and if you look at the last album they released ‘The Future in Whose Eyes?’ a year ago this month, the aggressive guitars and vocals which then twist and turn wondering what will come next. They have been touring constantly and only just come back from performing in Australia. They will be on a headline tour of the UK now until September and off for a show in South Africa as well!
Camden Rocks – the most tiring but extremely satisfying day – roll on next year and 2 days worth!!!! I will need someone to carry me home at the end – any volunteers?