Live Review and Photo Credit: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
If you’ve read our Part 1 – Camden Rocks by Day article, you’ll be aware that festival organiser Chris McCormack, of 3 Colours Red fame, has helped build this festival into a ‘must not miss’ event. For those in the know, it’s possible to see your favourite act in a room holding no more than 300 people. In other venues, the bigger acts can draw a crowd of 500 to 1,000. This year is bigger than ever and as such we’ve broken the review into 2. A Camden by Day slot, covering the bands from 12pm to 5:30pm and this one, Camden by Night, covering the rest of the festival till 11pm.
As the sounds of The Amorettes fly around the Monarch and sees TG bouncing around the room to the sounds of one of their favourite acts at the moment, I take to the pavement and head to Dingwalls to watch a band I’ve heard so much about yet have never managed to see. Surprising since I think they’ve played Camden Rocks almost every (if not all) year since the festival’s inception.
Sonic Boom Six (Dingwalls)
Dingwalls is packed, heaving in fact. The walls are sweating and there’s moisture dripping off the ceiling. Obviously a lot of people are aware of the reputation of this energetic Rock, Ska, Reggae outfit who, according to their bio, made their name in Manchester before moving to London where they are now based.
Laila K and Barney Boom (for that is his name) trade vocal duties with ease, often working together seamlessly on some of the songs and adding that layer of spice and energy often missing from bands that rely solely on the vocal work of a single person front and centre. For a band who sing about being ‘Bigger Than Punk Rock’, its fair to say they are. They extol all of the core messages, attitude and vitriol found within classic punk outfits but their musicianship, songwriting prowess and energy push them well above your average three chord angry punk combo. With stage presence and musicianship that is tighter than a pair of tighty whiteys the floor of Dingwalls bounces as one for one of the longer sets of the day.
They focus on latest album The F-Bomb, which is being sold by people moving through the audience as the band play. A novel touch and one that sees cash and CDs exchanging hands quite a lot – other acts take note of this great marketing ploy.
Highlights included Joanna and Kids of the Multiculture and, having managed to rattle through the set at breakneck speed, much to the delight of the audience, the manage a couple of encores including Virus, from their 2012 self titled release.
I’m kicking myself that I haven’t seen them live before.
The Virginmarys (The Barfly)
The three piece from Macclesfield have generated quite a buzz in recent years and, given this was a day of discovery and going to see new bands, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to take in their show at The Barfly and make the most of being able to see the band in another tightly packed, intimate venue.
Currently on tour in support of new album Divides, the band, with lead singer Ally Dickaty looking like he’d just stepped out of a “Where’s Wally” cartoon proceeded to tear the roof off the Barfly with very there own special blend of alternative rock mixed with a healthy dash of punk influence.
Danny Dolan on drums and bassist Matt Rose create a thunderous groove that when combined with the stamping feet of the masses in front of them threatens to crack the walls and floor of the venue. They go, like so many of the bands at the festival, down a storm with the assembled, capacity crowd. It reminds us again why Camden Rocks works so well. The venues are of a size that guarantees the die-hard and hardcore fans are present for the gigs and allows the bands to play to a receptive audience. Contrast that to other festivals where bands can often play to hostile audiences who are simply waiting for the headliners to arrive.
Ginger Wildheart (Set 3, Proud)
There are several bands that, owing to my love of their music, I’d have gone to see in a heartbeat under normal circumstance. Ginger, playing three sets seemed like a dream come true. Finnish rockers Reckless Love, playing two, including an intimate set at The Monarch seemed on paper like an absolute shoe in. However, Camden is all about new bands and discovering acts you’ve never come across before.
As such, I went to watch Ginger for the second time……… so sue me! Hey, I skipped Set Number 2, I did my bit!
Playing the same venue as last year, Proud has a capacity that holds the bulk of Ginger’s fans that were present at the festival and wanted to see him. From various conversations, it would seem that most people had gone, like me to one and three, bypassing the second set to take into someone new thus maintaining the spirit of the festival.
Continuing the approach that began at the Cuban earlier in the day, the stage holds Ginger, Ai and Toshi with the latter on tambourine / vocals and acoustic bass respectively. They open with a great acoustic version of Hey! Hello!’s How I Survived The Punk Wars and it’s followed by That’s A Nasty Habit You’ve Got There and This Is Only A Problem, the latter taken from Ginger’s debut solo album Valor Del Corazon. Hearing this played live just reminds us of the wealth of material the man has released over the years and why these sets at Camden work so well. Some of these tracks have never been aired live or if they have it’s been years since we’ve had the pleasure of hearing them.
Highlights include an emotion filled rendition of fan (well mine anyway) favourite If You Find Yourself In London Town, and an impromptu version of The Wildhearts Suckerpuch which saw Ai move away from tambourine and onto a drum kit with no cymbals. Rehearsed or not (it was after all on the setlist) adding the drums gave it, as the Sex Pistols would say, “some bollocks” and it was a fantastic way to close the set.
The Main Grains (Proud)
Having not had the opportunity to speak to Ginger in some ten years, it seemed almost fitting (and probably very cleverly scheduled as well) that ex-Wildhearts and Yo-Yo’s bassist/voacalist Danny McCormack returns with his new band The Main Grains.
There’s a smattering of the signature Wildhearts sound, a healthy dose of punk and roll and a room full of love for the man who has publicly battled more demons than a host of angels. Danny, John JJ Watt on guitars, Ben Marsden on lead guitar and Ginna Rhodes the proceed to belt out some gritty, rough and dirty rock that includes tracks from the debut E.P. Don’t Believe Everything You Think.
Speaking to a lot of people during the day about what they were going to do after Ginger’s set finished, the majority were keen to see what Danny & Co. could deliver and hung on to support the man who looks healthier than he has done in years with a renewed zest for life clearly apparent in his performance. Let’s hope this one continues on the right track.
A rousing version of The Undertones Teenage Kicks takes us nicely back to the 1970s and a time where this sort of music was all the rage. If resurgence in music is a thing then The Main Grains should ride the wave to the crest quite easily. They’re touring as support to The Ginger Wildheart Band in July, where the revamped Hey! Hello! will also be performing. One to miss at your peril methinks.
M O S E S (Black Heart)
Further embracing the Camden Rocks Festival ethos of “go and see a band you know nothing about”, next on the list were M O S E S. Recommended by festival organiser Chris McCormack, it seemed rude not to take a pointer from a man in the know so the band’s second set (the first had been at the much larger Electric Ballroom) back at the Black Heart tavern was the next venue on the list.
Bathed in blue (and only blue) light for the entire set, the young four piece are currently touring the country with The Virginmarys and play a great mix of music that sits somewhere between indie and pure rock. The Camden scene is a natural place for them and with a lead singer that looked so happy to be performing at the festival, they are definitely firing on all cylinders at the moment.
They have catchy, dare I say contagious, songs and having no clue about what to expect, the band were more than tight enough and sure of themselves that they couldn’t fail to impress. Youthful energy drew the crowd in and again, smart scheduling (placing them before headline act Warrior Soul) ensured a full house.
By the end of the short but frenetic set, they’d won a lot of new followers, and to have been able to say you’d seen them in such a small venue prior to exploding on the wider music scene is quite something.
Young Guns (Dingwalls)
Desperate to squeeze one last band in before heading home, a scan of artists and venues delivered the opportunity to see another band that I’d been meaning to see for several years. Young Guns have a great reputation around London and yet either as a headline or support act, I’ve never managed to catch them live.
Returning to a packed Dingwalls (still the air conditioning units refused to kick in and help us out) the wall of heat that greeted us containing traces of all of the people, bands, food and drink consumed during the day. Thankfully after a few minutes, the senses dull slightly and we’re able to focus on the band.
Great lighting, sound and tight musicianship made sure this was a proper headline set. In Gustav Wood the band have a great front man who worked the crowd very well and has an amazing set of pipes to go with an excellent stage presence.
Their music is completely new to me, despite a desire to see them live, I’ve never heard anything by them before. As such, tracks from Ones and Zeros and Bones explain to me just what I’ve been missing. Latest single Bulletproof is worth checking out and leaves me kicking myself that I’ve taken this long to make the effort to getting round to seeing them live.
As their set draws to a close and I emerge back into the night, a street artist dressed in victorian, steam punk attire, stands in front of me balanced on a pair of stilts. That surreal moment sums up the beauty and magic of this festival, never knowing what to expect from one moment to the next. Roll on 2017.