It’s an early Saturday morning in June, and the first fingers of summer are in full grip. As I make my way to the tube, I’m confronted by hordes of crazed BTS fans on their way to Wembley. Clearly they don’t know the best gig in town this weekend is Camden Rocks! It’s going to be a hot weekend for more than one reason, with 400 bands lighting up stages all throughout the London punk rock Mecca. As ever with big festivals, the hardest decision is who to see, especially when there’s bound to be conflicts or other factors like how long it’ll take to get to each venue to consider.
I have always liked Camden, and despite the local council’s best efforts to gentrify the area, it remains true to itself at its core. Careworn and a bit rough around the edges, with shop after shop selling a variety of goods mixed in among clubs, bars, cafes, tattoo parlours, etc. Camden very much marches to the best of its own drum. Always busy, today it feels as though Camden will burst at the seams.
First band of the day are Collateral. What can I say about these boys from Kent that hasn’t already said. An amazing band with bright future ahead. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a few times now and they just go from strength to strength, with frontman Angelo Tristan embodying one of the rock-gods of old.
The Black Orchids put on a languid set of grunge infused songs. A great live band, the quartet quickly drew a crowd as their set expanded into the hour.
The lead singer of Sleaze has the stage presence of Jagger crossed with Iggy Pop. With a modern punk rock vibe, they rocked the Dr Martens stage for a rapid fire bombastic set.
Up next are The Milk Teeth. With a drummer with enough swing (and crazy) to please Ginger Baker, this trio gave an energetic performance with dual vocals, dirty guitar riffs, and chugging bass lines.
Honourable mention to glam rockers Duchess who are hamming it up on the Gabbeto stage. With a 70s sound and the looks to match, they’ve been one of the more unique bands of the day.
Then we have Bang Bang Romeo rocking out Dingwalls. The venue is packed to the rafters and it’s clear that everyone is ready for a great time. As the band came out on stage the crowd briefly fell silent before letting out a deafening cheer as the amazing vocal talents of Anastasia Walker took centre stage. With a voice that could give Janis, Aretha, and Adele a run for their money, this was one of the stand out performances of the day. This incredible singer presented a powerful performance only match by her incredible vocal range. I strongly suggest you check them out; these guys are going to go far!
Now at the Black Heart, The Black Futures put on an industrial electronic hard rock / metal performance, complete with a mini light show, flag-waving costumed sidekicks, and a big sound.
Wheatus have come to rock the electric ballroom playing a set of fan favourites. Breaking with a traditional set, the band took requests from the audience, which was met with thunderous applause. As the set stretched on, everyone partied like it was 2000 all over again. Of course ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and ‘A Little Respect‘ featured in the set. The venue was so jam-packed that there was a queue outside well into their performance.
Honourable mention to the Angelic Upstarts, who put on a hardcore punk set full of all the anti establishment angst you could throw a stick at. They really got the crowd going ahead of the New Model Army.
New Model Army put on a genre-bending performance in the Underworld, with a career spanning collection of songs that had the assembled crowd bouncing off the floor and each other throughout their set.
Closing out the night at Gabeto, veteran rockers the Quireboys brought their current acoustic tour to London. As ever Spike’s vocals, charisma, and excellent stage presence supported by his excellent band made for a fun evening of fan favourites as we all partied into the night.
It’s a hot Sunday morning as I make my way back to Camden for another action-packed day of music. Due to the number of conflicts that I came across when trying to put my itinerary together for the day, I opted for to take it easy and keep things fairly central for the most part.
Up first were REWS, who put on a great alt-rock set at the Dr Martens stage, with a laid back vibe that made a great start to the day.
For the majority of the day I decided to set down at Gabeto. A great small venue, the selection of bands on today was great. First up for me was JOANOVARC who put on an electrifying set with all the hard rock pomp of a band from the good old days. With the room fully packed, the crowd were singing and dancing along. The bombastic quartet put on one of the standout performances of the day. Do not miss these guys. An amazing cover of ‘Freebird‘ which had the crowd going mental. This was also the debut of the new lineup, which has definitely taken the band to the next level.
In next are The Luka state put on a raucous alt-rock set which was full of energy. With a horde of uber fans screaming wildly, the volume in the room hit peak as the killer set came to close.
John J Presley provided a chilled out vibe as the set took us into the evening. With his haunting vocals, accompanied by his excellent guitar playing backed by vintage keys, this was one of the more unique sets of the day.
Daxx & Roxane took the stage and dialled everything up to 11. Putting on a headline show, they rocked out the Gabeto stage with the prowess of a stadium band. This was one of the stand-out performances of the day and I urge you strongly to check these guys out if you haven’t already. With a superb live sound, this band is destined for greatness.
Hands Off Gretel played an incredibly energetic and electric set at the Camden Assembly that had the crowd bouncing and dancing with such force that it felt like the floor was going to give way. This grungy alt-rock band with a punk attitude was one of the stand-out performances of the weekend for me. With a tight sound, great look, and undeniably strong stage presence, this very professional band is ready for the arenas. Their sound is so big and fresh that the room could not contain it and their music was drawing passers by in from outside. By the time their bombastic set had finished, there were people standing on the stairs up to the room trying desperately to get close enough to see the band perform. That is no small feat in this day and age. I cannot recommend enough checking this band out as soon as you can. You will not be disappointed!
One of the things that really stood out for me at Camden Rocks was the strong female presence throughout the bands, be that as a musician in the band, or the singer fronting it. It was great to see (and hear), and I hope it reflects the changing attitudes towards women in music that have been accelerating these past few years. As the weekend came to a close I can’t help but wonder what the promoters will do to top the weekend next year. With such a broad range of excellent bands, that is a lot to live up to year after year, but somehow they always manage. A testament to the live music scene in the UK despite the growing numbers of venues that are sadly shutting down every year. If you want to keep seeing events like this and the great talent it promotes, please get out there and support your local venues. As for those of you who’ve never been to Camden Rocks and wonder whether it really is for you, then make sure you come out next year. You will not be disappointed, as there is something for everyone on offer. All in all Camden Rocks 2019 was another massive success and I cannot wait until next year!
While you’re here, enjoy the full gallery from this incredible weekend of live music!
Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – UK Editor
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.