Words : Adrian Hextall \ Krishan Singh
Pictures (C): Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media & Krishan Singh
10 years since Chris McCormack’s idea of putting on a local festival for local people, Camden Rocks has grown into something of a beast. 2019 saw some 400 bands play across 20 odd venues on both the Saturday and the Sunday with every genre imaginable catered for. A far cry away from 4 venues and around 40 bands in that first year.
Running up and down the strip really does deliver a buzz and whilst a lot of people may pick a venue and stick there, trawling through the bands in advance of the festival, finding some undiscovered wonder and tracking them down on the day to witness a memorable performance is what the festival is really about. So with pen, paper, cameras and a will to succeed we hauled around Camden for two days straight. Here are our views of Day 1.
[Adrian] Kick starting the day thanks to winning a well deserved fan vote saw COLLATERAL open proceedings at the Electric Ballroom. Truly the perfect band right now to get pulses racing and hearts pumping as well as any band 5 albums into their career with hundreds if not thousands of shows under their belt.
Collateral have done this with a handful of shows and a solitary 4 track e.p. to their name. Regularly playlisted on Planet Rock, the band effortlessly bring the sun, the shine and the energy not seen in a hard rock band for years. Instead of following the pack and trying to reproduce the classic rock vibe of the 70s, Collateral seek to remind us just what we are missing when Stadium Rock used to rule the roost. If ever a band have a chance to be the next Bon Jovi, it’s these guys. I could have gone home happy by the end of their set but I figured I should hang on for Krishan and see what else we could listen to instead…
[Krishan] A beautiful Saturday morning its 3am and I’m getting ready for work. Today is no ordinary Saturday later I’ll be in Camden for the annual Camden rocks festival.
[Krishan] The Sun is shining as I get off at Camden Underground Station and after getting my wristband we are off to the Underworld to see MUTANT MONSTER an all female Japanese Rock band. The band a three piece are energetic and charismatic as they blast out some really catchy songs that have the crowd singing along too. It may not be in English but they did seem to have the audience in the palm of their hands. What a great start. I can only hope that the day continues in this vein.
[Adrian] With a top recommendation from MGM colleague TG, we’re off to the Camden Assembly to take in a band that comfortably straddles hard rock, punk and pop. Think a modern Blondie, Runaways and maybe a dash of Slade thrown in for good measure.
[Krishan] Next it’s a sprint to the Camden Assembly to see BEXATRON led by Rebbecca Bex who are a four piece band from London. They blast onto the stage full of the Glam bluster of the 70s. Rebecca moves around the stage and stares longingly into every camera lens pointing at her. A great set of high octane Rock swagger. Highly enjoyable and full of Rock bravado.
Next it’s back to the Underworld to catch the highlight act of the weekend for me GINGER WILDHEART but first we capture the end of the terrific MEN THAT WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING. Reminds me of old London 18th century Jack the Ripper setting and the banter on stage is both funny and compelling which to be honest held my attention more then the actual songs.
[Adrian] It has to be said that TMWWNBBFN (such a pain to type out in full!) sit wholly in their own space. It’s as if modern music went and tapped into Victorian Britain and the end result is what we witnessed in the Underworld. Truly original, the band carry a large following with the crowd knowing the words to every song. Laughter, banter, the expectation that Bill Sykes might appear with Bullseye at any moment and you had the first “what did I just see?” moment of the weekend.
[Krishan] Ginger Wildheart pulled a massive bunch of flowers out of his hat by playing the new Wildhearts album in its entirety Acoustically to the absolute amazement of the whole audience. An incredible set that includes goosebumps and tears of joy on my part. Just incredible.
[Adrian] Yep, I cried… I don’t care, this was something else. A true ‘I was there moment’. And you know what….. I was there! If you missed this, kick yourself and then turn round and invite a close friend or relative to kick you up the tailpipe just for good measure. An album that’s only been out a matter of weeks, played in full by the musician who openly admitted he wanted to play it in full with the The Wildhearts on their recent tour. Any fears that the crowd wouldn’t be up for it disappeared almost instantly and then the next 40 minutes saw each track in order sung word for word by the entire room. If this is the only time this happens then ‘WOW!’ , if not then people going to future gigs will be in for a treat!
[Krishan]Next we made a beeline for THE IDOL DEAD in the Good mixer an incredibly small venue for a band like The Idol Dead. Lots of punters were turned away for this one however the band delivered a storming set to a packed venue. They did everything in their power to be seen. Loved it .
[Adrian] Note to self… if you’re going to get up close and personal with one of the most energetic bands in the UK, expect to be smacked in the head by KC’s guitar as he throws everything into the performance.
I shall wear the dent as a badge of honour… a worthy memory of an fabulous show. Perhaps next time they play, the organisers might do the band a favour and give them a bigger venue that will take all of the fans that got turned away and allow The Idol Dead the space a show like theirs demands.
[Krishan] After a spot of food, RICH RAGANY AND THE DIGRESSIONS were next up. Another packed venue with a band that were both tight and had some amazing songs. Rich is an incredibly emotive performer but was equally challenged by the quality of musicianship around him. Highly entertaining.
[Adrian] We also dipped in to catch the tail end of RYUKETSU BLIZZARD in the Black Heart. The second ‘what did I just see?’ moment of the weekend this was punk rock at its core with lashings of Manga imagery to spice it up a bit, 15 minutes didn’t do the band justice so we made a note to check them out at Fest the following day when better lighting and space would guarantee the set we hoped for.
We rounded off the evening with a trip to the Electric Ballroom to see the amazing FRANK TURNER who delivered all his most popular songs to a rampant audience as a one man band. That one man can cause a room of over 1,000 to sing along to every single track, accompanied by just an acoustic guitar shows the power the man has over his fans.
It was a stunning performance that allowed the audience to sing a long to every word. A big surprise for the encore when he was joined on stage by Chris McCormack and the Virginmarys for a storming rendition of some famous Punk classics. A fantastic end to an incredible day – roll on Day 2
SETLIST – FRANK TURNER
Long Live the Queen
If Ever I Stray
Back in the Day
Be More Kind
Jinny Bingham’s Ghost
The Opening Act of Spring
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
The Way I Tend to Be
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
The Next Storm
I Still Believe
Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols cover) (with The Virginmarys)
Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover) (with The Virginmarys)
London Calling (The Clash cover) (with The Virginmarys)
If The Kids Are United (Sham 69 cover) (with The Virginmarys)