Camden Crawl (4-6 May '12) // Words: Saam Das
Building on a relatively successful day one of the 2012 Camden Crawl, things got off to less of a joyous start on the Sunday as not one but two passenger emergency alarms on a Northern Line tube scuppered my attempts to catch a low-key Charli XCX performance in the Crawl's media hub. But with plenty of other bands to see over the day, that was only a minor setback. For chat about those bands and an overview of the festival, keep reading below.
Heading over to The Wheelbarrow for their afternoon showcase, and I discovered that it was really quite compact. Thankfully being the afternoon, not many were out. I first caught Evans The Death, whose scuzzy indie pop was somewhat beset by problems with feedback. And their dour demeanour. Nonetheless, they occasionally impressed, particularly when aiming for the melodic rather than the scuzz. Fans of Veronica Falls should find something to enjoy here.
Kinsella-core enthusiasts Johnny Foreigner followed, opening their set acapella mid-crowd which was slightly misguided considering the level of chat in the venue but from there on they delivered a raucous set of new and old hits. Alexei mixed in the occasional barb, including the gem: "You must be what's left of the music industry - pleased to meet you." Despite a short set, Johnny Foreigner were very much my favourite band of the 2012 Camden Crawl, and it's excellent to see them retain so much of their passion considering their current status as relative veterans. Maybe thanks to their mysterious new fourth member?
The Camden Crawl schedule on the Sunday had something of an (unwelcome) elongated break between bands before the evening proceedings so I wandered around Camden - expertly arriving at the Red Bull Bedroom Jam outdoor arena just as it was closing. I did however handily pick up some free earplugs there, courtesy of Action For Hearing Loss. Apparently, I was only one of a handful of people to donate to the cause upon receiving the free earplugs, which is sad to hear.
After my failed expedition, I headed to the Crawl Alternative Media Expo, which I'd mentioned in my Camden Crawl preview. A free event for anyone willing to come down to St Michael's Church, the C.A.M.E combined fanzines, posters and records in a music fair conglomeration. There were some fantastic posters on offer, and I'd love to have bought one to display on the rather bare walls of my flat but carrying delicate things around during the Camden Crawl is ill-advised. Hopefully the expo will return next year.
With the bands once again kicking off, I made my way over to Koko to catch Niki And The Dove, who resembled some sort of bizarre mash up between Kate Bush and a crashing synth-pop outfit. There's a certain eccentricity to frontwoman Malin Dahlström, best summed up in the manner which she recruited her fellow band-mates for a theatrical bow at the end of their set. However, it's easy to see why their melodramatic dance-pop is getting people excited, such as FG's very own Rajan who elected the band as one of our tips for 2012.
Popping across the road to the Purple Turtle, I encountered one of the most frustrating aspects of the Crawl. Occasionally, set times run late, and this is perhaps understandable considering the nature of the event yet Fiction showed a disturbing amount of nonchalance and no apology for fannying around for half an hour before beginning their set twenty minutes late. Very poor form and I soon headed back where I came to catch Spector at Koko.
At the 2011 Camden Crawl, I'd seen Spector play an unannounced set on a tiny bus to a crowd of about a dozen. This year, they were one of the top billings of the festival, performing in front of a thousand or so eager drinkers. A combination of knowingly awkward stage banter from frontman Fred Macpherson and an explosion of indie anthems wowed the Koko crowd.
The Jazz Cafe was next on the list as I'd opted to see Micachu & The Shapes, and their off-kilter experimental psych-pop. I'd seen one third of Micachu's Shapes in the same venue last year, with Raisa Khan being part of DELS' live set up, but this was a very different proposition. Honestly, early on, it felt like I'd been transported to the Crawl in a parallel dimension. The punchy set built up well however and despite their self-confessed "dull stage chatter", the band were highlights of the Crawl. In their own unconventional manner.
Generally, I stick to a fairly strict timetable for festivals but feeling oddly whimsical after Micachu & The Shapes, I opted to pop into the Electric Ballroom to see what kind of music Youngman was peddling. It turned out to be dubstep, and although there was a miniscule crowd, each audience member seemed to be loving the songs. Coincidentally, last year I remember unexpectedly catching Giggs singing about "punani". (Token urban section ends.)
To finish off my Camden Crawl, I opted to see Clock Opera headline the Underworld. Beginning their set with the sound of a metronome, they exploded into tracks like 'White Noise', 'Once And For All' and the ever triumphant 'Belongings'. Considering they'd recently headlined Scala, it was a shame that the venue wasn't packed out but regardless, we were treated to a typically glorious performance.
Thus my Crawl came to an end, and for the most part, it was a very successful event. Certain things could be handled better - most notably the provision of information regarding bands pulling out and/or running late (I had no idea Alpines or St Lucia had pulled out until the very last minute). Equally, it was a disappointment that so many of the people attending had decided that the event was more of a pub crawl than a musical crawl, even failing to go to the back of venues for their inane chatter.
There were plenty of positives however, the reduced queues were most helpful (although perhaps a warning sign that the festival hadn't quite sold as well as hoped) and it was pleasing to see a strong selection of bands during the normally lean afternoon periods. See you next year.
Find more info at thecamdencrawl.com. Click to read our review of day one of the Camden Crawl 2012.